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Review: Rise #3

Rise #3 cover

JRR Tolkien is a master storyteller whose love for myths and the English language showed in his work. The people who have read Lord of the Rings can attest to its fascination and brilliance. What is most fascinating is not the fantastical world-building but his character development. We get invested in his characters within a few pages, wanting them to win at all costs.

The ring itself is a character that has its own history and its own powers. Then there is this unlikely band of friends, who come together to get rid of the ring, on a treacherous and almost deadly journey. We see within one of their first times they run into trouble they lost one of their own, temporarily, how they kept on task despite the possible tragedy. In the third issue of Rise, our band of heroes, learn to move forward despite losing one of their own.

We find Haydan, who’s searching for the Queen’s allies within the walls of Pasif’kah, as she breaches Duncan the Seer’s temple in hopes of gathering intel that would aid her search, not before one meets their end. We also find Zakaiah and her entourage camped out north of the kingdom, in hopes of finding some refuge and planning their next moves now that Zakaiah’s protector, General Junayo, has been killed, as Balthazar concocts a plan to evade the Soulthieves. We are also taken back to the capital, where a clandestine meeting of what remains of the royal court looks for an audience with the Queen of Qards, who negotiates a price for her help, one that the regents are initially reluctant to give up. By the issue’s end, an ally rises from the dead, the entourage finally reaches their destination, and a gang of Soulthieves is headed their way.

This third issue puts into context just how complex this world and these characters are. The story by Don Ellis Aguillo is passionate and entertaining. The art by Aguillo is glorious. Altogether, an issue that unfolds as every great story does, slowly building up the tension.

Story: Don Ellis Aguillo Art: Don Ellis Aguillo
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Rise #2

Rise #2

Black Panther, even before the movie, was a sort of icon for kids of color. The very concept of a Prince who has superhuman abilities, is extremely smart, and an Avenger, made him quite formidable. I remember reading the early issues and not quite connecting. It was mostly because it was originally not written from a black perspective.

The point which drew me back in was when Reginald Hudlin took over the series. His remixing of the narrative starting with Flags Of Our Fathers, made him someone whom Captain America did not have the upper hand on. One of the most memorable panels from Hudlin’s run is the battle to become the Black Panther. In the second issue of Rise, Zakaiah is in the midst of an ambush, which also serves as one of the tests the young Princess must pass.

We meet Frix, a master inventor, who has come under the employ of Balthazar, to tip the scales in their favor, as the road is seen to be treacherous. As we are dropped right back in the middle of the ambush, where Zakaiah is separated from the royal entourage and a battle between Junayd, the lead Soul Thief and General Adofo takes place. As Junayd gets the better of Adofo, Balthazar casts a spell to gain an advantage over the Soulthieves. By issue’s end, our heroes beat the Soulthieves momentarily while losing one of their own in the process.

This issue is a heart-wrenching issue which shows that nothing is gained without sacrifice. The story by Don Ellis Aguillo is intense and well characterized. The art by Aguillo is magnificent. Altogether, an issue that only antes up on the action and gives readers a nice backstory

Story: Don Ellis Aguillo Art: Don Ellis Aguillo
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Rise #1

Rise #1

As an avid reader, one of my favorite genres is high fantasy. When I came upon The Witcher novels, I was more than intrigued as it blended myths from several cultures. It also reminded me of Vampire Hunter D, the late 1980s anime where which followed a half-vampire, half-human vampire hunter. When I heard they were making it a TV show I was more than intrigued.

The show revolves a mutant monster hunter whose destiny lied with a child he had left with a sovereign for safety. As the show slowly reveals, there’s more to their connection than one would deduce. In the debut issue of Rise, we meet a young regent whose life is about to change as she becomes her kingdom’s new ruler.

We’re taken to the kingdom of Pasif’kah in far-flung future, in the 50th century, where its throne sits vacant, its guard, severely undermanned, their mages inexperienced, and a kingdom, directionless for the very least, an observation the historian has made. As we find out the Ternion, a trio of royal advisors who were charged with keeping the kingdom intact in case of foreign invasion usurping the royal family. We also meet the royal family, the king, and queen, Voltaire and Ember, and their daughter, Zakaiah, whose favor with their subjects, only grew their popularity, which only stoked the envy the Ternion had against the royal family. This lead to to the king and queen’s sudden and mysterious disappearance, one that many suspected the Ternion for.  As what remains of the royal council convenes on the future of the kingdom, as Balthazar, the chief Royal advisor, presses that princess Zakiah, to prove her worth to occupy the throne will undergo the trials of her house, the House of Jasser, as declared by royal decree. We also find out about the Soulthieves, a demonic horde, thought to live off the souls of humans while living endlessly, who attack nearby kingdoms, feasting on innocent masses, with the threat of them attacking Pasif’kah seeming very imminent. By the issue’s end, Zakaiah’s entourage is attacked by a den of Soulthieves , one of the Ternion hires an assassin and someone is lost at the moment.

