Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Story:

Its 1889 in Vienna, : The Brides of Dracula’s are busy disposing of the lord of darkness by nailing him to the very bottom of his coffin. Flash forward to Los Angeles, curca 1974: we meet an ageing Hollywood starlet decides play one up on the Dracula Brides by accidentally unleashing old Drac back onto the scene .Hapless Crime scene photographer Quincy Harker is the only man who has seen what has gone down, but shocker…wno one believes him. The race is on for the head of Harker as he now has tp contend with a relentless chase from Drac and his brides! Are Dracula’s three brides there to help him… or use him as bait? This pulpy gum shoe, pulse-pounding crime scene graphic novel from the team of ALEX DE CAMPI and ERICA HENDERSON.

The Score Card:

The Writing:

Charlton Hero: Picture yourself for a moment in a writing room. You are tasked with the idea of writing a Dracula story!! Many of us are already invested with just piece of information. I grew up on Marvels horror books and the likes of artist extraordinaire Gene Colon, and such incredible comic writers like Marv Wolfman, Gerry Conway, Archie Goodwin and others whom for most of the seventies nailed down a title called Tomb Of Dracula that was better than any comics fan even deserved at the time. We got the Dracula we knew, The white pasty skin, the cape the slick hair, fangs who was a certifiable lady killer. It was tropey as hell but it was magnificent. He was a good guy, a bad guy but for better or worse he was my Dracula!! Lets fast forward to mark Radulich’s suggestion of doing a modern Dracula book to which I said “Hell yes!!”

Now back to the writing room. Writer Alex de Camp and  artist Erica Henderson she of Squirrel Girl and Jughead fame give their “Spin’ on Dracula. Lets stop here for a minute. When I hear the words “Their spin, or Their interpretation” of something I immediately roll my eyes out of an unconscious force of habit burned into me from the movie/ TV industry who like to “Interpret” comics, cartoons in ways I despise (I am talking to YOU ThunderCats Roar and Jem and The Holograms). It seems my instincts were right as this is NOT a classic Drac story…in fact we barely ever see an actual Dracula! No pasty white womanizer here folks instead Dracula is more or less a anime inspired supernatural partition with multiple eyes and a wide brimmed tooth filled mouth that floats around the scenery being sort of spooky but little else. This story is mainly about his three scorned Brides who try to eliminate our fanged anti hero by nailing him into a coffin for eternity in the non-sensicle opening scene. 

We flash forward to 70s LA where Dracula is unleashed once again to the world by a Hollywood Starlett with a deathwish to wreak havoc upon Hollywood. Beat Photographer Quincy Harker who is in bed with the authorities is conveniently paying off the police for the prized money shots of LA deaths is dragged into this mess of a story. 

This is my long way of saying I didn’t like it. I didn’t get my Dracula, the story meanders all over the place and there are times when you fight to understand what is happening on the page. We are given almost NOTHING about the characters and if you held a gun to my head after reading this book I could tell you two characters that I remembered one being Drak and the other our boy the reporter Quincy!?? 

Alot of times we lean on the artist to be the extra pencil weaving the story for us but I think this was even too much for our Jughead artist to showcase in a coherent manner on the page. I wont call the writing lazy or even bad its just like that guy who starts a joke in the middle gives you the conclusion without actually letting you know what the heck is going on and laughs at his own punchline and waits for your laughter which never comes because you are utterly lost.  

JJG – The story was…interesting. It starts off with what seems to be a pretty standard seedy Hollywood murder story, but that only lasts a few pages. It quickly escalates into a fast paced horror tale that is both strange and beautiful. 

I have to admit I read it through pretty quickly and didn’t fully understand what was going on. The dialog is pretty minimal and there is little to no exposition. I went back and looked through it a second time and was able to grasp it a little better. It is the kind of story that much of what is happening is told  through the art as well as the writing. The writer and artist had to work closely together to tell the tale. In reading the notes from both de Campi and Henderson it is pretty clear that is exactly what happened. 

This kind of storytelling can be difficult to pull off, but they did it here. The story is a fun tale that is thrilling and dramatic. It is also the type of story that I consider to be a “real” graphic novel. Now-a-days the term graphic novel is used to refer to original stories in one volume as well as trade paperback collection. To me those are two different things and this is a graphic novel. It is a story that needs to be told in a more prestigious format than a 28 page staple bound comic. 

Mark Radulich – This could have been so much more. The idea of dracula stalking seventies LA seemed delicious to me. Sadly, after a page or 2 they walk away from the natural setting and it becomes a horror-revenge-kill dracula type of deal. Money was left on the table – there’s no depth here. What we got was just OK but it could have been fleshed out so much more.  I’ll echo the previous statement, the story is told in the art and it might take multiple “reads” to really get that.  It probably lends itself more to a film format than a graphic novel. I’m the type of guy who should be doing flips for a book called Dracula Motherfucker but there’s just not enough here. I am disappointed.

