Review-Star Wars #8-The Will of Tarkin: Prey

Writer: Charles Soule

Artist: Ramon Rosanas

Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg

Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Warning Spoilers Ahead:

Star Wars #8 continues the Will of Tarkin arc that began on issue #7. Imperial Commander Zahra is on a mission to kill Princess Leia and crush the Rebel Alliance which is still reeling from the defeat at Hoth. We learn from the last issue that Zahra had a mentor-like relationship with the ruthless Grand Moff Tarkin. We also learn that Zahra is taking part in this mission to avenge Tarkin and to get back at the Rebels for taking away her opportunity to redeem herself to her mentor.

Courtesy of Marvel and Disney

At the beginning of the comic, we are taken to several flashback panels where Darth Vader, via hologram, tasks Zahra with hunting down the Rebels. The former Anakin Skywalker refused to take part in the mission as ordered by Emperor Palptine since he is still fixated on his personal mission to find his son Luke Skywalker after the duel on Cloud City.

We are taken to the present where the Fourth and Seventh Rebel Fleets have the Imperials trapped in a pincer maneuver. However, Zahra plans on boarding the battleship ship Leia is on and kill the princess. Zahra is able to successfully board Leia’s ship and easily kill the Rebel Troopers try to contain her. Zahra hacks into the comm systems and threatens to destroy the ship from within unless she confronts Leia.

Courtesy of Marvel and Disney

Leia and Zahra come face to face as the ship’s interior is darkened. The Imperial Commander relates to Leia as she mentions that they are both orphans. Zahra mentions how her parents were killed by rebel terrorist and she joined the Empire to save little girls from the same experience she went through. She also mentions that Tarkin mentored and made her who she is. While talking with Leia, Zahra swiftly injures the princess with a sword that resembles a kitana. Then the Imperial commander blames Leia for orchestrating the attack on the Death Star which led to Tarkin dying “thinking that she was a failure” and that the Rebels took away her opportunity to redeem herself.  Zahra concludes that the only thing she can do is avenge her mentor but Luke, with the new yellow-bladed lightsaber he acquired from the previous issue comes in the nick of time to save the day. The Imperial escapes along with the retreating Imperial fleet.

During a Rebel briefing and while recovering from her wounds, Leia tells Luke that she saw something in Zahra’s eyes that told her that the Imperial wanted to hurt her and feel her pain. Leia concludes that Zahra was expressing darkness and hated.  

The comic ends with Zahra, in pure ruthless Tarkin fashion, boasting how Leia bleeding from her sword was a good day for her. She tells her lieutenant that she won’t stop going after Leia and vows to use her blade to finally kill her. She also boasts that she planted seeds of fear in Leia’s head so that she would be unable to galvanize the Rebel Alliance.

Courtesy of Marvel and Disney

Charles Soule’s writing continues to remind me that he knows how to write Star Wars. His notable work on Darth Vader in 2017, which explored Vader’s early days in the Empire and running the Inquistorious, was an enjoyable run.

The art done by Ramon Rosanas and Rachelle Rosenberg in this issue was also reeked of Star Wars. There were some favorite panels in the comic which included Vader recruiting Zahra to hunt down the Rebel Fleet, the Splash that showed Wedge Antilles leading a squadron of Rebel Star Fighters, and Leia’s showdown with Zahra.  The meeting between Vader and Zahra reminded me a lot of the prequel films in which the holograms were used frequently. Even in holographic form, Vader looks intimidating. The starfighter scene was just a reminder that the Rebel Alliance is always ready to fight even against seemingly insurmountable odds. The scene between Leia and Zahra parallels Luke and Vader’s duel in the carbon freezing chamber with the light vs dark themes and shadows being used.

However, the one thing I scratched my head on was why Soule added Luke into the scene between Leia and Zahra. I felt that this was Leia and Zahra’s fight, even though Luke too was responsible for blowing up the Death Star and killing Tarkin. I guess Luke was added probably to make this scene a teaser to the real fight between Leia and Zahra. In my opinion, however, Princess Leia is capable of taking care of herself and probably would have put up fight against the passionate Imperial. Luke probably would have come after Leia and Zahra exchanging blows against each other with the latter surviving but not without having injuries. It would have further planted more seeds of doubt in Leia and to start changing her perspective on her tactics against the Empire.

Overall, I am enjoying the Will of Tarkin arc as well as Soule’s run. I am looking forward to see how Zarha takes residence in Leia’s head rent free. Will Luke help her regain her confidence like he had regained his? And what is in store for the unbroken Rebel Fleet?

Star Wars #8 is out and can be purchase it at your local comicbook shop.

