Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Archive for the 'Reviews – Action Lab' Category

Spencer So Dire

Posted by Don MacPherson on 29th May 2017

Spencer & Locke #2
“Every Rose Has Its Thorns”
Writer: David Pepose
Artist/Cover artist: Jorge Santiago Jr.
Colors: Jasen Smith
Letters: Colin Bell
Editor: Nicole D’Andria
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment/Danger Zone imprint
Price: $3.99 US

Hey, do you love Calvin and Hobbes, the beloved newspaper comic strip that celebrated childhood innocence and precociousness while also offering biting social commentary? Oh, me too. And speaking as someone who loved Bill Watterson’s landmark and impeccably crafted oeuvre, allow me to tell you, my fellow enthusiasts, the following: do not read Spencer & Locke. This comic casts the familiar, innocent figures from Calvin and Hobbes in a hard-boiled cop drama, and it totally doesn’t work. It taints everything special about Watterson’s work and demonstrates creator/writer David Pepose’s complete failure to appreciate what made the strip that serves as his inspiration special. The truly unfortunate thing about it is that his writing and plotting aren’t bad at all, and the visuals are exciting, gritty and involving. But the initial decision to link this weird buddy-cop story to Calvin and Hobbes mars it all and blocks any chance the reader has at finding a sense of entertainment or escape. I suppose if one weren’t familiar at all with Watterson’s work, one might find this to be a novel, even diverting effort, but any awareness of the larger context of the book will preclude that possibility. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick Critiques – Action Lab Edition

Posted by Don MacPherson on 27th September 2016

Lately, I haven’t nearly enough time writing about comics, and when I have, the focus has been, somewhat understandably, on larger publishers. But in the 21st century, we have an array of small-press concerns that appear to be making a solid going of things in the marketplace, carving out a small but hopefully viable niche for themselves.

One of those smaller publishers is Action Lab Entertainment, perhaps best known as the home of Jamal Igle’s Molly Danger property. There’s much more going on at Action Lab (and its Danger Zone imprint) than that, though, as the digital review copies it provided to me demonstrated. I thought I’d write up some capsule reviews of several of the publisher’s offerings, all due out this week. Read the rest of this entry »

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Powers to the People

Posted by Don MacPherson on 18th January 2015

The First Hero #3
Writer: Anthony Ruttgaizer
Artist: Phillip Sevy
Colors/Letters: Fred C. Stresing
Cover artist: Lee Moder
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Action Lab Entertainment has been steadily beefing up its lineup of comics, and my perception is that the investment is proving to be successful. It also seems to me its partnership with writer/artist Jamal Igle, who’s now in marketing with the small-press comics publisher, is paying off, because the publisher certainly seems more visible these days. I’ve been meaning to sit down and peruse one or two of the many review copies Action Lab has sent in recent months, as it’s been a while since I did so (Igle’s fun Molly Danger was my last foray into Action Lab’s world). The First Hero definitely held my attention, and it was a refreshingly accessible read. However, I also found it to be a bit too familiar, with elements I’ve seen explored time and time again in other super-hero comics, albeit in a slightly different way. The First Hero serves to highlight that its unknown creators show a lot of promise that could be fulfilled in the near future, perhaps with a little bit more editorial guidance. Read the rest of this entry »

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Altered Ego

Posted by Don MacPherson on 6th September 2014

Dryspell #1
Writer/Artist/Colors/Cover artist/Letters: Ken Krekeler
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

I have no idea why creator Ken Krekeler opted to call this series Dryspell, as the plot and ideas in this first issue don’t seem to connect with that term in any way, but I suppose it was a good choice. “Dryspell” was catchy enough of a title to grab my attention when Action Lab touched base by email to offer me a chance to look at a digital review copy. What I found was a well-designed, dark and offbeat take on the super-hero genre. Mind you, these more mature spins on the caped crowd are a dime a dozen these days, but Krekeler’s approach to both the art and the script really draw in the audience. I’ve found that lately, I’ve been attracted to darker, bleaker bits of fiction for my entertainment fixes, and Dryspell certainly fits the bill, though it boasts just a hint of black humor, of self-deprecation that helps it stand apart, if only a little bit. The other thing about the book that’s intriguing is how surprisingly relatable it is, as it touches on professional ennui, a sense of being directionless in life, and the challenge of finding and staying true to oneself. I’m at a point in my life at which I have a lot going for me — family, a home, a career I enjoy — but it wasn’t always that way. Anyone who’s felt adrift in his or her own life will find Dryspell to be something of a mirror, even if it’s a reflection of the past. Read the rest of this entry »

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Good Golly, Miss Molly

Posted by Don MacPherson on 8th September 2013

Molly Danger Book One hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Pencils/Cover artist: Jamal Igle
Inks: Juan Castro
Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letters: Frank Cvetkovic
Editor: Adam P. Knave
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
Price: $19.99 US

Of all the comic-related Kickstarter projects I’ve seen promoted, none has had as high a profile in my corner of the Internet than Molly Danger. Writer/artist/creator Jamal Igle has been aggressive in his promotion of the graphic novel, but in a positive, non-obnoxious manner. I’m pleased he was successful in getting his property off the ground, and in finding a publishing partner in the form of Action Lab Entertainment. Igle’s ambition to publish this creator-owned vision is matched by the scope of his story. There’s a mystery or two hiding behind what at first seems like a conventional super-hero story, but the hinted-at history of the title character and emotional beats in the subplots are impressive in the apparent care Igle took in crafting them. While I found it to be solidly entertaining and charming, Molly Danger should prove to be particularly resonant with younger readers experiencing some sort of alienation, or isolation or major familial adjustment. Read the rest of this entry »

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