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Review: Assassinistas #2

In its second issue, Assassinistas digs into both the family drama and origin story angles as Octavia, her son Dominic, and his boyfriend Taylor get ready to rescue Octavia’s old colleague’s young son from yet another “colleague”. Gilbert Hernandez’s art has a simple elegance, Rob Davis’ colors explode in comparison to the bland suburban setting , and Tini Howard’s writing has plenty of personality and wit. The plot isn’t a rush job; you actually want to spend time with these characters. It starts with mom/son chats and ends with everything going to hell.

Hernandez has such control over his figures that he can convey comedy, anger, or just plain resignation with a raised eyebrows, some lines around the face, and occasionally a mini explosion. His mastery of the comics medium comes in the little parts of Assassinistas #2 like the slight curl in Taylor and Dominic’s brows as they’re a little amused and a little perturbed at the Assassinistas trading cards/dossiers that Octavia showed them. His most emotive storytelling comes in a small scene where Charlotte is freaking out about her missing child and goes from sarcasm to sadness and rage in the space of 11 panels. He and Howard position the wine bottle that she gets from her co-workers (Who are oblivious to the fact that she is a pregnant woman.) as a kind of symbol that she’s locked out of the assassin game for now even though she’s still sharp and admonishes her husband for getting the cops involved. Hitwomen never really retire. The shock of blonde hair that Davis gives her is like an extra exclamation point to any of her complaints or freak outs.

Even though there is plenty of peril ahead, especially for the rookie assassin not-interns Dominic and Taylor, a vein of awkward humor runs through Assassinistas #2 like Octavia whipping out the aforementioned dossiers when Taylor asks about her line of work like she’s ready for potential exposition situations. Dominic and Octavia have a good rapport, but he isn’t afraid to take jabs at her like quipping about using her “insurance company’s” coffee cups for target practice and even taking his father Carlos’ name as a coffee cup. They care for each other, but also get on each other’s nerves. (I can relate.) Howard and Hernandez don’t make Dominic and Taylor total badasses from the get-go, and they stumble through the mission’s early going. Just as there is a smooth operator rhythm to Hernandez’s depiction of the Assassinistas in flashback, there’s a flailing manatee, middle school slow dance rhythm to the new incarnation of the group. It’s not pretty, but it’s true. I also kind of love how Octavia gets maternal as the danger starts to ramp up towards the end of the comic.

In Assassinistas #2, Tini Howard, Gilbert Hernandez, and Rob Davis take the messiness, yet real love between a mother and a son and throws it in the middle of a gun toting with the potential for geysers of blood exploitation flick. It’s hilarious to see modern day teenagers react to intense situations they were far from prepared for, especially in the last third of the comic where Dominic goes from trading barbs with his mom to running around shirtless with a rifle. Howard and Hernadez find a solid middle ground between verbal and visual comedy without losing the suspense factor.

 Story: Tini Howard Art: Gilbert Hernandez Colors: Rob Davis
Story: 8 Art: 9.5 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy

IDW Publishing/Black Crown provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: Assassinistas #2

Assassinistas #2

Tini Howard (w) • Gilbert Hernandez (a) • Rob Davis (colorist) • Gilbert Hernandez (c)

“Pregnant Pauses and Campout Makeouts” Dominic Price is a college-age cutie pie who just wants to spend the semester making out with his boyfriend, Taylor, in between rounds of TurboLight Fighter and maintaining a solidly passable 3.2 GPA. His mom, Octavia, formerly a badass action-movie-quality bounty hunter, didn’t pay his tuition, because she had to get back in the business and spend 40K on black market weapons and body armor And she’s bringing Dominic with her, because the alternative is making lattes for a semester, and he’d rather die. Good thing in mom’s line of work, dying is an option!

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

Review: Assassinistas #1

In Assassinistas #1, writer Tini Howard, artist/Eisner Hall-of-Famer Gilbert Hernandez, and colorist Rob Davis weave the tale of a retired assassin named Octavia “Red October” Price, who gets back in the game one last time to rescue her friend/former colleague Scarlet’s baby from the third member of their crew, the enigmatic, dagger wielding Blood Diamond. And tagging along is her college aged son Dominic and his boyfriend Taylor, who are taking a kind of gap semester as her “interns”.

