Saturday Stuff: Tristan and the Cuddly Defenders Review

Driving a Hybrid
Tristan and the Cuddly Defenders is the third book in a series by Nick Davis, as well as the second of his books that I’ve reviewed. As with his last book I reviewed, TatCD is a hybrid of comic and plain prose, although in this book there are much more illustrations to accompany the prose sections. This book’s story doesn’t flip flop on them though, and each of the mini stories it contains sticks to one medium or the other (with the notable exception of the finale, which is excellently morphed from short story to comic when things get interesting. For review purposes I’m going to split this into 3 parts: A quick review of the book, an in depth look at themes and plot, and some final, misplaced, thoughts.

Furry outside
The Cuddly Defenders is a strong kids book, especially if your child is growing out of teddy bears and into GI Joes. The book has just enough peril to keep things interesting, without going overboard and scaring kids. The only character whose design is moderately terrifying is the main villain, the Ex Cerula, who appears during the opening and ending action sequences.
The stories range from interesting to captivating, and the final story had me tied to my screen as I tabbed through the pages. While the story is definitely kid oriented, it will keep parents interested too. Many of the references, and even the toys, will strike more of a chord with older readers, while the stories and characters will keep kids excited for more.
The strongest part of the book, though, is the use of toys. A wide variety of toys are present in each story, from Suction cup arrows, to frisbees, to plastic cowboys, to nutcrackers, to legos, the creative use of toys is where Cuddly Defenders shines brightest. It reminds me of how I would play with toys as a kid, and what I see my child do when I force him off the TV. Cuddly Defenders shows kids that their old toys can have more life than any of their electronics.

The Stuffing
The main theme of the book revolves around Archer the bear and the power of faith. Not religious faith, the faith in Cuddly Defenders is much more intimate: the faith a small child places in his teddy bear. I’m not going to lie. I had a teddy bear, and the only reason I use the past tense was I gave it to my son for his first birthday. Snowflake is his name, and he’s 22 years old. I remember, as a kid, playing with him. He was a king, the royal ruler of my room. He saw to it, along with his council of the wisest stuffed animals, that the kingdom was safe for all. But I also remember holding him when I was sad. Even into my teenage years, whenever I needed a hug, it was Snowflake.
So that faith resonated with me. Snowflake was a king, and a protector in my eyes.
That is what the cuddly defenders is about. These lost teddy bears, like Archer and Moorlock, who have lost their children’s faith, are missing something. And in a way it parallels to real life. A little faith in someone can be all they need to have the confidence to succeed. It’s the strongest theme of the book, and the one that resonated deepest with me.

Thoughts within Thoughts
It seems I forgot to talk about the art. The art in this book is done by Dan Nokes, and fits the subject material well. It shows real artistic strength to be able to switch from comic illustration, to prose illustration, as each requires something a little different. The art brings the universe and the characters to life just as much as the words do.

I started reading this to my son a few days ago, one story every bed time. His review will appear on “Watching William” next wednesday. As for my final thoughts? I have a feeling The Cuddly Defenders will not be forgotten by the kids who read it.

Check it out HERE

Saturday Stuff: Until We Sleep

I was supposed to review this last week, but with Christmas preparation I let it slide by much to my professional chagrin. My apologies to you, my readers, and to the writer of the comic who expected the review last weekend.

Until We Sleep
Until We Sleep #1 is the first comic in a series about who Dracula, the Mummy, the Swamp Thing, and other classic horror movie monsters really are. UWS takes these characters and makes them an elite fighting force known as the Shadowstalkers, chosen to take down the horrors of “Dyspair”, one of the demons of hell.
But the first book doesn’t have any of that. The first book is a prelude of what will come, and it is necessary, but leaves me wishing it had been a few pages longer.
The point: Guys. Trust me on this. The point is to turn monsters into heroes, the series isn’t at that point yet though.

The Good
The thought put into this book is the best part. There are angels and demons straight from religion and myth (Abaddon and Death to name a few), and the hierarchy of the after life is a prominent point of interest throughout the book. The writing is good, and the diction and dialect of the angels stands out as being higher, but less emotional, then that of human kind.
The art is great, and the style definitely suits the material.

The Bad
It’s short. Just as I felt I was getting into the story it ended at what I felt was the climax. I know this is a petty complaint, and one I know will be fixed with the addition of a second book.

Until We Sleep #1 is more of a prologue than anything else, which means it leaves you feeling unsatisfied. This is through no fault of its own, it is a fun story with good art that shows a lot of thought and hard work. It is a great start, and will be mandatory reading if you want to know what’s happening in the next books. Check it out Here

Saturday Stuff: The Fall: Vengeance and Justice #5

Falling like Gerald Ford
Yup, it’s another review of a “The Fall” comic, this time issue #5. Y’all should know the drill by now, so I’ll stick to reviewing the book rather than any deeper look at the character himself. As per the norm the book is made up of different stories, so I’ll review them story by story.

