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Advanced Review: By The Horns #1

By the Horns #1

Elodie hates unicorns. For nearly a year, she’s been hell-bent on tracking down and killing all the elusive horned creatures responsible for trampling her husband, Shintaro. Now, exiled from her farming village of Wayfarer for selfishly neglecting her duties, Elodie and her half wolf/half deer steed, Sajen, search the continent of Solothus for clues to the whereabouts of unicorns.

When Elodie discovers that four ancient wind wizards are abducting unicorns and other mystical creatures so they can extract their magic, she means to go through them at any cost to exact her revenge. But she’ll need to rely on an increasingly reluctant Sajen, a floating-eyeball guide named Evelyn, and two unicorn prisoners – Zoso and Rigby – who grant her the ability to rip off their horns and combine them to form wizard-slaying weapons. Will she use their gifts to save the captured unicorns, or destroy them all?

Full disclosure: I am so bloody excited to have read this comic. The creative team (writer Markisan Naso, artist Jason Muhr, and colorist Andrei Tabacaru) are one of the most underrated teams I’ve ever come across – their first story, Voracious has been firmly lodged as one of my favorite comic stories since the first volume wrapped (there’s three, and each one is better than the last). Needless to say, when the first issue of By The Horns arrived in my inbox far earlier than I expected, I jumped on that like an Englishman jumping for tea.

By the Horns #1 opens with a figure standing over a unicorn, bloody axe in hand with their head out of frame. It’s a scene-setting image, and you know what you’re in for, but Naso’s words over the image hit me in a way I wasn’t expecting. Normally when I stop reading a comic, it’s not because I need to take a moment to collect myself. By The Horns #1 is not a normal comic.

Khemmis, the name of the village that our lead character is from, is a brilliant nod to one of the most played metal bands on my Spotify (coincidentally, Naso cohosts a podcast about heavy metal, and has recommended Khemmis’ Desolation album – which I highly encourage you to check out). If I’m honest, I reread the book a second time trying to find other references and nods hidden within the comic, and while I caught a few, there are probably others that I missed, but that’s the joy of Naso’s work; this shit’s like an onion – the more you peel away at things the more you’ll find below the layers.

The story weaves between emotional turmoil and a deep sense that something is missing. To be clear, there’s nothing missing in the comic, but rather than the character Elodie is missing a part of who she is after the loss of her partner. Naso doesn’t force feed you this revelation, but rather shows you through the dialogue, and the pacing of Elodie’s conversation with the village elder. It’s a powerful scene, made even more impactful because of the visuals; Muhr and Tabacaru are like poetry in motion in By The Horns #1. This has got to be one of the most beautiful books you’ll see, and a lot of the credit should go to the way Tabacaru brings Muhr’s art to life.

Muhr is good, make no mistake, but Tabacaru’s work is astounding. The warmth and emotional desolation in his colours are breath taking when taken as a whole with Muhr’s facial expressions and Naso’s dialogue.

I remember first reading about this series, though I don’t know where that was (likely social media), and after Voracious I knew I’d be all in. What I didn’t expect was to be shown such an emotional depth in the debut issue; it’s hard for me to reconcile that the creative team hasn’t been working together for far longer than they have been because of the synchronicity on display is utterly breathtaking.

By The Horns #1 is another blinder of a comic by Naso, Muhr, and Tabacaru. Get your shop to order this for you, because you’re not going to be disappointed when you get to read it in February.

Story: Markisan Naso Art/Lettering: Jason Muhr Colors: Andrei Tabacaru
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Graphic Policy was provided with a FREE copy for review


Pre-Order: Find your local comic shop

Underrated: Voracious: Diners, Dinosaurs & Dives

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Voracious: Diners, Dinosaurs & Dives.


Markisan Naso, Jason Muhr and Andrei Tabucaru have a new comic coming out in 2021, By The Horns. Because of the fact that these three have created one of my all time favourite series, I’m going to revisit the three volumes over the next couple of months starting with the one that kicked it all off: Diners, Dinosaurs & Dives.

This is an older column from 2017, but seeing as how I stand by what I wrote then, I’m rerunning it.

