Tiny Pages Made of Ashes: Small Press Comics Reviews 9/14/2012A book review article by: Jason Sacks, Steve Morris, David Fairbanks, Daniel Elkin
Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin's roundup of small press comics reviews.
Walking on Broken Glass #1-4
(Samantha Mathis/Caytlin Vilbrandt)
Grey Ink Studios
A few weeks ago at GeekGirlCon I picked up a few issues of Walking on Broken Glass from the creators. In fact, Comics Bulletin's own Kyrax2 basically demanded I pick up these comics -- in part because creators Samantha Mathis and Caytlin Vilbrandt were such nice people, and in part because Kyrax loved these comics so much.
And I can totally see why Kyrax enjoys these comics. Walking on Broken Glass is kind of an interesting mash-up of an office rom/com with a bit of drama, some dark secrets, a bit of the supernatural -- as the creators describe the comic, it's a "supernatural office dramedy romance about murder."
And yeah, as usual, Kyrax was right. This is a really fun, very clever and often unpredictable comic that seems to go in unexpected directions in each issue -- which means that readers never get bored with the plot. Issue #3, for instance, is packed with supernatural action and adventure, while issue #4 is full of romance, charm and just a little bit of real-world action.
At the core of it are Nick and Kennedy. Nick has some deep, dark secrets and is haunted by terrible dreams that seem to show an evil lives inside him. Nick's a werewolf who runs his own company that hunts down supernatural creatures. Kennedy is his aide, a human woman who is tremendously resourceful and has a deep and loving heart. The comic's fuel comes from the way that these two people interact; their charming romance is at the heart of what makes this comic so fun.
Caytlin Vilbrandt's art is continually evolving as this series goes on, and you can see her storytelling chops get stronger in each issue. It's really striking to see the confidence that she shows in issue 4 as compared to issue 1, and how much stronger and specific her characters appear by the 4th issue. It's really cool to see an artist grow in her work, and that also is one of the treats of Walking on Broken Glass.
You can read a bunch of their material online at greyinkstudios.com before buying these books. But this series is worth picking up. I know I'm looking forward to issue #5 -- who knows what will happen in that issue?
- Jason Sacks
(Chris Lewis/Bruno Oliveira/Cabral)
Drones is a curious mash of comics, with three or four different ideas crammed into one storyline, somehow. Writer Chris Lewis doesn't really manage to explain to readers what's happening in his curious fantasy-stroke-military satire, which is perhaps the biggest flaw in a comic which gets by mainly through the strength of the art.
Bruno Oliveira brings an offbeat style to proceedings, with angular, awkward art which twists the story into an interesting art piece. Aided by sterling coloring from Cabral, the book looks unique and interesting, with a good sense of layout and perspective. The story seems to be about two operators of a predator drone, who go off-duty and head to a fantasy hotel where people act out kidnapping and terrorism fetishes as some sort of long-form murder mystery-style game. When one of them gets kidnapped, the other has to go on a mission to rescue her.
It's a neat premise, although the story struggles to get across to the reader quite what is happening at any given point. The dialogue is hyper-aware of how silly this all is, and great fun - the comic is fun. But it's also hyper-convoluted where it doesn't need to be, with interesting artwork which doesn't make it easy for the readers to work out the story. Drones, whilst a decent comic, suffers from being high maintenance and difficult.
- Steve Morris
Good Samaritan: Unto Dust... #1
(Mike Luoma/Federico Guillen/Ken Lateer)
It's always amazed me how there seems to be some sub-genre of every medium of entertainment that I enjoy that's overtly Christian. I've run into it in gaming, music, and now comics. I don't know if it was the intent of the creators to make a comic for the Christian bookstore crowd, but that's certainly what this feels like.
A dumbed down, less gruesome version of The Spectre, the Good Samaritan is a Catholic priest by the name of Bill Sullivan who fights crime at night with the power and judgment of God. In Unto Dust..., it looks like there's going to be some kind of conflict with sinister elements in the Catholic bureaucracy that also overlaps with our protagonist's night job.