I lied. I’m starting with the theme of the book. This issue of the fall seems to be primarily about one thing: Other people who think they can do the Fall’s job just as good as he can. The Fall is seen as a symbol to those whom the law has let down, to those who seek justice for the crimes that have slipped through the laws grasp. This has led to more than a few copy cats and the Fall is learning how to deal with the responsibility of having people look up to him.

Guilty Verdict
Guilty Verdict is about the odd netherworld between law and justice that the Fall lies. It is clear from this story that he exists to uphold the law, that his brand of justice is meant to be dished out on those who have broken the law but have escaped proper punishment. He does not exist to bring moral justice. In this story he is met with a man who has helped bad men escape justice, but he does not punish him stating that he has “committed no crime”. It is a great look deeper into the Fall’s personality. He is not out to decide who has been bad or good, simply who has broken the law and gotten away with it. So the question is: Who’s law is he upholding? What happens if the law changes? Does the Fall change with the law?

Guilty Verdict surprised me, and is a great intro to the book. It takes a surprising twist as the man he is talking to decides that justice is more than the correct application of the law.

Lovetown: Strangers Part 4
Strangers has been going on for a while now. This arc is about a villain known only as the “Salisbury Slasher” who kills young women, ties them up gruesomely, and leaves a not for the Fall. This story is the best out of the book, primarily due to the artist and authors incredible grasp on the comic medium.

It is the art that instantly grabbed me. The tied up, decaying, broken body of a woman with a video tape in her mouth gave me nightmares. The detail is exquisitely morbid, and the way the panels flow together makes you feel like there are no panels at all, that you aren’t reading so much as experiencing.
But what got me is this: the author’s use of narration. Narration is a hard thing to pull off in a visual medium. Comics exist to “show”, not to “tell”, and actions are much more effective when done that way.
Except here.
The Fall, a close up on his face, narrates what he is watching on the video tape. It is terror inducing. But what makes it even worse is that it is not drawn. The artist, already having proved he is more than capable of drawing the scenes described, takes a backseat to the authors words. The end result is thus: We, as readers, are tasked with imagining it ourselves. But due to the already gruesome art style our imagination takes it one step further. It is terrific, and an example of what the comic medium can accomplish.

See you on the Other Side
Grim Rascal is back with his Fall babies: The children of the Fall. This story focuses on the slowly recovering Russ, who is now more emotionally wounded than physically. This story isn’t about Russ though, it’s about the Fall, and how he’s slowly coming to terms with the consequences of being a symbol, and idol, an icon. He has finally accepted his role as a trend setter, but he is still unsure how to treat his would be sidekicks. The art is fantastic, making it seem like Russ and the Fall are the only two people in the world. The ending will leave you confused, but that’s what “to be continueds” are for.

Voodoo Child: Part 3: Somersault
Voodoo Child focuses on the Fall’s other “sidekick”, a cop who has taken a liking to the Fall’s brand of justice. The story is definitely building up to a boiling point, and this one serves the same purpose as many of the others in this book: to make the Fall human. The fall is showing compassion, more complex ideologies, and in this story he even shows the capacity to be embarrassed. This story is necessary in humanizing the fall, making him more relateable, without ruining the enigmatic personality.

What does Elvis Say TO YOU in the bathroom
This is also a sort of part two, featuring a pumpkin headed man from the previous comic who is also imitating the Fall. It shows the first of his imitators to take the call to “justice” seriously, not as a way to make the city better, but as a way of appeasing the notion of justice. And he is instantly unlikable for it. I look forward to seeing how the Fall deals with an imitator who is not inherently a good person.

Enemy of my Enemy
The fall takes on two groups of thugs at once! And wins! The art is fun and fast, and there is one panel with shattered glass that is very well done. It’s not deep, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s the Fall doing what the Fall does best. Not dealing with serial killers, not dealing with crazy attorneys, or his mentally unstable sidekicks. He’s dealing with simple bad guys who need a simple beating.

In conclusion
Some of the stories in this one are the best I’ve seen yet in the Fall. The art is fantastic, fun, and a blend of dark or cartoonish as is the mark of all Fall comics. It’s a fun read, and definitely a good addition to the burgeoning anti-hero’s universe.

Saturday Stuff: A Taste for Killing

How I review
After reading a few of the comics I have to review soon, including today’s special “A Taste for Killing”, I’ve realized something. I am overly harsh on some comics, especially when I feel they haven’t given me enough of the story to review. This has caused some people to accuse me of not liking kid friendly comics and praising adult comics, but I would like to take a moment to defend myself. I apologize to Nikkol Jelenic for putting off her review for a paragraph or two.

Many of the comics I have reviewed negatively (many I do not post for reasons I will explain later) I do because I don’t feel like they deliver what they promise. Be it in length (I have turned away some, asking that they come back when they have over 30 pages for me to review), substance, or quality I judge much of a book on whether or not it delivers on its promise, be it the books claim, the authors claim, or what I think to be the claim. So, from now on, I will make sure to state what I think the comics “promise” is, and whether or not I believe they deliver.

