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The Department of Truth #13 Review

Spoilers for The Department of Truth

Back in the 18th century. there was a German philosopher that one day would be considered one of the most important philosophers in history. His name was Immanuel Kant, and he changed the way we thought about thinking. He pondered that it was impossible that we could have access to reality, more specifically, to things itself. He said that we could only have access to phenomena created by our senses and our understanding. This all led into the idea that things were (more or less) simply ideas created by our reasoning through which we understood the world.

Now, I start this review with a half baked summary of Kant not because I loved him (quite the contrary, in fact), or because I want to pretend I’m really smart (ok maybe a little bit), but because issue #13 of The Department of Truth made me think a lot about the way the world is, and the world we make for ourselves. 

In this new chapter of the series, Hawk brings Cole to the last place he would ever return, the school where he once thought he was tortured by a satanic cult and a monster with a star drawn on his face. There, Cole and Hawk discuss the origin of the conspiracy theories around satanic cults and Hawk reveals to Cole that Barker has a bigger plan in store, that the Starfaced Man has taken from, and that he suspects that Lee is not the real deal, but a fiction manifested in reality. 

Before I get into my favorite part of this issue (and the reason I brought up Kant), let me once again praise Martin Simmonds’ art and Aditya Bidikar’s letters. Even though the historical discussions in this issue are really interesting, long dialogue scenes like this can get tedious in a medium like comics, but Simmonds’ art is so good that it keeps your attention throughout the whole comic, while it also does a wonderful job setting up the atmosphere and the tone of the comic. Simmonds’ talent combines with Bidikar’s wonderful lettering special shine when it comes to the Starfaced Man. This pair presents a monster so unsettling and horrendous that each panel that contains it becomes the center of attention.

All that being said, my favorite thing about this issue is probably Hawk’s history and motivation. Here we have a guy that knows the truth doesn’t really matter in a world where the images we make of the world matter more than the world itself. He understood this but didn’t realize this doesn’t make the truth less powerful, and when he tried to play god, he realized that things are a lot more complex than we think; he understood that even when we try to put everything in little boxes (like good guys and bad guys) and see the world through lenses of our making, we will never have power over truth itself. 

The reason I don’t like Kant is because, even though he was a brilliant man and that he revolutionised philosophy and knowledge itself, he is one of the main reasons that we believe that we can control the truth through theories and categories, and once we think this, once we are sure everything can be organized into a tidy little system, that’s the moment the truth fights back, the moment it challenges everything we thought we knew. It’s time we start realizing we need to have a chat with truth instead of trying to tame it, or starfaced monsters will come for us at night. 

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Comics

The Department of Truth #12 Review

Honestly I seriously thought of just writing “Shit just got real” and ending the review right there, but I feel I owe this issue a little bit more, because (and I don’t say this lightly) this issue is fucking amazing! 

The issue begins with a flashback to Cole’s childhood (amazingly drawn similar to a 50s cartoon) where we see his mother talking to a mysterious figure about everything that Cole has gone through with the satanic cults and Star face demons. We quickly discover this mysterious figure is Hawk and young Cole makes a realization that will change the series from that point forward, Hawk is a liar. 

The rest of the basically consists in of two big scenes, one in which Ruby and Lee discus the way Black Hat has been issuing the internet, algorithms and social media to manipulate the narrative and And manifest conspiracy theories, and another where Hawk tells Cole about how he tried to weaponize conspiracies and the ways in which he fail all ending in Cole realizing the only truth that seems to matter, that Cole is Black Hat and he is bringing Cole Home. 

This issue is so charged with heavy exposition and tons of information, but the creative team manages to make it all flow at just the right speed. Simmonds’ art and layouts in particular do a great job in dividing the information and maintaining the reader’s attention. His surreal style really mixes very well with tales about the manipulation of truth and the powers of narrative. The pages with the black helicopters in particular are award worthy.