The Art:

Charlton Hero: I started my review with a sucker punch on the writing but I will offer some amends with a favorable note on the artwork. It is decent. Yup…decent. The real strength of the work is the coloring and the mood which masks any flaws in the art. The main characters are not drawn in rich detail but they are made beautiful with very scene specific color pallets which honestly makes the book visibly amazing if I am being honest. If you peel back the color the art is serviceable, you add the flavor and we have fine dining here. Any of these pages colored would make great pieces of art on their own so hats off to artist Erica Henderson but she owes half or more of her haul on this book to the colorist…which is also so good on her! A Lot of what we see if mood driven. Some of the page layouts do not even make sense in the narrative but are only on the page to set mood, and tone which is super effective yet loosely abstract. 

I know..I always associate the term “abstract” in a comic book as laziness but I dont feel thats the case here. Settings, props and vehicular details are very strong but the characters that live in the environment are loose and at times downright cartoony…but it works. The artist uses mood lighting and different shades of color to reflect time differences and shades of night and day and it is very well done.

Now…on to the bad. The book is such a quick read that many times we are given art and visuals for the sake of filling a page. On one two page spread for example we get a car, a building, a stack of magazines, street lights, and a phone booth…and nothing else. Many times I am wondering why is this here? What is being said? I tend to roll the blame on the writer as the art is striking and detailed but saying not a heck of a lot. Then there is Dracula. 

Clearly someone watches anime and likes to take their cues from japanese Horror as Dracula is not the Romanian lust filled Vampire prince we know but rather a faceless of a monster. He has no true form but is just there?? I get we want to do something different…thats great but for a scene or two give me the damn guy in the cape. 

JJG – The art is the real highlight of Dracula Motherf**cker. It is beautiful, colorful, and covers the pages in such a way as to keep the reader engaged and turning the pages quickly. The colors are bright when they need to be and subtle when they need to be. It is clear that everything that happens is at night in this comic, and yet none of the characters or action is obscured by heavy inks or shadows. 

This is not a gory story, but the violence of the vampires is understood. There are plenty of dead bodies but there isn’t a lot of blood and guts. The horror is abstract at times but it fits well. Dracula is portrayed as a multi-eyed, mostly shapeless form. Only his arms are shown in detail a couple of times. It is a pretty cool way to depict a familiar character. In the notes that follow the story they talk about how they did not want to do a standard gothic tale that has been done plenty of times before and it works. 

Mark Radulich – The art is pretty. It’s a very colorful book – in an abstract kind of way. It reminded me of the show Legion or parts of the Doctor Strange movie. Really the art is the best part of the book. Most of the pages look like paintings you could hang on a wall in your home.

The Characters:

Charlton Hero- This book character wise is a one trick pony. Photographer Quincy Harker is the ONLY character that we get enough discourse on to discuss development. Quincy is a beat photographer who is playing pool with the police to get the exclusive on LA’s biggest crime scenes. It is an understanding that when something major happens in the city Harker gets the call and he sweeps in before anyone else gets the jump and grabs the money shots! He falls into hands of the brides of Dracula and is stalked by the disembodied entity of our favorite vampire. He doesn’t seem sleazy in anyways despite being on the take with the police. In fact you don’t really get much of anything in the way of motivation. We know he likes money and doesn’t really get scared much and throws himself into the worst kind of situations. He is attacked by the entity that is Dracula and is saved by a unnamed girl to which he proclaims “I am just a photographer, I just take photos!!” The girl who saved him notes “No Newsboy…NOW you’re a headline!!!” THis rings true because this story is all Quincy. My issue is that he is not particularly interesting nor do we know why he is being tracked by Dracula and his gang outside of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is abducted for no real reason by Dracula’s brides who seem to not have a plan for him either outside of fighting between each other for him!!?? 

The Brides are an interesting case study as well!!

JJG – The story is short and there is very little character development. It focuses on the familiar Dracula tale and tries to put a new spin on it without rehashing all the elements that usually get told. There is no Renfield, or visit to Dracula’s castle. No journey of Dracula’s coffin across the sea. No origin tale. There is the Harker character who is more of a pawn than anything. There is Bebe, the new bride. Dracula, and finally the new and old brides, none of whom are named that I caught and there is no backstory to any of them. 

Mark Radulich – The only character we really get to know is Harker.  He’s a photographer seemingly struggling with his hustle and through no fault of his own gets mixed up with Dracula and his brides. He’s kind of a dupe. He seems alright.  I wish he had been more sleezy or something.  Anything to give him more depth.  The characters are indicative of everything wrong with this book – it’s an idea with half pregnant execution. It’s an outline of a story – not a fully developed story and the characters are literally sketches – not fully formed people inhabiting a developed world telling a fully developed story.

Criticisms:

JJG – While I enjoyed this very much, it feels like an introduction. It is a quick story that ends with Harker becoming a vampire and him waking up with the three former brides welcoming him to the undead club. It is like a set up for the further adventures of “Harker’s Angels”. The story goes by so fast it leaves me wanting more, which is both good and bad. I feel like this story could have had the characters fleshed out a bit more. We could learn more about the former brides. There could be more about Harker and what led him to his life of night time ambulance chasing. I was left wanting something to make this feel more like a full meal than a hearty appetizer. 