Review: John Walker: U.S. Agent #1

Writer: Christopher Priest

Penciler: Georges Jeanty

Inker: Karl Story

Colorist: Matt Milla

Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

Cover Artist: Marco Checchetto

Warning Contains Spoilers:

Christopher Priest’s (Black Panther, Deathstroke) John Walker: U.S.Agent #1 is a reminder that John Walker, the titular protagonist, may have carried the Captain America mantle but, he is no Steve Rogers.  And in this comic, the townspeople of Ephraim, West Virginia let that be known when they are interviewed about what had transpired when the super soldier arrived. The townspeople also talk about how a corporation called Virago was affecting the towns economy by usurping their coal mine and how the presence of U.S. Agent gave them false hope since he resembles Captain America.

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

This is seen in the splash on page 5 where the townspeople are hurling insults at U.S.Agent and his new partner, Morrie (not Bucky), a Chinese-American agent with martial art skills.

John Walker is tasked with protecting Virago which was a front for S.H.I.E.L.D and the same organization that is sucking the town dry.

After meeting Morrie and stopping a bomber posing as a pizza guy, Walker comes across a little girl on a bicycle who gives him a message “Hope not ever to see Heaven…” which is a quote derived from Dante’s Inferno. The super soldier also has a flashback of a little girl we learn is his sister when he tells the girl to “beat it sis,” only to finish the quote by saying “I have come to lead you to the other shore.” It turns out that the little girl has a message from his handler which takes him and Morrie to Ephraim. After exchanging a couple dirty jokes on the way to the small town. Walker and Morrie are attacked by a group of masked assailants. The leader of this group is revealed to be John’s sister. Katie all grown up and armed with a pistol at the super soldier’s face.

Priest’s writing in this comic has a lot of dark humor. I have read some of his run on Deathstroke and the interactions between John and Morrie are very similar to Slade Wilson and Billy Wintergreen. And it Priest’s writing that is a reminder that this is not a Captain America story, this is a U.S.Agent story. John Walker is no Steve Rogers. He is a shoot ‘em up and hotheaded version of Cap and the type of soldier that Professor Erskine warned Colonel Phillips about. In several comics, U.S.Agent sometimes would come to blows with Captain America.

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

To some readers, this is also a story about a small-town vs a giant corporation, which is also a government cover up. And to other readers, with the inclusion of Katie, it is a family or sibling rivalry story.

When I read this comic, several questions popped in my mind.  Why Ephraim of all places? Why would S.H.I.E.L.D. or the US Government, use a corporation as a covert front in a small mining town and take away the one thing that was helping the town thrive? There’s obviously more to the story here.

There were some funny moments in the comic. One notable moment was when Walker’s shield was destroyed when stopping the bomber’s car. Another was when Morrie outclassed him in hand-to-hand combat which reasserts that John Walker is not Steve Rogers. Priest, in a sense, almost makes U.S. Agent a parody of Captain America. Even a kid who Walker gives his shield to alludes this by saying that the weapon is a rip off.

The art done by Georges Jeanty frequently employs moment-to-moment and action-to-action sequences. This was notable in the panels showing U.S. Agent aiming his gun at every pizza delivery guy walking to his door step and in the panels showing him fighting Morrie.  The coloring done by Matt Milla helps to tell the story that this is U.S. Agent from the black and red uniform to his U.S. shield.

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

As I write this, I can see how the story of a corporation going into a small town and taking away the jobs of small townspeople makes for an intriguing story. One of the former coal workers even admitted that he blew up Virago’s power plants which prompted the government to call Walker which make it appear that he is there to protect the interests of Virago and the government.  Obviously, we will see what is really going down in Ephraim in the next five issues.

John Walker U.S. Agent #1 is out now and can be bought at your local comic book store.

Review: Crossover#1

Publisher: Image Comics

Writer: Donny Cates

Artist: Geoff Shaw

Colors: Dee Cunniffe

Letters & Design: John J. Hill

Story Edits: Mark Waid

Cover: Geoff Shaw w/Dave Stewart

When I read Crossover #1, I was expecting Donny Cates (God Country) to bring us something in the magnitude similar to a Crisis on Infinite Earths or a Secret Wars. I was expecting Images characters like Invincible, Mark Grayson to end up on the Walking Dead Universe and encounter Rick Grimes. Or other characters like Lil’ Depressed Boy ending up in the world of Chew. But what Cates and his team have bequeathed to us was a not just a crossover of heroes battling it out. He gave us a crossover on an alternate version of our own world in comic book form.

Courtesy of Image Comics

What was described by the unknown narrator as a “superhero summer event,” occurred above the skies of Colorado on January 11, 2017. And when the narrator said that if the cataclysmic event “was a comic, it would be the greatest selling book of all time” but “it was real,” chills went down my spine. And that was when I knew that Crossover was going to be more than just a meeting of the heroes. It was also going to be a meeting of heroes that would lead to a lot of deaths and change the lives of everyone involved forever. The result of the infighting of the heroes caused Colorado to be enveloped in a force field.  And that is when the story begins.