A Taste for Killing
Do I have to say this comic is Not Safe for Work? It is. Blood, gore, nudity, the works. Nikkol Jelenic is in her prime where this book’s art is concerned, and that art fills in the gaps that the abrupt nature of the stories creates. Her books promise? To shock or scare you with gruesome, gory scenes. Boy does it deliver.

There’s No Such Thing
TNST is the first story in the book, and it begins like a horror film. A hot, blonde girl has car issues in the middle of the night and two red necks pick her up in their pick up truck. There is only one flaw in the story that gives me pause, and that is a bad transition. There is a scene that jumps from one location to the next and it takes a second to realize what happened. It’s not a long second, but it is a second that I wasn’t absorbed in the flow. Without this transition the story is rightfully shocking, and follows Jelenic’s trademark trend of making humans more monsters than the monstrosities that destroy them. Upon a second reading, with the transition in mind, it is a morbidly delightful scenario.

Hair of the Dog
There was one piece of art in TNST that struck me as horrid. Let me clarify. It shocked me and looking at it made me uncomfortable. Hair of the Dog has multiple pieces. The story is a little more confusing, and leads to some “What did I just read” moments, but the art is bloody and macabre. Jelenic’s trademark is still there, as well as another theme that begins to show which I will elaborate upon later.

Flash Fiction
There are two pages of prose at the end of the comic, a story on each page, that are pieces of flash fiction written by Leo Cherry and Brian Spicer, as well as three pin-ups of werewolves by Richard Bonk, Brandon Spicer, and Josh Shockley. These are all fine additions to the book, and certainly don’t detract from the experience. The books theme also stays for the most part in the two pieces of prose.

Deep Thought
Y’all know I love me some deep thought, so here goes. Jelenic is one of the talented hands that PLB comics calls upon, so I am partially familiar with her work, which is why I refer to her “trademark”. In the story she illustrated for PLB’s latest Halloween issue, which she did not write, she did do a fantastic job of illustrating the evil humans to be just as terrifying as the monster. Her own stories are even more so. Every story in the book follows along one theme: Humans are the real monsters. Be they red necks, hunters, bikers, they are the ones who are actively seeking out others to harm, the monsters are the ones who stop them.

Another trend in this book is the use of women as bait. A Taste for Killing uses women as man’s fatal flaw, something he cannot resist and yet wishes to destroy. In the end, whether he tries to resist, or whether he tries to destroy, the women are the creatures who destroy him.

The Review
It is a skill to be able to tell a story in 6 to 10 pages. There are always unanswered questions, there is always more to say, the hard part is knowing if you have said enough. A Taste for Killing isn’t about making you afraid, it’s about shocking you. Fear takes time, shock is a visceral, instant response to a scenario or picture. The stories build just enough up that you are satisfied to see it torn down. The story is satisfying because you learn enough to be glad when someone gets what is coming to them. The art is spectacular. I found myself staring at the adornments of the hunter’s cottage in “Hair of the Dog” and thinking, “That is one of the creepiest things I have ever seen.” It is well worth a look if you are inclined towards dark, macabre, and gory. You can find it and more Here

Saturday Stuff Fabula Zero Exposition

Fabula Zero: Exposition
I had the immense pleasure of reading Nick Davis’ first foray into sequential story telling: Fabula Zero: Exposition (Which can be found Here) At first it reads much like you’d expect a conventional comic book to read. A hero, Captain Avenger, is attempting to foil the evil schemes of a villain, Doctor Dark. Page 7 things take a quite unexpected turn though, and page 8 throws your expectations right out the window.

Is this the real life?
Fabula Zero’s main premise is that a comic writer has been tasked with the honor of writing for one of the worlds most beloved comic book characters have the retirement of the previous writer. From the start you are told of a “black book”, and the repeated mantra of “Find your ending”. From then on we find our protagonist, Jack, dealing with a rather peculiar problem: the characters he is writing for are talking to him about his writer’s block.

And not just talking to him, they are impacting his life. Be it his stress or the power of the black book he sees these characters as real beings who affect the world around him. The best part about this oddity is how it is portrayed. When he is not talking to Captain Avenger and Doctor Dark the book is written in non-illustrated prose, much like you’d expect any book. But, when the comic characters appear to him, the book turns into a comic. This media mash up, the mix between novel and comic, is the real strength of the novel. It is also the weakness, as it serves to interrupt the flow. This is more of a strength than a weakness, but it is amplified when some of the comic panels have word bubbles that take a second to determine proper reading order. Despite this issue the “gimmick” of the novel works spectacularly to emphasize the strengths of the story.

We must go deeper
There are a lot of themes in this book that even the writer will probably argue with me as to my readings of, but I would like to point out the areas of interest I found when analyzing the book along deeper lines.