Mark Radulich – This is a pitch, not a fully formed finished product. It’s like a collection of storyboards an ad executive would bring to a meeting to sell a product. This could have been set anywhere at any time. Nobody is making use of the gritty 70’s LA scene.  Harker is practically a blank slate.  The story moves so quick from intro to horror to conclusion that it give the reader whiplash.  I needed more. I’m left with literary blue balls.

Charlton Hero- I have seen books that go out of their way to be art rather than substance…this is one of them. This is a book that is very “Good Looking” but literally has no teeth. Pardon the pun. Its too weird to be enjoyable and too light to be a good read. Who is the audience here? I am obviously not into this version of Dracula but I just feel there is just too much left on the table here. We literally knew nothing about the characters. This is part one of a 6 part mini series that never existed nor do I want to read anymore.

Overall Thoughts:

JJG – Dracula Motherf**ker is a fun read and very different take on a familiar story. The collaboration between writer and artist is amazing. The pages are beautiful. The story is concise and well done. I’d love to see more from de Campi and Henderson and more of the former brides of Dracula and their exploits.  I’d recommend this to anyone who likes horror comics and might enjoy an updated take on a classic. 

Mark Radulich – I wanted Blackula! I was promised “A pulpy, pulse-pounding graphic novel of California psych-horror.  What I got was shallow and poorly thought out horror version of the Simpsons episode, “The Mysterious Voyage of Homer” (which I enjoyed a lot more than this). I think I’m just mad because I wanted to enjoy this so much more. It had all the potential. What I got was a little bit of sizzle and barely any steak.  I is a sad panda.

Charlton Hero – Nail me to a coffin. I am done. I am let down by lack of substance here. Its actually an overly lite graphic novel that leaves you going “Wuh”? Can I recommend this book? Yes!! I recommend you don’t buy it. No knock on the creators as I am sure this was a time consuming book to produce and it sure was pretty but its one girl I am leaving at the dance. Its a no for me.

End:

Members Links/Social Media:
JJG – https://comicscomicscomics.blog Twitter @bigox737

Charlton Hero: Blog: The Superhero Satellite: www.charltonhero.wordpress.com Twitter: @Charlton_Hero

Mark Radulich: Podcasts: https://w2mnet.com/ Twitter: @markradulich

 SUPER BOOK CLUB TEAM-UP 

VOL. 2

Bitter Root Volume 1: Family Business

PLOT:
In the 1920s, the Harlem Renaissance is in full swing, and only the Sangerye Family can save New York-and the world-from the supernatural forces threatening to destroy humanity. But the once-great family of monster hunters has been torn apart by tragedies and conflicting moral codes. The Sangerye Family must heal the wounds of the past and move beyond their differences… or sit back and watch a force of unimaginable evil ravage the human race.

CREATIVE TEAM:

Written by DAVID F. WALKER along with indie veteran CHUCK BROWN (Trench Coats, Cigarettes and Shotguns) and illustrated by SANFORD GREENE (Power Man and Iron Fist).

THE SCORE CARD:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-B38FNZ267

THE STORY:

The Telltale Mind – While it read just fine, the story of a monster-hunting family has been done numerous times whether one thinks of the Bloodstone’s from Marvel or the Van Helsing’s from Vampirella and other popular literature, Sam and Dean from Supernatural or The October Faction from Steve Niles at IDW.  It is not exactly a new concept and as such, it feels very familiar despite this being about a Harlem family fighting off creatures called the Jinoo.  Overall, it was enjoyable and would definitely read more if given a chance but it was not as compelling as it should have been, perhaps that familiarity preventing it from being as such. If there were any faults to be found, that was it.  The characters were interesting, their history and the world-building that Chuck Brown and David F. Walker would do was continuous and began immediately in the first issue which was great to see.  Also good was the fact that the book essentially started off with a bit of action, hooking readers right off the bat and keeping them reading as it would rarely let up for the rest of the volume.  Everything works on nearly every level except that ‘been there, done that’ feeling.

Mark Radulich – This was not what I expected.  I was inspired to read this after reading David F Walker’s run on Power Man and Iron Fist. And while I got something Afrocentric, which is what I wanted, it’s also a barely readable zombie  story. It starts off making a degree of sense and those all over the place and near as I can tell we never got a rational explanation for why things were happening the way they were.  I’m assuming the back half of the series gives more answers and I’ll probably read them but I’ll admit that I’m a bit disappointed in the series so far.

Charlton Hero – Where do I begin except that the book was a very blustery and quick unfulfilling read and this is nothing special or new!! I started and was intrigued to read all about a family of Monster Hunters battling hordes of the infected or undead but this is a serious retread. Many things in this book have been redone so many times in issues of Marvels Midnight Sons imprints, themes are lifted from books like Kirkman’s The Walking Dead and even DCs Night Force to go waaay back. Now let’s be clear I was NOT bored nor did I dislike the storyline it just wasn’t fresh. There is a tremendous amount of action in the first 5 issues to the point I was left trying to recall the main story issue to issue! The Sangeryes family history is slowly developed throughout this first arc and we get just enough between the action to figure our path through this world that our creative team is building here! I dug the Harlem spin on the entire world vs the undead stories that we are super served in the 2000s. The industry has been in need of some great new diverse characters and this family’s story sets the table nicely for a backdrop that hasn’t been explored in many books from this perspective!

