Fun-Size Roundtable: Freaks and Gods Vol. 1

A barren wasteland shines against the cold, fearsome outer space. It’s a small moon, with lonesome caverns working as veins and little else. A hexagonal ship can be seen resting like a decoration in the middle of it. It feels classic, but at the same time, so technologically advanced that it could belong only in a person’s dreams.

Location: Second moon of V’laar, two hundred light-years away from Earth. Time of expedition: Day two hundred and eighty, 32:65 PM. My team was supposed to install a signal beam on this very moon. It may not seem much, but a scan showed this small piece of grey sand has the most potent signal power in the known universe. It would allow us to broadcast the GateCrashers Roundtables for anyone to see, from a suburban house on Earth to a water palace on Bruskal.

We said it was a mission worth dying for, but hell, it was just talking. We never thought of the horrors this moon would be awaiting us with. The first days went as planned, installing the antenna as ordered…Maybe we were a little too relaxed. Explorer Hawk saw a dying figure approaching him on day six. He ran in assistance, but as he got closer, he noticed it wasn’t a person nor any known alien race, and the dead part was more literal than one could’ve guessed. It was Frankenstein…Zombie Frankenstein! It didn’t take long before the whole crew was bitten and infected, except me. I managed to round them all up and freeze them in cryogenic pods while investigating for a cure. Truth is, I don’t think I’m able to find it. I may have failed my team, but I sure as hell won’t fail the universe. I also kept working on the signal beam, and it’s finally operating.

This time we’re talking about Freaks and Gods, written, inked, and colored by Chris Dreier, pencils by Giuseppe D’Elia and Joel Cotejar, story concepts by Connor Dreier, and color flats assists by Shireen Dachelet & Amy Porter. It’s a space odyssey that pays tribute to those ancestral horror sci-fi pulp comics that people enjoy so much. It’s a demonstration of love for the genre and smart utilization of the stories and aesthetics for modern (At the time) audiences. It’s wonderful how we remember the past and create something beautiful and new out of it, don’t you think? Maybe…Maybe I should do that! I can’t bring my crew back as it once was, but I could turn them into something else! It will take time, but I will begin experimentation at once. I will correct all of this!

But as I experiment on my dear teammates, I recommend you do something worthwhile, like reading the collection of the first four stories of Freaks and Gods. I will let the group down on Earth do their job and give you their thoughts about it. Maybe it will help you get a clearer picture of it! That’s all you are going to see of me for now. Goodspeed, dear audience.

Richard ‘RJ’ Durante (@ArghRj)

Freaks & Gods (Written, inked, and colored by Chris Dreier, pencils by Giuseppe D’Elia and Joel Cotejar, story concepts by Connor Dreier, and color flats assists by Shireen Dachelet & Amy Porter) / Source: 215Ink

A mummy, a 50’s space adventurer, and a werewolf walk into a bar. A vast oversimplification of the dynamic trio, who jumps off the page of this fresh take on a vintage-style comic called Freaks & Gods. Our heroes are lost in space and time as the omnipotent Dark Tunnel transports them from one adventure to the next. The Egyptian god of Creation Atum, now a power-reduced deity, Steve/Steph, the gender-bending rotating-duo space cadets, and Braine the Silver Knight, or as he appears now, Barghast, a cursed wolfman of the round table. These poor souls are dropped wherever and whenever the tunnel sees fit, with a new adventure waiting at every turn.

Freaks and Gods, written, inked, colored, and created by Chris Dreier, with penciling by Giuseppe D’Elia, finds its footing on page one. Its four compelling stories packed into volume 1 allows the readers to unravel the mystery behind these lost voyagers. The dialogue is sharp and quick for a fast-paced read that will make you wonder what comes next! The sharp contrast of the pencil lines with the flowing colors keeps your attention focused at all times. The story itself is a new one, but with an air of familiarity, allowing quick connections for the reader. 215 comics took a chance on this unusual narrative, and it pays off before the end of the first series. If you are looking for something fun and adventurous, this may be the Dark Tunnel to wander down.

Bree O’Possum (@agreeablepossum)

Freaks & Gods (Written, inked, and colored by Chris Dreier, pencils by Giuseppe D’Elia and Joel Cotejar, story concepts by Connor Dreier, and color flats assists by Shireen Dachelet & Amy Porter) / Source: 215Ink

A T Rex Mech? Nazi Inspector Gadget? Arthurian Legend? It’s all here, folks! The “Bite of Excalibur” story is a fun, pulpy romp that may also make the reader think about the kindness of strangers. The dynamic duo that goes by Boy King and The Sword are introduced as they fight against Hitler’s General, Crane. They split up as Crane attempts to flee, and The Sword has a run-in with the main cast- who had just arrived at this particular dimension. The encounter does not initially go well, and Barghast the werewolf is confronted with a difficult choice.

A choice in which he can either help himself or help another, but not both. The contrast between the sci-fi visuals and dialogue on the meaning of Knighthood made me pause to consider Arthurian honor in an ever-changing world. The artwork maintains its strong blacks and dynamic posing. However, there are moments in which characters are bathed in the warm yellow light of a fireplace, standing out as reminders of a time when the only light was flame. Oh, and there’s a lot of nazi killing. Never a bad time when that happens.

Rodrigo Arellano (@Ro1argo)

Freaks & Gods (Written, inked, and colored by Chris Dreier, pencils by Giuseppe D’Elia and Joel Cotejar, story concepts by Connor Dreier, and color flats assists by Shireen Dachelet & Amy Porter) / Source: 215Ink

If I had to describe the first volume of Freaks and Gods with one word, that word would be Fun. These four issues are just great limitless fun. Taking inspiration from the weird and crazy comic of the 40s and 50s, Freaks and Gods is the story of three interesting characters as they travel to different dimensions to save the day.

One of my favorite things about this book is that, even though one might expect it, this book is not a cynical satire of the comics of old; but a celebration of what made them fun and exciting. Freaks and Gods embraces all the details that made this comic unique, like the constant narration, the weird villains, and even the colors and art style. This comic is a return to the past while still feeling fresh and new.

My favorite story is the second chapter, “The Slumber Engine.” which demonstrates the perfect way Freaks and Gods manage to combine magic, fantasy, science, and sci-fi. This story also showcases some fantastic action and the way this comic diverges from those that inspired it. In Freaks and Gods, the characters are allowed to make questions; they are allowed to confront the stories they inhabit.

Freaks and Gods felt like a breath of fresh air, something that brings back the past to create new and exciting stuff. I really enjoyed it a lot, and my guess is you will too.

DW (@AtomEve)

Freaks & Gods (Written, inked, and colored by Chris Dreier, pencils by Giuseppe D’Elia and Joel Cotejar, story concepts by Connor Dreier, and color flats assists by Shireen Dachelet & Amy Porter) / Source: 215Ink

I went into this book with a lot of curiosity. I had little to no knowledge about it before reading it aside from “an homage to 50’s sci-fi- pulp stories.” which sounded great! However, overall I found Freaks & Gods to be a bit of a letdown. The dialog felt awkward and clunky, I never really warmed to any of the characters, and nothing quite clicked for me enough. On the positive end, though, I did like the art style. It was very much a Mike and Laura Allred aesthetic with deep heavy inks and bright coloring. I think that lent itself to the whole vibe they were going for really well! Ultimately, I don’t see myself ever picking up more of this series, but I know it’s perfect for a lot of folks out there. It has lots of potential; I think I just wasn’t quite the audience for this specific book.

Chris Osborne (@playcomicscast)

Freaks & Gods (Written, inked, and colored by Chris Dreier, pencils by Giuseppe D’Elia and Joel Cotejar, story concepts by Connor Dreier, and color flats assists by Shireen Dachelet & Amy Porter) / Source: 215Ink

Freaks & Gods is, in a single phrase, just a ton of fun. From the chaotic situations to the lovable characters to the stories that make you feel like they could go anywhere. The way that Chris Drier mixes in public domain characters and plots with a brand new story is just so much fun.