Howard and Hernandez’s approach to storytelling is economic, yet entertaining as they introduce the three “assassinistas” to the reader in a quick three page sequence ending in a posterworthy splash page of Red October, Scarlet, and Diamond causing mayhem for various corporate types. Howard swings nicely from past and present and uses the flashbacks to introduce relevant parts of the story like Dominic’s dad, and how even though she has a house and a son in college, Octavia still hasn’t completely said goodbye to her action-packed lifestyle unlike Scarlet, who is kind of the perfect health conscious young mother. She foreshadows this with some nice banter about Octavia’s theoretical wedding, including a grenade pin ring and “Xanadu” as a wedding march. The plot of Assassinistas is pretty tense, but Howard and Hernandez keep things tongue in cheek.

Tini Howard and Gilbert Hernandez also do an excellent job of making both Dominic and Taylor fully realized characters and not just comic relief or victims. Dominic gets about as many story pages as his mom, and Hernandez shows the adorableness of his relationship with Taylor in an extended cuddle scene that is the opposite of the violent cold open or his mom’s house littered with all kinds of weapon and body armor even though she technically works in insurance.  He’s just a college kid who misses his boyfriend and wants to have a normal life away from his mom, who he cares for very much. Letterer Aditya Bitika crafts dueling word balloons that work well with Hernandez’s six panel grids as Dominic gets kind of let down by his mom when she doesn’t pay his tuition or room and board, and he’s unceremoniously thrown out of his dorm on the first day of classes. The facial expressions are subdued, and Howard doesn’t up the melodrama level, but this isn’t really what Dominic had planned for the semester. However, Taylor is way into his mom being an assassin, and their physical closeness combined with their honest, easy rapport makes their relationship the strongest of the series so far.

I really liked how Tini Howard and Gilbert Hernandez handled the awkwardness of Dominic telling his mom about his boyfriend. Octavia isn’t overtly homophobic or anything, but Dominic does a little nod thing when she asks if he’s with a girlfriend and automatically assumes that his romantic partner is female when he talks about bringing someone along to help them on their mission. However, she doesn’t make a big deal about Taylor when he shows up at her house and immediately throws a bulletproof vest in his face because it looks like Assassinistas #2 will be the action issue. But it’s nice to have an issue to establish the character’s relationships and quirks before Octavia channels her inner Pam Grier.

Gilbert Hernandez’s art is one of a kind, Tini Howard combines domestic drama with grindhouse film thrills a la a  the opening scene of Kill Bill Vol. 1, and Rob Davis’ colors are brash and bold. Assassinistas #1 is the tasty comic book dessert you deserve for getting through 2017, and it’s cool to see a genre comic centered around a mother/son relationship that deals with both big guns and pointy weapons as well as finances and bringing your boyfriend to see mom for the first time.

Story: Tini Howard Art: Gilbert Hernandez Colors: Rob Davis
Story: 9 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

IDW/Black Crown provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: Assassinistas #1

Assassinistas #1

Tini Howard (w) • Gilbert Hernandez (a) • Rob Davis (colorist) • Gilbert Hernandez (c)

Dominic Prince and the Semester Abroad, Part 1 of 6. Dominic Price is a college-age kid who just wants to spend the semester making out with his boyfriend, Taylor, in between rounds of TurboLight Fighter and maintaining a solidly passable 3.2 GPA. His mom, Octavia, formerly a badass action-movie-quality bounty hunter, didn’t pay his tuition, because she had to get back in the business and spend 40K on black market weapons and body armor. And she’s bringing Dominic with her, because the alternative is making lattes for a semester, and he’d rather die. Good thing in mom’s line of work, dying is an option.

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

Review: Love From the Shadows

I recently re-watched the gone too soon tv show, Terriers, which was on FX. For those who are unfamiliar, it is about a pair of private investigators, one ex-cop and ex-con, who undertake several different odd cases. The over-arching storyline reminded me of watching Robert Towne’s and Jack Nicholson’s Chinatown, about a mass conspiracy involving some big land barons and a bunch of coverups. This reminded of those old pulp novels I grew up reading some involving crime, some about deceit amongst individuals, but each story just as juicy as the other.

In comics, Ed Brubaker has been one of the individuals, who is also ardent about this genre as is evident in his books, Velvet and The Fade Out. Traces of the genre can also be seen in Jason Aaron’s underrated tome Scalped. Rarely have adaptations of some of the films have ever been undertaken, as a lot of these movies were gems and inspired movies like Far From Heaven. This lead me to Gilbert Hernandez’s (Love and Rockets) solo outing series of books, which explores Luba’s (character from Love and Rockets) sister, Fritz’s movies and one of the most prominent ones being, Love from The Shadows.

