Saturday, November 22, 2014

My review of the 12 issue BULLET GAL comic series by Andrez Bergen. Plus, I talk about an important Kickstarter related to the series. Awesomesauce!

Interior art from issue #2 by Andrez.
Although there has been individual issue by issue coverage of Bullet Gal by Andrez Bergen on my blog before, I recently finished reading the entire series, and decided to review it as a whole. My review is spoiler free, as I am dealing with the basics contained in the story, and not going into specific detail. I would like new readers to approach this with their minds wide open, and for them to be able to have the same amazing experience I had reading the series, constantly wondering what new trick Andrez would pull out of his sleeve in the next issue. Every time Andrez sent me a new story in the series, my anticipation was on the same level as a child on Christmas day, and like that child, I immediately tore into my new present. And I was amazed by what was inside... I hope you have the same experience.

 Reading anything by Andrez Bergen is always a distinct pleasure. Case in point- his Bullet Gal comic book series. 12 issues of genre blending goodness, this series is a more than worthy edition to his ever growing fictional universe. For the new reader, here's a mild spoiler... Read through the author's work diligently, as they are seriously interlinked, and you never know who might pop into the current story. That said, any of his works can be enjoyed on their own, but reading them as a whole adds to the overall experience. The Bullet Gal series is a bridge between two of his stories, filling in the events between two fixed points. Sounds simple, yes? The truth of the matter is that it is far from simple, and this isn't in any way filler material. Andrez surprises the reader at every turn, and manages to connect his works seamlessly...

Interior art from issue #3 by Andrez.
The protagonist of the series is a young woman named Mitzi (here's a review of her origin story), who has just blown into the city of Heropa (Here's a review of the Heropa novel. It was my first review for my blog, and I have to thank Andrez for helping me get off my butt with this awesome read.). She has plenty of reasons to hate the criminal element residing in Heropa, and the gal, plus her twin pistols, immediately go to work. As she racks up quite a body count, Mitzi is approached by someone who has a quite different vision for Heropa, a plan that, if it succeeds, will turn Heropa into a virtual utopia...

The author's narrative generously blends sci-fi dystopia, noir, hard-boiled elements, and Golden Age superheroes into a unique blend of storytelling wizardry. Mitzi's initial baby-steps in the new world of Heropa followed in the tradition of pulp heroes, such as The Shadow or The Spider, but she is soon set upon a different path. Although she is initially suspicious of this new element (a man named Lee, who is offering to train her under the auspices of a third party), she reluctantly begins to work with the man. While she still has reservations about the whole situation, she begins to enjoy working with Lee, and comes to think of him as a friend and mentor. The relationship between the two is a genuine focal point in the story, and Andrez nails the characterization of both Mitzi and (her) Lee. Everything isn't sweetness and light, and the two butt heads frequently, but they bring out the best aspects of one another. Together, they are much more than the sum of their parts...

Interior art from issue #4 by Andrez.
While the series is focused on Mitzi's transformative journey, the other characters (major or minor) are not simply roughed in. They all (even down to what could have been filler characters), have their own distinct personality. Two of the issues are dedicated to other character's exploits, and/or backstory, and they fit seamlessly into the narrative. Andrez isn't worldbuilding, at this point, the world has already been built. Instead, he's filling in the gaps between point A and point C. Fleshing out characters, chronicling unknown events, expanding his mythos. Despite knowing where the series ended up, he constantly surprised me with the character's reactions to events, and with the events themselves. The story is akin to a rollercoaster ride, constantly bringing the reader to new highs and lows, emotionally.

Let's talk about the art... If you've ever seen a classic noir film (I'd recommend The Third ManThe Maltese Falcon, and Touch of Evil, among many others), then you have experienced the type of art employed by Andrez in Bullet Gal. Black and white (heavy on the black), yet surprisingly beautiful, and at times serene... Andrez takes both found images, and original art, and then painstakingly manipulates them to match the various scenes contained within this release. As the series moves along, Andrez plays with panel composition and the overall flow between scenes, creating a rather mesmerizing effect on the reader. The feel is very experimental, while also being similar to watching a classic movie, frame by frame. His art style and overall composition reminds me of the cinematography employed in the groundbreaking film, Point Blank, directed by John Boorman. The further you get into the series, the more Andrez pushes the envelope, and the results are amazing. Gaining artistic confidence as he goes, he manages to produce something entirely unique, and gives us a story that is better in quality and execution than a majority of what is being put out in the mainstream market today. Hopefully, we get a collected edition of this series, which brings me to my next point of information...

Cover art for the Bullet Gal collection by Niagara Detroit.
Bullet Gal is published monthly through IF? Commix, a Australian comics publisher. Quite recently, a Canadian publishing group, Under Belly Comics, has picked up the entire series and moved forward with releasing it in a new format... As a complete collected volume, compiling all 12 issues of Bullet Gal, and releasing the physical copies throughout Canada and the States! As a huge supporter of the series, I was dead chuffed to hear the news. Under Belly has recently launched a Kickstarter for the project, which can be found here. I feel that this is a project that needs to reach fruition, and I hope that you guys will stop by, and help this release become a reality. You'll be supporting one of the best comic series out there, and a creator that is moving in areas that are outside the box, as far as the current landscape of comics and genre fiction goes. Get in on the ground floor!

Lastly, I'd like to say thanks to Andrez Bergen for simply being an all around rock star, and blowing my mind with every new story. You're aces with me, laddie! Get some sleep, matey, I don't know how you do it... And to my like-minded compadre Galo Gutierrez from Comic Book Geeks and Project-Nerd (who had a BIG hand in this latest development), you rock, mate! As usual, happy reading, and I'm signing off... Zero Signal.........................

Here's the author's blog. I'm sure Andrez would love to see you pop by, look around, and say hello.

Finally, here's another link to the Kickstarter. Drop in and support indie comics!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My review of Monstrocity by Jeffrey Thomas. Another exceptional read! Take a look!

cover art for the German edition of Monstrocity
It was with great anticipation that I recently bought myself a return ticket to the city known as Punktown. Said ticket being Monstrocity by Jeffrey Thomas, his first full length novel set in the Punktown series. Originally published in 2003 by Prime Books, I chose this entry because I wanted to read some of the older stories set in this universe, and because I was intrigued by the fact that it was a full length novel. My previous experience with this ongoing series was the recent collection of interlinked stories, Ghosts of Punktown. After reading Ghosts (here's a link to my review, if you haven't checked it out), I was hooked on both the setting, and Jeffrey's writing in general. I knew it wouldn't be long before I returned to the planet Oasis, and the urban sprawl of the mega-city known by outsiders and the gentry as Paxton, and as Punktown by it's true inhabitants... the ordinary people, trying to make a living amongst the lost, the forgotten, the predators, and the insane. Buried in this chaos, you will find tales of love, of redemption, and of disparate beings coming together to forge a unity against the darkness that is lurking just around the corner, waiting in the angles of space and time. A union that will shine a faint light out into the universe, and grow into a beacon of hope, a rallying point for any rational being. Monstrocity tells one such tale, and it tells it very well...