This week I wanted to take a look at a series that I think epitomizes what this column is about: a great comic book series or story that too few people have read. Published by Action Lab, Voracious is written by Markisan Naso and drawn by Jason Muhr, with the co-creators being joined by colourist Andrei Tabucaru, and can usually grab your attention with the shortest of descriptions: “time travelling chef makes dinosaur sandwiches.”

It sounds awesome, right? Well, that’s because it is.

In an ideal world, that’s really all you would need to rush out and buy the two trade paper back collections (Diners, Dinosaurs & Dives and Feeding Time), but it can be tough to buy two trades wholly on those words – I get that. I really do. Look, it’s no secret that Voracious is one of my favourite series to come out in the last couple of years (you can find the reviews for most of the comics in the two miniseries under this search),  and it’s one of the few that I’ll buy in floppy form after reading the review copies – and it’s the only one that I also buy the TPBs as well.

You see, I put my money where my mouth is because Voracious is a wonderful breath of fresh air in an industry that has been choking on relaunches and rehashes; the five issues that make up Feeding Time are some of the highest scored comics that I have reviewed for Graphic Policy. Voracious does have an awesome elevator pitch, but that’s not what draws me into the series (though it certainly helped).

After only nine comics (technically ten, but the first issue was a double sized comic) Markisan Naso has become one of Those writers who has earned my complete and utter trust; I will probably buy anything that he puts out from this point on. Aside from having an excellent music taste, Naso has an ability to give a unique voice to his characters that when combined with Jason Muhr’s artistic ability allows you to understand all you need to know about a character within a page or two at most. Yes, there are deeper layers to the people you’re watching navigate their lives on the page, and they’re expertly revealed as the series progresses in a way that you’re never really subjected to an-out-of-left-field moment that takes you out of the story because of a character’s actions because of how well developed they are; you won’t be shocked at the actions of the people in the comic because it all seems so in character for them once you understand their motivations.

As with any well written story featuring time travel you hope the visuals measure up to the intricacies of the story, and oh boy do they ever.Voracious_02-8

Jason Muhr is a brilliant visual story teller; there are so many brilliant double page spreads where his talents shine, and yet some of my favourite moments are the ones where Muhr focuses in on the emotions playing across the face of the character he is drawing; obviously I want to avoid significant spoilers so I’m not showing you as many pages from later issues, which is a disservice to both you and Muhr because as the series progressed he really found his groove.

If you’re tired of reading about superheroes fighting each other and you want a story to take you across the emotional spectrum without the use of glowing rings then you need look no further. While the comic is about a time traveling, dinosaur hunting chef, it’s also a powerful look into what makes us who we are and how. It’s a story about mistakes and loss, and most importantly coping with those things.

Voracious is the best comic you’ve never read, so change that. I haven’t heard a singe person I’ve made read the book complain in anyway. This story is what comics are all about; a masterpiece of visual story telling that couldn’t be told any other way even half as effectively as it is in comic form.

Now, excuse me while I go and read both trades again.

If you want more Voracious, then you can check out the episode of GP Radio where we talked all about the dinosaur sandwiches with both Markisan Naso and Jason Muhr.


Unless the comics industry ceases to exist this week, Underrated will return next week.

The Epic Fantasy By the Horns Begins this Winter

From writer Markisan Naso, artist and letterer Jason Muhr, and colorist Andrei Tabacaru, the amazing team behind Voracious, come their next adventure By the Horns.

Elodie hates unicorns. For nearly a year, she’s been hell-bent on tracking down and killing all the elusive horned creatures responsible for trampling her husband, Shintaro. Now, exiled from her farming village of Wayfarer for selfishly neglecting her duties, Elodie and her half wolf/half deer steed, Sajen, search the continent of Solothus for clues to the whereabouts of unicorns.

When Elodie discovers that four ancient wind wizards are abducting unicorns and other mystical creatures so they can extract their magic, she means to go through them at any cost to exact her revenge. But she’ll need to rely on an increasingly reluctant Sajen, a floating-eyeball guide named Evelyn, and two unicorn prisoners – Zoso and Rigby – who grant her the ability to rip off their horns and combine them to form wizard-slaying weapons. Will she use their gifts to save the captured unicorns, or destroy them all?

