Saturday, December 03, 2005

Written by Jai Nitz and Drawn by Kevin Sharpe
Published by Image Comics

Poor Jessica Suddreth. The fourteen-year old high school freshman has everything a girl her age could have working against her. She scrawny, makes poor grades, has inattentive parents, and is the target of the meanest kids in her class. The only thing that gives her a moment’s peace is flying her kite from the roof of her apartment building. But her life takes a sudden and dramatic turn when she is magically transported to a world of magic and placed in a position to follow other legendary girl warriors like Dorothy, Alice, and Wendy. Now, she will be trained as a “Spell Sword,” and sent off to overthrow the terrible tyrant King Elian. If, that is, she can master her craft, and her wildly varying teenage girl emotions.

SEASON is a surprisingly effective and entertaining entry into the genre, and Jessica makes for a very appealing heroine. Nitz does an excellent job of setting up how miserable her existence is in the real world, which allows you to accept Jessica’s decision to stick around in a magical world where she has some power and control over existence with no qualms. Anyone who knows kids realizes that the one thing they crave most is autonomy over their lives. Plus, while the magical world allows Jessica to live as her ideal self (which is taller, stronger, and bustier), Sharpe’s art never feels like it’s exploiting that fact. There are no horrific fan-service shots to titillate the reader, making the book friendly to the audience considered to be Jessica’s peers: young girls.

Nitz also pushes his story along with some alacrity; there’s no decompression at work, just straight storytelling pushing things forward. Along with the fine story work, extra credit goes to Sharpe for some really terrific artwork; his style works just as well in depicting the real world as it does when Jessica crosses over. His stuff is clean, detailed, and effective in interpreting Nitz’ script. SEASON OF THE WITCH is good fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Black Velvet Studios

CANVAS seems to exist mainly to showcase the work of a number of young artists. There’s a science fiction element to the five stories in the book, but none of them really hold up under much scrutiny, particularly because three of them are initial pieces of what would seem to be much longer works. To say that’s risky for an anthology from a small publisher would be undercutting it a bit.

The best-known “name” artist in the book is Eric Canete, and it’s his work that gets the leadoff spot in the book. The stuff printed here is nice, and sharply detailed, but he also contributed the story and let himself down a bit. Nothing here truly gives him the chance to cut loose and display a broad look at his abilities, which is a shame.

To my eye, the best material in the comic comes in artist Byron Penaranda’s work in a story called “The Intergalactic Misadventures of Maizy Martin.” The story is a dialogue-free exercise focusing on a woman who drives a cab for aliens and other types. The story grinds down at the end, losing the reader, but Byron’s art is terrific stuff, showing a grasp of detail, character, and whimsy.

Issue one of CANVAS has a publication date of 2000, but I picked it up at San Diego this past summer. Issues should still be available from the publishers.


Thursday, December 01, 2005


Starting NaWriRevDa (National Write A Review A Day) month off, a look at a couple of efforts from the fertile brain of writer Rick Remender, both published by Image Comics.

Drawn by Eric Nguyen

Unlike Mark Millar’s higher profile CHOSEN, there actually was a book with religious overtones that stuck to its guns and kept the courage of its own convictions this year. That book was Remender’s STRANGE GIRL. With the biblical rapture as its starting point, Remender took his lead character Bethany down a path that saw her grow from a very young girl to a survivor of the ultimate horror.

There was a delay between the last issue and this one, so it took me a bit of time to get back into the flow of the story, but it came easily enough. The reason STRANGE GIRL continues to work well is that it is founded on a premise that doesn’t restrict itself to a number of rules; Hell is now on Earth. That means magic, murder, mayhem… broad humor… anything goes. That infects the story with a very carefree attitude, and that attitude infects the reader. This issue, we get a much clearer look at how Bethany survived the horror of losing the world at an early age, and at how she survived being eaten or tormented along with the rest of the damned. It’s gripping, brutal stuff, and necessary at this point in the story so we can get fully invested in the series.

Rounding things out is the wonderful work of Eric Nguyen, whose work has never looked better. I’ve seen it written recently that this book needs a sale uptick to keep going, and I encourage those out there looking for something new and interesting to read to pick this book up and give it a shot.

Drawn by Tony Moore

FEAR AGENT is Remender’s acknowledged tribute to the gonzo science-fiction comics created by guys like Wally Wood back in the 1950s, and for the most part, it succeeds pretty well. Heath Huston is a futuristic exterminator whose job it is to wipe out nasty alien infestations; in issue one, he’s on the task of tracking down a sort of troglodyte race who have been raiding human settlements and stealing equipment. This being a comic book and not a documentary, it isn’t quite as easy as Huston would hope, and a nasty complication arises in the process of trying to eliminate his prey.

Deliberately retro in its writing and artistic style, there’s a smirking machismo here that soaks through each page. This is the classic approach writ large; the hero is a drinker on Warren Ellis scale, and in love with his completely phallic weaponry. Taking it with the tongue it buries so deeply in cheek, you can’t help but read it and have a great laugh. Nothing here should even remotely be taken seriously.

The one glaring flaw is that, like I did in the above paragraph, the script narration resorts to a few modern phrasings and anachronisms, and they throw you out of the moment. FEAR AGENT’S so immersed in the moment and milieu otherwise that those bits feel false and poorly executed. Balancing that is the long-awaited return of Tony Moore to a substantial work. He’s been mostly AWOL since he exited THE WALKING DEAD, and it’s nice to see his work again, and in full color to boot.

FEAR AGENT and STRANGE GIRL provide a nice balance to the way that SEA OF RED rather fizzled after its opening issue, and are both worthy of your time and dinero.


Wednesday, November 30, 2005


This blog has been on hiatus for a couple of months, but will be making a very strong and stirring comeback in the month of December.

Issues have been two-fold. One: I've been kind of sick of comics. Never a good thing for a guy who receives and reads a metric ton of them every year. However, there's been a distinct lack of excitement in the medium as of late, and while I've read some perfectly good books (and reviewed them at The Shoot), I haven't had the energy to deal with them. However, last week I sat down with some truly great books, and it energized me a bit.

The larger factor at play in my life, though, has been my participation in NaNoWriMo this past month. Last night, in the space of 29 days, I finished my first novel. 67,547 words worth of it. You want to talk about devoting your energy to something? Wow.

It was one of the most amazing processes I've been a part of in my adult life, and one I'm incredibly grateful for. For those who have the desire and the discipline, I recommend it heartily. It can change your course as a writer.

Here at the Comics Waiting Room, I'm going to attempt to crash through some of the backlog that's accumulated while working on the book. So I am going to try and attempt at least one review a day between December 1st and Christmas. Wish me luck.

And please stop by to read.