REVIEW DAY TUESDAY: Hope #1

Source: sourcepointpress.com

During 3 Rivers Comicon this year, I came across this issue of Hope, the newest comic series from Source Point Press and Dirk Manning, with K. Lynn Smith doing the art. Like, all the art. This comic is fully illustrated AND lettered by Smith. Holy banana pants.

Now, to my knowledge, this is the first superhero title by Source Point Press. Which is intriguing, because Source Point usually does horror. This is certainly Dirk Manning’s first superhero story. I know his name from a variety of horror comics across the years.

K. Lynn Smith is another name I know, from the webcomic Plume, which had a KickStarter to get the entire series in print. I really dig her art style, so I was intrigued to see where this series would go.

Right off the bat, I can say this: the story is (to me) not subtle about its coding. But let me explain the story before I go further.

Issue 1 follows a young woman as she’s in the car with her young daughter and her husband. They’re all listening to a radio segment about “unregistered Ultras” (Ultras being the name of super-powered humans in this universe). This leads the daughter to say she thinks that Ultras are cool, but this leads the husband to rail on about how dangerous Ultras are, using language like “We’ll be better off when – not if – they’re all either detained or depowered, or destroyed.”

Immigration. This comic is about immigration.

(RIP, comments section)

The first twist (and I feel comfortable writing this, because it’s revealed in the first 5 pages of this 20+ page book) is that the woman in the car is Hope, an unregistered Ultra. And the car accident that happens not only reveals her superpowers because she saves her daughter – it also knocks her husband into a coma. How convenient.

What follows is commentary about superheroes and how bystanders will just default to “you’re the superhero. Why should I call 911? You’re here.” There’s also a commentary about how Ultras are treated in this universe: they’re respected AND feared for their inherent abilities.

Now, some critics might say the immigration coding doesn’t work in this comic because of this notion that immigrants are helpless victims. It doesn’t really help much that our current media blitz talks about how immigrants at our borders are being tear-gassed and how mothers are having their newborn babies ripped out of their arms by the police.

What’s missing in the immigration conversation (I think) are the immigrants who are a part of the community as a whole: there are a whole bunch of immigrants who are doctors, crisis responders, military members, and yes, e-squad personel. And I think Hope, at least so far, is trying to approach the conversation from this angle; that immigrants/Ultras are powerful in their own right, but they’re here with the intent to help, not harm.

However, I have not read issue 2, so perhaps the coding could fall apart. It’s also possible I’m reading coding into this story that isn’t there. That’s all still to be determined. I’m intrigued to see where this series will go.

It also helps that the art for this series is very emotive. I’m REALLY glad the characters have such great body language and facial expressions, because it keeps my attention away from the fact that the backgrounds are very bare. Especially in the last handful of pages of this book, the backgrounds are sparse, if they’re drawn at all.

Most of the artistic focus is on the characters. It’s not bad – there’s enough background detail to denote setting and when set pieces have changed. But I would appreciate a little more detail. That hospital in the final few pages looks like an underground base more than it does a hospital.

Have you read Hope #1? What did you think? Let me know in the comments. And yes, I moderate the comments. So if you want to post a novel-length diatribe about immigration in the United States, do that on your own damn blog.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

REVIEW DAY TUESDAY: Automa

Charles Forsman’s Automa is a rare find. One I only got because of my friend Suzanna Anderson, editor of The Magnolia Press. She sent me issues 1 through 6 in a care package along with Stoner Knight 2 (which I already did a review for. Go watch it).

Automa was a nice change after Actionthology left me wanting more. But what’s Automa about?

Well, it’s the story of an underground boxer. He’s very good at what he does – in fact, it seems to be his main gig, alongside breaking into safes retrieved in robberies. The thing is: now he’s the caretaker of his nephew since his sister passed away. So now he has to take care of his kid he barely knows because he and his sister never got along well.

The emotional unease is palpable in this comic. Not just because the artwork is black on yellow rather than black on white, but because Charles (the creator) takes his time to draw out the emotional tension. And he does so with silent panels, uneasy body language, and characters not making eye contact.

The choice to have this indie comic printed as black on yellow, rather than black on white (which is standard) makes this comic stand out. I also think the yellow is deliberate here: psychologically, yellow is associated with uneasiness and conflict. Both of these themes are present throughout the story of issue 1.