The action fantasy adventure By the Horns begins this winter from publisher Scout Comics.

By the Horns

Preview: Voracious Volume 3: Appetite for Destruction

VORACIOUS VOLUME 3: APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION

Writer(s): Markisan Naso
Artist Name(s): Jason Muhr
Cover Artist(s): Jason Muhr
152 pgs./ T+ / FC
$14.99

Chef Nate Willner’s dinosaur hunts in an alternate dimension reignited his passion for cooking and turned his life around. But traveling through time and space for prehistoric meat has consequences he never imagined. He’s damaged the bloodlines of the Saurians – a race of evolved dinosaurs from another universe, fractured the trust of the people he cares for most, and unleashed a flesh-hungry monster on his hometown! With the help of Saurian Detective Gus Horncrasher, Nate and his friends must put aside their differences to save Blackfossil from being devoured, repair the damage to the timelines, and overcome the losses they’ve suffered in their lives.

VORACIOUS TPB VOL. 3: Appetite for Destruction collects issues #1-5 of the third book from the critically acclaimed series.

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Review: Voracious: Appetite For Destruction #5

Voracious: Appetite For Destruction #5

Voracious: Appetite For Destruction #5 delivers the finale of this three-volume series. Nate and his friends must pick up the pieces after experiencing a devastating loss. Can they move forward with their lives after everything they’ve been through?

Review Spoiler: I’m going to recommend you read the entire series. There are two trades and the four floppies of this miniseries. If you want to go in blind, just know that this series is perhaps one of the very best stories I’ve read in comic book form. There will be spoilers for the first two volumes and possibly every issue so far in this series.

Even with the above spoiler warning, I’m still hesitant to reveal too much. It’s very tough to talk about this comic without talking about previous events. If you’ve come this far then you don’t care about spoilers or read every issue. In which case, you probably don’t care about spoilers anyway.

But here we are.

The finale to one of my favorite stories in comic form. It’s a very bittersweet moment.

Voracious: Appetite For Destruction #5 surpasses any expectation I had for the series finale. This is a comic that takes everything from the previous fourteen issues (thirteen if you count the over-sized first issue as one) and pulls it together. It’s an end that rewards readers who have obsessed over every detail in each issue.

There are no sudden deus ex machina to resolve the dangling plot points; Naso left hints and clues throughout the previous comics so that nothing feels unexpected. But nor is it telegraphed. Voracious: Appetite For Destruction #5 holds a place in my personal top five of series finales. I’m being cagey here because right now it’s my number one, and while I can’t think of another issue to top V:AfD #5 right now, that’s also because I have just read this comic. It’s a wonderfully rewarding book.

After the events of the previous issue, the finale feels more like an epilogue. And I absolutely love that Markisan Naso gave himself time to wrap up the story in such a complete way. Yes, there are still options for spin-off series. With such a rich multiverse, there are almost limitless possibilities here for a multitude of different stories. I hope Naso, Jason Muhr and Andrei Tabucaru can tell them in the future. In the meantime, we’re still left with an utterly beautiful story about loss, redemption, and a cutting undertone about the selfishness of humanity that will resonate for decades to come.

The entire Voracious series is probably the highest scoring run I’ve ever reviewed. It is a nigh-on perfect three trade story (I don’t think there are any flaws I can pick with the entire story). This has been a fantastic journey, and Voracious has ensconced the creative team as one of the finest in the sequential art medium. Markisan Naso is one of the few writers, along with Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt and Robert Venditti, whose work I will pick up without question.

Thank Andrei Tabucaru, for such wonderful coloring work. You brought life to the long-extinct, such that I could smell the roasting of dinosaur flesh from my desk.

Thank you, Jason Muhr. Your talents have blossomed over the years from the first issue. Even on Voracious #1, you captured the essence of these characters in a way that has stayed with me.

Thank you, Markisan Naso. This story has given me such ups and downs, an emotional roller coaster of a journey, but most of all it came at a time when my love of comics was faltering. Although not the sole reason I am still reading, Voracious certainly played its part.

I am sorry to see the story come to an end. Holy frig am I glad that I was able to read this book.

