Friday, July 21, 2017

Jazz Maynard #1 Review



"Jazz Maynard" #1 from Magnetic Press' Lion Forge imprint -

    Jazz Maynard is one hell of a man. Originally from Barcelona, Spain, like his name implies, he's slick, cool, smooth and unpredictable. Besides all of that, he's one of the best Jazz trumpeters in New York City. When he gets an urgent letter from his sister stating that she fell victim to some sex traffickers while looking for him in NYC, Jazz finds her and barrels through her mobbed-up captors like a hurricane. There's more to Jazz than meets the eye. Much more - but will it be enough to save his sister and himself and everyone he loves? The guys he killed had connections. Big, bad connections. And even though Jazz and his sister have fled home to Barcelona, they haven't run far enough to escape the hands of corruption, nor the hands of wicked men out for revenge. 

    If this sounds familiar to you, don't fret. It's translated from Dargaud's 2007 publication, translated from the original Spanish and French. If you are a fan or foreign comics (and I am), you'll be really happy to see this great work get a little American love. Writer, Raule, brings us this hard-boiled crime-fiction actioner that seems like a cross between Cowboy Bebop and Robert Rodriguez's film, "Desperado." Like the protagonists in both works, Jazz Maynard is a silent wall of cool, but behind it is the weight of a dark past, evidenced by the deadly skill set, and a sensitive soul, as evidenced by the haunting music he makes with his trumpet. Jazz Maynard's the perfect protagonist - he's got just enough out there for you to have an idea of who he is, but not enough for you to be exactly sure. A good, mysterious protagonist is one sure way to lock me into a story. Raule has thrown Jazz in a dangerous situation involving family; it's interesting to see how the danger doesn't shake him up at all, but his family sure does. What's that about? It will be so groovy to watch how he handles all the baddies coming his way with his family involved (or as they say in Spanish, "de por medio"). Roger Ibañez Ugena's pencils rock hard with slightly elongated, lined faces that demonstrate a wealth of emotion, and PLENTY of panels on every page that just keep the eye moving scene to scene. It's like a movie in comic book form. SWEET. It doesn't seem like I read this ten years ago already, but it's just as good now as it was then. Dargaud published a lot of great books, from Jazz Maynard: Home Sweet Home, to one of my faves, Blacksad. If you like Cowboy Bebop, "Desperado," and hard-boiled crime fiction, you will love Jazz Maynard. I do.

RATING: 9 out of 10.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Crosswind #1 Review



Crosswind #1 from Image Comics -

    Cason Bennett is a handsome, dapper, confident hitman. He grew up dirt poor and he isn't going back - he's ruthless, as evidenced by the fact that he just murked his best friend. Juniper Blue is a gorgeous housewife and mother. Her beauty is buried in the mental abuse and hostility she suffers at the hands of her cheating husband, her son and just about everyone else in her world - from her nosy neighbor to the boys in her neighborhood. Their worlds collide when, for unknown reasons, they find themselves in each other's bodies, each in the middle of a huge mess in the other's life. Cason will have to take on an abusive world in the body of a woman. And Juniper? She's got to hide a body and babysit the psychotic grandson of a mafia don. The crap's about to hit the fan.

   From the mind of Gail Simone, comes a gender-bending actioner, Crosswind. Crosswind begins well because it begins with the protagonists. Through the captions, we get a glimpse into their minds, their feelings, and little of their backstories, all of which make the reader empathize with each character. As the action unfolded, I found myself unsettled by the fact that I liked Cason despite his moral failings, and I was also unsettled that felt sorry for Juniper, but I began to wonder if she had done something in the past to merit her maltreatment. I mean, she was just terribly abused by nearly everyone in her world, especially males. It seemed so over the top. I struggled to grasp what Simone was communicating. Are beautiful women victims? Are housewives? Is marriage a cage for women? I wasn't really sure - I like comics that make me think, question, struggle and get a little in my feelings. Either way, on the one hand, we have a hitman that's the stereotypical manly man, and on the other, a perfect example of the docile housewife stereotype. What does Simone do? One of her favorite things. She plays with sex and gender roles. Each protagonist is thrust into an alien world, with different rules, and different dangers and expectations. Each is totally out of their depth, and it will be quite interesting to watch them try to adapt and navigate these strange, new worlds. Cat Staggs' artwork is slick and expressive, but it's got a weird digital blurriness to it that my eyes don't really like. But, all in all, do I like Crosswinds? Yes. It is a very interesting story with fully fleshed out protagonists - I would like to journey with them. Do I like all of Simone's viewpoints? No in the slightest - but that doesn't make the story any less interesting, nor does it make Simone any less gifted. 

RATING: 9 out of 10.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

TEX'S BACK -ISSUE QUEST EPISODE #58 (The Strain)


Howdy, fellow Questers!

