Review: Dodgy Pills

Originally posted on Irish Comic News (10/Apr/2016)

Dodgy pills is the first volume of Black Lines from creator Olly Cunningham. The comic tells the story of two drug dealers in Dublin, Tommo and his father-in-law Jimmy, and what happens when they decide to test a batch of drugs from a new supplier.

The comic is a dark little beast of a comic. The test run with the new batch of drugs doesn’t go as expected resulting in Tommo and Jimmy have to face the demons of their past. Their respective consciences aren’t much better. The story follows the duo as they attempt to weather the resulting mental storm of their drug testing. And boy are those waters choppy!

The artwork is well suited to the story. It works to amplify the dark and twisted tone of the book. The disturbing and grotesque are truly that in this comic. It really gives a sense of dirt and grime to the comic. It’s a dark comic that leaves an impression. It creeps into your brain and lays its eggs.

Dodgy pills is the first in the Black Lines series and a unhealthy sense of curiosity has me wanting to know where it goes. Much like a child with a scab, you know you should probably leave it alone but you just can’t stop yourself.

Dodgy Pills is available via Cunninghams website

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Review: Shackleton – voyage of the James Caird

Originally posted on Irish Comic News (6/May/2016)

Shackleton – the voyage of the James Caird

Written by Gavin McCumiskey

Illustrated by David Butler

Lettering by Alice Coleman

Published by Collins Press.

The book tells the story of the Endurance, which became trapped in the Wendell Sea. Shackleton must then fight to save the twenty-seven that set sail with him. This leads to Shackleton and five others taking to sea in the lifeboat James Caird and setting out for Georgia, 800 miles across the treacherous and icy sea.

The writing provides a good amount of information without being an information dump. Considering that the book is based on historical events, with probably a lot of source material available, McCumiskey provides a good narrative while keeping the story relatively lean information-wise. The dialogue helps move the story along. The story could have easily been a very dry read, but the personable dialogue makes sure that it isn’t.

 Lettering in the book is well done by Coleman throughout the book. It’s clear and easy to follow with good placement above the artwork. Also, the captions have a nice effect rendered on them to give the appearance of aged paper.

The art is well executed. The layouts make it easy for the reader to follow the story through each page. It displays a good understanding of the medium. The colours were a nice surprise too. Given that the story takes place in Antarctica and the surrounding waters, I wasn’t expecting the variety of colours that were used in the artwork. Some good choices of colours to give the art a sense of energy where it could have ended up being very muted or dull. There were one or two panels, and it was literally that few, where I had to work to figure out what was happening in the panel. I think this was down to the lack of contrast in the panels. It wasn’t easy to decipher what was background and what was the object of focus in the panels. A small complaint considering the rest of the book had no such problem.

I came to this book hoping to learn something about Shackleton and to also enjoy a good comic book. I’m happy to say that the team behind the book delivered on both counts. A good comic to pick up if you want a good introduction to the story of Shackleton and the voyage of the James Caird.

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Review: High Noon Rising #1

Originally posted on Irish Comic News (5/Aug/2016)

Written and lettered by James Mulholland.
Art by Rowel Roque.
Colours by Ryan Burt.
Logo designed by Micah Myers.

The first issue of a five-part western mini-series. As this is the opening issue of the mini-series, the story is establishing the characters and the premise of the mini-series.

Ben is a former bounty hunter who has retired to the quiet life with his family. He shows that he can clearly handle himself early on in the story when a gang of men appear in the saloon he happens to be drinking in. It also becomes clear that he misses his bounty hunting days.

Beyond that, the story reveals the cause for Ben to be forced back into the bounty hunting world. I don’t want to say much beyond that lest I spoil the story. As someone who has wanted plenty of westerns growing up, the story really appeals to me. It’s a slow-build to the story that left me asking, ‘what happens next??’. Always a good thing in a first issue.

The creative team have really done well with this issue. It shows a good understanding of the medium with each bringing a high level of ability to the comic.

I was really impressed with the art and colours. Roque has a visual style that really suits this type of comic and does remind me of some western comic books that I read as a kid. He is a very capable artist. I only have one or two small complaints about the storytelling aspect of the art. In one part of the barfight, there are three panels where I wasn’t entirely sure which panel was next. This was more to with the chereography of the fight rather than the artwork. There was also another page where a panel was followed by another which somewhat diminished the impact of the previous panel. I appreciate staging is no easy thing and given the number of panels containing fighting, two panels is a very small number to have the smallest of complaints about.

The colours by Burt equally impressed me. The choice of colours for the night scenes really worked for me as it’s the type of colours that really work for me personally. The colours for the day scene were also a good choice, a selection of colours that really get across the sense of warmth/heat of the Arkansas sun. The choice of strong reds for some of the fight panels had mixed results on my reading of them. For example, if a person is punched and blood flies from their mouth, then having a strong red background directly behind the blood obscures information that was to be conveyed to the reader. Much like the art, this is more nit-picking on behalf given the high standard throughout the comic.

Mulholland is the writer and letterer for the comic. He has crafted a good story and has just the right amount of dialogue/captions to move the story along. There are a couple of simple spelling mistakes that I would put down to the writer handler the lettering also. Having a second pair of eyes run over the text would have probably caught them at the lettering stage. There is also a choice of yellow lettering on a red background that made it difficult for me to read it initially. But these are small things overall. Much like the rest of the creative team, Mullholland has represented himself well.

The first issue of mini-series is all about getting the reader invested so they will keep with the rest of the issues. I’m very much want to see where the story takes Ben.

Buy on Gumroad.

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Review: Day Job

Originally posted on Irish Comic News (12/Aug/2016)

Script and Art by Rapha Lobosco

This is one of the comics I was really looking forward to picking up at Dublin Comic Con after I saw the cover art above teased by Lobosco on social media. The design of the cover instantly appealed to me with the black and white design and the ‘o’ punctuated with a bullet hole.

The interior art is also black and white, which really works with the story. The comic is essentially a vignette about the shadow-faced stranger on the cover as he attempts make delivery of the briefcase. Mentioning anything beyond that would only spoil the story so you’ll have to read it to find out more.

I’m a big fan of the art style of the comic and at times did get a strong 100 Bullets feeling from the story as it unfolded. All the pages are filled with art without seeming busy or difficult to discern for the reader. Equally, the storytelling borh of the text and the panels are easy to follow.

Overall the comic impressed, a well executed story with good art with no wasted space or filler. And the standard of the art and storytelling has me interested to see what the next comic project is that Lobosco applies his skills to.

Buy Day Job on Gumroad.

You can find Rapha Lobosco on FacebookTumblr and Twitter.

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Review: The Circle #1

Originally posted on Irish Comic News (12/Sept/2016)

Written and illustrated by Jay Penn.

The Circle was launched at Dublin Comic Con and was a comic that I missed while picking up various small-press titles. Fortunately for me, the creator was good enough to send me on a copy of issue one.

It’s evident from Penn’s Patreon page that he has been building up to The Circle given that he has four illustrated stories (which are free to read, so no excuse not to check them out!) relating to the characters that feature in issue one.

Issue one of the The Circle is usual in that it’s a hybrid of the traditional comic format and illustrated prose. And while I was initially somewhat skeptical of how the story was presented, once I got a couple of pages into it I found that it worked quite well.

The comic section (which alternates with the illustrated prose section on every double page spread) focuses on the wizard Longbeard who is musing on times past while making plans towards regaining the position of power he once had. The prose section introduces us  to the rest of the cast as they are called to the scene of the climax of the comic.

I think that separating the Longbeard story into the comic and the rest into the prose was a good choice rather than continuing a singular story through the two formats. After the first prose section, the rhythm of the stories and the two formats  becomes obvious to the reader and avoids potential confusion that could have arose due to the two formats.

The comic section is well drawn with good clear storytelling. The prose sections features a singular illustration of the character of focus for that particular double-page spread. The illustrations in those sections might have benefited from a bit of variety since all images are of the characters standing upright. But given that a lot of text is dictating the layout of the pages, I can appreciate that this is easier said than done.

The first issue of The Circle is a really good opener to the series. Between the dual format and the cliffhanger, I am quite interested to see what issue two (scheduled  for November 1 release) brings us.

The Circle on Facebook.

Jay Penn on Patreon.

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Review: The Hellion #1 and #2

Originally posted on Irish Comic News (21/Sept/2016)

Feargal Keenan – Writer/Letterer.
Katie Fleming – Pencils/Inker.
Triona Farrell – Colourist.

Another Irish comic that I’ve been meaning to check out for a while is the Hellion series. I had seen some of the art for both of these issues teased online but was unsure what to expect with this comic. The covers suggest a fun superhero comic, something which is right up my street.

The first two issues were more fun than I had expected. The comic follows the adventures of the Hellion (Nick/ Nico to his mothers) on the streets of night-time Dublin. Issue one quickly establishes the type of comic the Hellion is going to be. It really reminds me of the fun side of comics like Spider-man or Patsy Walker aka Hellcat. It’s a comic that has the wise-cracking crime-fighting. But it also has a fun/interesting support cast.

The relationship between Nick and his mothers is as much fun to read as the parts of the comic where he is in Hellion mode. It’s a credit to Keenans writing. The dialogue is just a pleasure to read and works really well within the comic. Also enjoyed the social media aspect of the story. I mean, come on, how many teens wouldn’t set up a Facebook/Twitter type presence on the internet if they were fighting crime? Pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve seen it done but really liked it.

The dynamic duo of Fleming and Farrell bring great art and colours to the comic to complement the writing. Both the art and colours give a feel that you could be watching a Saturday morning cartoon. The art and colours are clear which only adds to the enjoyment of the comic. Some really good choice of panels that underscore the funnier moments of the comics. The choice of colour on the night scenes works well and avoids the pages looking grim. I just wanted more Hellion once I hit the end of issue two.

I really can’t recommend issue 1 and 2 of the Hellion enough. They were just a joy to read. Go check them out!


Issues one and two are available via the Hellion Gumroad store.
Hellion on Facebook.

Katie Fleming on Twitter.

Triona Farrell on Twitter.

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