Comic Review – Modern Testament Vol. 4 (Insane Comics)

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

This week I’m reviewing the fourth and final volume of the Modern Testament: Anthology of the Ethereal series by author and creator Frank Martin. Volume 4 is another collection of three short stories (one split into two parts) 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. As Martin says in his letter closing out the book, he saved the big guns for this final volume.

The first story, split into parts 1 and 3 in the volume, is ‘Better the Devil You Know… Than the Devil You Don’t’, with both illustrated by San Espina and with colours by Adri Pratama. A spin on the classic deal with the devil story, abusive husband Jack laments his financial situation, screaming at his wife and daughter. The devil appears to him in disguise, offering an extensive contract to trade Jack’s soul for enormous wealth. In part two, the devil comes to collect.

The art in this tale is the strongest in this volume, and the story the most compelling too. There is a solid twist that keeps it fresh, and the devil himself is brilliant and threatening as the lord of the underworld should always be. Espina and Pratama team up to create oppressive and dark looking art that 100% fits the mood.

The second story is ‘God Complex’, with art by Martin Szymanski and colours by Miguel Marques. An eminent and popular scientist calls a press conference to announce that he has discovered the theory of everything, one of the most elusive concepts in modern science. And in response, a bored God (capital ‘G’) applauds from the back of the auditorium, before telling his creations what he really thinks of them.

God Complex is the most depressing of Volume 4, and considering the subject matter it also manages to be the most nihilistic. That makes it immensely enjoyable, if you are a terrible cynic like me. The art boasts some of the more impressive visuals in this volume too, as God takes the scientist Professor Florence on a reality-bending tour.

And the final story finishes out the Horsemen of the Apocalypse theme that has spread across all 4 volumes, drawn by Anthony Pugh and coloured by Julian Dominguez. In ‘At Death’s Door’, Cain visits a depressed and out-of-shape Death, and tries to get him to embrace his role again. But the inevitability of his job, and how little effort it seems to be for him, has made him disillusioned. So Cain must try to get him back into being Death again.

The art in ‘At Death’s Door’ is simple but effective, belying the status of the characters involved. The story itself is a fun end to the theme that has played out across Modern Testament, ensuring that the collection and entire work finishes strong without taking itself too seriously.

Verdict

Modern Testament Volume 4 is a fitting end to a strong series, and is well worth picking up. You can order it online physically or digitally!

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.

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.

Kit’s Top 5 Indie Comics of 2015

Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to be sharing our top 5s of 2015, from everyone who writes here at The Lost Lighthouse. Here is Kit’s Top 5 of Indie Comics of 2015 (Adam picked the featured image for no reason other than it amused him)

My turn to hop on the top 5 bandwagon! My articles in 2015 have mostly been either comics or short stories, to decide what to go back to I figured that actually I’ve read some amazing Indie Comics this year and it would be great to go back and give my favourites some more publicity. Also, it frees up the mainstream comics for Adam if he feels like procrastinating from his thesis some more! (if it had been me by the way it would be: Batman, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Saga, Wicked and Divine and Barracuda!)

Anyway, the top 5 Indie Comics I’ve read in 2015 are:

5 – Reapers – written by JoJo King, art by Adrian9, published by Insane Comics

Available here

Untitled

Reapers, the story of a young woman who dies, only to be recruited by ‘Victor’ aka the Grim Reaper to do his dirty work and collect souls of the dead and battle demons! What does she get in exchange? Sweet oblivion.

I like the art in this comic, a lot of detail is packed into each of the panels and the imagery in the early pages showing the afterlife is unique and captures the mood. The non-human characters appear full of personality and look very cool.

The concept for the story is interesting and a lot could be done with it. Violet’s death and subsequent exploration of the afterlife are really cool and give pivotal insight into her character.

The only thing that didn’t quite work for me in this comic was The Reaper, Victor, much as the Grim Reaper aspect works the way he spoke kinda bugged me, which is why this comic makes my top 5 but not higher.

 

4 – The Revival – written and drawn by Tom Kyzivat, published by Hound Comics

Available here

the_revival_pic

A post-apocalyptic wasteland after a global war and the survivors just scraping to get by? No, this isn’t Mad Max, but sign me up!

