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Drumheller #1 – Review

By: Alex Link (Story, script), Riley Rossmo (story, art, colors), Kelly Tindall (letters)

The Story: A guy who takes lots of hallucinogens teams up with an ex-girlfriend to do paranormal stuff.

Review: This comic is really trippy.  It’s about a guy who is slightly insane and takes a LOT of drugs.  There also seems to be a splash of the paranormal flitting about.  So, when the main character hears a voice coming from his bag of golf clubs or the mummified body he pulls out of a swamp starts to move, you can’t quite tell: Is this really happening or is it just a drug-induced hallucination.

And that’s really the hook of the first issue.  It’s all about that weird cross-over between hallucination and and reality.  There probably is a central “call to action” that is driving the plotline forward.  But – honestly – I read the comic two days ago and I don’t even remember what the story is all about.  The central story is really secondary to the weirdness.

That may make the comic sound shallow, but that kinda misses the point because the weirdness is so well done.  The opening scene shows the main character on a golf course, in a bathrobe getting struck by lightning.  Then he gets up and watches a peacock emerge from a rain puddle on the ground and fly away…..then he notices that the peacock (not a penHEN) has laid an egg in the puddle, so he picks it up and then sticks his face in the puddle and his face emerges from the puddle in the sky of another world where the sun is out.  It’s really trippy and weird.  It’s also the sort of thing that makes me appreciate comics as a medium.  You could write prose about this sort of scene, but it wouldn’t be graphic enough.  You could try to put such a scene in a movie or TV show, but it would almost certainly look like crappy CGI unless you spent a FORTUNE on the effects.  Comics are cool.

Of course, the thing selling all of this is Riley Rossmo’s art.  He just has a really good eye for atmosphere and the surreal.  He’s kinda done this sort of “edge of reality” story a bunch of times in Cowboy Ninja Viking, Green Wake and a few others.  He’s an exemplary artist and anything he does is worth checking out.  I still wish we’d get to see him do that raw, monochrome style from CNV and Proof again, but he seems to be going in a different direction.  I think his art loses something the more it is cleaned up and colored.
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Bedlam #3 – Review

BEDLAM #3

By: Nick Spencer (writer), Riley Rossmo (art), Jean-Paul Csuka (colors) and Kelly Tindall (letters)

The Story: A reformed Madder Red starts to help the police.

Review: This was a frustrating comic because it has teases of real excellence that get clouded in the execution.

Let’s start with how the glass is half full…

  •  Great art in places: The opening sequence of the comic that shows Madder Red murdering cats in his hospital room is the type of raw art I want from Riley Rossmo.  He is an artist that looks better without a colorist because his linework is so rough and visceral.  I love how he leaves his characters slightly roughed out and you can almost still see the erased pencils from the wireforms of these people.  THIS art reminds me of the guy who drew Proof and Cowboy Ninja Viking.
  • Unafraid story telling: Any comic that is unafraid to be transgressive gets massive points from me.  It isn’t so much that doing things for pure shock value is good, but by starting the story with a sequence of Madder Red killing 20-odd cats, Spencer and Rossmo have demonstrated the potential limits of the story.  When you consume fiction, you kinda know that certain things are off-limits: Batman will not die, no animal movie ever ends with all the doggies getting euthanized at the pound by the evil dog-catcher, etc.  With Bedlam we know that the creators are willing to kill children and kitty-cats and that the main serial killer has removed his own penis (remember that in Silence of the Lambs, Wild Bill just tucked it between his legs…).  At that point, I’m not sure anything is off-limits for this story.

But, the glass is also half-empty… Continue reading

Bedlam #2 – Review

BEDLAM #2

By: Nick Spencer (writer), Riley Rossmo (art), Jean-Paul Csuka (colors) and Kelly Tindall (letters)

The Story: In which we learn that Madder Red’s reformation may be a part of a larger plot.

Quick review: This issue was a little disappointing.  It wasn’t in any way “bad”, but it lacked the snap of Issue #1 and failed to live up to that issue’s promise.  What made that first issue so special was the deeply demented nature of the central character: he was murdering lots of people and even after reforming, he was doing weird stuff like licking the barrel of a mugger’s revolver.  Madder Red was just really creepy!  That issue never missed a chance to be weird and because of that, we paid very close attention.

In this issue we slow way, way down.  Most of the scenes are of the “talking heads” variety as we start to learn more about what might be going on with Madder Red and why he is “reforming”.  It just wasn’t as memorable.
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Bedlam #1 – Review

By: Nick Spencer (writer), Riley Rossmo (art), Jean-Paul Csuka (colors) and Kelly Tindall (letters)

The Story: A maniacal mass murderer goes kinda straight.

