Tag Archives: tom fowler

Advance Book Review: Fred Van Lente’s The Con Artist is a Nerd Noir Page Turner

In his second novel, Fred Van Lente, who is known for his comic books like Action Philosophers, Marvel’s The Incredible Hercules, and Valiant’s Archer and Armstrong  spices up the murder mystery genre by setting it at San Diego Comic Con where super fans, Hollywood types, and yes, even some comic book creators rub shoulders in a four celebration dedicated to things that they make Funko Pops of. His protagonist is Mike, a comic book artist known for his work on popular Atlas Comics (A stand-in for Marvel) character Mister Mystery and his indie pro wrestling book Gut Check, which has given him a decent level of fame. Mike is divorced and either lives out of his car or at the hotels at the various comic convention he attends and is only at SDCC to give Ben K, his long time mentor, a lifetime achievement award and to make sure his Artist’s Alley table isn’t given away in the future.

Unfortunately, Ben passes away as soon as Mike gets to San Diego. And, then, Van Lente kicks the actual murder mystery plot into high gear when Atlas editor, Mike’s arch nemesis, and his ex-wife’s boyfriend Danny Lieber turns up dead the night they got into a bar fight and was thrown out of the hotel bar. Mike’s weekend of drinking, drawing commissions, and self-loathing is transformed into police interrogations, basically becoming a private eye, and even more insane things as the novel continues.

The Con Artist is marketed as an illustrated novel, but Tom Fowler‘s illustrations aren’t just fanservice for the comic book crowd and actually connect to the events of the story. Something that might have seemed like a throwaway bit of surrealism, like “Eastboro Baptist Church” protesters juxtaposed with obsessive anime otakus trying to break a Guinness world record, ends up helping Mike piece together bits of the mystery. Early, in the book, Mike talks about how he likes making art, even sketches for fans because it has a “purging” effect for him, and several times, he mentions how much the act of creation means to him even though he hasn’t drawn a comic in a long time. And Mike’s ability to use comic books and what Scott McCloud calls “closure” (The concept is Ben K’s in the books.) to help put together pieces of this labyrinthine mystery, involving both the creative and corporate side of the comic book industry as well as Mike’s friends and foes.

The early scenes at parties or on the convention floor might seem like wheel turning or a chance for Van Lente to get out some great one-liners about the comics industry, geek culture, or conventions, but they establish the relationship that Mike has with a decent sized cast of characters from his BFF Dirtbag, who was Ben K’s assistant and now is volunteering at a The Walking Dead meets Orange is the New Block TV show attraction and his table buddy and successor on Mister Mystery Katie Poole to his number one fangirl Violet and my personal favorite character, Sebastian Mod, who is a pitch perfect combo parody of Mark Millar and Grant Morrison with Alan Moore’s religious beliefs thrown in for good measure.

The Con Artist definitely gets dark and violent from the get go, but Fred Van Lente balance things out with a wicked sense of humor and simultaneously satirizing and celebrating comic books and geek culture. For example, it might be weird that copyright friendly named Kevin Durant’s super rich cousin wants a commission of obscure Plastic Man villain Disco Mummy shaking her butt, but Mike and Katie have a good time watching the old Plastic Man Filmation shorts and see the elegance and humor in her design. (And, of course, weird commission guy is connected to the bigger mystery in some strange way.) When it comes to introducing characters and settings and transitioning between them, Van Lente doesn’t just merely describe them and move on. He does a comedic riff on them that gets you laughing, immersed in the story, and able to vividly picture the scene. Van Lente’s observational humor is also fresh and sharp if occasionally inside baseball for people who have never been to a con or aren’t familiar with the comics industry. For example, I love his running joke about people at comic book conventions picking up conversations like the last con never happened or just narrating their surroundings.

With a timely July release, Fred Van Lente’s The Con Artist is the perfect balm for readers, who have a love/hate relationship with geek culture just like its protagonist Mike. However, it’s also filled with some truly inspirational passages about storytelling, worldbuilding, and how awesome the comic book medium is, and these thoughts (and one great keynote speech) really make Mike an endearing character in spite of all his issues. It also happens to be a damn good mystery and a bit of a noir with jokes and funny descriptions to boot and hits the proverbial afterburners at the end.

