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Monday, March 09, 2009

The Wandering Ones - A Suspended Animation Review From 2003


This is a new one on me, and the first web comic I've ever reviewed. Clint Hollingsworth's The Wandering Ones: Ghost Wind is a very involving read, with lots of action, even more characterization, and (the book's best attribute) quite appealing artwork. I must mention, however, that this book is not a "copy" of any comic works being done out there; a quality that I find very refreshing.

In the year 2066, the Earth is quite different. Most of the human race having been wiped out by a viral weapon, many survivors now exist in "clans," such as the Hawk Clan, lead by a young woman called Ravenwing.

As she and her clan fight to keep their freedom, and perhaps their lives, from being taken by the forces of a malevolent would-be world government called "The Reich," Ravenwing must also face a threat borne from the tragedy of her past.

Hollingsworth has woven quite a world with Ghost Wind. The main characters are complex and fresh. There are, however, perhaps a few too many for this first storyline, resulting in some "clutter." A few of Ravenwing's apprentices almost come across as nothing more than extras, even though the writer seems to be trying to flesh them out. The only other perceived drawback of the book is the dialogue, which sometimes doesn't sound "real."

The artwork is, to me, the most attractive part of the package. Hollingsworth's style is all his own, not indicative of anything being done today. He has a firm, but still-developing, grasp of musculature and textures. I also enjoyed his character and tech designs. Hollingsworth could be carving an artistic notch for himself in the world of comics.

Ghost Wind: The Wandering Ones can be acquired at www.keenspot.com, to either order it directly, or find out which comic shops may carry it. It is not suggested for younger readers, due to a bit of near-nudity.

The Wandering Ones: Ghost Wind, published by Keenspot Comics, 110 pages, $12.95.

Review by Mark Allen

Victorian Part II: Self Immolation - A Suspended Animation Review From 2003


The young girl fidgeted by her boyfriend as the television announcer asked "On a scale of one to ten with ten the best, what do you give that song?"

"A six. I liked the beat."

"What about the words?" asked the announcer.

"Words?" said the girl.

Yes, Buffy, songs and comic books have words. And I give Victorian Part II: Self Immolation a six as well. That means it isn't great or terrible; it is one notch above average.

Reprinting issues eight through thirteen of The Victorian comic book series, this volume has little to do with its title character. This enigma who lurks in the shadows of New Orleans, driving criminals into the arms of the Law through "fear and small, serum-dipped darts", is seldom seen.

Counterfeit money, strange symbols and alligators and sharks are the backdrop for this series title with the detail, character development and pace of a novel. But not for a good novel, for its pacing is slow, and no sense of threat or urgency seems to drive anything.

Neither believable dialog or visual pyrotechnics make up for a sluggish plot.

Then again, The Victorian doesn't offer visual pyrotechnics. The eleventh collected issue shows a marked improvement over the better-than- serviceable art in the first four "chapters", and all of the artists add visual interest to the sluggish pace of the story by angle, scene changes and other staging tricks of the art form. But not much jumps off pages that were written to saunter.

Fireworks get boring when over-indulged, and jumping constantly is exhausting, so a good read in a comfortable chair is never a bad thing. It is, indeed, very Victorian.

Victorian Part II: Self Immolation/$19.95 & 187 pages from Penny-Farthing/words: Len Wein; pencils: Jim Baikie or Claude St. Aubin/ available in comics shops or at www.pfpress.com.

Review by Michael Vance

Tuesday - A Suspended Animation Review From 2003


When the World Trade Center was attacked on September 11th, what had started as a normal day for Henrik Rehr turned into a day of fear and desperation. His family separated by the confusion and fear that wracked the city, Henrik, with his youngest toddler-son, began the excruciating task of ensuring the safety of his wife and oldest son, while dealing with the evacuation process. As he and his neighbors cope with the extraordinary events unfolding around them, new friendships are made, and old bonds strengthened.

Henrik Rehr's Tuesday, a two-issue mini-series, documents one family's struggle to make it through one of the worst days in the history of our nation. In doing so, he presents an arresting sequential tale that proves a former contention of mine; "real life" comics are potentially as entertaining as any fiction.

Unfortunately, however, they are few and far between.

Rehr does a wonderful job of relaying the fear and frustration of the event, but in a calmer, more restrained manner than one would expect. There is a warmness that is absent in most "disaster" stories, provided primarily through "flashback" sequences of the birth of his son, as well as a particularly touching scene after a bedtime story.

Rehr's art style is one of the most pleasant to view in independent comics today. Clean, bold lines, clear storytelling and expressive characterization are par for the course in this work. The artist's characters convincingly display concern, elation, joy, even exhaustion, to a degree that would be generally unexpected from what is a fairly simple art style.

