Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Brimstone #2 Review

Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Writer(s): Michael Kent, Brian McCarthy
Artist: Hyunsang Michael Cho
Release Date: July 2011

The Viper and his posse discover a vault piled high with gold but guarded by a dying man armed for Armageddon.

He draws his last breath with only a single word of warning: “Run!” There is something out there, watching and waiting... and it’s hunger is growing stronger. 28 Days Later collides with the Old West in the newest action/horror series from Zenescope Entertainment! 32 pages.

After raving about Brimstone #1 a couple of months ago, I was finally able to get around to reading the second issue of Zenescope’s new horror/western comic.

Brimstone #2 – Trail of Blood begins pretty much where the first ended. Our makeshift gang of heroes have arrived in town to find it deserted and immediately begin searching for answers. It’s not long before trouble starts when Jackson’s horse is stolen, by the woman we met briefly at the close of Issue #1. As the gang wait for the mystery woman to wake up after falling unconscious when Viper shoots the horse to stop her getting away, they discover millions in gold guarded by a mysterious man who Jackson wastes no time shooting and killing.

A little while later trouble breaks out, and Willaims, one of the characters from the first issue returns as either a zombie or possessed by a spirit (I’m just guessing here since we don’t really know what’s going on yet). The girl awakes just in time for the gang to be attacked by an army of zombies, who manage to take Skerritt, which naturally leads to lots of gunshots and fighting, but by the time the final page rolls around, things aren’t looking good for poor Skerritt and we are left with him croaking Viper’s name as he is pulled away by the zombies.

This issue manages to hold the momentum that Issue #1 created and although the story is still only in its introductory phase, there’s plenty of action and surprises which keep you glued to the page. I have to admit, I did race through this one because I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, particularly towards the end when the action really kicked in.

All of the characters return from the previous issue and they are a great bunch of misfits. They may not be the nicest people ever to grace the pages of a comic but they work brilliantly together as people who aren’t interested in working together. It’s an interesting way of storytelling, to have what is essentially a team of heroes who each act on their own impulses rather than consulting with the others before they act. It’s refreshing and its fun because you never know what’s going to happen next, especially with our main character Viper.

The artwork again is astounding and its one of the highlights of the series. I often have to remind myself not to get too distracted by the artwork or else it would take me hours to read a single issue. There were a couple of pages which I absolutely adored, there’s a double page spread early on depicting Annabelle unconscious after being knocked off Jackson’s horse. It’s beautifully rendered and has an almost ghost-like quality to it. The final page also really stood out because of the use of green and yellow colouring. It was incredibly vibrant, especially as it some of the brighter colouring in the issue.

The writing is also very strong, it has style and it has attitude which works perfectly for a comic about a group of criminals battling zombies in the old west. Although the artwork is brilliant, the writing also has its merits and I’m fearful that the writing may become overshadowed by the artwork in other reviews, but they work together to create a wonderful final product.

If I had one complaint about the issue, and this is minor, it would be that often, because the scenes take place at night, there is a lot of darkness on the page which can sometimes make things a little difficult to follow. It’s not a problem when there’s less black on the page, but because the characters are all in dark clothes, occasionally I had to go over and re-read and take a closer look at what was actually happening. But as I said, when there’s a bit more colour on the page or in the panel (such as guns being fired or blood splattering) it’s not an issue at all because we get a better range of colours.

Overall, Brimstone #2 is a fantastic read, the storyline is really starting to pick up now and the artwork continues to amaze me. However, I am finding that it is the characters and their attitudes that I’m particularly enjoying about this series. In short if you are a fan of horror comics then this is recommended as it offers something new and exciting but if you fancy something new or want to gauge in some beautifully crafted artwork then Brimstone is worth a look.

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Fly #1

Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Raven Gregory
Eric J
Release Date:
June 2011

Fly is the latest book from Zenescope Entertainment, a company which I have grown rather fond of over the past year or so. However, just like Brimstone (which I reviewed HERE) which was also recently published, Fly serves up something completely different to what Zenescope usually has on offer. And the result is an astonishingly successful first issue.

Centred around a drug which gives people the ability to fly, this book wastes no time in jumping straight into the story. In an effective way of storytelling, we meet Eddie a man who is being tormented by his ex-wife Danielle, a woman who is suffering from an addiction to the powerful drug which not only allows her to fly but also gives her an immense amount of strength as well. Then the build up to the first few pages begins as we are taken back to Eddie’s teenage years when he first began to use the drug in a series of flashbacks.

