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Monday, September 01, 2008

Complex City - From 2001

A walking, talking bulldog cop? An adolescent scientific genius with a mechanical gauntlet capable of detecting radiation? An older, even more brilliant scientist named Doctor Handsome?? All this, plus a love-sick super hero, a rampaging robot with two human brains, and magical (at least they'd like you to think they are) "critters" from near the earth's core!!

This is the recipe for a decidedly different comic book called Complex City.

Inspector Bulldog Malone is the hard-boiled top cop in a place called, well, Complex City. One of the most advanced, and popular cities in the nation, it also has more than it's share of weirdness; but then, what would you expect from a burg that boasts a two-footed canine cop?

J.E. Smith is the creator, writer and artist of this strangely appealing comic, and, in my try-to-be-humble opinion, he's on to something.

The first issue does a respectable job of introducing new readers to the city and it's main players, as well as providing a solid amount of story, as Malone confronts and outsmarts a shadowling, discovers the contents of the box it was safeguarding, and is confronted by a murderous man-robot.

The following three issues are also strong on storyline and characterization, which seems to be Smith's strong suit.

What's good about this book?

Besides characterization and storyline, the sheer scope of imagination and bold originality, which, in today's comic market, is a near-miracle in itself.

What needs work is the art. Smith's pencils, while well-defined and of original style, still have a very amateurish look about them, which may hinder the book from competing with other comic works out there.

Still, Complex City is unlike any other comic work on the racks today, and is recommended for readers of all ages.

Complex City can be found at comic shops (call 1-888-comicbook for the one near you), or by logging on to or

Complex City, published by J.E. Smith, under the Better Comics banner, 34 pages, $2.50.

Review by Mark Allen

The Coffin - From 2001

I can honestly say that I have never read a comic book quite like The Coffin.

I mean that in a good way.

The Coffin
is the unusual story of a scientist who, in the process of creating strong, lightweight polymers for use in the medical field (casts, prosthetics, etc.), develops a body suit, or "coffin", as it is called, that is so impermeable it actually contains the human soul. As would be expected, said scientist (Dr. Ashar Ahmad) is forced to enter the suit himself upon being ushered from this life. I will leave the "why's" for future readers.

One of the themes in this book is of a particular interest; that of the minuteness of man, and the vastness of the spiritual world. I must admit that as a Christian minister, I have been frustrated at times with the attitude of "intellectuals" who have no time for what they consider the nonsensical thoughts of eternity, not to mention eternal consequences.

Writer Phil Hester weaves a tail that is as thrilling as it is macabre. From the gruesome way one hundred and forty-four year old antagonist "Mr. Heller" sustains his own life, to Ahmad's struggle to come to grips, as a scientist, with his situation, Hester's story mesmerizes as it delivers shock after intelligent shock.

Mike Huddleston is the artist on this book, and hands in absolutely stellar work. His black and white renditions are of a dark, almost surrealistic style that perfectly compliments the content. I must grudgingly admit to knowing nothing of his work previous to this book. I intend, however, to start digging.

Though an engrossing read, The Coffin is not recommended for children, as it does present a few very disturbing images.

The Coffin can be acquired through your local comic book store (call 1-888-comicbook to find out where it is) or by logging on to and running a search for The Coffin.

The Coffin, published by Oni Press Inc., 32 pages, $2.95.

Review by Mark Allen

Broom Hilda - From 2001

If she is a member of the rank and file of the cartoonist’s Witches Union, Broom Hilda belongs to the rank division, and does not work her spells out of Detroit, Michigan.

Her surreal world of double toil and trouble is mostly populated by animals: elephants, snakes, buzzards, ostriches, and one porcupine looking thing that walks and talks like a man. All were created by Russell Myers who was born in 1938 in Pittsburgh, Kansas. Myers began his career as an artist producing greeting cards for the Hallmark company.

The cartoonist’s green-skinned, politically incorrect and socially awkward witch began publication as a comic strip in 1970 through the Chicago Tribune Syndicate. Reportedly the ex-spouse of Attila the Hun, Broom Hilda has trouble attracting men, at least those who don’t turn into The Fly. Flies (and readers) she can attract. Her readers are attracted to a visually dream-like world that resembles ours only in the characterizations of Myers’ wild cast of characters. It is through his erasable witch and her loony buddies that Myers’ pokes his satiric finger into the vulnerable beer belly of our world.

Myers’ work includes: Lancer--Broom Hilda (‘71); Blackthorn--Broom Hilda (‘85); Ballantine--The Backward Heimlick (‘87); Doing What I Do Best (‘84); I Always Get My Mountie (‘85); Lookin’ Good (‘85); Sneaky Volcanoes (‘82); Space Junk (’86); Grosset & Dunlap--Baying At The Moon (‘77); Boo! (‘77); Flying Low (‘76); Growing Old Gracelessly (‘78); I Love You, Broom Hilda (‘73); Losing Control (‘76); Popcorn Sandwiches (‘77); Ugly is as Ugly Does (‘76); Broom Hilda Presents Mother Nature’s Personal Friend Irwin Troll (‘76); Broom Hilda Rides Again (‘75); Fawcett --Comic Strip Tease (‘82); Life Begins at 1500 (‘81); One Rotten Apple (‘86); and Open At Your Own Risk (‘81).

Russ Myers’ work is recommended.

Some older comics are expensive or difficult to locate. Price guides or comics dealers help. Comics shops, conventions, mail order companies and trade journals are good sources. Prices vary; shop around.

Review by Michael Vance

Brave Old World - From 2001

There are many different time-travel stories out there, on television, at the movies, in books, comics, etc. In my opinion, however, D.C. Comics produced one of the best I have ever experienced with a four-issue limited series called Brave Old World.

The skinny: It's the final days before Y2K, and seven scientists discover that time is beginning to do strange things, due to a "harmonic convergence," or, in layman's terms, the planets lining up. It's determined that since gravity, speed, time, etc., are related, that the year 2000 may usher in significant scientific phenomena; though nothing they ever dreamed could have prepared them for what happens.

When the clock strikes midnight, they do indeed find themselves at the beginning of a new century. The 20th, to be exact. Thrown one-hundred years into the past, they must now use the technology of 1900 to get back to the year 2000.

William Messner Loebs pens this imaginative tale, which, while containing some of the same elements as most stories of its kind (people of the future doing things in the past which result in a different future..., ouch-braincramp), also delivers the goods on characterization.

Note to all writers: make readers care about your characters, and you can sell any kind of story you want, no matter how many times it's been done.

Artists Guy Davis and Phil Hester score with artwork that provides each character with an individual look, which is almost surprising, considering that it is not necessarily highly detailed in style.

My only complaint about Brave Old World is the prolific profanity. It serves no purpose, and enhances the story not one bit. And, contrary to the opinions of some, does not make the story more "realistic." It's not creative, it's just crude.

Don't let your children read it.

Look for Brave Old World at comic shops (1-888-comicbook to find the nearest), or shop for it at

Brave Old World, published by D.C. Comics, 32 pages, $2.50.

Review by Mark Allen