Tim Palmer, Fanbase Press Contributor

Tim Palmer, Fanbase Press Contributor

I have always had an interest in the macabre, especially when it comes to the classics.  I was drawn to the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, the Hammer horror films of the 1960s, and during Junior High I selected an intriguing book to read and write a paper on, which I had never heard of before, called The Island of Dr. Moreau. The story of a 19th Century doctor who had retreated into a desolate island in order to experiment on mixing human and animal genetics into a new kind of creation, the homo-animalia, seemed deliciously taboo, and the story reeked of danger and high adventure.  Also, it was written by H.G. Wells, and while I knew the writings of H.G. Wells, mainly through old movies and the cultural consciousness, I had not yet read any of his works, so this was the perfect place to start, with this relatively overlooked, dark-hued novel.

Fatima: The Blood Spinners is a bizarre trip through a scary, violent, funny, sad, black-and-white future of humanity’s own making. Comics legend Gilbert Hernandez has created a grotesque science fiction tale of addiction run amok and insidious corruption in the hierarchy that is tasked with saving the day.  Gilbert, along with brothers Jaime and Mario, are responsible for the long-running, initially underground, and critically acclaimed series Love and Rockets.  He has also created a myriad of other books on his own, collecting a variety of prestigious awards along the way.  Fatima is my first experience with the family Hernandez in any fashion, and I can see how together, and on solo projects, they attract and maintain a solid fan base.

I discovered Rick Remender doing awesome things with the Uncanny Avengers and Captain America with the launch of Marvel Now!, but it turns out Remender has been doing awesome things in comics for quite some time, and I'm talking well before his renowned run on Marvel's Uncanny X-Force. Back in the day, circa 2005-2006, Remender and artist Tony Moore, known for providing the art for numerous books by Robert Kirkman and Remender, including the very beginnings of The Walking Dead, brought into the world a creative callback to the rough-and-tumble pulp days of science fiction with Fear Agent. Filled with over-the-top action, showboating, wisecracks, weird and wild aliens, a hero with a cowboy complex, and a scientist who puts the sexy in science, Fear Agent careens through your imagination, tearing up the furniture and flinging open all the windows, letting its outlandish adventures ransack your rational mind.

Light Brigade is a bravado piece of storytelling.  Created by writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Peter Snejbjerg, it packs a wallop of classic, good-old-fashioned adventure, while also delving into the reasons men go to war and the effects of war on their psyches, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.  Here’s the simple story, as solid and entertaining as the best of “small-band-of heroes/antiheroes against all odds” military movies go, but with a spectacular supernatural twist: An American infantry division in Europe during World War II becomes tasked with helping the forces of Heaven stop the forces of Hell from taking dominion over Heaven and Earth by acquiring the Sword of God.  That is the premise at its most boiled down, but Light Brigade is equal parts supernatural action adventure and human drama, and Tomasi packs so much introspection and emotion into his tale of soldiers struggling with ideas of faith, fate, duty, and honor that you find yourself not only reveling in the battle against the forces of evil, largely made up of undead Nazi soldiers, but also contemplating the meaning and importance of sacrifice, and of life itself.

The second volume of Monster Massacre is the epitome of collaboration, which exists at the heart of comics and helps to keep the medium continually fresh and unique.  It also proves that creativity truly is universal and that interesting ideas and remarkable art can exist anywhere.  Spearheaded by editor Dave Elliott, co-founder of comic company Atomeka with Garry Leach, Monster Massacre Volume 2 is a mixture of tribute, passion project, and creative showcase, and it all comes together to create a very singular experience.  In his introduction, Elliott introduces us to his friends and fellow purveyors of artistic originality at Imaginary Friends Studios and Stellar Labs, based in Singapore and Jakarta, respectively.  The individuals that make up these two creative collectives, which specialize in graphic design, comics, illustration, concept art, and a multitude of other skills and areas, are the artists and writers featured in this book, giving us a glimpse at art and storytelling styles that are, at times, very similar and, at other times, very different than our own, and as a whole the experience is rewarding.

This was my second time reading writer Jai Nitz and artist and letterer Greg Smallwood’s superb Dream Thief, and, if anything, it was even more enjoyable this time around.  I previously reviewed issues three through five, but read all five of them, so if you want to know more about the specifics about the plot, feel free to check those reviews out.  Collecting the first five-issue story arc, I experienced the action, emotion, and creativity all at once, and I noticed new details both in the art and story that took me deeper into Nitz and Smallwood’s bizarre world. 

I jumped at the chance to review the second volume of IDW’s gritty G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files, and I was more than a little surprised, and even caught over guard, by the time I reached the conclusion.  While the first volume dealt with emotional, militaristic, and counter-intelligence issues, this second volume deals more specifically with emotional complexity, philosophical discussions of right and wrong, and the sometimes very thin line between the two.  Hanging over all of the characters and their actions is the theme of consequences.  The consequences of choices, of giving in to emotions, of misplaced or refused trust.  Crafted by writer Mike Costa, the Cobra Files elite team continues to be a simmering pot of secrecy, distrust, and moral ambiguity, just waiting to boil over.

Co-writer Daniel Freedman and fellow co-writer and artist Sina Grace are back throwing punches and making jokes in the third and final issue of their Burn the Orphanage miniseries, Born to Lose.  Working as both a continuation and conclusion to the previous issue’s Demons storyline, this issue, titled Wise Blood, offers more in the way of character development for Lex and Bear, while Rock is spirited away to try and make things right on a distant planet.  There is less brawling here, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still see some battles and bruises, though, at times, they come more in the form of volatile relationships and hurt hearts.  The story splits focus more evenly between Rock and Lex and Bear this time around, and the two friends contemplate and plumb the depths of what it means to be in love and what love even means, where the stakes can be just as high as in an actual fight, and the injuries possibly even more long lasting. This introspection is still delivered in the raucous and irreverent style as those following the exploits of Rock and his friends have come to expect, and the energy behind the musings make the dialogue more kinetic than conjectural.

Binary Gray comes from independent comics publisher Assailant Comics, and I am glad I was introduced to this interesting title, and even more pleased to say how enjoyable and entertaining of a book it is. The more I read, the more I wanted to read more.  Collecting the first six issues of the series, available both in print and digital at assailantcomics.com, Binary Gray starts with a small idea and then opens out into a larger story and world, and the results are impressive.  Alex Gray leads a less-than-unique life as an IT guy at a nondescript office.  In fact, the only interesting thing about him is that he is living in the past, trapped inside a recurring emotional loop of tragedy over his father’s death, for which he partly blames himself.  There is no enjoyment in Alex’s existence until a work accident gives him the ability to communicate with electronics using his mind, turning his whole world upside down and bringing more excitement, possibility, hope, and danger into his life than he ever could have imagined.

Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem is a short, simple story that overflows with elegance, emotion, and beauty and is entirely captivating.  Written by the prolific Steve Niles (based on a story by him and Matt Santoro), perhaps best known for creating the popular 30 Days of Night series, as well as the highly original Criminal Macabre and a plethora of other miniseries for a multitude of publishers, Breath of Bones lives and breathes simplicity in its storytelling.  Published by Dark Horse, this is a deeply felt World War II story - small, personal, and set against a larger, destructive, seemingly unstoppable backdrop.  The story of a small Jewish village under threat of Nazi invasion, and with no protection save for the hope and belief of a young boy and his grandfather that their faith will deliver them a protector in the form of a mythic golem sculpted out of the ground, is brief, direct, and remarkably poignant. 

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