WOODLANDS is Pretty Faun-tastic

woodlands fantasy faun comic book cover

Woodlands by Sam Bowen and Ari Pluchinsky is a faun fantasy comic I first discovered at Small Press Expo this year. Sam and Ari sat across the aisle from me, so I traded some books for Woodlands and a copy of their other book, Goldfinch (which I’ll review later).

THE PLOT

Edwyn the faun has been waiting for the return of his grandfather, someone he hasn’t heard from for a while. So, to keep himself busy, he’s been trying to make a sleeping potion for his fellow faun friend Remmy.

This first issue follows Edwyn and Remmy searching for ingredients for a sleeping potion, while also showing the world they live in. Also, giant freaking’ radishes.

SO WHAT’S SO FAUN-TASTIC ABOUT IT?

For a first issue, this sets up the world and the characters in a fun, charming way. The humor is character-based – nothing is forced.

No, not even the ridiculously fat deer.

…That deer, the conflict around it, and what happens after the encounter are some of my favorite moments in this first issue.

BUT IT ISN’T ALL RAINBOWS AND ROSES…

As much as I enjoyed this book, there was one thing that confused me – and that was the flashback moment.

During the deer chase, Edwyn falls into a cave on accident. While inside the cave, there’s a flashback moment: Edwyn sees when he was little and his grandfather found him and carried him back home.

The confusing thing to me is that Edwyn and this flashback moment exist at the same time in the cave. There’s no real filter to separate the two from each other, except that the flashback figures are vaguely blue.

Does this mean the two moments existed at the same time? What caused the flashback in the first place? How will this flashback tie in to the rest of the story later?

There’s no answer for this in the first issue, so I’m hoping this gets addressed later.

IS THIS WORTH SEEKING OUT?

Ultimately, yes, I still recommend this comic. I’m hoping that with time, some elements become more clear in the narrative – especially since this book has such a strong start.

If you love fantasy, and want to see more fauns, check this out. It’s worth the find.

You can read it for free at woodlandscomic.com. But I highly recommend getting the book if you see the creators at any conventions. The books are gorgeous and well-printed.

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

You. Are. Awesome.

Trinary – A Comic About Art Robots

Trinary is a mini-comic done by my good comics friend (and often table buddy at conventions) Ben Wright-Heuman. That said, I’m going to be as objective as I can for this review.

This is one of those comics that you can only get directly from the artist, either at a convention or through his website. So is it worth getting this rare gem?

Let’s do a review.

Trinary is the story of an art robot – a robot specifically designed to make art. However, all the art is rather…same-y. This is largely due to their programming, which shows the robots’ world as black and white.

But one day, there’s a glitch in the scheduled night-time upgrade. The art robot gets a download of a new program that allows him to see 0s, 1s, and 2s.

And that’s when he starts seeing color.

Not expansive color: the only color used in this comic is orange. But it’s with this color that the art robot starts to see and paint the world differently. With this new ability, though, he’s pursued by the regulators of the art factory, who want to get him back to standard programming as quickly as possible.

The Reviewer’s Thoughts

After thinking about Trinary for a while, what struck me as an apt comparison to this comic is Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli. Both comics have points-of-view shift, and they show this by using monochrome colors. Asterios Polyp gets really wild in comparison to Trinary, though, because Asterios also shows points-of-view with some views getting grids, some views getting bold lines seen in graphic design, and some views colored in one tone with hatching techniques.

Trinary, by comparison, doesn’t go as wacky as Asterios, but that’s only because Trinary’s scope is more limited. It’s a mini-comic about an art robot seeing the world differently. Asterios is a thick book more comparable to The Odyssey in its subject matter.

That said, Trinary does fall somewhat into the “confusing” category for me mid-way through the story. About mid-way through, we the reader see the robot fleeing the regulators…and then, on the next page, we see the robot painting a canvas. Did the robot run into the warehouse to hide and just start painting? There’s no clear transition for that scene.