The main cast is just so darn relatable, each in their own ways. An Egyptian god who just wants to be able to die and finally have some peace. A rather normal human until you realize that they’re the merger of two dimensions that can show you either variant at any time. A werewolf-type creature who has to live with a curse. But they’re done in a way that at any time other people can be added to the team. Don’t forget the Dark Tunnel, which truly is a character in itself.

If you like Sci-Fi/fantasy adventures with a bit of humor that knows exactly when to take themselves seriously and when to just have some off-the-rails fun, then this is a series you should check out.

Comics Uncategorized

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.


Fun-Size Roundtable: Razorblades #4

A figure stands just at the corner of your line of sight, in the special area that lingers at the edge of your periphery. It’s never easy to tell if the creatures that linger there mean you malice but the flys sputtering under the hood that hides his face make the scales lean towards yes.

I don’t often receive requests for guest appearances. Be it the fact I spend most of my time amongst the dead or my less than savory attitude, I was caught a bit off guard when Daniel reached out again.

I am the Grave Robber. I am not going to explain my origins here because I hear we are discussing a horror magazine. Where would the fun of horror be if you truly knew what my intentions were? You didn’t think I would know that it was on your mind, did you? I can tell you I am not here to take you back with me to the freshly loosened dirt.

We are here to discuss Razorblades, a magazine co-created by Steve Foxe and James Tynion IV that has recently unleashed it’s fourth edition. These two brave souls seek to bring these stories to you through comics, prose, interviews, and so much more. It’s a testament to their creativity and medium. These magazines collect the ghoulish stories, conversations, and depictions of the things you fear. But you still seek them out. You sometimes yearn to come face to face with the thing scratching at the basement door…don’t you?

Don’t wait any longer then. Razorblades is a pay what you want anthology so anyone can enjoy feeling the fear grip their throat like a tourniquet. I will let the critics give you their thoughts. I am far too close to the subjects to give a fair shake. While you call them horrors, I call them friends.

Will be seeing you soon.

The Grave Robber

Gabrielle Cazeaux (@gabrielle_doo)

I sometimes feel that people doubt the capability of the comic medium to do horror because it’s probably not able to make you jump out of your seat as a movie or game does. But with the methodical organization of everything you’re showing and narrating that the medium offers, you can focus even more on another type of horror that I even prefer; it can make you feel unsettled. A comic can show you a picture that you’re not expecting to see in a way that can stick with you for days, weeks, or even more. Not every story here was my cup of tea, although I can perfectly understand that they are for other people. But there is more than one that did that for me, a story that unsettled me more and more as I went through the pages, and I liked that. There are plenty of approaches to horror in this, and I think all of them are worth at least giving a try. Even with the stories that didn’t particularly upset me, I think they’re still interesting to read. 

Rodrigo ArGo (@Ro1Argo)

Horror is a difficult genre to manage, you need to play with the audience and use their intuition and senses to your advantage, I’m happy to say that the fourth issue of Razorblades understands this. 

While all the stories in this issue are worth talking about, my favorite has to be Dermaverse by Daniel Kraus, Jenna Cha and Has Otsmane-Elhou. Stories about obsessions mix really well with horror stories, seeing how far someone can go to achieve their goal can be unnerving. I especially love how this story brings cosmic horror to a more corporeal level, and the way it uses body horror to visualize the obsession of the character.

Other stories that are worthwhile are Price of Entry by Aditya Bidikar and Rosh and the prose story The Dog in my Neighborhood by Adam Cesare with an illustration by AaRon Campbell. Another huge shout out to all the pin-ups and their artists, achieving a sense of fear or unnerving is hard with just one image, but these pin-ups  achieve just that. 

I might be a newcomer to horror content, but I do believe that nobody is doing it like Razorblades.

Ozzy Olsen (@punkzundead)

I was shocked when saw how much content was in this magazine. Razorblades is packed to the brim with delectable horror content of all shapes and colours, whatever sub-genre you’re looking for is probably represented in at least one of the works.

The first tale, Whiteout, got me set up for what turned out to be a delightful read-through of a collection of gorgeous comics, art and legitimately horrifying and unsettling tales. The mixture of styles is incredible, it’s a love letter to the genre that lets the creations and their creators shine. The addition of adding a short comic where the cover artist Becky Cloonan has a chance to explain her inspiration was so informative and refreshing to see. 

My personal favourite was ‘Origin of Man’ by Vita Ayala & Kelly Williams. I found the story, and it’s twists very engaging. The mix of mediums was very effective at selling the atmosphere of their story.

While definitely not for someone incredibly faint of heart or squeamish. I would totally recommend this to any horror lover! It made me a fan, and purchasing the next issue is definitely in my future. 

Zachary Jenkins

There’s an essay by Razorblades co-creator and editor Steve Foxe opening this issue that deftly defines how effective horror works in comics; how it differs from prose or film. Comics must show something and it’s up to the reader how long they stare into that abyss. This theory is given form in Daniel Kraus, Jenna Cha and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s “Dermaverse.” It’s a short that preys on a relatable, pedestrian experience. There’s something on your skin that should not be. Cha’s messy blacks and whites add chaos as you try to comprehend the imperfection. Watching someone pure fall deeper and deeper into a disturbing obsession that crosses beyond absurdity, beyond mortality, into a realm where logic and human instinct dictates that man ought not go, and in the moment where you believe you understand it all, that the cosmic awareness of this unsettling and upsetting atmosphere has stopped spiraling, they push yet again, into the fathomless madness.

And you are left to gaze. You think “she shouldn’t look like that.” You run your fingers across your skin with the knowledge of every scar. Every blemish. Every corruption of your flesh. Dear reader, horror isn’t what is contained in these few pages. Horror is the hole in the deepest recesses of your soul that this story will fill for all time.

Jessica Scott (@WeWhoWalkHere)

Horror comics face unique challenges in both their chosen genre and medium, and the opening essay from Razorblades editor Steve Foxe lays out exactly how hard it is for horror comics to elicit actual scares. The pieces in this issue, which range from illustrated prose to standalone illustrations to conventionally structured comics, won’t all scare you in the same way. If you read them with an open mind and all the lights off, though, you will likely get at least some of the terror you’re craving. Whether body horror gets under your skin or religious horror disturbs your soul or some other subgenre keeps you awake at night, these horror stories have something to offer most horror fans. My favorites were Trevor Henderson’s “The Cursed Painting” and Erika Price’s “Drag Me to the Confessional,” which both feature disturbing, expressionistic images but combine them with text in very different ways to achieve similar results: frightening and disturbing horror comics that will likely pop into my head at the least opportune moments to make me question faith, reality, and my place in the world. That’s all I can ask for from horror. 

J. Michael Donohue (@jmichaeldonohue)

‘Origin of Man” by Vita Ayala and Kelly Williams is a breathtaking example of horror that beautifully interweaves pros and comics. Ayala set the stage for this world with the opening pages and then Williams’s art instantly sucked me into this ancient world of monsters and men, perfectly capturing the feel of an old campfire tale. I could almost smell the embers as each page finished. Not only that but Ayala perfectly played on my love of perspective in stories. When we tell the tales of our lives we can’t help but see ourselves as the heroes, bravely fighting off the monster lurking in the dark. But the truth of the matter is that maybe, just maybe, we’re actually the villains. Bravo to this creative team. This is the perfect example of how “Razorblades” is still as sharp as ever and thirsty for blood. 