    I hope your week is going well and that your feeling life's groove. All's fine in my neck of the woods, but since I have some things I have to accomplish today, I thought I'd hit you up with a midweek dose of comic book knowledge that you can't get in any college. And, conveniently, it gives me an excuse to celebrate the return of one of my favorite shows:


     It's my copy of The Strain volume 1, number 1. This is the more pricey 1 in 5 variant. The Strain #1 features the first appearances of Dr. Ephraim Goodweather,  Professor Abraham Setrakian, vampire hunter, and The Master, menacingly powerful source of the vampire outbreak. 

     The Strain is an adaptation of a novel of the same name written by Mexican/American director, Guillermo Del Toro, and novelist, Chuck Hogan. Adapted wonderfully by veteran comic scribe, David Lapham, and penciled by Mike Huddleston, The Strain follows humanity's battle against total conquest by an ancient evil. Heading the human charge are Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, Head of the CDC's rapid-response team, and Professor Abraham Setrakian, a Romanian Jew who has spent the greater part of his life hunting The Master down after originally encountering him during WWII while confined to an extermination camp. Dr. Goodweather and Professor Setrakian, along with their ragtag band of vampire fighters, like the double-tough exterminator, Vasily Fet, and ex-gang member, Augustin Elizalde, battle with swords, guns, and science to push back The Master and his monstrous minions before they reduce the human race to mere cattle to suit their voracious appetites. On to the FUN FACTS!!

FUN FACT 1 - The writer, David Lapham has written superhero stories and other things, but his horror stories are the stuff of legend. He has the eerie ability to give a voice to wickedness that is quite unsettling (As a reference, see his work on Crossed: Family Values, and Crossed: Psychopath). Warning: Crossed is not for children or those with tender sensibilities. 

FUN FACT 2 - The co-creator, Guillermo Del Toro is an award-winning writer, producer, and director best known for directing the "Hellboy" films, "Blade II," and the critically acclaimed masterpiece, "Pan's Labyrinth." 

FUN FACT 3 - In 2014, The Strain was adapted into a successful TV series by FX. And it is GREAT!! It stars Corey Stoll as Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, David Bradley as Professor Setrakian, Kevin Durand as Vasily Fet, and Miguel Gomez as Augustin Elizalde. Del Toro wrote and directed the pilot episode. It is now in its 4th and final season. Can you feel my sadness?





FUN FACT 5 - I used to have a habit of selling, or giving away, my modern comics after reading them. I owned the whole of volume one of The Strain but sold it after reading it. I came across the above comic later, liked the cover and bought it. Lucky for me. I had no idea it would rocket up in value due to the upcoming TV series.

Well, that's it for now. Happy Trails, fellow QUESTERS!! Be safe, be good, be AWESOME!


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Monday, July 17, 2017

Paklis #1 Review


Paklis" #1 from Image Comics -

     Paklis is a sci-fi anthology from the uber-creative mind of Dustin Weaver. The anthology is broken down into three stories: 

   1. "Mushroom Bodies" - Greg is at his wits' end, and in his situation, that's very understandable. What else can you do but go insane when your body is morphing into that of a bug? 

    "Mushroom Bodies" is a surreal tale of paranoia. Reminiscent of Franz Kafka's masterpiece, The Metamorphosis, "Mushroom Bodies" follows the story of a protagonist trapped by paranoia, fear, and powerlessness, so much so that his body inexplicably morphs into the ultimate example of insignificance: a bug. I find this story to be the most interesting of the bunch. On the one hand, it has a nihilistic bent, seemingly suggesting that there is little difference between a human or a bug because life, all life, is a state of a chaos, leading to a lack of any real control and any real meaning. On the other hand, it is inundated with existentialism, suggesting that even though a person's fate be beyond their control, it is their own will that defines how they perceive/create and interact with their world. Both of these philosophies culminate in acceptance - either acceptance of meaninglessness, or acceptance of ultimate responsibility for your perceptions and actions. Packed with so many interesting themes, and so much content to ponder, "Mushroom Bodies" is a bit of a modern-day comics masterpiece, even if it is a tad derivative of Kafka's novella. 

2.  "Sagittarius A*" - In the distant future, humanity has spread further into the universe. Linus, a war hero has come back from the front lines to find his missing, or deceased, father.  Destination: the galactic core, Sagittarius A. 

      Only 2 pages long, "Sagittarius A*" is a gorgeously rendered sci-fi tale done all in black and white. In a masterful stroke of storytelling, Weaver gives us the backstory and everything else we need to get hooked into this tale in such a small space. We are introduced to the protagonist, his trauma is exposed, we find out he is a hero, and that he is looking for his estranged, possibly dead, father who also happens to be a war hero. This story did so much in two pages, I was quite literally astounded.