Christopher Ruby is a shy, unassuming type of guy. When, by pure chance, he meets the beautiful Gabrielle, he believes that his life is finally looking up. Gabrielle, however, has some rather strange interests that soon lead to the first in a series of tragic events. A recording of a set of occult incantations has fallen into her possession, which will purportedly call up a demon, if certain conditions are met. While he is, at first, totally against the idea, Christopher eventually gives in hoping to please his girlfriend. The ritual doesn't seem to work, and he has a good laugh and then heads to bed. Awakened by a strange feeling during the night, he finds that Gabrielle has performed the ritual again, and that there is something distressingly... odd about her. Soon after, she disappears, and Christopher frantically attempts to locate her. Along the way, he begins researching the origin of the incantation that started the whole series of events. He eventually discovers that the author was a certain human from Old Earth, apparently of Arab descent. A man by the name of Abdul Alhazred... He soon begins seeing strange apparitions out of the corner of his eye, and has the feeling that he is constantly being watched. His life is gradually taken over by an intense feeling of paranoia, and he begins a swift descent into madness.

The story of Christopher Ruby is stifling, intense, and claustrophobic, and quite intricately detailed. A tale of an ordinary man, thrown into an extraordinary situation, through no fault of his own. A man who just wants things to be as they were, but eventually realizes, that there is no going back. At the beginning of the story, there isn't much to set Christopher apart, to draw you into the character. As the story unfolds, however, he begins to grow and show unexpected depths of both character, and willpower. From his initial quest to rescue his love and return everything to normalcy, his motives turn more towards reaping a horrible vengeance on those responsible for destroying his life. His desire for revenge slowly fades as he begins to grasp the scope of the forces that he is up against, both those from outside our dimension, and the beings that serve them, here in our realm. He begins to realize that, even though he is not the best choice to be a savior, he has been chosen, simply because he KNOWS. In KNOWING, he automatically becomes responsible for DOING. Once he comes to grips with this idea, he starts along a highly selfless path. With no help in sight, the question becomes, quite simply put, will he survive long enough to make an actual difference. The author takes his time in really building up the personality of his protagonist, and rendering him as a perfect example of fallible humanity. The qualities of perseverance, selflessness, and the ability to think beyond the concept of 'I', and serve a greater good are rather remarkably illustrated within the story.

Along with the quality of his characterization, Jeffrey also excels when it comes down to the portraying the details contained within the story(as I mentioned in my opening statement of the previous paragraph). Whether it is something that is normally quite simplistic, such as describing the characters surroundings (there were a number of these descriptions that I found to be quite profound, and a work of art, in and of itself); or in the attention given to various species history, culture, appearance, and unique behaviors, he goes above and beyond the norm. Quite masterful, I must say. The photo-realistic depiction of every aspect of Punktown could lead one to believe that, possibly, this is a real place and that the author is a frequent traveler to the planet of Oasis. Truthfully, the level of characterization, and of description, could easily be a travelogue, if one were to remove the more fantastic aspects of the story. There is no need for a suspension of disbelief, just start reading and you'll find yourself definitely transported to another world. This quality to totally submerse a reader in a story is very rare, and Jeffrey Thomas possesses said ability in spades. It's one of the reasons that Punktown is quickly becoming one of my favorite fictional destinations to visit. Heck, I'd buy a ticket and make my home there, if Jeffrey would let me...

To sum up my ramblings, this is an outstanding, well thought out and executed, absolutely engaging story. There are many highly adult themes and situations contained within it's pages, but we're all adults here. It's so rare to come across a concept that is so effectively realized, so fluid in it's execution, that you you have to step back to truly appreciate the total depth of what you've been reading. Monstrocity is one of these releases, and I highly recommend that you take a look at this entry, and at the series as a whole. For that matter, just go out and pick up a story by Jeffrey Thomas. You'll be amazed by the sights that he will show you... 

Here's the product page on Amazon. Here's Jeffrey's author page on Amazon. Finally, here's Jeffrey's site. Why don't you take some time to stop by and look around? A great number of excellent stories are contained there, just waiting for you to discover them. With that, I'll sign off. As usual, happy reading!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My review of the TOBACCO-STAINED MOUNTAIN GOAT graphic novel, by Andrez and Cocoa Bergen. Wonderful read...

I recently received my copy of the Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat graphic novel by Andrez Bergen (words) and Andrez and Cocoa Bergen (images) in the post, which sent me into spasms of pure joy. After reading through, I have to report that Andrez still has it ('it' being sheer talent, natch), and he has it in spades. Funded through Kickstarter, and published by the cool cats over at IF? Commix, this is a graphic adaptation of the first 90 or so pages from Andrez's novel of the same name, although it does have some extra included for all you new readers.That's right, all of you who loved the novel; Andrez has a bit of a surprise included in the new release. So don't go in thinking this is a only a blow by blow adaptation (which would be extremely awesome, in of itself), just sit back, relax, and enjoy yourself. You might be surprised by what is shown to you. Regardless, the story is still the one you know and love... and if you haven't read the novel, here's your chance to jump on board. I was absolutely blown away by this graphic adaptation, and you will be as well. I'm formally calling for a sequel, right here on this page. I NEED to KNOW what happens NEXT... I'm sure that after you read this release, you'll feel the same.

TSMG is set within the last city on Earth (in this case, Melbourne, Australia), after the rest of the world has been wiped out by a global catastrophe. The hoi polloi have been saved by Hylax Industries, and especially, by it's founder Wolram Deaps. Of course, the word 'saved' can be a bit open to interpretation, sometimes. Saved, but wrapped in propaganda and the chains of control; saved, but ruled over by the whim of a fascist dictator. Saved, but forced into a rigid class system, in which people have almost no chance of bettering themselves (unless the warden finds you of use). Finally, saved, but any free-thinker, any dissident with a word to say against the status quo, is hunted down and murdered, or forcibly sequestered in hospitals, and doomed to pass from view. This is what 'saved' means, in this future world. Saved means being used, and wrapped in more and more levels of control, just in case you're needed. Until you're not (which is an event that is always held over your head), and then you're discarded like any other disposable product, tossed down the garbage chute. Quite a cheerful (and, in some ways, familiar) situation, yes?

Floyd Maquina strides (okay, frequently stumbles) through this world, and he's not a man that is built along the heroic archetype; he's an everyday type of guy, that has had a great amount of tragedy pass through his life.  First case in point, he wasn't able to save his wife, Veronica, from being sent to the camps (Coff! Coff! Sorry... I mean the 'hospitals'...) after she became sick. The two of them tried to hide things as best they could, but they were eventually betrayed (when you find out about the  person behind this betrayal, you get to experience the meaning of REVELATION, and PLOT TWIST), and she was carted off to the camps (sorry, once again, I mean hospitals). Floyd isn't a bad guy, he's just been ground down by the wheel of fate, driven to the point that liquor and other illicit substances are all that keep him going. After his wife is hospitalized, Floyd is approached by government agents about the level of 'care' that she will receive. Since all options are extremely expensive, he is forced to join the ultra-secret, government run Seeker Branch to pay for her medical bills.

You see, Floyd was a P.I. in his former life which has made him a useful commodity, as far as Seeker Branch is concerned. The agency is tasked with hunting down the Deviant 'menace', and bringing them back to interment, or out and out terminating them. Floyd's one of the few who refuses to use the latter option (except, possibly, once), but he's definitely in the minority. The Branch uses VR tests to keep their agents in line, and if you fail, for whatever reason... you'll be the next one labeled Deviant, and carted off to the 'hospitals'. His wife's condition is always held over his head, so he isn't quitting Seeker Branch anytime soon, unless he ends up dead...which is a good possibility in his line of work, and might actually be a bit of a relief to Floyd A human being can only take so much... Until then, at least he has met a fellow soul to share his rather complicated, crooked path, his trials and travails... Laurel Canyon, also employed by Seeker Branch, who is also carrying around quite a bit of tragic history herself. Another human being that has been ground down by the vagaries of existence that this life has inflicted on them. For the nonce, they manage to find some solace in each other's company. In a world such as this, can even this small gift remain untouched?