1. “Find your ending”. This line is repeated multiple times throughout the book, especially by the villain Doctor Dark. This is an essential part to the story, what do you do with a story that wasn’t yours to begin with? You end it your way. What is fascinating about the line is the person who says it. Doctor Dark, the creation, is speaking out for an end. It would mean his own “death” in a way, but it is what every creation cries out for: completion.

2. Comic vs Novel. Throughout the book “real” life is written in prose, while the fantasies of Nick are done in comic form. I believe this is actually a metaphor for the strengths of both prose and comics. Novels, books, and short stories are excellent at detailing the tiny elements of every day life. They excel on telling stories that are as complicated and full as our real lives. Comics, on the other hand, excel at bringing our imaginations to life. Comics strength is that the character isn’t only in your imagination, they are on the page, able to spring to life at a moments notice.

3. Nick vs Jack. Although I don’t want to point out the author’s personal life, the fact that I know a little bit about his fashion choices, choice of vehicle, and accent, served to keep me entertained by how much of himself Nick put into Jack.

I had fun reading FZE. It isn’t without it’s problems, which are largely flow related, but those are easily forgotten amidst the story. It’s a comic where the main character isn’t the hero, but the person who makes the heroes. I don’t really have a “If you like this you’ll like FZE” reference today. FZE is a step apart from your traditional comic, featuring a mode of story telling that is truly unique. Check out some preview pages on the site, and also check out all of Nick’s stuff at

Saturday Stuff Lazerman 2

The longest thing I’ve ever reviewed
Lazerman 2 is officially the longest thing I’ve ever reviewed, clocking in at 76 pages. It also holds the very special honor of being the first comic I’ve reviewed that is not a compilation of multiple stories. All of this means this review might be very different from the ones I have done previously, but I hope it is still the in depth, thought provoking review that you all have come to know and love.

Who is Lazerman
I didn’t read Lazerman 1. And you know what? Lazerman 2 is so tightly written that it didn’t matter. The characters and plot are simple enough to understand that a new reader can jump in and glean everything you need to know in the first couple of pages. Like most of my reviews I will spend the first part of this review as my review of Lazerman, the unvierse, and the second part as my review as Lazerman 2 (the book).

Lazerman is a character created by HB comics, who are currently running a Kickstarter to produce the comic HERE. And guy, let me tell you, that 5 dollar point there, where you get a digital copy of the whole 76 page book, is gold. And I’ll explain why.

HB comics and I talked briefly on the reason for Lazerman. Apparently he started off as satire (remember the 3 groups of heroes I pointed out in my Bedbug review? If not click here.) and grew into what is very similar to the originals. In HB’s words “Lazerman started out as a “satire” of the classic superhero stuff, and as we went on we realized that there aren’t any of those any more. Everything is dark and cynical. So we decided Lazerman was the torchbearer for that genre.” While I disagree with their opening statement that there aren’t classic superhero comics out there, I do agree that cynicism is the name of the game these days, and I applaud them for attempting to make a character at the forefront of one of the most venerable of the medium’s genres.

So who is Lazerman? And does he do what HB wants him to do? I’ll let you be the judge as I lay down my observations. Lazerman is a college kid. I assume he is a freshman, as many of the antics he gets into are purely freshman related, but having not read Lazerman 1 I can’t confirm. His station in life is quintessential Marvel hero. Pick the scrawny, picked on, nerd with a heart of gold and give him superpowers. Lazerman is bullied by the blonde, jock quarterback that picked on him in highschool and who continues to into college (this… doesn’t really happen in college kids. Freshman from highschool rarely become lead quarterbacks in a college, and high school hierarchies typically fall apart in the modern college setting. This is pointed out by one of the bit characters, so I digress.) He has a crush on the jock’s red haired girlfriend. His best friend is the only one he can trust his secret to. He is a computer nerd. And, from the looks of it, his heart is at least partially gilded.

I did find one problem with his personality that bears little on the enjoyment of the universe. Lazerman is a boring kid when compared to some of the other characters in the universe. There is nothing he does or says that is “Oh boy I’m going to remember him”, at lease when compared with the other characters. The head strong police sergeant, the disgruntled mayor, the dumb zombie pair. Lazerman is a freshman kid who is still so much like the people he hung out with in highschool that he has yet to find himself even though he sees himself as apart from them. His personality is “classic superhero” and that makes him predictable. I stress that this is overcome considerably by the characters that surround him. The best example of this is when Lazerman is hit and has to be reminded that that would have hurt a normal person. Lazerman has a delayed personality, but perhaps that is the strongest bond he has with a classic superhero like Superman?

As for other similarities I noticed, the big one is the villain’s evil scheme. Do you know what I liked about classic comics? Villains have the most convoluted schemes for the most simple of tasks. I won’t spoil the scheme of Lazerman, but man, talk about trying to cut string with a cannon, sometimes scissors do the job man. In the end I felt very impressed with their attempt at making a simple, back to basics superhero comic, right up to the “and this is the obvious moral of the story” speech at the end.

