Comic Book Review – Whatever Happened to the Archetype? (Insane Comics)

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

Warning: minor spoilers.

“In here they call me ‘crazy’ Christopher Quin. But not so long ago I was known by another name… The Archetype” – The Archetype

Time to mix things up with an indie comic. I was recommended this one by a friend and thought it was well worth a look. Seeing as Whatever Happened to the Archetype? promised one of those alternate takes on the classic super hero story, looking at what may happen to them once they retire, I couldn’t help myself. This comic was bought to us by:

  • Writer – Stu Perrins
  • Artist – Ron Gravelle
  • Cover – Shaun Dobie
  • Publisher – Insane Comics

archetypeThis story follows Christopher Quin, now living in a nursing home, looking back on his life from his alien home world, to being the world famous super hero the Archetype, to raising a family. It’s a spin on the classic Superman storyline, himself being the archetypal super hero, making the Archetype’s name that much more fitting. Things don’t play out exactly as they did on Krypton though. Quin grows up on his home world of Arcadia and has a close relationship with his Arcadian family and a very different set of events lead to him leaving his home world.

While the plot covers his transformation into the Archetype and many of his adventures, the focus is always his relationships with the other characters and how he copes with the pressures and expectations of being a hero. This is at play even more now as he’s simply dismissed as a crazy old man claiming to be the once iconic hero. Perrins also offers an insight we don’t often see in any super hero media – heroes who sometimes fail, innocent people die and that weighs on them.

Gravelle’s art has a very detailed style throughout the issue with a lot of effort put into expressions and backgrounds. While this lends itself well to the panels setting up a new scene or on large, zoomed out areas during an action scene it does at times distract from conversations and the characters having them. Gravelle’s art has a focus on characters’ facial expressions. This really shows the how they age throughout the issue and portrays real emotion during Quin’s opening narration, however, the most striking and powerful expressions during conversations between characters are often those with less detail to them.

However, all of the above does not address hands in particular. So, my favourite questions, can Gravelle draw hands? Absolutely, throughout the comic they’re drawn doing all manner of things, communicating body language, throwing punches and at a huge range of sizes from a child’s to a gigantic monster’s.

Final Verdict

This is a fresh approach to a classic super hero tale. The overarching plot stands out, providing a narrative full of emotion, while dealing with themes often overlooked within the genre. There are two points which felt a little out of place for me though – while it felt very plausible Christopher’s tale would be dismissed as the ramblings of an old man, I couldn’t quite buy into the idea that the Archetype’s existence may be relegated to that of a myth. The other, while addressed later in the story, still stood out to me – I was surprised Quin didn’t wonder how people could read and speak his language right away. As for the art Gravelle’s is of a very high quality, although at times less would have been more.

You can check out Whatever Happened to the Archetype? digitally or in print from Insane Comics.

Stu Perrins will be at True Believers Comic Festival in Cheltenham on February 4th!

Comic Review – Modern Testament Vol. 3 (Insane Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

This week I’m revisiting the Modern Testament: Anthology of the Ethereal series by author and creator Frank Martin, Volume 2 of which I reviewed a while ago. Volume 3 is another collection of three short stories published by Insane Comics, each illustrated by a different artist. Each story in Modern Testament takes a biblical or mythological being and places them in the modern world, following how they adapt to our times and how they choose to aid or affect mankind.

mt3-1The first story is ‘Shoulder Djinn’, illustrated by Lucas Urrutia and with colours by Ezequiel Dominguez. Tommy struggles with supporting his sick mother and falling behind with paying the bills, while hearing constant advice for what he should do from an evil red djinn on one side, and a good-natured blue djinn on the other. When it comes to breaking a few laws to get the money he needs, or doing the right thing, the two djinn confront each other. But it is down to Tommy as to which one he listens to.

Shoulder Djinn takes the old devil on the shoulder story and gives it a twist. Its a quick yet challenging story that questions the nature of influence and free will, and even brings into question whether Tommy is even hearing the djinn at all. The art is simple but evocative, with strong colour work that washes out when the djinn are talking, with just the two figures taking focus with their bright ethereal colours.

mt3-2‘The Abandoned’ is the shortest of the three tales, drawn by Francesco Conte and coloured by Macarena Cortes. A mother chastises her son over his failing grades, leading to an argument about his absent father for what is clearly not the first time. A transformation in her son leads to questions about how human his father was, while darker questions about the nature of his conception also arise.

