Welcome back to a brand new edition of Independent Comic Spotlight. It all started off with a simple premise: focusing on up-and-coming comic book creators. But it sort of got out of control. We get lots of review requests, and would love to review all of the comics we get, but simply do not have the time. So, in order to be fair and balanced, I decided to do a roundup for the month of August. That being said, here they are. I hope you enjoy the books as much as I did!
PROUD, by James Mulholland and Caitlin Soliman
If you would have told me that I could go through every single emotion imaginable in just four short pages, I would have called you a liar. If you would have told me that not only would I experience said previous challenge, but it would be by two up-and-coming writers and artists, I would have called you crazy. But I gave it a shot, let down my guard, and it happened. We see an adorable little story about a nerdy kid with superpowers who wants nothing more than to save his parents from the bad guy and have them be proud of him, in what is simultaneously cute and heart-breaking. The ending will shock you, but you will be left wanting more. This is a creative team to watch. Check them out for free on the web while they build a fanbase and work on their debut graphic novel project. You won’t be disappointed.
My Rating: 5/5
Onna-bugeisha, by Frank Candiloro
Part Lone Wolf & Cub, part ghost story, and part Memoirs of a Geisha, Frank Candiloro’s graphic novel is all heart. It is a quick read and the artwork is a little different than the superhero work I’m used to reading, but it’s a fun glimpse into a different world. The fight sequences show promise for this new creator, but it’s really the “twist” ending that catapults this comic into the realm of memorable. The main character is cold and calculating, but there is enough spirit within her that we learn to care for her as the story progresses. The villain of the story is very well-written, and the dialogue comes off as a bit of a fairy tale, which I really enjoyed. The black and white presentation sometimes limits a creator in his storytelling abilities, but that is not the case in this story. It is a great fast read for a rainy day, but it also rises up on several occasions with new twists on familiar legends. If I were to sum up the overall experience in one word, it would be this: genre-bending. Give it a shot. You might like it. I did.
My Rating: 3/5
Carbon, by Daniel Boyd and Edi Guedes
Horror legend Daniel Boyd has been making waves recently in the comic book world, taking his expertise from the world of film to the realm of comics. In his newest outing, he tells the tale of a mountain mining town with a deep dark secret. I was shocked to see that this was not only a very professionally-made horror comic, but a straight-forward monster tale. The cast is all forgettable at first, which is a seemingly overdone prerequisite in the horror movie genre, but over a few pages, they all somehow overcome their stereotypical roles and assume likable and genuinely heroic stances in their battle for survival. The disgraced hero bit is often times overdone, but it works quite well here. The characterization is little, but not important. Because the true stars of the “show” are the monsters themselves. Carbon relies heavily on its gimmick: a horror legend is trying out a new field. But though Boyd has certainly earned his reputation, it is a vital marketing flaw to overlook the biggest asset of this graphic novel: its artwork. I haven’t seen any of Edi Guedes other work yet, but trust me, after some genuine scares and some excellent landscapes and layouts, I will be doing some leg work very, very soon. This artwork is by far some of the best I’ve seen in an independent comic. And it is by far some of the best I’ve had sent to me. Check this one out for sure, especially if you’re into horror comics.
My Rating: 4/5
How About Never, by Bob Mankoff
The full title of this book is How About Never – Is Never Good for You?: My Life in Cartoons, focusing on the life, times, career, and general silliness that is The New Yorker Bob Mankoff’s adventures as head editor of the cartoon section of the beloved magazine. Though not really a “comic book” per se, it has many political, social, and just off-the-wall wacky cartoons jam-packed into its colossal coffee table sized hardcover binding. Mankoff is hilarious, but also very educational, as he tells his tales, makes fun of some of his colleagues both past and present, and gives advice both on life and the biz. It’s a fun read for regulars, newspaper readers, or even those who simply want to try out something different. I’ve had a subscription (off and on) to The New Yorker since I was in college, so it was a genuine delight to have them reach out to me and offer up a review copy of such a fun book. I expect this will do very, very well on the bookshelves.
My Rating: 4/5
Kodoja: Terror Mountain Showdown, by Keith Foster and Rory Smith
Who doesn’t love a giant monster comic? And who doesn’t love a giant monster comic, set in modern day, that spans the globe, has a bunch of conspiracy theories mixed in with scientific research, a shadowy government organization, and MORE giant monsters to fight? No one. Especially in the comic book world. Foster and Smith deliver a fun read in just five short issues, referencing stories from the past and leading up to stories in the future without seeming gimmicky or like a simple Godzilla rip-off. The main monster, who is more machine than monster, is interesting, but it’s the others he goes up against that drew my attention. And the characterization of the female lead is what solidified my like for the miniseries. I want more. And I want it soon. (I’m also interested in checking out the soundtrack that the creators advertise within the pages of the comic. That sounds like a really fun idea.) Monster fans will enjoy this thrill ride of a mini. I had a blast reading it.
My Rating: 4/5
The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic, by Kanani K. M. Lee and Adam Wallenta
As an educator myself, I am always looking for fun ways to teach kids tough topics. And when I was offered a chance to read about another fellow teacher with the same goal in mind, I had to jump at the opportunity. Now, I’m a high school English teacher, so promoting literacy is big with me, and I’ve seen first hand just how much kids eat up comics nowadays (which is awesome, by the way), but when they can tackle things other than literacy and social issues, I’m shocked and very impressed. So here we have a comic book (which subtitles itself as The Adventures of Geo, Vol. I, no less) that teaches kids (through a kid, no less) about science. It’s fun, it features a non-white lead character, and the artwork and content is safe for schools of any level, even elementary. Now, would I recommend this for high school kids? Maybe not as a text, but as a fun review item. But for middle and elementary ages? Absolutely! I hope to see more adventures. And that robot dog of Geo’s? Adorable. Love it.
My Rating: 4/5
So there you have it. You’ll want to check these books out for something new, something unique, and something different from your average “Big Two” fare. And if you yourself are a comic creator, feel free to email me at [email protected] to request an address for mailing review copies of your work. I’d love to read it!