In this adaptation of this faux movie, Fritz portrays Dolores, a well to do woman who enjoys the lush life as the concubine of a supernatural scam artist. Eventually Dolores, is called home as her father’s health deteriorates and some old family wounds are reopened. A chance encounter leads her to the film business where she runs into a series of “abusive people”, which use her for their pleasure as a betrayal allows this descent. By book’s end, Dolores takes control of her situation and exacts revenge in the worst way.

Overall, an excellent story which proves that Hernandez is quite a cinephile capturing the tone and driving themes that were prominent in most of these movies, much like the Pam Grier movie, Coffy. The story by Hernandez, is lithe, complex, and entertaining. The art by Hernandez is reminiscent of his work on Love and Rockets but with few subtle differences. Altogether, a book that will give smiles and cringes, but will entertain nonetheless.

Story: Gilbert Hernandez Art: Gilbert Hernandez
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

SPX 2017 Announces Learn to Draw Comics Workshops

SPX has announced a series of comic book making workshops, featuring hands-on instruction from some of the most talented makers of independent comics. The workshops will occur Saturday September 16 and Sunday September 17 at SPX 2017.

Educator Frank Santoro and his Comics Workbook school will host the legendary Gilbert Hernandez, along with Alexis Ziritt and other masters of the form while they discuss their comic book making process and share their knowledge. Participants will have the opportunity to hone their storytelling and drawing skills – whether they are a beginner or expert.

The complete schedule of Comics Workshop sessions can be found on the SPX web site.

Sign up for a session (or two) to Learn to Draw Comic from the Pros!

Confirmation emails will be sent out Tuesday  September 12.

All workshops will be held in the Glen Echo rooms downstairs at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, right across from the White Flint Metro stop on the Red Line.

You must have an Attendee badge to participate.

Admission to SPX 2017 is $15 Saturday, $10 Sunday and $20 both days. Admission gets you into the class, the Exhibitor Hall with over 680 creators selling the finest in indie comics, mini-comics, graphic novels, posters and other cool stuff.

Walk-ins will be welcome, however, space permitting. Seating to all sessions are limited to 50 people.


Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center
5701 Marinelli Road
Rockville, Maryland

METRO STOP: White Flint Station on the Red Line

Small Press Expo Announces Nate Powell, Gene Yang, Jim Rugg, Gabrielle Bell, Kickily, Sloane Leong and more as Special Guests for SPX 2017

Small Press Expo has announced its first slate of Special Guests for SPX 2017. The festival takes place on Saturday and Sunday, September 16-17, at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center and will have over 650 creators, 280 exhibitor tables and 22 programming slots to entertain, enlighten and introduce attendees to the amazing world of independent and small press comics.

SPX 2017 is honored to have the following creators as Special Guests to this year’s show:

NATE POWELL is a New York Times best-selling graphic novelist born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1978. He began self-publishing at age 14, and graduated from School of Visual Arts in 2000.

His work includes March, the graphic novel autobiography of Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis; You Don’t Say, Any Empire, Swallow Me Whole, The Silence Of Our Friends, The Year Of The Beasts, and Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero.

He lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

GENE LUEN YANG is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. He has written and drawn many graphic novels, including American Born Chinese, which was a National Book Award finalist, as well as the winner of the Printz Award and an Eisner Award. His graphic novel set Boxers and Saints won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He has also written for the hit comics Avatar: The Last Airbender and Superman. His latest project is the comics and coding series with Mike Holmes, Secret Coders. geneyang.com. Sunday only

JIM RUGG is an Eisner and Ignatz Award winning cartoonist based in Pittsburgh. His books include Street Angel, the PLAIN Janes, the Guild, Afrodisiac, and Notebook Drawings.

Street Angel, the deadliest girl alive, is back in a series of original hardcover graphic novels from Image Comics and the creative team of Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca. In Street Angel: After School Kung Fu Special, our skateboarding heroine, Jesse Sanchez, faces a ninja bully and battles teen angst over a big school dance. In July, Jesse joins a violent team of troublemakers in the Street Angel Gang.