Reagan Anick (@rhymeswpicard)

From the very beginning, Razorblades has been one of my favourite pieces of horror media. If you know me, you’ll understand just what that means. I love horror, I have since before I was even allowed to watch horror movies; some of my clearest childhood memories are of reading books like Haunted Canada or Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. As the opening essay by Steve Foxe says, horror is a genre that when well-executed is usually that way because of restraint on the end of the creators; movies like Jaws live on so well in our memory because of its dedication to showing as little as possible for as long as possible. As Foxe points out, comics can’t make use of this strategy; if someone wants to elicit fear, they can’t rely on suspense the same way they would be able to with a movie. There’s no music cue, no slow zoom into a dark corner, comics can’t use the same tricks film does. So writers and artists make their own strategies, they use their own tricks. Razorblades shows that even without jumpscares and spooky music it’s still very possible for comics to scare you. 

Issue #4 features comic book stories by James Tynion IV, Fernando Blanco, Vita Ayala, Kelly Williams, Josh Simmons, Alex Paknadel, Jason Loo, Erika Price, Daniel Kraus, Jenna Cha, Rich Douek, Alex Cormack, Aditya Bidikar, Rosh, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, and more.

Illustrations by Maria Llovet, Daryl Toh, Trevor Henderson, Wipor Mont, Hannah Comstock, Aaron Campbell, and Ricardo Lopez Ortiz.

Razorblades also features a nonfiction comic by Becky Cloonan detailing the inspirations behind her cover, and a short prose story by Adam Cesare. Cover by Becky Cloonan. Design by Dylan Todd.


Fun-Size Roundtable: Ordinary Gods #1

Welcome back to this week’s installment of The Fun-Size Round Table. I’m your host, Ashley, and today we’ll be diving in to Ordinary Gods #1 from writer Kyle Higgins, artist Felipe Watanabe, colorist Frank William, and letterer Clayton Cowles. 

Ordinary Gods starts out with a bang, right in the middle of the action in late 90’s Japan. As a reader, we’re not entirely sure what’s happening, but when things go south, we’re transported off-world and rewarded with some intriguing lore recounting the past of the One King and 13 immortal Gods.

As a lover of well-told stories, Ordinary God’s non-linear story structure shines. Often a fantasy series can be dogged by the “info-dump,” that age-old method of overwhelming readers with world-building and back story right at the onset. But Higgins has woven together the past and the present with finesse, always providing just enough to propel the next few pages forward with meaning and context. 

Our present-day hero is Christopher, an ordinary 22-year-old guy unhappy with the mediocrity and direction his life has taken. Christopher wants more. He’s tired of feeling weak. Well, Christopher soon gets what he asked for, but will he finally be happy when destiny meets him right at his kitchen table? Ordinary Gods is a story of reincarnation, otherworldly Gods, and alternate-Earth history. It grips you from the first page, and leaves you craving the next issue.

To weigh in on Christopher’s destiny, we’ve put together an incredible team. So read on and uncover our panel’s thoughts on Ordinary Gods #1, available today!

Rook Geary (@rookgeary)

Ordinary Gods #1. Credit: Kyle Higgins, Felipe Watanabe, Frank William, Clayton Cowles.

Well, that blew my expectations out of the water. I had heard good things about some of Higgins’ work, enjoyed the first couple of issues of Radiant Black and some of his Nightwing a few years back, but this hits hard out of the gate with vivid, engaging, bold storytelling choices.

I wasn’t even sure this premise was a great idea going in, but the setup with the gods has a huger-than-huge scope that sweeps you up, and a relationship with our “real world” that’s startlingly relatable. If they can do justice to half of the themes brought up in this comic (particularly the therapy session), this book is going to be really special.

And this is all without mentioning Watanabe’s brilliant direction of action and character, the saturated bursts of violence and clever manipulation of tone from Williams, and the effortlessly classic lettering from Cowles. This book had me from the start and didn’t let go.

Katie Liggera (@kataloupee)

Ordinary Gods #1. Credit: Kyle Higgins, Felipe Watanabe, Frank William, Clayton Cowles.

Most likely, I’ll show my age from this comment — but I can’t help drawing parallels between this expansive ‘immortal gods’ narrative and the beloved Percy Jackson book series from my childhood. Therefore, my Rick Riordian indoctrination in middle school makes Ordinary Gods #1 a perfect jump into indulging in a fantasy comic as an adult. Kyle Higgins demonstrates a remarkable propensity for storytelling structure. I wasn’t expecting an alternating narrative that both juxtaposed and echoed one another. However, Higgins engineers the dual storylines with alacrity. I found myself enraptured; astonished at how well the comic shifted between depicting immortal beings’ grandiose battles and relatability of young adult normalcy in the present.

Spectacularly, Felipe Watanabe’s illustrations, colored thoughtfully by Frank Williams, intensify the stakes. Intimate, close-frame panels expose Christopher’s struggles with depression, while sprawling splash pages enforce the ramifications of the gods’ conflicts. Clayton Cowles letters dialogue in the god-inhabited realms to stylistically appear as if we are reading an ancient manuscript. Visuals heighten every moment where I stopped reading often to let the images settle into my head. Ordinary Gods approaches its tale exactly like Percy Jackson. The fantasy concept proves more than palatable in the comic by treating a war of the realms and an everyman’s human experience with equal measure. Ordinary Gods whisks me back in time — in more ways than one! I am definitely adding this comic to my pull list.

Matt Brimfield (@the_brimmy)

Ordinary Gods #1. Credit: Kyle Higgins, Felipe Watanabe, Frank William, Clayton Cowles.

Ordinary Gods has a compelling way with its approach to its storytelling. While not being a reader of traditional comics, I found myself intrigued and curious over the lore that was trickling through the panels of this issue. Though “Gods among People” is a common trope used in storytelling, Higgins has found a way to circumvent the cliche with the delivery of the lore given to us. Higgins gives us little breadcrumbs to an overarching plot of a war among gods. 

The art between Watanabe and WIlliams is also punchy and vibrant; Giving life to Higgins’s story. You can go from a vivid depiction between the battle between gods to a seemingly average day at the mall with the protagonist, Christopher, and his sister. The over-the-top, gorey violence is icing on the cake.

Between the storytelling and the art, Ordinary Gods will definitely be a series that I will keep an eye on as it has captured my attention and drawn me into its vast world.

 Jordan Edwards (@IamJordanZoned)

Ordinary Gods #1. Credit: Kyle Higgins, Felipe Watanabe, Frank William, Clayton Cowles.

Higgins does an excellent job kicking off another series at Image. Ordinary Gods has an engaging premise and immediately interesting world. My only gripe was that it wasn’t explored enough. The issue does a great job of getting us a peek of the setting, but pinballs between different times and peoples a bit too quickly, I felt. The story alternates between sections with our young protagonist and expository scenes explaining the nature of the conflict. I felt that these expository bits went by a little fast, especially compared to the appropriately slow mundane scenes. I’m sure this issue will be resolved as the story continues, however.

Watanabe and Williams’s art does a lot of the work to sell this book’s two halves, as a whole. It could be easy for the extreme contrast to be overwhelming, but the art team paints with a careful brush, enticing us into a new and exciting world.

Ordinary Gods is absolutely a book to keep your eye on. It sets up an engaging premise with a relatable and human core. This could be something really special and I’m excited to see it kick off even further.

Jimmy Gaspero (@jimmygaspero)

Ordinary Gods #1. Credit: Kyle Higgins, Felipe Watanabe, Frank William, Clayton Cowles.