The flashback scenes make up most of the issue and are gorgeously illustrated. In comparison to the rougher “grown up” scenes in the issue, the flashbacks are a lot smoother and simpler, likely done to reflect how much Eddie’s life has changed and how much darker it has become since he began using the fly drug. My only concern with the artwork is that Zenescope often change their artists, a lot of time from issue to issue, and since this style is so striking and complimentary of the story, I hope they manage to keep Eric J on as penciller for as long as possible. I am attached to his style already and I’ll be gutted if another artist comes in that doesn’t quite do the story as much justice.

Storywise, as a first issue (as I have already mentioned) the effective use of action first back story later works brilliantly. It gives us something to look forward to and a reason to keep reading, because although the flashback scenes are well written and are fun to read, what I’m really interested in is the darker grown up story of how Eddie’s life (and those around him) has changed since being exposed to the drug. We already have hints from his run in with Danielle early on, but there’s other characters that are introduced in the flashbacks that I’m sure we are bound to see all grown up in future issues.

One thing is clear from the writing and that is that a lot of hard work has gone into making this a tight, sometimes funny, sometimes dark story which after reading the afterward on Raven Gregory’s own addiction, comes though in the writing and I imagine writing Fly was an almost therapeutic activity for Gregory, channelling a dark period of his life into a medium his obviously has a great deal of passion for. And while I don’t expect this to always be the easiest of reads because of the dark subject matter, as a reader it is refreshing to have something like Fly available as it is completely different to anything else that is out there.

In short, if you haven’t got this yet then try and get a hold of it. I know the first printing sold out and hopefully there will be a second coming before issue two because Fly #1 really feels like it is the start of a very special on-going series.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Charmed #10 – Three Little Wiccans

Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Writer(s): Paul Ruditis
Artist: Reno Maniquis
Release Date: June 2011

With the Power of Three torn asunder, Phoebe and Paige work to bring their family back together. But a tragically ill-advised plan pulls The Charmed Ones further apart and could leave one of the sisters lost forever.

Charmed #10 picks up pretty much where #9 left off. There has been a short passing of time between the issues where Paige, Phoebe and Leo have came up with the plan of sending Paige and Leo ‘Up There’ glamoured as demons in an effort to find Piper and discover what Neena is up to. It would have been nice to see them coming up with this plan because it does come out of nowhere and one of the things I have felt the comics have been lacking is those moments where the sisters are in the attic discussing their various options for getting themselves out of whatever mess they are in. However, I did like the fact that glamouring was used since it was relied on quite heavily in the last season or two and it’s always good to have throwbacks to the series because if anything the Charmed comics have in most instances stayed true to the show.

Story wise I felt that this issue, like many others in the series didn’t move as fast as it could have and lacked action and instead there was a lot of talking rather than anything significant actually happening. I was left disappointed by the Cole and Piper scenes, especially after such a big shock at the end of #9 where Cole reappeared I was hoping for lots of explanations and we didn’t get any. Still, those scenes stayed true to the characters and reminded me a lot of how Piper used to interact with Cole on the show, especially during their time in The Seven Year Witch in the seventh season. I really liked Phoebe’s role in the issue, she was doing what Phoebe always did best in the series – using magic in a resourceful way. Although her efforts ultimately didn’t work, it was nice to see her thinking outside of the box.

Finally, Neena, still very powerful and still very mysterious gets the juiciest storyline of the issue in that she’s involved in a lot of action as well as being very savvy in her efforts to capture two glowing balls (until we know what they are that's the best way to describe them), one blue, one red which she needs in order to be reunited with her beloved. She successfully separates the sisters and by the end we are left with one of the best cliff-hangers so far in that the sisters have been torn apart and Neena appears to have been successful in her plan. Of course I fully expect to see the sisters’ thwart her at the last minute (that is what they do best after all) but considering how far she has come to defeating them and achieving her goals, Neena has without a doubt proved to be the sisters’ fiercest enemy since Zankou.

The artwork for this issue was done by Reno Maniquis, who out of all of the artists thus far (possibly with the exception of Tess Fowler) does a great job with the art both in terms of likenesses and depicting the actual action and scene. I particularly liked how he drew Neena, who has been somewhat inconsistently drawn by previous artists. The second page of the issue (right) features a full page image of Neena at the front of her demon army and this is one of my favourite pages out of the entire comic series. The colouring also is much better than it ever has been thanks to Jorge Maese, I hope they keep him on board for more issues.