The story feels very flat. Samaritan goes out, stops crime, turns criminals to dust, repeat. Each night and day escalates the conflict that it feels Luoma is building toward, but it's doing it pretty obviously, until, uh oh, Bill screws up what he's seen as a priest and as a vigilante when talking with a cop.
Federico Guillen's art is good except when it's not; there are pages that look like quite a bit of efford was put into them and others, conveniently ones toward the end of the book, look like they were much more rushed. Some of his perspectives feel a bit wonky too.
Judging from the preview for the second issue, it looks like he's doing pencil shading over all of his work, which is then getting colored. The problem is that this gives it a really messy, dirty look. It's not the kind of dirty look you might want for aesthetics, either, but rather that of coloring over a drawing in colored pencils when you've already shaded it in graphite.
Ken Lateer is probably the most interesting person on the book, in terms of what they bring to it. While I honestly feel as if much of Guillen's art would look better without the coloring, Lateer's color pallette is the kind of thing I don't see very often and it makes some of the pages come to life far better than the illustrations on them or the story they're telling.
I don't want you to think the wrong thing about Good Samaritan; it's not a bad comic book. I just don't think it's anywhere near good, either.
Creepy Scarlett Volume 1
(Graeme Buchan/Felipe Sanuea Marambio/Ozzy Longoria/J.C. Grantd/Jessica Jimerson)
The solicitation for Creepy Scarlett Volume 1 points to an "ancient struggle" between an "eternal evil" called the Red Sun and Creepy Scarlett (along with her Teddy Bear, Mr. Ted) as they vie for possession of "a series of artifacts and the control of an untold power they combine to create." While certainly not a blaze across the sky idea or a ground breaking foundation for a narrative, in the right hands the book could be all kinds of crazy gonzo fun.
Unfortunately, these were not the right hands.
Initially I thought this title was intended for an all-ages audience, so I forgave much of the wooden art and the bad humor and the disjointed action and the stilted dialogue and the unnecessary pop culture references all in the name of the kids (The Kids, I tell you!). It was about halfway through the 45 or so pages of this book, though, when Creepy Scarlet stomps her boot into the face of another of the Red Sun's armored lackeys, that I realized that writer and creator Graeme Buchan had a more mature audience in mind.
And it was at that point that I got really, really mad.
The remaining half of the book did nothing to assuage my ill temper.
Because of who I am, I have to admire Buchan and his creative crew for their self-confidence in releasing this book. I have no doubt that with time and practice and maturity this title could become something other than what it is right now. I have hope for this, because like Creepy Scarlett says in this book after defeating Pumpkinface, "Nobody has written that part of the story yet." Someday we may actually want to read Creepy Scarlett's story. That someday just isn't today.
- Daniel Elkin
Steve Morris is the head and indeed only writer for Comics Vanguard, the internet's 139th most-favorite comic-book website. You can find him on Twitter at @stevewmorris, which is mostly nonsensical gibberish you may enjoy or despise. His favorite Marvel character is Darkstar, while his favorite DC character is, also, Darkstar. He's on Team X-Men, you guys.
David Fairbanks doesn't get many things right the first time. He studied physics in college, loves science, music, comics, poetry, movies, books and education pertaining to all of the above. He will talk your ear off about Grant Morrison and Ben Folds, has an indie bookshelf larger than his Marvel, DC and Vertigo ones combined and if he ever actually grows up, more than anything else, he wants to still be happy as an “adult,” whatever that is.
Daniel Elkin has been reading and commenting on comics since the mid '70s when he used to wear a great deal of brown corduroy. Currently he lives in Northern California where brown corduroy is slowly becoming fashionable again. Daniel has worked in bars, restaurants, department stores, classrooms and offices. He is a published poet, member of MENSA, committed father, gadfly and bon vivant. He can over-intellectualize just about anything and is known to have long Twitter conversations with himself (@DanielElkin).
P.S. He keeps a blog, Your Chicken Enemy.