GABRIELLE BELL’s work has been selected for Best American Comics and the Yale Anthology of Graphic Fiction, and has been featured in McSweeney’s, the Believer, Bookforum, and Vice among numerous other publications. Her story, “Cecil and Jordan In New York,” was turned into a film by Michel Gondry. Bell’s previous graphic novel, The Voyeurs, was named one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and the Atlantic. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. Find her online at gabriellebell.com. Saturday only
Photo by Jordan Guile

After graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art, SAM BOSMA taught in the Illustration department from 2011 to 2013 before moving to Brooklyn, NY. At SPX 2016, his first volume of Fantasy Sports won the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Comic! He currently does background drawings for Steven Universe on Cartoon Network when not creating comics and graphic novels. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

KICKLIY is the creator of the critically acclaimed Musnet series of books. The Musnet books follow the all-ages adventures of a certain poor Mus Musculous (a common field mouse, for those of you that don’t speak Latin) on his quest to become the greatest mouse painter that ever was.

Musnet was nominated for the 2017 Prix Angouleme for Kids Comics. Kickliy is also an accomplished oil painter. He lives somewhere between Minneapolis and Giverny.

SLOANE LEONG is a cartoonist currently living in Portland, Oregon who has worked for Image Comics, Dark Horse, Cartoon Network and more. Her Ignatz-nominated short comic, A Map to the Sun, will be expanded into a graphic novel and will be published by First Second in 2019. Sloane Leong’s newest comic, A Hollowing, is a lean grim story about a young girl and her horse, the breaking down of performed domesticity and the realization of the horrors of the body.

GILBERT HERNANDEZ is co-creator of the long-running, award-winning, and critically acclaimed series Love and Rockets, which in 2017 celebrates its 35th Anniversary. His books include Marbles, Bumperhead, Luba, Palomar, Speak of the Devil,Love from the Shadows and Girl Crazy. This year, Hernandez designed clothing based on his Love and Rockets characters for men and women available at Pinup Girl.

KEITH KNIGHT, winner of the Glyph, Harvey, and Inkpot Awards, is a spectacular cartoonist whose Knight Life comic strip is read nationwide in such newspapers as the Washington Post. Keef’s funny yet hard-hitting cartoons in his series (T)hink and The K Chronicles led him to be named one of the 2015 NAACP History Makers. Knight is the illustrator of the critically acclaimed tween book, Jake the Fake Keeps It Real. He also has a new collection of Knight Life strips called the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Behind.

Born in Palo Alto and raised in Nashville, award-winning, New-York-Times-bestselling illustrator JANET LEE is best known for her decoupage art technique. Self-taught, Lee has been drawing comics since she was old enough to hold a pencil. After working for more than a decade at the business end of publishing, Lee received her big break with the publication of Return of the Dapper Men. Since then, she has illustrated close to a dozen different books and anthologies. This year, Return of the Dapper Men returns in a new deluxe edition from Top Shelf Productions. Lee still lives and works in Nashville, in a house filled with one husband, one son, two dogs, and four very bad cats.

JIM MCCANN is an award-winning writer of comic books, television, and theatre. He wrote several critically acclaimed Marvel Hawkeye series before branching out into creating his own comics and graphic novels, as well as other projects. His first graphic novel, Return of the Dapper Men, won the Eisner Award for Best Original Graphic Album. He has since gone on to create hit series such as the space-heist Lost Vegas and the ongoing top-rated series Mind the Gap, both published through Image Comics. This year, Return of the Dapper Men returns in a new deluxe edition from Top Shelf Productions.


IDW Publishing Announces More Black Crown Series

Situated at the cross street of Great Yarn and Canon, the Black Crown Pub anchors a peculiar street where characters commingle and corrupt. As previously announced by IDW Publishing, legendary editor Shelly Bond has opened up shop at the publisher and is hurtling towards the launch of her creator-owned imprint, Black Crown. Peter Milligan and Tess Fowler, whose Kid Lobotomy will be Black Crown’s debut title in October, now welcome some rambunctious new residents to the neighborhood.

Come December, writer Tini Howard and Gilbert Hernandez will combine their talents on a 6-issue miniseries with more attitude than you can shake a sword or a game controller at in Assassinistas. Octavia is an ex-hitwoman who comes out of retirement to pay for her son’s college tuition — and, with any luck, rescue the kidnapped child of one of her former bounty-hunting partners. Octavia recruits her reluctant son Dominic and his boyfriend Taylor to become the next generation of Assassinistas.

