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Monday, December 5, 2016

Chronicles of Terror No. 4. Kim Roberts (Editor) WP Comics (2016)

Chronicles of Terror commitment to providing diverse, smart and deeply engaging comics continues unabated, which is just wonderful. The big tent approach to horror stories and the extraordinary array of talent gathered here is a vivid testament to editorial imagination and commitment. The suitably seasonal cover by Haraldo sets the scene for a clutch of great stories, stunning pin-ups that celebrate the long dark nights of Christmas with  black humour and buckets of gore. Christmas time is a target rich environment for horror stories, the unexpected perspectives and angles that the stories here use is a deep pleasure. Included among the excellent set of stories are the following:
The Never. Eric Gahagan (Writer), Pietro Vaughan (Art), Nikki Sherman (Letters). When Christmas come so does darkness and a visit from the anti-santa. A gripping and creepy story that packs a big punch in a small space as something very nasty comes down the chimney. Pietro Vaughan's black and white art captures the contrast betwen what is going on in the house and finishes with a stunning panel that reeks of excited malice. Nikki Sherman's letters are quiet and natural in the panels, they reveal the story with clearly different voices being heard.
Reindeer. Paul Bradford (Writer), Allen Byrns (Art), is an astonishing mix of traditional Christmastime ideas and a horribly clever and perfectly paced savagery. Allen Byrns' muted colours and sketched art capture the low key drama that the reader very uncomfortably completes for themselves. The lettering is superb, it is used as a significant aspect to the whole story design, in particular the landmine of the final narration box.
A Christmas Carol, Gabe Ostley (Writer) , Chris Allen (Colours) is a gloriously perverse version of Christmas haunting, Hell and mayhem. Gabe Ostley goes full tilt and beyond and the story benefits for the momentum and hell-for-leather approach. Chris Allen's colours are a match for the energy of the writing and art, they bring out every manic element and turbo charge the story up to its fantastic conclusion.
The Ancestors. Hunter Eden (Writer), MC Carper (Art), Chris Allen (Colours & Letters), is a gem of a story and an astounding comic. The ancestors gave way when the priests came, gave way but did not go away. They come in the depth of winter looking for good children and bad children. What happens to both is brutal, a folk tale that has claws, teeth and a taste for blood. MC Carper's art captures the folk tale core and is completely contemporary in the controlled used of panels to manage the tempo of the story. The ancestors are a subtle balance of human and wolfish, while being neither but wholly themselves. Chris Allens's colours are pitch perfect, they capture tone of fairy tales and the grim events they can so lightly present.
Unwanted Gifts. James Johnson (Writer & Art). James Johnson's distinctive art and willingness to take creative risks with his writing contribute to makes a very twisted Christmas story.
Christmas Eve. JoJo King (Writer), Alister Lee (Art) , Nikki Sherman (Letters) manages to mix cute and horrifying with excellent results. JoJo King risks making a cute childish misunderstanding joke that is black as pitch and actually works. Alister Lee balances all the aspect of the story with  with care and detail so that child's perceptions of events and the actual events fit together rather than uncomfortably jostle each other. Nikki Sherman's lettering never draws attention to itself, it sits so easily as part of the art and story.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase a copy of Chronicles of Terror No. 4. which in the season of goodwill would be a generous act for yourself to get great comics to warm you, it can be bought here

Friday, December 2, 2016

Snowvenge. Kim Roberts (Writer), Haraldo (Art), WP Comics (2016)

A short and very entertaining story that proves, with lashings of blood and rage, that revenge is best served freezing cold. A successful bank robbery  has a treacherous aftermath. A snowman and a dying wish lead to a great deal of trouble and sharp and satisfying conclusion. The astounding cover is not a flase promise, the contents deserve this cover.
Kim Roberts has packed a geat deal of story into a short space and the compression works really well. Starting in the middle of the action, the reveals are really well staged, a simple idea is given huge force and strength as there is more than one motive at work. Kim Roberts takes the time to establish the cast and then gives classic confrontation that is more than just nasty, there is a desperate need to finish all the unfinished business of the day before time runs out.
Haraldo's art is a deep pleasure to read, it is packed with details that draw in the reader and emphasise the action when it gets serious, The transformation at the heart of the story is brilliant, the creature is bursting with murderous vitality and rage. The idea is funny, the execution is stunningly horrifying and captures all the aspects of the situation with flair and wit.
The colouring is clear and precise, the details of the cast and context are given depth and detail, the expressiveness of the human and non human cast is amplified greatly. The choice for the eyes for the creature of revenge is clever, they are just what boiling rage would look like. The lettering is quiet and unobtrusive, there are much fewer sound effects thatn could have been expected, the strenght of the art creates its own soundtrack in the mind of the reader.
Kim Roberts and Haraldo have managed to deliver the cause and effect that really good horror uses to draw in and capture the reader, the cast are more than monsters and victims, in a short space they are given the chance to be failing humans and that gives the story is tremendous force and impact.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase Snowvenge, which you should to get the present of a superb comic and all its attendant seasonal joys, you can get it here