3.  "Amnia Cycle" - Once again, in the distant future, humanity has established an intergalactic empire and it is at war with an alien race called the Nuriel. Air-Man Tara Donnia is a hotshot pilot on a routine recon mission on a lonely planet when she spies what seems to be an asteroid falling to the ground. What seems to be an asteroid is actually a humanoid alien named Amnia who announces that it loves Tara, and is looking for a place called Apuli, and its lost ship, the Plinius. When Tara decides to help Amnia, she soon finds herself running from her own fleet, and trapped in a vessel in a secluded sector of space.

    "Amnia Cycle" differs from Weaver's other offerings because, in lieu of character development, we jump right into the action, which for me, made the story a lot of sound and fury, but having little meaning. While "Amnia Cycle" is definitely the most pedestrian of the three stories, nonetheless, it was by no means uninteresting.

   Overall, Paklis, is an exceptional sci-fi anthology that is sure to please those who are fans of science-fiction and tales that wrestle with philosophy and the human condition. It's a throwback to illustrious predecessors, books like Métal hurlant, and its American spawn, Heavy Metal, just a lot less racy (so far). The most obvious way that it differs from its predecessors is in the fact that it is all coming from the fertile mind and adept hand of one creative genius. Weaver is putting on a clinic in creativity here with three meaty tales of his own devising, and three distinct art styles. It's beyond unique - it's rather brilliant...And it has to be with a HEFTY price tag of $5.99 per issue. I definitely want to follow this book. I have a feeling we'll soon see something on the big or small screen that emerges from Weaver's gifted imagination. 

RATING: 9 out of 10. 


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Sunday, July 16, 2017

TEX'S Variants, Autographs and Oddities Episode 5 (Caliban)




Hello, Hello, Hello!!!

    It's TEX checking in again, my fellow QUESTERS!! I hope that you had a great weekend. I sure did. My son came to visit from college, my wife didn't have to travel for work, and my daughter and  I are here on summer vacation, so I was able to gather up my entire nuclear family up to go out for a night of fun and festivities. We went to see "Baby Driver" which was a lot better than expected, and then we piled into a restaurant had a great dinner, and ended the night in a wonderful family debate.

   Coolness.

   So today, before I put my feet up and chill, I thought I'd hit you guys with one of the oddities/variants that I found in my collection. I hope you like it - LET'S RIDE!!


It's Caliban #1, from Avatar Press!!

     But this isn't just any old first issue, it's a doozy of a variant! This is the exclusive Platinum Edition of the Dark Matter Variant, printed, selected and sent to the CGC to be graded by Avatar Press. These are graded and then numbered by the CGC - this means that EVERY one of these Platinum Editions are encapsulated, and, in this case, numbered from one to one-hundred and fifty, which is the total number of these that exist on the planet. That's right, only one-hundred and fifty of these were printed, graded and numbered, and I have #118 in my collection. 

     I don't usually go for variants like this (I can count on one hand the times I have splurged for a variant), but Caliban was a pretty great read, and I really wanted to have one of these exclusive comics. So, what makes Caliban so great? Glad you asked. Caliban comes to us from the brilliant mind of Garth Ennis. It's a sci-fi horror story in the same vein as the "Alien" franchise (one of my favorite bodies of sci-fi films). It tells the story of the crew of the mining ship, Caliban, on a routine mission in deep space. When they collide with an alien vessel while in FTL (faster-than-light travel / "warp"), their ship fuses with the vessel, killing several members of the crew. When the survivors begin to be stalked and killed by something beyond their understanding, paranoia sets in, and the crew realizes that not only are they not alone in the universe, but they just may not be ready to encounter what awaits them in the vast cold reaches of the universe. Ennis teams up with Argentine artist, Facundo Percio, who illustrates this book beautifully with shades of the late, great legend of sci-fi, Moebius. Here's another of the more disturbing covers:


(Courtesy of Bloody Disgusting)

     I would really love to see this translated to film someday. It would be a refreshing throwback to those horrifying sci-fi chillers of the past; however, Ennis' work doesn't always translate well. "Preacher" is the obvious exception, but Ennis has been trying to get Crossed adapted for years, which is so violent, bloody, and perverted that the NC-17 rating would have to come out of mothballs for it to be in mainstream theaters. 

   Well, that's it for today. I hope you enjoyed today's trip into the oddities of my collection. There's lots more to come, so stick around! Same TEX time, same TEX station!!

  Happy Trails!!