JJ – The story starts out right in the middle of the action and the world building and character development are all accomplished through flashbacks and conversational exposition. It is an interesting, exciting, but sometimes confusing way to tell a story. That being said once I got into it I really liked it. I enjoyed the familiar concepts of using a family structure to build the team of monster hunters and defenders of the world against the unknown and evil. 

The Sangerye family is introduced to the reader throughout the entire volume. We first meet the younger generation of excited and strong willed young men and women; Berg, Cullen and Blink. Then we meet the wise old grandmother, Etta, who is withered and small but deceptively wise and strong. Then there is the strong and powerful (cousin or uncle I don’t remember which), Ford. There is also the estranged Uncle Enoch. All the characters are wonderfully designed and drawn by Sanford Greene. The art is frenetic with excellent coloring. I could not help but think of Hellboy while reading this comic. The monsters are really well done, my favorite being the Hawk type beast that Miss Knightsdale turns into. 

The story itself jumps right in with men (and women) and monsters and is action packed all the way throughout. It kept me engaged and turning the pages. My only criticism is that it could have had some slower quieter moments to give the reader a chance to catch their breath and digest what they were reading. 

CHARACTERS:

The Telltale Mind – The book is populated with interesting characters which is a must as they are ultimately what keeps one reading.  The Sangeryes family have been in the monster business a long time, though to be fair they are more in the helping business than anything else.  Cullen and Berg are the muscle while Ma Etta and Blink brew the cures needed to disinfect those carrying the Jinoo.  There is Ford, a man who hunts his own way and who takes care of the Jinoo in a more permanent fashion and Uncle Enoch who is sort of on the outs with the family for his more outrageous ways of doing things.  

All of them have their positives and each is quite unique in design and characteristics and it is their distinctiveness that makes readers gravitate towards them.  If there were one that might surprise readers going forward, it would be Cullen as he begins as one thing and ends as another.  That being said, each of them are slightly cliché but that does not hamper Walker or Brown from making them as quirky or as fun as they possibly can.

Charlton Hero – The characters are what separate this book from their “Inspirations” we will say! I think that their presentation as super-quirky characters actually took away from my enjoyment of them. Visually I liked their designs but none of them felt like real people dealing with a massive outbreak of zombie like hordes of Jinoo.The strange character of Ma Etta was not a favorite of mine and she seemed super overpowered and skilled at the advanced age..which I guess is the point when The family have been hunting Jinoo for generations! I found myself a little bored with her discussions of Root work and the supernatural elements which again..was necessary to forward the story but made me drift out of panel many times.The character of Berg and the transformation was fun but again derivative and been there done that before which again dampened my energies around this character. Then there is Ford who is by far my favorite character as the bad-ass Jinoo hunter with the stunted punk racist white sidekick who he pulls in and out of danger is a fun balance we rarely step into in today’s comics. White folks are barely represented in the book and when they are it is not in a glowing light. We see them as Clansmen, keystone cops and just out of control citizens running scared and being eaten by Jinoo in the streets..which is cool because the book is not written from a white perspective so again it was fun to enjoy the ride with Ford. The main super bad Doctor Sylverster and his angel of retribution Ms. Nightingale are fun if not super quirky bad guys who at this point in the first five issues have not been a super threat are cast beautifully as hidden figures of the macabre but we don’t find out enough about their motives to get invested. Overall there is a lot to enjoy here we just get lost in the Jinoo battles.

 JJ – For me it was the characters that really drove the story. They are familiar archetypes but from a different perspective than what we normally get. Yes, the younger generation are strong willed and hot headed. The older characters are wiser and more patient. The bad guys are intelligent, thoughtful, and menacing. But the well written dialog,and small twists, makes them all more than just the stereotypical strong men and wise woman. 

For example when Ford dispatches an entire group of Klansmen, which is a basic revenge fantasy, no one expects the one surviving member to learn the error of his ways and become Ford’s sidekick and companion. It is this kind of very subtle, yet powerful, type of development that makes the story worth reading for me.  

They are a family unit that are developed quickly over the course of five issues. We understand their relationships and how they feel about each other right away. I think the most interesting relationship is that of the estranged uncle Enoch. We know the main family wants nothing to do with him, especially Blink, but we don’t know why. We get clues along the way and eventually get most of the answers at the climax of the first volume, but it was intriguing throughout. 

I also really liked the Berg character. I am a sucker for the big guy in any story and Berg is no exception. I love the way he is written against type as being the strong guy but is also very intelligent and extremely well spoken. Again it is not anything that is new but that doesn’t mean it is bad, as it is executed perfectly in my mind. The fact that he poisoned, is saved, and rejoins the fight right at the exact moment you need him really did it for me. 

Mark Radulich – The characters are OK. I liked grandma. I thought her reticence to let the granddaughter go fight because 1) that’s not what the women do and 2) too many deaths in the family, namely her daughter, rang very true and was sympathetic. It was also fun to see her fight when her back was against the wall.  Berg was fun too. The blustery speech he’s given wears a bit thin after a while but it does make him stand out from the rest of the cast. Everybody else kind falls into stereotypes for these kind of stories.