Andrez is constantly honing both his writing, and his striking style of art. I loved the original Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, but seeing it in graphic form is a revelation. I have longed to see this story adapted as a graphic novel, and had quite a mental list of artists that I thought would do the story justice. As it turns out, the perfect artist for the job happens to be Andrez himself. The art is a direct slap to the head, which manages to wake you up, and gets you paying attention to the events taking place. Moody, sometimes muted and dark, they require your full attention to decipher the full meaning of the story being told. Striking and always beautiful,  yet sometimes heartbreaking (when you see, vicariously, where everything turned to shite), the art plunges ahead, carrying the reader along. It flows seamlessly from moment to moment, tragedy to tragedy. In other words, a day in Floyd Maquina's life, and the window into the existence of the vast majority of the masses in this future city. Cocoa Bergen's artistic contributions are particularly poignant, and add that bit of nuance that allows the story to really wound you. If you haven't realized it yet, the artwork is highly recommended.

Let's get down to the story. The novel is an absolute favorite of mine. The graphic adaptation takes the original prose story to another level, a level where the characters actually jump off the page, and begin to stomp all over your psyche. Andrez has spent a good amount of time immersed in classic noir, detective, and dystopian science fiction releases (as I have, for that matter), and this is his love note to the genres. I want to be perfectly clear, this is not a 'laugh out loud, outrageous fun' type of release. It's more of a 'you have to read this, it's doing something that's not out there' type of story. It has a great amount of tragedy contained within, and things can become a bit bleak. The characters keep at it though, because such is their life. They all have hidden depths, that take their time coming to light. Novel and graphic novel, they are both highly recommended reading. Andrez's writing is unique, both in it's approach and it's execution, and I find myself enthralled with his work. Read some of his stories, and you'll find yourself feeling the same way...

Here's the author's blog. I'm sure Andrez would appreciate you dropping by, and saying hello! Here's his Amazon page. Finally, here's the publisher's page, where you can get your hands on all kinds of good stories. Before going, I'd like to share this with you... Even though the characters of this novel/graphic novel exist in a shell of a burnt-out world, don't despair... You can always find a doorway into a new existence (in this fictional world, at least), if you look hard enough. Look hard, don't miss it, the portal might be just around the corner... With that cryptic note, I'll bid you adieu! Until next time, happy reading!!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

My review of THE PLASM, by William Meikle. A really great story which is both creepy and fun! Recommended reading...

Excellent cover art by Wayne Miller

I finished reading William Meikle's The Plasm last night, and whoo boy! What a fun ride! Mind you, my idea of fun can sometimes be a bit odd. That said, this piece of cosmic horror set in the depths of space hits on all cylinders. Which it should, as the author only has 128 pages to work with. Available from Dark Regions Press, this short release does not disappoint in any way. I can't say that I've read everything by the author, but what I have read has never failed to engage me and The Plasm continues this trend. This is a rather rousing tale of horror which could be effective in any era, but William chooses to set his latest story in the far future and it's absolutely ace! Let me get to the review, where I can explain why you must have this in your collection... First up, my synopsis.

At the beginning of the story we are introduced to Steve and Sam, who are both business partners and lovers. Steve is the level-headed workhorse of the two, while Sam is more prone to taking big risks and gambling that the rewards are worth it. These two opposites make a good team and manage to shore up each other's personal flaws. They are a team of spatial contractors, and handle everything from deep-space salvage to asteroid mining. Currently engaged in the latter endeavor, they complete their business and begin heading back to port. While in-transit their ship is rendered inoperative, and dead in the water (so to speak) they rush to pin-point what went wrong. Sam quickly fills her partner in on the bad news; their main drive has blown out, and they're stuck for the foreseeable future. Moreover, seconds before the main drive went out she had heard a proximity warning and the object has been identified as...

The starship Vordlak, which disappeared while on her maiden voyage! Sam is thinking only of the fortune and fame that they will get from finding the long lost ship, and she is blind to anything else. Steve isn't nearly as enthusiastic, and is worried more about the whole 'adrift in space' situation that they happen to be in. However, he ends up giving in to his partner and they begin to explore the Vordlak. The problem is that there isn't any evidence of what caused the ship to go missing, in fact, everything seems to be running normally. Except for the fact that there are no crew on board the Vordlak, nothing seems out of the ordinary. Until you add in that the ship is still fully powered, and that there really are a great many things missing. Such as the supplies needed for a long voyage; or the fact that the automated helpers that would be needed on a ship of this size are also mysteriously missing. After Sam pulls up the ship's logs, they begin to realize exactly what is powering the 'revolutionary' star drive of the Vordlak... and it's something that shouldn't exist in this universe.  It seems NASA (and the military group that funds them) have veered quite off the beaten path to 'discover' their new power source.

Meanwhile, on Mars, Corporal Jake Royle is reporting for duty at his post. Said post being a highly classified military storage depot. Things begin on a bad note, when he is ordered to escort two 'suits' down into the catacombs. After they find the items they are looking for, they try to blow them up. Which turns out to be an extremely BAD idea... Instead they manage to unleash something from outside into our universe... Which Jake tries to run from, but in the end, there is no escaping the thing that is that has seeped into our reality. The two narratives eventually come together and the main question is, how will they all survive? All I can say is, 'Tekili Li!' Followed by 'Dhumna Ort!' Quoth the raven, 'You'll have to read the book.'

William Meikle always delivers an outstanding story, and The Plasm is no exception. The feeling of dread is palpable throughout this tale, and as the story moves along it becomes absolutely claustrophobic. Even after the characters discover the source of the otherworldly occurrences, they are given no respite. There is no apparent course of action to follow, no way to contain this incursion. To put it bluntly, they're screwed. Even when the shadowy forces that caused all of this step in, their efforts actually make everything worse. They are hemmed in on all sides, and no one is coming to save them... so they decide to do it themselves (along with one 'expert' on the matter who seems much braver, and smarter, than those who employ him).

William's writing flows from page to page seamlessly, and he handily executes the changes between the various narratives. As I read through, I was on edge and wondering what the endgame would be. I really couldn't put The Plasm down, and the pages just slipped by, one after another. I found myself identifying with the characters, and sharing in their frustrations and setbacks throughout. The way that the author melds so many different genres together is greatly appreciated. William rendered the story marvelously, with plenty of flair and a unique vision. The overall story was engaging, the characters were painted well, and the ending was a thing of beauty. This is an example of a highly professional storyteller and talented wordsmith, doing what he does. Which happens to be telling an extremely engaging story, and absolutely nailing it! I can imagine William as a traveling storyteller and bard, way back in history. Moving from campfire to common house, and on to the courts of kings. Always welcomed, always appreciated, always rewarded. What more can I say? Take a look at The Plasm, and enjoy! While you're at it, take a look at his stories in general. Believe me, you won't be disappointed...

Well then, I guess that's that, another great story that I had a lot of fun reading and reviewing. Here's the publisher's website. Stop by and take a look around. There are a lot of great stories waiting for you. Here's the Amazon page for the book. Lastly, here's the author's Amazon page. He's got a number of really great books available, so why don't you swing by and take a look around? I guess that's all from my end. As usual, have fun and happy reading!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

My review of TALL PULP from Pro Se Productions. Contains some really good adventures...