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

September Mourning Volume 1 Review


September Mourning Vol 1  from Image and Top Cow -

     No one knows why the Riven, a Reaper of Souls spared the young woman. No one knows why he took her life and gave her his own, making her a living, breathing Reaper. She is September Mourning, a human Reaper, driven to help the souls of the sick, oppressed, abused and lonely who are dying. Sometimes she balances the scales, giving them another shot at life, sometimes she whisks them to a safe place where she can protect them until she figures out their ultimate fate. But September is meddling with the balance of the universe, playing at being the Hand of Fate...And Fate himself doesn't like it. Not one bit. September must fight for her own survival, the survival of the lost souls she protects, and for Claire, her jaded blind companion who has the power to see Reapers. Can September protect the souls in her care and stay alive long enough to find out exactly who and what she is, and why she exists? Or...Will she meet a dark and sinister Fate?

    Created by Mark Silvestri and Emily Lazar, September Mourning is based on the dark culture project of the of the same name. Emily Lazar and Mariah McCourt pen volume 1 in which September's origin story is revealed, and all the chess pieces are put into place for the beginning of her struggle against Fate. September is a tragic character, and moving, as is her ostracized, misunderstood friend, Claire. They share the bond of misfits who belong in neither this world nor The Mortem, the dark other-side of our reality where Fate and his Reapers rule. The theme of victimization runs heavily through this book - victimization of women, and the ultimate victimization of humanity through the authoritarian rule of an arbitrary despot who holds our fates in his hands while we are powerless to shape the trajectory of our own lives. It echoes James O'Barr's Eric Draven when he uttered his famous line in The Crow: "Victims...Aren't we all?" September seems to come to change all that, much like O'Barr's Crow. Lazar and McCourt offer up a worldview that is a little bit goth and a little bit emo. While both September and Claire develop into sympathetic characters, the story does have a few rough edges. Sometimes the dialogue gets hammy, and the book is narrated by Claire in the captions, and she does a lot more telling than showing which makes the story feel rushed. It's hard for a character to unfold if someone's telling you everything about it. All this aside, September Mourning Volume 1 was a curiosity and an interesting read. It's a BIG ball of melodrama, but it has intriguing protagonists and it tells a story of mankind's struggle to write its own destiny, which always gets me. Sumeyye Kesgin's art is dark but playful, a bit cartoony but all business. Kesgin let her imagination run wild here, and she has QUITE the imagination. And she's got quite the work ethic; this book is PACKED with panels! Kesgin let it all hang out, and I like the way she works it - no diggity. This book isn't going to be for everyone, but I have no doubt it'll find an audience in those of us who are just a bit jaded and disaffected at heart.

RATING: 7.75 out of 10.

PS - I mentioned that this comic was based on a dark culture project...Well, here's September Mourning herself in her own music video singing her song, "Eye of the Storm." Enjoy!!


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Friday, July 14, 2017

Rivers Of London #1 Review



"Rivers Of London" #1 from Titan -

    In London, "Falcon" crimes are the worst kinds of crimes, often involving horrible, nightmarish scenes of gore, and more often than not, a bit of the supernatural. For these crimes, there's The Folly, the home of a special crimes unit which doesn't just take on normal lawbreakers; The Folly goes head to head with criminals who can wield the darkest forces. Enter Police Constable Peter Grant. Pete's really got it rough. Not only is he about to take the grueling exams that will make him a Detective Inspector, he is also a practitioner of magic - a wizard in training to be exact. When the remains of a bizarre, macabre ritual are discovered on a London skyscraper, Peter is tasked with solving the crime. He is thrown into a world of cruelty, corruption, and ambition all spawned by a text that promises power beyond one's wildest dreams. Can Peter solve this case and prove that he's got what it takes to be a DI, or will he end up another victim of dark magic, face-down in the dirty gutters of London? 

   Written by Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel, "Rivers Of London" is a mystical thriller set to the tone of a very interesting police procedural. It is an enthralling adaptation of Aaronovitch's novel of the same name, published in 2011. Aaronovitch and Cartmel build a world that, at first glance, seems just like our own, yet, they fit the practice of magic in it so casually, even giving a neat backstory on the magical crimes unit of the Met Police which began with none other than one of my heroes, Sir Isaac Newton. Brilliant. The protagonist, PC Peter Grant, talks us through the weird, supernatural case in the captions (so nonchalantly) while giving us a bit of light exposition. This makes the story flow well, and helps us to really feel comfortable with Grant as we journey with him through his the interviews and procedures of the case, as well as his assessment to become a DI. While we don't really get to see how advanced Peter is as a wizard, we do get to see that he is a pretty debonair...And a relentless cop. I dig that. I wish we had gotten to know his supporting cast more, but the breezy introductions to them were enough to make me want to find out more about each of them. I can seriously see this as a series on the SyFy Network. Lee Sullivan's artwork is excellent - from the characters to the stunning backdrops, Sullivan's art works great to tell the story. His pencils are busy without seeming overly so. I definitely will be picking up "Rivers Of London." Yes, the first issue is a bit subdued, and it ends rather abruptly, but it's just the simmer before the pot boils over. I want to see what happens next.

RATING: 8.5 out of 10.  