It really feels like things have built up to this issue and not just plot wise. I think that themes and discussions that have been developed all throughout the series reached their highest point in this issue. Previous chapters talked about the way truth developed, how it behaves, how it affects people and how it can be changed. This issue brings all those ideas and leads them to their logical conclusion, the weaponization of the truth. 

Truth can be weaponized and not just in worlds were the beliefs of people manifest into reality. For example, conspiracy theories are just one way to do this. Playing mix match with facts and stories to create the perfect narrative that will bring fear to the hearts of those who listen. Sometimes the news weaponizes the truth, sometimes the government does as well. The thing about truth is that with enough influence and power it can be malleable, and it can transform reality in more ways than one. Like this issue highlights, the age of the internet and social media have made truth a lot more unstable. A viral tweet can change the perspective of whole countries, and a series of YouTube videos can make a man president. 

What makes The Department of Truth so good is that it combines narrative and art with relevant discussion and themes in a way that creates a unique journey and makes the reader question some of the most fundamental concepts about knowledge. Stories like this are important not just because they are really interesting reads, but because they make us ask questions, and asking questions is one of the most important things there is.

Don’t take me wrong, I don’t want everyone to become a conspiracy nut — I actually think that the questions raised in this series do the exact opposite. Asking questions makes you learn more and learning more makes the truth stronger, and less people can weaponize it if it’s strong. So what are you waiting for? Go read The Department of Truth, and I will see you next time to talk a little more about truth.

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Comics

Radiant Black Vol. 1 Review

Reviewed by Samm Jinks

We’ve all been there. Rock bottom, that is. When you have no lower to sink, you have to hold onto the hope that you’ll, just this once, rise to the occasion and make something of yourself. This is a driving force, the knowledge that when you’re backed into a corner, it’s never too late to turn things around.

And the latest release from Image Comics, Radiant Black, is ready to back into that corner full throttle. The title combines the weight of sky-shaking superhero extravaganzas with the mundanity of facing down the barrel of a rock bottom life in the heart of Illinois. We open on some disappointment and heartbreak, written out to the name of one Nathan Burnett, a struggling novelist faced with an empty bank account and no way to escape his debts. I’d say he’s at the end of his rope, but there’s just enough left for him to postpone bankruptcy for a few more short weeks by moving back home.

Once back, Nathan is reunited with a loving mother, a stern but caring father, and a high school bestie that would have a heart of gold if anyone could see past the chip on his shoulder. Things heat up quickly, however, when Nathan acquires a bizarre black sphere that allows him to change into a bright, beaming beacon of strength and ability. He has the world at his fingertips, powers that defy imagination, and perhaps even a nemesis brewing on the other side of the state. The stage is set. The call is ready to be answered.

And then he goes back to struggling with his novel. And I love that.

In the classic tradition of the Peter Parkers and Kamala Khans of the storytelling world, the drama of Radiant Black forms from the characters’ daily personal struggles. This is reflected in the incredible artwork that Marcelo Costa provides, with the color work and paneling keeping everything familiar and rigid during the day to day of the protagonists. But when the titular heroes of the narrative come to life, the sheer sense of form and energy behind them is apparent immediately.

Simple silhouettes are given so much dimension and force, with light curving around every edge and reflecting everywhere at once. And the way the characters leap through the pages, giving you an incredible visceral sensation you couldn’t build without careful artistic construction… it makes you turn back and read the bombastic sequences all over again, just to be sure you didn’t miss any of the little details.

Not only that, but what struck me upon looking over Radiant Black cover to cover once again was just how damn smart the whole thing was. It takes a good writer to solve problems, but the story design from master wordsmith Kyle Higgins is interconnected between chapters in a way that demonstrates creating problems as a means of narrative cohesion. Innocuous everyday struggles become the backbone of entirely separate character arcs, and it leaves you in awe as you realize just how much more it could potentially bring back together as the story continues.