Courtesy of Image Comics

Since the incursion of the Crossover, the public is against comic books or anyone who worships them. Comic enthusiasts, cosplayers or comic shop employees are ostracized from the public, especially the ardently religious. At the center of this story are three characters: Ellipses, a survivor of the Crossover, a comic shop employee, and daughter of writers who are still trapped in Colorado; Otto, the owner of the comic shop Ellipses works at; Ryan Lowe, a son of a religious zealot and bully of a father and a closeted comic book enthusiast who may have some connection to Ellipses, and Ava, a comic book character that came from the force field with the help of a certain superhero.

The events in Crossover #1 implode when Ryan, albeit reluctantly, obeys his dad by throwing a Molotov cocktail onto the comic shop when Ava’s presence terrifies the store patrons. The comic’s story become more climatic when Ellipses looks at Ava’s drawing of the hero who had let her walk out of the force field. The drawing appears to be a hero with a “S” on his chest which could mean that it was Superman who let her escape.

Courtesy of Image Comics

One of my favorite parts of the story is the narration. It is very subtle since the narrator is unknown or unseen. The narrator brought up interesting comparisons between humans and the fictional characters. I also liked how he mentioned that the story of Crossover is about “believing in something when the whole world tells you that you’re wrong, about trying to find a home when the one you have feels broken or gone,” “it’s also a love story,” and “a story about hope.”

I must confess, I haven’t read anything by Donny Cates before this comic. I actually gave God Country a read which also starts off with a narrator. When I read the first issue of God Country, I became as instantly hooked to that story as I did this one.  I will probably cover God Country in another review of video in the future.

Courtesy of Image Comics

Going back to the story, I feel that one of the powerful things about this story is how it relates to our everyday lives. Ellipses is an outcast due to her love for comic books which parallels how some people to this day put down comics or graphic novels as a medium nor being serious or making young children degenerates. Speaking of that sentiment, the shirt that Otto wears to be ironic was of Fredric Wertham, a German physiatrist who believed comic books warped the morals of young children.

I am also a huge fan for Geoff Shaw’s art which I also saw in God Country. His drawings of the force field made the Crossover event in Colorado look ominous yet beautiful since you cannot have a comic book crossover without heroes battling it out. His drawing of the comic book character Ava had me react the same way Ellipses and Otto did. Ava’s comic book-like appearance had my jaw drop; she’s a little girl who resembled a comic book drawing with dots all over her face. And we definitely cannot forget about the lettering done by John J. Hill which gave the scenes depth. Notable examples were when the red neck threw a bottle at Ellipses, Otto alerting Ellipses of Ava stealing a comic, and the explosions at the comic book shop after Ryan throws the Molotov cocktail at it.

Courtesy of Image Comics

Crossover has already got me hooked and I’m already excited for what is in store for issue #2. Who is Ava and why did someone let her out of the force field? What is the relationship between Ellipses and Ryan? Will we see some familiar heroes or catch glimpses of them? And, will the force field enveloping Colorado break?

Cates and his team have created an exciting story that I feel will change how people, whether avid comic readers or not, will view comic books and graphic novels forever. Don’t believe me, just give this a read.

Crossover#1 is out now and can be purchased at your local comic book store.

Review: Don’t Ever Blink

I had the privilege of reading Don’t Ever Blink #1 which was written by Brian Hawkins, illustrated by Richard Kemp, and lettered by Guido Martinez. The graphic novel is currently being funded on Kickstarter and it is going to span for five issues.

The comic’s synopsis is “about a woman who survives a harrowing and horrific ordeal, the massacre of her fiance and his family while at a family get-together, but not without her also being scarred for life in more than one way; Tinsley Marissa Grace is found alive but her eyelids have been sewn together — a calling card of a killer that has eluded the local authorities for years, a killer that they thought was long gone.”

Regularly, I do not read too many horror comics nor do I consume anything horror. Well, the closest to horror I do read or consume is the Walking Dead (both the comics and TV show) or Bruce Campbell’s Evil Dead but that is as far as it will go for me. However, when I came across Don’t Ever Blink, I decided to give it a read.

When reading the comic, we are taken to the scene where Tinsley is recalling the events of her fiance family’s massacre to Detective Randall Johnson. The massacre takes place at the Wilcox Plantation and Tinsley is surrounded by bodies of her family. In the scene, it seems that Tinsley may have killed her fiance and family. Even as Tinsley narrates these events, it is not clear how things went down. Furthermore, we do catch a silhouette of the killer who knocks Tinsley out.

Courtesy of Brian Hawkins

After being shown these recollecting horrific panels, we are taken to a half-splash of Tinsely’s eyes literally sewn shut. That is when the story begins.

We learn that Randall and his partner Detective Vicki Lopez have been on the case involving the killer for awhile. However, the killer had not ressurfaced for over a year until Tinsley becomes the latest victim.