The second story in this volume was an effective tale, if a little heavy handed, looking at abuse, its long term effects and how people deal with them. Of all these stories so far, The Abandoned is the clearest example of using the mythological creatures to tell a story that could easily be told with regular people, making it that much more engaging. The art feels claustrophobic and heavy, with the brief transformation of the son taking on a hint of body horror before quickly receding, which made the story beat all the more effective.

mt3-3Finally, following on from the theme in the final story in Volume 2, the third tale in this collection was ‘Down With the Sickness’, drawn by Joaquin GR and coloured by Matej Stasko, was about another Horseman of the Apocalypse – Pestilence. As with the story of War, this was again perhaps the most light-hearted story. Adam Prescott, CEO of the Apollo company, is dying. And to public outcry, he devotes all of the resources of his company to saving his own life. But his final doctor, Pestilence, has a few uncomfortable truths to reveal to Prescott about the nature of life and death.

The inevitability of the message behind Down With the Sickness was very strong, if pretty depressing. Of the three tales in Volume 3 this was the most entertaining, with razor sharp dialogue and wit. The art was low on action but the bold line work and skillful facial work made it stand out.

Verdict

Modern Testament Volume 3 is another fun read with more strong dialogue from Martin and three interesting stories each with a morality to its core. All three art teams turn in very strong work, while remaining distinct and appropriate for the story too.  You can check out Martin’s Facebook page here, or order Modern Testament direct from Insane Comics either physically or digitally.

Indie Comic Review – Cognition #0

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

Warning: minor spoilers.

“Still…. It’s better the devil you know.” Sigma

I’m picking up another review this week while Adam focuses on his PhD. I thought I’d mix things up a bit with another indie comic review – I decided to check out Cognition, published after a successful Kickstarter campaign.

  • Script and Lettering – Ken Reynolds
  • Art – Sam Bentley
  • Editor – David Haliwood

As with many indie comics a small creative team put Cognition together. The story follows Silas Pope – a spy working on behalf of B.O.S.S., the British Occult Secret Service, Hattie Griggs – an agent working under Silas, Calibre 507 (Cal) – a steam powered automaton inhabited by a displaced human soul and Sigma – a mouse inhabited by the spirit of a demon. The comic jumps right in with its first of three introductory stories. We get to see typical cases investigated by B.O.S.S., the supernatural horrors they’re up against and what happens when Sigma is let loose to do his thing.

One of the small issues I’d flag with this comic, as it jumps right in with the plot I did spend a bit of my first read through wondering who exactly was who and especially what was up with the mouse and automaton. There are useful character bios on the final few pages though, which helped fill in the blanks. Being critical it would have been useful to have a bit more exposition during the stories themselves to understand who’s who in this story.

9aefab5c7fe1a55521f39db4292532c9_originalThe art has been done entirely in black and white, which helps set the Victorian era tone of the comic. Sam Bentley did a very good job, using shadow effects and contrasting black and white where need be to create the right atmosphere and add a sense of the supernatural to the occult threats. Ken Reynolds does a fantastic job with the lettering throughout the issue. I was very impressed with this. Different fonts are used to add to the intimidation of the demonic forces and the speech bubbles skilfully lead the readers eye across the pages.

The real question though, Sam Bentley’s art has impressed, but is his hand drawing skills up to scratch? Out of the three stories told throughout the issue hands are only really shown during the first, even then due to the nature of the character interactions they don’t appear in any sense of detail too often. They look good when they’re on panel, though even then contrasting art styles, where the characters are often shaded completely black limits the detail of the hands you can see. 7/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

It’s a very solid first issue, a little more exposition to who the characters were would have been useful, though the concept to the story is very cool. The art is very impressive as well. That in itself is enough for me to check out the next issue. I definitely recommend picking this up if you want something a little different. You can check out Cognition here.

Score: 7.75 Soul Fragments out of 10

 

Indie Comics Review – Land of the Rats

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

_1613385_origLand of the Rats is a series from writer and artist Mark Nasso, published by The Underground Forest, and it follows the story of Jack Natari as he traverses the Great Southern Vastness of Blask. Jack is a rat-man from the Kingdom of Raelak, miles from his home in Rat City. I read the first two stories from Land of the Rats, ‘Gastrolithicus’ and ‘The Woman from Iltharra’, which follow Jack as he winds his way home.

In ‘Gastrolithicus’ Jack escapes from prison, only to be captured and enslaved by the mysterious South Men. While trying to run away, he runs afoul of the monstrous Gastrolithicus that dwells near the territory of the South Men. In ‘The Woman from Iltharra’, he loses two people he was protecting to a woman hailing from a state at constant war with his homeland. He confronts this murderous barbarian, and a vicious battle ensues.

