Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Salvagers 3 Review

The Sci Fi Salvage Crew Adventures Continue

When I first started to write about comics I decided to try and stick with not just stuff that I liked but with stuff that was somewhat lesser known and deserved the exposure.  My first review was on a little book called Salvagers #1; written by Bob Salley, Illustrated by George Acevedo, colored by DeSika, and lettered by Hde.  You can check out my review on Salvagers #1 or you can just take my word for the fact that it was a really nice book made with care and love from a crew that believe in what they do.  Nothing has changed between issues one and three, these guys make sure of it, and the four successful Kickstarter’s have proven that more people than just me believe in their work.

I feel like I have to give a shout out to the artists first, George Acevedo has a very realistic style that is only accented by DeSika’s coloring.  The characters are rich in style and color and they all have very distinct feel which is important to me.  The details are there as well, especially when the scene is of outer space or close up of the characters.  As much as I love the art I can’t take away from the letters either, each character has a different letter style and the thought bubbles are unique to the situation.  All around great art work and I can tell it’s all done with love.    

Salley has a vast world that he has created but aside from aliens and people interacting in this world of vast galaxies it’s nothing out of the ordinary from most sci fi and Salley makes it really easy to follow.  Salley gives a great little back story and overview of what has happened so far in the series.  I enjoy the overviews because with self-published and self-made stuff like Salvagers the production gets caught up with things unforeseen like Kickstarter.  These guys put their hearts and souls into the production and it shines through with the Kickstarter’s that they have successfully run four times now.  The overview allows a new reader the ability to know enough of the back story but not be spoiled enough to not want to read the first three issues.  Basically broken down issue one is the crew going to salvage a Darzinean Warspray ship, and issue two is a bit of a back story on one of the crew members and why the team ended up taking the salvage job in the first place.  Like I said, this is a great little catch up for new readers and a little refresher for those of us that have been following along.  

The story picks right back up without skipping a beat and we join the crew back on the Warspray ship.  Brigby the comic relief and Ty’r the muscle are still together trying to figure out their situation.  They were getting attacked by androids and trying to figure out how to shut them off so they’re not in danger anymore.  Captain Bill Roenick is still stuck on his own, with only communication to Teagan and a friendly droid he found to help him.  Then there is Teagan who is still on their ship helping with the tech and in communication with Bill.  The first three pages is a nice exchange between Brigby and Ty’r as Brigby tries to save face for getting them into the situation.  Ty’r gives him some shit but the comradery is never in question, the strong personalities of Brigby and Ty’r are clearly balanced by the Captain.  Even while they both bicker and complain about each other and the situation both of them worry about the Captain.

As we know Captain Bill Roenick is on his own with only the friendly droid and is working on the mystery of why the ship is there and how they’re going to salvage it.  Bill and the droid know that a security company owning a ship like that wouldn't be out of the ordinary but as they tinker around in the ships mainframe they find out that there are life pods heading straight for them at devastating speeds.  Bill realizes that the security company Blackbane wouldn't have left their ship without a contingency plan and in this case that plan happened to be sending some escape pods around the nearest planets orbit and crashing them into the ship.  At this point I was seeing the drama coming around the corner but I didn't really expect the surviving pods to be on the way to act as missiles.  I have to assume that the approaching pods are going to be the drama of the issue and the only thing I wonder, naturally, is if the pods are empty.  Bill has already said offhand that Blackbane is petty BA and the Darzinean's are some of the best soldiers in the galaxy so I wonder if we will be seeing any of these guys by issues end.  

Bill frequently attempts to regain communications with Teagan through their artificial intelligence called AVRI (Artificial Vehicular Resource Intelligence) and when he discovers the approaching pods he finally gets a hold of her.  Teagan is working on the ship and trying to get a solid communication link but Bill hits her with the bombshell that their finished if she can’t get the shields up and deflect the pods.  Through the dialog and thought bubbles we see why Bill trusts Teagan so much, she is basically the entire crew of the Enterprise wrapped into one!  She is a top notch mechanic and can run the mainframe, a software and hardware specialist, and possibly the most important person on the crew, at least how I see it.  

Teagan maneuvers an otherwise non maneuverable ship to take the brunt of the pods but two of them were still on course for the Warspray.  Bill and the android are caught near the impact and have to get resourceful really fast to stay alive.  Bill finds a ventilation shaft and makes a run for it before the fire catches up with him.  I know that Ty’r was correct when he said the Captain is resourceful and I have no doubt that he will be fine.  I also happened to notice that the pods hit directly where the androids were being kept and I wonder if that was a destruction of evidence tactic by the Darzinean or just a coincidence, but either way now there are androids floating out into space.  

