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!