A few things (with minor SPOILERS): 1). Very creepy and unsettling - I don’t know about you, but I’ve been exposed to too many types of media to be easily unsettled.  I guess I’m just desensitized.  But, this was a very eerie comic book and it all stems from the nasty/creepy main character.  In this issue, Spencer and Rossmo introduce us to a horrible serial killer named Madder Red.  He’s just freaky as all hell.  When we first meet him, he’s in the middle of a horrible killing spree involving dead kids and the horror continues throughout the issue as we alternate between seeing his crimes and following him has he (perhaps) tries to recover.  It’s a great example of creators really using the medium of comics to its fullest.  The concept and the words for Madder Red are horrifying, but when that combines with the visual of his creepy death-mask and odd body shape it really goes to another level of unsettling.  Even the red word balloons are a nasty touch.  From he first scene, you are pulled into the story.  Very nicely done!
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Rebel Blood #2 – Review

By: Alex Link (plot/script), Riley Rossmo (plot/art) & Kelly Tindall (letters)

The Story: Trapped in the forest during an apocalypse, Chuck tries to make his way home.

Recap/Review: Good and bad with this comic.  Let’s be in a good mood and talk about the good stuff first, eh?

The general premise for this comic is interesting: man is out in the middle of nowhere when the apocalypse happens.  Usually when we see these end-of-the-world stories, we follow people who are trapped in cities or the suburbs.  It’s very different to see the world-ending from the standpoint of a guy located in a very remote location where he has limited information and already accepts that “the authorities” won’t be coming to help him.  Even in normal times, the deep wilderness has potential for scary times as anyone who has encountered an oddball stranger in the middle of the woods can tell you.  There’s no “help”…it’s all on YOU to get out of the jam.  So, the story and the setting work and make sense.

I also find myself enjoying the protagonist’s attempt to get home and find his family.  It seems like this apocalypse might actually be starting in the wilderness and making it’s way to the cities?  Thus, has to escape the mutant-filled forest and get to his family before the ghouls eat his family.  It isn’t a new concept, but the idea of not being able to help your children during a crisis is a powerful one and one that connects with readers.
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Rebel Blood #1 – Review

By: Alex Link (plot/script), Riley Rossmo (plot/art) & Kelly Tindall (letters)

The Story: A man stuck in the wild tries to grapple with the onset of an apocalypse.

Review: This was pretty good.  The big attraction to this issue and series is artist Riley Rossmo.  He was incredible on Cowboy Ninja Viking back in 2010 and he has kept busy since then with Proof: Endangered and Green Wake.  I didn’t personally find the stories in Proof: Endangered or Green Wake to be very entertaining, so I was very happy to see Rossmo on a project that I might enjoy more.

The basic story in Rebel Blood is that of an apocalypse, but we see it through the eyes of a fireman who is working in the remote wilderness….hundreds of miles from civilization and his family.  So, this is kinda a different wrinkle.  One of the big attractions to an apocalypse story is the, “What happened?” aspect.  People who enjoy this genre understand that you usually are not given all the pieces to the puzzle, but find it fun to assemble the pieces that are present.  By telling the story in this remote way, “What happened?” is a much bigger question than usual.  All we know is that this guy is in a remote location and is being attacked by mutated animals.

The cousin of “What happened?” is “WTF is going on?” and this is a slightly different question in Rebel Blood.  Much of the information we see on the page is from various attempts the the protagonist makes to get home and save his family.  But, the catch is that each scene is different, with different family members dying in different scenes.  As a reader, there isn’t much indication of which scene was real……or if any of them are real.  For all the reader knows, these could be his mental imaginings of what he’ll discover when he goes to find his family or perhaps the guy has gone insane?  It’s really hard to know, but it adds to the sense of confusion that we feel… and that makes “What happened?” much more compelling.  Honestly…..this is a comic that can be enjoyed in a 10 minute read through, but also has some nuggets for a reader who wants to diligently analyze it panel by panel because I’m pretty sure the clues are all there.
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Green Wake #1 – Review

By: Kurtis Wiebe (story), Riley Rossmo (art), Kelly Tindall (letters) & Jade Dodge (edits)

The Story: A detective, noirish murder-mystery set in a purgatory-like environment.

What’s Good: Riley Rossmo (Proof, Cowboy Ninja Viking) has been good for a long time, but this is his best work yet.  This issue has all of his sketchy roughness such that the emotion of the scene just bleeds off the page, but due to the darker subject matter of the story, he’s allowed to go even further with this style (or clean it up less).  The other thing that he’s really adding here is cool architecture.  I’m always a sucker for guys who draw buildings and streetscapes well and Rossmo’s city (?) of Green Wake establishes much of the mood for the story.

Rossmo also does a lot of Templesmith-style digital work on his drawings to punch them up even more.  Like giving a scene a green wash to establish a mood that is only broken by the riot of red from the bleeding man in the street.  It’s just really powerful art and the art alone is worth the price of admission for this issue.

What’s Not So Good: I don’t get the story.  The Green Wake setting seems to be some sort of purgatory where the characters are stuck.  I’m sure that the mystery of “what is Green Wake” will be part of the point to the whole series.  But, this opaqueness really loomed over the entire story (for me) and made it such that I couldn’t concentrate on (and enjoy) the otherwise solid murder-mystery that is on the surface.
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