But what about the book Scott?
Did I mention it’s 76 pages? That’s a lot to review. And I can’t really break it down like I do every other comic. The art, especially backgrounds, was impressive. Style is largely subjective, but the 2D art on top of the 3D rendered backgrounds was something I kept noticing again and again, almost always in a good way.

The plot was well written, and masterfully implemented. Lazerman’s main strength is multiple, individually driven characters that are focused on during jumps in the story. Whether it is the “Loose cannon cop on the edge”, the “evil mastermind”, or our young hero, the way in which these transitions occurred kept the pace fast and exciting. The comic rarely dwells on one character very long, using events as the catalyst for plot instead of character. That said, most characters are very simple and easy to gauge upon their first scene. There isn’t much of a layer system, most characters are who they say they are with little surprise in what they do. This is a great throwback to classic comics, where good is good, evil is evil, and rarely the two shall mix. While simple, the characters are almost all likable, and should entertain well after you finish the book.

Oh! And lest I forget, there are some strong themes at work in this book. I love themes, ya’ll know this. The two big ones in this book are about change as a force that is feared, not accepted, and about zombies representing human unwillingness to break away from a strong force that controls them. Keep your eyes open for the people who advocate change and where they are on their respective social totem poles, and where those are who are conservative on good times. Also, for those of you who have a copy of the book, take a look at page 15 and then page 39 in the digital version. Notice any similarities in these and the following few pages of each one?

I read the whole book in less than an hour. I scarfed each page down eagerly, anticipating greatly the next series of events. But there is one thing that I loved most of all:

Axl the Skeleton Lieutenant.
You can see him in the picture I choose to go with this review.
Doesn’t he look spectacular?

Lazerman is who he says he is, and it’s hard to fault someone for that, and neither should you in this case. The complaints I do have are small, and at the time of writing this review I don’t even remember any of them. I remember stupid zombies, a ludicrous evil scheme, a loose cannon cop on the edge with nothing to lose, and Axl. Lazerman is a steal at its current price, and you’d be crazy to let this lazer fly by before you can see it.

Saturday Stuff Jellyman and Toast

“We see so many kids who are just plain bored at events we do (not just cons, but art events, etc.) and I hate that. There should be something for them just to have a little fun, they are kids after all, having fun is their full time job. I can identify with why they are bored. There are a lot of things that look interesting, but they are not allowed to touch, be it because things are graphic, or fine art, or collectible. It reminds me of that line out of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “The place is like a museum. It’s very beautiful and very cold, and you’re not allowed to touch anything.” We saw that there needed to be something, anything, that they could just be kids with. Even comics aimed at kids these days become collectable almost immediately (My Little Pony, Adventure Time, etc.). Really little kids don’t want lessons on proper comic handling, or to be told that they have to be really careful with it, they want to open it up, color on it, draw mustaches on the characters, that sort of thing. So that is exactly what we gave them. All the collectable stuff and proper handling will come later.”- James Dufendach on the creation of Jellyman and Toast

Another PLB comic?
Yup. Like I said, they keep putting stuff out and keep wanting yours truly to review it. Probably because I’m awesome.

Man oh Man, a kid friendly book by PLB? At first I thought this probably meant that during the decapitations rainbows poured from the necks instead of blood. Boy was I wrong. Jellyman and Toast is PLB’s first kids book and there is nothing even remotely questionable as far as content for kids. And it’s a dollar. And it’s a coloring book. With activities.

Most of ya’ll will remember the review I did of Bedbug #1 last week. It was a great kid’s comic that had so much depth that there was enough in it for me to love or hate. Regardless of my thoughts on the hero, Bedbug has a depth that I love in kids stories as it encourages deeper reading and thought. Jellyman and Toast is the opposite. Weighing in at 12 pages, with multiple stories, gags and puzzles, there is a lot of stuff, and none of it is deep enough for you to grow too attached. Sure, you can like or dislike it, but at the end of the day you never invest enough into it to hate it or love it.

As for said content, you are given two groups of stories, three about Jellyman and Toast, and two about Dracula, the Mummy, and the Wolfman as roomates (or Doomates). The doomates one requires a little bit of prior knowledge by your kids about the monsters involved, but not enough to ruin the punchline if they don’t know about a certain thing. Jellyman and Toast’s stories are random, dealing with plot points from cooking, to clones, the Santa. Both sets of stories deal with the random type of humor that excels in modern day cartoons, and will be easily funny to kids who think something is funny just because it’s weird (and who can blame them?).

The writing is goofy, if sometimes a little off. The art is fun. The puzzles are easy. The jokes are random. Your kid can afford it on their allowance. Jellyman and Toast is what it is: a soda. You buy it for a buck and it tastes good, but there is little nutritional value.