Rise #1 is one of the best high fantasy comics I have read in a minute. The story by Don Aguillo is dense and well developed. The art by Aguillo is breathtaking. Altogether, a story that levels up the genre and adds another hero to root for.

Story: Don Ellis Aguillo Art: Don Ellis Aguillo
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Scout Comics is Ready to Rise with Don Ellis Aguillo

Scout Comics has announced Rise written and drawn by Don Ellis Aguillo.

Rise is about broken, lost, splendidly dysfunctional people (is there any other kind?) who are brought together by a hope they had either lost or knew nothing of, but cling to nonetheless. Through tragic circumstances, a 9 year old girl is set to take the mantle of Queen. She will face resistance from a power-hungry aristocracy and a horde of vampiric demons, all on the brink of war.

The series will debut in 2019.

Review: Rise #1

What the show Game Of Thrones get so well is how treacherous ruling a kingdom is. Many times, throughout literature, tv shows ad movies that take place during medieval times, rarely do they get into the turmoil of usurpers and bureaucrats nipping at the heels at the ruler, only to slit their throat the first chance they get. This even worse when rulers are of an age where they would normally not be in power, which makes life even more perilous as they are going against everything they had been thought up to that point and occupying stations which they only envision themselves years later.

This why in the latest season of Game of Thrones many fans became enamored with Liana Mormont, as she was as daunting a ruler, as any in the show, and this was despite her age. She is not an anomaly, not only in literature but also in history, as young rulers tend to become either pawns or masters of their own destiny. The first one I knew of, growing up is Pu-Yi, the child emperor of China and the subject of the film, The Last Emperor. In Don Aguillo’s brilliant Rise, we find one such sovereign, who has been charged to rule a kingdom, one she does not know, soon after her parents’ disappearance.

An assassin looking for the queen Zakaiah, enters the temple near her ancestral home and kingdom, Pacifica, where Duncan, a priest leading her band through site meets his fate. We meet her band of guides, as they find out what jus happened and what that they mean for her monarchy, as they strategize on what to do next, while the interim royal court looks to make their own play for the throne. As Zak, Lucas, Senka, and Frix , get closer to a temple for sanctuary, they run into a soul stealing monster along their path. By issue’s end, they reach the temple and where they soon find about the casualties that occurred due to the threat to the throne and, they may have found a new ally.

Overall, an engaging and sweeping first issue, that feels like a roller coaster with all the action happening across these few pages. The story by Aguillo is dense, engaging, and pulls no punches. The art by Aguillo looks like matte paintings and is very much soulful. Altogether, a powerhouse debut issue for a story that will revamp the medieval fantasy genre.

Story: Don Aguillo Art: Don Aguillo
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Chatting With Don Aguillo of InHiatus Studios

A few months ago, I got  a chance to do a review of  the first collection, from the up and coming Comics publisher, InHiatus Studios, which has well of talent from the Bay Area in California, I got a chance to talk to each of the creators,, the first one being Don Aguillo, who works on two of the books, one of them being Rise , below is a brief background on the book and my interview with Don, about the comic, his start, and what drives him:

Young Queen Zak, inheriting the responsibilities of the long-vacant throne of the kingdom of Pacifica, is guided by a reluctant band of individuals assembled to aid in her survival on the path to assume the mantle of queen, as a long-orchestrated struggle for power back home and a road ahead haunted by supernatural forces threaten her ascension to the throne.

Graphic Policy: What were your favorite comics growing up?

Don Aguillo: I grew up reading Uncanny X-Men and X-Men. Those were my go-to, only because they were the first ones that were ever gifted to me. It was only after I started reading that I began understanding just how relevant they were to my life experience and just how much my career and skill-development were going to be influenced by them.

GP: Is there a specific comics creator that influenced you?

DA: My original influences were Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, Joe Madureira. These artists had really different styles but all influenced my take on figure-drawing and taught me how to bring the study of the comics medium and the conventions established in the industry to my work. Currently, I am absolutely in love with the work of Chris Bachalo, Simone Bianchi, Olivier Coipel, Greg Tocchini, Alex Ross and Mike Del Mundo. These guys are integrating the fundamentals and stylistic variety of traditional art media into the craft to establish this new-old modern aesthetic that helps galvanize comics’ relevance on the greater cultural scene.