“But wait!” you might argue. “What if all the robots look the same?! It could have been a different robot running away!” Well the robots are numbered. And we know which robot got the upgrade. So that doesn’t apply here.

That was the only moment of confusion for me regarding this comic. After that moment, the plot gets back on track and things make sense.

Without spoiling anything, I will say… the vendetta ending was a nice touch.

There are two more details about this comic that I feel are worth mentioning, if only from the angle of a craftsman:

  1. The entire comic is wordless.
  2. The physical copy of this minicomic has orange wire binding.

Final thoughts

If you appreciate the finer details of a comic and how they can bundle together into one package, give Trinary a go. I say it’s worth a shot.

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

You. Are. Awesome.

Strange Waters – Arledge Comics Anthology Now Live on KickStarter

Arledge Comics returns to KickStarter with their third anthology (and first anthology acquisition) Strange Waters.

This anthology collects 15 fantastical stories in 150 black and white pages with one common theme: water. This anthology highlights both the freedom water can bring, as well as the mysteries that lurk beneath the surface.

Cover art for the anthology is by Michi Ermolenko, contributor to Lilies Anthology Vol: 4 and Vol: 7, as well as My Kingdom for a Panel: A Shakespearean Anthology.

strange waters comic anthology cover by michi ermolenko

The full list of queer contributors include:

The Kickstarter for Strange Waters runs from September 27th to November 17th.

Arledge Comics hopes to raise $15,000 during the run of this campaign. If the goal is reached, stretch goals for this campaign include an artist pay raise and foil upgrade starting at the $20,000 mark. Current pledge tiers include a pirate flag, enamel pin, and the Arledge Comics anthology pack.

Check out the KickStarter if you’re interested!

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 – The Electric Team

Ah yes, another find from Cleveland’s very own Genghis Con (yes, that’s its name). This is another book I found in 2017, much like Multi- from last week. And much like last week’s pick, this comic is another selection of intriguing writing and lackluster art. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The story opens, weirdly enough, with an older explorer explaining how he and his team – or what’s left of his team – got to where they are. They’re explaining themselves so that the older explorer can ask whoever he’s talking to, to please take in his infant daughter and raise her in safety. And you turn the page and…

Unicorns.

The main character in this adventure is a little girl abandoned by her father to be raised by unicorns.

…Ok let me talk about the authors of this book: Abigail Connor and Leighton Connor. When this comic was written, Abigail was six. Leighton is Abigail’s dad.

Now, I haven’t read Axe Cop – but that comic came to mind after I wrote that sentence. A younger child relaying the story to an older adult and the adult writing and drawing the story down? I feel like this should be a subgenre within comics.

Knowing, though, that the co-writer of this story is a six-year-old girl makes The Electric Team make a LOT more sense.

I mean – the Electric Team is a superhero squad led by a young woman raised by unicorns. And The Electric Team is introduced as they fight a squad of humanized vegetables. Led by Commander McCarrot.

And in order to save the world, the Electric Team has to fight 1000 bad guys.

This. Is. A. Kid’s. Comic.

Knowing this makes the art make a lot more sense, as well. The art is not drawn by Abigail – the depth of field within any particular panel is too deep for a six-year-old to draw.

The art is done by Samantha Albert – and Samantha has done better art since this book came out. I remember Sam mentioning that this book was one of her first comics put to print. I’m happy to say that after reading this first issue, then looking at the webcomic site, Samantha’s art has VASTLY improved over time.

This first issue’s art isn’t…awful. But it’s unskilled – which is fitting for a story aimed at children, co-written by a six-year-old. On the plus side, as Leighton put it in his afterward in the comic, Samantha can “choreograph a fight scene and draw unicorns unironically.” And both of those skills are very important in a concept as whacky as a woman raised by unicorns and her team of superheroes who must fight 1000 bad guys to save the world.

So if a child in your life is looking for the next epic superhero adventure, encourage them to try The Electric Team.

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

You. Are. Awesome.

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: 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.