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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

TEX'S BACK-ISSUE QUEST EPISODE #57 (Wynonna Earp)



It's been a long time,

I shouldn't have left you,

Without some dope comics to look through!!

        Welcome back once again, fellow QUESTERS, to TEX'S BACK-ISSUE QUEST, a place where I can fill your hungry heads with lots of comic book knowledge that you can't get in any college!

          Today we head into some weird wild western goodness with...WYNONNA EARP!!! Check it!


It's my sweet copy of Wynonna Earp #1!!

     Wynonna Earp #1 was published by Image Comics in 1996, and features the first appearances of Wynonna Earp, The U.S. Marshalls' Monster Squad, and her nemesis, the vicious, vile, voracious vampire, Bobo Del Rey and his powerful, bloodthirsty clan, La Inmortalidad. In the comic, Wynonna Earp is a U.S. Marshall with a special unit called The Monster Squad, an elite group that takes on perps of the more dangerous, darker, supernatural type. Marshall Wynonna Earp the great granddaughter of the famous frontier lawman, Wyatt Earp. She carries his name proudly, pushing herself to her physical limits to be the best U.S. Marshall she can possibly be. Her athleticism, hand-to-hand combat skills, and marksmanship are all unmatched, but her greatest weapon may have been passed down from her famous great-grandad: a cool head in the face of death. Wynonna Earp was created by writer Beau Smith, and brought to the page by artist Joyce Chin

    Various Wynonna Earp titles have been published since 1996 with IDW taking over the publishing duties in 2003. Wynonna Earp is now enjoying a huge amount of renewed interest due to the critically acclaimed TV series that has been airing since 2016 on Syfy. It stars the drop-dead gorgeous Melanie Scrofano as the ornery title character:




     I have been watching the show since it debuted, and it has sure made me a fan. It's got a little Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and a little of Tombstone in it, which makes it REALLY fine by ol' TEX. Why? Because those are sure 'nuff two of my favorite things to watch, ya betcha by golly. And the second season is heads and shoulders above the first season. Loving it. But...The comic and the TV show have some distinct differences. On to the fun facts!!

FUN FACT 1 - The TV Show has some great characters that the comic does not, like Doc Holiday, played with a cool, comic bent by Tim Rozon, Waverly Earp, played by the charming, multi-talented, knockout, Dominique Provost-Chalkley, and the straight-shooting, no-nonsense lawman, Xavier Dolls, played by the intense Shamier James.

FUN FACT 2 - In the TV Show, Bobo Del Rey and his clan were Revenants, 77 outlaws killed by Wyatt Earp but resurrected as demons under a curse. In the comics, they were simply vampires. 

FUN FACT 3 - Wynonna is a master of weapons, a skill which she uses to bring supernatural villains to justice. However, in the TV show, Wynonna has inherited "The Peacemaker," the Colt Buntline Special that novelist, S.N. Lake wrote about Wyatt Earp having used in his novel, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshall. It's been somehow blessed to kill supernatural baddies. Or anyone. Because it's a gun. :-D

(Courtesy of Syfy.com)



FUN FACT 4 - In the comic, Wynonna was a U.S. Marshall in a special elite group called, The Monster Squad; however, in the TV show, she is a part of a unit called The Black Badge Division. 

FUN FACT 5 - In the comic, it states explicitly that Beau Smith is the creator of Wynonna Earp. But we are way past the days of the artists not getting their due as co-creators. If you can't draw, then the artist helps bring your idea to life. I hope Joyce Chin is seeing some cash from the TV show. 

FUN FACT 6 - I love the TV show's theme song, "Tell That Devil," by Jill Andrews. Groove with me:




FUN FACT 7 - Hayden Panitierre performed "Tell That Devil" on her TV series, Nashville.

That's all for today!! Happy trails, pardners!!

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Jimmy's Bastards #1 Review


Jimmy's Bastards #1 from AfterShock -

    Jimmy Regent is the best that MI6 has to offer - and he's also the worst. He's a handsome, brilliant and highly effective agent, but he's a womanizing, cocksure, offensive bastard...But he gets the job done. Fresh from taking down Theophilus Trigger, Regent's trigger-word spouting nemesis, and Bobo The Bastard, Trigger's evil, chimp sidekick with a glass-encased human brain, Regent's all set for a little rest and relaxation (and some shagging, of course). However, what Regent doesn't know is that a legion of dejected and neglected nutcases are on the warpath, and they are headed straight for Jimmy Regent. They blame Jimmy for their crappy lot in lives...And he just might be sorta, kinda responsible. Or not. Besides all this, Jimmy's new partner, Nancy McEwan, is a lethal stunner who doesn't seem to be interested in shagging Jimmy one little bit. What's the world's best secret agent to do? Hold on to your seats, Jimmy Regent is in for one heck of a ride!

