Category Archives: Reviews – Boom! Studios

Burnt-out Ends of Smoky Days

Brzrkr #1
Writers: Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt
Artist: Ron Garney
Colors: Bill Crabtree
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover artists: Rafael Grampà (regular)/Rafael Grampà, Mark Brooks, Lee Bermejo, Dan Mora & Jonboy Meyers
Editors: Eric Harburn & Matt Gagnon
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $4.99 US

If Brzrkr goes down in comics history for anything, it will be as a massive marketing success. This is far from the first time we’ve seen a celebrity-driven comic, but I don’t think a property intended as a launching pad/pitch for an other-media pet project for an actor or singer has ever caught the marketplace’s attention like this one has. Maybe it speaks to the star power of Keanu Reeves, or perhaps the delays in the release of this title helped to drive a level of anticipation we haven’t seen before. But I suspect it’s a combination of factors, not the least of which is the speculator-driven collectability side of the industry that’s become so prevalent in recent years. Collectors out there hoping to make big bucks from the proliferation of exclusive variant covers likely won’t see the windfall for which they’re hoping. There’s going to be so many copies of this comic out there that the chances of any significant value increases ought to be remote. But there’s a more significant question that I want to answer here…

Is this comic any good?

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Extra! Extra! Bleed All About It!

Bury the Lede original graphic novel
Writer: Gaby Dunn
Artist/Cover artist: Claire Roe
Colors: Miquel Muerto
Letters: Mike Fiorentino
Editor: Dafna Pleban
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $19.99 US

I was keen to read this book, as its focus on journalism – and specifically crime reporting – is of great interest to me personally and professionally. This is my first exposure to the work of writer Gaby Dunn, and there’s an undeniable edge to her plotting and characterization. Unfortunately, there’s also a profound lack of logic to it as well, robbing the story of plausibility and credibility. While the noir atmosphere, both in the story and art, is palpable and entertaining, I just couldn’t buy into the protagonist’s journey here. Her dumb luck, her implausible access, her determined destruction of every relationship in her life — little of it worked for me. There’s a powerful and engrossing yarn to be told here, but it’s one that calls for a more complex and finessed execution, as opposed to the ham-fisted hammering it gets here.

Kid’s Critique: Hex Vet: The Flying Surgery

Editor’s note: It’s been two years since my son, Callum, has posted a review on this site, but in this time of self-isolation and cancelled, we decided it was a great time to do some writing. Feedback and comments are welcome.

Hex Vet: The Flying Surgery original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Sam Davies
Editor: Bryce Carlson
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Kaboom imprint
Price: $9.99 US/$11.99 CAN

I think that this book is a nice mix of magic and veterinary medicine. The story elements go together very nicely. I also think I will read it again because it is so original; it’s almost like a whole new genre! If it were in the real world, it would be pretty cool. I like to think of it as an explosion of themes. And I liked how the characters said things; it was pretty good too. 

Hare Tactics

Iron: Or the War After original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: S.M. Vidaurri
Editor: Rebecca Taylor
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Archaia imprint
Price: $19.99 US

I’ve found that over the many years I’ve been reviewing comics, one of the benefits has been the opportunity to sample storytelling that might not have otherwise come to my attention. As of late, whenever I experience something surprising, unconventional and decidedly different from the usual fare offered in mainstream comics, the source is often a graphic novel published by Boom! Studios. Iron: Or the War After is another such instance. Taking a page from such cartoonists as Art (Maus) Spiegelman, creator S.M. Vidaurri uses anthropomorphic animal characters to bring a poignant and touching story of socio-political and cultural relevance to life. This graphic novel is challenging; Vidaurri doesn’t provide all of the pieces of the puzzle at first, making the ultimate images that appear by the end of the book something of a mystery at first. But it’s an engaging journey, as the melancholy mood that permeates the book envelops the reader.

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Career Counselling

I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Natalie Nourigat
Editor: Shannon Watters
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Boom! Box imprint
Price: $9.99 US/$11.99 US/£7.50 UK

This skinny little book showed up on my doorstep a little while ago, and I’ve been picking away at it over the last couple of weeks. It’s truly a different kind of book, not the sort of read I typically delve into, but I found I enjoyed the change of pace. I didn’t know much about the book or its creator before opening it up, so I had expected something of a memoir, and there are segments here that fit that bill. But the material is much more matter-of-fact in tone. Nourigat offers something of a how-to guide to a career in animation, peppered with caveats about how one’s mileage will vary. But it’s not just about a specific industry and career, but how to navigate the titular locale. People with an eye to a viable career in illustration and art will no doubt find this book of interest, but it’s relatable for just about anyone who faces a big move, a big change, or who’s experienced such moments in their lives already.

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Caught En Garde

Fence Vol. 1 trade paperback
Writer: C.S. Pacat
Artist: Johanna the Mad
Colors: Joana Lafuente
Letters: Jim Campbell
Cover artist: Shanen Pae (regular and variant)
Editor: Shannon Watters
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $9.99 US

Boom! Studios has a knack for finding and promoting offbeat and fun new properties that appeal to a wide variety of readers, and a comic book about fencing seemed intriguing to me. Unfortunately, writer C.S. Pacat has constructed a mini-world that represents just about everything I detest about sports. Fence takes us to a place where abuse and betrayal are commonplace, where hardly anyone thinks about someone other than themselves and where one’s skill at an antiquated contest determines one’s worth rather than one’s character. To make matters worse, this first collected volume of the series doesn’t even come close to offering a complete story arc of any kind.

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I’ll Take Self-Discovery for $800, Alex

Form of a Question original hardcover graphic novel
Writer: Andrew J. Rostan
Pencils/Cover artist: Kate Kasenow
Inks: Jenna Ayoub & Ilaria Catalani
Colors: Laura Langston
Letters: Deron Bennett
Editors: Sierra Hahn & Rebecca Taylor
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Archaia imprint
Price:$17.99 US/$22.99 CAN/13.50 UK

I’d never even heard tell of this graphic novel before it literally turned up on my doorstep, but as soon as I saw the review copy of this hardcover book, I was immediately taken with it. Who doesn’t love Jeopardy!? Andrew Rostan, a real-life champion from the show more than a decade ago, has crafted a compelling autobio comic here, framing his own development and psyche around his obsession with the game show. It’s certainly a good graphic novel, and it had the potential to be a great one. I found the stream-of-consciousness approach to the plotting and a vague, amorphous quality in Kate Kasenow’s artwork combined to make the book a little inaccessible at times, and there’s a suggestion about how and why Rostan’s tenure on the quiz show ended that I found disappointing and irksome. But overall, Form of a Question is an unconventional, engaging and challenging bit of storytelling that takes us into the mind of someone associated with an iconic bit of Americana, delving into the awkward, confused soul of someone who discovers that fulfilling a lifelong dream wasn’t the path to contentment he’d expected.

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To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Alice: From Dream to Dream original softcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Giulio Macaione
Colors: Giulia Adragna
Letters: Jim Campbell
English adaptation: Jackie Ball
Editor: Shannon Watters
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Boom! Box imprint
Price: $14.99 US/$18.99 CAN/10.99 UK

I hadn’t heard anything about this graphic novel for teen and ‘tween readers, so when it turned up on my doorstep, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Still, the art was inviting, so I started to peruse the opening pages. I was quickly captivated by Giulio Macaione’s characterization. The premise — about a girl with the ability/curse to experience people’s dreams with them when in proximity to the — is full of potential, but the real strength of the book is its down-to-earth characterization, its universal exploration of a coming of age, of the trials of adolescence and of the sense of powerlessness a teenager can feel when having no control over a life in purgatory between childhood and adulthood.

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Flowery Language With No Words

Petals hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Gustavo Borges
Colors: Cris Peter
Editor: Whitney Leopard
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Kaboom imprint
Price: $16.99 US/$20.99 CAN/12.99 UK

Poverty. Illness. Harsh weather. Isolation. These are all conditions that often bring out the worst in people, as fear and desperation can drive some to undertaken awful actions in the name survival. But there’s another path when faced with such hardships, and that’s the one down which writer/artist Gustavo Borges leads his readers in Petals. Published under Boom! Studios’ all-ages imprint, this American edition of a Brazilian comic will take you by surprise, but quietly. It’s an understated celebration of the human spirit, but more than that, it’s an exploration of the importance of community, of connection and of empathy.

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Soul Survivor

Run Wild original hardcover graphic novel
Writer: K.I. Zachopoulos
Artist/Cover artist: Vincenzo Balzano
Letters: Deron Bennett
Editor: Sierra Hahn
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Archaia imprint
Price: $24.99 US/$32.99 CAN/18.99 UK

Boom!’s decision to absorb Archaia Studios five years ago was a blessing for the comics industry and the craft of sequential storytelling, as it ensured there would be a home for unconventional graphic novels such as this one. Archaia was always a niche publisher and remains so as an imprint, but it gives life to unique projects that will connect with a limited segment of the comics-loving audience. I completely understand why Run Wild found a home there, but unlike other recent Archaia releases, this book didn’t quite work for me. Run Wild is a hauntingly (literally) beautiful book, but it’s also nebulous and perplexing. I can definitely see its appeal, though, and I think fans of the films of Hayao Miyazaki will recognize elements they’ll truly enjoy and appreciate here.

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Keeping a Breast of Things

About Betty’s Boob hardcover graphic novel
Writer: Véro Cazot
Artist/Colors/Cover artist: Julie Rocheleau
Letters: Deron Bennett
Translation: Edward Gauvin
Editor: Sierra Hahn
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Archaia imprint
Price: $29.99 US/$39.99 CAN/£22.50 UK

This beautifully designed hardcover volume showed up on my doorstep (literally) this week, and I hadn’t heard a thing about it. I was intrigued by the title and the look of it at first, but it sat on my desk for a few days until I realized it was slated for release in just another few days. I decided I should check it out, and I found it’s a translation of a French work originally released as Betty Boob (I wonder if American copyright on the Betty Boop character prompted the change in title, or perhaps just an effort to avoid confusion).

About Betty’s Boob is actually a more fitting title, as that covers the entirety of her journey. This is a story about surviving cancer and then dealing with the aftermath. We’ve seen this subject tackled in the sequential storytelling medium before, but not in the same way. While writer Vero Cazot’s mostly silent drama explores some of the familiar beats about a woman’s struggles in the wake of a mastectomy, she presents those conflicts and the titular character’s triumphs as a fable, aided incredibly well by the magical, flowing and fanciful artwork of Julie Rocheleau. By the end of the book, though, one realizes About Betty’s Boob isn’t a cancer-survival tale at all, but rather one about casting off conformist shackles and celebrating all of the beauty and silliness and passion that surrounds us and exists within us every day.

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Elemental, My Dear

A Girl in the Himalayas original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: David Jesus Vignolli
Editors: Cameron Chittock & Sierra Hahn
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $16.99 US

Promotional material released in advance of this book indicates this is writer/artist David Jesus Vignolli’s debut graphic novel, but I just can’t believe. This is a fully realized fable, and it’s a hauntingly beautiful and touching tale. The deceptively simple title of A Girl in the Himalayas is actually quite fitting, because while it doesn’t touch on the literal magic that imbues almost every panel of this graphic novel, it focuses the reader’s attention on the spiritual magic of innocence that represents the ultimate redemption of humanity. And yes, while there’s a larger plot that examines mankind’s penchant for self-destruction, the core strength of Vignolli’s story is how it examines the notion of family, no matter how unconventional the circumstances that brings it together.

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Get the Heck Into Dodge

Dodge City #1
Writer: Josh Trujillo
Artist: Cara McGee
Colors: Brittany Peer & Cara McGee
Letters: Aubrey Aiese
Cover artists: McGee (regular)/Natacha Bustos and McGee (variants)
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Boom! Box imprint
Price: $3.99 US

Boom! Studios has become home to a number of licensed properties, albeit perhaps quirkier ones with greater nostalgia appeal. Nevertheless, the publisher also has a solid reputation for indy-type comics, especially those appealing to all ages. Dodge City is one such comic book. Populated by diverse cast of well-realized characters and brought to life by stylized artwork that conveys a lot of action and personality, Dodge City strikes me as the sort of thing we might have gotten if movie director John Hughes was still alive and looking to craft a teen sports comedy. Twenty years ago, this comic book likely would have been printed at a Kinkos on photocopier paper, still finding a fan base but on a smaller scale as a mini-comic. I hope the publishing under the Boom! banner will expand its reach, because it deserves it.

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Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Fighting Evil)

Lumberjanes #1
Writers: Noelle Stevenson & Grace Ellis
Artist: Brooke Allen
Colors: Maarta Laibo
Letters: Aubrey Aiese
Cover artists: Noelle Stevenson/Maddie Flores/Lauren Zuke
Editor: Dafina Pleban
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Boom! Box imprint
Price: $3.99 US

I’m far from the target audience for this book, but there was such a positive buzz around it, I opted to fork over my four bucks to give it a look. I figured if I didn’t dig it, I could probably flip it on eBay to get my money back. After reading it, I definitely get why it has struck a chord with readers. Lumberjanes, as its title suggests, is a playful adventure book featuring a cast made up entirely of strong, entertaining female characters. It’s appropriate for pre-teen readers up to adults, and I’d be amazed if Boom! wasn’t eyeing this property as something that could spin off into other media. That being said, I don’t think I’ll be following the series — not because I don’t think it’s a good comic book. It is a good comic. It’s just one that doesn’t really appeal to my sensibilities.

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Laundry Day

The Rinse #1
Writer: Gary Phillips
Artist: Marc Laming
Colors: Darrin Moore
Letters: Steve Wands
Cover artists: Francesco Mattina/Paul Azaceta
Editor: Matt Gagnon
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $1 US

Gary Phillips is a comics writer with a focus on the crime genre who consistently offers up compelling drama and strong characters, but with The Rinse, he’s really outdone himself. This is not only the most compelling comic book Phillips has written, but it stands out as one of the best crime comics I’ve read in some time. The Rinse, with its riveting, knowledgeable narration, is just as good as Ed Brubaker’s Criminal, and that’s really saying something. Phillips is joined by a talented artist who does an excellent job of capturing a sense of realism here, and a convincing look reinforces the strength and intelligence of the script. The main character is a thoroughly likeable figure, well-rounded and quite charming. But the character that really steals the show isn’t a character at all but rather than underworld trade that serves as the core premise of the book.

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