Overall Rating: 8.8

Quirk Books provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

The Sandman Universe Gets Its Artists

Today Vertigo announced the incredible artists who will be bringing the Sandman Universe to life! Bilquis Evely, Dominike “Domo” Stanton, Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara, and Tom Fowler will join the imprint as series artists for the recently announced Neil Gaiman-curated line of books. The Sandman Universe will kick off with the oversize special The Sandman Universe #1, followed by The Dreaming and House of Whispers in September, then Lucifer and Books of Magic in October.

Here are the creative teams behind these new series:

  • The Dreaming—written by Si Spurrier with art by Bilquis Evely

  • House of Whispers—written by Nalo Hopkinson with art by Dominike “Domo” Stanton

  • Lucifer—written by Dan Watters with art by Max Fiumara and Sebastian Fiumara

  • Books of Magic—written by Kat Howard with art by Tom Fowler

All writers and artists will collaborate on The Sandman Universe #1, available August 8, 2018. Check out artwork from all four artists, with colors by Mat Lopes above and below.

Exclusive Preview: Quantum and Woody! (2017) #8

Since it’s return in 2017, Quantum and Woody! has brought the (not so) dynamic duo back to our regular reading schedule delivering consistent laughs and lots of action (and becoming once again one of our favorite monthly comics).

With Quantum and Woody! #8, writer Eliot Rahal continues his run on the series with artist Joe Eisma kicking off a new storyline, “Separation Anxiety.”

Everything goes topsy-turvy as the two most dysfunctional defenders of our nation’s capital contend with a new status quo for their superhero skill set!

Valiant has hooked us up with an exclusive first look at the preview for the issue which comes to shelves July 18th.


Written by ELIOT RAHAL
Cover B (Extreme Ultra-Foil) by GEOFF SHAW
Interlocking Variant by JOE EISMA
Q&W Icon Variant by JEN BARTEL


Quantum and Woody just barely escaped from a surreal atomic realm…and, unfortunately, they’ve brought some pieces of it back with them! As dangerous new threats plunge their city even deeper into chaos, they’ll soon realize that they have bigger problems and bigger grudges than ever before – now if the brothers are anywhere near one another, their powers stop working!

The world’s worst superhero team is going to have to go it alone as “SEPARATION ANXIETY” presents a super-powered stress test, courtesy of rising star Eliot Rahal (The Paybacks) and Eisner Award-nominated artist Joe Eisma (Morning Glories, Archie)!

$3.99 | 32 pgs. | T+ | On Sale JULY 18th (FOC  – 6/25/18)

Quantum & Woody! #8 Needs Therapy as Eliot Rahal & Joe Eisma Present “Separation Anxiety!”

Valiant has released a first look inside the pages of Quantum and Woody! (2017) #8 – the FIRST ISSUE of “SEPARATION ANXIETY,” RAUCOUS NEW STORY ARC and ALL-NEW JUMPING-ON POINT for the UNPREDICTABLE ONGOING SERIES from acclaimed writer Eliot Rahal and Eisner Award-nominated artist Joe Eisma! On July 18th, everything goes topsy-turvy as the two most dysfunctional defenders of our nation’s capital contend with a new status quo for their superhero skill set!

Quantum and Woody just barely escaped from a surreal atomic realm…and, unfortunately, they’ve brought some pieces of it back with them! As dangerous new threats plunge their city even deeper into chaos, they’ll soon realize that they have bigger problems and bigger grudges than ever before – now if the brothers are anywhere near one another, their powers stop working!

Featuring covers by Tom FowlerGeoff Shaw, Joe Eisma, and Jen Bartel.

Quantum and Woody! #8 – Eliot Rahal & Joe Eisma Go It Alone in “Separation Anxiety” This July!

Valiant has announced Quantum and Woody! (2017) #8 – the FIRST ISSUE of “Separation Anxiety,” RAUCOUS NEW STORY ARC and ALL-NEW JUMPING-ON POINT for the UNPREDICTABLE ONGOING SERIES from acclaimed writer Eliot Rahal and Eisner Award-nominated artist Joe Eisma! On July 18th, Quantum and Woody are about to divide their not-so-dynamic duo into a fractured pair of solo acts!

Quantum and Woody just barely escaped from a surreal atomic realm…and, unfortunately, they’ve brought some pieces of it back with them! As dangerous new threats plunge their city even deeper into chaos, they’ll soon realize that they have bigger problems and bigger grudges than ever before – now if the brothers are anywhere near one another, their powers stop working!

Featuring covers by Tom FowlerGeoff ShawJoe Eisma, and Jen Bartel.

Preview: Athena Voltaire and the Sorcerer Pope #1


Writer(s): Steve Bryant
Artist Name(s): Ismael Canales (art), Emily Elmer (colors)
Cover Artist(s): Steve Bryant (Cover A), Steve Bryant retro variant (Cover B), Tom Fowler (Cover C)
32 pgs./ T / FC

Kicking off the ongoing adventures of comics’ favorite pulp heroine! Athena races against the Nazis to find an artifact once possessed by Pope Sylvester II, but the allies helping her have their own agendas. Loyalties will be tested. With absolute power up for grabs, who can you trust?

Preview: Doom Patrol #10

Doom Patrol #10

(W) Gerard Way (A) Tom Fowler (A/CA) Nick Derington
In Shops: Jan 24, 2018
SRP: $3.99

The world is going haywire, and it’s up to the Doom Patrol to save it from going to S#!%. Weird things continue to happen that only the Chief can (attempt to) explain. Plus, tap dancing, and secret origins revealed!

Review: Doom Patrol #10

After a bit of a break, Doom Patrol is back and hurling full force into wackiness as the team faces Casey Brinke’s roommate Terry None’s dad Mr. Nobody in a world full of $#*!. It’s surreal, a bit meta (The kinda sorta framing narrative of “Retconn”), brightly colored by Tamra Bonvillain,  and has some decent character moments like Casey realizing that she has real feelings for Terry or the Reynolds family pleading with their distant son Lucius to stop messing with reality as the sorcerer pawn of Mr. Nobody. Sometimes, it seems like writer Gerard Way is trying too hard to be Grant Morrison or be too clever to his own good, but for the most part, he and artists Nick Derington and Tom Fowler and colorist Bonvillain craft an entertaining story with punching, chaos, and embrace the weird, loose side of corporate superhero comics with ever shifting team lineups and gimmicks like death, marriages, and capital c Crises and crossovers to sell books and keep readers engaged.

The first three pages of Doom Patrol #10 are a wonderful representation of the creative madness of the Brotherhood of Dada (Of which Mr. Nobody was a member.) with Derington and Fowler drawing Terry None tap dancing while seemingly regular humans transform after eating $#*! There are all kinds of gross pollen things floating around to her smooth dance moves with Bonvillain giving this world the sickly sweet palette of a garishly colored kid’s bedroom or one of those overly nostalgic documentary about old toys and how much they cost now. Derington, Fowler, and Bonvillain take a break from the stimulus to draw a close-up of Casey Brinke slowing coming to as she comes to grips with her roommate/possible lover being the daughter of a bad guy as well as trying to learn the rules of yet another rule bending and breaking dreamy world. Even though Doom Patrol is assembled, Way and company still use Casey as an entry point to the title despite her being non-existent according to the wannabe wise mentor Niles Caulder.

The overall narrative structure of Doom Patrol #10 is basically “$#*! continues to escalate until the entire comic book medium collapses in the end”, but Way buoys his script with hilarious and ass-kicking moments between the head scratching ones. Instead of being a metafictional comment on the different eras of superhero comics like in the 1996 Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely miniseries, Flex Mentallo continues to embrace his roots as a Charles Atlas parody and spout off facts about having a well-balanced diet and exercising at inopportune times. He is a fantastic source of comic relief, and the fact that his vast “Hero of the Beach” powers can’t save the day shows Mr. Nobody’s strength as a villain.

Even though they’re not Doom Patrol team members technically, I love the interactions between Sam (Casey’s old EMT partner) and his ex-cult member wife Valerie Reynolds and their son Lucius, who has become an edgy, manipulated teen sorcerer. In an eight and nine panel grid, Way, Derington, and Fowler create a heartfelt family reunion where Valerie (Who had previously been mind controlled by a personality of Crazy Jane.) empathizes with the fact that Lucius is facing forces beyond his control. They almost get a nice family reunion, but the arc isn’t over yet, and the big moment is interrupted by a red and yellow Bonvillain palette and magic critters.

In Doom Patrol #10, Gerard Way, Nick Derington, Tom Fowler, and Tamra Bonvillain embrace the sheer, often candy colored ridiculousness of superhero comics from fight scene that takes place in a sort of supermarket and features Flex Mentallo chasing a headless pair of legs, gym socks, and tight whiteys to an “Animal Man meets his maker” for the binge watching age. That second bit is still in the setup, but hopefully Way and company stick the landing after the filling the final pages of the issues with pure negative space probably representing all the contradictory continuity they have to sift through while making a Doom Patrol book.

At times, Doom Patrol seems to be Morrisonian for the sake of being Morrisonian, but Way’s writing has sly humor and bits of sweet humanity and Derington, Fowler, and Bonvillain’s art has a manic, sugar high rush that makes it stand out from DC’s more “traditional” books. Plus Robotman punching things a lot is always a good time.

Story: Gerard Way Pencils: Nick Derington Inks: Tom Fowler Colors: Tamra Bonvillain
Story: 7.5 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.7 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics/Young Animal provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #26

SquirrelGirlCoverUnbeatable Squirrel Girl takes a little break in issue 26 for a special in-universe zine comic written and drawn by various heroes, villains, and denizens of the Marvel Universe. In real life, they are all written by Ryan North with Erica Henderson switching roles with her Jughead collaborator Chip Zdarsky to pen a surprisingly sultry Howard the Duck story. It’s a fun sampler that mostly hit and very little miss from the much vaunted series of three panel Galactus gag strips by Garfield‘s Jim Davis to Anders Nilsen and Soren Iverson’s poignant story of Wolverine befriending a Sentinel and shotgunning a beer with his adamantium claws. The series Unbeatable Squirrel Girl has a lot of fantastic action, jokes, and the occasional superhero parody, but it’s a book where Doreen listens to both her opponents and allies and tries to work things out with eating nuts and kicking butts. S

So, it’s fitting, we get this comic that is written by a wacky range of POVs beginning with Squirrel Girl herself who stutters through the intro about his being a fundraiser zine. We get to listen to Kraven, hear Spider-Man’s retort, and see the world through Tippytoe’s eyes, which is drawn and colored in an adorable manner  Madeline McGrane’s art and colors make this frame story definitely look like a zine you might pick up at the local coffee shop or one of those fancy schmancy zine stores in bigger stories. It’s followed up by Chip Zdarsky going the closest he’ll ever get to his work on Sex Criminals in a mainstream comic with Erica Henderson doubling as a film noir director, but more awkward. They use close-ups and small panels of Howard the Duck and his femme fatale/client like they’re egging Marvel editorial to linger on this scene more while adding a funny caption. Zdarsky doing Big Two interiors is a big treat, and he barely holds back.

Tom Fowler’s Brain Drain story is a nice showcase of the underrated Unbeatable Squirrel Girl supporting character and hews the closest to Henderson’s usual style on the book. His take on Brain Drain is philosophical, adorable, and structured like the computer science programs that the character loves. It’s oddly motivational too and worth a reread thanks to its erudite writing style. Speaking of rereads, Carla Speed McNeil draws a Loki comic that only makes sense forwards and backwards and is a great example of how the comics medium allows for flexibility of meaning using Loki as a litmus test. It’s a wonderful double page spread, and the best Loki story since Journey into Mystery.

After this, Michael Cho draws a Kraven the Hunter comic/Spider-Man diss story, which is a pretty fun riff off “Kraven’s Last Hunt” and features dead presidents. His art has a light hearted old school vibe while having a subversive take on superhero/supervillain relationships kind of like the main Unbeatable Squirrel Girl title, but from the bad guy’s perspective. It’s followed up by a one page retort from Spider-Man with some gorgeous, yet still funny digital painting work from Rahzzah, who teams up later in the book to do Nancy Whitehead’s photo collage comic with the help of North, who channels Dinosaur Comics in the strip. It’s a well-designed remix story that will make the non-artists reading this comic smile and the kind of mash-up that you would find in a real zine.


But the heavy hitter of the bunch is Anders Nilsen and Soren Iverson’s Wolverine story that is fitting for an artist who had done a comic called Poetry is Useless. Anders Nilsen has a minimalist Euro style perfect for a comic about Wolverine getting talked out of killing a Sentinel, who challenges him to look past his shiny mutant killing exterior and team up with him to beat up some kaiju. (Sadly, this part of the story is off panel.) Wolverine gets a big epiphany moment when he realizes that he’s “hating and fearing” the Sentinel just like the X-Men have been treated for most of their career. This story is proof that more Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly guys should draw superhero comics.

Following this weighty, yet fun story is a couple of candy confections. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl colorist Rico Renzi draws an adorable and faux edgy Batman parody starring the one and only Tippytoe. It pokes fun at Batman’s angsty backstory as well as the fact that Tippytoe always plays second banana. Renzi’s art style is similar to the cartoon The Amazing World of Gumball with lush digital backgrounds and colors. Finally, Jim Davis, whose work I was familiar with eons before I ever opened a Marvel comic, transposes the classic Garfield and Jon relationship to Galactus and the Silver Surfer. It’s the same dad-ish, three panel punchline jokes, but told in a more cosmic key, and Davis has a lot of fun showing Galactus doing his planet devouring, face stuffing thing. His literal eye popping Silver Surfer has a similar manic energy to Robin Williams’ Genie in Disney’s Aladdin.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #26 is a real treat as independent cartoonists, the creator of Garfield, and even the book’s colorist get to take a stab at some of the more familiar faces in the Marvel Universe while also giving Squirrel Girl’s supporting cast a moment in the sun. It’s sometimes poignant and always funny.

Story: Ryan North, Erica Henderson Art: Madeline McGrane, Chip Zdarsky, Tom Fowler, Carla Speed McNeil, Michael Cho, Anders Nilsen, Rico Renzi, Jim Davis Colors: Madeline McGrane, Chip Zdarsky, Rico Renzi, Rahzzah,Soren Iverson
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.0 Overall:9.2 Recommendation: Read

Yes, You Can Has Valiant’s Quantum and Woody! (2017) #1 Retailer Exclusive Meme Variants and Promotional Items!

Valiant has revealed a dangerously dazzling line-up of retailer-exclusive variant covers and promotional items coming soon to comic shops for Quantum and Woody (2017) #1 – the FIRST ISSUE of the ALL-NEW and UNTRUSTWORTHY ONGOING SERIES from rising star Daniel Kibblesmith and eye-popping artist Kano!

FIRST: Hey you, internet dweller! Odds are you’ve probably seen quite a few memes in your time – now, get ready to spot them IRL with the advent of the Quantum and Woody (2017) #1-4 Retailer Exclusive Meme Variants! For the first time anywhere, Valiant is offering qualifying retailers to get in on the dumbing down of America’s youth with piping hot homages to the internet’s most retweeted pieces of anonymous content – remade and reshaped in the vainglorious image of the world’s worst superhero team by artists KanoMike NortonTom Fowler, and Jen Bartel!

Attention retailers: For instructions on how to qualify for Valiant’s Quantum and Woody (2017) (2017) Retailer Exclusive Meme Variants, please contact a member of the Valiant sales team at sales@valiantentertainment.com for minimums and details.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL: As  Quantum and Woody (2017) #1 prepares to barrel roll into comic shops everywhere on December 20th, so too is Valiant gearing up to splash your fans, readers, and weekly clientele with a stupendous selection of free promotional items, including:


Increase QUANTUM AND WOODY!’s footprint in local comic shops with this towering, 6-by-3-foot standee featuring the artwork of Julian Totino Tedesco (Hawkeye)! Available to qualifying retailers upon request.


Earlier this month at New York Comic Con, Valiant distributed these distractingly stylish QUANTUM AND WOODY! PROMOTIONAL WRISTBANDS to attendees of the Diamond Retailer Breakfast. Now, Valiant is sharing the love with comic book stops across the country! Molded in bright blue and yellow silicone that represent Quantum and Woody’s dueling set of explosive powers, these wristbands are perfectly sized for KLANG-ing together – as soon as you find a buddy to wear the other one, of course! Shipping in bundles of 20 to participating retailers.


Make sure you and your store never miss an issue of this winter’s most anticipated new series with this custom-designed shelf-talker! Featuring the Diamond item codes for issues #1 through #3, as well as a quote highlighting QUANTUM AND WOODY! #1’s essential awesomeness!

Please contact sales@valiantentertainment.com for more information about each of these exclusive promotional items.


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