Saturday, August 30, 2014


BRIELLE AND THE HORROR VOL. 1 (Loaded Barrel Studios, 2014; Softcover)
Collects Brielle And The Horror Nos. 1, 2, Brielle And The Horror: A Thousand Words, and four new chapters exclusive to this book. (cover dates February, 2007- April, 2008)
Writers: Jared Barel and Jordon Barel
Artist: Jared Barel

I don't find new comics, they find me. It sounds insane, but it is true. It is one of those books that I stumbled upon in my journeys. This book is the result of an independent filmmaker who decided to scrap an idea for a film and make it into a comic book. The final product comes off as a cross between a storyboard flipbook and highly treated, highly stylized comic book. It's different in tone and feel than most things out there today.

Brielle Kicks is a teenager who has problems. At first glance they seem to be psychological, the result of her being the only witness to her father's murder. As things unfold it becomes apparent that this is a more occult-tinged, supernatural sort of thing going on. It's not entirely original but it is a polished concept which seems to be squarely aimed at a young adult/teenager sort of reader. I kind of winced at that but then the reality check hit me- I am old in Horror terms. I enjoyed Friday the 13th, Halloween and Nightmare On Elm Street films as a teenager, and I am sure that the forty-nothings of that era scoffed at them, so there you have it. 
This comic has a unique feel on two levels. The first of course is the artwork. While using photo referencing is one of the oldest tricks in the book, this seems like treated photos were used as the artwork. Again, composing a comic out of photos is not a wholly original thing either, but this has a very different way that it is presented. Very cinematic, with each panel essentially being a camera angle change. I am not always a fan of this approach but it works here.

The second level is the word balloons in the first two issues. I have never seen word balloons look like that. It is distracting but original. I was thankful that a more conventional word balloon approach was adopted for the remainder of the book.
 Those looking for different takes on Horror will enjoy this. I liked it well enough for what it is. Add a point to the rating if you are under 20.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- While the first two issues have been slightly recut from their original single issue publication, the original introduction pages are included in the back as well as the original issue covers.
This book is both a trade paperback and a graphic novel, since it compiles three issues that were originally published in single issue magazine format while containing four chapters exclusive to this book. Is it a trade or is it a graphic novel it both?
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Foreword by Jared Barel. (1 page)
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Excellent weight glossy coated stock paper.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 4.25 out of 5. this book has that dry feeling dull matte finish coating that all of the kids must love these days, since everyone is doing it. I am not much of a fan of it as it tends to get minor scuffing on it, even when handled gingerly by an uber-anal retentive OCD person like myself.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


TRIPLE HELIX (IDW, 2014; Softcover)
Collects Triple Helix Nos. 1-4 (cover dates October, 2013- January, 2014)
Writer and Artist: John Byrne
Colorist: Len O'Grady

Where Willard ends, Ben begins. I'm sorry, I meant where Trio ends, Triple Helix begins. Is this the start of a Byrne superhero universe? Like Astro City, these characters are all doppelgangers for various established Marvel and DC superheroes with a smattering of new ideas. That's not a knock, as I miss Byrne tackling superhero stuff. Byrne's artwork is tight and polished and the story flows smoothly. I enjoy the third person narrative, something of a lost art these days. Whether this cliffhanger continues in Trio or Triple Helix or something else altogether remains to be seen, but I'll be there with cash in fist regardless. TAKE MY MONEY!
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.

The OCD zone- All of the covers are collected in the back of the book in a cover gallery rather than inserted as chapter markers. I dislike this practice. Your mileage may vary. All four standard covers are an interlocking image and are presented across two pages.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: All four Subscription variants in black and white and in color. (8 pages)
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Really nice thick coated stock paper with a slight sheen.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.

Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. Waxlike lamination, decent and resistant to scuffing.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Collects Captain America Comics Nos. 21-24 (cover dates December, 1942- March, 1943)
Writers: Stan Lee and other, unidentified writers
Artists: Syd Shores, Vince Alascia, George Klein, Mike Sekowsky, Pierce Rice, Don Rico, Ed Winiarski, Ernie Hart, Harry Fisk, Edd Ashe, Al Avison, Al Gabriele, Bob Oksner, Guy Blythe, and other unidentified art assitants.