As I read the comic, one of the most disturbing scenes, for me, involves a kid being chased by Detective Lopez. We learn that the kid is a follower of the killer and he somehow knows Tinsley. As I read that scene, I had an eerie feeling that this killer was no one to mess with. There is also another scene that involving the kid at jail which he uses his blood to give Randall a horrific message which ends with the titular words “Don’t ever blink.”

The illustrations done by Kemp definitely complimented the narration done by Hawkin’s writing. This comic was full of closure in which it forces use to use our imagination to piece together what might have happened. In other words, the illustration and art in Don’t Ever Blink places us in a role of a third detective working alongside Randall and Lopez.

Finally, the lettering done by Martinez also gives depth to the horror. One of the notable uses of the lettering was seen as Tinsley is seemingly killing her fiance and we also see it in the jail cell with the blood-written letters on the wall ending with the titular words.

I have no doubt that as the next four issues come, we will learn more about the detectives, Tinsley, and the killer. Is Randall’s marriage in the rocks due to his job or the case? Who’s the kid and his connection to the killer? And most important question of all, who’s the killer?

Even though I am not a huge horror enthusiast, I am looking forward to reading this comic more. And even if you are not into horror, you might be in noir like me. But whether you are into horror or not, I would give this comic a read since it will leave you guessing whose really pulling the strings.

For more information on Don’t Ever Blink, you can check out the link to the kickstarter here.

Comic Review: Ax-Man

As Earth becomes populated due to advancements in technology and the assimilation of people, all seems to be good. However, disease and pandemics spread just as rapidly. And you would think that with all of the world’s improvements, these diseases would be dealt with. But, what if the diseases cannot be cured? This is where the Ax-Man comes in.  An Ax-Man is a hitman aimed at killing patient zeroes, or people who carry these rare diseases, before an outbreak can envelop the globe.

Courtesy of Plastic Sword Press

Ryan Little’s “Ax-Man” centers around Jason Burke, an Ax-Man who is tasked by a black ops department of the CDC to kill patient zeroes. As the comic progresses, we learn in Issue #1 that Jason is also a doctor when he is conversing with his colleague and friend Allison. We also learn that Jason starts to become disillusioned with his work as a hitman for the CDC and that he has a tragic past involving a plague during a school field trip.

Courtesy of Plastic Sword Press

In addition to Jason struggling with his demons, we also see some of characters, like the aforementioned Allison, and Ian, another one of Jason’s friends and colleagues, clash with Moore, the director of the CDC’s black ops wing. While Ian and Allison want to find a way to cure diseases, Moore is hellbent on weaponizing them against terrorists. We see some of Moore’s sick experiments including a “blood melon,” which is front an infected human woman who turned into a tree.

When the plagues begin to spread, Jason abandons his mission to kill more people infected with incurable disease. He, Ian, and Allison decide on a new mission to help cure rather than kill those with the incurable diseases. If anything, this may seem like n tall order for Jason. However, given his past and his inner conflict between wanting to save lives as a doctor and take them as an Ax-man, he knows someone has to do it. And who better than him and his team of doctors?

And as the reader goes into the three issues of “Ax-Man,” one may notice that Little’s writing showed Jason’s inner conflict puts into question his upholding the Hippocratic Oath which is it is to “do no harm.” Jason clearly wants to help those who are sick rather than put them down. Moore’s black ops can argue that his organization is doing no harm by killing patient zeroes so that the pandemics do not spread. But we all know that not even the Ax-Men can stop the incurable disease pandemic from spreading.

Courtesy of Plastic Sword Press

The art, done by Briane Andan and Yuri Pinzon, brilliantly gives a gritty attitude of the story. One notable scene was at the very beginning of “Ax-Man” when Jason is infiltrating the hospital. We see a self-immolated Ax-Man, an infected patient who gets killed by Jason. and the scuffle between Jason and the looters in a darkened and abandoned hospital. Another notable scene was in Issue #3 with the infected become inflammable which evokes horrors created by the growing pandemic.

In addition, we cannot forget about the lettering done by Nikki Powers which evokes the same grittiness. From the gun shots fired from Jason to a notable patient, Albert, coughing out blood, the lettering also gives depth to the graphic novel.

In conclusion, “Ax-Man” is a story about how even a technologically advanced world is not always prepared to take on a serious pandemic. Look at the events today surrounding the current Coronavirus pandemic. Many countries are handling the pandemic in so many different ways and by different means. This does not mean that the world is doomed but Ax-Man is a reminder that there is no cookie cutter or perfect way to handle a pandemic. The struggles that Jason and other characters are facing are not too dissimilar to ours.