At the heart of any heroic character is a desire to make amends. To right what once went wrong, and transform yourself in the process. And if you’re in debt, friendless, or burdened by toxic relationships, transformation is all the more alluring. Especially when it comes with super strength and levitation.

But underneath all the mighty morphing power or the glowing spandex, you are still just you. And you’ll have to find a way to live with that.

What drew me back into the narrative presented in Radiant Black every time I tried to take a break from turning the pages was a desire to see more of that transformation among these characters. The epic first part has left me hungry for more, and excited beyond belief to see what Higgins and Costa can cook up next.

It’s intriguing, it’s visceral, it’s radiant. Pick it up. You will not be disappointed.

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Comics

The Department of Truth #11 Review

Up till now The Department of Truth has been a fantastic and interesting journey into the heart of the crazy concept of truth. As a philosophy student, the truth has always been a topic I’ve been interested in, in many ways it feels so close, and in many others it feels like it will never be close enough. All this to say the exploration and discussions this comic has presented. This issue, which brings us the continuation of the hunt for Bigfoot is not different. 

This issue has a lot of this with the whole discussion about the origin of the Bigfoot myth, talking about the discovery of the gorilla, the legend of the yeti, and the first signs of Bigfoot. I found all this extremely interesting, and I felt it managed to continue the themes of the book. The truth is not as absolute as people tend to present it, it is built on top of years of history and culture. 

But just as in the past issue, my favorite things of this number were the emotional aspects. This issue continues to show us excerpts of the journal of a Bigfoot hunter, telling us about his need to believe in something bigger than himself, the ways “his hobby” destroyed his life, and his guilt and regret. But before I get into the story I got to talk about how amazing the design for this diary page is. 

At first, like in the previous issue, the pages look worn down and have some drawings to accompany the story, but now along with the drawings there seems to be a circular pattern that becomes more and more prevalent as the story continues, reaching the point where it’s even difficult to read the text. I find it amazing that even in parts where the comic seems more like prose, the visuals still play a big part in telling the story, showing just how consuming the obsession of the hunter was.

As for the story, well let’s just say that I expected a lot of things from this book, but I didn’t expect a tragedy. I’ve always loved a good obsession story, but I gotta admit this one truly broke my heart. The diary pages are so honest and the fact that we get to see the end of this person’s hunt and see him just break down and realize he can finally live his life, no matter how broken the hunt has left it. The fact that the issue ends with his final remarks confessing the love for his family and the guilt he feels for not being able to show them the impossible might be one of the strongest moments in comics I have read this year.

As a (wannabe) philosopher I love to read a comic that explores the complexities and deeper aspects of the funny thing we call truth, but as a reader I just love to see comics that aren’t afraid to deep dive into the human experience.  

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Episodes

Interview with JH Williams III

JH Williams joins Dan to talk about his upcoming Image series “Echolands”. Dan was a bit nervous for a bucket list interview like this one. The conversation digs into some of the thematics of the story, how it feels to put art into the world, and a lot of conversation about music. Make sure you pick up Echolands on August 25th at your LCS.

Subscribe now or listen below!

Halloween GateCrashers

The GateSlashers continue their dive into all things horror as the Grave Robber gathers a fresh group of innocents to experience The Night He Came Home. Yes, we’re here today to talk about Halloween 1978, and Halloween 2018, to get you prepped on everything Michael Myers before the new film releases this week!
  1. Halloween
  2. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  3. Interview with Marcus Parks (Last Podcast on the Left)
  4. James Bond 007
  5. X-Men
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Comics

PRIMORDIAL #1 Spoiler-Free Review

Seeing the name of writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino together in a cover has become a kind of guarantee. Known for collaborations like Green Arrow, Gideon Falls, and Joker: Killer Smile, this comic book duo have published some of the most successful recent comics, winning multiple Eisners for Gideon Falls. 

