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 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.

Video Game Review – Evolve

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Nath sometimes reviews games. This is one of those reviews.

So here it is, the first game in my top 5 releases this year, 4th in the list, but it could be 1st in my favourite game of this year. I have been following this game for a while before it’s release as the concept interested me quite a lot and I was looking forward to see what the finished product would look like.

As soon as start you are thrown into a tutorial firstly as the monster, specifically the Goliath, a large powerful beast. You learn the basic controls, such as running, climbing, attacking, eating and performing the Goliath’s special moves which include a jumping attack and breathing fire. I have to admit I did enjoy causing havoc as the monster, however I found controlling it very difficult as it is not very agile. Turning and escaping battle is difficult. Luckily the “Charge” move will get you out of trouble quickly, but if you have used it already, you could be in big trouble.

You will also learn the reason why the game is called Evolve. As you are playing as the monster, you can eat various other smaller monsters in the game in order to regain health, increase your shield and evolve. There are 3 stages to evolution, in stage 1 you are strong enough to take down small monsters with ease and also take down some of the larger monsters without too much trouble, however you would be useless against the hunters searching for you, so the idea of the game changes in stage 1. You have to be tactical in your approach, you can’t go in all guns blazing as you will get killed and very easily I might add. So you take your time and get to stage 2, you’re bigger and stronger and you can take down everything quite easily, except a group of skilled hunters, you are still going to have trouble taking them down. It also takes longer to reach stage 3, but when you do, you are nearly unstoppable. You’re at your largest, strongest and toughest, the only thing can stop you is a group of very strong, brave group of hunters.

So after you complete the tutorial as the monster, you play the tutorial as the assault hunter. He is the tank and the damage dealer of the group of hunters, armed with 2 weapons, mines and a shield. The aim of the assault hunter is take down the monster, but also generate hate to keep the monster focused on him, quite a large responsibility. You start off with a lightning gun for close quarters combat and an assault rifle for long range combat. You also have mines to lay about the level and cause some damage to the monster but also locate him when it is on the run. The shield will protect you whilst the monster is laying its arsenal into you, but only for a limited amount of time so use it wisely.

Unfortunately you are then left to your own devices which I thought was a real shame as you don’t get a tutorial of how to use the other monsters or hunters, you only get a small video on how to use each one when you select it. It is the same with the game modes, you are basically shown how to hunt each other. But you know what they say, learn by doing. I stuck to the single player for the time being in order to get an idea on how to play each game mode as well try out the different classes of hunter.

The first thing I noticed is that there are unlockable hunters and the way to unlock them is to level up the ones you have. The new hunters have different equipment, such as flamethrowers and multi-firing rocket launchers. It certainly gives some incentive to play the game in order to unlock the weapons and characters. You also have to unlock the Kraken and Wraith monsters too by playing as the Goliath and levelling him up. A lot of hard work has to be put in, however the rewards are worth it.

So I tried out the trapper hunter first as this was the only other hunter that I wanted to use. The trapper (surprisingly) traps the monster. The first is by using a series of harpoon traps that slow down and damage the monster, a very useful weapon. However the dome, where a large dome is created to prevent the monster from escaping, is also very beneficial. It can also be your downfall. You may think you’ve trapped the monster in the dome, but you’re trapped in the dome with the monster. I found this out the hard way when the beast was cornered but realised the AI isn’t great when your medic dies followed closely by the assault hunter. The trapper does have a good arsenal, but it is useless unless you have the whole team.

So I ended the first round dismally and to add insult to injury, the monster gains a bonus in the next round. Not only did I have to go after a monster again, I also had to go after some smaller monsters as well. It is absolute carnage. It was also a new game mode that I hadn’t experienced. This mode was called Nest, where the hunters have to go and take out the monsters eggs before they hatch. So you have a large monster to kill, some smaller monsters and eventually some more smaller monsters. The odds are stacked against you, however it seems the AI improves which doesn’t make it near impossible, but you do have to put a shift in and protect that medic.

Even with the odds stacked against me, I manage to persevere and win the round. Like honey badgers fighting a pack of lions, you wouldn’t think it but it does happen. Plus we get a bonus – tower defence. This put turrets everywhere in a game mode where we really needed them, Rescue. Clues in the name here, you have to go and revive wounded soldiers and bring them back to the base for evacuation. A very simple game mode, made a hell of a lot easier with the turrets. You can cheat a little bit and keep the monster in a dome whilst the rest of you evacuate the wounded soldiers. I did find this mode quite easy, however if you do have turrets as your ally it does make things easier.

The last mode I played was Defend. This is difficult, you are constantly being attacked by smaller monsters and the large monster comes and goes every now and again. You can’t go after the main monster, if you leave the base exposed, the little monsters will destroy it. You just have to bide your time until you can trap the main monster.

So after a couple of rounds training I decided to have a go online hoping that the players would be better than the AI in the game. Before you start your adventure online, you have to select your preferred choice of character, including the monster. I went for assault first, followed by the monster, followed by trapper, then support and lastly medic, not because the medic is boring, it’s just that I’m not that reliable as a healer. Extremely unreliable.

So my first venture online was against a Wraith. This Wraith is a silent killer, that hovers above the ground and has no arms or legs but has 4 powerful scythes. It also eats smaller monster by “drinking” them. It is a truly powerful beast, may not as be as powerful as the Goliath, but harder to hunt. This made things very difficult. Luckily the trapper we had could hunt the Wraith very well, I was the assault hunter, I did my job very well, taking down the monster with the lightning gun and the assault rifle, however the medic and the support for some reason also thought they were the assault hunter and decided not to do anything else but try and kill the monster with their inferior weapons. We died very quickly. My after game rant mostly consisted of me shouting “You had one job” over and over again.

The next round I got my chance to play as the Kraken, a monster that is a cross between Cthulu and a dinosaur. Again not as powerful as the Goliath, but it has a very unique arsenal, consisting of lightning strikes and vortexes to take out the hunters. Admittedly it was difficult at first trying to use the monster I haven’t used before, but learn by doing. And I got owned. Hilariously owned. It didn’t take long at all, I was trapped and I couldn’t escape. Where was this organised team when I played? Unbelievable to be honest, it was a complete walkover.

The next round I ended up playing as the Goliath in a game of Nest against a team of mediocre hunters. I had to bring my A-game to the table. Luckily I managed to hatch a nest fairly quickly to get things going. Everything was overrun and by the time they had finished trying to take out the monsters, I was a stage 3 Goliath and managed to wipe out the team with ease. It was a great moment, one that I will savour.

Overall the game is brilliant. The graphics are fantastic, made with the CryEngine 3, the same graphics as the Crysis series. It is dark and dank, but with an odd flurry of colour every now and again. The gameplay as the monster can be a bit laborious as it can be difficult to move the large monster, but it is something you can live with. The difficulty is fairly well balanced and it is easy to overcome a level when the odds are stacked up against you and your team. The online gameplay could do with some tweaking to make balanced teams but its not unplayable. Overall I would give this game 9 boulders to the face out of 10. Could be a potential game of the year, but there are other releases I am looking forward to.

Nath