ART:

The Telltale Mind – Each page is bursting with energy and features a good flow from panel to panel.  Sanford Greene makes each character look unique and the creature designs are superb as they range from small to extremely large.  There are times when some pages are packed with a ton of detail work and others when the action takes center stage negating the need for it and overall, it helps the story move along at a good pace.

Mark Radulich – The art is very colorful, I’ll give it that. It’s very busy. Some parts were a little hard to follow. The panel layout drove me crazy in a few places. It’s not the worst art I’ve seen but it’s not great either.

Charlton Hero- The art looks very good! It has its own quirky charm and life that makes the book explode with action and movement. There is not a page in this series that would not make a great piece of original art to own. Nothing is wasted. Lush backgrounds, outlandishly casted characters and a slick coat of paint over the top to set the mood. 

The story is helped by the detail in the art. Each character drawn by Sanford Green while not drawn “realistically” looks like they can exist and stands more as caricatures rather than human models which actually works and is a compliment. The coloring was masterful and really sets the tone and mood of the book so hats off to colorists Rio Renzi and Sanford Greene for making this thing pop!! I would love DC to give Sanford Greene a run on the new Milestone reboot as I think THIS is the artist to properly represent the afro-centric vibe they are looking for! High marks here for visuals! 

JJ – As I mentioned previously I could not help but think of Hellboy as I read this. There is a “boxiness” to the art that is reminiscent of Mignola’s work. But only reminiscent, and only because my mind has a need to compare and contrast. The art is really well done as is the coloring. For a monster / horror story everything is well lit. The action is clear. Nothing is hidden with shadows or heavy inks. 

The characters are designed in a steampunk style. The coloring is heavy on the reds, oranges, and browns, making the blues, greens and blacks really pop and stand out. The cityscapes evoke a Harlem of the Jazz Age to me. Things are vibrant but not made to look like they are more than they should be. We definitely understand that this is a poor community, but a tight community nonetheless. 

CRITICISMS:

The Telltale Mind – It would be nice to see the book break the mold that it is in and go off and do something completely different going forward as the way they leave it off gives them the perfect chance to do as such.  The creative team has the chops to do so having proven themselves on many great titles in the past and it is hopeful that they do just that so that Bitter Root might continue on for some time to come.

Charlton Hero- As mentioned before and as The Telltale Mind suggests, once we escape the “Monster Hunter” theme of the book and shift into a more Walking Dead character driven direction I think Bitter Root can have its awakening. There is lots of meat on the bone and stories to be told in this universe and much character. The book moved too quickly and is an example of one that sadly like almost everything on the shelves in 2020 is written with a trade in mind which I really need to get over but I struggle to. Each read as a single issue is one that I would have given up on and not bought another issue. As a trade I think it was worth it as a collected volume. I “would “ read another book to see where we go from here but the next round needs to advance the story and characters more for me to go beyond that. I give this a passing recommendation in that if you are looking for a diverse book with full throttle action and pleasing art that pops on every panel you will enjoy it. Don’t take my word for it, read the reviews..buy a copy and let US know YOUR thoughts on the whole ordeal!!

JJ – My first and really only criticism of the story is that it was a bit confusing at times. That could partially be because I read this on my smaller tablet instead of the full sized one though. I thought it jumped around a bit between present and past and I didn’t necessarily understand that things had shifted. In the latter issues there were text boxes that identified where we were and that helped keep me sorted.

I did think there could have been a quieter, slower scene or two just to break up the action but I expect the point was for Walker and Brown to keep the readers a little off balance by not taking their foot off the gas. 

Mark Radulich – It moves at a breakneck pace and there’s not a ton of exposition to keep the reader in the know of what’s going on and why it’s happening. One of the most important elements of storytelling is knowing why the plot is moving in the direction it is and why the characters are doing what they are doing. This comes across like a video game. Here’s your avatars, there’s the zombies, now kill! I need more from my comics. I’m not unhappy I read it, just disappointed it wasn’t as good as the trade I read from Power Man and Iron Fist.

OTHER COMMENTS:

The Telltale Mind – Worth a look for those that love this type of story.

Overall book review: B

Charlton Hero- If you are a supernatural fan of quirky action packed comics then this will not disappoint you. If you are looking for something a little deeper you may want to keep looking. I think I am more a fan of the creative team than the actual work here on Bitter Root. I really think we have a group of creators who are one work away from being a big deal. Now…almost to fly in the face of my critique of story depth..of mention were the amazing info pages of the single issues. Very detailed and gave you TONS of backdrop into the history and real life inspirations of the book itself. I wish this info parlayed more into the actual story of the book instead of being lost on these back text pages. This is a highlight of the series and I think many may dismiss them but please check them out it really enriches the series and getting to know our creators. A serious asset to the piece in general. 

Overall book review B-

JJ – I really liked this. I think if you are a creator that is going to do a story that everyone knows then it has to have something different to keep me engaged. Ghostbusters (while excellent) has been overdone, and continues to be overdone without fresh twists. Reading a story from black creators, with black characters as the heroes is something we don’t get enough of in mainstream pop culture and I would love to see more from this team. And lucky for me there is more. I enjoyed this story so much I plan to pick up the next volume when it is completed if it is not already. 