Courtesy of Plastic Sword Press

Will the rogue Ax-Man Jason and his intrepid medical team be able to save the world one disease at a time? Or will Moore succeed in creating bio-weapons to use against the terrorist? We may never know but I am excited to find out as more issues of “Ax-Man” come out!

Ax-Man is written by Ryan Little under his publication company Plastic Sword Press. The graphic novel is illustrated by Briane Andan, colored by Yuri Pinzon and lettered by Nikki Powers. The book is being funded at Kickstarter. If you want to back the project, click here.

Batman: The Three Jokers – A Classic Villainous Sidekick Returns

Spoilers Ahead

Gaggy Returns – Photo Courtesy of DC Comics

“Batman: The Three Jokers” #1, written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Jason Fabok had brought back several throwbacks from the Batman comics including the Hawaiian shirt Joker seen in Alan Moore’s “Batman: The Killing Joke” and Batman’s light up symbol, or “Bat-light,” on his chest. The comic also brought back an original henchman of the Joker.

Gagsworth A. Gagsworthy, or Gaggy, made his return in Three Jokers #1 to lead an army of thugs to take on Batman, Red Hood, and Batgirl in the Gotham Aquarium.

Gaggy’s Debut in Batman#186 – Photo Courtesy of DC Comics

Gaggy, who debuted in “Batman” #186, was the Joker’s court jester and the original sidekick of the Joker before Harley Quinn took on that role. The villainous and mischievous Gaggy was seen as the antithesis to the heroic Robin, Dick Grayson. The stooge hated the Boy Wonder so much, he had a Robin punching bag in which he would vent his anger out on much to Joker’s amusement. In addition, both Gaggy and Grayson were brought up in Haly’s circus.

After Batman and Robin defeated Joker and Gaggy, due to a miscommunication which involved Joker accidently clobbering his new sidekick, the villainous duo ended up in jail.

Gaggy vs Harley Quinn – Photo Courtesy of DC Comics

Gaggy is not seen again until Paul Dini’s “Gotham City Sirens” #6 where he is disguised as his former boss to lure Harley Quinn and get revenge on her for making Joker becoming psychotic. The comic has a flashback into a Gaggy’s relationship with the Joker during their time in prison after their defeat at the hands of Batman and Robin. Gaggy told Harley that he had tried to cheer Joker up but eventually, the Clown Prince of Crime was sent to Arkham Asylum and the former court jester ended up getting out of jail. After returning to the streets of Gotham, Gaggy decided to start his criminal life over and relive his past that he had with Joker. He tried to entactt his revenge on Harley but, with the help of Catowman and Poison Ivy, Harley was able to defeat Gaggy by blasting him off with a rocket from Joker’s lair. After being blasted off into a harbor, Gaggy swore revenge against Harley the next time they crossed paths.

In “Three Jokers,” Gaggy and his goons are unable to subdue Batman and his team. And the court jester seemingly ends up becoming lunch for a Joker-ized shark after the Red Hood uses his pistol to shoot an aquarium tank housing it. Although it can be assumed that the shark enjoyed his meal is “Batman: The Three Jokers” the last we have seen of Gaggy?

Joker Shark Eats Gaggy – Photo Courtesy of DC Comics

Todd McFarlane: Comic Creative, Visionary, and Rebel

When I watched Todd McFarlane’s SyFy Documentary, “Like Hell I Won’t,” I did not see just a story about a comic creator and what he does in his day-to-day. I saw a story about a man who became a creative, a visionary, and a rebel. When I think of those three words, I think of Todd McFarlane, the creator of the comic book “Spawn” and one of the founding fathers of Image Comics.

The documentary showed a McFarlane who was a creative the moment he started to grow. From doodling pictures in class to drawing amazing works of art for the love notes he gave to his girlfriend (and future wife) Wanda, he was honing his craft as a comic artist. Sure, in an alternate universe, he could have been Todd McFarlane, the baseball player (since he played some baseball) or something else but comic books became his passion. Comics was something he wanted to pursue and he had a vision.

However, he was bogged down by the notion that comic book artists were only bred in New York. However, that notion changed when he saw comic book artist John Byrne,who was working on “Uncanny X-Men,” on television saying that he was living in Calgary, Alberta, McFarlane’s hometown. And at that instant, McFarlane decided to pursue comics/ And since McFarlane wanted to work in comics so he did what any up and coming comic creator would do.

He submitted samples of his art to different publishers for years. However, he had gotten 300 rejections. He could have given up on his dream but if there is anything I learned about McFarlane, it was that he never took no for an answer.

McFarlane’s persistence reminds me of a quote from Zig Ziglar: “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” He never gave up on his goal and aimed to work in the comic book industry and eventually got his first gig from an publisher name Steve Englehart. The gig involved drawing art for the comic called “Coyote.” Although four months later, he would lose that job due to the book getting canceled, McFarlane would rebound and eventually do art for “The Incredible Hulk” under Marvel Comics and eventually would do one of his best works on “Spider-man” in the early 1990’s.