Story: Markisan Naso Art: Jason Muhr Colorist: Andrei Tabucaru
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Action Lab provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review. I have every intention of buying this book (and the trade) anyway.

Preview: Voracious: Appetite for Destruction #5

VORACIOUS: APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION #5

Writer: Markisan Naso
Artist Name: Jason Muhr
Cover A – Jason Muhr
Cover B – Bernie Gonzalez
24 pgs./ T+ / FC
$3.99

The final chapter of VORACIOUS. Nate and his friends must pick up the pieces after experiencing a devastating loss. Can they move forward with their lives after everything they’ve been through?

Featuring a “Lost in Love, Lost in Time” variant cover by Bernie Gonzalez (Midnight Mystery). Limited to 250 copies!

VORACIOUS: APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION #5

Review: Voracious: Appetite For Destruction #4

Voracious: Appetite For Destruction #4

Maribel’s mysterious past is revealed in Voracious: Appetite For Destruction #4. Nate and his friends face the monstrous Owen in a final battle for Blackfossil and the fate of two worlds.

Review Spoiler: I’m going to recommend you read the entire series. There are two trades and the four floppies of this miniseries. If you want to go in blind, just know that this series is perhaps one of the very best stories I’ve read in comic book form. If you read further there will be spoilers for the first two volumes.

Even with the above spoiler warning, I’m still hesitant to reveal too much about this story. I know, if you’ve come this far, then either you don’t care about spoilers or you’ve read every issue. Then you probably don’t care about spoilers.

But here we are.

One issue away from the finale.

Voracious: Appetite For Destruction #4 would have made for an incredible cliffhanger at the end of a series. It’s the kind of comic that wraps everything up without giving closure. It hooks the reader for the next series that you inevitably wait longer than you wanted for. Instead, Markisan Naso delivers one of his hardest-hitting issues in the comic before the finale.

This comic has a one-two punch that will leave you feeling emotionally vulnerable. The other dozen or so jabs that will wear away at any pretense you have of being an emotionless fool. You’re not. And that’s okay. It is, frankly and honestly, one of the best single issues I’ve read in a long time. There are so many different layers to this issue. Was we learn about Maribel’s past, get a hint toward Nate’s future and see Gus Horncrusher closing in on rock bottom.

There’s an inevitability to this issue. They way Naso’s words play across the page you can’t help but wonder if the writer is both talking to you directly. You may not notice it until you’ve closed the comic for the first time. But when you do you’re going to wonder if certain parts of the narration are the writer bidding farewell to you and the series. It adds another layer to the already powerful words.

Voracious: Appetite For Destruction #4 finally reveals what has only been hinted at previously: Maribel’s story. The issue splits between the flashback retelling of her story and the events of the present. Two separate tales intertwining as they rush to their meeting point. The juxtaposition of the two stories – the frantic rush and heartbreak of the present as Nate tries to make it to a certain characters side as Gus’ memory of his wife fades further against the slower biographical telling of Maribel’s story, and the gradual finding of hope and love that she finds with Nate’s grandfather – turn into one of the surprise stars of this book as Naso demonstrates a flair for comic book storytelling seldom seen.

Jason Muhr‘s art, combined with Andrei Tabacaru‘s coloring, is perfectly suited for the style of story. If there is one thing I am as impressed by in this comic other than the writing, it’s the art. The beauty of this series is that neither the art nor the writing is consistently better than the other. Muhr has been on top form the entire series. Believe me, I’ve tried to nitpick, but there’s nothing for me to find. His talent is on full display here with some phenomenal double-page spreads. They give a very whimsical retelling of the past in a detailed yet condensed way. And then there’s the penultimate page… oh boy.

And through all of this, Tabacaru adds the warmth, emotion, and panic needed to the art through his vibrant coloring. The only exception to his vibrancy is the previously mentioned double-page spreads in which he uses a sepia-like color scheme to highlight the golden memories of the past.

As one of my favorite series prepares to come to a close, the creative hit us with one of the strongest issues in the series yet. It’ll be a bittersweet moment when I get the next issue, but this has been a fantastic journey and I cannot wait to see how it ends.