Really, the only complaint I have is the cliffhanger ending. HOW DARE YOU TEASE ME LIKE THAT.

You can get this comic at Local Heroes, a comic shop in Norfolk, VA. And you can support the creator, Charles Forsman, on Patreon.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

REVIEW DAY TUESDAY: Actionthology!

Ho boy, this is one of the first comic reviews I’ve done for a while that won’t be a glowing endorsement of the book. Bear with me.

So, I got this book at Herdon this year, back in March, thanks to a trade: I traded a copy of my book, Charlie & Clow, for this. Of the selection the editor had at the table, this was the thing that caught my eye that was within the sales price range set in the trade. I originally had my sights on one of the thicker books at the dude’s table, but I only got this one.

And…well, it’s not as disappointing as another book I covered in an old video…but it’s close.

I hesitate to call this a “bad” book. But let’s get into what this book even is.

Actionthology is an anthology of action stories, or stories that involve the theme of action to them. The stories in this anthology include:

  • The Butcher & The Hound
  • Death Mask (Or as I like to call it, “The Most Boring and Obvious Short Story I’ve Read Thus Far In My Career Good God the Melodrama”)
  • Barry Baxton: Man of Action!
  • The Akron Knight (perhaps the most frustrating short in this book to me), and
  • 30:00

I would break them down story by story, but I make an effort to keep these reviews to one page or less. So here’s the keys you ought to know:

Death Mask is the most skippable short story I’ve ever read thus far. It’s uninteresting and uninterested in its main character. The art is crude and the pacing is melodramatic and predictable if you’re familiar with B-movie curses.

Barry Baxton: Man of Action! Has great use of onomatopoeia, but if you’re familiar with superhero parodies, it’s nothing must-see.

The Butcher & The Hound feels unfinished and it’s frustrating.

The Akron Knight is a sample of a much larger webcomic, making this MORE frustrating than The Butcher & The Hound. Also there’s stereotypical Islamic extremists. I’m personally getting tired of this trope.

Really, the only story I “liked” was 30:00, and even then it has big air quotes around it. I saw the twist of the story coming, though it didn’t stop me from enjoying it. Still, glad to see the trope at play – and also see that the main character is a woman in this short.

The art in all of these stories fluctuates between amateurish and flat as fuck. Arguably, The Butcher & The Hound has the BEST art in the book, and even then the posing of the action is stiff. Like, watching action figures pose off against each other. Even my favorite short of the anthology, 30:00, has overworked shadows and the line work is so busy you can’t hardly see what’s going on. The Akron Knight uses gray watercolor washes but doesn’t seem to know to let the black inks dry FIRST before applying them.

Approach this book with caution, y’all. There’s neat ideas at the core of SOME of these short stories, but you have to dig to get to them.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

REVIEW DAY TUESDAY: Otto the Odd and the Dragon King

I bought this book directly from the artist at Swarm Con many years ago, read it, loved it, and shelved it. So I thought I would bring it off the shelf for this review.

Otto the Odd and the Dragon King is a short comic written by George Herman and illustrated by Kit Seaton. Kit was an instructor at the Savannah College of Art and Design at the time (I don’t know if she still is or not), and I got this book and one of her prints. She’s one cool lady, I gotta say.

The story is about a prince. A very, very messy prince. One of the reasons he’s so odd is because he only bathes once a week at most. When he’s forced to bathe, he runs out of the palace and retreats to a cave far outside of town, where the dragon king, Sparky, lives.

The problem? A knight comes into town one day and makes the king sign a lengthy contract, agreeing that the knight shall kill any dragon in the kingdom. Which is a problem, because Otto doesn’t want his best friend dead.

So Sparky and Otto have to come up with a plan and get the town council on their side in order to keep Sparky safe.

I think it’s clear by now that, as far as reviewing comics goes, I’m a sucker for all-ages fantasy stories. They are my jam and I am the peanut butter. So, of course, I really dig this book. I could nitpick about one or two grammatical errors I spotted, but you’re just going to get those with small-press, self-published books.

What makes this book worth seeking out is the sense of humor of the whole thing: there’s an ongoing joke about how Otto smells like sauerkraut, followed up with, “What? I like the smell of sauerkraut.” There’s character-based humor, especially with the town council. The entirety of the conflict between the knight and literally everyone else is overly silly in a British humor sort of way, especially with the use of contracts. This book will make you giggle, I’m sure of it.