In their new project, Primordial, Lemire and Sorrentino bring us a sci-fi thriller set in the midst of the Cold War where a scientist from MIT is asked to help dismantle the American space program. But why is the space program being dismantled? What has stopped humans from looking to the stars? But most important of all: What ever happened to the animals we sent to space during the space race? Did they die in orbit? And if they didn’t… where did they go?

In their first issue, Lemire and Sorrentino use this somewhat simple premise to set up an intriguing mystery that captures the essence of the Cold War, starting by utilizing the setting of the story the best way they can. The creative team combines the drama and tension of the Cold War, and the wonder and weirdness of the Space Race to create the perfect atmosphere for a mystery of cosmic proportions. 

This is not the only time the creative team uses contrast to their advantage. Through different moments in the issue small panels are contrasted with full page spreads highlighting important details while still letting us see the full picture, this layouts lead to some heart racing scenes and helps to deepen the mystery. In addition, colorist David Stewart uses colors in brilliant ways, using pale colors for the earth scenes and vibrant colors for the space scenes. It makes the cosmic scenes stand out, and helps drive the reader’s interest in the mystery at hand. 

Like in some of his past work, Sorrentino plays with the line of realism and surrealism with his art, drawing a pretty good parallel between what is known and the unknown. One of the best things in the issue is seeing Sorrentino’s art change until it reaches a point at the end where the contrast between the beginning and the end is huge, creating a perfect set up through the art itself. 

Lemire uses characters and dialogue in a similar way, contrasting entirely different people in a way that makes the reader know what kind of person they’re dealing with, not just by what they are saying, but the way they are saying it. These archetypes fit perfectly into the setting, making mind-bending sci-fi feel more real, as well as the tension.  

If the Cold War was a time of parallels and division, Lemire and Sorrentino capture this essence and transform them into the beginning of a new and fascinating mystery. It’s in this way and many others, Lemire, Sorrentino and the rest of the team create a first issue that captures the reader and pulls them into a mystery that will make them wonder: Why did we stop traveling to the stars? 

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The Me You Love In The Dark #1: A Chilling Meditation On Creativity

What is a creative’s worst nightmare? Answers: Stifling creativity. Writer’s block. The inability to put pen to paper, paintbrush to canvas, or words to music.

When our boundless imaginations suddenly feel inhibited, creatives become desperate for inspiration. Thus, we embark on an enterprise. We search for stimulus, innovation, philosophy; any resource to grease the jammed cogs in our brains and stop ourselves from succumbing to self-fulfilling prophecies of failure. Often, a suppressed creative seeks influence from not something, but someone. A muse, of some sorts, is the eloquent (or pretentious) term when discussing a person serving as the inspiring drive for an artist. 

What if that muse takes the form of a nightmare personified? What then, is the worst nightmare of a creative: A lack of inspiration or an inspiring force itself?

The Me You Love in the Dark #1

Dredged up from the harrowing, ingenious minds of Skottie Young and artist Jorge Corona, comes a new five issue horror miniseries published through Image Comics, The Me You Love in the Dark. Colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu and letterer Nate Piekos join Young and Corona on this creative endeavor to visibly summon a tale about a burgeoning artist and her spectral bogeyman muse. Pull the covers over your head because you’re about to feel sharpened prickles of dread.

If you partake in any type of creative feat, you can identify with protagonist Ro Meadows. The first issue of The Me You Love in the Dark perfectly distills the frustration, desire for isolation, and self-deprecation all artists endure at one point or another. A tangible threat lingers around the edges of this comic issue, but the real horror stems from feeling the brunt of Ro’s oscillating emotions during her creative block all too viscerally. Ironically, I put off writing this review because of writer’s block. Reading Ro’s story challenged me because I saw myself reflected back at me through Ro. Therein lies the shrouded, textual horror of The Me You Love in the Dark. How do you circumvent feelings of your own frightening inadequacy when you’re witnessing a visible depiction of those feelings? True nightmares lie within these pages — especially for creatives.

