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Monday, November 10, 2008

Sacred Circles - From 2003

Long ago, a medicine man sought to harness the power of the spirits of the forest, for his selfish gain. Imprisoned by said spirits, for his affront, his evil is ended....until the arrival of modern man, 300 years later, in the form of a man-and-wife archeological team, with children in tow. As might be expected, a series of actions by said group awaken the long-bound spirit, still intent on evil. Chaos ensues.

That's the long and short of Sacred Circles #1, from Birch Bark Comics. While not the most original of concepts, it is wrought with potential, and, quite possibly, one of the most beautiful works to hit comic racks this year. Brandon Mitchell pens an enjoyable tale, made so by characterization, more than plot. The children (a brother, sister, and brother's buddy) steal the show in this title, their "Our Gang" type antics lending a chuckle, compounded by a feeling of impending disaster; gotta LOVE that feeling.

Even more attractive, however, is the art by penciler Nicholas Bradshaw and colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu.

The Sacred Circles website claims the work is "Sure to please fans of comics as well as animation..." They're not wrong. Scoring a very "Disney" look, the style is beautifully appealing, and just plain fun! Great for high-action sequences, which seem, largely, to drive the tale. If I had to complain, I suppose it would be about the near-inability to read the translation script at the bottom of the panels in which characters are speaking their native language.

Instead of simply being laid across the artwork, a script box would have been preferable. Otherwise, no complaints about this book.

Sacred Circles is recommended for all ages, and for those who enjoy fantasy, adventure, and animation. Sacred Circles, published by Birch Bark Comics, 24 pages, $4.95.

Find it at your local comic shop (as it just became available through Diamond Distribution), online auctions and catalogs, and at For the comic shop near you, call 1-888-comicbook.

Review by Mark Allen

Road to Perdition - From 2003

Hollywood has picked up another comic book property, and made it a hot item in the comic world. I'm referring to Road to Perdition by writer Max Allan Collins and artist Richard Piers Rayner. I haven't seen the movie, but now that I have the inspiration, it doesn't really matter. It's a pretty straight-forward, but entertaining gangster-gets-even tale, but with a great format.

Road to Perdition is done the way I wish ALL comics were done; in one big, whopping, thick volume; some would call it the "Japanese digest" format. Whatever. All I know is that I would not have been able to read this book in monthly pamphlet form. It's just too enjoyable, mostly due to the artwork, which I'll get to in a moment.

Collins' characterization and plot development are adequate for their purpose; creating sympathy for someone who really shouldn't get it. Michael O'Sullivan is one of the most feared mob hit men alive, responsible for many brutal slayings, all for the sake of a mobster's firm grasp on the criminal world. But when his wife and one of his sons are murdered by his boss's son, true allegiances come to the surface, and O'Sullivan declares all out war on the John Looney crime family, with his remaining son in tow.

It's a simple premise, but one that's hard to turn away from, nonetheless. Rayner's artwork is nothing short of amazing. Though his line work is more coarse in most panels, while others have a softer, more detailed appearance (I'm not sure of the reason for the distinction), they all reflect a very realistic style. Richard Rayner is yet another artist who proves that comics are not the "step-child" of modern art; rather, they may, in fact, contain some of its finest examples.

Road to Perdition can be found in comic shops, bookstores, and some online catalogs and auctions. It is recommended for adults, due to language and violence.

Road to Perdition, published by Paradox Press, 304 pages, $13.95.

Review by Mark Allen