Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin's roundup of small press comics reviews.
Included for free when a purchase of a related print from his Etsy store, Deathzone! is essentially a Suicide Squad fan comic, featuring many of the characters that defined the classic Ostrander/Yale/McDonnell DC comics series from the '80s, including Deadshot, Captain Boomerang and, of course, Amanda Waller as they battle the Jihad team that made their debut in the book's very first issue.
The result is a fun and pretty bonkers 16 page story — one that offers a lot of the same action and thrills as the original series as well as a curious and meta bit of finality as they enter a portal to Shade's Zero Zone and are suddenly rough, smudgy pencil sketches of themselves — the point where it becomes clear that it's all a fabrication (but aren't they all?). Fiffe's an incredible artist, and creates an engaging and great looking comic that doesn't feel like a cheap fanfic.
It's a well made package too, printed on relatively thick pages (compared to the tissue paper of comics today) and includes a short essay on the inside back cover by critic Tucker Stone that gets to the heart of why this run of Suicide Squad mattered — not to mention why the DC Universe was the perfect place to execute that kind of idea. The inside front cover, meanwhile also has a list of the characters and who created them, making Deathzone! surprisingly more Fair Trade than most official Suicide Squad comics:
So, if you were ever into Suicide Squad, you pretty much need this comic in your life — if you can find it.
Unfortunately Deathzone! is sold out, but you can find Michel Fiffe's other comics at his Etsy store.
The Clock Strikes! #1
(John Short, Vincent Danks)
Who doesn't like a bit of 1930s crime noir done right? The Clock Strikes! #1 by John Short and Vincent Danks is a fun piece of crime fiction with a classic sort of '30s protagonist at the center of the story.
The Clock is a masked hero with a massive hatred for bad people. He's wandering through New York exterminating gangsters and other evildoers in the most vicious and intense ways possible, leaving a long line of bodies in his wake. The cops are sent to track down this nasty sumbitch, but the lead cop in pursuit of the Clock gets involved with a femme fatale who has a different agenda than either the Clock or the cop.
The Clock is one of the first heroes to appear exclusively in the comics, predating Superman by two years. But though he was only a comics character, the Clock's roots are much more with his predecessors in the pulps like the Shadow. Our hero is a dark and mysterious force of vengeance, a completely unknown man in a black mask who may or may not have mystic powers.
I always loved the art of Vincent Danks on Harker so I'm very happy to see his photo-influenced work on a new comic. Danks's style is ideal for a story like this one which needs to feel grounded in reality in order to work. The detailed and realistic feel of this art works wonders for its realism; because every scene seems real and bleak and evocative, the comic always feels grounded in a way that emphasizes the drama of the scenes it shows.
Anyone who loves '30s noir will love this book and want to read more adventures of the mysterious Clock.
– Jason Sacks
Publishing house 2D Cloud is starting to corner the Midwest market on interesting comics and their latest release, Ablatio Penis, continues this march. Written and illustrated by Isotope Award winner Will Dinski, this book uses the political arena to comment on matters of the heart and ultimately asks the question: if a politician has no penis, can he still fuck us?
Ablatio Penis is about Andre’ St. Louis, who, having secured the Republican nomination, is running for Governor. St. Louis is an affable sort who seems honest (to a fault) and is either really concerned about the plight of his constituents or is expertly superficial and devoid of any true empathy. Either way, he comes across as the ultimate political construct (a Mitt Romney without the robotic limitations). Dinski characterizes his main character as everything that could be good about politicians, yet he’s thick with the stink of why they are not.
And of course there is the title. If you are unfamiliar with what an ablatio penis is, once you look it up you will understand the metaphoric lengths to which Dinski is willing to go to make his political point. But amidst the ham-fisted politics of this book, there is a human story too. Dinski’s St. Louis is flawed and his limitations turn on him in a way that should garner your sympathy to a degree. Dinski displays a deft touch with his character and allows his complexities to be laid bare.
This book, while only 40 or so pages, is dense with each page shoved full of Dinski’s blue ink panels, small in scale, and interwoven with a pacing conceit of a small blank page between scenes. The art goes from thick and detailed to open and airy as the mood fits, and Dinski obviously knows what he is doing in this regard.
While Ablatio Penis is a political comic, it brings to the fore our own fascination with political personalities to the detriment of substantive issues. After the long election cycle we’ve just been subjected to, this book may make you reexamine your politics.
– Daniel Elkin
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions) and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic with Mike Prezzato, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery. His webcomic The Ghost Engine, with artist Eric Zawadzki, updates twice a week.
Daniel Elkin wishes there were more opportunities in his day to day to wear brown corduroy and hang out in lobbies. He has been known to talk animatedly about extended metaphors featuring pigs' heads on sticks over on that Twitter (@DanielElkin). He is Your Chicken Enemy.