GP: Are there any influences outside of comics which you draw upon in your art?

DA: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, by Francis Ford Coppola was a great film influence on my early painting work, as I was in love by its production design. The gothic beauty mixed with the romance of the period costume and the sickly-sweet color palettes splashed on these beautiful forms influenced by far eastern, medieval and modern aesthetic really moved me. I pull from ideas from my cultural background as a Filipino-American as well as my dance and martial arts experiences in terms of studying figure movement and action.

GP: What influence do your parents have on your work? What was their reaction, when you told what you wanted to do for a living?

DA: I threw a lot at them to keep them on their toes haha. Changing my major from pre-med to art, moving out of the house, leaving home so early, coming out, so many things. They got really used to being surprised by me, that acceptance was a big part of their lives by the point I had already galvanized my choice to follow this career path. But they’re so supportive and wished they knew more about what I’m doing, and it’s just so early in the development of comics as more of a culturaly-accepted medium in literature to be a vehicle for social change, political commentary, documentary, exploration of visual and literary expression that the greater masses don’t really have a good grasp of it yet, aside from what they get from, namely, the movies. My parents, though a part of that, are making great efforts to not only understand, but also enjoy what I do.

GP: How did you get started in comics?

DA: A lot of my early clients when I started out as a freelance artist, where aspiring writers who had comic ideas and needed to run Kickstarter Campaigns to boost production to bring them to life. These were early blessings, where I had people really interested in my work, wanted to pay for it, knew I could use it to practice my craft and use it in my portfolio! Project after project came and before I knew it, I started looking back on all my old comics not just as entertainment, but research material in a much-needed education on panelling, visual storytelling, understanding a shorthand, the essentials and foundations of visual storytelling and time management. And then came they day that I really needed to work on my own piece.

GP: When did you know working on comics would be your career?

DA: It’s actually a pretty recent development. It was only when the other company owners and I got together to say “let’s put a book out” that I thought maybe there was something there. But before we knew it, we had evolved into a company, and the rest is history.

GP: What lead you to form InHiatus Studios?

DA: As I said, the original idea was just to get these really creative people to put a book of collected short stories together. As we explored the idea, we realized the scope, a projected future and the profound potential of our concept couldn’t be contained in a single book. It was bigger than that, especially with so many of us working together on it.  We had organized and finalized the company soon after a really successful Kickstarter Campaign to fund the first anthology, realizing that what would result would need to be managed and produced professionally, because it was naturally going to spawn new, bigger projects, which it already has. We’re really busy right now, working on the independent series from the first anthology in individual comic issues (the first of each publishing over the course of the next couple months).

GP: What was your inspiration behind Rise?

DA: I work with a lot of kids, teaching martial arts and cartooning, locally in San Francisco.  In understanding the modern child and the world of responsibility on their shoulders (sometimes of their understanding, but usually not), their busy lives, growing up in such a distracting and noisy world, I can only imagine how fast growing up can be. Rise comes out of my trying to make sense of that, and throwing it into this laboratory of creating a world around that very idea.  I also think any creative work is wholly auto-biographical, and so I’ve rounded out this cast with a string of characters who all embody aspects of myself that I can visit, explore, venerate, punish, and acknowledge through writing them and placing them in situations that support the greater narrative and also help me maybe organize the din of noise in my own head.

GP: What can you tell me about the world and characters of Rise?

DA: Queen Zakaiah (at 9) is an orphaned monarch, and inherits the great responsibility of running the Kingdom of Pacifica and caring for its people, in a projected, distant future of northern California, after a string of wars and natural disasters, past the technology age and thrown into an era of magic and supernatural forces. Lucas Balthazar, her guardian, is charged with the duty of guiding her through a set of trials in preparation for the throne, joined by mysterious warrior Senka Priahm, and commoner Frix Atilio. This entourage is thrown into an adventure across the future post-apocalyptic American landscape, threatened by a horde of vampire-like creatures called Soul-Thieves scattered across the land and a mysterious political upheaval in development back at home, both with independent agendas at play. The world will have aspects of the landscape from its glorious past, hinting at artifacts we are familiar with, but mixed in with a jumble of cultural interplay with both how the world had evolved in a millennia, as well as playing with some cultural diversity in influencing the supernatural elements that inhabit this world.

GP: Do you have any favorite comics you are reading right now?

DA: Low for its beautiful art and story of hope, and Saga for its wit, charm, and characterization, as well as visual simplicity.  Both are from Image.

GP: What do you think is most important when capturing a moment in time to render in a panel for the reader to take in?

DA: Emotion. It can be captured in the pop of color, the quietness of a scene, sparseness in detail, or a contrast with all that surrounds it. I think controlling the emotional journey in the reader through their empathy of characters we write and draw is really powerful. Sounds really manipulative, but it’s the ride the reader has signed on for.  And that’s what makes the work really personal. It’s the biggest challenge, but also the biggest thrill to make that connection with them!

GP: When was the first time, you identified with a character on TV/in the movies/ or between the pages of a comic book?

DA: Buffy the Vampire Slayer really spoke to me, and  I think it’s the way Joss Whedon realized and spoke through each character that really resonated with me. It’s brilliant, heartbreaking, hopeful, honest, humorous and human, his writing.  As a gay man, the X-Men always resonated with me, but early on, the emotional journey of Jean Grey through the Phoenix Saga and eventually the Dark Phoenix Saga hit me hard and showed me how comics could really understand and be a vehicle for more profound storytelling. It explored a duality in people and to put that kind of power in a female character at the forefront of a huge story was groundbreaking in this medium. I wanted to a be a part of something like that.

GP: How important is representation in comics to you as a creator and to your target audience?

DA: Though being inclusive to everyone is the current hot-button issue these days, I think just being honest and genuine to your own experiences is more important. There is no way for a creator to write from every perspective, but to add something real from their own world is enough of a contribution. I’ve woven my experience with kids and parental figures and being a member of the lgbt into my writing, but it in no way should influence who my target audience is. I think that anyone who picks up this book should find a character to anchor onto, anyone at least, who wants to explore questions about the meaning of our life’s work, the importance of the people in our lives and how much power we all actually have in influencing and creating real change.

GP: Are there any current artists/writers out there you admire and would like to work with?

DA: Neil Gaiman, if you’re out there, my life’s wish is to draw for your work at least once, haha. Scott Lobdell was also an early influence in emotional comic book writing, and I would love to work with either of these gentlemen as they were part of my formative years and it would just be an honor.

GP: What kind of reception have you had with Shards Volume 1?

DA: Shards Volume One, was a really pleasant surprise, as we went in with no expectations. We knew people out there were really adamant and solid on the big houses and what they already like, and we offered entries that weren’t known and didn’t have a huge reach, but were from the heart. We sold locally through the Bay Area’s network of Comic-Con’s and are going into year two with a huge schedule including some of the bigger events, with our second anthology as well as a second run of our first one and have ridden on this high of new fans really loving and receiving the work.  We’re so happy to just get it out there.

GP: What do you want our readers to know/or expect from Rise?

DA: Expect a deep influence of horror, fantasy, sword-sorcery and post-apocalypse all at once. Expect an adventure with an ensemble cast that is really trying to understand each other while on this dark road, forming a kind of family we’re all familiar with. Readers are going to be hit with a complex world with a lot of moving parts, indicative of the busy mind it’s coming from (this comic is sort of my therapy, a way of trying to organize and understand my own world) and are going to see that the characters we meet are going to be put through their paces and experience real change by the end of this journey. For better or worse? Time will tell. Not everyone gets to stay, and we’re not all good guys.

GP: When can we expect Rise?

DA: Rise Issue 1 comes out this December! Issue 2 is under production and should be out by March, projected as of right now. But go out and get Shards Volume One Trade to get Issue 0 which shows how they set out on this adventure! Thanks so much!

Read some Free Comics from Double Take

Double Take LogoWant to read some free comics? Double Take announced that starting today all 1st and 2nd issues of their 10 inter-connected stories based upon the 1968 cult classic film Night of the Living Dead will be offered free of charge via their website.

3rd issues will be available in stores starting 2/24 both individually and through their very popular Super Pack which allows the reader to collect all 10 titles for $20.

Yes, you can get comics for just $2.

In their release, Double Take General Manager Bill Jemas said:

In my days at Marvel we sampled over 6 million physical copies of Ultimate Spider-Man, today, the most efficient and effective way of promoting a new comic book is through digital sampling. Online readership is largely complementary to physical readership. We are so proud of our upcoming 3rd issues, that we wanted to share the rest of our work in anticipation of their release.

Don’t know where to start? Here’s the 10 Titles to choose from!

Z-Men: Dead and/or alive. LBJ orders the Secret Service to bring him back a Zombie. This should be easy…

Spring: Hot sun, hot babes, and the cold decaying flesh of the zombie horde.

Home: A happy family, a lovely spring evening, and zombies. The family that faces zombies together stays together.

Dedication: Thanks to some hungry customers, the closing shift at George’s Market has turned into a graveyard shift.

Remote: As ghouls surround her station, KBRF Radio ace DJ Samantha stays on the air all night. Will Rock & Roll save her soul?

Honor: Protect. Serve. Beat. Burn. Rinse. Repeat. If you get pulled over by these cops, get ready to hand over your license, registration, and death certificate.

Soul: The posse shoots to kill, but Ben survives. Too bad it’s all downhill from here. As the tale unwinds, Chief McClelland and the posse suspect that Ben may not be telling them the whole truth.

Rise: They’re coming to get you Barbara. An old story with a new end and a new beginning.

Medic: Doctors, and nurses, and zombies, oh my! These patients just won’t die!

Slab: Even a Brain a-day can’t keep this doctor away.


Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Thor_8_CoverWednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

We’re bringing back something we haven’t done for a while, what the team thinks. Our contributors are choosing up to five books each week and why they’re choosing the books.

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.


Top Pick: Rebels #2 (Dark Horse) – Brian Wood’s series takes us back to the beginnings of the American Revolution. Focusing on two young individuals looking to start their life, Wood not only gives us a touching action story, but also reminds us some of the principles that founded our nation.

Lantern City #1 (Archaia/BOOM! Studios) – A story about castes and a man who just wants a better life for his family.

Rise #2 (Northwest Press) – The series launched after lots of high-profile bullying stories, and while the publisher focuses on LGBT comics, the stories focus on more than just that. These are stories we can all relate to, and after reading you can realize things do get better.

Secret Wars #2 (Marvel) – The first issue threw us head first into a massive action story, taking us right into the thick of battle, and had no problems killing characters off. That only set us up to know anything is possible as Marvel relaunches its comic universe.

Space Riders #2 (Black Mask Studios) – The series’ first issue was a psychedelic space adventure. So, expect more of that… aka more awesome.



Top Pick: Thor #8 (Marvel) – Probably anyone who is even slightly interested in Marvel will be picking this up to find out who the new Thor is

Lady Killer #5 (Dark Horse) – This series sees its end here and we get to find out whether or not Josie is a one hit wonder.

Night Nurse #1 (Marvel) – The Daredevil television series renewed interest in this character, and this collection will give readers some background into who she is.

Silk #4 (Marvel) – There has hardly been a misstep in this Spider-associated book that gets none of the spotlight as its kin.

Wonderland #35 (Zenescope) – Zenescope’s best series continues here with another enticing story arc.



Top Pick: Convergence: Suicide Squad #2 (DC Comics) – Last issue had such a perfect twist by two classic lineup characters and I’m not even talking about the reveal at the end of issue 1. I can’t wait to see what happens next. This book features the REAL Amanda Waller, the most interesting anti-hero in comics and basically the only middle-aged black woman protagonist in super hero comics. When the New 52 made Waller thin & young I was indignant. Read my post “Waller Not Smaller” on why this matters.

I’m so glad to have The Wall back. I know writer Frank Tieri agrees because he told me so on Twitter.

Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #6 (Marvel) –  Sera, Angela’s more worldly and sharp-witted life partner/ bard/ “how awesome is her character design?!?” is the reason I read this book. What a revelation she is! I picked up this book for the creative team but I still stayed for this wonderful new character. And she’s a trans woman with dark skin & a non generic body type. More please. Many many more.

Fangirls Guide to Galaxy Handbook for Girl Geeks HC (Quirk Books) – This is going to be on recommended gift lists from now till the end of time. So why not buy one right away! That way you can read it before you regift it this holiday season. Buy one for all of your geek girl friends and supporters.

Storm #11 (Marvel) –  Why is this series getting cancelled? Are you guys not buying it? This book is super entertaining and it is staring Storm!!! One of my favorite long-lost characters from Generation Hope came back in last issue. I did not like his send off in that miniseries (even though it was a wonderful miniseries) so I’m hoping Kenji gets a more favorable resolution this time.

Thor #8 (Marvel) – Who is Thor? The Big reveal! Brett thought it was Roz Solomon (awesome Jewish environmental scientist of SHIELD), I thought it was Mockingbird. Now we will know for sure.  If you’ve been reading the series or any series that touches on sore at all and clearly you’ve got to be in it for this last issue. I know for a fact that there are lots of people who have only started reading store because they heard about the new female store. I just spoke to a woman was picking up comics for the first time because of the series. This must not be the end.