Overall, while Charmed #10 isn’t the most spectacular issue in terms of story, it does a good job of setting things up for (presumably) Neena’s defeat and the artwork was for the most part spectacular. My only real complaint is that the story is moving too slow and often feels like it is setting the scene, which at this point in an arc shouldn't still be the case.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Charmed #9 Review (SPOILER ALERT!)

Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Writer(s): Paul Ruditis
Artist(s): Dean Kotz
Release Date: May 2011

A family member lost. The Elders under siege. An unstoppable force about to wreak havoc on the world! Leo must reveal an ancient secret to The Charmed Ones about the very source of their craft and the true origins of the magic they possess if they have any chance of defeating their latest threat.

After a frustratingly long wait, Zenescope has finally released issue nine of Charmed which picks up immediately after the events of Issue #8. Overall this was a good issue, which had a good mixture of story and action. The sisters (sans Piper who was sent to an unknown location by villain Neena at the end of the previous issue) are receiving a (much overdue) history lesson from Leo about the origins of their magic. The origins of the sisters' magic has always been thought to have started with Melinda Warren in the 1600's, however we find out in this issue that ALL magic comes originated with the first witch, who was revealed at the end of last issue, as Neena. I think that this was not only a very brave thing to do as it delves much deeper into the origins of magic than the TV show ever did, but also creatively is quite cleaver as we get a play on the Adam and Eve story. I don't know if it will be explored further in the next issue(s) but I liked how Paul Ruditis put a spin on Adam and Eve in a similar vein to that of how Charmed often put their own stamp on popular stories and fairy tales.

The cliffhanger we are left on is quite possibly the best of the entire series so far. It is revealed that the Adam to Neena's Eve is none other than Cole Turner, who appears to Piper in the final panel of the issue. This was one of the biggest surprises so far and I am happy that it wasn't spoiled for me before I read the issue because it wouldn't have been the same. What this means for the sisters, I don't know, although considering that in Cole's last appearance on the TV series he was unable to be seen by Phoebe and Paige, I am not expecting him to return to the real world. I am wondering how he will factor into Neena's eventual destruction by the sisters, if of course they do destroy her. There is still so much we do not know about her so at this point so it will be interesting to find out how Cole reacts to everything which has been happening with her.

Artwork wise, the art was much better than Issue #8's art which was horrendous in most places. Dean Kotz's work wasn't the best art the Charmed series has seen but it was an improvement on the last artist and by the end of the issue I felt like he did a good job, particularly on the scenes involving Piper in The All which were also coloured beautifully. There were some really nicely drawn scenes, The All was impressive as was a scene in the manor where Leo looked out of the window. Character likenesses were okay, I think Piper was the sister who looked the most like her TV counterpart (although the artists generally do a good job with Paige as well). I wasn't overly keen on character poses, especially when someone was pointing and there's a really awkward image of Paige standing in the first panel of the comic. But the art definitely improved as the issue went on, and as I understand this artist is returning to do another issue, so hopefully when he does come back the art will be more like his good work than his bad.

Overall, Charmed #9 offered up some amazing revelations, answered some questions but also offered up more. I loved the pacing of this one, it was very explanatory heavy but the issue seemed to move fast without skimming on any important details. The artwork was better than I had expected from looking at the previews Zenescope released last week but there were still several issues I hope will be overcome the next time we see this artist. If you haven't been following the Charmed comics then now would be a good place to start as after quite a slow build up, the comics are finally starting to come into their own and I hope this is a sign of things to come.

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Grimm Fairy Tales: The Dream Eater Saga #0 Review

Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Writer: Raven Gregory
Story: Raven Gregory, Joe Brusha and Ralph Tedesco
Artist: Anthony Spay
Release Date: 4 May 2011

Issue 0 of 12. Calie's back! Along with the rest of your favorite heroes and villains from Wonderland and Neverland, Salem’s Daughter and Sinbad…and the rest of the Grimm Universe. The Zenescope Crossover event of the year starts off here in this low priced prelude issue that kicks off the biggest event in the history of the Grimm Fairy Tales universe. What is the Dream Eater? Where does it come from and what does it want? The answers will change the foundation of the Grimm universe forever and not everyone will make it out alive. The first ever Zenescope company crossover that goes through ever single Zenescope title begins this month!!! Don't miss out on the biggest event of the summer! (From

Grimm Fairy Tales: The Dream Eater Saga begins here with Issue #0 and will run throughout various other Zenescope titles. I have never read an issue of the publisher’s main title –Grimm Fairy Tales – although I am currently following the title’s spin-off Myths and Legends. However this issue appears to be a perfect introduction to new readers as we are introduced to the mythology of the story, such as the Dark One and the Book which demons are seeing out for a reason we do not know yet. Also, the character of Baba Yaga is introduced, who from scanning the character bio section at the back of the comic appears in the Grimm Fairy Tales series as seeing revenge for the events which happened in this issue – the murder of her mother and village.