Unable to conjure any meaningful art, Ro retreats from the city to a remote mansion. Like any suffocated creative, seclusion and a change of scenery often marks an appropriate course of action to redress the creative thought process. Self-affirmations and repetitive actions become tantamount to Ro’s journey inside this looming house. 

The Me You Love in the Dark #1

Through wide-frame shots angled above and behind Ro, Jorge Corona’s illustrations construct a haunting atmosphere. Panels cut like camera cuts on a film as Ro does simple tasks before sitting down before her unpainted canvas. The scenes linger on Ro, creating a sense of us watching Ro battling sterile imagination in real time. Ro herself believes the house to be haunted by a ghost. Repeatedly, she calls out to the phantom for help. Watching an intimate portrait of Ro’s life, her words float out in silence to no one but us, the distant yet present reader. The visual effects of this art style chilled me, fabricating a singular thought before the comics’ end: Am I the haunting presence Ro is speaking to? 

Lighting, creeping shadows, and colors distinguishing the setting sun bring subtext and meaning to the surface in The Me You Love in the Dark #1. Waning sunlight peers through the slatted window in front of Ro when she works while dark shadows hovering in staircases behind Ro implicate the horror of an undiscovered apparition waiting to make itself known. Jean-Francois Beaulieu’s coloring leans on solid primary hues intermixed with oil-paint reminiscent shading, delineating sources of diaphanous light. Illustratively, the light and dark dichotomy parallels the tonal uneasiness beating underneath Skottie Young’s sparse dialogue. Chiefly, light and dark are intertwined, a marriage between trepidation and curiosity; horror and love. 

The Me You Love in the Dark #1

Anyone who reads my reviews knows about my adoration for SFX. Nate Piekos charges Ro’s general dialogue with an off-kilter, widely-kerned typeface screaming “struggling artist bereft of purpose if she cannot create art.” Similarly, Piekos’s SFX work slingshots those ideals as Ro’s exasperation increases. During charged moments where, to talk about them would spoil the most vertigo-inducing instances in the comic, Piekos’s SFX coalesces with Corona and Beaulieu’s art in an erupting symphony of unbridled terror and emotional ferocity. 

Life is unpredictable. We have days where inspiration caresses our very soul, trickling down from a barely perceptible thought in our cognitive awareness to the restless bones in our fingertips. Other times, we creatives cannot attach an idea to our mind, even with a leech. Muses become vital for some people to the point of obsession. The Me You Love in the Dark piqued my interest because of its meditation on these topics. Will Ro’s muse transfix her to the point of obsession? Will Ro create art, not worthwhile to others, but meaningful to herself? Ro may not feel inspired, but this provocative comic has already inspired my own storytelling and artistic sensibilities.

When your dreams come to fruition, the worst aspects of those dreams can also manifest. Clarity of mind evolves from a need to a requirement to placate these unprecedented events accompanying success. The Me You Love in the Dark #1 is a comic about waiting for artistic lightning to strike. Alternatively, you’ll be the one struck by undulating waves of emotion, cresting until the comics’ final, hair-raising scene.

Don’t get left in the dark: The Me You Love in the Dark is guaranteed to burst into the limelight and leave an indelible mark on the comic scene.

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Spoiler-Free Review: Echolands #1

Generally, I’m pretty ambivalent about whether I get a physical copy of a comic or a digital one. I like reading on a screen a little better, but physical copies are sometimes larger and can be shared around easier. 

After two pages of reading my review copy of Echolands, I was certain that I had to get the physical version, because I now had a primal need to experience this story in the biggest goddamn format possible. With lengthy double-page panoramic shots across wide landscape-format pages, and dozens of art directions and aesthetics intersecting in fascinating ways, Echolands feels like a story so big that a screen struggles to contain it.

If you’ve ever read a book with art by J. H. Williams III, you know that you’re getting lusciously detailed art arranged in brilliant panel layouts. If you haven’t read a book by this guy, then fuck, here’s a great place to start. Frankly, Echolands would be great if it was in the hands of more conventional storytellers. In the hands of this virtuoso creative team, it’s phenomenal.