And the art? Well, the format does shift a bit towards the end. It starts with heavy, paint-like colors and comic book panels. Then it ends with border-less panels and stronger lines. I felt the transition wasn’t nearly as jarring as some reviewers make it out to be, considering that the entire story reads like a fairy tale. The narrative is consistent, and that helps.

In short, if you’re up for a silly, all-ages British comedy, I recommend Otto the Odd and the Dragon King. Believe it or not, the entire thing can be read over at Kit Seaton’s portfolio page. (I assume the story is available this way because the book may be out of print.)

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

REVIEW DAY TUESDAY: Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant

This book will likely be as “mainstream” as I get here on Indie Comics Hub, because the publisher of Delilah Dirk – First Second – is readily accessible. They have books in major bookstores as well as public libraries. So Delilah Dirk should NOT be hard for you to find and get.

With that said, you should really get a chance to read this beauty at least once in your life.

I first read this book back in 2016. I found it, weirdly enough, at the airport bookstore on my way to Albuquerque, NM for an artist retreat/vacation. When I saw that Tony Cliff did both the writing and the art, I knew the name was ringing a bell. It took a little while for me to remember, “Oh, right! Tony Cliff was one of the regular contributors to the Flight comics anthologies!”

Since he already made one of my favorite short stories ever, “Old Oak Trees,” I was 110% willing to read Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant.

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is the story of Selim, a lieutenant in the Ottoman Empire who’s not too keen on his position. But it’s a mundane life until Delilah Dirk, adventurer extraordinaire, breaks into the palace and proceeds to wreck the place. Due to misunderstandings and a lot of shenanigans, Selim gets caught up in Delilah’s adventures, and the two set off into the world to plunder treasure, explore the Turkish countryside, and discover what friendship looks like out on the road.

First of all, kudos to Tony Cliff for the research done for this book. You can tell there was a LOT done, because the details of the period and the location are lovingly rendered. It’s wonderful to look at. Plus all the Turkish characters greet each other with an actual Arabic greeting, “Selam-un Aleykum.” I love that little detail.

Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for road trip stories (which I am), but the locations and set pieces are gorgeous to look at. I remember it took me a long dang time to read this book the first time through because I would just stare at the environments in awe.

The characters Delilah and Selim are charming as heck. Of course, it’s the traditional “hot-head adventurer and the grounded, sensible companion” dynamic. But it’s charming to see these characters and read their banter. The detail of Selim being obsessed with tea is a nice touch. The interest in tea doesn’t play out in major ways in the narrative, but it’s a detail that perfectly encapsulates Selim: a gentle man with a taste for the calm and refined.

Reading this book is like a cup of tea – warm and comforting. It’s a simple adventure story with charming characters. What more could you ask for?

Again, I highly recommend you read this book. It should be easy to get nowadays, and in fact, it has a sequel! I’ll be getting my hands on that soon.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

Featured Artist Friday: Cherry Blood Knight

Last year I met Cherry Blood Knight at the ill-fated Put-In-Play (which I made a video about). And lo and behold, the two of us were table neighbors at RathaCon this year! I asked if they would like to be highlighted today, and they said yes.

Let’s get right into the interview!

I see there’s lots of fan art in your portfolio, including in your stickers. Are there certain properties you won’t make art for, even if someone asked you to? And why?

Honestly, I’m pretty open to making art for any series, especially for my stickers and sticker commissions. I really, really enjoy making stickers of other people’s OCs though, especially Dungeons and Dragons characters (even though I’ve only done a couple so far).

What properties have you not made any art for yet, that you want to celebrate?

I have a whole list of prints and stickers that I’d eventually like to make, and I’m slowly working my way though it. The big ones that come to mind are the new She-Ra reboot, and even though technically have a Kingdom Hearts print already, I love the series so much that I really want to make more. And while it’s not exactly a property, I want to eventually make a series of prints of my own D&D characters.

Your original works have a surreal quality to them (especially your piece, “Arms”). What were the prompts that made you draw these pieces?

I’ve always been a big horror fan, and despite how cutesy a lot of my stuff ends up being I’m always in a state of wanting to draw creepy surreal stuff. One of my absolute favorite artists is Junji Ito, the manga artist behind Uzumaki and Tomie (among others), but I’m nowhere near his level of skill with linework so I just take inspiration from his concepts. I’m also a big fan of lovecraftian and cosmic horror, and surrealism is usually just an inherent part of that.