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Urban Legends No. 1. JoJo King (Writer), Maxim Mel (Artist/Creator), Steve Benton (Colours). Headshrinker Press (2016)

A gripping and very engaging horror comic that updates a classic horror story format and presentation with tremendous skill and confidence. The stunning cover is a true indication of the wonderful quality of thwe work on the inside. Babies are being found roasted alive in ovens while their parents are out and baby sitters are taking care of the children. There is no visible connection between any of the incidents. When a young woman heads out to her baby sitting job she assures her mother that she will be fine. It goes every bit (and more) as wrong as expected, it goes wrong in happily unexpected ways. The story twists and turns before its utterly satisfactory conclusion.
What is striking about this story is the wonderful confidence of the creative team, they set themselves a significant creative problem and have solved it with flair and very strong attention to detail. The story structure works very well, the framing element sets the context for the story and sets up the reader for the rest of the story. The whole context for the story is firmly established and used with considerable force and effect by JoJo King in the story and after the story.
Maxin Mel's art is a joy to read, the way the panels are used to control the flow of the story is masterful. Moving into close ups and pulling out to wide angle scene they confidently guide the reader into the details and back to the dramatic reveals as is required. The cast are varied and full of personality. The time is taken to give the leads space to establish themselves as somebodies before the trouble erupts. The physical context of the house and the town are solid and and seedy, they ground the story as it takes flight and gives the physical action real impact. The detective in particular seems to have a life beyond the confines of the story, he has a weight of living and hard experience written on his bones and brings it to bear when it is needed.
Steve Benton's colours are simply stunning, they capture, articulate and amplify the nuances inherent in the art and writing so naturally that the atmosphere is nearly palpable. Darkness, internal and external, is captures with care, the action is always clear, the lighting subtle and dramatic.
Choosing an old fashioned style is always an artistic risk, styles are always part of their own context and they rarely translate well, they can be a distraction rather than an addition. In Urban Legends what the creators have done is to use the style as a springboard for their own  vision and it works because there is a genuine spirit behind it. The old fashioned style is the overall suggestion, the comic is contemporary in every way, it uses the style because that is the correct one to deliver the story they want to tell.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by JoJo King, to get a copy of Urban Legend 1, which you should because really good comics from seriously talented creators are sovereign remedy for all of life's annoyances (major or minor) you can purchase it here,

Monday, November 28, 2016

Modern Testament Vol 3. Anthology of the Ethereal. Insane Comics (2016)