Wonderful cover art by Jeffrey Hayes.
Well, I finished reading Tall Pulp the other night, and I was quite impressed! Published by Pro Se Productions, and clocking in at 172 pages, this short story collection was definitely a fun read. I'm from Texas, and I've been thrilled with tall tales since I was a small child. The stories contain a mix of historical and fictitious characters, each with their own unique exploits in American folklore. Six heroes. Six authors. Six tales of derring do, and of standing up for what is right. Tall tales filtered through the fast paced, action-packed style of the pulp genre. What more could you ask for? Thrill to the adventures of Mike Fink, King of the River! Fall victim to the charms of Anne Bonny, the Pirate Queen! Marvel at the feats of Joe Magarac, the Man of Living Steel! For fans of the original characters, this is a must have. For those of you who are new to these exceptional characters, you're in for a treat. Sit back, relax, and lose yourself in the adventure(s). With that, let's get to my review. As usual, I'll concentrate on my three favorite stories from the collection. This isn't meant as a slight to the other authors involved, as they all have wonderful entries in this collection, and choosing a top three was rather problematic on my part. These are the three stories that touched me the most. Here's the synopsis of my favorite tales...

The collection hits the floor running, with the exciting tale Anne Bonny's Revenge, by D. Alan Lewis. Anyone who's not familiar with Anne, here's a link that contains her known history, and some speculation. You don't need to read it to enjoy the story, but it does add a bit of extra spice to the adventure, and gives you a clearer picture of her motivation. At the start of this tale, Anne has been incarcerated by the British, on charges of piracy. Her husband, Calico Jack Rackham, and most of the crew of the pirate sloop Revenge, have been sentenced to death, and the sentence has been carried out. Obviously, the pirates have been betrayed, and were rounded up while sleeping off a drunken revel. Only Anne and her friend Mary Read stood fast against the British, and were eventually overpowered. Both women escaped the hangman's noose by 'pleading their bellies', but Mary has since perished in this hellhole of a prison. Anne decides to fight her way clear, and picking a new guard as her prey, comes close to freedom, utilizing her unconventional fighting style. Unfortunately for our heroine, an officer arrives unexpectedly, and puts the kibosh on her escape attempt. Things aren't quite what they seem, as the two know each other in a rather intimate manner. Whisking Anne away to visit the Governor (of this particular hellhole), a new plan is hatched, which will bring the official a great deal of wealth, put an end to a threat to the British Empire, and gain Anne her freedom. Anne and her lover have a different plan in mind, and hope to win it all on one roll of the die. Fortune favors the bold, after all...

The second of my favorites is Crossing McCausland, by Gordon Dymowski. It features Joe Magarac, the steelworker's hero who has sprung, fully formed, from a pool of molten steel (here's a link for those who want to delve into the character's history). Ever since, Joe has been traveling the highways and byways of America, righting wrongs, and swiftly moving on to his next task. Along the way, he has instructed malcontents on becoming true supporters of the idea, the ideology behind this great country. Mainly, that everyone is free and equal, and that any who cross this principle are treated accordingly. Everyone has to contribute to the greater good, and as such, there are certain people that are inherently unsuited for this role. In this story, Joe has been drawn to the small town of Appleton, Missouri. He's saved a young child that has been trapped in the local sewer system. Approached by the Town Administrator of Appleton, who is very grateful for the legend's heroics. Joe is looking for nothing more than a bit of rest, before he moves on to where he is needed next, but things take an unexpected turn. Joe is confronted by Don and Seamus MacKelly, and accused of being a Soviet super-spy, who most likely engineered the event of the lost child himself, to bring publicity and fame to his heroics (and promote the Commie cause, apparently). The absurdity of the situation is evidently lost on the MacKelly brothers, but anything involving independent thought doesn't seem to be there strong suit. They are, of course, just mindless pawns in another man's game. Said mastermind is revealed as Robert McCausland, Mayor of the nearby town of Pitchford. He's got his fingers in quite a number of pies, and Joe's presence is throwing a monkey-wrench into his well thought out plans. McCausland isn't at all what he seems, and Joe needs to step lightly...

Last up is my absolute favorite of the collection, Mike Fink and the River Round Up, by Greg Daniels. Some of you may remember Mike appearing in the Davy Crockett miniseries by Disney, which is how I was first introduced to the character. Here's a link for those of you who want to know more about the character's history. Mike is the King of the River, a man who outfought, outworked, and pretty much outdid every man he came into contact with. Here's one of Mike's brags, which gives you lot of insight into the character (quote courtesy of Walter Blair and Franklin J. Meine, "Mike Fink, King of the Mississippi Keelboatmen" New York 1933).

"The redoubtable but semi-mythical Mike Fink, joker, fighter, and king of the boatmen, voiced the sentiments of his class when he bellowed his boast:
"Im a Salt River Roarer! Im a ring-tailed squealer! I'm a reg'lar screamer from the ol' Massassip'! WHOOP! I'm the very infant that refused his milk before its eyes were open, and called out for a bottle of old Rye! I love the women an' I'm chockful o' fight! I'm half wild horse and half cockeyed-alligator and the rest o' me is crooked snags an' red hot snappin' turtle. I can hit like fourth-proof lightnin' an' every lick I make in the woods lets in an acre o' sunshine. I can out-run, out-jump, out-shoot, out-brag, out-drink, an' out fight, rough-an'-tumble, no holts barred, ary man on both sides the river from Pittsburg to New Orleans an' back again to St. Louiee. Come on, you flatters, you bargers, you milk-white mechanics, an' see how tough I am to chaw! I ain't had a fight for two days an' I'm spilein' for exercise. Cock-a-doodle-doo!"

He has sometimes been portrayed as a bully and a blowhard, but my favorite stories show him as a good-hearted man, highly loyal, a friend to the end. His rough and tumble nature, and competitive streak lead him astray, now and then. But if you need a friend who will never forget you, Mike's your man. Greg Daniels begins the story in the 1960's in a small riverside town in Kentucky, with a bunch of locals sitting down to their usual poker game. One of the men's recent encounter with a local semi-legendary character (a man called Uncle Danny, remember the name) promppts them to start telling a number of their favorite tall tales. There's a stranger sitting in at the poker game (a man that is eerily familiar to some of the old-timers) and when the talk turns to the likes of Davy Crockett and Mike Fink, and Mike's apparent death, the man quietly objects. "That ain't the way it happened," he says. Not wanting to provoke the rather wild looking stranger, the men start talking about a more recent tale, one set at the beginning of WWII, in Memphis, where Mike apparently lives on... When we first lay eyes upon Mike Fink, he's a shell of his former self. Drunk, bedraggled, and homeless, the man is staggering down the streets of Memphis, apparently not knowing his own name. Until he accosted by four thugs, that is. After they try to teach the old bum a lesson, and knock Mike to the ground, the Salt River Roarer snaps back to his true self! Mike makes rather short work of the idiots, although with a great amount of style. After coming to his senses, and remembering that he is MIKE FINK, his first thought is to find his legendary keelboat, the Gullywumper. The problem is, after spending a hundred years or so not being himself (and that's an entirely different story, to be told at another time), Mike initially can't remember where he has left his beauty. After a bit of a hard think, he hits on it... Cave-in-Rock, the hideout favored by river pirates since America was young. Mike takes to the trail, and after many long days in the wilderness, stops at a tavern in Cairo, Illinois. Looking forward to a something hard to cut the trail dust, Mike stumbles upon a major meeting of the German American Bund (yes, we get to see Mike whip some Nazi butts). After being insulted by one of the Bund members, Mike, true to self, wipes the floor with the entire room full. After the brawl, he makes a couple of new friends that seem to be cut from the same cloth. They both deal themselves in, and the trio sets out on the trail once more. Finding the Gullywhumper is one of their goals, but they also must stop the Bund's sinister plot...