The dialog and art is so good that it kept me turning the pages wanting to see what was going to happen and in the end that is all I really want from a comic. I would highly recommend this one. 

Overall book review A-

Mark Radulich – Read Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 1: The Boys are Back in Town for some great David F. Walker. Bitter Root feels like a passion/vanity project for Walker, which is fine but one man’s passion does not always resonate with everyone else. 

Overall book review B-

The Wrap Up!

Well..that’s Bitter Root folks!! A big thanks to you for joining us!! I cannot recommend checking out the works of our fine contributors who tirelessly create extra content on the web! Check us out here!! Keep an eye out for more Super Book Club Team-Ups in 2021!

Be safe and behave everyone!! 

Our contributors for This round can be found here!!

Chris Bailey (@charlton_hero (Twitter))

Email: Charltonhero@gmail.com

Blog: The Superhero Satellite (www.charltonhero.wordpress.com)

                   Tumblr: charltonheroscomicsanimation

Podcast: Morituri Mondays, TV Party Tonight: Wrestling Shows

Mark Radulich (@markradulich (Twitter))

Email: mradulich@gmail.com 

Podcasts: 

Jeremiah Goldstein (@bigox737 (Twitter))

Email: bigox737@gmail.com

Blog:www.comicscomicscomics.blog

Geoff Rosengren (@TheTelltaleMind (Twitter))

www.thetelltalemind.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheTelltaleMind

Super-Book Club Team-Up: Vol. 1

The Fade Out:

Plot: 

Charlie Parish, a Hollywood screenwriter suffering from PTSD, is fronting for his blacklisted best friend, Gil. When Charlie wakes from a blackout in the same room as a murdered starlet, he and Gil set out to bring her killer to justice. As they follow leads trying to piece together the night leading up to the murder, cooperative witnesses are punished by the studio’s fixer. Charlie is prepared to quit when Gil tries to blackmail the head of the studio by anonymously claiming he “knows what happened” with the starlet.

Misunderstanding the threat, the studio head tries to destroy evidence that he had sexually abused her when she was a child actor. Charlie and Gil are able to retrieve a folder of photographs and decide to keep fighting for justice. They plan to kidnap the other studio co-founder, who is now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and will freely admit to the past sins. They arrive at the co-founder’s mansion at the same time the fixers are murdering him to prevent him from talking. As the two friends are escaping from the fixers, Gil is shot and killed. When Charlie resigns himself to working in the corrupt culture, the fixer reveals the actress was murdered by an undercover FBI agent who was looking for communists in Hollywood.

Creative Team:

Ed Brubaker: Writer

Sean Phillips: Artist

Elizabeth Breitweiser: Colors

“The Fade Out is a crime comics series created by writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips with the help of colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser and research assistant Amy Condit. Twelve issues were published by Image Comics between August 2014 and January 2016. The story has been collected into three trade paperback volumes and a single hardcover collection.

The story, partly inspired by the life of Brubaker’s uncle, is set in 1948 and stars Charlie Parish, a Hollywood screenwriter suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and fronting for his blacklisted best friend, Gil. When Charlie wakes from a blackout in the same room as a murdered starlet, he and Gil set out to bring her killer to justice. As they learn more about her troubled past, they find themselves up against powerful Hollywood elites who do not want to upset the status quo.

Although Brubaker had been concerned the premise was not commercial enough to have wide appeal, The Fade Outsold better than any of the authors’ previous collaborations, and early issues went through several printings. The series received positive reviews from critics.”

Credit Wikipedia

The Score Card:

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Art:

Charlton Hero: The art was incredible. It 100% captured early Hollywood and the period it was intended for. Rich detail which was obviously well studied as I did no at anypoint feel I was not immersed in this world. The visuals on the characters all inspired by real Hollywood actors and that as well added to the authenticity of the book. 

Sean Philips details on the architecture, vehicles and dress was carefully studied and the noir style coloring of the book really added to an old school cinematic effect they were clearly striving for. In the letters pages it was noted that the creative team scoured photos, magazines and what ever else hey could find from the period to make each detail authentic. You didnt see cars or technology that didnt belong from that year or earlier. This was well studied and a joy to look at. The character renderings which is the most important of all were perfect and life like. I fully bought the characters of Charlie,Maya, Gil and Brodsky as full fleshed out real people. The aer was VERY strong in this area. There are really no flaws at all that I can point to art wise that is of any value to write here. It was as perfect of a reflection of the time and period as you can hope for. Perfect.

Mark Radulich: This isn’t my favorite style of art but it matches the setting and prose style.  It’s clear enough to understand what’s happening. It looked like there was use of water colors in some panels, which I enjoyed.

Jeremiah Jones-Goldstein: At first I was not enjoying the art. I felt like it was trying a little too hard to look moody and ape Frank Miller’s work on early Sin City. After I got into the story though I really started to appreciate it. I got into the mood of the story and references to real world people, just slightly off, worked well. Like Hero said, the details in buildings, costume and cars made for an immersive experience. 

I did feel like the art was reminiscent of Tim Sale,  Howard Chyakin, and Frank Miller. And that is a compliment.  Stories like “The Long Halloween”, “Black Kiss” and “Sin City” are modern classics (and in the case of Black Kiss infamous classics). Phillips’ work on this series deserves to be in the same discussion with these stories. 