Very engaging and enjoyable collection of stories that are substantial, thoughtful and unexpected. Frank Martin uses unusual source material and rises to the implicit challenge, taking big story risks that pay off handsomely.The dynamic cover is by Jonathan Rector.
Shoulder Djinn. Frank Martin (Writer), Lucas Urruita (Art), Ezequiel Dominguez (Colours), Kel Nuttall (Letters). A young man has plans for the day in front of him, so do the two competing djinns who are giving him advice. Two voices giving contrary advice about what to do. It appears that one is stronger than the other, one strong one weak. A internal struggle is made external and very physical, then the real issue is neatly pulled up to the fore, giving the story a different slant.
Lucas Urruita's art is a pleasure to read, the cast are vivid and expressive, the action is tremendously forceful. Indecision and doubt are hard to successfully express, it can just look bemused, Tommy moves through the various stages to his final decision with clarity. The shifting perspectives of the story are delivered with care and attention to detail. Ezequiel Dominguez's colours are crucial to the story, they guide the reader through the different perspectives with ease, they give the djinns strong physical presence and weight, which is vitally important as the action develops.
The Abandoned. Frank Martin (Writer), Francesco Conte (Art) , Macerena Cortes (Colours), Kel Nuttall (Letters). An argument between a son and his mother gains heat and volume as the absent father is included in the mix. What is really impressive about this story is the way the argument feels old, it has been had many times before, it is also fresh each time, the emotions are never less than raw. The development of the argument strongly suggests one conclusion before a wonderfully convincing one is given instead. It is sign of the strength of the writing that the weight of the story can be so convincingly turned in a tiny space without cheating the reader or unraveling the story.  Francesco Conte has a considerable task to accomplish with the art, the context is very confined and there are just two members in the cast, the action is emotional rather than physical. The tension is developed fully as the cast respond to the changing dynamics of the argument and the balance of forces shift. The impact of rage is caught with subtlety and force as is the abrupt shift as the fight alters its tone. Macerena Cortes' colours give definition and depth to the context and the cast, they capture the shifting intensity of the emotions as they spill and roar. They are slightly muted which allows the real force of the words to come out loud and clear.
Down with the Sickness. Frank Martin (Writer), Joaquin Gr,(Art) Matej Stasko (Colours), Kel Nuttall (Letters). A dying man uses his pharmaceutical company as his personal resources when he becomes terminally ill. When he meets the source of his illness his problems become more clearly defined. Embodying an idea is always a tricky proposition, how to balance the requirements of both aspects. Frank Martin makes it look easy as Pestilence jumps from the comic with vivid, baleful life and sharp personality. A nasty sense of humour and a brutally frank approx to his  work, make him fascinating. Joaquin Gr, manages the equally difficult task of making Pestilence human enough to be easily read and foreign enough to be powerful and threatening. Looking like a green almost corpse possessed of enormous energy is a brilliant way to solve the problem. the details of the context give the story a very strong physical anchor that allows the ideas to operate successfully. Matej Stasko's colours capture the two elements of the story, the mundane story of a rich man's fear of death and the resources he uses to fight it and the triumphant march of his unstoppable enemy. The colours give lift and strength to both aspect of the story.
Kel Nuttals letters are consistently subtle, easy to read and change to support the story with care and focus. The sound effects are a joy, they give the emphasis just where it is needed. The ideas never push out the stories and the stories never overwhelm the ideas, a extraordinary balance of precision and force by very talented creators who have delivered a great comic.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Frank Martin, If you want to purchase a copy of Modern Testament Vol 3., and you should as really good comics will endow you with cosmic powers of joy in living, it will be available mid-December from .

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Chronicles of Terror No.3. Kim Roberts (Editor). WP Comics (2016)

A generous, engaging and very enjoyable horror anthology that is going from strength to strength, the range and quality of the stories is very impressive. The wonderful cover by Haraldo does justice to the juicy horror that lies behind it.
The Tale of Baron Urberstein Troy Vevasis (Writer), Saul Haber (Art) is very short and to the point, Baron Urberstein meets the previous owner of his castle, it does not end well. A wonderful gothic fragment  Troy Vevasis uses compression to great effect. Saul Haber's black and white art is a pleasure, the story jumps into life and the action is close up and savage.
Nightclaw, Marta Tanrikulu (Writer), Ferran Sellars (Art), Juri H. Chinchilla (Colours), E.T. Dollman (Letters) is a sharp edged police procedural. A killer is attacking elderly women on the night when a full moon is out. A classic set up that leads to a very unexpected and smartly unexpected reveal. Marta Tanrikulu plays expertly with reader's expectations pulling something nasty out of the bag. Ferran Sellars' art uses panel sizes and locations and shifting perspectives to expertly guide the reader along the story, the muted colours by Juri H. Chinchilla are lovely and bring out the dark tones of the story. E.T. Doolman's lettering is nicely unobtrusive, the sound effects are blaring and lift the action right off the page.
Dracustein. Kim Roberts (Writer),  Marthino Abreyu (Art), Chris Allen (Colours & Letters) is a great mashup of two classic horror icons. Being immortal is lonely, Dracula's answer is to build himself a mate. The story succeeds because the simple emotional core rings true, wanting a companion does not make a companion want you. Marthino Abreyu is a treat, the elements from Dracula and Frankenstein are nicely used as well as a whole range of classic horror film elements. The bold choice regarding the look of the companion Dracula creates captures all the themes of the story in the flesh of the character. Chris Allen's colours are striking, they give the story a great atmosphere and depth.
Attack of the Zombie Penguins. Austin Allen Hamlin (Writer), Kurt Belcher (Art), Mindy Lodkin (Letters) is brilliant, a stunning idea and flawless execution. Rampaging penguins are devouring humanity and when a lone survivor has his back against the wall he takes action. Kurt Belcher's astounding art manages to capture the dark humour and the brutal savagery needed to make this story work. The panel of the penguins coming out of the water to attack the survivor balances cute and murderous perfectly, each element amplify the other. The in your face colouring pushes the volume of the story right up to where it should be. Mindy Lodkin's sound effects just the soundtrack this splatter fest should have.
Georgie Porgie , James Johnson (Writer and Art) is a creepy, sticky classic that constantly goes in unexpected directions until it comes to its disturbing conclusion. The horribly vivid realisation of some very dark psychology is masterfully accomplished.  Horror is a big tent, you do not need blood to create deep chills and shivers.
Almost Midnight. John Osbourn (Writer), Pietro Vaughan (Art), Nikki Sherman (Letters). Making a deal with the devil has a clear drawback, you get what you want, so does the Devil and when he comes to collect the price becomes horribly clear. In the final packed minutes before midnight and the time for payment a woman tries to evade the inevitable. John Osburn slices the time very carefully stretching the minutes and at the same time letting them rush by. Pietro Vaughan glorious black and white art is so heavy and physical that the situation develops the dreadful weight it should have. The art traps the reader along with the cast and the final demand is stunning.Nikki Sherman's lettering is quiet and natural, it fits in with story and subtly provides emphasis at key points.
Demons. JoJo King (Writer), M.C. Carper (Art), Nikki Sherman (Letters), a fever dream of a story, a desperate last minute justification for horrifying actions by a demented killer. JoJo King gives us the sweaty justifications of a killer about to take another victim even as he is aware that his time to act has run out. M.C. Carpers art and colours amplify the intense focus of the writing, amplifying the themes of the story with force and considerable subtlety as the internal and external struggles collide.Nikki Sherman's sound effects are loud and vivid, they sharpen the edge of the action very nicely.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase a copy of Chronicles of Terror No.3, you should to sink your teeth into a hugely enjoyable selection of superb comics, you can get it here,