Stickers and prints are what I know you for. Are there plans to branch out into other products?

I’d love to get into making enamel pins and acrylic charms somewhere down the road. Eventually I’d also love to make some sketch books/fanzine type stuff.

Any plans for making comics, animated pieces, or other works?

There are several things, actually! I never know when to stop adding things to my plate, lol. I have a webcomic that’s been in the works for about 5 years now, and I’d like to buckle down and start publishing it before the end of 2019. I haven’t posted much of anything for it yet, but it’s working title is SubterFugue (a blend of the words subterfuge and fugue, as in “fugue state”) and I’m super excited to get it out there. I’m also working on a game called ShipMates: Marooned, a super queer dating simulator starting a non-binary main character. We put out the demo as part of a game jam last year, and while it’s been pushed to the back burner because our team shrunk quite a bit, I’d like to have it finished by the end of 2020.

You do cosplays, as well. Does cosplay influence your art? Or does your art influence your cosplay? Or are the two entirely separate from each other?

I tend to end up drawing things I cosplay from and vice versa, just because when I get into something real deep I want to dedicate every creative bone in my body to it. Outside of influences though, I definitely think sewing and making costumes has helped me learn a lot about how to draw clothes. I’ve spent a lot of time staring at costumes from games/shows and yelling about how the seams don’t make any sense.

Where can we find your work?

You can find me on Instagram (@cherrybloodknight), where I usually post my art and cosplay, and Twitter (@CherryBloodK) where I mostly just yell about how much I love dungeons and dragons and occasionally cry about WIP projects. You can also check out my storenvy, where all of my prints and stickers are available for sale, at cbkdesigns.storenvy.com. And if by chance ShipMates sounds like something you’d like to check out, you can download the demo for free at beancatstudios.itch.io/shipmates.

REVIEW DAY TUESDAY: Little Guardians

Oh look – another comic I got years ago that I finally have the chance to review.

Little Guardians is a webcomic, but I got the first book version back when I attended SPACE. I can’t remember what year I got this book, but I got this before Scout Comics picked up Little Guardians for their line-up. I read through this first edition once or twice before, so I gave it a re-read recently, and now we can talk about it.

So first off – this is one of those rare indie comics that’s geared for young readers. Like, middle-school grade and upwards. Most indie comics tend towards an older audience. (Looking at you, send-ups to superheroes and horror comics). So it’s refreshing to see an indie comic that young readers can get into.

Lee Cherolis and Ed Cho did a great job working in the fantasy genre, especially since the writer, Lee, had not written fantasy before. When you read it, though, you can see some of the Japanese RPG inspiration he used to jump-start the process.

Little Guardians is the story of two children switched at birth. Why? Because the title of Guardian is passed from father to son. And the village doctor thought it would be disaster if the Guardian discovered he had a girl. So he and his assistant switched the girl-baby with the son of the local shopkeeper.

I thought there would be a lot more “you can’t do it because you’re a GIRL” in this story. But the only ones who perpetrate that are the shopkeeper and his eldest boy. In a twist, the story is more about nature vs. nurture: can someone become a guardian, even if they have no inherent tendency to do it well? Can someone overcome their upbringing to become stronger than they thought possible?

The book I got covers the prologue and the first chapter, and it sets up the plot and introduces the characters. The book also introduces a young woman who has the powers of a Guardian, but no village to protect. And she can see right away that the shopkeeper’s daughter was not meant to be in the item shop.

This book also features some sketches of the spirits the Guardians have to face. The spirits of this world are generally nasty and mean to do harm, like spawn villains in a video game.

Yep. This comic draws deep from the video game well in its writing tropes. But unlike Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Little Guardians makes sense with these rules. The video game aesthetics are not superimposed on the world like a magnet on a fridge – easily placed but easily removed. In Little Guardians, everything has a purpose.

Also, the characters can be charming and funny as heck. And you can tell this book started as a webcomic because the art improves page after page. It’s great to see.

If you’d like to read this comic, check out their website. The book is available through Scout Comics, as well, with brand new cover art. I recommend you get this for the young video game enthusiast in your life. It’s good!

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

To Be or Not To Be? With Arledge Comic’s New Shakespearean Anthology

“Kingdom is a testament to the incredible hard work done by the writers, artists, colorists, and letterers whose work fill its pages. Shakespeare inspired them, but they leapt beyond that and created masterpieces entirely their own.” — Jenn Arledge, Founder of Arledge Comics.

