Review: The Shaolin Cowboy: Shemp Buffet

By Justin Wood

This may be one of the hardest books to review I've ever come across. In fact, I'd argue nothing I've read can compare to this. Shaolin Cowboy: Shemp Buffet, collecting the Dark Horse era of Geoff Darrow's cult classic miniseries in hardcover, is evidence of an epic undertaking with over 120 pages of Darrow's immediately recognizable hyper-detailed linge claire style, meticulous from beginning to end. It's also an epic undertaking to read from cover to cover, a true endurance test. I can't quite tell how to classify this book. It's either a fascinating piece of experimental art or an insufferable oddity that only exists as evidence to Darrow's inexhaustible patience of drawing the exact same thing for months on end. Or maybe it's both.

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Review: Semiautomagic

By Justin Wood

In the second chapter of Dark Horse's new collected trade of Alex Di Campi's supernatural series Semiautomagic, the heroine Alice Creed throws some semi-fourth wall shade on Neil Gaiman's classic series Sandman. It's a cheeky throw-away line; a "this ain't your daddy's supernatural horror adventure series" jab. Now, as a comic that clearly draws a lot of obvious influence from Gaiman's critically adored comic series, as well as its brothers and sisters like Hellblazer, the dig comes off more as an affectionate ribbing rather than taking legitimate potshots, but the moment stood out to me. While spiritually indebted to Vertigo's supernatural lines from the early 90's, Semiautomagic never brushes the feet of Gaiman's best remembered work. That said, having read dozens of original monster slaying adventure comics, silly name and all, Semiautomagic is the closest thing I've read that might deserve to take a few swings at Dream's exhaustingly praised legacy.

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Review: Head Lopper vol. 1

By Patrick Larose

Over the last half-decade whenever a comic has tried to tell a fantasy story in a fantasy setting, they’ve almost always strived towards reinvention and deconstruction. We can see this with Princeless’s deconstruction and critical eye towards the damsel-in-distress and princess tropes of classic fantasy, Saga’s visual reinvention of what exactly a Star Wars-fantasy setting can look like, and in Rat Queen’s self-aware Dungeon & Dragon’s campaign of a comic.

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Review: Demon vol. 2

By Dustin Cabeal

If you followed my review for the first volume of Jason Shiga’s Demon and Bookhunter, then you already know what I’m going to give this book. Shiga is unlike any other storyteller because of the intricate details he puts into the plot. He explains everything in this volume, the history, what’s happening to our demonic soul possessing everyone in sight. All of it. There’s not much to say about this volume because I don’t want to spoil the book for you. I will tell you that in a way our main character Jimmy Lee gets himself into not one, but three unbelievably crazy situations that give the sense of him having no way out. If you thought his prison escape was something of sheer brilliance, wait until you read this volume.

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Review: One-Punch Man vol. 9

One-Punch Man continues to be fucking brilliant. Depending on your genre preference, I don’t think there’s a better manga out there. In my last review, I mentioned that writer One was threading storylines and at that moment there were still a few options as to where the story could go. We get the answer to that question in this volume, but I think it’s more complex than it seems. To explain, I said that he was laying the groundwork for several storylines that would continue to play out over the course of the series, but now I may be wrong. I think that One might be threading all of these stories into one overall arc and that they’ll tie together in the near future.

one-punch-man-vol-9Point in case the story picks up with Garo, the former top student of the old dude that’s always trying to recruit Saitama and Genos. He beats up and or kills everyone at the villain meeting and leaves to get stronger to face King. Who we know is a fraud that’s been living off of Saitama’s feats. Speaking of which they’re friends now and play video games against each other, though there’s no hint about King’s choice of either revealing himself or getting stronger.

The story then takes some time to introduce Tornado’s older sister who rules the B-Class as she comes to get Saitama to join her gang of heroes or to beat him up. You can imagine how this goes. Actually, you can’t because it’s way better and funnier than anything I imagined.

There’s plenty more to read and enjoy, but it’s clear that One is just getting started with this story arc. It doesn’t feel like typical shonen in that it’s drawn out to fill pages, but rather the story is just that damn big. The characters being introduced feel as if they have a purpose that’s yet to be revealed to us. One also manages to make you concerned about Genos, if you weren’t already. We’ll see how it turns out obviously, but he’s getting further and further from the character we first meet.