Brigby and Ty’r were not near the accident but they definitely felt something and mention as much in dialog.  Their master plan is to get to the engine room and get the ship working so they can open doors and do all the stuff a powered ship allows.  The guys were successful in opening a door but to what I wasn't really sure, probably a power core of some sort.  No matter what, if they go to help the Captain or not, their still trying to get the ship up and online and at this point I hope they do so maybe they can stop the fires and fix the hole the pods blew in the side not to mention maybe get a line of communication so they’re not cut off from the Captain and Teagan.

Teagan has lost Bill again and is scrambling to fix the damage caused by the pods when she starts asking AVRI for help.  The AVRI system helps her but she gets a call from an officer that states she is in violation of her parole.  When it rains it pours, it seems they just can’t catch a break, until Teagan gets a report from AVRI saying that the ships shields were at 78% and the core was not only in tact it was running at a reasonable speed.  The AVRI has scanned the Harrier IV (their ship) and the Warspray (the salvage ship) but wasn't able to find the Captain.  Teagan see’s the wreckage of the life pods and notices they were in fact full of Darzinean’s.  At this point I wonder if the Darzinean’s knew they were on a suicide mission, I wonder if they’re actually trying to salvage anything from the ship themselves and just went into defense mode when they noticed the salvager crew.  So far the Darzinean’s are the biggest question I have because I feel like they can tie in this mystery to the first few issues and I’m also willing to bet that they play a large role in the coming issues.   

The book ends with Captain Bill as he makes his way through the duct system and out into the weapons depot where he discovers a gun ship of some kind and a ton of droids.  Because of the fact Brigby got into a crime family I assume that they would want any and all of the weapons but I wonder if the ship is more important than the droids or vice versa.  I would assume that a nice army of mindless droids would be nice for anyone trying to take something over but a reliable BA gun ship probably isn't a bad thing either.  

Issue one is a great introduction to the team and their little world, issue two is a great back story that brings the crew and issue three into perspective, and now I feel issue three is a real send off for the series.  Issue three is ramping up the action and developing the story and characters better than I could have asked for.  Salley keeps the mystery with the Darzinean’s and what is really going on with the Warspray but keeps adding layers to the story and the characters.  I really enjoy this series and if you do too I suggest you make your way to their Kickstarter because they have some really killer prizes and if you put in you can be more than just a supporter, you can be a part of it.  I linked to their issue four kickstarter but keep in mind that even if a project is funded it doesn't mean that the money won't go to production and I'm more than certain that issue five will have a kickstarter coming soon as well so if you felt like waiting for that you can be one of the first to contribute and swoop up some of those awesome rewards!

Some of the rewards include; digital and hard copies, signed issues and pinups by original artists including George Acevedo, T-Shirts, and any other thing that pops into their creative little heads.  I have no doubt that the prizes will as good or better for their next round and I admire what they have been able to do through Kickstarter, so check them out and contribute to help keep this galaxy salvaged.   

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Summons Review

Summons A Supernatural Fight Of Good VS. Evil

I’ve been super busy with life and everything that comes along with it, but I have also been on my game with the reviews.  So far for the last month or so I have put up something at least once a week and I hope to continue my trend.  I recently went back over my body of work and noticed that I was leaning heavy towards sci fi stuff from more known companies and thought maybe it would be a good idea to revisit something different and from the more indie labels.  I decide to do a review on Summons because I’m completely blown away by this books art as well as the general premise of the story.

Summons is; written, penciled, and lettered by Chris L. Williams, inked by Jake Isenberg, and colored by both Danielle Alexis St. Pierre (cover) and Victor Bartlett (Interior) and I have to hand it to them because I feel like this art is spectacular.  The cover features two of the main characters, Kristine Helios and the last agent of a group known as the M.E.G.A.S (mystic event gatherer and surveyor).  I understand that that may not mean much now but as I get into the review know that it will be clarified, just keep in mind that both characters are seriously BA and the cover features Kristine kneeling down with a dagger in her hand and some dragon/dog looking monsters behind her with the MEGAS guy behind her.  The MEGAS agent looks almost like Deadpool meets Emperor Palpatine, and I only say that because of his red and blue mask with blue and red trimmed cloak.  Both characters have glowing eyes and fierce looks to them that are only accentuated by the monsters around Kristine.  I made it the featured image on the left over here so you can get a real feel for what I'm describing.