Saturday Stuff Bedbug Review

I’m a Jerk
Remember the old adage “Never judge a book by its cover”? Turns out I suffer a bit from that same thing, but I question you, my readers, is that such a bad thing? I’m here today to review Scott Roger’s comic Bedbug #1, and, as you can see, there are slightly different covers, one of which came with my review copy, the other that is on the actual books for sale. I had a real big issue with the cover I got, the one on the left, but I will get to that later. First I would like to review the one on the right.

For a species so closely resembling a Tick, this comic doesn’t
Tights and secret identity Super hero comics fall into roughly three categories.
1. The originals, made largely to inspire people about the power of the good of an individual over evil. See Superman (Truth, Justice and the American Way), Spiderman (With great power comes great responsibility), Professor X (Humanity and mutant kind can live together peacefully.)
2. The grays. Grays teach us that super heroes are flawed, like the rest of us. These are many times anti-heroes. A sinner not need be a saint to do good. Some originals have turned into grays over the years. See Batman (I’m not the hero Gotham deserves), Wolverine (I’m the best at what I do, and what I do isn’t very nice), Deadpool (Look! Pancakes!).
3. Satire. These heroes are jokes about the other two heroes, fun house mirrors that can actually show us more about the characters of the original. See The Tick (Spoon!) and Home Made Heroes (Captain Yankee… really?).

Over the years the originals have slowly lost ground over either edgier, darker stories or stories making fun of them. This is a sign of comics striving to mature, but it would be a sad day to forget where they started.

And that’s where Bedbug comes in. Bedbug is made to remind people that comics can be naive and innocent yet still relevant in a not so clean world. Bedbug is an homage to the Golden age of comics with its heroic hero, goofily evil villains, and strong moral message.

Review of cover 2
The book is made up of two short stories and two one page gags. The first story is Bedbug’s origin story. Its a very simple tale that should connect with kids. What’s the first thing you do when you find out you can walk? You try and run… or…. jump in this case. There isn’t much of a causation correlation to his becoming a super hero, but perhaps there doesn’t have to be? Bedbug becomes a super hero, not out of honor, not out of duty, nor regret, but because he can. The origin story, while adults may not gravitate towards, is a good one for kids. The second major story follows the first one page gag. Both one page gags are alright. The first one establishes that his daughter draws him, which is great for the following story which appears to be drawn by a child.

Story two is the main one in the book. While his daughter is at a sleep over Bedbug must fight a crime wave in the city with a super hero friend of his. Art is the best part in this story, and the story does its best to introduce you to all of Bedbug’s villains. Blue Tiger makes a great antiparent, and fulfills the role of second role model brilliantly.

Bedbug is well worth the time to look at, especially if you are thinking of a new hero for your kids, but I strongly recommend checking out the two stories he has for free on his website here Bedbug paints parents as heroes, who strive to be heroes because of their kids.

Review of cover 1/ Rant
I almost gave this comic a negative review for this cover, and it all has to do with expectation. For a whole day I battled with myself. I knew I should like this comic. I knew it was good. But something was biting at me that kept me from liking it.
Towards the end of the day I realized it.

That box.

Do you see it?

On the bottom left of the cover on the left?

“Single Father Super Hero”

It wasn’t just that though, everything I had heard about Bedbug, everything I looked up, stressed he was a single father and that this, above any other reason, was why you should read the book. This is an interesting twist, as there are a lot of single parents who raised super heroes, but few who are actually heroes themselves.

And my issue:
I am a parent. My girlfriend was a single parent for just over a year. I know single parents. I know parents. And Bedbug #1 has no real parenting challenges. Normal parents deal with three big aspects of parenting: Structure, Money, and Time. Parents set the structure for which their kids grow. The decide on how to discipline the child, how to raise the child, etc. A two parent house hold has an element of give and take, and the structure is easier to uphold because of the extra authority figure. Parents also need jobs, and often have to get higher paying jobs instead of dream jobs in order to give their kids the life they want for them. Many two parent households have two incomes, which means that there is time for them to be with their kids because, usually, one or the other will have time after or before work to spend with their child. Finally, parents have to deal with the struggle of time. Kids grow up fast, too fast, and every minute we are at work paying for their homes, sports, and toys we are not with them overseeing their growth in moral, intellectual, and physical pursuits. Single Parents have all of these struggles double. Structure is hard to maintain when you do not outnumber the child. Many single parents need to work multiple jobs or longer hours just to give the child the same life they’d have with two parents. This takes away from the time they want to spend with their child. Single Parents are superheroes because the normal troubles of parenting are harder for them, and many do it anyway because they love their child so much.

