Category Archives: Reviews – Indy/Small Press

Comfortably Numb

Numb
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Joshua Kemble
Letters: Joshua Patterson
Publisher: Kemble/Alternative Comics
Price: $3.95 US

Any writer who’s sat staring at a blank piece of paper or a blank screen, unable to come up with a spark of an idea or a beginning to fan a spark into a creative flame will recognize himself or herself in this short comic’s lead character. On the surface, this story seems to be about the challenges of writing and creativity and how life provides both obstacles and incentives for that work. But really, this is about the challenges of self, of how one can one’s own worst enemy, and not just when it comes to writing. I found it surprisingly easy to connect with this self-pitying protagonist, and Kemble’s artwork matches the reflective, self-indulgent mood of the script quite well. Numb is actually the result of another Xeric grant and another example of how those doling out those grants have a sharp eye for up-and-coming, indy talent. Kemble’s work has a solid promotional effort behind, with a bit of buzz already generated online. As such, this is hardly a new discovery, but I still felt the excitement of being exposed to a new creative voice in the medium.

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Phone Home? Nah, E.T.’ll Blackberry Instead

Ed’s Terrestrials original graphic novel
Writer: Scott Christian Sava
Artist: Diego Jourdan
Publisher: Blue Dream Studios
Price: $19.99 US

A quick look at the spine of my review copy of this book and a subsequent Google-ing of the title reveals that this was originally supposed to be (or originally was) an Alias Entreprises release, but creator Scott Christian Sava has given it new life by publishing under his Blue Dream Studios banner. I’ve enjoyed Sava’s work in the past. Some may remember him from his outing with Marvel Comics — the Spider-Man: Quality of Life limited series — but I prefer to think of him as the writer/artist/creator of The Lab, a goofy, cartoon-inspired workplace comedy. This project is a children’s book, first and foremost, but it’s crafted as a comic, not the usual illustrated text that tends to characterize children’s literature. Ed’s Terrestrials is a light romp, with a familiar premise and artwork that suits the tone of the story but falls short with an oversimplified sense of design.

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Boy Meets Squirrel

Raised by Squirrels trade paperback
Writers/Artists/Cover artists: Bram Meehan & Monica Banko Meehan
Publisher: Dream Weaver Press
Price: $4.95 US

The first thing that struck me about this book — and the first thing that would make an impact on anyone, I would imagine — is the title. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this indy title, but I imagined it was either a slice-of-life story or some kind of surreal comedy. It turns out it’s neither. Raised by Squirrels is an amalgam of the espionage and super-hero genres. The book gets its title from the name of the government agency that employs and deals with metahuman agents — S.Q.R.L. — but man, it’s just doesn’t suit the book. That’s just one of several problems with the book, but the creators also hit their mark in some regards. Chief among them is how they use narration and greytones to achieve a dark, tense atmosphere. This is a better spy book than super-hero story, and despite the awkward pacing, I found I was interested in the story. And that’s in light of the somewhat cliched plot. The art is rather unusual. At first glance, it seems a bit loose, just on the edge of being abstract, but ultimately, it’s stiff and a bit plain.

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Now with Kung-Fu Gripe

Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak #1
“Late”
Writer/Artist/Cover Artist: Richard Marcej
Publisher: Baboon Books
Price: $3.50 US/$4.40 CAN

Commercial artist Richard Marcej has long dreamed of a life in which he earns a living as a comic-strip artist, freed from the shackles of a job with a major toy/greeting card company. He has taken those dreams and aspirations, as well as his anger and frustrations, and focused them into a slice-of-life comic that’s autobiographical (for the most part). Anyone who works in a restrictive office environment or who spends his or her offtime working on what he or she really loves will be able to relate to Marcej’s story. Unfortunately, the overall tone of this introductory issue is so negative that it’s a bit off-putting, even when one can relate to the main character’s bitterness.

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Adrenaline Junkies

Adrenaline #1
Writer: Tyler Chin-Tanner
Pencils/Colors/Cover artist: James Boyle
Inks/Letters: Fabio Redivo
Editor: Wendy Chin-Tanner
Publisher: A Wave Blue World Inc.
Price: $2.99 US

This small-press comic’s title tells the reader nothing of what to expect from it, and the cover art isn’t much help either. That makes the novelty of the premise to be found within all the more surprising. This first of eight issues is the setup for a competition between the villain and a reluctant heroine. The machinations to arrive at that premise are somewhat far-fetched, but I was surprised at how much I was drawn in by the international flavor and the strengths of the two main characters. This comic looks and feels like something we’d see from Devil’s Due Publishing, and honestly, I think it would appeal to that high-adventure, high-action fanbase. There’s potential in this book, but it’s not really in the premise. Instead, the potential lies in the skills of the creators and their room for development.

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Simple Minds, Silly Answers

Dr. DeBunko: The Short Stories
Writer/Artist: Chris Wisnia
Editor: Rob Oder
Publisher: Salt Peter Press
Price: $3.95 US

This one-shot from the people who brought you the semi-regular Tabloia series collects a number of short comic segments from that book featuring a professional debunker of “supernatural” phenomena. As the title character’s name suggests, this is hardly the sort of thing one takes seriously. The only real mystery that creator Chris Wisnia explores here is the mystery of why so many people are so stupid, gullible and hypocritical. If old wives’ tales drive you crazy, if Republicans who refuse to believe in evolution, global warming and Halliburton’s greed enrage you and gender-based pay inequity makes you want to pull out your nose hairs, then chances are you’ll connect with the title character’s efforts and frustrations.

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The Doctor Is Id

Dr. Id, Psychologist of the Supernatural
Writer: Adam McGovern
Artist/Cover artist: Paolo Leandri
Publisher: Indie Ink Studios
Price: $2 US (ashcan)/$2.95 US (comic)

This mini-comic showed up in mailbox not long ago, but it turns out it’s not a mini-comic, but a preview ashcan of a standard-sized comic due for release later this fall.  A superficial glance led me to believe that this was another amateur effort, full of energy and love for the medium but low on skill.  But a closer look revealed the opposite.  Dr. Id is an odd marriage of satire, offering sendups of Silver Age comics storytelling and touchy-feely pseudo-psychology of the 21st century.  That two-pronged appeal is the property’s greatest strength, giving it two chances to connect with readers.

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