The book begins with a four page panel that starts at Kristine’s eyes and pulls further out to reveal her standing in a half circle of troll looking monsters.  Again I have to say, the art is on point in every way, Kristine’s eyes are fierce like she is angry and ready to take care of business.  She provides some commentary about what it was like before the real world revealed itself but overall the first page is a simple but BA introduction to Kristine and her current struggles as someone that knows about and deals with supernatural things.  Page two is a continuance of the first page but it’s a five panel ass kicking that show cases Kristine’s abilities and ends on the next page with a killer profile of her holding a monsters head.  I enjoy the fight scene and the profile of Kristine but as a writer I really enjoy the way they put the exposition in as Kristine’s thoughts and explanations of the monsters.  I have mentioned before in previous reviews that one of my pet peeves is being thrown into a complicated world with complicated back stories and just being expected to know what is going on.  Williams gives a great explanation of what the creatures are and why their stalking her down.  The exposition is done well and sets up the premise of the book, Kristine is meant to get back the book of Summons.  The explanation is enough to get a good taste as to what she is facing and what she is seeking out but it doesn't over share and leaves something for us to discover as the book goes on.  The exposition continues with the profile page and Kristine explains her “edge” when dealing with these creatures called Monstrum.  Along with her dagger made for spear of destiny parts she has a “death rapport” that links her thoughts with the Monstrum she kills.  The death rapport doesn't yield anything good so Kristine is forced to summons her MEGAS buddy and we are lead to the next page where he is front and center but flanked by four panels of Kristine and one close up of his masked face.  I simply can’t say enough about the art, the MEGAS dude looks formidable and BA as the two of them chat about what transpired.  The exposition continues alongside an explanation of the MEGAS and what their all about.  Her new MEGAS buddy was “the 5th, sans a blonde Bruce Willis and half naked Milla Jovovich” and I have to say that I love the 5th Element reference.

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Summons 14

So within the first four pages we are introduced to the two main characters, shown a nice fight sequence, and given a reasonable amount of exposition so we understand what is going on in Kristine’s world.  For me personally this book does what I expect from anything that has a complex world building around the reader; I need to know something, but not everything, I need to get a feel for the characters and their abilities, but not be overwhelmed by it.  Williams has already drawn me in and I’m hardly four pages into the read.  I definitely feel that the art helps me get drawn in but the story line has me as well.  The search for the book of Summons, the history of the MEGAS, and what sort of evil they face are all inventive and have me hooked.  The main characters are cool and heroic but not of the super hero ilk, more of the Constantine type, as is the world that is being set up.

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After the beginning and the character introduction there is a short synopsis of how Williams describes his story.  I don’t normally quote things but I feel like his words are fairly poetic, and as a writer I enjoy these lines.

“Nothing meek shall inherit the Earth.  Humans are simply spectators.  Glorified animals caged by their own perception.  The real struggle, the real war… is fought by far greater beings.  They decide our fate, our purpose.  Everything depends on them.  Always has.  This is their story.  Their struggle.  And it is only the beginning.”

I know, epic... Right?  I really dig the way this feels and rolls off my tongue as I mouth it to myself.  After the first few pages and the realization of the mission and the book of summons this statement only beefs up the hype of the book and totally riles me up.

I have already been hooked with the art and the story of the first few pages but as I turn to the next page I see a “Chapter 1 Rude Awakening” and realize that the story has hardly started.  Kristine is clearly a late teen early twenty something, judging from the art, but as the story begins Williams reveals her true age while she narrates how awful school is.  I’m a man in my thirty’s but her clear contempt for school rings a bell with me, as does the three page narrative of Kristine thought bubbling her worries about college while trying to ignore the “self-absorbed, vapid, pima-donnas.”  I love this part because I have more than a few bad memories of self-absorbed A-holes in high school, as many comic book fans probably do, and Williams not only captures the essence of what many people deal with he does it while showing that Kristine is no push over.  Kristine has proven to be BA, but now we get a glimpse of her as a normal person dealing with normal people problems as well when she blows up at the girls talking trash.

Williams continues with Kristine making her way to the principal’s office when she stumbles upon the big football star that just happens to be her good buddy from childhood.  The banter between the two of them is natural, but flirty, and revealing of the true nature of their friendship.  Through dialog Williams shows us the nature of the relationship while also possibly foreshadowing some key plot points.  Football star Jared Lee reveals that his cousin has just died and was possibly into some shady things, which at first doesn’t sound very revealing but the art work really puts it into perspective with a close up of Jared’s face but behind him is a cloaked guy getting attacked by a hand that looks awfully menacing, like some of the monstrum from the beginning.