There’s a lot I enjoyed about Ordinary Gods #1. Felipe Watanabe excels at both chaotic action sequences and intense, close-up character moments, with excellent coloring by Frank William, the comic was visually appealing, further enhanced by Clayton Cowles’s smart lettering choices, from tightly controlling the pace of the dialogue to letting loose with gunshot SFX. The story is also laid out in an interesting fashion. As the focus switches from another world inhabited by immortal gods to our own world and the protagonist Christopher, the panels bridging the gap are often visually connected as well as connected through dialogue or narration. There are clues seeded here early on regarding Christopher’s true identity, which I especially appreciated reading through this issue a second time. Kyle Higgins’ dialogue through the panels of Christopher and his therapist as well as Christopher and his family at the dinner table was straightforward, honest, and believable. It’s one of the reasons the end of the issue feels especially brutal.          

I think it’s inevitable now when dealing with stories of gods on Earth to make The Wicked + The Divine comparisons, and I found this first issue more accessible, but that’s not necessarily a positive. I was certainly left with questions regarding Christopher’s sister, what Christopher’s true identity means for him and his future, and if it somehow affects his depression/mental health, but there wasn’t enough here for me to connect with or to differentiate itself from things that have come before it to add this to my pull list.   

RJ Durante (@ArghRJ) 

Ordinary Gods #1. Credit: Kyle Higgins, Felipe Watanabe, Frank William, Clayton Cowles.

From a Yakuza shootout opening to a life-altering closing for our young protagonist Christopher, Ordinary Gods does not fuck around. Heads are blown off, families are torn apart, and uprisings are quelled, and that’s just the first issue. The tight narrative stylings of Kyle Higgins gives readers a release that’s less of an info-dump and more of a hand-holding guide into a world similar to ours. 13 gods lead 13 lands, with one overzealous ruler, appropriately named the One King, to oversee them all. Sauron be damned, there is no ‘one ring’ in this realm, but we can forgive this transgression as these gods bring new life to an old construct. The most relatable experience is to our aimless and depressed leading character Christopher. I’m all for ‘greatness thrust upon’ trope, especially when it comes from a family-ending bloodbath, I mean, look at The Punisher.

The real heavy lifting goes to artist Felipe Watannabe and colorist Frank William for creating visuals that seize your attention frame by frame, not letting go from beginning to end. Even though I laugh every time I see a gun fired and the words BLAM! are spread across the page, but they weren’t much of a distraction here as the artistry had me mesmerized. The look of the Gods themselves had a strange familiarity to them, which definitely made it easier to try and guess who was who without a label on their chest. Being a fan of violent comics, but specifically, violence with purpose because anything else is excess, Ordinary Gods fits the bill. I will definitely be looking forward to the next issue as this was a strong hook into this not so ordinary world.


Fun-Size Roundtable: Crossover #7

It is June 16, 2015. Reality has begun to collapse. Something once believed to be too ridiculous to ever actually happen has. A man who built an empire by sacrificing his name to a dark and foreboding tower has just announced a con to become President of the United States. Everything that has occurred before or since is but a faint echo of this moment in time. Things will only get more fantastical from here.

It is August 20, 2014. Five days ago, a pathetic little man with pathetic little ideas started a harassment campaign against his ex-girlfriend. From the wreckage of this relationship, the collapse of reality would be fostered and calcified until its entropic ends were met. Today, a scotsman begins a Dear John letter to a multiverse they still, in spite of themselves, love. They plead for the multiverse to embrace diversity over regurgitating old stories and old heroes.

It is April 1, 2015. A small group of men, faced with the potential of something new, opt to plead for a return to the past. Fittingly, one of them is a nazi. In this moment, a Convergence of reality will act as a mystical ritual to reject the alternative of a diverse multiverse in favor of a Rebirth of the old.

It’s October 30, 2013. Our dreams have begun to die.

It’s May 6, 2015. The Marvel Universe is dead. The ruins are being kept together by an egomaniac, needy game-player. A so-called Great Man of History who sees his place as a Great Man as the most important thing in the world. The past must remain existent. The future, he claims, would be death.

It’s May 27, 2015. A second reality is scheming to overlap and consume the reality we know. It is a reality dreamed up by reactionary figures who see the “lesser races” as in need of extermination. The fascist ideals of old racists forced down upon a reality of diverse alternatives. A Single Vision brought about by Cthulhus Sleep.

It’s January 11, 2017. In nine days, Donald Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States. The collapse of reality has concluded with the invasion of a superheroic reality upon a non-superheroic one. The consequences are devastating.

This is not a dream. This is not a dream. This is not a dream.

Donny Cates Proudly Presents…

Crossover #7

Written by Chip Zdarsky

Art by Phil Hester and Ande Parks

Colors by Dee Cunniffe

Letters by John J Hill

Brason T. (@UltimateBrason)

Crossover #7. Credit: Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Chip Zdarsky, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Dee Cunniffe, John J. Hill.

As someone only vaguely familiar with Crossover from friends who have read it, and someone who has read a couple of Zdarsky’s Marvel runs, this issue really works. I struggle with self-doubt and my place in this world, and that is exactly what this boils down to for me. Fun, lighthearted coloring from Dee Cunniffe combined with grimmer dialogue and scenarios that compliment each other as well, showing that these characters are more complex than some conversations surrounding comics give them credit for. 

The overall idea of these characters coming to life sounds sillier when they really dig into it, which I’m not sure if that works in the context of the larger series. Trying to bridge that Twitter meme-culture built around Cates & Stegman with their works in Western comics is certainly a neat idea I trust Zdarsky with, but not really something I need to see again. Luckily the frequent references to other writers actually doesn’t get tiring here. Final verdict: definitely check this out if you get the chance.

Gabrielle Cazeaux (@gabrielle_doo)

Crossover #7. Credit: Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Chip Zdarsky, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Dee Cunniffe, John J. Hill.

I didn’t know what Crossover was about, but I heard it was good. I didn’t imagine it was this good. I know going meta has been over-used during the last few years, and for some people that will be enough to decide to avoid the book. It can get pretty annoying for me too when the joke is just that it’s something meta, so I’m glad that is not the case at all with this. It’s used to not only create a fun and intriguing story but as a metaphor to explore the feelings of the protagonist, who in this case, is also the creator of the story. It can be very on-the-nose, but I sincerely have no problem with that, and sequences like the one where his persona hugs him and supports him are just very endearing and plain cool to me, and I never even read something from Zdarsky! I don’t know if the rest of Crossover is as good as this issue, but, most probably, I’ll at least check it out.

Christa Mactíre (@christawolf94)

Crossover #7. Credit: Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Chip Zdarsky, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Dee Cunniffe, John J. Hill.

When Sean asked me to review this comic, I admit I didn’t know what to expect. I was going in completely blind with no expectation of what I was about to read, no preconceived notions, nothing. All I knew was that he needed my help, and like a good friend, I said yes.

So, Crossover #7. The story is that someone is killing comic creators, and the characters they made are coming to life. This issue follows Steve Murray (aka Chip Zdarsky) and his attempts to flee from the mysterious killer, only to cross paths with his comic book version of himself. I won’t say more beyond that, but I will say that as someone who A) adores metafiction and B) continually puts fictionalized versions of herself in her own work, I loved seeing someone take that same mechanic and use it in a way to subvert our expectations of what the encounter would be like, and build something better in its place. If nothing else, I’m definitely interested in catching up with the rest of the story. If you like metafiction and the storytelling possibilities it offers, this is an excellent starting point!

Alfie Taylor (@AGeekForFun)

Crossover #7. Credit: Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Chip Zdarsky, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Dee Cunniffe, John J. Hill.

I came into this issue knowing two things: “I like Chip Zdarsky,” and “everything I’ve heard about Crossover makes me doubt I’d enjoy it.” I left with a certainty in the former, but did not gain an inclination to delve into the rest of the series. 