Golden Age comic books are fascinating to me. As stated in this book's introduction, creators were being drafted or were volunteering for the armed forces during this time, so multiple art assistants handled these strips assembly line style. Syd Shores keeps things tight and provides a consistent appearance throughout in spite of this. While the artwork isn't quite as good as the team of Simon and Kirby it has grown on me over the course of the post-S and K volumes. 
Golden Age comics were 52 page anthology series. Captain America was the headliner and got two or three stories per issue, with a Human Torch back-up story and recurring back-up strips The Secret Stamp and Dippy Diplomat as well as a two page text story. Those were included due to some ludicrous Post Office regulation from the late 19th century which stated that a periodical must have at least two pages of text to qualify for a specific mailing rate.

While the Nazis remain Captain America's foes, they are not his only foes this time out. Unlike the stories in Volume 5, Cap is back home fighting Fifth Columnists and the like. His enemies are mostly macabre-tinged, such as The Creeper, The Sorcerer, Satan (yes, the “real” Satan), Dr. Eternity, The Reaper, Count Varnis The Vampire, and some not-so-macabre villains, like The Turtle-Man, The Eel, Izan, and Prince Ba'Rahm, an “Oriental Mystic” who appears to be Arabic. I am sure that it was all Greek to rural folks in the 1940s.

I love Carl Burgo's work on the Human Torch. Every one who handled him after Burgos enlisted seemed to miss the point about this character. He was a fricking android and yet he is always portrayed as being knocked out by gas, so on and so forth. It is annoying and silly and the character has worn thin over the course of these Golden Age Masterworks.
Dippy Diplomat is a highly stylized strip with gags that are sometimes amusing but are often groan inducing. Comics were typically aimed at children but there was a large adult audience as well, particularly soldiers. Some of the gags in this strip were aimed squarely at adults. It is a pleasant enough read but could never carry a collection of it's own, which is why I am glad that Marvel takes the completist route for these anthology titles. Imagine how many gems are buried in those early issues of Action Comics and Detective Comics that we will never see.

The Secret Stamp, on the other hand, is geared for the kiddies. Roddy Colt is a newspaper boy who sells War Bonds while peddling newspapers. It is one of those quaint reads that is more of a historical curiosity than it is a compelling read.

Like all Golden Age comics, there is a sort of almost casual racism throughout. While modern politically correct comic fans are uber-sensitive and would likely get their panties in a bunch while reading this, I can accept what the mores of society were during this time. Your mileage may vary, depending on how much soy is in your diet.
 Marvel seems to have mothballed Golden Age reprints, since not one collection of material was or is scheduled to be released this year. Contrary to what the Disney conspiracy theorists think, I believe that this has less to do with political correctness at the corporate level and more to do with lack of enthusiasm on the consumer end. I know that I did my part and bought them all. I hope that we see more of these someday but I won't be holding my breath.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Marvel Masterworks are my poison of choice. For Masterworks of this book's vintage, rest assured that this is the definitive Blu-Ray edition of this material.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Introduction by Will Murray. (5 pages)
Cover to the squarebound 1942 all-reprint Canadian Captain America “Annual”. (1 page)
Linework and color restoration: 5 out of 5. Think of the post-2007 Masterworks as definitive Blu-Ray editions, with painstakingly restored linework and a color palette that is 100% faithful to the source material.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Thick coated semi-glossy stock that has that sweet, sweet smell that all Chinese manufactured books have. I theorize that this delectable aroma is caused by the toxic stew of broken asbestos tiles, lead paint chips, heavy metal industrial waste, and mercury from recalled thermometers combined with the blood, sweat, and tears of the Chinese children working the sweatshop printing presses. The frosting on this delicious cake scent is the paper which is likely sourced from virgin Amazon rainforests.
Binding rating: 5 out of 5. Rounded book casing and Smyth sewn binding (six stitches per signature) allow this book to lay completely flat in one hand as Godzilla intended.