Review Day Tuesday: Punks Not Dead

punks not dead comic book cover issue 1

Welcome back to Review Day Tuesday! Today it’s the review of the indie comic Punks Not Dead. This is by David Barnett (writer), Martin Simmonds (artist), Aditya Bidikar (letterer), and Dee Cunniffe (color flats).

It’s released by Black Crown, which describes itself as a “fully functioning curation operation…by way of IDW Publishing.” And honestly, I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. I’ve never encountered a publisher using language like this. It’s weird. I’m assuming Black Crown is an imprint.

Also Weird…

I thought this indie comic would be like a Battle of the Bands epic of one punk band versus the world. BUT NO.

This comic is about ghosts.

No joke. This comic book follows two perspectives, one being a teenage boy who’s followed by the ghost of Sid from the Sex Pistols. The other being an old woman whose main gig is as an exorist on the British government’s payroll.

My First Thoughts…

I had no idea what to make of this comic from beginning to end when I first read it. I mean, the storytelling WORKS. The idea of a fatherless teenage boy haunted by ghosts isn’t anything new. It’s that the twist this time revolves around punk music.

Honestly, my least favorite character is the main lead, the teenage boy followed by the ghost of Sid Vicious. The kid himself is the typical teenager who’s apathetic of the world around him. In other words, he’s boring.

The only thing intriguing about this kid is the life around him. His mom makes a living being on reality tv shows (thanks to make-up and wigs, she can pull this off well). His father, who is conveniently absent, was a secret agent who’s serving three life sentences. And of course, the ghost of Sid Vicious is following him around after encountering him at the airport.

“But is it REALLY Sid Vicious?!” the author asks at the end of the comic. Well, to be frank, I’m not that invested to find out.

So What Did I Like About This?

Really, the character I liked the most was Dorothy Culpepper, the aging exorcist. She has this old hippie 1960s look, even with her wrinkles, that make her appear classy as hell. With her sass and her foul mouth, she held my attention the most. But I doubt she’ll be the lead in future issues. The boy is the lead. And that’s boring to me.

I wanted to like this comic, but it was not what I expected. At all.

If you want to read it, go give it a try. I picked up this issue at my local comic shop, so yours should still have this book on their shelves (if not the back issues). Or you can go to IDW and buy through them.

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

You. Are. Awesome.

Review Day Tuesday: Unbound

Honest talk: how many of you long-time comics nerds, especially those of you who read 90s comics, saw the title of this review and thought I’d be talking about a knockoff Image superhero?

Thankfully, that’s not this comic.

I can’t remember exactly HOW I got this book. Or WHERE I got it. All I know is that I have it. And I’m glad I do.

Unbound by Douglas Laubacher is the zine name for Inkwits, a gag-a-day comic about being a librarian – and the librarians are birds.

Why? “Because the bookworms are DELICOUS.”

As a former librarian and a forever lover of paper sandwiches in all sizes, formats, and availability, I am so grateful this comic exists.

“Unbound” is the title on the cover of this zine, but the actual comic (which you can also read for free online) is called Inkwits. “Unbound” is just the subtitle…I guess.

Besides the unusual title, this comic delivers the giggles. It’s not just librarian humor, though there is a fair bit of that in this collection: jokes like “oh yes. Patrons went into that section and NEVER RETURNED…their book. They never returned their book.” And a patron setting fire to a copy of Fahrenheit 451 and declaring, “Look! Irony!” Which prompts the librarian to turn to a baby and say, “You are the only mature one in this room.”

There’s also a fair number of visual gags that are just…silly. Like when the library is closed due to snow. And the snow is inside the library.

I’m going to stick to this comic, but that’s because it caters to my specific tastes. It’s silly, well-drawn, and charming. And I love it.

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

You. Are. Awesome.

P.S. What I really want to know is HOW ON EARTH did Doug make the formatting of this zine even work?? It’s dang near a perfect square and the pages and panels are perfectly aligned – and yet there’s no evidence of the paper being trimmed in sight. What are your secrets, Doug??

Review Day Tuesday: Multi-

Yes I got a signed copy.

If memory serves, I got this book at Genghis Con (yes, that’s its name) in Cleveland, OH in November 2017. I think the creators of this comic were my table neighbors, but it’s been long enough that I forgot the finer details.

The story of Multi- follows two kids who are searching for their parents. However, their parents keep jumping from world to world, universe to universe. And there are just some universes that they can’t handle by themselves. So what to do?

Hire a superhero, of course.

To be honest, the writing is the best part of this book, because the art is very crude. Not as crude as some of the short stories in Actionthology! But the artist of this book tends to misplace shadows in an attempt to make the art work without the use of color. That’s right – this book has black and white interior art.

I know that color printing is expensive (depending on the printer) but this is one comic that DESPERATELY NEEDS color. Black and white lines do not do this comic justice.

That said, unlike some indie comics out there, Multi- actually has legible action scenes. The most common problem with indie comics (in my experience) is that artists have no idea how to draw good action. Multi- does not have this problem. Thank goodness. The line of action is kept in mind when illustrating, and the panels flow VERY nicely to portray movement. Stellar use of action, great panel layouts, 10 out of 10.

All in all, Multi- is a fun, all-ages romp. I hope the art keeps improving as the story goes on, and I look forward to seeing the story unfold.

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: 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.

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.

Review Day Tuesday: Stoner Knight 2

My buddy Suzie (editor of The Magnolia Press) sent me a care package full of indie comics recently. One of those comics was Stoner Knight 2. And…well, I HAD to bring back the Review Day Tuesday video series for this book.

It’s WILD, man.