The world is ruled by the mysterious figure Patriarch. However, Patriarch has died, and the world has been a worse place for it. Those with magic battle those with technology and our heroes are doing their best to scrape by. And my favourite part? You pick up so much of it naturally, there isn’t the often made mistake of beating you over the head with exposition. Also, one of the characters is a bear.

The art is good, if not the highest quality on this list, however I do love the use of barcodes when the Cabbage Heads speak.

If you like Mad Max, Fallout, Firefly or anything at all like them then this is the perfect comic for you!

 

From here it’s on to my top 3, where picking the order gets really hard…

3 – Sineater – written by JoJo King and Chase Dunham

Award: Best Concept

Available here

Sineater

Right, Sineater is third. Am I sure about this? Umm… maybe, my top three are all fantastic comics and all very different to each other, I spent way too long trying to work out the order for them and even changed it twice writing this article. To make things a little easier I’ve decided to cheat and award them their own titles for what each of them are best at as well.

Sineater gets Best Concept. This is a really cool idea for a story, a young girl named Cassandra works as a Sineater, and she goes around and literally eats people’s sins. It’s a thankless job and she is hated for her strange powers. The whole idea is communicated brilliantly at the beginning in a conversation between a mother and daughter while Cassandra gets ready to do her job.

The art feels a little like a manga, which isn’t a bad thing and it helps Sineater feel unique.

Speaking of manga, if you like manga or anime like Soul Eater or D-Gray Man this would be a very good comic to pick up as it feels a lot like them in tone.

Some minor dialogue issues put it slightly lower than the next two comics for me, but that was being REALLY picky.

 

2 – Young, Talented… Exploited! – written by Yatuu, Translated by Fnic and published by Sloth Comics

Award: The Best Non-Traditional Comic

Available here

YTE2

This was perhaps the biggest surprise for me as a comic. It’s not a traditional comic book at all, the story isn’t fantastical, the characters are based on real people and it even has a choose-your-own-adventure element to it.

The story follows a young girl and her attempts to make a career for herself in the gaming industry and the challenges she faces. This really hit home to me as someone who, although in a very different industry, is trying to build a career for himself in our post-recession economy. It isn’t easy at all, and this comic sums it all up perfectly, the long hours, give it your all but only be left feeling unappreciated and completely disposable to businesses.

The art is minimalist and used to illustrate the words more than tell the story itself.

There’s the choose-your-own-adventure bit to it as well, which again hits the nail on the head for what it’s like trying to work these days whatever path you choose.

This really is something I wish employers, and students should read. Students to manage their expectations that things are not as easy as some people will lead you to believe and employers to give them a little perspective for their interns and graduates. I’ve put this as second as it isn’t a traditional comic as such, but it is really worth the read.

 

1 – Kings of the Wastelands – written, pencilled and inked by Delbert Hewitt Jr

Award: Best Artwork and Characters

Available here

kings

Here we are, my number 1 Indie comic I’ve read in 2015! There’s a lot of good stuff out there, but for me this one just edged it over the competition!

To start with this comic looks fantastic, very professional and the characters are full of colour and life. The characters are all animals and each has so much personality packed into them.

The story itself is very cool as well, it’s (another) post-apocalyptic wasteland, where Jacob is out for revenge against Hunter the Tiger and forms a loose band with Gib the driving Turtle and a Cat with a catapult. The plot itself is fairly simple, but that’s a good thing, it allows for fantastic character inter play, they all bounce off each other to create a fun, vibrant comic. The combat looks great and I love the touch of having the ‘Dragon’ be a Hippo.

This is a fun start to a promising series, if you want an action comic with fantastic fight scenes or if you like Mad Max, but kinda wished they were all talking animals then this is for you. The art is also fantastic and the author and colourists should feel proud of what they’ve made here.

This is why this comics (just) makes it to my number 1 spot.

 

Kit

Indie Comic Review – Reapers #1 (Insane Comics)

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

“Well… You did it… You killed yourself. Not what I was expecting. On the bright side there aren’t any people around” – Reapers

Time for another Indie Comic review. This time I’m looking at Reapers from Insane Comics. This was written by JoJo King, the art by Adrian9 and the lettering by John Palmer IV.