Then in January, the British invasion is back in full force with Punks Not Dead, co-created by novelist David Barnett and artist Martin Simmonds. Fergie is a lonely, bullied teenager raised by a single mom who unexpectedly finds himself in search of the dad he never knew.  But Fergie won’t be traveling alone.  For some reason a strange branch of MI5 is hot on Fergie’s trail. Could it be the ghost of Sex Pistol Sid Vicious who becomes Fergie’s ethereal companion and unlikely father figure? Bound to Fergie for reasons unknown, is Sid in search of redemption himself or out to prove that punk is alive and well 40 years later?

Right on the heels of Kid Lobotomy is the Black Crown Quarterly, a 48-page compendium of all things comics, culture, and cool. It features a wraparound cover and a regular 10-page lead story set in the Black Crown Pub by Rob Davis. Other features include a two-sided pull-out poster with a view of the street and Frank Quitely‘s Kid Lobotomy #1 B-cover, music connections via CUD: Rich and Strange and Swell Maps, Canonball Comics, an exquisite corpse, and much more.

Love and Rockets Returns as an Ongoing Comic this Fall

Love and Rockets Vol. IV #1 1Fantagraphics Books has announced that Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez’s beloved Love and Rockets will return this fall in the same magazine format that fans fell in love with during its original 50 issue run from 1982-1996. Love and Rockets has been Fantagraphics’ flagship publication since its initial magazine debut in 1982, and the new series (Vol. IV, for those keeping track) will launch on the eve of the title’s 35th anniversary in September 2016 and continue every four months thereafter. The new format and schedule comes after a decade of the Love and Rockets: New Stories annual.

The Love and Rockets stories by brothers Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez continue to hold a firm grasp on the imaginations of several generations of comic book fans, garnering multiple Eisner and Ignatz Awards in recent years for their work on New Stories. Meanwhile, the collected Love and Rockets trade paperbacks continue to be perennial best sellers for Fantagraphics, with 11 volumes to date.

Love and Rockets Vol. IV #1 2The new Love and Rockets marks Gilbert and Jaime’s return to the “floppy” format for the first time in a decade and will measure 8 ½” x 10 ¾”, with at least 32 pages per issue, retailing at $4.99.

The new format will play to the strengths of master cartoonists Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, focusing on their diverse cast of characters and the rich milieus they have established over the past three-and-a-half decades: from Jaime’s Maggie and Hopey to Gilbert’s Luba and Fritz, old and new fans alike will be able to enjoy two of the great bodies of work in comics history, under one cover.

The all-new Love and Rockets Vol. IV #1 appears in the July Diamond Previews catalog for September shipping products.

Review: The Twilight Children TPB

Twilight ChildrenWhen a white orb washes up on the shore of a remote Latin American village, a group of children poke at the strange object to see what it is. The orb explodes, leaving the children completely blind. And when a beautiful young woman who may be an alien is found wandering the seafront, she’s taken in by the townspeople, but soon becomes a person of interest to a pair of CIA agents, and the target of affection for a young scientist.

Collecting the four issue Vertigo series written by Gilbert Hernandez with art by Darwyn Cooke and colors by Dave Stewart, The Twilight Children is an interesting series that feels more like a concept than a full fleshed out story and that seems to be on purpose.

Hernandez’s story is interesting in that it presents a sci-fi(ish) story without a lot of specifics. What are the orbs? Who is Ela? None of that is really explained as much of the story is left up to the readers to interpret and explore themselves. And that’s what’s fascinating is that you can read the story multiple times and come away with something different each time. It’s a story where you notice something new, or come up with a new theory with each read. It’s the open ended nature of the series that’s one of the best draws about it.

Of course Cooke’s art is the draw. It’s damn near perfect in almost every way enhanced by Stewart’s coloring. The two together are a match made in heaven. Cooke’s designs, as with everything he has done, are unique stylized and beautiful to look at. The art is just amazing to look at and kept me engaged with the story as the narrative itself is rather slow on its own. In many ways the story is beautiful, and Cooke’s art makes that apparent and makes sure the reader notices.

If you’re looking for a story with a story completely laid out, this isn’t for you. But, if you’re looking for an interesting sci-fi story that leaves a lot for the reader to decide and piece together this one’s for you. It’s a story that leaves the reader to put together as much as what’s presented by its creative team.

Story: Gilbert Hernandez Art: Darwyn Cooke Colors: Dave Stewart
Story: 7.9 Art: 10 Overall: 8.1 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics/Vertigo provided Graphic Policy with a FREE Copy for review

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