Perhaps the most attractive aspect of Tuesday, is that it is all-ages friendly. No need to worry about so-called "adult" content, if the "kiddies" get 'hold of it. Good fare for classrooms or the doctor's office.

Tuesday is whole-heartedly recommended for all ages (except the youngest of children), and can be ordered through comic shops, or found at comic conventions, and online catalogs.

Tuesday, published by Kim-Rehr Productions, 24 pages, no ads, $2.95.

Review by Mark Allen

The Travelers - A Suspended Animation Review From 2003


His hand outstretched, imagine somber Hamlet saying, "To be or not to be, that is the question." Next to a broken mirror on a wall behind the Prince is a sign reading: In Case of Broken Glass, Break Glass.

That's not funny or dramatic.

Knowing that, Shakespeare didn't write it and is therefore remembered as a great bard. But, ah sweet Uric, Tony DiGerolamo of The Travelers did write that and more. That sign actually hangs behind a terrible sword fight in his 18th issue, and weakens both its suspense and tragedy.

Therein lays a problem for a comic book series that can't decide if it is fish or fowl, friend. These specific travelers are an ensemble cast of male and female characters who star in two different settings, times, and genres in the issues reviewed. In the 18th issue, they lay siege to a medieval castle while in the 19th issue they act in a parody of James Bond movies.

Believable dialog, plotting that is tight, characterization that is intriguing, and a light-hearted tone to The Travelers does much to recommend the series. But is that enough?

Minimalist art is entertaining but irregular because of multiple inkers, and that makes suspension of disbelief difficult. In addition, the otherwise acceptable lettering varies in size, particularly in the 18th issue. Size in lettering denotes the intensity and volume of the spoken word, and is jarring in this context.

Its potential not fully realized, this series' weakness is inconsistency. Its strength is a love of media, subject and characters that makes it fun but not exceptional. Recommended for those who are patient enough to wait for the full blossoming of the talent that obviously exists in its creators.

The Travelers #s 18 & 19/29 pgs. and $2.99 each from Kenzer and Company/story: Tony DiGerolamo; art: various/sold at comics shops and www.wingnutgames.com.

Review by Michael Vance

Supreme: The Return - A Suspended Animation Review From 2003


Stand back; I'm going to gush.

For foreign readers, "to gush" means I'm going to use superlatives about Supreme: The Return.

First, younger comics readers must prepare themselves for a shock. There was a time, the 1950s and 1960s, in which comic books were fun. That doesn't mean they were better than today's fare, it means they were different. Supreme is of that time. So am I.

Let's get the art critique out of the way. Because of multiple artists, the visual quality of Supreme varies but is more than sufficient throughout and often excellent. In addition, flashback sequences in which old art styles are imitated are a hoot and a half. For foreign readers, "hoot..." means they add to the fun.

Next, plot. There is too much of it to review here because Supreme is packed with plot, and imagination and epic spectacle. It may shock some younger readers that 'in the day' entire stories were told in eight pages!!! This reprint that emulates those stories is 252 pages. WOW!!

So, what is Supreme about? It's about the rich and wonderfully creative world of Superma....Supreme, a super-hero who can do almost anything, and does it. It's about an older, simpler style of comics that concentrated on entertaining story and art. It's about super-men and super-women and super-dogs and their super adventures, and super-villains and super-civilizations and a thing long forgotten called the "Sense of Wonder". For younger readers, Sense of Wonder means saying WOW!!! after reading a title.

And it means fun, fun, fun until your daddy takes this title away.

This collection reprints the final ten issues of the series published in '96-'97. Supreme earns the highest accolades for readers who love the '50s--'60s, and very high recommendation for anyone reading comics for fun.

Supreme: The Return/$24.95 from Checker/words: Alan Moore; art: Rick Veitch, Chris Sprouse, Jim Starlin, Gill Kane/sold at comics stores and sales@checkerbpg.com.

Review by Michael Vance

Sundiata: A Legend of Africa - A Suspended Animation Review From 2003


In his mid-80s, comics pioneer Will Eisner has turned to adaptations of novels, short stories and folk tales. Sundiata adapts the legend of a powerful and magic African tyrant, Sumanguru, whose oppression of his countrymen leads to a regrettably predictable result.

Eisner's art and visual storytelling remain flawless, but there are some uncharacteristic blemishes in the plot of Sundiata. Sumanguru's fatal weakness is not foreshadowed and, when revealed, feels like a cheat. In addition, Eisner's ending is a traditional one for folktales and leaves one unsatisfied.

Among Eisner's lesser works, Sundiata is recommended to those who love this comics legend.

Sundiata: A Legend of Africa /$15.95 & 32 pgs. from NBM Pub./ available in comics shops and at www.nbmpublishing.com.

Review by Michael Vance