One of the strengths of Land of the Rats is Nasso’s world-building. Blask feels lived in and complete, with plenty of potential for hundreds of stories taking place there. While at times it gets a little heavy on the exposition, the mystery of the world that Jack interacts with works well. The stories themselves are well written and interesting, although there are a few instances where the dialogue feels a little out of place, with phrases like ‘ass-kicking’ interrupting the flow of the otherwise standard fantasy-style dialogue.

_317087_origThe other real strong point in these comics is Nasso’s art. The heavy and bold lines and shading create a unique and stylised black and white book that is a real pleasure to look at, despite the subject matter largely being fairly grotesque. The most striking example of this is the titular Gastrolithicus from the first book, which is terrifying to behold but wholly original and striking.

Land of the Rats is well worth checking out for the art alone, but Nasso’s world is full of potential and these stories are compelling. The first four, including Gastrolithicus and The Woman from Iltharra, are collected in Land of the Rats IV which can be found here. All the comics can be found on Comixology. You can also find more information over at theundergroundforest.com.

 

Comic Review – Modern Testament Vol. 2 (Insane Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

This week I’m reviewing Modern Testament Volume 2 – a collection of three short stories published by Insane Comics that was sent to me last month by the author and creator Frank Martin, with each tale illustrated by a different artist or art team. Each takes a biblical being struggling to fit in and adjust to the modern world, as they try to find meaning or remain relevant.

schoolyard monsterThe first tale is ‘Schoolyard Monster’, illustrated by Adrian Crasmaru. Joey has a common schoolyard problem – bullies. Specifically another kid named Rudy, who is seemingly the ringleader for all the other children. But after being pushed down in the mud again after school, the mud around Joey starts to coalesce into a silent and stoic golem. And the next time Rudy hassles Joey, he is in for an unwelcome surprise.

Schoolyard Monster is an engaging tale with a framing device that plays up the ‘careful what you wish for’ story beat. The art was scratchy and rough (in a good way!), with detailed and heavily expressive facial work and an almost watercolour palette, that gave an overall feel that reminded me of Jeff Lemire’s work.

 

great huntThe Great Hunt’ was drawn by Igor Chakal and coloured by Stanislav Leanov, and tells the story of two big game hunters heading out on safari to bring down a beast of unimaginable power – a behemoth. Despite warnings from the reserve warden, the pair head out to seek the monster they have heard so many rumours about. And obviously that all works out fine for them.

This second story was probably my favourite of the three. It was simple, it had strong and natural dialogue, and I do enjoy a tale of idiotic hubris. The art was especially good too, with nice renderings of a savanna environment and a really oppressive and claustrophobic edge as darkness falls. The behemoth itself was terrifying to behold, and the ensuing action was fantastically brutal.

 

warFinally ‘What is He Good For? (Absolutely Nothing)’, drawn by Noreus Teves and coloured by Laura Ruggeri, was perhaps the most light-hearted yet chilling story. An injured war veteran relaxes aboard a cruise ship, his family somewhere else on deck, and he is approached by a mysterious stranger. This man hands over his business card ‘War – Horseman of the Apocalypse’, and shows he isn’t joking by showing visions of the savagery he has had a hand in over the years. Having been content to sit back and let humanity do most of his work for him, he has now come up with a plan to speed up his end of the apocalypse. And it involves the cruise ship.

This final tale was entertainingly bleak, with an arrogance behind War that was a lot of fun to read. The art was bright and laid back and light on action, with the vibrant ‘vision’ page to the right accounting for most in the story. instead focusing more on body language and facial expressions with some fairly heavy line work that worked well.

Verdict

Modern Testament Volume 2 is a fun, quick read with strong dialogue and three intriguing tales that show a lot of potential in the writer. The art in each is distinct and suits the story, as well as being great to look at. You can check out Martin’s Facebook page here, or order Modern Testament direct from Insane Comics either physically or digitally.

Indie Comic Review – The Inheretic

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those times.

Warning: minor spoilers.

“They held great store in the various scriptures they acquired, and wanted to know if it was true, if the meek do inherit the Earth” Zachary

Time for the final indie comic review from my haul at True Believers. This week I (finally) checked out The Inheretic, a sci-fi thriller by Stuart Jackson and Leon Reichel. This is a four part, self-contained comic, which I read in one sitting. Most of the comics I review are single issues, or long on-going series, so things may never truly be wrapped up. This story, however, very much does.

