Thursday, May 8, 2014

SXSW 2014 Starter Pack Review Part I

Back in March, I purchased the SXSW 2014 Submit Starter Pack, 100 digital comics/graphic novels for 10 bucks. I thought it would be fun to review the entire bundle..... slowly, ten titles at a time. This is going to take several weeks months, so bear with me here. 

My rules: if it’s a more-or-less standard individual issue, it gets a one-sentence review. If it’s a graphic novel or longer work, I’m allowed to write more. I’ll start each entry with the title and creators, followed by the copy in italics as it appeared on ComiXology, followed by my review. (If the order of books seems to have no rhyme or reason, this is how they appeared in my ComiXology files.) Here we go - hope you enjoy it.

Watson and Holmes #1
Karl Bollers, Rick Leonardi

WATSON & HOLMES--Re-envisioning Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson as African Americans living in New York City's famous Harlem district. Watson, an Afghanistan war vet, works in an inner-city clinic; Holmes is a local P.I. who takes unusual cases. When one of them ends up in Watson's emergency room, the unlikely duo strike up a partnership to find a missing girl. Watson & Holmes bump heads along the way as they enter a labyrinth of drugs, guns, gangs and a conspiracy that goes higher and deeper than they could have imagined....

Interesting, well-envisioned modern take on the classic duo, one I plan to continue reading. (Reading this comic led me to purchase and review the first trade, Watson and Holmes: A Study in Black.) 


Tomorrow Jones #1
Brian T. Daniel, Johan Manandin

Tomorrow Jones, 14 years-old and the second child in a family of superheroes. While she may be strong enough to fold an armored truck into origami, Tomorrow has to pretend to be a normal girl at school. Her father won't take her seriously, and her traditional heroine mother expects Tomorrow to follow in her footsteps. But Tomorrow doesn't want to dress in skimpy spandex though, and starts fighting crime unmasked and simply wearing jeans and a T-shirt with her real initials on it. All the while her parents keep trying to get her to do things "the traditional way" and Tomorrow finds she might be getting in over her head in the superhero community.

Mostly predictable and telegraphed, Tomorrow Jones just might, with time, venture into something more promising and exciting. 


Astronaut Dad
David Hopkins, Brent Schoonover

Over fifty years ago--October 4, 1957--humanity entered a new age with the launch of the first artificial satellite, Soviet Union's Sputnik I. Return to those early days, when John F. Kennedy challenged a nation to place a man on the moon before the end of the decade, when the nation sought out test pilots with "the right stuff" to ride rockets into the night. ASTRONAUT DAD follows three NASA families from Houston, Texas during the boom years of the space race.


First Law of Mad Science #1
Oliver Mertz, Daniel Lapham

Super-scientist George Baker's newest invention, electronic retinal implants known as "Cyber-Eyes," are nothing short of amazing. So amazing, in fact, and so cheap and easy to get, that some 40% of the population has gotten them within their first year on the market. But they aren't perfect. Far from it. When things start going inexplicably and bizarrely wrong with the original test-subjects, George and his family will have to find out why before the problem spreads and causes world-wide panic. Along the way they'll uncover ancient civilizations, corporate conspiracies, insane cults, other-dimensional creatures, awesome robots, subterranean cities, and Things Man Was Not Meant To Know. It's going to be a wild ride.

It is a wild ride, and a fairly interesting one, but I didn’t find myself as engaged with these characters as much as I would’ve liked. 


51 Serif St #1: The Breaking
Horatiu Radolu

Daniel Rosdower is a crook looking for a second chance. So when he is offered a chance to spend the rest of his sentence at the 51 Serif St. rehabilitation house, he jumps at the offer. But he soon discovers there is more to the hollowed halls of this house than he ever thought, as he drifts deeper into madness, and gets to know the other patients and their dark pasts.

I’m clearly not the audience for this utterly dark, bleak, depressing title. 


Too Much Coffee Man Favorites #1
Shannon Wheeler

Too Much Coffee Man doing his thing.

This best-of compilation is a real treasure as Wheeler pokes fun at a whole plethora of cultural situations, making us laugh from beginning to end. 


‘Twas the Night Before Krampus
Ben Avery, Tim Baron 

You've heard the legend of "jolly ol' St. Nicholas," but do you know the truth? St. Nick is real. And he ain't jolly. An endless cosmic brawl between Nicholas and his vile Holiday counterpart, Krampus, will come to a cataclysmic head this snowy Christmas Eve. But this year, only one will emerge victorious. Can St. Nicholas save Christmas Day? Or will this Eve forever be known as "The Night Before Krampus." Black and White, 68 Pages

Since this is longer than a typical comic, I get to use more than one sentence. (Remember, these are my rules.) This is a unique, compelling take on the whole St. Nicholas mythology, one that I found strangely drawn to. I’ll seek out more of this title. 


Tiger Lawyer #1
Ryan Ferrier, Vic Malhotra

The debut of Tiger Lawyer features two original tales crossing multiple generes! In "Attorney at Rawr" our titular tiger defends an accused murder, leading to all out courtroom chaos! The series takes a turn for the noir in "Dead Cat Walking" as Tiger loses his first case, forcing him to take to the streets as he uncovers a plot much thicker than murder.

I’m not sure whether the original idea was based on being a comedy, but I didn’t laugh much at these stories, both of which seemed rushed and short on fully-developed ideas. 


Quandary #1
Janine Frederick, Ken Frederick

Set in a dystopian future, Danny finds himself in a quandary and Ron thinks he knows a good way out of a bad situation.

Since we’re given only a few pages here - about two guys who are trying to avoid a recently mandated draft for military service - it’s too early to tell whether this will be worth continuing.  


Relaunch #1
Ron Perazza, Daniel Govar

When the deep space utility ship Inspiration is damaged during a solar flare it's up to its pilot and sole occupant, Cris, to make things right. Along the way she realizes, nothing is quite what it seems and a simple power loss could very well mean her death.

Relaunch uses the digital format well, almost with a split-screen concept showing sometimes minute, sometimes drastic changes (which would not work in a print comic) in this space program tale. 


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