Story wise there is a lot going on in these 12 pages. I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting so much to happen and I was prepared for a lot of backstory and set-up however both of these are dealt with in this issue while not bogging down the pace of the story and we are quickly introduced to the mythology of this world – The Realm of the Mist – and its characters, namely Baba. There are some things which are set up for the rest of the story however at this particular moment it is difficult to predict where the story will go next as we have yet to actually meet The Dream Eater. Although he is mentioned, he is never seen but it is revealed that a page that Baba’s mother tore out of the book which was eventually stolen from her contains information on The Dream Eater, so hopefully we will get an appearance in the next issue.

The artwork is brilliantly done, and fits perfectly with the mythical nature of the story. There are a lot of soft colours and vivid purples and reds which work really well. Also the artist Anthony Spay does a stellar job with the pencils, characters are well drawn and their expressions particularly of Baba on page four when she finds the book are executed perfectly. The action scenes are clear to understand and dramatic enough, there’s one particular image on page 8 in which Baba looks upon her dead mother which is horrifying but drawn perfectly to give such an impression. One thing that did slightly annoy me was the way in which Baba’s mother was drawn to be wearing very revealing clothing and had a very large chest. I know Zenescope are famous for their sexy and often over the top presentation of female characters, but I just felt here it was not appropriate or needed.

Overall, this book offers up an abundance of fantasy, action and a dramatic introduction to a major cross-over event which is sure to be a hit with readers – and it’s only the prelude. As a relatively new reader to the Grimm universe I am excited to see where this story will go and how other characters will factor into the story. If the rest of the issues can retain the momentum of this one in terms of story and artwork, then I think, as predicted by Zenescope, it could be one of the most exciting comic projects of the year. If you like fantasy and magic and you don’t mind women with ample chests and very little clothes gracing your comic pages, then I’d recommend picking this one up.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday, 16 May 2011

True Blood #6 Review

Publisher: IDW
Writer(s): Mariah Huehner, David Tischman
Story: Alan Ball with Kate Barnow, Elisabeth Finch
Artist: David Messina
Release Date: 29 December 2010

Sookie, Bill and co. have been trapped inside Merlotte's by a demon who forces them to admit their deepest, darkest secrets because he wants to feed on their shame. At this point in the story, Sookie, Sam, Eric, Tara, Jason and Lafayette have all shared their secrets, and now its Bill's turn who reluctantly agrees to tell of how he killed an innocent midwife in 1866 shorty after he became a vampire.

I realise that this review is somewhat out-of-date now considering IDW is currently publishing its new monthly True Blood series, however I only finished reading this issue last night, after what has been an arguably difficult read to get though. While I love True Blood, it's one of the best things on TV at the moment, especially in genre TV, this first comic series based on the show for me has always been quite stiff and forced. I frequently got the impression that this comic was being released simply for the sake of it, rather than it being anything that enhanced the True Blood universe. Now, I know publishing a comic based on a TV series that is as serialised as True Blood could be difficult because of how closely linked the episodes and seasons are, but all the way through this comic series, there was nothing which I felt was gripping enough or as interesting as it could have been. Which is a shame considering that the story allowed for a lot of exploration into the characters' pasts.

However, regarding this issue, things do pick up slightly as we reach the conclusion of the story. Bill finally tells his most shameful secret and Ted the Imp Shaloop which has been holding the group hostage also lets us into his past which reveals a surprising link with Eric which allows for a dramatic attack on Eric before the group are finally released from the bar. The ending then comes (very quickly) which seems to spring out of nowhere almost as if the writers knew they were running out of time and needed to finish up. Ted agrees to let them go, but Sookie being Sookie does a bit of sticking her nose in and discovers that Ted is also fearful of another Imp Shaloop. This was one of my favourite moments of the comic because it was very true to Sookie's character, she's never afraid to confront anyone even if that person is some kind of "squid thing" and she does it with sass and attitude.