Story: Markisan Naso Art: Jason Muhr Colourist: Andrei Tabucaru
Story: 10 Art 9.4 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Bu
y

Action Lab provided a FREE copy for review, but I have every intention of buying this book (and the trade) anyway.

Preview: Voracious: Appetite for Destruction #4

VORACIOUS: APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION #4

Writer: Markisan Naso
Artist Name: Jason Muhr
Cover A – Jason Muhr
Cover B – Jim Lawson
24 pgs./ T+ / FC
$3.99

Maribel’s mysterious past is revealed, as Nate and his friends face the monstrous Owen in a final battle for Blackfossil and the fate of two worlds.

Featuring a “Time & Tide” variant cover by Jim Lawson (TMNT, Dragonfly). Limited to 250 copies!

VORACIOUS: APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION #4

Review: Voracious: Appetite For Destruction #3

Voracious: Appetite For Destruction #3

In Voracious: Appetite For Destruction #3, Nate Willner makes a lot of mistakes in his life. Things like hunting and cooking dinosaurs from another dimension. But one of the biggest blunders he’s ever made is taking his best friend, Starlee, for granted. This issue, she confronts him about that. Plus, Captain Jim makes a plan for taking down Owen.

Review spoiler: I’m going to recommend you read the entire series. There’s two trades and the three floppies of this miniseries. If you want to go in blind, just know that this series is one of my absolute favorites. If you read further there will be spoilers for the first two volumes.

We are all the hero of our own story, right? No matter who you are, your story centers on you. And that’s okay, as long as you realize that the world doesn’t revolve around you. But what if you’ve forgotten that other people also have their own stories to live? Their own lives to live and their own needs to be met? In fiction, it’s often all too easy for us to forget that. We get engrossed in reading the story of the lead character. In this case Nate Wilner. The other characters have their own dreams, desires and motivations (or at least they should). Markisan Naso plays with this wonderfully in this issue that slows things down a touch in the action department, but hits home in the character and plot development area.

Voracious: Appetite For Destruction #3 allows readers to take a bit of a breather from the hunt for a giant dinosaur bird monster that Owen has become that was the focus of the first two issues, and allows the readers and story to breath before the next confrontation. Naso demonstrates a grasp of pacing and plot development that some have either inexplicably forgotten or never knew about. It’s this kind of mid series breather that allows the writer to double down on the action over the remaining chapters, as hints he’s dropped as seed up to ten issues ago are beginning to flourish into full blown oak trees of awesome.

Jason Muhr‘s art, combined with Andrei Tabacaru‘s colouring once again rises to meet the quality of the writing. There’s a deft subtlety to the way these two create their respective artwork, with each issue still managing to surprise me; whether it’s the body language in the opening scene that feels so natural, or the surprisingly human emotion on the face of Gus Horncrusher… it’s a comic that despite the deliberately slower pace, still remain visually exciting and interesting.

Slowing the pace of a story in the middle can be risky, but the creators have been able to retain the tension in the series with an intense focus on character development as the series begins to wrap. There’s a reason I love this series so much, but it essentially boils down to the raw talent of Naso, Muhr and Tabacaru.

I had been waiting more than six months to read this issue, after getting my hands on the first two via Kickstarter. After such a long wait, I am very happy to say that it didn’t disappoint.

Story: Markisan Naso Art: Jason Muhr Colourist: Andrei Tabucaru
Story: 9.4 Art 9.4 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy

Action Lab provided a FREE copy for review, but I had already received my copy from Kickstarter.

Preview: Voracious: Appetite for Destruction #3

VORACIOUS: APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION #3

Writer: Markisan Naso
Artist Name: Jason Muhr
Cover A – Jason Muhr
Cover B – Gregery Miller
24 pgs./ T+ / FC
$3.99

Nate Willner makes a lot of mistakes in his life, like hunting and cooking dinosaurs from another dimension. But one of the biggest blunders he’s ever made is taking his best friend, Starlee, for granted. This issue, she confronts him about that. Plus, Captain Jim makes a plan for taking down Owen.

Featuring a “Saurian Science” variant cover by Gregery Miller (The Tales of Reverie) Limited to 250 copies!

VORACIOUS: APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION #3
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