And though J. H. Williams III is the superstar name here, when I say “virtuoso,” that includes every member of the team. This book wouldn’t have the spark of life it does — not to mention it would be so intricate as to be difficult to read — without the vibrant heart provided by Dave Stewart’s colors. And speaking of difficult to read, panel layouts this ambitious eat lesser letterers for breakfast, but Todd Klein delivers. Each speech balloon is placed to guide you smoothly through the pages of the comic, which is a feat. On top of that, it delivers extra personality with a beautiful font and a slightly organic texture to the speech bubble itself. 

It would be a fool’s errand to try and guess which parts of the writing belong to J. H. Williams III and which to Hayden Blackman, because their creative partnership is so close that it all melds seamlessly together. They’ve been co-storytellers for years, and friends far longer, which makes for incredible synergy.

But in case you were wondering, Hayden Blackman can write your pants off. During the last big push Star Wars made with its expanded universe, The Force Unleashed, his writing managed to humanize Darth Vader’s “secret apprentice.” He took an unkillable uber-badass out of a parody of a parody of a fanfiction, and gave him the heart of a wounded puppy and a satisfying character arc. To underscore how difficult that is to do in a AAA video game: at any point in time, you can lose a pivotal moment in the story and need to rearrange everything because the ice level it took place on ended up being unplayable. Good video game writers are some of the most talented people on the planet. 

Now, once you get past the majestic lustre of its presentation, is the story of Echolands #1 good? Fuck yes, it is. Learning more about the characters and the world is a delight page after page. Every word and every panel draws you deeper in, until you find yourself at the last page thinking “fuck, now I have to wait for the next one?” 

The setup is a pretty straightforward first act so far, but I would argue that’s a very smart choice. When you’re shoving this much raw creativity in the audience’s face from the get-go, sometimes you need a more traditional story structure for readers to cling to, like a life raft in the middle of the ocean. We don’t need a complex story in the first issue, we just need plot momentum and engaging characters to draw us into this world of dreams and nightmares, and they more than deliver that. 

Hope and Cor are great, their dynamic is fun, and their goals propel the story along nicely. I don’t want to say much more than that, because it’s a treat to experience the rest of it yourself. 

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Fun-Size Roundtable: M.O.M.: Mother of Madness #1

Welcome to this week’s Fun-Sized Roundtable review, this time for an extra-sized book! (40 pages of gorgeous art, to be precise.) M.O.M.: MOTHER OF MADNESS #1 is a psychedelic trip through a richly satirical 2049, narrated by our hero Maya from her perch on top of the fourth wall. 

Writers Emilia Clarke and Marguerite Bennett spin the tale of a single mom and (literal) freak of nature juggling a dozen responsibilities and even more superpowers, and virtuoso artist Leila Leiz renders it with expressive characters and endlessly inventive layouts. Colorist Triona Farrell sells the vivid acid-tinged look of the book, giving it a signature visual identity, and letterer Haley Rose-Lyon makes several standout choices that shape readers’ perception of the dialogue and characters.

But don’t take my word for it, because we’ve put together several insightful panelists to give you their take on the madness.


José Cardenas (@nowayjosecarden)

While it would be fun to make jokes about the likeness between Maya Kuyper, the titular Mother of Madness, and Emilia Clarke, actress and celebrity writer on the project, it would also be inappropriate.

On its own, M.O.M. is a really enjoyable comic, obviously made with passion from all involved and full of recognizable quirks from the individual creators. It is a comic made by women and as a result has a very unique perspective on the world.

Emilia Clarke and Marguerite Bennett build a very exuberant character in Maya, whose disastrous fashion sense ties in with her very unpredictable powers and haphazardly made life. The satire on the female experience male-dominated office culture also brings the laughs. Even the most innocuous of interactions are tinged with a strong dose of cartoonish misogyny. In real-life parallels, a recent lawsuit against Activision Blizzard proves the exaggerations depressingly true to life.