I want to say that I blazed through Tall Pulp, it was a release that I didn't want to end, but yearned to find out what came next. I really needed to find out what happened to the characters, and as a result, I finished it in record time. The only drawback is that I'm left wanting more. I've told you a bit about my favorites above, but the other stories contained within this collection are top notch. This is my first experience with all the authors involved, and they really impressed me with the quality of their stories, and their readily apparent love for the characters. Some of these characters I was already familiar with, others are brand new experiences for me. Kudos to all involved! D. Alan Lewis (Anne Bonny's Revenge) gives us a rousing tale of blood and fire, romance and ultimately, second chances. Skillfully weaving in Anne Bonny's history, while not letting off the throttle, what we are left with is an entirely satisfying adventure, on all levels. Nancy Hansen (Freedom's Road) gives us a story which speaks of inequality on many levels, and the lengths which racists and bigots of all stripes will go to both carry out, and justify their actions. The story both engaged me, and had me seething mad at many points, because of disgusting treatment of the two main characters by the general populace. There were good people in the story, but as in the real world, not enough of them. An excellent, thought provoking story, and I truly appreciated the end, and laughed long and hard at the plight of the main antagonist. Phillip Drayer Duncan (The Untold Legacy of the Bowie Knife) gives us an action packed tale chronicling the secret history of Jim Bowie, and the true reasons behind the legendary Sandbar Fight. A world that I would happily re-immerse myself in, if the author chose to revisit it. Paul Bunyan in the 23rd Century by David White is a love note to old science fiction epics, such as Buck Rogers and the Lensman series. Paul and his blue ox, Babe, are not actually in the story. Except they are, and on that highly contradictory note, all I have to say is read the story. You'll understand what I'm talking about after reading it. Salutations to David for coming up with such an outside the box re-imagining of Paul Bunyan! Gordon Dymowski definitely delivers with Crossing McCausland, and his story is a mix of heroics, old style crime buster stories, and the more poignant examination of a man who is truly different, an outsider by his very nature, who still uses his powers for good. A man who wants to have a life, a real home, but is drawn to where he is truly needed, and consequently, never attains the ideal kept deep within... to be normal, and have a family. Concurrently, it examines the type of people that can have just that, but worry more about gaining wealth, power, and control. A VERY interesting story. Finally, Greg Daniel's Mike Fink and the River Boat Round-Up was just pure, unadulterated FUN! I hung on every word, thrilled to every new adventure Mike and his friends stumbled into, and had a giant smile on my face throughout the story. Plus, Greg knows how to tell a story in style! The overall feel of the story is perfect. Highly recommended, and I absolutely love how he portrayed Mike, along with his two friends. The end of the story brought a tear to my eye, and also brought out a large burst of laughter. Friends to the end... To sum up, these are some great tales. Regardless of your tastes, this collection contains any number of well written, engaging, and action packed stories. Plus, they're FUN! Don't be surprised if you come away from them with a big goofy grin on your face. I know I did! Take a look, you won't regret it!

Here's a link to the publisher's site. Here's the Amazon page for Tall Pulp. Head on over, take a look around. I'm sure you'll find many great adventures to lose yourself in. With that, I'll sign off. Happy reading, all!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

My review of BULLET GAL #4 by Andrez Bergen. Another great read!

Interior art of Mitzi with "her" Lee by Andrez.
I received Bullet Gal #4 by Andrez Bergen in my inbox the other day, and let me tell you, I was totally blown away by the story. Andrez never ceases to amaze both with his excellent storytelling, and with his beautiful artwork. I really enjoy the direction this series is going, and I love the surprises that Andrez has been pulling out of his bag of magic tricks. There's quite a number contained in this issue, and probably many more in store for us before the ride is through. I, for one, wouldn't have it any other way. This release will be available through IF? COMMIX in October 2014, so be sure to jot that down on your calender, and pick up a copy when it comes out (and yes, I know it's a bit early to be haranguing you about buying the book, but I thought I'd just slip it in here, when you had your guard down). Well, let's find out what kind of trouble Mitzi's been getting into, since last we left her... * Since this work has yet to be released, I've been forced to include some spoilers in my review. Sorry about that, since I try to avoid them at all cost. *

Ah, yes. Back at the bar, which is where I'd like to be. Interior art by Andrez.
When last we left our gal, Mitzi was having a bit of a tete a tete with "her" Lee. This was interrupted rather rudely, as a lurking gunman sprang from hiding and attacked the pair. At the same time, a sniper by the name of The Big Game Hunter also entered the fray, letting off a shot from a nearby rooftop. Things looked exceedingly dire... And with issue #4, we see the tragic aftermath of these events. The Big Game Hunter is actually an ally of Lee, (providing lone overwatch on the meeting), and his shot was meant for the hidden assassin. Although the Hunter never misses his quarry, his shot came seconds too late. Lee is mortally wounded by the gunsel, and dies in Mitzi's arms... Mitzi finally realizes that she had feelings for Lee, at the exact moment he is snatched away from her. Shattered by the event, she tries to make sense of it all. At the funeral, she is approached by one of Lee's dopplegangers (Lee is a supe, and his power is to split into various unique versions of himself, all who represent facets of the original Lee's personality), who wants to continue her training (can we all collectively say, "TOO SOON!"). Tactfully (in my opinion), Mitzi doesn't knock him arse over tea kettle, and she allows this "other" Lee to take her to a local bar. Although he tries to explain the plan, Mitzi's emotional state (helped along by a liberal sampling of the bar's libations) leads her to throw his explanations back into his teeth... Until he presents her with an offer she can't refuse (or can she?)... And let us not forget the actual villains of the piece. What kind of dastardly (Yes, I used dastardly in a sentence. I'm weird like that.) plan have they been plotting up? Carnage and mayhem, most likely. But you'd have to ask them, I'm just a humble reader...

What can I say about the latest issue of Bullet Gal? If anyone's been reading my prior posts on the series, you already know that I'm a huge fan. The story just keeps getting more intriguing as it goes along. Mitzi's been through some really tough times before, and things seem to be getting worse. She still manages to make it through, and doesn't let events cripple her emotionally, something I deeply admire about the character. Life keeps throwing obstacles at her, and she keeps overcoming them, and is a stronger person because of her experiences. I have to admit, Mitzi is the type of character I always root for, and Andrez renders her trials and triumphs beautifully (Both in the comic, and elsewhere. Start reading the man's novels, and you'll have a whole new outlook on the comic. Just saying...). The plot, to this point (and beyond), has enough mystery to attract an entire neighborhood of curious cats (here's hoping they have their entire set of nine lives, else they might be done in), and Andrez keeps adding more fuel to the fire. His writing is mighty, and the art is at the same level, perfectly complimenting the story, and illuminating the events in Mitzi's world. In these days of cookie cutter releases, that are shoehorned into an easily recognizable genre (for marketing purposes), Bullet Gal, and Andrez's work in general, fly in the face of the norm. At first glance, you can lump this into the noir/thriller genre. Once you get to the meat of things, and truly delve into the story, it's not so easily defined. This is a highly intricate story, told by a creator who cares about his creation, and takes the time and effort to draw you into Mitzi's world. A gem like this is an example of why I find myself, more and more, relying on independent publishers for my comic book fix. While there are any number of duds out there (which is true for all of comics), Bullet Gal isn't one of them. There are any number of great stories that exist outside of the major publishers, and you can find them, as long as you take the time to look around. Mitzi's journey is definitely on this list, and I'm extremely happy that I'm along for the ride...