As I delved further into the documentary, I learned that the reason McFarlane’s “Spider-Man” work was the best was because he broke the rules. Marvel Comics wanted him to draw Spider-man they way the wanted him to. However, the Canadian artist did the opposite and it sold. Marvel must have been scratching their heads as to how this dude from Calgary, Alberta Canada was helping Spider-Man gain a lot of sales with his unique art. One of the things McFarlane changed out Spider-Man was the eyes on his mask and the web that came out his webshooters. McFarlane wanted more emphasis on Spider rather than just the “man.” To this day, the Spidey’s webs are still written in the highly detailed style created by McFarlane.

“Break the rules and make it look cool,” McFarlane would say. And it paid off. “Spider-Man” became one of Marvel’s highest grossing comics but it was not enough for the comic company. As a result, McFarlane and six other artists made up their minds and decided to waltz into the Marvel headquarters in New York and call it quits.

These seven comic creators would create Image Comics and it was a place where McFarlane would not be told no since he had 100 percent creative freedom. And with that freedom, he created his flagship comic book, “Spawn.”

The amazing thing I saw from the documentary was that “Spawn” is more than just a comic book story about a U.S. Marine, named Al Simmons, who sells his soul to the devil and becomes this supernatural warrior hellbent on going after those who did him wrong. Its also a love story about a wounded warrior who longs and fights to see his wife…Wanda (same name as McFarlane’s wife) once more. Some of McFarlane’s inspiration from the story comes from his love for his wife and family. And it really got deep when the artist said that he would do the same exact thing Spawn would do see his wife again.

Despite the implosion of the comic book industry back in the 1990s and facing several lawsuits (Notably from Neil Gaiman, an NHL hockey player and many other), McFarlane was (and still is to this day) tenacious when it came to working on “Spawn.” By doing so, a movie based on the comic came out in 1997 and adult toys were made (which revolutionized the adult collectible toy industry. An HBO cartoon based on “Spawn” was also made.

All of this stemmed from not only his love of comic books. But it also stemmed from wanting to be like his father while at the same time not being pushed around. McFarlane admired his father for his hard work and blue collar work ethic but was affected by how people took advantage of his father.

After working on “Spawn” for so many years, McFarlane was able to write the 300th issue for the comic book he started in the 1990’s while founding Image Comics. It is ironic how after he got 300 rejections, he was able to create 300 issues of “Spawn” because he was a creative, visionary, and a rebel. And this inspired other creators to put in that same effort into the comics. Creators like Robert Kirman (“The Walking Dead” and “Invincible”) have been inspired by McFarlane.

McFarlane’s story is nothing new. Its a story of a man who never gave up even when people told him no or when it was the eleventh hour. And because of that perseverance, he is living the best life. If McFarlane could pursue his goals and aim for them, why can’t any of us? If nothing could stop him from doing his best work creating, what is stopping you from doing yours?

If you want to watch the documentary, “Like Hell I Won’t,” you can click on this link.

2020 So Far…And What I Am Starting to Realize….

As 2020 has progressed, I must admit that I have been very busy but mostly spiritually, socially, and spiritually fatigued with everything that has been going on. I haven’t written a blog post in awhile, I haven’t done a podcast segment since May, and I have barely started on my other goals or endeavors. What’s going on here? Didn’t I just write a blog post in the beginning of the year about how awesome this year was going to be?

A lot of it has to do with myself trying to make sense of the current social climate of my country, the United State of America. We are in a socially and politically triggered year. A year where the world got hit with a gnarly virus that has taken a lot of lives, young and old. A year where we have seen an white cop murder a black man by pressing his knee on his neck. A year where that murder sparked thousands of protest, in that black man’s name, around the country. A year where the election for the highest office in the land is being contested between two candidates from both dissonant and opposing political parties.

2020 was promised to be a great year for many. Many had plans on what they were hoping or going to do that year. Personally, I was excited about attending Phoenix Fan Fusion, like I always have for the last three years but could not due to it being cancelled thanks to the Coronavirus. I have seen more news about the George Floyd protests led by Black Lives Matter than I have about the latest comic books coming out this year. I have also seen more news about the upcoming 2020 Election than I have of the latest developments in the world of comics books, novels, anime, and, journalism.

But as I write this, I ask myself why I have been reading or watching those news stories. Do I consume all of that to see even a sliver of hope that these protests will stop or that people, for once in their life, put aside politics and dream, work, and build for America’s better tomorrow? Or do I do it just because I want to see what happens next? Does this make me insane? Does this make me crave politics more than I care to admit?

Maybe..maybe I am anxious and scared of what is to come.

In no way am I bashing those current events and the outlets presenting them. As a matter of fact, I know that they are very important stories and they need to be told. After all, as an aspiring journalist, I understand that it is the job of the press to inform the masses about the events going on in our country and the world.