Ashley Durante (@ashleyacts)

M.O.M. was a fucking trip for this feminist mom to read. Women superheroes are routinely drawn for men. Their costumes have been designed for male consumption; their poses perfected to show off assets, adding another heaping of self-loathing to the average female reader.

That’s not to say the genre hasn’t made strides, but M.O.M. absolutely subverts that segment of comic book culture and farts in its face. Literally, did you guys see that panel, too? I want to kiss Emilia Clarke and Marguerite Bennett for birthing Maya into this medium, and for giving her a baggy jumpsuit that can realistically allow her to kick everyone’s ass.

M.O.M. #1 is an origin story at its heart, setting up to become one hell of a feminist manifesto. The all-female team behind M.O.M. shines, but a stand-out is artist Leila Leiz, who treats her panel dividers as an additional part of the story, using every bit of page to bring us further into Maya’s “crazy” world.


Katie Liggera (@kataloupee)

M.O.M. is a frenetic, feminist, fantastic comic. The comic medium gives Emilia Clarke autonomy over a female character! Assisted by Marguerite Bennett, Clarke pens a story about a woman deemed “crazy” (sound familiar?) by the male masses. Enticingly, Mother of Madness herself, Maya Kuyper, gains powers and flips the script on the “mad woman”  trope. Clarke writes M.O.M. as a love letter to women who feel demonized, ridiculed, or stripped of control due to sexist stereotypes. Along with illustrator Leila Leiz’s gorgeous panel layouts and rendering of raw emotion, M.O.M. exudes power.

Besides the density, my main qualm is personal: The hyper-realistic misogyny is exaggerated, but still triggering. Misogynistic behavior is real and (personally) hard to read when I am reminded of disturbing parallels to my own experiences. Nevertheless, I want to thank this woman-created comic for existing — and including essential hotlines on M.O.M.’s final page.


Jordan Edwards (@IamJordanZoned)

Okay I’m gonna preface this by saying that voice is irrelevant, I’m a straight white dude and this isn’t meant to resonate with me in the same way it does for some of my fellow GateCrashers. Unfortunately I didn’t gel with it as much. Stylistically it’s incredibly fluid, vibrant and energetic. Perfectly suits the tone of the story and Laila Leiz and Haley Rose-Lyon have put forth an incredibly impressive piece of work. 

But for me I just didn’t connect with this character or story. I think part of that is just how frantic this was. There’s a point where it moves back in time and then back forward again only to go back again and I had to keep turning back the page to keep track.

It felt like it had so much to get through but had very little time to breathe and by the end I learned a lot about this character but not as much about her goals, her aspirations or why she does what she does. But first issues need to grab your attention and it certainly got that, with a colourful charm and a much needed story. 


Adam Henderson (@krakoa_customs)

Mother of Madness starts with a very set-up heavy first issue, that struggles to balance a lot of background information for our protagonist, Maya Kuyper and the near future world she inhabits with the story itself.  The future setting of the story feels like an afterthought, and meshes strangely with the more present day pop-culture references throughout. 

Its strong, feminist vibe shines through though, and the book is something very unique and interesting when its focus is on that.  It’s an absolutely gorgeous book thanks to the incredible work of Leila Leiz and Triona Farrell, whose dynamic layouts and stunning colours are the book’s real strength.  The duo do an outstanding job of representing Maya’s emotions, especially in the flashbacks.  Overall, it was an interesting start that could potentially turn into something really special if future issues gain a clearer focus.

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Shadecraft #5 Exudes Emotion and Concludes A Momentous Story Arc

After enduring a life living in the shadows of her brother, family trauma, and wavering self-regard, Zadie Lu wrests mental and tangible control back from the shadows. Shadecraft received an unprecedented reader response over the past few months. Still, most comic readers I personally interact with seemed unaware Shadecraft existed. With issue #5 acting as a first arc ending point and sending the series on a brief hiatus, new readers can discover Shadecraft and read a completed storyline. Shadecraft #5 is written by Joe Henderson, illustrated by Lee Garbett, colored by Antonio Fabela, and letttered by Simon Bowland.