   If you know anything about comics, you don't need me to tell you who Garth Ennis is. He's one of modern comics' treasures, mostly because he can do it all: Ennis can write the funny, dark, offensive, irreverent stuff, like Preacher, and Adventures In the Rifle Brigade or he can write the hopeful, heroic stuff, like Dan Dare. In Jimmy's Bastards Ennis creates Jimmy Regent, a biting parody of James Bond, a character that actually goes for the gusto where Bond just tosses about innuendos. But Regent's real super-power, as it were, is his ability to not be offended by anything at all, which is a great power to have if you have a nemesis that's constantly spewing the foulest, most shocking, trigger words that you can possibly imagine. The cool concept is not wasted on me: if you don't want to be offended by anyone or anything, then don't be offended. You can't control others, so you have to get a handle on yourself, which is all you can do. Ennis uses his classic irreverent wit, and a lot of vulgarity, to drive home his point. I guess this is where I kind of felt a bit disappointed that Ennis, brilliant as he is, oversimplified such a complicated matter. Sure, you have to learn to have thick skin, and sure, society may go a bit overboard in trying to protect everyone's feelings; however, it's quite an easy thing for a person of Ennis' particular demographic to say "just get over it" especially when there are people that experience very real harassment, oppression and even threats to their existence.  Be that as it may, Jimmy's Bastards #1 has a few moments that may shock you, make you think, and cause you to emit a tiny chuckle. It is a tick of fun to see such a beloved British character like James Bond exposed for all its absurdity while still resulting in a mildly enjoyable story. Russ Braun's artwork is totally gorgeous and sometimes quite reminiscent of Howard Chaykin's work. From the female form, to classic villains, to that square-jawed action hero of yesteryear, Braun hits all the right notes - and with John Kalisz's inks, this book is a stunner to behold. While this is not a book I'll be continuing, I am sure that it will find an audience with all those who are tired of "too much P.C. in comics (and in the world in general)." It's one of Ennis' more lackluster works (IMHO), but even a lackluster work from a genius is worth checking out. 

RATING: 7 out of 10. 

CAVEAT: NOT FOR KIDS, NOR THOSE OF DELICATE SENSIBILITIES.

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Sunday, July 2, 2017

All Time Comics: Atlas #1




"All Time Comics: Atlas" #1 from Fantagraphics Books -

      Years ago, Johnny Rammond, a city planner, stumbled onto ancient technology that gave him anti-matter-based powers beyond his wildest dreams. As Atlas, Earth's mightiest hero, he takes on all threats to keep the people safe, especially those of his beloved home, Optic City. This time, Atlas is on the trail of a beloved congressman, secretly a powerful super-villain, who is planning to funnel city funds into a vile project to help him achieve his own diabolical ends: world domination. When Atlas attacks the congressmen at a political gathering, the people turn against Atlas, which saps his ability to use his powers. While Atlas cools his heels in jail, the wicked congressman's plot steams ahead, and the two people that Atlas loves most in the world, his best friend, Tobey, and the woman he adores, Suzi, end up directly in danger's menacing crosshairs. Can Atlas recover in time to stop this perverse and poisonous politician, or are the lives of his loved ones forfeit and the world doomed forever? 

    Josh Bayer and Ben Marra come together to concoct this very wild, very violent superhero story in "All Time Comics: Atlas" #1. This thrilling little throwback is what would happen if the Silver Age DC Comics Universe had an illicit affair with underground comix of the late 60s and early 70s. What Bayer and Marra have created is a world that resembles Silver Age DC, but here, the villains have gone morals off and no one is safe. It's a place where superheroes don't back down from a fight, nor do they fear to meet deadly force with deadly force. They also have no qualms about serving the bad guys up their just desserts if they deem it right to do so.  At first, you notice all the hokey, silliness in the story that made the Silver Age such good fun, but things get dark and hectic pretty quickly as they story careens wildly out of control. Sometimes the hero fails, sometimes the good guys lose, not every innocent is going to be rescued, and neither the hero nor his inner circle are immune to suffering. Ben Marra pulls double duty as co-writer and artist, and his art does shine. It's got that quirky underground comix feel to it - but when you pair it up with Matt Rota's expert colors, you've got a book that looks great, sitting squarely somewhere between grotesque and brilliant. And, it's all printed on that classic newsprint, sorry, no glossy pages here; however it does have some wild retro ads, and an insane pin-up meant to be taken out of the book and slapped up on a wall. So cool. $3.99 is still the price, even with cheaper materials, but I didn't find that problematic because the first issue is pretty thick, and the story feels complete. "All Time Comics: Atlas" #1 is just a crazy ride and a Ferris wheel of fun. I can't believe I am digging this. Crazy, man, crazy. 

RATING: 9 out of 10 for silly pseudo-Silver Age fun with a dark twist. 