Bedbug is a multimillionaire who’s only job is being a super hero. He doesn’t worry where the next paycheck is coming from. He doesn’t have to worry about time because he fights crime while his daughter is asleep or at school, and seems to spend a lot of time with her when she is out of school. He doesn’t deal with even two parent household problems. Every problem that is brought up as a “Single Parent Problem” is actually a “Parent Problem”. For a book whose cover includes him spending his crime fighting time with his daughter and a big bolded sentence at the bottom left reading “SINGLE FATHER SUPER HERO” it doesn’t give anything for single parents to connect with except that he is one. His struggles are not the same. I began to dislike him as a character for being able to spend so much time with his daughter who appears to love him so much that she draws pictures of him being a super hero. He doesn’t even have to keep his identity secret from her, and thus the moral dilemma of “Daddy, why can’t you play with me?” “Because… I have… work?” never happens. But this is as an adult reading a kids book, and I realize that my arguments aren’t the point of his book. I simply could not relate to the character.

That is until I read the comics on his site. The one about how he has the change the way he fights crime because he wants to show his daughter that nonviolence is the way real heroes act? That struck me. Go read that one. Here

Some may claim that I am over analyzing, and should enjoy the book for what it is, a children’s book, but I argue differently. Putting it on the cover, making it one of the main reasons to buy the book, seemed to be a money grab. Kids don’t care if the super hero is a single parent. Kids would rather see themselves as heroes. It is included just to entice parents and single parents to buy the book. Spiderman doesn’t say “Skinny nerd super hero”, Superman doesn’t say “Farmboy Super Hero”, Batman doesn’t say “Orphan Super Hero”. They survive on their own merits. I analyzed the book the way that it seemed I was intended to by the attention drawn to that main fact. I don’t think it is a good example of being a parent and a super hero. His daughter seems to purely exist for the purpose of making him a single father.

I am sorry Mr. Rogers for the way I initially thought of your comic. I was wrong, and let personal issues interfere with my review. I would like to let you know that you have a good work, and one I can see growing strong. As a golden age super hero comic it works splendidly, and kids 6-12 should eat this up and feel great for doing so. Adults? Give it a try. I didn’t find much to stick to, but, besides the obvious, what did strike me struck me in a good way.

Saturday Stuff PLB Halloween

Me and the Squirrel are friends
If you guys haven’t noticed, I review a lot of PLB comic’s stuff. This isn’t on purpose mind you, I am open to anyone to review, but PLB puts something out ALL THE TIME. They are putting out two comic books AS WE SPEAK. Do I need to end all of my thoughts with caps? PROBABLY NOT, I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM. PLB is the Beatles of comic books, they produce a lot of stuff, all the time, and some are hits, some are misses. This is compounded even further by their standard formula: Pack their comics with more artists and stories than you can shake a stick at (why is that a saying? I can shake a stick at a lot of things).Oh, and like I need to even say it anymore, this comic is not kid friendly.

So what is it this time?
PLB comics has another Halloween comic out, and boy is this one a doozy. 40 pages, 5 stories, and all of that for only $3. As usual, I’ll give you a quick review of the entire comic, then a detailed review of each story.

Review time
PLB Halloween ‘013 is a good read. All of the stories have their moments, and there is one that I enjoyed tremendously that screams “Halloween” and yet dashes my expectations at the last moment (in a good way). The sad part is that they don’t mesh well. The feeling of each story is completely different from the next. It starts off with a sad, action romp, and then jumps between horror, action, and simply weird. I feel like this is no fault of their own, and it does not detract from the fun of each story individually. It is simply a feeling I had looking back that I felt stopped it from being a great book, instead of a good book with some great stories. Feelings aside, there is definitely a strong theme to the book. In the PLB universe, when you rip off the mask of what scares you, you find that humans are the real monsters.

John the swamp monster is back this year with what might be his best story ever. It is not scary, which makes it odd for a Halloween story, but perhaps that is PLB’s point. The swamp people are seeking to live lives apart from everyone, keeping to themselves and their families. It is a group of humans who terrorizes them, kills their children, and burns their homes. At the end of the story you end up loving the swamp people more than the humans. This is a story that leaves you sad but satisfied. The last panel strikes home what you’ve just read, and is one of the high parts of the book. Shockley knows how to write for comics, showing that he knows when words speak louder than pictures, and when a picture of a word.. speak… louder… than… 1000 words?

Home Fires Burning
I’ve reviewed The Fall before, but his Halloween story ranks high among the best of the stories. The Fall meets an ex police officer who was killed by a thief. Whether or not the police officer was “killed” in the sense that it killed his career, social standing, and any chance for a normal life, or that he is actually dead, is superbly kept a mystery by revealing clues to both. The Fall gives a little speech about how Vengeance is a tough road to walk down as he catches the cop about to snipe the man who is responsible for his current state of deadness. The mystery man is definitely the highlight, succeeding in being more mysterious than even the Fall himself.The art here may be the only thing better than the story itself. The Spicer Bros are a great team, and as a team they enhance anything they’d do separately. The art does wonders to sell the mystery man as an iconic maniac, and the style sells the grim and gritty nature of The Fall.