Here's the link for the IF? COMMIX site. Here's Andrez's blog. Finally, here's Andrez's Amazon page. Take a look around, say hello, and check out his non-comic book work. The man is mighty... Go out and read something different today, or tomorrow, or at least SOON. Expand your horizons, and take a look at new things. With that, I'll sign off, and wish all of you happy reading!

The beautiful Brigit, at her psychotic best. Mitzi's in for a bit of a rough go... Interior art by Andrez.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

My review of TALES TO ADMONISH Issue #3, by Andrez Bergen and Matt Kyme. Love it!

Striking cover art by Andrez Bergen.
Tales To Admonish #3 arrived in my inbox late last night, courtesy of the rather awesome Andrez Bergen. I wasted no time messing about, and read through it at speed. I have to say that I was quite impressed with the two stories included in issue #3. With beautiful cover art by Andrez, story by same, and interior art by ace illustrator Matt Kyme, what's not to love? Another great release from IF? COMMIX, you'll be able to get your hands on this release in August 2014. Well, let's get to the review...

Issue #3 opens with Hell's Angel, featuring WWI flying ace "Wilks" Wilkinson. Searching the skies above the North Sea for an enemy zeppelin, Wilks makes his first mistake of the war, compounded almost immediately by his second. What mistakes, you might ask? Well, I'll tell you. Our intrepid flying ace makes the mistake of shooting the goddess Britannia, straight between the eyes with his Vickers machine gun. Not entirely his fault, of course, because why, exactly, should he be expecting a goddess to pop out of the clouds? None the less, that was his first mistake, and his day goes downhill from there. The second error comes as he's distracted by the first. Looking intently around for any hint of the perforated deity, Wilks doesn't happen to notice the very zeppelin he has been searching for, dead ahead... And he, of course, flies his Sopwith Pup straight into the side of the enemy dirigible (or, in his own words "I'd buggered a bloody zeppelin."). Unfortunately, he's now stuck, unable to go anywhere, and the zeppelin is starting to lose altitude. The German soldiers on board are quite miffed with Wilks, and are giving vent to their frustration by taking potshots at the pilot. To add to his problems, there is a very annoyed goddess hanging off the landing gear of his plane, and she happens to have quite a few choice words for Wilks. Evidently, deities don't take too kindly to being shot at by the machine guns of British fly-boys. Really, can you blame her? I'm sure that Wilks didn't imagine being in this situation when he signed up to fly for the RFC. However, I'm sure our dashing hero will find a way to muddle through the pickle that he's in..

Interior art of "Wilks" Wilkinson by Matt Kyme. Looks like he's having a bad day.

The second entry is a Roy and Suzie short (Yay!), called Hock, Flock, and Two Choking Carols. Our two intrepid investigators of the highly strange come across a partially disintegrated corpse (which also happens to be their client), and a strange piece of technology left near the body. Suzie, logical as always (except when she's not...), deduces that the tech is a disintegration ray, and of alien origin. The always sarcastic Roy is more worried about the state their client is in, and the fact that he's in no shape to pay them. Cue rather hilarious verbal infighting between the two partners. The two are excellent examples of the odd couple type. Can't get along, but can't operate without each other. Short, but sweet. Don't stop reading there, but continue on to editor-in-chief Syl's diatribe of the worst comic book villain... EVER! I'll not give away the identity of this most lowly of villains, but Syl compares the VIQ (villain in question) to Bennett from the Schwarzenegger action vehicle, Commando. A greatly humorous piece, and well worth reading.

Alternative cover art by Andrez Bergen. Very nice!

Well, now we get to the part where I tell you what I think about this issue of Tales To Admonish, and exhort you to go out and buy it. There you go, now you don't have to read any further, just buy the release... Sorry, all, but I'm feeling a bit whimsical after reading this issue. The humor had me laughing at the top of my lungs in many instances, and I haven't quite recovered. Hell's Angel is a visual adaptation of one of my favorite stories from Andrez's The Condimental Op (originally titled Victor Victoria, and if you haven't read it, here's a link to my review), which I've been waiting for with bated breath. The absurdity of Wilks' situation is to die for, and the way he takes things in stride, just adds to the fun. A definite love note to the Biggles series by Captain W. E. Johns (here's the bio for the series, if you haven't heard of it, and here's Captain Johns bio) there's action and humor left to spare with this story. Andrez's writing is top notch, and the visuals by Matt are, as usual, outstanding. The expressions on the characters face are especially priceless. Salutations to Andrez for dreaming up this entertaining story, and to Matt for rendering the art with his usual flare. What to say about the Roy and Suzie entry? Although short, this has oodles of humor, as well. I'm a big fan of the duo, in general, and this is another fun entry featuring my favorite odd couple. Roy's the "seen it all, and got a t-shirt" type, who's exceedingly confident in the field, and prone to discount his partner, because of her lack of experience. Suzie is the info geek of the two, and meanders between logic and whimsy, depending on the time of day. Both moods seem to grate on Roy's nerves, but deep down, he knows he can't get by without her. The two are absolute peas in a pod, although I'm not sure they're aware of the fact. Despite grating on each other's nerves, they both are more formidable as a whole. The story is short, but contains everything needed to be enjoyable. Matt's art depicts the dynamic of the partnership perfectly, and, once again, the expressions on the duo's faces are delightful. Finally, I want to talk about the extras included in the release, other than the two stories. The intro was very humorous, and the end editorial by Syl had me laughing out loud. The letters section is also recommended, if you want a laugh. The creators at IF? COMMIX are doing there best to give you a total comic experience, with all their releases, and I, for one, totally appreciate their efforts. Despite being a unique journey, the stories told contain the spirit of older releases, and are reminiscent of the titles I used to enjoy as a wee lad. Why don't you take a look at their work, and give these underground maestros your support? As far as myself, this comes with my highest recommendations, and I urge you to take a look at these quality stories. And hopefully, Andrez will do a graphic adaptation of A Woman of Some Sense soon, which is another favorite from The Condimental Op. Had to get that in there! Ta!

Interior art by Matt Kyme. Love Wilks' various expressions. It's not everyday that you accidentally take a potshot at a goddess, I suppose...

Here's the IF COMMIX site. Here's Andrez's blog. Finally, here's the Tales to Admonish FB page, enjoy. Swing by, and take a look around. There's a lot of great stories for you to discover... I'll sign off with that, happy reading, all! 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

My review of GHOST HEART, by Weston Ochse and Yvonne Navarro. An excellent entry in the YA genre, I really enjoyed this modern fantasy tale.

Striking cover art by Vincent Chong
There's a number of really good authors working in the YA (Young Adult) genre, and some great stories being told. Of course, YA is a rather sweeping tag, that encompasses a great number of different types of story; thriller, mystery, adventure, sci-fi, and others. The best stories share an ability to transcend the YA label, and have a universal appeal, easily enjoyed by both adults and younger readers. In my mind, Ghost Heart, by the husband and wife team of Weston Ochse and Yvonne Navarro, is one of those stories. Available from Dark Regions Press, this 167 page modern fantasy release was enjoyable from beginning to end, and I had a great deal of fun reading it. The story is extremely engaging, and once started, I had a hard time putting it down. This is my first encounter with both Weston and Yvonne's writing, but after reading such a high quality story, I'll be seeking out more entries from both authors. Here's a synopsis of this modern day fairy tale, and then I'll give you my thoughts on what I enjoyed about the release....