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Normandy Gold #1 Review



"Normandy Gold" #1 from Titan Comics -

    Her name was supposed to be Victory. That's what her mother wanted to call her when she found out that the Invasion of Normandy was a success...But when her father didn't come home from the WWII, her mother named her Normandy instead. Normandy grew up hard. Her family was destitute, her mother wasn't the best role-model, and she had a baby sister that no one could pin on any father in particular. Normandy ran away in her early teens, traveling about, experiencing the best and worst humanity had to offer until she found a home in a small town in Oregon with a kind man who happened to be the sheriff. He taught Normandy all he knew about life, about hunting, and about being self-sufficient - when he died, she honored the only father she ever knew by becoming just what he was: an officer of the law. Years have passed, and now she's the sheriff. One day, out of the blue, she's surprised by a call from her long-lost sister. She's even more surprised when she is forced to listen over the phone as her sister is viciously murdered. Normandy heads to her last known whereabouts, Washington, D.C., to find out what happened to her sister, and to make somebody pay; but, to do this, she'll have to dive into a very dirty world. D.C. is a crazy place - corrupt, powerful men, crooked cops, hustlers, pushers, and pimps...Danger is around every corner, and there is no one she can trust. Can Normandy find out the truth before her sister's killer finds her?

   Megan Abbott and Alison Gaylin pen this hardboiled crime drama, "Normandy Gold" #1. Abbott and Gaylin have created a hardened female protagonist that gives you the sense that she's way more capable and ready for danger than most men. With the story being set in the early 70s, that makes Normandy Gold the perfect weapon - she's a street-smart knockout with guts and gumption. The bad guys won't know what hit them. She reminds me a lot of the heroines that helped to make the blaxploitation genre famous, heroines like Coffy, Foxy Brown, Friday Foster, and Cleopatra Jones. The similarities are obvious. Though blaxploitation is often remembered for its many problems, it cannot be forgotten that blaxploitation was one of the earliest genres (besides Hong Kong action cinema) to make women into double-tough, street-smart action heroes. But I digress. What is most striking about the book is how Abbott and Gaylin use Normandy's narration in the caption boxes to give us her backstory and to reveal her thought processes to the reader. The protagonist's voice is clear and hypnotic, which absolutely sucked me into the story and set me on this gritty journey with her. Even more compelling is Normandy's commitment to finding her sister's killer - she is willing to go as far as she needs to in order to bring her sister's killer to justice. There's no naivete in Normandy; she's willing to do a little wrong in order to do a big right. But why? For justice? For revenge? Because of the guilt of abandoning her, leaving her alone with their mother? Maybe it's a little of all of these. Steve Scott makes this story come alive with pencils that are pretty spectacular - every face tells a story, every look emotes. Scott shows the story perfectly as Abbott and Gaylin tell it superbly; this book simply looks great. "Normandy Gold" #1 is simply GREAT. 

RATING: 10 out of 10. I wouldn't be surprised to see "Normandy Gold" on the big screen one day. 

Caveat: This book is gritty, violent and has nudity and sexual situations. NOT FOR KIDS OR THOSE WITH DELICATE SENSIBILITIES.  

PS - Do yourself a favor and check out some of those blaxploitation films I listed above. You can thank me later. Again...NOT FOR KIDS OR THOSE WITH DELICATE SENSIBILITIES. :-)

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TEX'S Variants, Autographs and Oddities Episode 4 (DC Universe Legacies Variant)





Howdy, fellow QUESTERS!!


    It's me, the one and only T to tha E to tha X, back again to make your head spin with more comic book knowledge that you can't get in college! I hope your day is sauntering along nicely. Mine is fine, just rainy as all get out around these here parts, which gets me to snackin' and a-snoozin', two things that can only lead to weight gain and joint pain, if you smell what I'm cooking. So, I figure, what better thing to do than to hop on this here mean machine and hang out with all of you?

   So here I am. Let's smack this horse's heinie and get to gallopin'!


   Back in 2011, DC Comics began to publish a pretty awesome limited series called DC Universe: Legacies.

  Written by comics legend, Len Wein, This limited series tells the story of the DCU, partially focusing on the life of a man named Paul Jones. The series begins with Paul's early life in the 1940s, as he collects protection money for a local gangster in Metropolis' Suicide Slum. It is then that the Golden Age of Superheroes begins with the appearance of masked vigilantes and Paul's eventual witnessing of The Golden Age Sandman and Atom in action. This inspires Paul to get his act together; in a few years he has worked his way through college and through a chance encounter with The Guardian and The Newsboy Legion, he decides to help fight crime as a police officer.