The Inheretic is a story about Zachary Rowan, seemingly a nobody who has his only possession, an old radio, stolen. He looks to get it back, tracking down who stole it, but things go wrong. Next thing we see he’s waking up late for work, and the only survivor, an undercover cop called Cooper wakes up in a hospital. At the crime scene there’s blood and gore everywhere. Cooper sets out to investigate. She ends up tracking Zachary down and the majority of the comic plays out in conversations between them.

As you may have guessed things are not what they seem. We are treated to the story of a chronicler, sent to our planet thousands of years ago to observe us and see what will happen to our species, will the meek inherit the Earth? Or will humanity screw up the entire planet and generally be assholes throughout our time on this planet?

The art is very impressive, and at times surprisingly gory. The characters look good, the colouring suits the scenes perfectly and in general the art feels very professional. Throughout the comic we’re shown seemingly random flashbacks to times in the past, where somebody seems to die or suffers throughout history. I really liked these, they add a real air of mystery to the plot.

There are a few twists in this tale, the final one in particular when everything comes together and seemingly odd character behaviour is explained was fantastic. It wasn’t one I saw coming, and the kind of thing I really enjoy.

Final Verdict

I wasn’t sure what to make of this comic at first. But I enjoyed it a lot, the gory scenes did feel a little out of place at first, but it fell into place as I read on. This was a very good comic. I’m glad I picked it up!

Final Score – 8.75 Old Radios out of 10!

True Believers Comic Festival 2016

1

Kit headed off to the True Believers Comic Festival at the Cheltenham Racecourse this year. Here’s what he thought!

Mission: To put the comics back into Comic-Con!

Do you like comics? Well you’re reading this so I’m going to assume that yes, yes you do. With that in mind you really need to check out the True Believers Comic Festival. There are many conventions around the UK, you can go to the likes of MCM Expo, which although fantastic and a hell of a lot of fun is not for the faint of heart. I have many fond memories there, but also less fond memories of being stuck in queues for entire mornings or being caught in a crush of people trying to get to the loos. If you want something similar, but on a smaller, far more relaxed scale then True Believers is for you. It’s only been running for two years, and I’ve had the very good fortune to have been to both cons so far.

It’s based in Cheltenham at the beginning of February each year, located at the Racecourse. When my partner, Charlie, and I got there (her in cosplay, a dress down Black Cat and looking fantastic… I was lazier this year and didn’t dress up myself…), 15 minutes after opening we were greeted by a packed entrance hall! There were a lot more people there than last year (no figures to back this up, but it certainly felt like this!) but once we’d hacked through the small crowd to the entrance we made our way in. The main hall itself was full of stalls with plenty going on around each. There’s collectible figures, merchandise of all the mainstream comics, there’s artists, cake and my personal favourite – indie comic books!

One of the things I love about attending True Believers is the time you can spend chatting to the indie artists and writers. They have a great chance to promote their work here and are naturally very passionate about it. When you pass a table and something catches your eye take the chance to talk to them and next thing you know you’ll be even more intrigued by their work, will be the proud owner of a new comic book and a few pounds worse off. I’ll be doing my next few comic reviews based on the comics I picked up at True Believers.

We attended one of the main panels, Celebrate Cosplay lead by GCC, Kurostyler, Limegreenjelly and Tris Trinket. They talked about all things cosplay, they gave advice, spoke about their experience and answered questions. The whole atmosphere was fun and relaxed, plenty of people in the audience felt comfortable asking things or contributing themselves. They promoted a very positive attitude towards cosplay, focusing on enjoying it whoever you are and discouraging elitism.

TB1

There was also a new table-top gaming area, where anyone could step in and play a board game and get to know other con-goers. There were group meet ups (Charlie joined in the Marvel and DC group) and some incredible costumes.

TB2

TB3There was also a real family friendly environment, plenty of kids dressed up as their favourite character and enjoying themselves.

The main event in the afternoon was the cosplay catwalk. I didn’t take part this time, but Kurostyler did an excellent job MCing it. He kept the crowd entertained and introduced all of the excellent costumes.

All of the people working there, from organising the big events to shepherding people into the convention, work really hard, and as a note if any of them are reading this – thanks a lot for putting on a fantastic event. We’ll definitely be back next year!

Anything they could have done better? Well as the convention is growing, the demand for panels and other activities (maybe a video game area) is going to grow. So basically yeah, the same again please, but even more!

Kit