Matt Cady seems like a perfectly normal young man, at first glance. He lives in Rapid City, at the foot of the Black Hills mountain range, where things have always seemed exceedingly simple. He likes playing Cowboys and Indians with his dog Kubla (short for Kubla Khan, natch). He has two imaginary friends named Jacket and Raisin, and he loves his best friend Regina Running Deer, who's a bit older than him. And he, of definitely loves his Mother and Father most of all. Look a little closer, however, and you'll get a bit of a surprise. Jacket and Raisin (short for Raisin Cain, which had me smiling when I read the name) aren't imaginary at all, they're Guardian Spirits, invisible to all but their wards, and to other supernatural creatures. Jacket is still hale and hearty, but Raisin is getting a bit fuzzy around the edges. You see, Guardian Spirits only last as long as their ward believes in them, and Regina is Raisin's ward. Now that she is getting older, she has cast aside what she views as childish beliefs, and unfortunately for Raisin, he's one of those beliefs. Which is why he is slowly fading into away... Matt's belief in the old biker called Jacket is still strong, and thus Jacket is still strongly tied to the world, and Matt. He's quite unhappy to see his old friend Raisin fading, and knows that, inevitably, he will share the same fate in the near future. One of the main things that has led Regina to cast off her childhood memories is her parents recent divorce. Her father is moving away and she feels that he has forgotten about her, and moved on with his new life. Matt's parents have recently separated, and he is deathly afraid that the same thing will happen with his family. So when Regina decides to run away on her old army bike, Matt hatches a desperate plan. If he disappears with her, surely his mom and dad will join together in searching for him, and everything will go back to normal. Forcing his way into the adventure over Regina and Jacket's protests (by threatening to tell on Regina), they set off towards Sturgis, where Regina means to join up with her cousin, and travel the States, with her rock star cousin. After reaching their destination, the true adventure really begins. There are beings out in the world of the Black Hills that Matt has no inkling of, that he will soon encounter... such as trolls, witches, spirits, and something that is darker and more murderous than them all. Will Matt's plan succeed? Which of the group will make it to the end of the line? You'll have to read the story, as I'm keeping mum on the subject...

I have a great love of good fiction, regardless of genre, whether it's marketed towards younger readers or adults. Ghost Heart falls squarely into this category, and I'm giving you notice that this is a story that transcends into the realm of myth. It's the type of tale that people like you and me have been sharing since the beginning of time, through our artwork, through the oral tradition, and through the written word. This is a classic take on both the coming of age tale, and the hero's journey. Anyone that feels a little leery about picking this up, since you're an adult, and this has a YA label on it, stop. Really, please stop... There are a great many outstanding works waiting for you in this genre, if you can get past the label, and this is definitely one of them. Weston and Yvonne have really created something that will draw you in, and totally satisfy, if you just take that step, and start READING! They take a classic type of story, add their own personality and unique viewpoint to it, and you're left with a story that you'll come away from with a huge grin on your face... and possibly a tear or two. The story effortlessly carries you along the trail, and before you know it, you're done, and wondering where the time has gone... And wanting MORE. The writing flows along like a river, the characters are engaging, and the adventure itself is absolutely mighty... What more do you want? This comes with my highest recommendations, and anyone who loves a well told tale should seek this out, and get to reading. Enjoy the journey!

Here's the Dark Regions site. Here's the Amazon page for Ghost Heart. Here's Weston's site. Here's Yvonne's blog. Get out there, start exploring, and read something new! If you like a story, let the authors know, leave a review, and promote reading in general. With that, I'll sign off... Happy reading, all!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Here's my review of BULLET GAL Issue #3 by Andrez Bergen. This new comic series just keeps getting better and better.

striking interior art by Andrez Bergen
I was happily surprised (once again) to find Bullet Gal Issue #3 by Andrez Bergen in my inbox the other day. This won't be out until October, but, heck, Andrez might have the entire series finished by then. I am, of course, joking, but I'm not too far from the truth. I'm not sure when Andrez finds the time to sleep, but my friend seems to be an absolute machine. Anyways, enough rambling, I'm going to jump straight into my review. In this issue our heroine Mitzi (the woman who will soon be known as Bullet Gal), has turned the tables on her mysterious benefactor, Lee. Put off by his endless games, she's decided to do a bit of snooping of her own. After following Lee, and spying on a clandestine meeting, she makes a shocking discovery... one which she is not sure how to handle. Meanwhile, the criminal element of Heropa aren't wasting any time tracking Mitzi down. While Mitzi is engaging in her bit of cloak and dagger, there is already a 3 man (more accurately, 1 very deadly woman, and two thugs) team that has eyes on her. Plus, a couple of very nasty looking guns. Things look like they're coming to a head, and the only question is, who's more dangerous? Mitzi's apparent friend, Lee, or the hit-team that are dogging her steps?

a couple of hitmen with a nasty looking gun interior art by Andrez
What can I say about this release? The writing is spot-on, as usual. Andrez is building the story to greater heights with each issue. He's steadily adding new elements as he goes, and I'm holding my breath, wondering when the balloon will pop. This issue is basically a bridge entry, very much about drawing the plot threads together, from previous issues. I'm waiting for the climax, and I have to admit that Andrez has me on the edge of my seat, wondering what the endgame (for this series) is. As a bit of a side note, I haven't mentioned in my other reviews of this series (simply because I hate spoiling the joy of discovery for a new reader), but most of his works tie together, in one way or another. Many of these characters are already familiar to me, and I love that more and more of the details are getting filled in. Will this get in the way of a new reader enjoying this comic series? In my opinion, HECK NO! I began reading Andrez's works with his (at the time) newest novel, and then worked backwards. This series is easily enjoyable in its own right, but you should pick up his other works, in my opinion. You'll get a much wider perspective on things. As far as the art goes, are you seeing these images? He just keeps getting better and better. The noir images Andrez creates are totally suited to the story that is being told. They are beautiful, stark, and striking in equal measures. The process of creating in this medium is rather painstaking, as well, so it is appreciated by myself all the more. To sum up, if you want to read a unique comic series, something outside of the type of thing you get from the DC's and Marvel's of the world... something well written, with beautiful art, and from the very soul of the creator... this is the release for you! Arigato, Andrez.

the streets of Heropa interior art by Andrez Bergen

Here's Andrez Bergen's blog. Here's the Bullet Gal FB page. Here's the IF? Commix page. Lastly, here's Andrez's Amazon author page. I really hope you take a look around, you won't be disappointed. This author is a very unique voice, and I hope you'll take the time to look at his works. I'll sign off, now... And as usual, happy reading, all!

Here's my review of Derrick Ferguson's YOUNG DILLON IN THE HALLS OF SHAMBALLAH. A really great adventure.

I'll start out by saying that I absolutely love the character Dillon, and the adventure stories that he stars in. Derrick Ferguson has skillfully created a detailed mythology surrounding the character, and I have yet to be disappointed by any of his exploits. This holds true for Young Dillon in the Halls of Shamballah, a 100 page novella published by Pro Se Press and PulpWork Press. Although this is marketed under Pro Se's Young Pulp imprint (and it really is a good starting point for younger readers interested in the character, and the genre), don't let that stop all you adults from picking it up. I'm 38 years old and I thoroughly enjoyed this release. It's the type of story that has an appeal for all ages. I'll eagerly be awaiting any future Young Dillon entries. Along with The Vril Agenda (if you want to read my review of that story, here's the link), Young Dillon expands on the history of the character, chronicling events that have only been alluded to in other stories. Personally, I've been wanting a release such as this one since I began reading the Dillon series. If you've been wondering about the mysterious events of Dillon's past, this is what you should be reading. Well, let's get to my review...