The story begins with our protagonist, Violet, being rushed to hospital, where she dies, having cut herself with a razor. As she passes away she finds herself in a different afterlife than what she was expecting. Here she runs into a stranger, another recently deceased girl. They are met by someone who clearly knows the score around the afterlife, The Reaper, although he apparently prefers ‘Victor’. The Reaper then proceeds to offer the two girls a deal: they work for him as Reapers and he’ll give them what they each desire. A new life for our protagonist’s companion and nothingness for our protagonist herself.

They agree and head out on their first collection, they find a rotting corpse where they’d been expecting a regular guy for them to kill. It seems somebody got there before them, with their assistant ‘Michah’. Turns out Michah is a demon and they battle it out.

I like the art in this comic, a lot of detail is packed into each of the panels and the imagery in the early pages showing the afterlife is unique and captures the mood. As the issue progresses and we get to take a look at the characters. The non-human characters appear full of personality and look very cool.

The concept for the story is interesting and a lot could be done with it. However there’s a lot more to be explored the first issue doesn’t manage to touch on, although this is largely due to a large portion of the comic being given to Violet’s origin story. This is fairly necessary for the start of this story though, Violet’s death and subsequent exploration of the afterlife is pivotal to giving an insight into her character.

One of the elements that didn’t fit so well with me was The Reaper, Victor, much as the Grim Reaper aspect works the language he uses feels disjointed and a little out of place. However this could just be a first impression, a little more characterisation over further issues could easily rectify this and flash out his character a lot more.

Final Verdict

I’d say this comic is off to a solid start. It’s an origin story so a lot of the issue has to be dedicated to explaining what’s going on. In this case it’s a good place to start and give us a chance to see the key players on Team Reaper. The art fits the setting very well, particularly when showing the afterlife Violet finds herself in.

If you want to check Reapers out, you buy it here and check it out digitally or in print!

Score: 7 Newly Recruited Reapers out of 10.

Indie Comic Review – SinEater (Insane Comics)

Our pal Kit sometimes write for the site! This is one of those times.

“She has evil inside her”

This week I’m taking a look at another indie comic, Jojo King and Chase Dunham’s SinEater.

To kick things off before I even read the first line of dialogue the artwork stood out to me a lot, in a good way. Its black and white drawings feel like much more of a manga style than a western comic book; though you do still read from left to right across the page. I very much liked seeing this, and it immediately made the comic feel unique and stand out a little from the some of the other indie comics I’ve read.

Getting into the story itself though, our hero is Cassandra, a young girl who holds the less than prestigious title of Sineater within a village. Sineater’s do exactly as their job title implies, they literally eat people’s sins. This purifies the patient’s soul so they’re able to go to heaven. People’s sins are drawn out of them as demons which the Sineater then devours, because they then have a literal demon inside of them and are clearly putting themselves through hell to help others you’d think a Sineater would be received well out and about town, right? Wrong, of course not. They are both thanked and then shunned for their service to others and it’s getting to Cassandra.

A lot of the exposition in the first issue I felt was done very well. A conversation between a mother and child about Cassandra’s treatment of the father provides a decent enough basis and then we’re shown what happens as opposed to each little detail being printed out for us to read first. For the most part the dialogue is handled very well.

If I’m being picky I’d have two complaints about the dialogue though:

  1. There’s a few expletives throughout the comic, nothing wrong with that in general, and some fit the conversation perfectly, but a couple of them felt a little unnecessary.
  2. When Cassandra is by herself, talking to herself it felt a little forced. It wouldn’t need much to improve this, either have her summarise this in a later conversation or change it from her talking to herself to her inner thought process.

But these are largely very picky complaints and don’t take away from the fact I certainly enjoyed this read.

I enjoyed the other characters in the book too and it feels like a very solid basis for a series. The plot of this issue feels like a good start as such and this book could certainly go places.

If you want to check SinEater out, you buy it here and check it out digitally or in print!

Score: 8.5 Sins out of a Patient