Crossover #7 shows Zdarsky’s knack for efficient plotting. He seamlessly weaves together a nakedly personal tale that a newcomer can pick up and enjoy. The trio of Hester’s pencils, Park’s inks, and Cunniffe’s colors were sublime. The inherent balancing act of illustrating a comic about comic characters invading reality shouldn’t be underestimated. Regardless, Hester and Park make it look effortless with their pairing of fantastic character acting and heavy uses of black, keeping the inherent fun of the premise drenched in contemplative shadow. Cunniffe turns it up another notch – never over-rendering, always letting the inks speak – but being skilled enough to know when to employ a little extra glow on a car’s headlights to guide your eye. As someone whose own life has created an online character, If we hacks must go meta and birth an invincible imp to protect us, then the least we can do is love them back.

David Mann (@davidmann95)

Crossover #7. Credit: Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Chip Zdarsky, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Dee Cunniffe, John J. Hill.

To my own shock I’m quite familiar with Crossover since I pick it up for my dad (glad he enjoys it!). While there are moments where it collapses in on itself entertainingly, mostly its ‘what if us nerds got sent to concentration camps with all our favorite characters’ premise is so profoundly dopey as to transcend the visceral offense it deserves, and the high concept doesn’t extend far past trying to overwhelm you with references. At heart it’s little more than a pretty curio overly enamored with its banal excesses.

But then there’s Crossover #7. The guest art team alongside Cunniffe and Hill manage to mimic Geoff Shaw’s knack for blending the mundane and mad that does so much to sell a reality in the idea of reality breaking down. Zdarsky however does more than fit: the exploration of fact and fiction blending moves way past shiny cameos here in ways that serve to expose the lack of ambition of the rest of Crossover as much as anything else. A brief rumination on the narratives we offer up about ourselves, why, and what comes of them, this is clever, raw, startlingly personal storytelling that’s infuriatingly better than this series deserves.


Fun-Size Roundtable: Good Luck #1

Rumours have been coming in about the world possibly going to hell and well, we’re gonna need something like luck. Now that was not an intended pun, but we sure could use some luck. And not the bad kind of luck either!

Well, it does seem like people are trying to save us. Or at least I like to believe that. And what’s my source you say? Well, all I got is this little comic, but I like to think that perhaps someone must have been there to capture the exploits of the brave souls who are trying to save our world, because here’s the one thing: they’re not lucky, or at least they aren’t according to this comic.

What’s this comic you say? Well, it’s Good Luck #1 by Matthew Erman, Stefano Simeone, Mike Fiorentino, and Michelle Ankley. In addition to telling the news to us, it tells it in style, so of course I had to get some of my fellow peers to analyse and evaluate this comic, not as a means of news mind you, but whether it is newsworthy storytelling. And now I leave you with their thoughts.

Ashley Durante (@ashleyacts)

Good Luck #1. Credit: Matthew Erman, Stefano Simeone, Mike Fiorentino, and Michelle Ankley

We’ve all had our fair share of unlucky days. But what if you were perpetually unlucky? What if everyone else around you were magically imbued with the power of luck; and that cruel mistress took one look at you and said, “No. Not that one.”? Such is the fate of Artemis Barlow and his fellow ragtag “Unfortunates.” In Good Luck #1, we meet the sweetly optimistic Artemis and only fall more in love with this unlucky sad-sack every time he falls down and shouts, “Ouch! My bones!” 

Like most people, whether novel or comic, I’m looking for a good story. But if you hook me with characters I care about too, I’m putty in your hands. Suffice it to say, I’m already on team Artie & Co. Good Luck #1’s color story soars, with an 80’s pop color scheme that’s just vintage enough to feel futuristic. If I had a lone complaint after reading this first issue, it would be that I want even more lore. This story has a lot of potential and I’m hoping the next issues will give us more than just a leaky faucet’s worth of information on Doctor Diaphanous and the training simulations the Unfortunates have been running. Perhaps we’ll get lucky?

Allison Senecal (@maliciousglee)

Good Luck #1. Credit: Matthew Erman, Stefano Simeone, Mike Fiorentino, and Michelle Ankley

Luck-based powers are always a tough sell for me as a reader, and Good Luck throws us into a whole luck-based world. Where it really succeeds is making its focus the only kids on Earth entirely without luck. These kids, the Unfortunates, are easily the biggest strength of this issue. Stefano Simeone created some fun character designs for them and Hilde has an eye-patch so I know I’ll remember her forever. Props to Mike Fiorentino for forcing me to like lowercase lettering in a comic. 

Sci-fi and fantasy comics tend toward inevitable info-dumps, and I do wish the front-loaded one here had been integrated into the action instead. The initial narration comes off more clunky than epic and I would have been pulled in faster had Erman and Co. dropped us in with Artie off the bat. I’m not sure there’s enough of a hook to keep me on this monthly, but I’d snag the trade.

Gabrielle Cazeaux (@gabrielle_doo)

Good Luck #1. Credit: Matthew Erman, Stefano Simeone, Mike Fiorentino, and Michelle Ankley

I’m always attracted to weird and new concepts, and that’s what interested me about Good Luck. A group of the most unfortunate people in the world; the underdogs, if you will. I was weary, of course, of that being just a façade to make the characters more relatable, something which I think is a problem that’s becoming very common nowadays. But instead, this first issue was a great surprise, and if I’m being honest, everything I could want for a first issue.

From the very first panel to the last, thanks to the angles of the panels and the way they’re organized, it feels like you’re always stumbling through the pages, constantly glitching. In a good way, almost like our unlucky protagonists. And without over-explaining itself, it presents us with interesting themes that I’d love to further explore; what does it really mean to be unlucky? How do you live if it’s assured that everything will always go badly? Are they being told the truth about their supposed purpose and functionality in this world?

I’m completely sold on the story. I definitely want to see what else this world has to offer, and how it develops its futuristic and cosmic mythology, and these distinct characters that apparently have no chances of ever winning from the very start.

Ed Escobar (@AsleepTurnpike)

Good Luck #1. Credit: Matthew Erman, Stefano Simeone, Mike Fiorentino, and Michelle Ankley

Good Luck #1 portrays an interesting blend of abstract ideas and phenomena, such as gods and luck, with science fiction. The idea of “quantifiable luck” is an interesting one, and certainly focusing on the few people whose fortune has led them to be born without any luck at all is a catchy premise. The character we follow through the issue, Artemis, is charming and funny in his literally nonsensical optimism. There are several unexplained mysteries here that will probably have me coming back for the next few issues, though the exposition that is there remains somewhat clunky. 

The character writing by Erman is solid enough, and the bright and colorful art by Simeone is delightful. The lettering by Fiorentino is great, especially for an issue with as much dialogue as this. I’m looking forward to seeing the way this story develops, now that the main concepts are set.

Simon Zuccherato (@PredapSZ)

Good Luck #1. Credit: Matthew Erman, Stefano Simeone, Mike Fiorentino, and Michelle Ankley

First issues are often hard, having to introduce the characters, plot, and provide a hook to keep reading. Luckily enough, Good Luck #1 manages to accomplish all this. It provides a lot of exposition about the world, packing the pages with word balloons, and while it can feel a bit stilted at some points it’s never a chore to read through.

Stefano Simeone does a great job with the colours, creating a world filled with reds, blues, and yellows that are both aesthetically pleasing and indicate the relative levels of luck in the current location. While it’s by no means an all-time great #1, I was still impressed, and am looking forward to seeing where this series goes.


Fun-Size Roundtable: The Silver Coin #3

Welcome to another edition of Fun-Size Roundtable. I’m your host Reagan Anick and tonight we’ll be continuing our marathon of The Silver Coin series as we discuss the third instalment, Death Rattle. Writer Ed Brisson captures the aftermath of a botched home invasion as this stunning series from Director and Cinematographer Michael Walsh expands its mythology and raises more questions about where the titular coin came from, and what it wants.

So gather round kiddos and don’t get too spooked as our ghastly panel of ghouls takes the plunge into The Silver Coin 3: Death Rattle by Michael Walsh, Ed Brisson and Toni Marie Griffin.

