What happens when the head editor challenges staff writers to try a title they’d never pick up on their own? Reviews Roulette! Honest responses ahoy!

Skyward #8   Jeremy Dale (W&A) Kathryn Layno ©  Action Lab Entertainment Skyward #8 

Jeremy Dale (W&A)

Kathryn Layno ©

Action Lab Entertainment

Disclaimer I haven’t read Skyward 1-7, so I went into this issue cold comic. Which is the charm of Review Roulette really, jumping into a comic mid-way and driving into the material full force.

The cover has a whimsical feel of silliness to it that I appreciate.  What with the Terminator like rabbit warrior, a plucky young boy, and his canine companion.

The charm of the cover follows through in the comic itself.  The story appears to be about a series of characters all intersecting into one big battle for a kingdom called Three Rivers.  While the story sounds simple, the concepts that are touched upon in the book are compelling.  There appears to be more than just a war of simplistic nature going on, but rather something deeper involved than just a bunch of warring parties.

The characters don’t all jump off the page, but they do give you a feel for who they are and intrigue you into finding out more about them.  Some particular stand-outs were Jon and his warrior guild, Abigail and her own rabbit companion Imi, and Dom the Prince of Three Rivers and his companion Mia.  Each character has a clear set of goals and personality though I found the supposed antagonist to be rather dry.

Some of the dialogue was a little clunky, and there were some awkward frames of art, but the good certainly overshadowed these stumbles.  The colors are rich and each character is built with personality.  I was happy to see that Mia while showing off her midriff, wasn’t twisted in a purposely sexual way.  In fact it was Dom who got the typical posed scene to show off his rather remarkable pleat of abs that Abigail happily noticed.

The best part of the book, undoubtedly, is the worldbuilding.  You get a feel, even just jumping in like myself, for the world of Skyward.  While it doesn’t offer anything especially new, what Skyward does offer is a lot of fun with it’s medieval style showcased with interesting characters and fun designs.

Desiree Rodriguez

The Gospel of Carol #1-4 John Troutman (W & A)The Gospel of Carol #1-4

John Troutman (W & A)

Troutcave ComicsThe Gospel of Carol is an unusual twist on the story of Jesus’s birth and his childhood. There have been a number of interpretations of these stories over the years but I can safely say that I have never read one like this.

This was a genuinely funny comic. The protagonist, Carol is very smart and very sarcastic. We are first introduced to her before she arrives on Earth. She lounges around heaven like a lazy teenager, sassy, a bit of a know it all and always ready with a quick comeback. And when her dad (a.k.a God) sends her back to biblical times to save humanity, with her brothers Jesus and Thomas, she takes that personality along with her. No one else in her world may get her jokes but readers will. Sometimes the humour falls a little flat but for the most part if feels like you and the daughter of God are part of a super selective inside joke.

The art was very lively. It had a cartoonish quality which lent itself to the style of humour. The expressions in particular made me giggle. From Carol’s confident smirk to Jesus’s exasperation with his sister’s antics. However I was left I little disappointed that there wasn’t much of a message behind the humour. After reading the premise and the first issue I expected there to be some kind of commentary either on religion or women during that time period. Since this story is ongoing that’s still a possibility, but the first four issues don’t accomplish much more than a few laughs. That may appeal to some readers but it isn’t quite enough to convince me to carry on with the story.

Christa

KOMA Humanoids, Wazem & PeetersKOMA

Humanoids

Well, I discovered this was not my cup of tea.

It’s a sad story of a little black child who apparently has a variation on black lung, caused by breathing in too much chimney dust because she helps her father sweep chimneys.

The story of her mother, who is absent, is depressing on top of the dystopic setting.

As if this were all not grim enough, dad can’t afford treatment for his sick little girl. His sick little girl is desperate to keep them working so goes to do jobs by herself.  Eventually shefinds a bunch of tunnels below the city and a weird creature who tells her she should be dead.

The creature is one of many who tend a bunch of machines, all of which are connected to the lives of the humans above — so much so that if the machine and the human don’t match up properly the human has to make a change to fall in line with the machine!

I got about 2/3 of the way through the 281 pages and decided it was just too depressing. I couldn’t finish it.

Jamie 

Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight Double Feature TPB Alex de Campi, Chris Peterson, Simon Fraser, Nolan Woodward, Dan Panosian Dark HorseGrindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight Double Feature TPB

Alex de Campi, Chris Peterson, Simon Fraser, Nolan Woodward, Dan Panosian

Dark Horse

It’s probably worth mentioning that I’ve never seen the Grindhouse movie(s? that’s how little I know about Grindhouse — aren’t they a movie within a movie, or something? META!) and that I generally am not super into the dark comedy genre and tend to avoid both hyperviolence and pulp. 

So, naturally, this is the book I’m assigned: the one featuring Bee Vixens from Mars! (what it says on the tin) and Prison Ship Antares (which doesn’t sound so bad until you get to the tag line: Hot Girls Doing Hard Time in Outer Space. Yeeeaaaaaaaahhhhh). But, actually? I kind of dug it.

Oh, sure. The art is titillating (naked and half-naked women abound in both stories, though there is an amusing lack of any actual detail — ab lines are lovingly rendered, but nipples are continually blocked by increasingly obvious objects, like when TV producers are trying to hide an actress’ pregnancy by sticking her behind an incongruous gift basket. Maybe that’s why the art didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would — although it was definitely a shock to see a woman masturbating over panties in the, what, second panel of the first story? That’s as graphic as it gets, and though it’s clearly meant to be tantalizing, it stops short of being outright porny.

Besides, women rule the day in both stories, taking on the roles of both villain and hero, working as a solitary protagonist (Bee Vixen’s Garcia) and as a team (the inmates of Antares). There’s a grand total of two white blondes in the entire book, and both are just story beats (although the first gets her very own high-on-evil-space-honey lesbian encounter before she goes, so, you know…there’s that). Both stories tackle racial profiling and prejudices head-on: maybe my favorite moment in either book is when Queen Evil Bee Vixen From Mars hisses that half-Mexican (presumably half-White American) deputy Garcia is “too flawed! too dark!” to become indoctrinated into the hive mind. Garcia awesomely retorts “Oh, great. So you’re a giant alien monster, who is also racist. Fuck that. We got enough of that shit on Earth already.”

And then proceeds to kick all kinds of sexy bee alien ass.

(Actually, it’s not that sexy, it’s mostly a lot of exploding bodies and gore. But maybe that does it for you? I don’t know your life.)

The hard runner-up might be trans inmate Solitary, who has IT’S MA’AM tattooed on her knuckles. Succinct!

We have a Japanese inmate taking the warden to task for cultural appropriation — 

(–art note, though: that looked a hell of a lot more like Krav Maga mixed with BJJ than karate–)

— a black lesbian couple, a half-Mexican sheriff’s deputy, an interracial gay male couple, and a large group of mixed-race inmates who win the day based on their mutual respect of each other and calling out the people who put them in their tin can to begin with on their white privilege. It’s honestly a thing of beauty.

So, yeah. If I weren’t reading this to review it, I might not have gotten past the first page, with the gratuitous shots of dripping honey (that doesn’t sound so bad until you see it in context) (and then you will never be able to UNSEE IT) and suspiciously frisky, nubile girls, but I’m glad I did, because it’s actually a surprisingly fun read featuring some hard truths.

Oh, and bee vixens from Mars. Because sometimes social commentary goes best with a heaping side helping of pulp. (And butts. Lots of butts.)

(So. Many. Butts.)

Laura H.