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.

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