Arledge Comics returns with their third Kickstarter of 2019 — My Kingdom for a Panel: A Shakespearean Anthology.

After eleven successful Kickstarter campaigns, ranging from ComixCentral award-winning Alex Priest to their first graphic novel, The Great Witch Artemis, the indie comics publisher is preparing to kickstart their second anthology, My Kingdom for a Panel: A Shakespearean Anthology.

The anthology includes a total of 24 artists hailing from all over the world. Cover art for the anthology is by Michi Ermolenko (Lilies Anthology Vol: 4 and Vol: 7, Gays in Space: A Star Wars Anthology).

“Kingdom is a culmination of several things: my love of the Bard, my appreciation for comics as a storytelling medium, and my desire to collaborate with Jenn as often as I can. Whether it’s Romeo and Juliet in space or the assassination of Julius Caesar at a school BBQ, this anthology has something for everyone and holds true to Arledge Comics’ commitments to diversity and inclusivity.” — Natalie, Editor-In-Chief at Arledge Comics.

“This is the first anthology we’ve participated in, and while writing a shorter story was a challenge, we had a blast. We’re proud to have our work featured alongside other talented creators, and stoked to see the entire book come together.” — Bryce Beal and Scott Malin

In less than 24 hours of the Kickstarter being live, My Kingdom for a Panel: A Shakespearean Anthology has reached the Projects We Love page on Kickstarter.

The campaign runs from April 10th through June 10th. Arledge Comics hopes to raise $10,000 during the run of this campaign. Rewards include a softcover of the anthology, enamel pins, a sticker set and many more items. Stretch goals include bookmarks (which are now unlocked) and a gold foil cover once the Kickstarter reaches 100 pledges by the end of April.

Visit the Kickstarter to pledge!

REVIEW DAY TUESDAY: Sugar Town by Hazel Newlevant

Let me start this review by saying this book is deliciously refreshing.

I came across Sugar Town during Awesome Con weekend of 2018. My buddy Carlos and I went to Fantom Comics and I spotted this little beauty on the shelf. Of course, the cover and the review quotes on the back got my attention, so I had to get it.

This is the story of a lady named Hazel, who’s staying in Portland for a few days to visit family and celebrate her birthday. During her stay, she meets and crushes on Argent, a totally cool lady… and Hazel also stays in touch with her boyfriend, who’s back in New York City.

Yep. This is a book about polyamory.

Now let me make this point real fast: I am not polyamorous, but I can get the appeal of it. I have friends who are poly and they’ve clued me in about how it works and how to make it work. Polyamory is a “weird” concept only because here in good ol’ US of A, monogamy is treated as the default. It’s just culturally assumed that “soulmates” are a thing and there’s only one “right one” for someone else and you better find them in your lifetime and marry them and have lots of babies and UUUUUGH.

That said, polyamory could be seen as an anarchist statement against “the system” of monogamous marriage arrangements. To which I say, “…Maybe?”

And there are still others who look at polyamory and say, “Those people are just indecisive and think they can have everything!” To which I say, “No.”

Polyamorous people know what they want. What they want is to love, and to be in relationships with, more than one person at the same time. And if they can make it work, kudos.

Ok, point made. Back to the comic.

Sugar Town is the story of a poly-amorous relationship done right. It’s also one of the VERY FEW stories with girl-on-girl love where both characters are not only alive, but still in love by the end of the story. That’s freakin’ rare.

This is also one of the few stories with queer main characters who aren’t 110 percent in absolute angst over their status as queer. Hazel, the main character, has the occasional moment of questioning whether she’s doing it right. But that’s only because she’s so new to polyamory.

The characters are charming as heck, and the art has such lovely saturated colors. The art also does this thing where every set location has a different color scheme, and it’s wonderful.

Really, the only problem I have with Sugar Town is that it’s so short. It’s one of the skinniest trade paperbacks I’ve read thus far, at 40 pages long. However, it’s not really a problem: the story doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, and I always enjoy going back to it. Sugar Town is a book you can read and re-read and still get enjoyment out of it. At least, for me.

If you can get a copy of this book, do it. It’s available directly from Hazel Newlevant’s website.