Story:

Charlton Hero: The overall story of Hollywood corruption and illusion was captured perfectly here. The goal of the author to portray the bright lights and pearly whites of the Hollywood illusion was perfectly detailed by Brubaker. The story of the seedy under belly of celebrity is on full display. The illusion of perfection in stardom, the abuses actresses took from producers and co stars, the fake celebrity relationships, the seedy corrupt movie politics and of course the mob like dumping of the bodies gave you a real eye opener to how dark this business actually is.

The who dunnit style mystery kept me intrigued and on a rollercoaster that felt genuine and not conjured up but rather something very plausible and legit. Seeing the lengths the studios went through to make and break stars as well as control the overall scene was a great sneak behind the shady curtain. The deplorable treatment of women and writers was very well written as well and documented in the legit history of Hollywood in the 40s. 

Seeing the two worlds on display of celebrity and reality is very much illustrated by Maya and Vals characters who are two high society actresses who appear happy onscreen but their off screen personas are tormented and much different, The character of Dotty is also an interesting focal point who created the illusion of celebrity for these characters. The idea of a secret closed society with a specific agenda to promote a certain persona was rather fun.

Mark Radulich: The story feels very LA Confidential to me.  That’s a compliment.  There’s also elements of Sunset Boulevard in there.  Overall it’s a fun Hollywood Noir story.

Jeremiah Jones-Goldstein: This comic was an excellent case of Hollywood Noir. The movie that came to mind for me was Chinatown. For me that is because the more Charlie and Gil dig, the worse things get. They cannot help themselves though. They have a need for resolution. Charlie and Gil are characters, that as the reader, I am rooting for right from the beginning. Their lives are complicated with PTSD, Alcoholism, and infidelity but somehow these things are not entirely their fault.

Charlie has suffered in the war in the European theater. Gil is a talented writer who was run over by Hollywood culture. Neither character can get out of their own way. And even at the end of the story while there is resolution, neither is much better off than when the story started. 

The character development for all the characters is wonderful. As the story progresses we learn more about each of them, Phil, Maya, Val and Malba are more than just props in the mystery that Charlie is trying to solve. Phil really stands out for me as the guy you want to hate, and should hate but by the ned of the story we realize he is just a pawn who is trying to survive in this horrible world. 

Favorite Moments:

Charlton Hero: Easily the Charlie and Maya moments are the high point of the story for me. It feels organic and something that would play very well on screen. The relationship served as the perfect separation between what we see on camera and reality. Maya and Charlie were two broken souls making a living in a bankrupt moraless business. Maya was literally a second tier actress plunged into the spotlight to take the place of super star Val Sommers following her death. She is self conscious and feeling undeserving of the spot but trying with help from her PR girl Dotty to play a role steps above her actual status yet struggling to still be herself.

Charlie is much the same. He could be a major writer with many credits but his obligation to Gil holds him back. He can’t relish in his wins because he knows that it affects Gil his Blacklisted friend. Charlie our up with tons of abuse from studio reps despite his ideas being better than anything they can come up with. He holds back because he has a friend he has to support and Ghost write in Gil and his wife but also because of his secret that he was there the night Val Sommers died and trying to piece together that mystery. Together him and Maya work. Two cogs in the wheel of a much bigger and phony corrupt business that pays their bills and they it it as much as the business needs them. Charlie and Amaya’s weekend getaway was my favorite part of the entire book. 

Mark Radulich: My favorite moment is Brodsky explaining what happened.  I know I was questioning things about the plot until the end.  Brodsky shows a bit of humanity and vulnerability.  I liked the exchange, “Don’t be an asshole!!” “I’m not, I just telling you how it is.”  

Jeremiah Jones-Goldstein: I have to agree with CH on Charlie and Maya. The part of the story with their weekend getaway is one of the most tender and natural feeling parts of the story. It comes at a point where we are really looking for the story to move forward and figure out who ‘dunit but then this issue comes along and gives us some real emotion and relief from the seriousness of what we know happened to Val as a child and how horrible the heads of the studio really are. 

I also really loved the part where Gil and Charlie get into the big fight and we get the rest of their back story. Learning more about Charlie’s PTSD, about what happened between him and Malba, it all just made me like these characters so much more. 

I was also pleased, like Mark was, with the end of the story where we learn what happened from Phil. I had the thought that the story might end without getting the explanation and that would have worked for me as well it was better with it than without. I was very well done with Phil only suggesting what might have happened inside or just flat out spoon feeding it to the reader. There is still some room for the reader to question what happened and add their own thoughts to it. 

The Characters:

Charlton Hero: The characters of Charlie and Gil as two writers trying to make it in a corrupt landscape was a great backdrop to the entire story. Charlie a genius writer covering for his buddy who was blackballed by the industry was a great central story. We get to see much more than surface level relationships. We see Charlie and Gil as reluctant friends that depended on each other for basic survival. Charlie Ghost writing for Gil so he could provide for his family was a great element. Gil knowing that Charlie had a relationship with his wife and not acknowledging it out of obligation to Charlies work was a pivotal moment as well. 