   The re-written story of the DCU unfolds before us, partially through Paul's eyes as he lives and fights through the 1940s until the Modern Age of Superheroes. With Paul, we experience the emergence of masked vigilantes, and super-powered heroes (and villains), The House Un-American Activities Committee's attack on the JSA and their subsequent disappearance, the reemergence of superheroes in The Silver Age, and nearly every major DC Crossover event (Crisis On Infinite Earths, The Death of Superman, Knightfall, The Final Night, Identity Crisis, etc). Paul Jones carries his badge proudly and helps society through all this as much as he can throughout his life, even once becoming the partner of Officer John Jones who is secretly the alien crimefighter known as The Martian Manhunter. It is a triumphant, but bittersweet story of an unsung hero of the DCU, an everyday hero living in the shadow of gods and monsters while dealing with everyday problems like family drama and illness.

   This story does re-write DCU history quite a bit. It has to. Of course, Superman and Batman can't appear in the 1940s; however, be that as it may, Wein does an amazing job weaving the comic book ages together and connecting the DCU's major events in a sweeping epic story that is both fun and mesmerizing. If that weren't enough, Wein gathered some of the best living artists in comic book history to work on this series, artists like Bill Sienkiewicz, Joe Kubert, Brian Bolland, George Pérez, Dave Gibbons, Dan Jurgens, and J.G. Jones, to name a few. I was excited to get my hands on one of these:



   Above, you see my copy of DC Universe: Legacies #1, but my copy is the rare Special Ashcan Edition done for Diamond Comic Distributors, INC. This is a sketch variant done by Joe Kubert that was given ONLY to retailers at the 2011 Diamond Retailer Summit held in Chicago, IL. Luckily, I had a friend that hooked me up (YES!). I loved this series so much, I didn't stop there:


   

    Feast your eyes! That's right, above is my published art page found in DC Universe: Legacies #9, page 20. Check out the finished, published page below:


(courtesy of ReadComicOnline.to)

   The page was penciled by Jesus Saiz, and inked by Karl Story who also signed it at the bottom. Way cool! I am proud to have it as a part of my humble collection.

   If you're looking for a great way to spend a couple of hours, read DC Universe: Legacies. You can thank me later. :-)

  Happy trails, pardners!! And remember, reading comics online might be nice, but supporting your local comic shop is even better!! I support mine! See ya!

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Coldest City GN Review



The Coldest City, a graphic novel from ONI Press -


     The year is 1989, and the world is holding its breath. After long decades of covert aggression, the Cold War is nearing its end. However, for the players in the never-ending spy game, it's business as usual...In fact, the stakes have just been raised astronomically. A British spook has been murdered, and gone along with him is a document so fearful that it not only threatens the lives of every spy in Berlin, but the security of every government running those spies there on both sides of the Berlin Wall. Enter Lorraine Broughton, an accomplished spy, but one with no experience with how the spy game works in Berlin. MI6 sends her to Berlin, deep cover, to retrieve the missing document before the CIA, DGSE, or the KGB get their hands on it and use it for their own covert agendas. Lorraine is an excellent spy, but in Berlin, she's a fish out of water. She's forced to work with an old-guard agent that MI6 is unsure of, while outsmarting enemy agents, creating allies, and avoiding death at every turn. Can Lorraine secure the document, or will she wind up as just another spook dead in the gutters of that cold, cold city?

     From the creative mind of Antony Johnson comes this nail-biting espionage thriller, The Coldest City. In the illustrious company of great novels like, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, The Coldest City takes us back to those dark days when Democracy and Communism vied for world power, fighting each other through proxy wars, and through the daring and ingenuity of covert operatives, men and women that we call spies. Johnston gives us a pretty thrilling protagonist, Lorraine Broughton, a woman in a clandestine world run by powerful, dangerous men. Lorraine is brilliant, calculating and bold - she has to be if she expects to complete the mission and get out alive. Besides Lorraine Broughton, Johnston fills this story with so many interesting characters that are all a bit shady - just like the protagonist, the reader is never quite sure who to trust. Ulterior motives and questionable alleginaces abound in this twisty, turny Cold War spy story from the very beginning to the gut-punch of an ending. In The Coldest City, Antony Johnston has made sure to keep the reader on their toes because absolutely nothing is exactly as it seems. This creates a palpable atmosphere of danger and doubt that had me totally absorbed from start to finish. Sam Hart absolutely rocked the art; his panel arrangements give the book a cinematic feel, and his pencils are sketchy and energetic yet very expressive. Done all in black and white, Hart's obscured, and sometimes unfinished faces along with his expert use of shadows definitely make this book seem like a throwback to those classic spy films I used to watch with my grandparents as a kid. If you love spy thrillers, The Coldest City is a real page-turner that you won't want to put down.

RATING: 10 out of 10.

FUN FACT 1 - On July 28, 2017, Charlize Theron and James McEvoy will star in Atomic Blonde, David Leitch's film based on Johnston's and Hart's graphic novel, The Coldest City. Here is the trailer:



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