Sometimes you get what you need
No monsters, no creepiness, no real halloween stuff beyond a twilight zone moment. I like the art (done by Ryan Thompson of Fajita) though. It’s probably my least favorite of the bunch as it simply happens too fast without enough explanation to make me think it was anything other than a crazy random happenstance. Who is the wizard? Did he have something to do with the coincidence? Why was the guy so upset about something so small? It’s good, but it doesn’t strike me as Halloweeny. Perhaps I am missing something?

To Be Loved
This was my favorite story in the entire book. The plot begins like a bad horror film, with two buxom women attempting to create a portal into a different dimension to pull forth evil creatures via a child sacrifice and making out. The story has a great twist that I won’t spoil, but this story is easily the best in the book and more than makes up for the price of admission. It looks and feels like a horror movie, and is exactly what I expected from a Halloween story.

A Tale With Teeth
A very creepy looking story, with a great opening for a character. The lead character’s design will elicit a shiver just by looking at her, and the writing grips you. It does suffer from one of the main flaws in many stories this short: It’s not long enough. It raises too many question to be answered in a few pages, and could do with one or two more pages to be satisfying. Maybe more of her story will be in ‘014?

I feel like I’ve said a lot of bad things about a book I actually enjoyed a great deal. The creepy, odd and disturbing creatures are exactly what you’d expect in a Halloween story, but the plots add something different. The plots give the monsters voice, causing once mute terrors to gain humanity and sympathy through their words. Halloween ‘013 is a good read, with moments of greatness. I know I put down my computer three times during reading it and said “Oh Snap” at what I’d just seen.

One neat thing I’m beginning to realize about PLB is their action sequences. Their fights are quick, brutal, and decisive. While in a normal comic pages can be devoted to a fight, PLB fights usually last two panels, one of which usually involves being ripped in half. I find this fascinating, and really adds to the gritty, no holds barred feeling of the comics.

Saturday Stuff HMH 3

Huggites! I actually have a Saturday Stuff for ya’ll this weekend.

Some of ya’ll may remember my review of Home Made Heroes, Grim Rascal’s tongue in cheek series about the everyday lives of B-list superheroes. Well book 3 was just released, and guess who has a copy?

I do.

Home Made Heroes 3
The best way for me to do this review is to post my review of Home Made Heroes 1 and 2. Which can be found here. After you’ve read that get back to me here, it will save us both a lot of time.

Back? Good.

If that review sounded like your cup of tea, then issue 3 will be a slightly less sweet, but more bold cup. Issue three’s biggest change from the previous two issues is that it takes risks. While issues 1 and 2 stuck primarily to super hero satire, issue three takes a big step into establishing a compelling narrative, and, for the most part, it succeeds. Home Made Heroes 3 is the series’ first step towards making its characters more than just walking gags, but real, memorable characters.

Full, in depth review:
So here’s the part of my review where I pick apart each section of the comic, starting with:

The Gags
Just like every HMH this book starts with a series of three panel comics following traditional comic strip rules. Each one is a joke pertaining to something in the superhero world. And just like with the last books they are a varying degrees of funny. Individual results may vary, but the majority of them I found funny in some way.

Peep Show
By far the strongest showing, even though it is only a page long. Peep show introduces “Sir Valence”, the cyclopian watcher of all that happens in the HMH universe. Not only was the story funny, but it is an interesting take on how we, the readers, are seeing everything that is happening. Grim Rascal has magnificently fused the fourth wall into his comic, giving himself future freedom interact with its audience in a way only Deadpool has been able to pull off.

American Booty
This is where we see the first grouping of superheroes in the HMH universe. The League of Guardians appears to be this universes “Avengers”. The story itself focuses on Captain Smarmy, and while it doesn’t add anything revolutionary to his character, it does reinforce him as a character.

The Beekeeper
I laughed at this one.
Not only for the slapstick.
But for a Brits version of Captain America.

Megalodon and Ninja Frog Man’s First Bad Guy 2
By far the most important to the universe as a whole, this story focuses on the two main characters of the comic: Megalodon and Ninja Frog Man. The art in this one is great, and really shows off Grim’s strengths. The plot is interesting, introducing a second group of super heroes who may or may not be super villains? Grim’s done a good job of keeping them enigmatic. The only thing that adds a speed bump to enjoyment is the blocks of text. Grim sets up all of his text so it doesn’t get in the way of his art and characters, sticking mainly to huge blocks. If they were dispersed into smaller bubbles throughout the panels it would probably seem like a smother ride. But this shouldn’t stop you from checking it out.

HMH is the first comic in the series to take a leap, to take a risk. Grim is putting more than just jokes out now, but is beginning to set up a story to carry the jokes. While the initial flying is a little rough, he balances it all out on the whole and I see the comic picking up speed in the next couple of issues. If you liked issues one and two, chances are you will like three. It’s worth a lot more than the 70 cents you can buy it for here.