Oh! And one more thing before we split: somehow it didn’t click in my head during the first read-through that the main character has the same name as the author. However, as an artist, I know how fraught it is to point to a piece of work an artist made and declare, “That’s you!” This work may have bits of autobiography to it, or it could be all autobiographical. I don’t know. What I do know is that this is a work of fiction, and we, as readers, should respect that.

Ok. That’s it for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

Review Day Tuesday: BARTEZ

This review has waited long enough to happen, so here it is. Today we’re talking about Bartez by Ryan H. Peraro and Gale Williams.

I first found this book at Intervention Con in 2014 (may that convention rest in peace, because it’s no longer a thing). Ryan was there, selling copies of this book, as well as other swag for the Bartez name. I got this book, numbered 56 out of 500 copies, and… I think I got a pen, too? I can’t remember – it’s been a little over 5 years since I got this book. Bear with me.

I remember reading this once, liking it, and then setting it on the shelf again. Well, recently I re-read this beauty and now, I want to talk about it.

From what I have gathered, this is Ryan’s first foray into writing for comics and graphic novels. And I must say, for a first time comics writer, he did a DANG good job of writing.

I’ve worked for a small collection of comics writers before. And one thing I noticed with first-time comics writers is this: they can get WORDY. As in, stuffing in as much dialogue as possible instead of letting the action and art help to carry the story. Aka, lots of “tell, don’t show,” when it should be “show, don’t tell.”

That said, Ryan does not have that issue. Which is remarkable, considering this is his first book. And to that, I say: kudos and major props, my dude.

The artist Gale Williams has made comics before; notably her semi-autobiographical webcomic, Patbird & Galesaur. Which, I will get to one day – PATIENCE, my buddy.

On her art in this book, I’ll be blunt: you can tell she went to school at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I’ve noticed that there’s a particular kind of quality to the art that you can spot in the grad students of SCAD if you’re looking for it. You can see it in this book, in Check, Please!, in Distillum, and in a few other books. It’s the big, emotional eyes with the bold line quality, and the dang-near perfect use of blacks to delineate background details that make the foreground pop easily.

I’m not saying that the art quality of SCAD students of this grade are bad. What I AM saying is that it’s almost a house-style, and you can spot it if you know what to look for. I’m still sorting out my opinions on this house-style effect and whether it’s good or bad.

Anyway, let’s talk about the story. What’s it about?

Bartez follows Jimmy Barton, a guy who works in IT. He is, to be honest, kind of a quitter. He tries his hand at a lot of different hobbies and quits as soon as those hobbies get difficult. This is a habit he’s had since high school, and surprise-surprise, the 10-year anniversary of his graduating class is coming up.

Of course, he’s trying to hype himself up by making a website celebrating all his accomplishments in high school. Because he’s not just a quitter – he’s a massive dork.

To be honest, I sometimes had difficulty relating to Jimmy as a character. However, that’s because my personality is very different from his. Which reminds me to make this very important point that a lot of people forget about when reading fiction, and analyzing fiction for reviews:

The characters don’t have to be likable for you to empathize with them. It doesn’t matter that you can’t stand the character. What matters is if the writer can write a compelling character despite that character’s lack of similarity to yourself, the reader.

To that end, Ryan writes Jimmy VERY well. Yes, Jimmy and I are not alike, but his struggles are written in such a way that I could still empathize with this guy… even if, on a logical level, I couldn’t stand him.

It helps, too, that Gale’s art has a simplified vibe to it. When I first read the book, I wanted to compare it to Bryan Lee O’Malley. And considering the bold lines, the large and expressive eyes, and the exaggerated posing of the characters in a lot of these pages, the comparison could be apt.

The key words being “could be.”

Obviously, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is O’Malley’s most popular and widely-known work. Scott Pilgrim also drew its reality as a video game. As in, a love interest’s ex-boyfriends were boss-fights and their defeats resulted in item drops.

Bartez re-imagines reality as, strangely enough, more like an espionage story.

This may surprise you, but the book doesn’t open with Jimmy Barton. It opens with one spy murdering another one. And you find out later through some exposition that the spy who died was one of Jimmy’s high school friends.

A high school friend who took his crush, but still a friend.

And believe it or not, the spies tie back to Jimmy Barton’s high school. But that’s getting into spoiler territory.

In short, you should read this book. Now, I only have volume 1, but this is part of a 3-volume series. You can find out more about it (and purchase the books) at projectbartez.com.

Give the book a try! I know I’ll be getting volume 2 soon.

Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.