Katie Liggera

The Silver Coin #3. Credit: Michael Walsh, Ed Brisson, Toni Marie Griffin

Two main appeals keep drawing me back to the Silver Coin anthology series: Reading comics in the horror genre and reading self-contained stories. On the other hand, unifying elements connecting each issue to one another have become increasingly transparent. Fire, a sign that reads “Camp Serenity,” and a clever throwaway line about the home invasion victim being “deader than disco” call back to the first two Silver Coin issues. Essential, though, is the raven’s return. The raven acts as a recurring motif, but makes its presence prominent in this issue. The cover alone alerts readers to the bird’s significance, featuring the raven holding a detached eyeball in its beak. Walsh illustrates the raven with a technique that adds to its ethereal imagery. Hauntingly, the raven appears on the page as if it is smeared sometimes, dripping with tones of black like an illusive omen. Notably, the raven interacts with the story’s events for the first time. Instead of merely patronizing background scenes, the bird comes in direct contact with the humans several times. Along with the silver coin, are we to question whether the raven additionally has an influence on the story? Can we attribute cause to the coin and the raven?

Building off the idea of motivating sway over the plot, I also noticed fascinating implications about the silver coin itself. The Silver Coin #3 not only hearkens back tonally and stylistically to the first issue, but also narratively. The issue adds layers of lore to the coin’s mysterious existence. Witnessing a physical entity beckoning to the coin’s wielder, and ultimately, destroying her, invites readers to consider an orchestrating hand behind the cursed artifact. Undoubtedly, this issue raises questions and stakes I can’t wait to traverse throughout this horrifically gratifying series.

Sean Keister

The Silver Coin #3. Credit: Michael Walsh, Ed Brisson, Toni Marie Griffin

I love horror and the classic anthology format, so The Silver Coin is a natural blend of my favorite genre staples. Much like the forgotten ABC television series Gun, the object of desire and dread in the title leads to crackerjack story ideas. The tie-in from the first issue with the now-deceased firefighter is fascinating and makes me wonder if a future story will tell his tale. In the meantime, the story of the three home-invading youths fills the void. The pacing of this one is an improvement on the previous issue. This time around, it appears the author felt more confident in where the story was headed. Despite the standard short-page count, the characterizations delivered on giving the three their own distinct moral codes. I enjoyed the irony of Lisa, the most conflicted member of the gang going the most berserk. In her coin-hypnotized state, her rampage is sudden and horrifying. Engulfed in flames the moment she realizes what happens serves as the perfect sucker punch for the reader. I loved the color palette in this issue. The cool blues and purples of the city landscapes contrasted with the burning-bright oranges of the fire sequences. The fire imagery itself connects us with the previous owner and also leads us to an important new figure in the storytelling at the climax. I hope the series continues to build the subtle and mysterious mythology that ties these various misfits together.

Daniel McMahon

The Silver Coin #3. Credit: Michael Walsh, Ed Brisson, Toni Marie Griffin

I have wanted to pick this title up for a bit but haven’t found the time. I feel like I lifted that coin because I am entirely consumed by this story. Michael Walsh is a god damn powerhouse whirlwind of talent. His style has a distinct grit to it. The feeling is moody and dark in a way that makes me feel like that perhaps I am not supposed to be seeing this. That’s the way I want to feel when consuming horror, that I’m an outsider watching something like this occur. His lettering is superb for this story being told by Brisson. The strength comes from it being an anthology series in my opinion. Having small contained stories allows you to give that rush every issue while being able to start fresh next month. Despite the spooky nature of it all, there were a few panels that made me laugh like the “Kaw yourself”. I absolutely loved this issue and am adding the whole thing to my pull.

Jimmy Gaspero

The Silver Coin #3. Credit: Michael Walsh, Ed Brisson, Toni Marie Griffin

Michael Walsh continues to create stunningly creepy visuals for this series, be it a full page of a house fully engulfed in flames with a single person silhouetted in the center of the page or the look and glow on Lisa’s face as she first stares at the coin and hears the mysterious voice call her name for the first time. The gray-blue colors of the majority of the panels work to complement the mood of dread, and the decision to set this story during a snowstorm is an inspired one as it makes the pinkish-red of the police sirens glow and SFX invade those panels in an unsettling way.

Ed Brisson is on board for this installment and he confidently tells this story of the aftermath of a home invasion. The callbacks to the first story are apparent, but I was so engrossed in the characters I didn’t recognize them at first. Brisson’s ability to tell us the type of people Lisa, Vic, and Bobby are in a few opening panels serves the story well as we build up to their brutal demise. The story builds to a terrifying conclusion and a tantalizing glimpse of a force behind the curse of the coin as Brisson and Walsh pack in the horror elements. This is another excellent issue in this series and I’m excited and scared to see what is next.


Fun-Size Roundtable: The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1

Thank you everyone for coming here on such short notice. We are gathered here today to— Hey, you in the back with the headband, quiet down! Damnit, where was I….? Right. We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of Trigger Keaton, a man loved by— HEY! Stop throwing tomatoes at me! The casket’s over there!

You know what, I’m skipping the rest of this script. You know why we’re here. The first issue of The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton, written by Kyle Starks and illustrated by Chris Schweizer, is out today. I’d like to thank the five panelists gathered here today for actually responding to the invitation, even if one of you scoundrels keyed my car. But I digress, let’s hear what each of you have to say about a man we all tolerated at best, and loathed on average.

Jimmy Gaspero

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1. Credit: Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer.

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton is about an extremely unlikable action star whose former TV sidekicks team up to investigate his murder. Starks never misses an opportunity to showcase Keaton’s terrible behavior, but the character never feels too exaggerated or over the top. This isn’t a caricature, so when the TV sidekicks are introduced it’s understandable that they have complicated feelings about the death of Trigger Keaton as they attend his memorial service. The sidekick introductions are smartly done with names and sidekick number, along with panel inserts giving a glimpse of an article or TV Guide entry for the TV show they were in with Keaton. They are all very different and the characterization work is strong, but also Schweizer’s design for each character makes them stand out in their own way.

The biggest takeaways from The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton are its sense of humor and action scenes. Terry Komodo is brash, obnoxious and probably the only former sidekick with anything nice to say about Keaton, so there’s plenty of comedy to be mined there, but Paul Hernandez has a subtler, dryer wit and this comes across too in the panels. The opening panels provide some action for Schweizer to show off a little (the “SPIN KICK!” and “LEG SWEEP” SFX are great too), but the end fight scene is tremendous both in how dynamic Komodo looks fighting, but also the movement and anxiety in Hernandez attempting to avoid the fight.        

Overall, this was a fun first issue that was funny, with great action and a compelling mystery at its center that fans of Rock Candy Mountain and Assassin Nation are sure to enjoy.

Bobby Varghese Vinu

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1. Credit: Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer.

While this is an interesting premise, the first issue seems to move at a rather fast pace to the detriment of the story that’s being told. It can be rather jarring with certain scenes, and it disrupts the story’s flow at times. However, not all is imperfect.

The supplementary material for this comic is fascinating as while it is a recounting of an incident involving the man, it adds to this issue’s depiction of who Trigger Keaton is, which is all too relevant when considering the behaviour of certain people in Hollywood towards those they deem “lesser.” There’s also potential here for character exploration with his former “sidekicks:” the actors who he burnt bridges with thanks to his attitude. Even as a posthumous character, he still lives through the protagonists

And the art is excellent. There’s a sort of vintage pop culture aesthetic with the colours used by Schweizer, which is very cool and fitting for the story being told. It blends well with the cartoony linework used by Schweizer, giving me the impression of a late night cartoon on Adult Swim.

Elle Worthy

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1. Credit: Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer.

