zine, [zeen] noun. 1. abbr. of fanzine; 2. any amateurly-published periodical. Oxford Reference


Monday, March 29, 2010

Havert, Nik


via Optical Sloth by Whitey on 3/8/10


Syndication      Now Available!  $4.99

Ah, the anthology.  Practically always a mish-mash of good and bad, but it is one of the few places where you find new voices (or, in this case, new teamings) doing different things.  To me a 75% success rate in these things is all I hope for, and I define "success" as either a genuinely great story or something that looks like the people involved have some serious potential.  This one, I think, cleared that hurdle.  It starts off with a genuinely thoughtful introduction by Ben Avery, in which he honestly lays out all the reasons why anthologies aren't popular and don't "work" (but why he loves them anyway) and then follows up with a peek into the basic contradiction at the heart of most artists.  Note to anthology editors: an intro like this works wonders, as I was curious to see how these people worked together after he described some of the issues in getting these pieces in and how some of these people will probably work together in the future… and some of them certainly won't.  First up is a piece by Jedediah Walls  and Gloria Hollier, dealing with the nature of narrative sequence and comics as art.  Things get much more traditional from there, as mostly everything else is monster or superhero-related, starting with The Ballad of Dr. Ecula by Alan Schell and Jamie Hood.  This is a surprisingly moving piece about two foes and their constant struggle, and how the villain deals with it after he finally gets the upper hand and kills the hero.  Kelly Heying and Ron Schell Jr. are up next with a fairly standard piece about a former crook turning hero after his child is born, which is followed by a piece by Nik Havert and Ryan Sargent (in what is probably the best looking piece of the bunch) dealing with a young girl and her quest for revenge.  This shows her first time out on her own, trying to kill 6 Spaniards in the early 16th century.  Ben Avery and Mike Murphy follow this with a confusing piece (probably because the format shifted to sideways art and the binding of this book makes it tough to see tops of pages that way) about trying to kill what appears to be an alien.  Jon Kulczar then has a thoroughly random two page story where his characters mostly complain about the tiny amount of pages they get and can't seem to figure out what to do with it.  Christopher Penzenik and Joey Allen are next with a story about a man who sacrifices himself for his tribe and in the process becomes a giant evil monster… who still seems to have pieces of the good guy left.  Finally there's Tim Kelly's Bunnyman, which was thoroughly baffling.  I tried flipping through it again, but there's a hero (Bunnyman), a princess who's in some sort of distress (who is saved by induced vomiting (?)) and a monster that seems giant in certain panels and the same size as Bunnyman in others.  Seeing all these stories laid out like this it's possible I was too optimistic in thinking this passed the 75% test, but it's close if it didn't quite make it.  Bonus points for that intro too, so I'll give it to them. 

Agent Z #1 (art by Federico Zumel) Now Available! $2.50

Want to get somebody hooked on a title right away? Shoot the main character in the head and leave him for dead. Then shoot him even more, but he just keeps on ticking. Why? What the hell is going on? I'm intrigued for #2 because of all that, so kudos to the crew. This is about an agent and his partner checking out some shady dealings at a lake. One of them gets shot, so the other agent, under fire, leaves him there in the lake. But the isn't dead, and nobody knows why. Or maybe Agent Z (I'm just guessing that the guy who was shot turns out to be Agent Z) knows and isn't telling anybody? Like I said, I'm intrigued. Good art, good writing, now all they need to do is keep this thing going so they can make a real story out of it. Worth a look, if you're into the mystery/espionage stuff…

The Three Keys #1 (with Paul Schultz) Now Available! $2.75

You probably know already: do you like fantasy comics? I like fantasy books, on occasion, but the comics have always left me kind of cold. Purely a personal taste, as I'm aware that most mainstream comics have at least some element of fantasy to them, and a whole bunch of them do quite well. This is the story of a battle, told from the point of view of the three main characters: a magician, a rogue and an archer. Or possibly those aren't the technical terms, I'm a bit rusty at the terminology. Anyway, the dialogue is more than a bit cheesy, but as they're all telling increasingly fantastic tales, I think that's perfectly OK. The art was great for the wacky sort of thing that they're trying to do here, but the whole thing didn't do much for me, as these comics usually don't. Still, if this is sort of thing you're into it's a pretty fun comic.