Monday, November 21, 2016

Wolf Country No. 6: Dust to Scripture. Jim Alexander (Writer), Will Pickering (Art), Jim Campbell (Letters), Liz Howarth (Editor). Planet Jimbot (2016)

A dense and deeply engaging issue that slows the action slightly to allow some room to look at the idea that is at the heart of the conflict and the series. At the settlement the vampires watch and wait as the victims of the last assault finally turn to dust and blow away into the depths of Wolf Country. In the city Halfpenny  consoles himself with scripture and rage against the ambiguity of the city. In the settlement, the soldiers leave to track down Luke, the vampire who now lives with wolves and Halfpenny finds  a conflict that suits him.
Jim Alexander has taken a severely thorny and contentious topic and handled it within the story context with assured confidence and deft writing skill. Matters of faith are explosive because they lie absolutely beyond argument, they is only acceptance or rejection. At the settlement the faith of the soldiers is a direct challenge to the faith of the settlers. They can  manage an uneasy truce because their ultimate aims are the same, the differences between them create room for savage actions. Mrs Halfpenny sacrifices to get the soldiers out of the settlement, they are a greater threat than the wolves. The wolves are clear external enemy, the soldiers are a subtle, unsettling internal enemy that can undermine the solidarity that the settlement requires to survive.
The same problem is facing Halfpenny in the city as he refreshes his faith in the true way in the face of the multiple ambiguities of the city. The stark conflict of the settlement sits well with his rigid faith, in the city there are unexpected challenges. Jim Alexander has written an issue that is dense with ideas which arise directly from the cast in the circumstances in which they find themselves. The action has slowed down, the story has not.
Will Pickering has a considerable task to deliver a mostly talking issue and make it engaging to read, he makes it look so easy that it is nearly possible to miss just how substantial an achievement this is. The cast are all well established so the depth of expression that they bring to their conversations has as much weight as the bursts of action that break out in the story. There is a 'debriefing' session that is just Halfpenny and a security officer, the flow of the conversation rests as much on their eloquent expressions and body language as it does on their words. When the tension is unsprung it is utterly satisfactory, the rage has been clearly building and finally has a target.
Jim Campbell's letters change as required without ever drawing attention, they are so easy to read that they blend into the context of the panels.
Wolf Country is continuing to develop in fascinating ways as detail and depth are added to the context and the cast are given more and more room to be themselves.
Chief Wizard Note:This is a review copy kindly sent by Jim Alexander, to purchase a copy of Wolf Country 6, which you should do for the life affirming pleasure that comes from reading great comics, you can get it here

Saturday, November 12, 2016

SEMIAUTOMAGIC Collection. Alex De Campi (Writer, Letters), Jerry Ordway (Art), Marissa Louise (Colours), Lara Margarida (Art). Dark Horse Books/Illicit Press (2016)