Trigger Keaton was Bonafide Pictures’ cash cow, having had a contract with them for an unheard-of twenty-five years. This security gave Keaton the freedom to act without regard to others or even his own wellbeing. In a not so surprising turn of events, Keaton, “the world’s most unlikable action star”, is found dead in his trailer. With the police uninterested in looking deeper into what they have prematurely deemed a suicide, it’s up to those he’s scorned the most to get to the bottom of the mystery.

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton finds a ragtag group of Keaton’s former and most current onscreen sidekicks gathered at a publicity event after the discovery of his body. They will need to set aside their personal biases and issues to work together.

This was a visually pleasing story to get into. It had a lot going on without being too busy. I really enjoyed the title cards introducing the Six, as well as the panels highlighting their Hollywood connection to Keaton along with the fallout attached to their projects. I was especially entertained by Sidekick No. 6, Miles Nguyen, Keaton’s most recent on-screen partner. I got big Phoenix Wright, over-the-top, wannabe detective vibes from him and it just worked so well with the rest of the crew. 

This was a great first issue that definitely reeled me in for the rest of the series. 

Bethani Lynda

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1. Credit: Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer.

There’s something about comics that makes the medium a prime breeding ground for legendary asshole characters, and Trigger Keaton is determined to sucker-punch and leg-sweep his way into that pantheon. It helps that he’s doing it in a book that’s incredibly warm, funny, and fully committed to its nutty premise.

There’s a lot to love here, from the clear personalities of each sidekick to the wonderful character acting. I was able to read this issue on my phone without having to zoom in to parse what was happening (though I still did anyway, the art’s just too delightful). Schweizer’s style won’t be for everyone, but he deserves the attention of anyone who cares about cartooning. Lovely colors, too!

Starks has a great ear for dialogue and which writing style is appropriate for which situation. Whether it’s a tawdry celeb profile, a TV guide listing, or a canned speech to the press, everything sounded right to me. It’s that kind of attention to detail that makes for a great crime farce, and I am definitely along for the ride.

Logan Dalton

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1. Credit: Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer.

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1 is a joke-dense action comedy ride from writer Kyle Starks and artist Chris Schweizer. Using press clippings and flashbacks, they construct one of the most unlikable characters, period, kill him off, and then set up a stone-cold whodunit. Keaton is a lot like how I imagine Chuck Norris to be like when the cameras are off. However, Six Sidekicks isn’t just a mystery, but a multi-genre feast drawing on Trigger Keaton’s long career on television shows you’re more likely to see on some random local channel at 3 AM than getting big reunion specials on HBO Max.

This is a comic that can go from a heartfelt anti-suicide PSA to a no-holds-barred street brawl, with Starks and Schweizer playfully blurring the lines between fact and fiction. Each of the six sidekicks have a distinct personality that draws on different Hollywood archetypes from the failed, recast child star to the child star with a career in another field, the professional athlete who’s crossed over into acting, and more. They’re introduced in a funeral scene that feels more like reading through the guest list of a flyover state comic con, but it’s an effective way to introduce a large ensemble cast and get to the fun ass kicking bits.

The upcoming Stuntman War teased at the end of the issue does seem like a distraction rather than a compelling plot point, but I really wanna get to know this motley crew a bit more. On a craft level, I also want to continue to bask in the comedic alchemy of Kyle Starks and Chris Schweizer because a well-placed beat panel or reaction shot can make a funny line a laugh-out-loud one.


Fun-Size Roundtable: Everfrost #1

GateCrashers HQ:

       We’ve made an incredible find in the ice north of Ward Precinct close to where the Ennio’s skull is located. I was shocked at how well preserved it is considering the harsh conditions here. It’s an ancient form of serialized, visual story-telling called a comic. I hope you’re sitting down when you read this because it’s not on a datapad; it’s actual paper. Paper! How it wasn’t destroyed by all the Branq in the area remains a mystery.

       This comic is titled Everfrost #1 by Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, and Jim Campbell. It tells the story of Van, a scientist trying to use the offspring of the dead Ennio to find a way off-world, with the help of her companion, Eight. At the same time, there are tales of the troubles between the Warlords of Ward and the Bloom. There’s much more to it and I’m giddy with the possibilities of studying this ancient text.      

In order to ensure speedy results, it was necessary to recruit some members from Project Yeti. This is the team studying the mysterious Pragg and you can read all of the previously published reports here. I have also drafted two recruits from Astounding Tales, Jake and Ray, and you can pick up what they’ve been working on here and see a free preview here. Once assembled, my team was in a position to analyze Everfrost #1 and report back immediately. Below I leave you with my team’s findings.

Katie Liggera

Everfrost #1. Credit: Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, Jim Campbell

Sci-fi genre comics require work. The writer’s work hinges on their responsibility to create a future/dystopia immersive for readers, also providing essential constituents to parse the lore wrapped up in these plots. Illustrators must work to manifest the writers’ script visually, adding layers of tangible details. Everfrost #1 does the work of a sci-fi comic in that the necessary rudimentary elements are present. But the comic overworks itself by stuffing an abundance of information into one single dense issue. As a reader, I felt I was working hard to understand Ryan K. Lindsay’s multi-latticed, in media res storylines. The enormity of ideas percolating, while innovative, felt overwhelming.

Van Louise and Eight’s story should have remained this first issue’s sole focus. Foul-mouthed primate companions always add levity to comics wavering tonally. I wanted to know more about Eight and loved his cheeky dynamic with Van. I primarily found myself invested in Van and her backstory. Masterful flashback sequences enhanced characterization. The close-up focus on only Van’s eyes tearing up immediately following the memory of her family’s deaths was poignant. Sami Kivelä and Lauren Affe’s artistry elevate moments like this grandly.

Lindsay’s prose-style writing is beautiful. The art, lettering, and design of Everfrost #1 all stunningly capture the story’s atmosphere. Hopefully, the scattered plot will find an even ground with further issues. And the more Eight in the comic, the better.

Jodi Odgers

Everfrost #1. Credit: Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, Jim Campbell

From the first page of Everfrost, the creative bond between artist Sami Kivelä and writer Ryan K. Lindsay is as evident as it has been throughout their numerous previous projects. While Kivelä’s gritty realisation of Lindsay’s intricate visions is a dynamic that I personally relish, it can be occasionally nebulous. There is a lot of information thrust upon the reader, and a host of ideas that will, no doubt, be explored in some way as the series goes on. This makes the issue a very good litmus test – either you will be intrigued by the prospects of escaping a planet by spawning eggs from a decaying dead god, clone children, class war, and crystal beings that have a deeper connection to the universe, or all of this coming at you at once will help you realise that Everfrost just isn’t your cup of branqblood soup.

Ray Griffith

Everfrost #1. Credit: Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, Jim Campbell

Everfrost is a wild Sci-Fi ride with a lot of ideas.

Maybe too many of them.

We’re whisked from one splendid visual to the next with wicked abandon – characters are introduced at a breakneck speed, often with dialogue that strains the word balloons as it struggles to provide context. Flying dragon creatures and slow-witted ice giants provide wonderful flavor, but the plot has a lot of threads that don’t come together in this first issue – the initial conceit, that scientist Van Louise needs to use the corpse of an eldritch abomination to gestate a way off world, is put to the side as she and her primate companion investigate mysterious miniature clones – and that’s before the android spider woman. If the threads laid down in Issue one come together, it could be amazing, but I can’t lie, without further context it’s hard to say if this is the beginning of brilliance or just a mess.

Jake Cohen

Everfrost #1. Credit: Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, Jim Campbell

The art in Everfrost is fantastic. The last page of the comic is a gorgeous splash page. Everfrost has great character designs that are both creative and communicate information about the characters. I particularly enjoyed a creepy antagonist that becomes a cyborg due to a beheading. This may remind X-Men fans of The X-Tinction Agenda’s villain Cameron Hodge.