Shadecraft #5 brings all the threads and unresolved plot points full circle in the conclusion of arc one. Each issue blended relatability with gravitas naturally, and this issue magnifies reader resonance with aplomb. Garbett and Fabela’s grand illustrations delineating the fantasy horror genre fuse together poignantly with intimate scenes dissecting Henderson’s family drama thematic dialogue throughout the series. Shadecraft #5 climaxes with flying colors, fusing the elements that strengthened this comic series together in persuasive symbiosis. Finally, readers feel the full effect of Zadie’s emotion as she battles for her brother’s life alongside her mother.

Henderson writes organic dialogue in Shadecraft conveying the inner turmoil of the comics’ teenaged protagonist particularly well. Even during a final issue expansive battle, Zadie retains her wit and sarcasm-laced speech. In Shadecraft #5, Zadie still speaks like a teenager, teetering on the precipice of not fully understanding the confusing emotions encapsulated in the adolescent experience.

Shadecraft #5

Yet, Henderson doubles down on showcasing Zadie’s morphing characteristics in this issue. Shaped by the tension and trauma from her brother’s accident, Zadie undergoes exponential character growth. She flourishes, initially cast in the dim light of an entropic state of existence to finally reversing her fate. Henderson portrays Zadie relatably. Here, readers breathe a sigh of relief as Zadie learns to purge the overshadowing self-deprecation and lack of confidence she displayed during the series’ opening issues.

Shadecraft’s art taps into the solidifying roots of Henderson’s script. Garbett draws characters with a stylized look, leaning on dense inks and expressive demeanors. Shadecraft #5 peels back the clouded layers congesting the characters’ guarded emotions. There’s weight in a subtle raise of the eyebrows or demure smile that carries sentiment between mother and daughter in this issue. 

Shadecraft binds readers up in magic and shadows, bolstered by Fabela’s color work. The comic combines a darkly vibrant pastel color palette with a kind of leaking watercolor appearance. Whenever Zadie commands the shadows through Shadecraft, the tendrils and ghostly, oil-hued shapes discharge a moody aesthetic. Issue #5 crosses the threshold of reigning in the shadows, letting Garbett and Fabela fill entire splash pages to emphasize Shadecraft’s potential for destruction.

Shadecraft #5

Simon Bowland’s lettering further cleaves the light and dark theme in Shadecraft #5. The white speech bubbles accommodating crisp, descending words deeply contrast the shoved together letters of Zadie’s brother against a black background. A slight difference in kerning proves seminal in channeling the tone of trapped fear Zadie’s brother suffers as a renegade shadow. 

As usual, Shadecraft #5 sustains its effort to impact readers with shock. A detailed plot summary would have given away these surprises, both broad and small-scale. Keeping major story beats shockwaves undisclosed will pay off for readers who find themselves curious about Shadecraft after reading this review. If the first issue feels minorly predictable, readers will assuredly never anticipate those last page cliffhangers that left me slack-jawed every month. 

This fifth issue wraps up loose ends well while seeding in hints of later storylines, patiently biding their time in the shadows. Although no major cliffhanger awaits at Shadecraft #5’s conclusion, revelations about Zadie’s mom enkindle emotional potency, and worrisome questions arise concerning the physical and mental toll using Shadecraft abilities produces. The epic battle is fought, and tensions between Zadie and her exploitative enemies come to a head. Yet, Henderson and the creative team evidence that Zadie’s skirmishes encompassed in her Shadecraft power are far from over. Shadecraft humorously teaches lessons about family and forgiveness in an intoxicating supernatural narrative that will leave you side-eyeing your own shadow.