But it doesn’t take reading a copious amounts of those stories to realize that 2020 is indeed a challenging year. And it has everyone on the edge of their seat. Like me, many people are watching closely and waiting to see what happens next. Maybe they are still hoping that all this crap that we are witnessing will be ephemeral and just fade away. Maybe they are wanting someone or something to make all of that happen. Or at least provide people with an escape.

And there is where I have my epiphany with 2020.

There is a reason why I do podcasts and talk about comic books. It’s because I enjoy it and I want others to do just the same. I want to pass on my joy to other people. As important as the current events are, I cannot let them siphon the energy that I can be using to do express my admiration and knowledge of comic books. Even on this day, I see awesome writers and creators like Angel Young of the Wandering Nerd Girl, Bryant and Barbara Dillon of the Fanbase Press, Felicia Day, and many others still go out and do their thing. Why can’t yours truly?

I believe that God brought me to this Earth to not only inform you, but entertain you and be creative.

Which is why I am happy to announce that the Earth-16 Comics Wire Podcast will be returning on August 1 starting with my take and review on Christopher Priest’s Deathstroke vs. Batman. I will also be looking for comic book creators (writers, artists, letterers, colorist, inkers, etc) to chat with for my podcast. Deathstroke vs. Batman will kick off Season Two of the Earth-16 Comics Wire.

I will also be doing Youtube videos or streams related to comics and me playing video games. And this blog is also a part of that as well where I will be posting my new project, the Bonfire Rabbit, which is a story about a young man who has lost his creative edge and has had to settle for mediocre life until one day, all of that changes.

If you are feeling fatigued or bogged down by the current events, just remember that you have an outlet where you can sit back, relax, laugh, and have fun. I want to provide that for you. It is my job and it is about time that I did that. And I am going to do everything within my power to provide that for you and myself.

I will be providing you with some updates on Twitter and Instagram in regards to the Earth-16 Comics Wire. And I will also be attending San Diego Comic Con digitally and maybe I might do some videos on it to give you my take on it.

Let’s go have some fun!

Review: MeSseD Comic

MeSsed

Creator/Writer: Jay B. Kalagayan

Artist(s): Geof Raker

Logo Design: Geoff Raker

I have had the awesome opportunity to read Cincinnati-based Jay B. Kalagayan’s MeSsed comic, which takes place in the mean sewers of the public utility: the Metropolitan Sewer System or MSD.

The comic centers around filter, or sewer worker, Lilliput who has to brave the mean sewers of the MSD to keep the effluent, or waste, flowing. When I read the file in the comic which states that Lilliput’s “fellow sewer workers” whine, I was reminded by what podcaster and radio host Ken Coleman said about “the unfortunate reality” being “that 70% of Americans aren’t satisfied with their current work situation.” The same could definitely be said for most of the filters who work for the MSD but, not Lilliput who is described to be “tough, smart and adaptable.”

Lilliput is seen as dedicated to her mission to keep the waste clean by any means necessary. An example of this is in the Volume One story “Choke”,  when she fights a creature that was clogging the sewer system.

We also learn that she is an orphan and also described to “seek familial bonds.” We see this several times throughout the comic with her interactions with her pet rat or “partner-in-slime,” Akka who is a very dependable as her master and is the closest thing to family Lilliput has. In the MeSsed Volume Two story Messenger, Akka goes through hell and back to send help for Lilliput by forging an alliance with a centipede name Footsie, while going toward a deadly swarm of centipedes.

Another instance where MesSed goes into depth about Lilliput being an orphan is an conversation with an alligator hatchling name Bekka.  Bekka was cast off from the Allicroc tribe, a tribe of alligators living in the sewer, due to not being wanted by their chief. Bekka asks Lilliput what is like being orphaned and the sewer work tells her that it is tough but she gives it a positive spin on it by saying that “amongst the flotsam jetsam, you get to choose your family. Pick new friends, siblings, parents.” This shows that despite working in the sewer and even being orphaned, Lilliput has a very sunny disposition.

While reading MeSsed, I was introduced to a strange world, but a world that is similar to our own. Like our world, the world of the MSD has groups like the filters (workers, like our heroine Lilliput, who keep the effluent flowing), Residents of the Roots (homless, bunker people, and others), Allicroc tribe, centipedes, and rats. The Allicroc tribe has a peace treaty of sorts with the MSD. In addition, Bekka was given to MSD as a liaison to further keep the peace between them and the public utility.