The art design and the textures of the technology are creative and interesting, yet familiar enough to let you know what genre the story is taking place in. The art is terrific and the dialogue and narration was serviceable, but unfortunately, I never felt that they were in service of each other. Jim Campbell did a nice job conveying the volume of speech with how bold or light the lettering was. 

Everfrost is a genre piece. It’s mostly sci-fi and space opera with some splashes of fantasy like a battle with dragons, axes, and robot drones. In the tradition of the space opera genre the protagonist of Everfrost has a cool animal/alien sidekick, a monkey with a very long prehensile tail.

The dialogue and narration are sometimes clunky and a lot of the world building is provided through exposition. The exposition dumps and world building don’t add much context to the story. The narrative felt a bit like when someone pitches a story, but they spend most of the time explaining lore and world building before telling you the plot or most importantly, what the story is about.

While having its flaws, Everfrost does transport the reader to an intriguing universe that I would be interested in visiting again.

Rob M. McDonald

Everfrost #1. Credit: Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, Jim Campbell

Everfrost is a very good looking puddle: it covers a lot but not in any amount of depth. It is what I imagine the inside of JJ Abrams’ brain looks like. Zingers! Dead Gods! Environmental catastrophe! Robots! Talking Monkey! Dragons?

There is a very contagious disease amongst indie comics at the minute: an inability to tell a story across a single issue. I can’t imagine this will tell a story over two or three issues, either. It wants you to buy in and trust the creators over the long term that you are jumping into an ocean and not about to break your ankles. It may well be the case. This issue just gave me a headache. The dialogue is clunky at best and the narrative jumps so far without telling us anything really. Just slow down.



Fun-Size Round Table: X-Men #20

It is here.

There has always been discourse around the X-line of comics. Whether that be about the outcome of the X Of Swords tournament with character fates being theorised or about the (in?)famous X-Men election, the conversation has been never-ending. For those new to these characters, this is the era of X-Men comics they will remember 20-25 years from now. This is the era that invested them in the characters. 

It may be the penultimate issue, but X-Men #20, by Jonathan Hickman, Francesco Mobili, Sunny Gho, and Clayton Cowles, promises to be an issue with consequential moments. Seeds planted a year ago slowly come to fruition. If the cover is any indication, what implications will the creation of Nimrod have for Krakoa and the future of mutantkind? 

And what did the elusive and ever-changing Roundtable have to say about this issue? Let’s find out!

Alexandra Iciek

X-Men #20, Credit: Francesco Mobili, Sunny Gho, Clayton Cowles, Marvel

Despite having an outer-space reach, X-Men #20 tells a contained story with long-lasting consequences. Readers follow Mystique, as she attempts to destroy an Orchis base. However, as par for the course with Raven Darkholme, her motives lie elsewhere.

The issue suffers with the disjointed storytelling style that the current X-Men ongoing has become known for. That said, Hickman’s script maintains a tone that feels appropriately understated yet dramatic. The plot moves forward steadily, until it ends at a startlingly consequential conclusion. Given X-Men #20 is the penultimate issue of the series, it is anyone’s guess as to what the ramifications will be in the next release.

Francesco Mobili’s art manages to capture individual character expressions well. Sunny Gho’s colors notably contrast the nature-based resources of Krakoa with the technological density of the Orchis base. The art slightly falters in the final pages, but overall does well to keep up with the hushed atmosphere of the issue.

Blanton Matthews

X-Men #20, Credit: Francesco Mobili, Sunny Gho, Clayton Cowles, Marvel

Ever since House of X and Powers of X the new story of X under Hickman has been one of divergent evolution: humans into mutants, contrasted with humans into techno-beings, leading to the final conflict between what naturally evolved of man into mutants versus the created mechanical post-humans. Now we see the parallel more clearly as Mystique enters through a gate, darkly.

X-Men #20 is at its core a story of two wives—widows really. As the mutants of Krakoa have mastered resurrection, so too have the humans by way of Dr. Alia reviving her husband as Erasmus, who becomes Nimrod. She and Mystique act out of love for their late spouses, desperate to bring them back. Ultimately neither is able to do so.
The hatred and fear building in all the players here is exciting. When the thread of Mystique and Destiny began in X-Men #6, Matteo Buffagni’s smooth lines and heavy contrasts sold the romantic scenes very well, both in the flashbacks of the living Destiny and the final pages of Mystique toasting to her late wife. With Francesco Mobili, it’s different. Opening exactly as #6 ended, the thinner lines—as well as a subtly different approach to color rendering by Sunny Gho, who colored both issues—show us a harsher reality. This is a world without love; only people desperate to revive it.

Ed Escobar

X-Men #20, Credit: Francesco Mobili, Sunny Gho, Clayton Cowles, Marvel

Jonathan Hickman’s run on the main X-Men title has been characterized by an anthology-like nature, creating several plots designed to be fulfilled in the long term. This has been Hickman’s style at Marvel in general, but it also harkens back to the way that X-Men in the 1980s would set up plotlines far in advance. 

This issue follows the thread set-up in X-Men #6, and involves Mystique infiltrating the main ORCHIS base to ensure its destruction. Thematically, the issue slots in perfectly with the post-human conflict introduced in Powers of X.

For a deceptively simple story, it has a lot of ground to cover, but the pace is never an issue and it hits all the beats it needs to. Francesco Mobili’s art in the book does a good job of selling the stakes, and Sunny Gho’s colors work well to contrast Krakoa and the ORCHIS base. The issue’s impactful conclusion promises monumental consequences in the near future.

Reagan Anick

X-Men #20, Credit: Francesco Mobili, Sunny Gho, Clayton Cowles, Marvel

X-Men #20 is three things in one; a continuation, a conclusion, and a prologue.

In the space of one issue, Hickman furthers the plotline of Mystique fighting to get her wife, Destiny, resurrected while simultaneously closing the door on the chapter of this story concerned with the birth of Nimrod. At the same time, as these two feats are accomplished, Hickman guides us into what comes next. After continually being denied access to her wife, Mystique is ready to follow Destiny’s command and burn Krakoa to the ground, something we’ll see either come to pass or come to a screeching halt this Fall in Inferno.

Regardless of how this plays out, I’m excited to see what happens. It promises to be messy and I love mess.

Bobby Varghese Vinu

X-Men #20, Credit: Francesco Mobili, Sunny Gho, Clayton Cowles, Marvel

A notable theme in Hickman’s work has been the concept of the “great man” and how their belief in solving “everything” arises from an arrogance that harms everyone. True to form, we see that with Xavier’s and Magneto’s exploitation of Mystique when she goes to Orchis in a thrilling sequence of events to stop Nimrod, who is akin to the harbinger of death for mutantkind. Hickman excellently delivers on the implications introduced in House of X/Powers of X, with there being more to come.

But I do have a criticism of the art. Mobili’s pencils are serviceable at best and unremarkable at worst, with Gho’s colours elevating it. And the exploitation of Mystique can understandably upset some readers, especially with regards to the unfortunate lack of other wlw romances in the X-line, but this issue makes it clear that this is not the end of her story, which is reassuring.

Terrence Sage

X-Men #20, Credit: Francesco Mobili, Sunny Gho, Clayton Cowles, Marvel

One of the long standing plot threads of the new era of X-Men comes to a boil in this chilling 20th issue. Hickman once again charts Mystique on a mission of a love lost and attempts to be found again but will doom everything Krakoa has to offer. Francesco Mobili on art gives a colder, more uneasiness as we move to conversations between Mystique, Professor X, and Magneto and then later on the ORCHIS Station where all Hell breaks loose. The last time we focused on this plot line, it felt more akin to a ticking time bomb and Hickman promptly has reached zero as we reach a new shift in this specific narrative thread.