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Williams shifts the book to three shadowy figures arguing about when to strike at Kristine and the mortal world but he leaves the dialog open until the next page when I turned and saw the up close of three shadowy monsters.  They argue when to strike and the shot caller declares that they wait until they find the book.  The art of the monsters is something to behold because their scary and mean as hell, with some of the best coloring I have ever seen.  The crew really out do themselves on this page, truly amazing art work.

The next seven pages are Kristine at home getting ready for bed when a monster attacks her by jumping through her window.  At this point we know that she doesn’t die and with the help of the MEGAS becomes pretty BA and this revelation comes to fruition when the MEGAS shows up to dispatch the Monstrum.  Again the art work is fantastic with the MEGAS and the monster fighting, my favorite being the first panel with MEGAS standing over the monster.  The panel is about three fourths of the MEGAS standing in front of a head shot of the monster.  The panel is colorful and gives a really nice profile of the MEGAS while still showing a scary version of the mostrum’s head up close.  The Monstrum has some really detailed features, including nasty teeth and a long gross tongue, everything a true monster should have.  As the MEGAS kills off the monster he screams “all hail Zombinos,” which is a nice piece of foreshadowing because I wonder if one of the shadowy monsters are Zombino or if he is going to be someone higher up the monster chain, but either way I’m excited to see Kristine and the MEGAS do their thing and kill them all.

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MEGAS stops to holds a passed out Kristine and apologizes for his barging into her room to save her and explains the MEGAS formation.  Within the explanation of the MEGAS is also the explanation of how the book of Summons came about, as well as who Kristine is.  Kristine is somehow an intermediate between the forces of good or evil and the book.  MEGAS explains she is the newest of a long line of ancestors that held her powers and between him, her and another unknown person called “the warrior born” they have the potential to save the world.  The MEGAS explains that both her and the warrior born have the potential to be swayed to the bad side so it’s imperative that they start their quest to save the world and find the warrior born.

I was expecting this to be the end of the book but I turned to find one last page of a man running in the moonlight.  The final page is six panels of this man and a narrative of how he finally understood the MEGAS and the fight he was about to enter into.  He knew, all of a sudden, that he is essential to the never ending fight as well as the fact that they needed to get to the book of Summons.

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I hate to keep gushing over the art, but seriously, it’s good.  All of the characters have a unique feel to them, no two are even remotely similar, except when supposed to be, and even then are done very different.  The Monstrum are the closest thing to similar in the book and their very different in their own ways.  The style of the art is something between cartoon and realistic and the colors are bright and popping.  Williams doesn’t slack on the story either, he clearly has an extensive world he is building but doesn’t bombard us with too much, he gives us exposition when needed and slides explanations into dialog to give it a natural feel.  I like the story and clearly the artwork but I have already read issue two and can’t wait for issue three.  This is the kind of indie book that makes me shake my head at the big two and ask them why they can’t be this BA.  Williams, Isenberg, Bartlett, St. Pierre; you guys deserve a firm handshake, a pat on the back, and more than anything you deserve to sell out of this book.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Ninjak Review

Ninjak, Valiant's BA Ninja!

I pretty much love doing reviews and I have done a ton of stuff from publishers like Image and Boom! but I have yet to do anything from Valiant.  Until now! I felt like now would be a good time to talk about a Valiant book because; A) I haven’t done a Valiant book yet, B) they have some really cool properties that are pretty old but have also been redone, and C) they just signed a huge contract of movie rights.  DMG Entertainment signed a deal worth nine figures with Valiant for the movie rights to a few characters and if they play their cards right they could end up with a seriously good cinematic universe like the big two, particularly Marvel.

The book I chose for my first review is Ninjak.  I admitted already that Valiant has some BA characters and books like Bloodshot, Shadowman, Quantum and Woody, Archer and Armstrong, X-O Manowar, and many others, but I went with Ninjak for two reasons; it was the first issue, and I enjoyed it.  As many of you know I’m not about bashing books so my personal enjoyment is a major factor in the decision to do a review and I can say for sure that I enjoyed Ninjak.

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The book starts with a fun little classified specification on Ninjak’s “Multi-Tool Battle Belt” so we get a nice little preview of the type of weaponry to expect and they package it up in a top secret style page which is fitting considering he is a M.I. 6 agent.  Although the tool belt is cool we all know the book isn’t starting there, it actually starts with a five panel page of a blind folded ninja fighting a bunch of other ninja’s while Cranes fly all around them.  I liked the start but it was just a tease because the second page is three panels of a child eating popcorn and watching a movie.  The only thing the page says is “Then” at the bottom and it quickly shifts to “Now” as they give us some exposition on Ninjak’s mission.