Rocket Girl #1 (with Jesus Antonio Hernandez Rodriguez) Now Available! $2.25

After many, many years of being disappointed with comics that have superheroes in them, I've learned to take anything with a superhero in it and assume that it's crap until it wins me over. Luckily, this one did that about one page in. The first page is a spread of the main… well, obsession of the main character, a superhero called Fire Chief. I'm not sure what else Jesus has done, as this is from a few years ago, but holy crap is this man a gifted artist. That single page was enough for me to turn the cynicism off and let this thing win me over, and then the writing kicked in. Yep, that's all you need for a great comic, so I was hooked. This is the story of a woman named Polly Harris, a seemingly ordinary woman who has a massive crush on one of the more famous superheroes in their town, the Fire Chief. Why she has a crush isn't immediately clear, as he's in a baggy costume with a bucket over his head, but she has an absolute obsession, which eventually leads her to try the superhero thing out for herself. That may be a spoiler, as most of this book is the "origin" issue and we don't see her in costume until the end, but come on now, the book is called "Rocket Girl", how did you think it would turn out? Anyway, great stuff all around, completely engrossing, and kudos to Jesus on the choice of making the werewolf more like the old black and white movie werewolf and less like the giant beast that seems to be in all the movies these days. You damned kids! $2.25

Rocket Girl #2 Now Available! $2.25

So how do super heroes learn how to use all those silly gadgets they wear anyway? This issue is a mostly embarrassing look at the early superhero life of Rocket Girl, as well as her first accidental "win" and subsequent earning of a nemesis. The glow wore off on me a little bit for #2, frankly. My earlier enthusiasm for the potential of the series remains, but something didn't click for me here like it did for #1. Not the dialogue, which is still at least pretty good (it is a superhero book, after all, and some dumb phrases are bound to make their way in), or the art, which is still mostly great, or the general direction of the book, which is still, as I said, intriguing. Maybe it's the fact that the story ended with "Find Out Next Issue… If There Is One!" It just drove home the futility of getting invested in books like this. Sure, these two issues were better than OK, but so what if they just dump it and move onto something else, or quit comics altogether? Here I am, trying in my own puny way to get the word out for a book… and they may have quit on this title two years ago and are just trying to sell off the backlog now. Cynical as hell, sure, and not a rant I intended to fall into, but there you go. That being said, um… this comic is now available in my online store!

Act of Contrition (with Craig DeBoard & Wes Sweetser) Now Available! $5

The Pickle Press empire keeps wandering off in different directions, and that's fine with me. This time out Nik has the story of a mystery involving a wide cast of characters, with the only thing that they seem to have in common being the local priest. The main thing needed to keep a story like this entertaining is suspense, and it did take about half of the comic for me to figure out for sure where this was headed. Take that as a measuring stick, I suppose. If you feel that you're required to be fooled until the end of the book, you'll go away disappointed. Or maybe I'm just the smartest man alive, who knows? The story begins with a man in a confessional, always a good way to go, telling a priest that he's killed someone. The rest of the book is a flashback to the actual story, starting with a dead young woman, a crazy old woman who sees people in her bushes, a boyfriend who may or may not have had anything to do with the young woman's death, and a priest who's dealt with them all. Great dialogue pretty much the whole way through here, and those fat black shadows were perfect for the theme. Worth a look if you like the murder mystery/suspense type of stories. $5

Dare (with Renatus) Now Available! $7.95

I've never been sure whether to take porn in comics seriously as a storytelling device. Nik says in the introduction that this was a lot wackier before he started writing it, then stripped it down into more of a spy story with some sex. The problem is that if I'm supposed to take all of this seriously, where do the silly scenes end up? This follows the story of Sylvia Dare, a woman who has risen through the ranks of spydom and eventually ends up in a practically invisible section, dealing with missing classified information and things of that nature. If I have to take everything here seriously though, it must be hard to be a super spy when you're also a nyphomaniac. Generally speaking, I can't imagine many spies get distracted with having sex with random people when they're searching for information. Or, according to the James Bond movies, maybe they do and I shouldn't take it all so seriously. It boils down to that, more than anything. If you can laugh along with some of the sillier scenes, there's plenty to like here, and yes, I do mean more than a lot of naked people. Some of the fight scenes are done really well, and I thought her origin story was handled nicely. If you must take everything here seriously though, you'll probably have a hard time with it. Unless, of course, all you're looking for is some serious nakedness, in which case you'll probably come away happy. $7.95


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