The Maya and Charlie relationship was truly my favorite part of the book. Mayas persona as a Hollywood Starlett and then a self conscious regular girlfriend to Charlie. Their getaways and secret relationship away from the eyes of the Hollywood Press was a fun part of the story. The fact that she stays with Charlie and doesnt succumb to the virtues of being a “Star” was a great piece of character. 

Gil was also a favorite of mine. A blackballed writer who has a shaky marriage where he knows that his wife has been sneaking around on him and he feels to be a disappointment to his family. He is dependant on Charlie who he knows has slept with his wife yet needs him to make a living. When Gil goes rogue and wants to blow the lid off of the secrets within the studios of Hollywood is where his character really shines. Desperate and broken but wanting to do the right thing. 

The characters of Dotty and Brodsky were well done as well. Dotty is a seasoned PR person who KNOWS what is really happening behind the scenes and is fully aware of the abuses and corruption but her job as a spin queen is handled really well as she weaves her magic setting up phony camera friendly scenarios and romances for her onscreen talent to create the illusion of the Hollywood Icons she is in charge of creating. Dotty is a powerful character in that in her position she can skyrocket someone to stardom or tear them down with her position. Then we have Brodsky who looks to be a character straight from Sin City. A tough as nails brooding studio henchmen who keeps folks in line and knows exactly what form of scum he is working for and loves it. We get to see an interesting dichotomy with Brodsky as he appears as a pure villain at first who is out to get our main protagonist but just turns out to be a guy who doesnt take anything personal and just doing a job he knows is shady.

Mark Radulich: There was a lot to keep track of here.  I think the artist did  a fair job of keeping the men distinct enough but the women sometimes blended together.

Jeremiah Jones-Goldstein: The characters were very well developed. I’ve already mentioned how much I liked Charlie and Gil. The women of the story really shine though. Val is incredibly complex I thought. We learn new things about her all the way through the story. I really figured that she a Charlie would get together at the end but that would have been too “Hollywood”. It was much better that she continues to climb the Hollywood ladder with her marriage to star Tyler Graves.

Melba, Gil’s unhappy wife, though was a great foil for Charlie. She pushes him because she knows that he’s really a good guy. That is not to say that Gil wasn’t, after all he was the father of her children. No, think that she knew she couldn’t save Gil from himself. Her comments to Charlie at the end of the story really were sweet and the patience and room she was giving him were touching.

Criticisms:

Charlton Hero: Not sure if I have many criticisms other than a few nitpicks. This maybe should have been 10 issues rather than 12. It seemed long but on the flipside of that it was a very interesting 12 issues. I did not have a single issue that I did not enjoy but there was some repetition. I know some issues were set up as red herrings to distract you from the end reveal and guess what? It worked. I I had one thing that bothered me was the non ending. The reveal is handled very non-chalantly over a conversation with Brodsky and Charlie. The final panels reveal that all that has gone on and that people ..even Brodsky are powerless to do anything about it. Brodskys lines “ But thats IS how it works Charlie. Girls die for nuthin’ and Old Men cry about it..and the business just keeps going on. Christmas still comes every goddam year. Right on schedule..” 

A powerful but anti climatic ending in that we do not get to see justice for all the depraved killings in the book. 

Mark Radulich: May have been a bit too long. I feel for where we got, we could have gotten there 2 issues sooner.  Some of the territory was covered and then covered again.

Jeremiah Jones-Goldstein: I have to disagree with my fellow bloggers and podcasters, for a twelve issue story I thought it extremely well paced. If anything I thought the story wrapped up a little quick. 

My only real criticism comes at the end when Victor Thursby is watching the original version of the movie with Val’s footage because he “loved” her. For me I think he comes off as being a little sympathetic, or at least a sad monster, instead of as just a monster. 

Other thoughts: 

Charlton Hero: The big reveal ends up that Val had been killed by the FBI themselves who are on the hunt to find Communists. The story finds itself perfectly absorbed inside of its place and time of the 1940: Hollywood. It felt authentic to me both visually and in tone. Hollywood is perfectly rendered in character and scenically by the artist Sean Philips. I like Brubaker writing non superhero fare you can really see his ability to write “People”. The book felt studied and well manicured. Details were fleshed out at every turn from simple building and clothing design to pure character work with almost portrait like percsion. The book is a beautiful and fun ride. I am certainly interested in reading much more from this team. The crime noir scene is an area I haven’t given much time and thought to but The Fade Out pulls it off. In the end this book is VERY good and I give it a very high recommendation for folks who like a well crafted story and incredible art. I guess you can’t ask for more in a comic book.

Jeremiah Jones-Goldstein: At first I thought the story was not going to be original. There are plenty of Hollywood noir stories where the rich and powerful get away with their crimes. This story has plenty of twists and turns that made it more “original” than I thought it would be. The characters though were the high point for me though. I read this digitally on my Chromebook. If I come across hard copies out in the wild of the trades or single issues though I would pick them up. This is something I could re-read because of the great writing and wonderful art.

Well folks thats a wrap!!

Chime in and let us know what YOU thought of The Fade Out! More Super-Book Club team Up to come! Stay Tuned everyone!

Hero..