The paths that lead to fabled Shamballah are shadowy and hidden. Only the most dedicated of seekers find their way to the legendary realm. Once found, the traveler is advised to stay in his new home. The land of Shamballah inexplicably shifts from location to location, you see. Therefore the paths leading to it are never the same. None that have left its confines have ever found their way back. Sentry outposts are still maintained at the gates into Shamballah, however; both to greet new seekers, and to give warning, should something evil ever find the path and try to force its way in. The occupants of the Second Outpost are about to witness something unprecedented. Namely, a former resident of Shamballah finding her way back to the land. She brings her son with her, seeking refuge. The woman is Dillon's mother Pamela, and the boy, of course, is a 12 year old Dillon. Heroically staying behind to hold off their pursuers, Dillon's mother is ultimately overcome by her adversaries. Dillon makes it to the other side of the gate, and promptly collapses. Awakening in the care of The Warmasters, Dillon is surprised to find that his mother not only was a resident of Shamballah, but a prominent Warmaster... possibly the greatest of all of them. He is also faced with a choice. Stay in this strange new land, or make his way back to the world he knows, and the enemies that have slaughtered his family. The story that follows is one of discovery, from which a new hero will ultimately be forged. Dillon must discern between those who are his true friends, and those who are merely using him as a pawn in their games. The Warmasters only wish to help, or do they? You'll have to read the book to find out, I'm not telling...

As I said above, this is a story that I've been waiting for Derrick to write ever since I had a couple of Dillon's adventures under my belt. This is not the usual Dillon story, but an origin story about how he started down the path that made him into the hero that he is today. While still having more than enough action to satisfy, the biggest enjoyment I had was from watching Dillon react, and then adapt to the strange new people and customs of this mysterious land... and, of course, meeting The Warmasters of Liguria that have been mentioned so many times. This young man certainly shows flashes of the hero I've come to know and love, and the character grows throughout the tale. Scaling things down to a more inward looking story might be a problem for some, but Derrick handles the task brilliantly. His visual and highly descriptive style of writing is still in top form, and as I read this story, it was like I was actually in Shamballah, sharing this adventure. Authors who can so totally immerse a reader in their world are rare, and should be sought out and treasured. Young Dillon is an excellent starting point for new readers interested in the Dillon series, since you get to see him in his formative years, before he became a legend. For returning fans, it's mandatory (in my opinion), for the simple reason that we get many of the questions answered that we've been wondering about over the years. I really need to work my way back through the older stories, and examine them in a new light. In my opinion, this is another top notch entry in a excellent series, and I really can't recommend it enough! Go out and pick this up, dive in and enjoy the adventure!

Here's Derrick's blog.  Here's the Amazon product page. You can find Pro Se Productions here.  Here's the PulpWork Press site. Go out and pick up the book, and take a look around on the publisher's pages. I'm sure you'll find some really good stories there. With that, I'll sign off... Happy reading, all!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

My review of THE VRIL AGENDA, by Derrick Ferguson and Joshua Reynolds. A really entertaining adventure...

Derrick Ferguson's character Dillon is an absolute favorite of mine. Taking inspiration from both old pulp characters, and from more modern action heroes that at one time ruled the cinema, Derrick has come up with a highly unique hero. It also helps that the man can write his butt off. He knows when to fill in the blanks, when to tease you with a cool concept, and when to remain silent on a particular subject. In essence, he knows how to build a detailed world for his characters to exist in... and his highly enjoyable and visual writing style always brings you back for more. Dillon is a character who always has the knowledge and skills to carry him through, no matter what mission he happens to be on. But where did he gain this type of training? There has been a number of mysteries surrounding Dillon, especially regarding his younger years, which I've been hoping Derrick would eventually get around to filling in... and then one day I happened to check Amazon, and found out that The Vril Agenda had been released! Co-authored with Joshua Reynolds, this release tells a tale of Dillon's early days, and of one of his mentors. It's my first experience with the character of Jim Anthony: Super Detective, and I have to say that Joshua writes the character in an extremely effective and entertaining manner. An older pulp character that shares some similarities with Doc Savage, Jim Anthony is revamped in fine form by Joshua. A master of all things martial, an inventor, and a renowned murderist, Jim is living in semi-retirement now, despite keeping his hand in the game. Just the type of man a younger Dillon would want to be trained by... and that's exactly what takes place in this 238 page adventure, published by Airship 27 Productions/Pulp Work Press.

It's been two years since Dillon left the fabled land of Shamballah, and returned to our reality. He has traveled across the world, and finally arrived at his destination. Which is the New York chapter of the Baltimore Gun Club, where he hopes to encounter Jim Anthony, and convince the Super Detective to train him. Dillon's family has enemies, enemies that slaughtered his mother and father... and Dillon wants to pay them back in kind. His seven years of training under The Warmasters of Liguria has partially prepared him, but he knows that he needs to learn much more, in order to survive his quest. Dillon lays out his story to Jim Anthony, who (much to Dillon's disappointment) does not immediately agree to train him, but does agree to think on the matter, as he gets to know the young man better. Unfortunately Jim also has a number of enemies that are still active, and after a number of violent assaults on the two men, they are left wondering who exactly is trying to kill them. The adventure that follows will be an examination of both men's past, will drive them apart and pull them back together, and in the end they will stand united, facing an evil that plans to reshape the very fabric of reality...

In my opinion, The Vril Agenda is a perfect example of New Pulp done right. In fact, it's just a really great story, regardless of genre. An excellent team up between a modern hero, and a hero from the past, that takes place across the years. The writing from both authors is absolutely top-notch, the characters compelling, the story action-packed. The story flows along seamlessly, and once I started reading, I didn't want to put it down. The time and thought that go into fleshing out both men's history is greatly appreciated. Derrick and Joshua give you enough to satisfy, but hold back enough to preserve the aura of mystery surrounding the two characters. Dillon and Jim Anthony are consummate heroes; willing to sacrifice everything for the greater good, even themselves. The villains aren't one dimensional in any way, they are given their own motivations, which (in their own mind) justifies their actions. They think of themselves as heroes, who are working towards a better reality that will benefit humanity. This makes the villains themselves much more interesting. The settings are imaginative, and well rendered. Basically, this is an outstanding release. I'm not sure what more I can say, other than go out and grab a copy, and get reading! You won't be disappointed.

Here's the Airship 27 site. You can find any number of great stories there. The same goes for the PulpWork Press site. Lots of good stories to be had. Here's the product page on Amazon. Finally, here's Derrick's blog, and here's Joshua's blog. Why don't you swing by and have a look around?

I have two last things to get to, before I go. First off, a very hearty THANK YOU to Lucas Garrett, a long time supporter of Derrick Ferguson, Dillon, and good stories in general. It was his detailed and enthusiastic review of The Vril Agenda that spurred me to drop what I was doing, and start reading this release. Thanks, Lucas! Finally, I'd like to thank Ron Fortier, who will be hosting this review on his blog, Pulp Fiction Reviews, as a guest post. A wonderful, accomplished writer in his own right, he's the man behind Airship 27 Productions. Thanks, Ron! As always, happy reading, all!