A very entertaining and engaging supernatural horror collection.  Semiautomagic (Dark Horse), Professor Alice Creed is frequently called away from her classes to solve serious supernatural problems, in this case it involves someone she knows. A young man's spirit has been stolen by a computer game and Alice Creed realises that the problem is a widespread one. She locates the point of origin and heads for it, surviving the worst plane journey ever to find that the trouble is much greater than she had anticipated. Alice Creed makes a dreadful decision and has to manage the consequences. The set up is established with skill and economy and the downward spiral of the story is consistently inventive and unexpected, the conclusion is smart and satisfactorily sour.
Alex De Campi manages to deftly avoid two serious problems inherent in horror and superhero (Alice Creed is sufficiently powerful to qualify as a non costumed superhero) , how to get the problem started and how to test the hero sufficiently to be interesting. Frequently in a horror story someone has to act very stupidly to create the initial situation, they then start to act much more rationally after the trouble has started which undermines tension and credibility from the start. Alex De Campi simply steps over and start and presents the reader with a context where the trouble is already well established. Now everyone can get on with dealing with the problems, which they do. Alice Creed is a powerful, competent and deeply experienced supernatural warrior, creating a credible threat is difficult, Alex De Campi neatly uses a sequence where a solution to one problem is the source of an increasingly bigger one. By painting Alice Creed into a corner of her own making, Alex De Campi develops tension and sufficient uncertainty about the possible outcomes to propel the story very strongly. Alice Creed is narrating the story directly to the reader, there is another repeated narrative element which does not sit comfortably with this style. It is not by any means a problem, it is just a slightly jarring note in the flow of the story.
Jerry Ordway's art is simply luscious, it is such a detailed pleasure to read, it captures all the mad contradictions of the story and makes them completely normal and utterly insane. The relationship of the cast to their context is always credible, they move through a recognisable and distorted world with physical grace and presence, their actions have depth and heft. Alice Creed looks like a normal female human, dressed in entirely sensible cloths for fighting monsters, she is treated seriously which allows the fantastic to be serious as well. The cast, human and otherwise are expressive, their body language is as clear as their speech. From straight conversation to extreme, supernatural violent action the art is utterly engaging and the beautiful details are a treat to read. 
Marissa Louise's colours are stunning, they amplify, refine and concentrate the emotional sub text of the story and the art with breathtaking precision.
Alex De Campi's lettering is quiet, changing when needed by the cast or context, always unobtrusive and easy to read.
Semiautomagic: Childhood's End (Illicit Press) , is a series of collection of three stories each which follow slightly different paths.
Childhood's End, Alex De Campi (Writer, Letters), Jerry Ordway (Art), Marissa Louise (Colours), takes some of the most famous ideas in comics history and uses them in a darkly imaginative way. Alice Creed follows a trail of missing pets to an old house and finds something very nasty. The story is written in a Dr Seuss style rhyme which works because of the strength and unerring confidence of the writing. Jerry Ordway's art captures the required Dr Seuss echos and distorts them as required so that the various layers of the story are woven tightly together. All of which just goes to show that there are no rules for talent, the mash up sounds uncomfortable instead it is suitably unettling. Marissa Louise's colours highlight the various elements of the story and creates an unifying space for them all, making it look easy to be cute and creepy at the same time.
A Town Called Malice, Alex De Campi (Writer, Letters), Lara Margarida (Art), Marissa Louise (Colours) features a friend of Alice, Harriet, who opened the wrong door. When romance fades and life diminishes a woman takes a step to mark the moment and makes a wish at the same time. Happy consequences soon reveal their darker side and Harriet tries to help the woman where she cannot help herself. The story is the fullest exploration of one of the major ideas in the collection, magic has consequences, and it thoughtful and very engaging. Lara Margarida is a strong contrast to Jerry Ordway and stands on its own terms with confidence and force. The quieter story benefits from the slightly lower key of the art, the action is less dramatic without ever being less intense.  Marissa Louise's colours alter to match, capture and express the different requirements of the art while remaining as stunning as ever.
The Hollow Man Alex De Campi (Writer, Letters), Jerry Ordway (Art), Marissa Louise (Colours), Rob Jones (Layout assistance)  returns to Alice Creed this time as a debt collector, someone who comes to present the bill for the easy decisions that were made years before. Jerry Ordway, Rob Jones, Marissa Louise all combine seamlessly to deliver an nasty story.
The Semiautomagic Collection is a super set of richly realised horror with a great cast, a pleasure to read and relish the talent that are so confidently displayed.
Chief Wizard Note:  Semiautomagic, is available via Dark Horse Books and in comic stores, Semiautomagic: Childhood's End is not available as a printed book. You can buy the collection digitally on Conixology: