(W) Ed Piskor (A) Ed Piskor In Shops: Jul 28, 2021 SRP: $3.99
Levee Turks was an encryption software prodigy serving a life sentence for creating an online drug empire until the feds proposed a deal: infiltrate red rooms and help the FBI crack down on these deepest corners of the dark web. But Turks soon finds that prison might be a better fate… Another killer stand-alone issue of the all-new monthly series from the creator of Hip Hop Family Tree and X-Men: Grand Design! As seen on Piskor’s YouTube channel sensation, Cartoonist Kayfabe!
(W) Ed Piskor (A) Ed Piskor In Shops: Jun 30, 2021 SRP: $3.99
Grooming victims to be slaughtered on the DARK WEB for the enjoyment of psychopaths requires lots of work to keep them from being identified. The Poker Face organization, one of the most successful black market Red Room companies on the internet, goes to great lengths to fulfill their customers’ depraved fantasies while avoiding law enforcement every step of the way. From the creator of Hip Hop Family Tree and X-Men: Grand Design comes this ALL-NEW monthly comic book series! A cyberpunk, outlaw, splatterpunk deep dive into the subculture of criminals who live-stream and patronize webcam murders for entertainment in the darkest corners of the web with nearly untraceable crypto-currency. As seen on Piskor’s YouTube channel sensation, Cartoonist Kayfabe!
On July 7, 2021, Rob Liefeld will close out his run on the best-selling G.I. JOE title, Snake Eyes: Deadgame, from Hasbro and IDW! The fifth issue finale features an All-Star list of comic book legends providing inks and finishes to Rob’s penciled art. Not satisfied with just putting together an All-Star team, Rob decided to round out the cast by adding legendary artist and creator Kevin Eastman, Ryan Ottley, Eric Canete, and Karl Kerschl.
Not content with this unparalleled assemblage of All-Star talents, Liefeld wanted to take the event one step further. The Deadpool creator enlisted the Living Legend of G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero, Larry Hama. Rob will ink over Larry Hama’s pencils for a special once-in-a-lifetime collectible cover event.
These artists join the already named list of All-Stars including Neal Adams, Jerry Ordway, Whilce Portacio, Karl Kesel, Art Thibert, Philip Tan, Dan Panosian, Dan Fraga, Ed Piskor, Marat Mychaels, Jim Rugg, Tom Scioli, Cory Hamscher, Paul Scott, Karl Alstaetter, and Chance Wolf.
Fresh off a couple of illustrated Wikipedia summary comics, writer/artist Ed Piskor turns in his first comic of original content in nine years, Red Room #1. It shows the inner workings of Red Rooms, which are online webcam sites on the dark web where viewers pay in cryptocurrency to watch cartoonish figures murder people in creative ways. There’s also a parallel story of Davis Mayfield, a pathetic, hypocritical court clerk, who is dealing with the death of his wife and daughter in a drunk driving accident and trying to provide for his surviving daughter, Brianna, to go to NYU. Piskor does a much better job handling the chat room banter and drawing the truly grotesque ways in which the even more gruesome-looking victims of the Red Rooms are dispatched than showing the real world of tragedy, loss, and even simple things like jobs and conversations. With the exception of Brianna and her friend, who are written like 1990s transplants instead of present-day teenagers (And it’s probably for the best.), the cast of Red Room, both in the “real world” and the complex are meant to be objects of derision, laughter, and disgust.
If I had to describe Red Room #1 in one catchy pull quote, it would be “The Invisibles for incels.” There’s conspiracies, initiations, and a cast of characters in fetish wear with names connected to Aleister Crowley. However, the only thing they’re hiding is unfettered exploitation with the origin of the “herd” or “cows” that Mistress Pentagram (A Red Room exec, I guess.) being more chilling than the actual on-panel violence. And Ed Piskor definitely seems to be having fun with the old ultraviolence creating an immersive environment with an attention to detail in the Red Room’s user interface probably born out of long hours on Chaturbate with the audience commentary adding context to the wannabe EC Horror or Clive Barker style images on the screen. To his credit, he does make references to Barker in the first Red Room video seen in the comic, and this kind of metacommentary acts as a shield his work from being derivative.
Even though there are lapses in his storytelling (The death of Davis’ wife and daughter is weirdly staged and melodramatic, Piskor’s work really pops in black and white, and you can see all kinds of gross and occasionally interesting details in his line art like the graffiti on Davis’ desk and the contempt that everyone shows him. The outlaw comic and splatterpunk comparisons have been mentioned a lot in the press material for Red Room, but Ed Piskor draws a lot on the work on Daniel Clowes in both his figure work and lettering. (Plus Brianna cosplays as Enid Coleslaw in a very old school take on a comic book convention, or maybe it was a dead ringer for East Coast Comicon…) The stylized “ha ha’s” at the cop bar when Davis is roasted for working a desk job and look like a serial killer could be directed towards Seymour or Daniel Pussey or any of Clowes’ pathetic protagonists, and this extends to his facial expressions and the way he holds his weight. Davis is this close to recording extreme closeup videos of QAnon rants in his car, or worse because this is Red Room.
Even though his writing (Especially his dialogue for non-white people) has a ways to go, Ed Piskor does continue to have a distinct art style in Red Room as he sheds the old school, four color superhero hijinks of Hip Hop Family Tree and X-Men: Grand Design for old school indie. (Black and White Explosion, weird old non-Hernandez Brothers Fantagraphics comics) However, Piskor’s plotting is direct to DVD horror, and his characters are definitely stock types as he tries to tell a father/daughter story when it definitely seems like he’d rather be delving into mob and serial killer conspiracies and coming up with different Red Room studios that are scarily close to drawing on stereotypes about sex workers. So, going a different route and focusing on Davis might have a better idea in the long run.
I definitely can’t recommend Red Room #1 as a story beyond some cool storytelling tricks from Ed Piskor. (He uses bullet casings to make sound effect lettering.) However, its utter contempt for humanity and 4chan-filtered-through 1990s nostalgia (Its sole connective tissue to the last volume of X-Men: Grand Design.) and dusty old paperbacks perspective on what makes society tick stimulates the doom-scrolling through Facebook comment threads and binge-watching 90 Day Fiance part of my brain so I might be making a return visit to this book…
Story: Ed PiskorArt: Ed Piskor Story: 5.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 5.8 Recommendation: Pass
Fantagraphics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
(W) Ed Piskor (A) Ed Piskor In Shops: May 19, 2021 SRP: $6.99
From the creator of Hip Hop Family Tree and X-Men: Grand Design comes this ALL-NEW monthly comic book series, with a specially priced, self-contained, double-sized debut issue! Red Room is a cyberpunk, outlaw, splatterpunk masterpiece. Aided by the anonymous dark web and nearly untraceable crypto-currency, there has emerged a subculture of criminals who live-stream and patronize webcam murders for entertainment. Who are the murderers? Who are the victims? How do we stop it? As seen on Piskor’s YouTube channel sensation, Cartoonist Kayfabe!
Moving, thought-provoking, both personal and political, Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguezexplores the controversial art and life of the legendary underground cartoonist through the lens of his wife, Emmy-nominated filmmaker Susan Stern.
From the propaganda comics of WWII, to the underground comics breakthrough in 1960s New York and San Francisco, to the graphic novels of today, Bad Attitudeis an enthralling history of comics and a rousing call to art and activism. Featuring a roster of friends and family, Bad Attitude dives deep into Spain’s life with insight from comics luminaries R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Trina Robbins, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, and Ed Piskor, and features animation by Spain’s daughter, the New York-based artist, Nora Rodriguez.
“Bad Attitude is a love letter to my partner in art and life, Spain Rodriguez, but it is also a love letter to all activists, especially artist-activists,” says director Susan Stern. “I hope Bad Attitude creates a space for conversation about the art and social justice we are trying to make, the ways we fail, and how we can be forgiven.”
Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguez will have its world premiere in the Breakouts section at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival.
Eisner Award-winning, indie cartoonist Ed Piskor is releasing Red Room, an ambitious, new sci-fi horror comic with Fantagraphics. Best known for documenting the history of hip hop with the best-selling Hip Hop Family Tree graphic novels and for distilling more than 8,000 pages of Marvel Comics continuity into the seamless masterpiece X-Men Grand Design, Red Room represents a significant milestone for the cartoonist: the creation of his first creator-owned, shared universe. Red Room will debut from Fantagraphics in May with an oversized 64-page first issue.
In Red Room, criminals livestream murders on the dark web for fun and profit. The series will be told through a series of interconnected, stand-alone stories, focusing on unsavory characters that lurk in the most grotesque corners of cyberspace. The murders are a mystery, the victims unknown. Aided by the anonymous dark web and nearly untraceable crypto-currency, business is booming and the viewership is ever-growing.
Red Room will be released in a variety of formats. The series will be published as monthly, four-issue arcs in a standard 32-page comic book format at $3.99 each, with the exception of May’s first issue, which will be a specially priced, 64-page double-sized issue selling for $6.99. In the fall of 2021, the first four issues will be collected into a trade paperback. Once the Red Room saga is complete, there will be a total of 12 single issues and three trade paperbacks.
Writer: Ed Piskor Penciler: Ed Piskor Cover Artist: Ed Piskor
It’s here…the final chapter of Marvel’s best-selling prestige series X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN! Out with the old and in with the blue and gold as the X-Men enter the radical ’90s! Revisit innumerous classic storylines like the return of Jean Grey! The trial of Magneto! X-Tinction Agenda!!! And many, many more! With appearances by Jubilee, Gambit and the Reavers! Brought to life by the multi-hyphenate master of graphic fiction himself, Ed Piskor!
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Cartoonist Ed Piskor wraps up the 1980s era of X-Men comics in the first chapter in the final installment of mutant magnum opus, X-Men: Grand Design – X-Tinction #1. On the first page, he picks a narrative through-line (The fate of baby Cable and his parent Scott Summers and Madelyne Pryor) and a Big Bad (Mr. Sinister) and then runs with it to an optic blasting, dimension hopping, ginger psychic battle finale. Along the way, he writes one badass Storm and synthesizes complicated X-Men concepts like the Siege Perilous, Roma, the Outback years, and the deal with Forge and the Goblin Queen into one action-packed, entertaining narrative.
X-Men Grand Design: X-Tinction #1 has all kinds of interdimensional and psychic events in it, and this gives Piskor an opportunity to diverge from his underground comics meets Paul Smith, early John Romita Jr, and Marc Silvestri (Any time the Reavers appear.) style and use cool techniques like “ghosting” his figures against a black ground. He first uses this when Kitty Pryde is stuck in her phase state, or when Storm is on a physical journey with Forge’s ally Naze to get her abilities back. It transports the reader to a world beyond the melodrama of superhero comics and uses the mutant powers to further the story or tell something about Storm, Cyclops, and Madelyne Pryor instead of just making the punching look cooler.
Speaking of punching, Ed Piskor does not neglect one of X-Men comics’ usual strengths: well-choreographed team fight sequences. And he uses those fights in an economical way pulling off a three panel sequence that some writers and artists would pad for half an issue. Other than his retelling of the classic hand to hand fight between Storm and Cyclops for the X-Men leadership, my favorite fight in X-Tinction is a three panel old school/new school fight when Archangel flies Iceman up to freeze some of the Goblin Queen’s goons and Colossus and Rogue punch them out. In a single panel and thanks to some big Jack Kirby poses, you know that Colossus and Rogue are the team powerhouses while Archangel and Iceman rely more on strategy and subterfuge in a callback to the fights in the first volume of Grand Design.
The only real weakness I could find in X-Men: Grand Design – X-Tinction #1 is toward the end of the issue. Up to this point, Piskor is easily juggling the Storm and Madelyne Pryor/baby Cable subplots and crafting a downward spiral for the X-Men as their team’s strength is diminished by the Marauders and the Mutant Massacre. This leads into the Outback years, the big Madelyne Pryor reveal, and after some psychic foreshadowing: the return of Jean Grey. However, Piskor immediately throws the original five X-Men into the narrative without mentioning X-Factor or establishing their return. It makes for a cool team-up sequence, but muddies the narrative a little bit.
However, Piskor does redeem himself with a funny final couple pages where the different X-Men basically ask each other, “What the hell is going on?” Like Arcade, Ed Piskor has set up a death trap of continuity mimicking the increasing density of the X-Books with multiple titles and crossovers in the late 1980s, and it looks like he will use X-Tinction #2 to get our heroes, er, readers out of it. Even if the different characters’ backstories are a little opaque and it’s hard to keep track of a growing cast of characters, Piskor’s storytelling is always smooth with clear narration and bright eyed artwork.
Ed Piskor’s X-Men: Grand Design – X-Tinction #1 is an achievement in focus as he chooses not one, but two characters with convoluted backstories (Cable, Madelyne Pryor) to be the anchor point of his exploration into late 1980s X-Men comics. For all the cool digressions and sizzling subplots, Piskor rides the momentum of this mother/father/child/ex-girlfriend/creepy scientist guy melodrama from page 1 to page 40 and even plays telekinetic baby keep away along the way. Like Renaissance painters who would find their own story out of a complex tapestry of Biblical stories and classical mythology, Ed Piskor turns the “X-Overs” of the late 80s into a powerful family drama that happens to involve eye beams and psychic powers.