Review: James Bond – Black Box #1

Originally posted on Irish Comic News (24/Mar/2017)

James Bond 007 – Black Box

Written by Benjamin Percy.
Line art by Rapha Lobosco.
Colour art Chris O’Halloran.
Letters by Simon Bowland.

James Bond is a character that I’ve been a fan of for almost as long as I’ve enjoyed comics, but this is actually my first James Bond comic to read.

But as much as I like Mr Bond, it was the contributions from Rapha Lobosco and Chris O’Halloran that really sold this title for me. If anyone has read ‘Dreamweaver’ drawn by Lobosco (and written by Hugo Boylan) from the Black, White and Grey collection then they probably had the same reaction as myself when Lobosco announced he would be providing the line art for this comic. For any of you wondering, I thought it was a perfect fit. ‘Dreamweaver’ looked just like what I imagined a Bond comic would look like.

Black Box is a strong opening issue that wastes no time setting the mood and tone of the story. The opening scene written by Benjamin Percy is the type of scene that would be quite familiar to Bond movie fans. In a very short time the scene is full of the action and excitement that we come to expect from a Bond story. The story does a great job of giving you just enough that you want to see what the issue will reveal.

This issue is Lobosco’s debut with an American publisher and it couldn’t have been a better title to make it with. His previous work showed he could draw the type of characters needed for a Bond comic. Because this is a Bond comic, the action sequences can run for panels (or even pages) without dialogue or captions. This means that the artist has to move the story along through visuals entirely. No small task for any artist. Lobosco gets the job done in style (much like Mr Bond!). There’s some nice use of different camera angles in the chase sequence to give it a good sense of speed and danger.

Joining Lobosco on this title is another familiar name to many of you, Chris O’Halloran. To my recollection, this is the first time I’ve seen O’Halloran colour Loboscos artwork. Not that you’d guess that with how well the line and colour art work together. There are three locations in the issue, the alpine region of the opening scene, MI6 headquarters and Tokyo. Each of the locations look quite distinct from the other in terms of colour. In the alpine sequence, I really liked the use of orange filling the background of a panel to amplify the action in it. It really draws the eye and makes those panels stand out from the others on the page. I have to say I loved the colours in the Tokyo pages. The colour choices instantly made me think of Tokyo before reading any text on the page. Strong colours that gave a sense of being bombarded by neon-signs.

I thorougly enjoyed this comic, both as a Bond fan and as someone checking out artwork by two artists from the Irish comic scene. I can’t wait to see how this story develops. I’m also quite excited to see how the art by Lobosco and O’Halloran evolves over the course of the series.

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Review: Off Girl #1

Originally posted on Irish Comic News (28/Mar/2017)

Off Girl

Written by Tina Fine.
Art by Mark Reihill.
Lettering by Mark Reihill.

Off Girl – “Freak” introduces Julia Davenport, aka Off Girl, to the world. An introductory paragraph inside the front cover gives a brief overview of the world of Off Girl as follows:

Julia Davenport knew something was wrong, very wrong. You see, there seemed to be a connection with her orgasms and men dying. So she took meds and faked her O’s. But one unfortunate day, something went terribly wrong. And that set her off on a journey to becoming NYC’s newest superhero “Off Girl”.

Even after reading that introduction, and considering the cover art, I still was unsure what I should expect from the comic. Would it be innuendo loaded spoof of superhero comics or something else?

Turns out it the answer was something else. The story does a good job in giving us a sense of Julia’s character. It also introduces a serial killer called Stiletto, which seems to be a bit of foreshadowing of things to come in the series.

I did enjoy how the story went in the middle of the comic where events begin to conspire against Julia to push her to breaking point and ultimately reveal how her powers manifest. You can almost feel her frustration at not being able to get herself off for fear of killing someone.

Fine writes a good opening issue with some funny moments and dialogue throughout the comic. Two things did puzzle me though. The first was what is Julia being treated for by the doctor? It’s a bit ambiguous as to whether she is being treated in an attempt to control her power or if it’s for something else. The other was when Julia tells her friend about the recent manifestation of her powers. Her friend seems totally unfazed by the news Julia’s power killed a number of people. That said, I’m certainly curious to see how things play out. So bravo to Fine as I want to know what happens next.

Art and lettering is done by the other half of the creative team, Mark Reihill. I have to say this is a good looking comic with some good visual storytelling. The art on the manifestation of Off Girl’s powers was well done. There was a definite sense of imminent danger as a result of the artwork. I did find the use of grey for the skin colour of the characters as a bit of a strange choice. It’s not a colour that would come to mind to convey energy, vitality or (to borrow from my English teacher) the fire you would associate with sexual release. It does however work well with the colours that are used throughout the comic, especially the darker reds.

Overall this was an enjoyable comic even though I was somewhat apprehensive given the ‘hook’ to the comic. There’s some good stuff there that will be interesting to see how it develops, both in terms of the story and the artwork. I’m very curious to see how Off Girl’s powers are used once as she learns to control them. The Stiletto character also looks promising as a potential nemesis for Off Girl.

 Off Girl Website.

Off Girl on Twitter.

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Review: Stray Lines issue 2

Originally posted on Irish Comic News (13/Apr/2017)

Stray Lines

Featuring comics by Sarah BowieAlan DunneKatherine FoyleGus HughesDebbie JenkinsonPaddy Lynch and Elida Maiques.

I recently managed to get my mitts on a copy of issue two of the Stray Lines anthology. Something I meant to do sooner since it was released in the tail-end of 2016. I’d already the first issue so I had some idea of what to expect. It’s an anthology that gives the reader a selection of quality stories told in a variety of art styles.

First story in the anthology is ‘A Perfect Trust’ by Alan Dunne.It tells the story of a priest who is a medic in the trenches of World War I. It’s a beautifully realised comic. The line and colour art is of a style that I enjoy looking at on the page, even with some of the more grotesque panels that you would expect in a war story. It was one of those times when you get to the end and think ‘Aww. That’s all’. It was just such a treat to read that I just wanted it to keep going and going with the story of the priest.

Sarah Bowie gives a story of school trip to France in ‘Paris 1994‘. This story had me smiling (and nodding to familiar scenarios) that happened during the trip. Bowie has a great ability to give a sense of the characters in a very short sequence of panels. Although it’s not entirely right to describe them as panels. The pages create the sense of panels with the layout of lettering and art without there being any panel borders. It’s a clever effect that gives a sense
of the the story just flowing along, almost  like you were scanning along a film reel.

‘Citestage’ by Gus Hughes was a really interesting comic. The art looks like it could have been produced by charcoal or pencil. It’s used really well on some of the panels to make the art look like it’s a faded black and white photograph. I’ve read the comic a couple of times and it changes every time I read it. Each page has art at the top and bottom of the page with text filling the gutters between the artwork. Sometimes I read it as if the panels and gutters are telling two different stories in parallel. Others it’s as if it’s all details of the same story. It just kept drawing me back to re-read the story to try and get an answer to which way it should be read. It remains elusive, and I like the comic all the more for it.,

Next up we have ‘War Inside’ by Elida Maiques. This is quite a creative stripped down comic. The first page is almost entirely composed of empty panels. It’s quite a bold open to the comic. But definitely worked for me as they was no way I wouldn’t see how the comic  unfolded. In addition to the  empty panels the comic also features text only panels, abstract  imagery only panels and a a combination of both. It’s a comic that really invites to examine the panels individually and in some cases as part of piece that spreads over multiple panels. It shows a confidence and understanding of the medium. I’m certainly to see what the next comic Maiques produces is like.

‘Don’t get stuck’ by Paddy Lynch is a wonderful sci-fi short. Every page is a nine panel grid without gutters, yet not once was it difficult to discern one panel for the other. The small colour palette is used really well to make the objects and people stand out well in the comic. Readability might have been hindered if it had been a black and white comic but the colours really make the art stand out. It’s also another comic that had me wondering ‘and then what happens?’.

‘King of the Cold’ by Katherine Foyle really felt as if there was a lot more happening beneath the surface of the story. It essentially is a short about a man and his daughter stopping for ice cream during winter but the more I re-read the more I’m convinced it’s not the whole story.  The first three panels really gave me that vibe. The art is wonderful with some well drawn characters and props. I really really want more of this from Foyle.

Debbie Jenkinson provides the finale to the anthology with ‘The Comfort Inn’. A man sits alone in his room at the inn while posting on a messageboard discussion. He’s drafting a response to someone who has posted about their fantasy about being ill and how that would change the relationships with their family/friends. The response he’s working on is an attempt to show that it’s not that weird a fantasy. Which he tries to prove by the response he is typing up. I really like how the story wraps up as it kinda proves the response to be fantasy by his actions in the last panel. Most of the art is black and white with the exception of the fantasy sequence in the middle which has some colours applied to it. A good use of colour to highlight the sequence is something different from the rest of the comic.

Stray Lines is great anthology for people wanting to check some comics with a more indie sensibility to it. The comic is  available via the Stray Lines website for €7 to Ireland and UK (€8 for the rest of the world). With over 50 pages of comics, how could you not pick up a copy?

Link to Stray Lines website.

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Review: Fate webcomic

Originally posted on Irish Comic News (17/May/2017)

Fate is the on-going webcomic created by Anthea West. Considering that it currently stands at 80 plus pages (and still going strong!), it’s long overdue a review.

From the blurb for Fate on Tapas:

There once was a grumpy dustbunny who lived in a tree…
But after a failed forced rescue attempt involving a bear and a not so sturdy tree, this little dustbunny is finding himself out in the big wide world. Where he’s going to soon discover that life outside of his books and tree just isn’t as simple.

Webcomics can be a tricky thing. The creator(s) have to make a strong start in the first couple of pages to motivate the readers to return for the next instalment of the story.

Fate had no problem getting me hooked within the first few pages. I liked how Fate starts relatively small in story terms in the early part of the story thus giving focus to the dustbunny living in the tree. The reader very quickly gets a sense of the dustbunny and their place in the world. As the story unfolds, the world is slowly expanded to take in new locations and characters. It didn’t take me very long to decide that the dustbunny was a comic character whose story I wanted to follow.

One of the things that really appealed to me was the use of comedy throughout the story. Whether it’s the signposts that surround the dustbunnys tree or how profanity is represented in what is an all-ages webcomic. In addition to the main story, there are also information pages between chapters of the webcomic which further expand upon the world of the webcomic.

The art of the webcomic looks great. The line art is clear with some really good characterisation of the cast. Which is pretty impressive considering that the main character is a basically a little ball of fur. The colours are bright and strengthen the sense of fun the story has. I must also mention how much I like the ship and how it travels through the sea. It’s a detail that gives the world of the webcomic a distinct look.

As mentioned before, Fate is currently at 80 plus pages which means there’s plenty of reading to get you started on the webcomic. All you need is access to the Interweb as the comic freely available to all. For those that want to give back to the creator, West has a Patreon and Ko-Fi page (as well as ‘tipping’ in the Tapas app) which allows for donations to help fund the ongoing creation of Fate.

So fire up computer/ tablet/ smartphone and get reading a quality all-ages webcomic!

Link to Fate Tapas page.

Patreon page.

Ko-Fi page.

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Review: Zomben #1

Originally posted on Irish Comic News (17/May/2017)


Written by Mike Heneghan.
Line art by Abel Cicero.
Colour art by Manoli Martinez.
Letters by Aditya Bidikar.

Zomben is a four part mini-series following the adventures of Ben. Ben is trying to live a normal life following the ‘Multipocalypse’. What most people don’t know is that Ben is infected with a zombie plague.

Given that this is issue one of four, the focus of the comic is to familiarise the readers with the world of Ben and his family. Ben lives with his parents and younger sister. His family have managed to avoid becoming infected with the zombie plague. His parents are doing their best to keep Bens secret. Should his secret be revealed he faces almost certain destruction from neighbours, teachers and the wider community.

The premise of the comic and the teaser art I had seen online made it very unlikely that I wouldn’t enjoy Zomben. The writing (by Dublin-based Heneghan)  made the comic feel quite familiar, particularly with regard to the dialogue. There was something about it that made it feel like this wasn’t the first comic of Zomben I had read. The choice of narrator was interesting to as it had me curious as to what means for how the story will play out.

The art team of Cicero (line art) and Martinesz (colour art) do a great job building upon the work of Heneghan., As this is a comic that has children as the focal characters, the art is bright and cheerful for the most part. The comic naturally has moments of horror and peril (it is a zombie comic after all!) but those scenes avoid being overly grim or grotesque. I did really like the use of a comic drawn by the narrator as means to give the readers some basics with regards to Multipocalypse.

The lettering by Bidikar is well done for the most part. There’s plenty of dialogue as well as captions throughout the comic. None of which is obstructing the flow of the story or artwork.  Though I was curious as to why the infants small bit of dialogue seems to be lettered almost in the same way as the sound of the door bell ringing. It didn’t spoil the enjoyment of the comic, just merely wondering why it was lettered that way.

Overall, issue one delivered what I had hoped it would when I added it to my pull list. A fun comic about a child zombie trying to survive in a world where most of it want to destroy zombies. The addition of the covers for remaining three issue in the back of issue one really has me wondering where the story will take Ben next.

Issue 1 is in shops now.

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Review: Redneck #1

Originally posted on Irish Comic News (19/May/2017)


Written by Donny Cates.
Line art by Lisandro Estherren
Colour art by Dee Cunniffe.
Letters by Joe Sabino.

As you can imagine from the cover art above, Redneck is a dark and bloody story about vampires. The family of vampires at the centre of this story live in an area of east Texas on a farm of their own. The mixture of Texas and vampires was something that really appealed to me when  previews began to appear on the Internet.

The writing is solid with the story providing a pretty good introduction to  most of the vampires and some of the people of the nearby town. The comic doesn’t waste any getting things moving towards the cliffhanger. Between the characters themselves and the events that transpire in the comic I just have to follow the story into issue two.

The artwork provided by Estherren and Cunniffe give a strong sense of place and tone to the comic. The art on the first two pages is a great opener. The reader is immediately made aware that they’re in for a harsh and bloody tale. The colours on the sky of those two pages really look great. Throughout the comic, the line and colour art really is a treat to look at.

Lettering by Sabino is well executed. Good placement and easy to read. A little touch on the captions that I liked was the bolding of the first letter of the first word in the caption boxes. It was one of those things I can’t really explain but I just liked the visual of it.

This is a comic I would have picked up even if it hadn’t been a comic to review for ICN. Generally Texans in the comics I’ve read are steely people so I just had to see how that would be possibly amplified when they are vampires.

Definitely a comic for fans of vampires and/or Texas.

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