So within three short pages Ninjak draws us into a back story and kicks us in the face with a scary mission briefing of a super BA target named Roku.  Ninjak’s target, Roku, is killing a Russian prison guard that is trying to hold her in a custom made prison but the exposition is what is scary; she can either feel no pain or she likes it, and she has had “Genetic tailoring” so her hair can cut through metal and she can strangle a man with only three strands.  Yeah pretty BA if you ask me, but we all know that Ninjak isn’t going to be a push over himself.  All in all the exposition about Roku is three pages of her taking care of Russian prison guards but it all leads up to a killer one page shot of Ninjak holding his sword while he quotes a line from the movie he was watching earlier.  Told you, he wasn't going to be a push over.

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Ninjak asked her if he was supposed to be impressed and true to the game Roku says “who cares” as she grabs a gun to attack Ninjak.  There are nearly three entire pages of fighting before they pick up the dialog and Ninjak clicks an explosive trigger.  A bomb goes off behind Roku and she is dazed but Ninjak just tells her to stop and he lets her go.  At that point I was wondering why he decided to let her go but he goes on to tell Roku he saved her life because she was going to hack into their system and trigger a nuke.  I guess maybe he did it to save them both but someone in his ear piece tells him to clean up before he blows up the base he rescued her from.  Of course the blast is formidable but what really impressed me was the fact that he gets into a stealth bomber looking plane to get away.  At this point I’m starting to draw comparisons to Batman; the Ninja like persona and the super cool belt, and now a BA plane.

[caption id="attachment_1294" align="alignnone" width="323"]Roku Roku[/caption]

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After his mission in Russia and saving Roku the story flashes back to his childhood movie time and they reveal he lives in a castle with parents that could care less what he does with himself, probably has an Alfred and everything.  I’m more than convinced he is the clone of all BA characters like Bruce Wayne and James Bond, possible some other cool British characters, we will see.

The next page Ninjak gets debriefed at home and they show an aerial of Ninjak’s castle, and I have to say it is pretty stellar, certainly comparable to Wayne Manor.  Ninjak gets debriefed on his new assignment but just before it’s revealed what he is going to be up to next it’s revealed that Ninjak's name is Ninjak because he is actually Ninja K.  Makes sense to me, but I sort of thought it was because his name was Jack, more like Nin Jack, but it was nice to get some clarification.

During the debriefing it starts to get very spy like with the verbiage and new assignment to infiltrate a weapons maker and dealer.  We also learn that his in is because he financed the release of Roku, his right hand woman.  So all in all he has to get in and befriend a billionaire named Kannon, infiltrate his organization, and find out who the other seven leaders of a group named the Shadow Seven are.  No problem, right?  Well it seems pretty cake when he ends up singing karaoke with the guy.   I enjoy the way the book has been flowing as far as the "now" portion.  The way they transition and fit in the Roku mission with his new mission is done well, it provides clarification without being overt in a subtle but effective way.

I’m sure that things get crazy later but for now things flash back to when he is a child and is sneaking into his room but he gets caught by some big guy with a mustache.  At this point the only thing I don’t really dig is the short flashback story line.  I wish the flashback was more than a page here and there between the “now” parts, but I can see the back story setting up for something bigger or at least painting the picture as to why a little rich boy would want to become a ninja.

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As the “now” part rolls on my hunch about things getting crazy with Kannon were right, they strip him and naked and drop him five miles outside of Tokyo expecting him to make it to an appointment at eight.  Ninjak is a ninja so of course he makes it on time but the next test had to be hard for Ninjak; he has to take a beating.  As a ninja I assume it would be hard to fight off the urge to kill all of them, but he does it with no problem.

The books main story line comes to an end with a “then” where he gets a whooping by the big guy with a mustache and a “now” where he earns the trust of Kannon and is granted anything he wants.  Ninjak asks him for a stealth jet outfitted with top secret nano-tech and chemical weapons payloads.  There is a small back story bonus at the end that chronicles a job ten years ago where he gets his butt kicked but it’s just a bonus to the actual story.

I certainly want to know more, that hook was way too good, and the questions I want to know are from both the then and now story lines.  I like the dual approach to the story line though they could do more with the then part.  There could be more, sure, but I’m still interested and still hooked.  I love the now part because it has everything a spy thriller fan could ask for, government agents up to and including Ninjak, bad guys and bad guy organizations, and other BA villainous people like Roku.  Ninjak hits on all cylinders and I’m glad I picked it for my first Valiant book.  I will definitely be checking out book two.