Not surprising, the artwork from Yusuke Murata continues to be something greater than fantastic. Whatever that is, he’s it. His work is incredible. He stays true to the style that manga is known for, but you can tell that he’s so talented that he could take on any style he wanted. In some ways, he reminds me of Jose Juan Ryp’s artwork in that it’s incredibly detailed and enjoyable because of the detail. Murata has an advantage of Ryp in that he’s a better visual storyteller and able to mix humor into his artwork.

The last thing I will say about this volume is that you get to learn what Genos and Saitama’s official hero names are… I won’t spoil it for you, but it is probably one of the best things in this volume.

If you’re not reading One-Punch Man, and you enjoy either A) comics, B) manga because you can’t just acknowledge that comics are comics, then you are missing out on the best superhero story being published at the moment. Marvel and DC wish they could produce something this fantastic and the kicker is that it’s a shared universe all within one series. It’s going to be a long wait until volume 10.

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One-Punch Man vol. 9 Writer: One Artist: Yusuke Murata Publisher: Viz Media Price: $9.99 Format: TPB; Print/Digital


Review: Doctor Muscles – Journal Two

I’m well past the point of this review being relevant, but I couldn’t in good conscience pass on reviewing the second volume/journal of Doctor Muscles. While I have a ton of valid excuses for why it took me so long to read and review this trade, that’s not why you’re bothering to read the review so let’s just dive into it. I do recall that the ending of the first volume of Doctor Muscles was messy and convenient. It felt like a rush to the finish, and some of that carries over to the beginning of this volume. The first story finds our trio picking up a space hitchhiker, but the catch is that they can afford to stop to pick him up. After a daring rescue, they land at a mining colony. The colony is interesting in the way that it functions. Shit goes south though as Mickey’s gems turn out to be eggs and the creatures are less than friendly. From here, Mickey and the Doctor head out together leaving the other two on the station.

dmj2_cover_scanWe’re then introduced to another side of the story as a bounty hunter that eats people is sent after Muscles and has been undoing all the good deeds he’s done. Muscles and Mickey eventually get captured by the bounty hunter and his talking robotic hawk and the journey leads us the Ultra-Lord.

Or does it? Because that’s the thing about Doctor Muscles. If we went with the surface level story, it’s about the smartest man in Philadelphia that’s dropped through time and space and ended up in another dimension. He’s strong as hell, and he uses his brains and muscles to solve his problems, he’s the opposite of Superman in that way. The journey is crazy, entertaining, and strange. You could even argue that Doctor Muscles is a modern age Doc Savage. To feel this way, you would need to ignore that we’re given glimpses of Doctor’s life running all throughout the story.

Now you might wonder why I didn’t say “flashback” and that’s because I’m not entirely sure if they are. Some of them definitely could be, but overall I’m lead to believe that this entire journey could just be something that Arthur has created as a way of escaping the loss of his father. I suppose the third option could be a combination of the two which is what I’m hoping for given the ending to this volume.

Austin Tinius and Robert Salinas have created a complex, interesting and classic sci-fi feeling world. It’s part old school Heavy Metal, but then the other half is just complex sci-fi world building. The character development is rich, but far from spoon fed. You as the reader must pay attention and dive into the story. If you don’t give it the opportunity to get its hooks into you, then you’ll never find yourself emerged. If you do, you’ll breeze through this story quickly.

The art is the only weakness for the volume. It changes a bit too much and always as you’re becoming comfortable with a particular style. Ignacio Vega is the artist on the first tale, which is the longest, and he’s the reason I’m not reviewing Holli Hoxxx vol. 2, because I have nothing positive to say about his artwork. His is the weakest visual storytelling and seems to focus more on style than anything else. After his stint on the book, the art improves dramatically, but again, appears to switch too much leaving the books without a consistent look. Simply put, the writers did a hell of a job with the script they gave the illustrators.

I hope there’s more Doctor Muscles. I have admittedly not kept up with Bogus Books as well as I should have, but then there’s just so much to keep track of, and I am just one man. I’m just incredibly glad that Doctor Muscles exists, and I hope that it will continue to be in print or digital so that future generations can find it and be inspired by it. As long as they stick the landing, that is. If not, then it’s all for not.