Which is one thing this comic does well - the characters always appear to be in-character, a commendable feat for this book because often in tie-in media, characters can sometimes slip into acting out-of-character due to other writers not knowing them well enough. However, everyone here acts and talks like they do on screen (although Bill's old fashionedness is often over exemplified and Tara does drop as many F-bombs as you would expect). It's just a shame everything ends as quickly as it does because just as we get some interesting information about Ted and the fact that another Imp Shaloop is after him, the story ends. Although it does so with a cliffhanger (just as the TV show always does) and I'm wondering if this will factor into the TV series or future comics at all.

How the characters look on the other hand is another matter. The art in this book was not something I ever connected with, especially with how Sookie has been drawn, I hope poor Anna doesn't see this because Sookie is draw pretty much always looking very manish. The colouring is also distracting and it does the book no favours, it's very plastic looking at times. There are flashback scenes included which are draw with much more style which vary from cartoonish to quite dark and rough. I was instantly more impressed with the art of the flashbacks than I was with the main art.

Overall, this was a book which I had, and still do after completing this issue, mixed feelings about. While I love the fact that True Blood is further being explored, I think IDW need to consider stories which actually are fun and fit with the campy, over the top nature of the show because while an interesting read which delves into the characters' pasts, this series has not being that thrilling and missed a lot of what makes the TV show good. However, if you are a fan of True Blood then I think it is worth a read even if it just serves as a filler while you wait for the new season. And as the book in its entirety is now available in Trade Paperback form you can sit down and read it from start to finish and get the whole story at once, which I think would be more beneficial to the story as it it set over one night so reading one issue each month probably didn't do the pacing of the story any favours. The artwork isn't necessarily the best I've seen, and the story is fairly weak, but I am happy that True Blood is getting the comic treatment and having more insight into the characters' backgrounds is always nice, despite the fact that I doubt anything will ever come of it on screen.

Rating: 2/5

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Brimstone #1 Review

Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Writer(s): Michael Kent, Brian McCarthy
Artist: Hyunsang Michael Cho
Release Date: 11 May 2011

I had very little idea of what this comic was about prior to reading it, however as it was being published by Zenescope Entertainment, a company who I have grown somewhat fond of since it began publishing the Charmed series, I decided to give it a go. And I was very happy with myself for doing so, because Brimstone #1 is a fantastic introduction to this new series.

The basic premise of the story involves a group of miners in 1864 who are located at the Brimstone Mining Oupost in Nevada during the Civil War. The miners then wake up some kind of Native American spirit which inevitably leads to their deaths. Enter our 'Men of Action' - a group of men each involved in some kind of criminal activity of one sort or another who are sent to Brimstone in order to answer a cry for help from the miners.

Before I go on to review the story, I want to mention the artwork of Brimstone #1. It is stunning, with each panel looking more like a painting than a scene from a comic book. The artist Hyunsang Michael Cho has complimented the story brilliantly with the art. This style of artwork really fits with the rustic, old West feel of the book and it is some of the most innovative and beautiful art I have ever seen in a comic. The characters are captured with detail and the action shots are wonderfully rendered which makes the action scenes very easy to follow while at the same time looking incredibly impressive.

Moving onto the story, again I was impressed. Each of the characters are introduced fairly quickly, and we get a small snapshot of who they are and what their backgrounds are, although I fully expect some strong character development, particularly with 'The Viper' who appears to have taken lead of the group. The characters work well together and they each bring a different 'skill' to the table. However, as this is the first issue there is a lot of introductory ground to cover, so just as the story gets going we are hit with the 'To Be Continued' although after this issue's impressive set up, I imagine a lot of readers will return for Issue #2 due out next month. The cliffhanger we are left on is a suitable one, introducing our final character, who I am assuming is the woman on the front of Greg Horn's cover (see above image) but I guess we'll find out next month.

Overall, Brimstone #1 is a stellar introduction to a story which appears to be unlike anything Zenescope have ever published in the past. The gritty, rustic nature of the story is reflected perfectly in the artwork and I suppose my only gripe with this issue is that there could have been more of an insight into what exactly was awoken by the miners at the start, although that is likely to be something which will be revealed over the course of the series. Brimstone #1 comes with high recommendations, especially if you are looking for something slightly different to what else is on offer by the publisher.

Rating: 4.5/5