MeSsed has an ensemble of characters. The aforementioned Lilliput and her pet Akka are the dynamic duo in this comic. Next is Fat Mucker, the MSD manager of operations. She is described by Lilliput to be a “crazy aunt,” Fat Mucker also composes the files or reports at the end of each issue.  Another character (a favorite of mine) is Pilty, an eccentric inventor who lives in the sewers and creates some gadgets for Lilliput and other MSD workers. In the Volume Two comic “Echoes,” Pilty invents a device called an “echolo” which helps sewer workers see in the dark with the use of sound. he also seen as not being afraid of Fat Mucket by being blunt about the timeliness of her inventions which the MSD manager demands. The character reminds of “Q” from the James Bond movies; so she’s like a “Q” who operates in the sewers. Another character is Sandshell who is another filter and Kidneyshell, who is the MSD Treatment Manager.

If you want to read something unique, unorthodox,  or out of the box, this is the comic to read. It doesn’t take place in a typical city or town, a planet in another galaxy, a certain past, a apocalyptic time, or whenever or wherever. It takes place in a sewer of all places. A smelly and dangerous sewer where people actually live, monsters clog up the system, and alligators talk. That’s the world of MeSsed.

 

If you also like black and white art, that this is definitely the comic worth reading. The gritty black and white art done by Dylan Speeg and Clint Basinger brings out some noir vibes. It also evokes the feelings of working in the sewers all the while the character of Lilliput brings out her colorful personality. This is the comic’s yin and yang and it goes perfectly together.

Kalagayan created a story about a young woman who is just going through life working in a sewer but also making it her purpose (sometimes risking her own life) to keep the water flowing. Lilliput to the MSD sewer system is like Superman to Metropolis or if you want to go another route, Lilliput to the MSD sewer system is like Clark Kent to the Daily Planet.  After all, Lilliput is both an employee and guardian of the MSD sewer system.  

And to me, this comic represents that, like Lilliput, we can make the best of anything, even in the most stinkiest(which I knew the MSD sewer system is) of situations. It is possible that Kalagayan might have unwittingly wrote an affirmation in the form of a comic book about a young orphaned woman who, if she wanted to, could have played victim and blame the world for her misfortune. But that young woman, in my opinion, is living her best life by adhering to her mission. And I find that awesome and heroic.

I am looking forward to reading more MesSed and see how Lilliput continues to grow and how she tackles her challenges in the sewer and in her life. After all, this comic reminds me that life is like the sewer, we need to be there to keep the effluent flowing so that nothing gets clogged up in the chokes.

If you want to purchase MesSed comics or trade paperbacks, or just learn more about the comics, you can go to the website www.messedcomics.com or your can also follow the comic on twitter @MeSseDComics.

 

-Brian of Earth-16

Coronavirus: A Time to Get Creative

The news of the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has spread almost as quickly as the virus itself. When it was announced that the virus was becoming a pandemic, I felt a tremendous amount of stress, anger, and anxiety. I knew that this virus was going to affect almost every industry or sector on the planet. Sports, education, entertainment, retail, construction, the list goes on. I knew that it would definitely affect the comic book industry, an industry I have grown up with and love.

Several comic book conventions, especially where the Coronavirus is running rampant, had to be postponed to later dates. I have to expect the possibility of Phoenix Fan Fusion  (a comic book and entertainment convention I attend every year around Memorial Day weekend) being cancelled. I am hoping that it doesn’t get cancelled since I enjoy attending that convention but, if it is a way to keep people safe and healthy, then it’s necessary. In addition, several comic book shops may face closure due to the decline in sales.

As news of comic book conventions being cancelled, sporting events being played in empty arenas, employment being affected, and people getting infected or dying, all sorts of questions flooded my mind. What was going to happen in the next couple weeks? Months? Will things be the way they were before this stupid virus made its unwanted presence known? Then I realized that this is not a time to be fearful or sad. It is a time to learn some new things. It is a time to be sharp both physically and mentally. It is time to get right with our Maker. It is a time to be respectful toward one another. It is a time to get creative.

During the first week of quarantine, I stayed home to work remotely. After work ended, I started to devote my time to reading more about the construction behind the comic book. In addition, I also opened a new Twitch account where I interact with people, play video games, and promote by podcast the Earth-16 Comics Wire.

I was inspired by Eric Stephenson, the publisher from Image Comics, that I need to do my part to help the comic book industry. Just today, I donated money to a campaign aimed at helping comic book retailers during these times. You can find the campaign by clicking this link.  I also decided to dedicate my time (as I mentioned before) in learning about comic books and reading some awesome comics. Furthermore, I am planning on podcasting more and using my Twitch to spread positive vibes for not only the comic book industry but for everyone else. And there will be more podcast segments to come in the future.

As sad, jacked up, and crazy these times are, I want all of you reading this to remember that we can beat this thing. We have creativity, faith, love, and grit. And also, do not let what the news media says about this virus deter you from doing what you love.

As Superman told the trouble kid in Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman, “You’re much stronger than you think you are. Trust me.”

And as Superman always says: let’s dream of a better tomorrow!

-Brian from Earth-16