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Doctor Muscles – Journal Two Writers: Austin Tinius, Robert Salinas Artists: Various Publisher: Bogus Books Price: $14.95 Format: TPB; Print


Review: Lone Wolf 2100: Chase The Setting Sun

I don't know much about Lone Wolf and Cub 2100. I believe that it started out without the 2100 and was based long ago in Japan, and an offshoot of that story was placed in the future year of 2100. This is a graphic novel of the futuristic story. We start off with two people riding through the wasteland of Chicago. The time is one year after "T-Day," and we are told that most of the population has either been killed or turned into creatures known as the Thrall. The two run out of fuel and are forced to stay in an old museum for the night. The museum is full of Thrall, but something about the man and young girl keep them at bay.

Meanwhile, a group of corporate looking people are discussing something called a Ronin model, which is an android that is capable of destroying up to 10,000 Thrall before being destroyed itself. This seems like the right path to take. However, the Ronin factories can only make 2 per month, which is too slow to help protect the remaining citizens from being murdered by Thrall. The decision is made that instead of waiting for Ronins to be produced, they will instead rely on the discovery of one of the people at the meeting, which is dousing the country with a poison that bonds only with those infected with whatever makes people into Thrall.

lone-wolf-2100-v2Back at the museum, the man finds a sword and a gun in the displays and takes them. Outside, a few civilians show up. They see the abandoned vehicle and start to take parts from it, but before long are swarmed by Thrall coming from the museum. They open fire and kill them. The man tells them to stop killing and return to their homes, to which one of the group responds that the man is, in fact, a Ronin, and is supposed to be killing the 'bugs' (Thrall), but instead is protecting them. There is a battle, and the Ronin wins.

Rewind 10 days. Two brothers reunite, one telling the other that he has found a cure for the Thrall that completely reverses the effects. The cure is with his daughter, Daisy, and with it she is safe from Thrall as the cure repels them. He explains that through contacting the other countries around the world, they could work together to help manufacture the cure and help everyone. The other brother is angered by this, explaining that there is a world-wide race to become the first country back on their feet and kills his brother.

Back in the present, Ronin is contacting the leaders of the other countries to try to get everyone to work together and get the cure. Instead of working together, they all turn vicious and demand the girl with the cure flowing through her veins. It is revealed that Daisy is being kept at a ranch full of orphans all saved by a rancher, and because of their geographic location the Thrall haven't discovered them or the ranch, making it a haven for the children as well as some horses.

Ronin, whose name is revealed as Itto by one of the leaders, decides to destroy the computer since every leader besides that of Japan has grown vicious and will not work together, but not before one of the leaders lets Itto know that they have tracked his location. Outside a jet has arrived and dropped three armored men with guns. A battle ensues and Itto is knocked out and captured by the men, but not before Itto kills one. Thrall are approaching as Itto is taken onto the ship. One man stays on the ground fighting back Thrall while the others get the ship prepared, but not before Itto reveals that he was faking being knocked out, kicks the men to the ground to fight the thrall and leaves with the ship. As he begins to take off and moments before being overtaken by Thrall, one of the men shoots the ship out of the air. Itto emerges from the wreckage, muttering only the word "humans." Itto retrieves Daisy from the ranch; they head for the coast and board a ship headed for Japan.

We're now at roughly the halfway point of the book, and I'm going to stop here since by this point you've probably decided since this is your kind of book. As for the art, it's pretty good but nothing mind blowing. Thrall look like what you would imagine them to look like. Future stuff looks futuristic. Nothing really stands out, which I suppose adds a bit of realism in the sense that while most storytellers and artists make grand changes when telling a story of the future; this seems to pump the brakes in a way that says, "sure, some stuff will change by 2100, but a lot will remain the same or at least similar." The art itself lacks a lot of detail in most places which didn't bother me but definitely didn't impress.

The storytelling was nothing impressive, either. Everything felt like it had been done before. Even this story is one that I've either read in a book or seen in a movie at least a few times before, so it didn't really hold my attention. The dialogue was very cliché, with the main character being calm and collected the entire time while everyone else is yelling and whatnot. Nothing felt deep or moody or anything either, just flat and expected.

Overall, this just wasn't my kind of book. I like the idea of a futuristic ninja cyborg protecting people and whatnot, but this story and art didn't do anything to try to use that foundation story and run with it. Instead, it gave us a very lackluster experience that I won't be revisiting. It wasn't badly written or badly drawn, just boring overall.

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Lone Wolf 2100: Chase The Setting Sun Writer: Eric Heisserer Artist: Miguel Sepulveda Colorist: Javier Mena Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $15.99 Format: TPB; Print/Digital