Saturday, July 19, 2014

SXSW 2014 Starter Pack Review Part III

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 (roughly 32 pages), 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, the copy in italics as it appeared on ComiXology, followed by my review. Here we go - hope you enjoy it.

(Part I can be found here, Part II here.)

Deadhorse Vol. 1: Dead Birds
Eric Grissom, Phil Sloan

Collects Deadhorse: Dead Birds #1-6 and includes character sketches, pinups, deleted pages, and more. William Pike is a reclusive shut-in who comes into possession of a powerful key and becomes the target of an evil industrialist. When Pike learns the key may help solve the mystery behind his father's death, he embarks on a journey into the farthest reaches of Alaska while being pursued by a man in a plastic ape mask.

I’m not quite sure why Deadhorse works, but I was intrigued by the mystery of Pike’s father and thought the humor worked very well. The book tries to do a lot: mystery, adventure, suspense, action and comedy, and most of the time succeeds. I wouldn’t mind having this in book form and will certainly seek out more collections as they become available. 


Super! #1
Justin Platt, Zack Dolan

In this fabulous fifty-two page first issue, you'll thrown headfirst into the world of Super! You'll meet hapless heroes, vindictive villains, rampaging robots, malevolent mimes, and more superpowered action than you can shake a stick at... but don't shake a stick at it. It'll probably shoot you with a death ray!

Super! #1 certainly has all of the aforementioned qualities listed above, and while I understand its wanting to be something of a satire on the whole superhero genre, the concept wore out its welcome rather quickly. 


Rockstar Scientists #1
Kenny Jeffery, George Zapata

The King is dead. Long live the queen. Introducing El, the world's most famous star, on an Earth where scientists rather than musicians command the adoration of millions with wealth to match. Rarely affording them the respect they deserve but often saving the planet along the way. These adventurers and pioneers may not play guitar but they hit the notes and bang the drums that change the face of history.

This title is a much more literal and comedic version of the Beatles as scientists than is Eric Stephenson’s Nowhere Men, and far less effective. 


Afterlife Inc. Vol. 1: Dying To Tell: Tales from the Afterlife
John Lock, Jack Tempest, Del Borovic, Will Tempest, Roy Huteson Stewart, Ash Jackson, Jerry Gaylord

Under the leadership of its visionary CEO -- mostly reformed con-artist Jack Fortune -- AFTERLIFE INC. has brought big business beyond the pearly gates, dragging the Great Beyond firmly into the 21st Century. But as heaven comes to grips with Jack's vast Promethean dream for the future, so too must Jack and Co. cope with artificial intelligences, serial killers, invasions from beyond time and space... and the world's greatest (fictional) detective?! Written by Jon Lock, and illustrated by an amazing line-up of artists, DYING TO TELL: TALES FROM THE AFTERLIFE collects eight interconnected short stories from the world of AFTERLIFE INC. plus a host of special features including pin-ups, character profiles and the AFTERLIFE INC. NON-DENOMINATIONAL HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2011.

Something catastrophic has happened. The afterlife - now under the control of Jack Fortune, a strange man with a savage grin and an impossibly long red necktie - is anything you want it to be. Everyone gets a vote in a sort of a “build your own” afterlife. Interesting concepts, mainly one-shot collections with familiar characters such as Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes and many more. Drawn by various artists, the best of whom is Ash Jackson. Interesting concepts - definitely worth a look. 


Dumbing of Age Vol. 1: This Campus is a Friggin’ Escher Print
David Willis

It's Joyce's first day in public education, and everybody's first day in college.

Some good ideas, but I never really got into this Kickstarter webcomic that chronicles several first-year college students and their antics. The collection contains some funny moments, but I quickly grew tired of the same situations and gags. Even more, I got tired of the author’s interspersed commentary and asides. Others seem to love this title, so maybe it’s just not for me.


Diskordia #1
Andrew Blackman

The first chapter in the saga follows the hapless mysanthropic youth Jackal Black as reality falls apart around him in the most disturbing and shocking ways.

A largely incoherent, very adult Alice-in-Wonderland type of comic that has some merit (mainly in its art) and some potential, but ultimately there’s not enough story for me to grab onto in this first issue. 


Doc Unknown #1
Fabian Rangel, Jr., Ryan Cody

When evil threatens the citizens of Gate City, it's up to DOC UNKNOWN to stop them. In "Museum of Madness," Doc must prevent the monstrous mobster, Boss Snake, from stealing an enchanted statue. Things quickly go from bad to weird in this first installment of an exciting new pulp action adventure!

Fun homage to noir/pulp/superhero comics from ages past as the hero Doc Unknown takes on a villain named Boss Snake in what could very well be a promising series.


The Infidel, featuring Pigman #1
Bosch Fawstin

Twin brothers Killian Duke and Salaam Duka's Muslim background comes to the forefront of their lives on 9/11/01, with each responding to the atrocity in diametrically opposite ways. Killian creates a superhero comic book called Pigman, and Salaam fully submits to Islam. This issue goes from Ground Zero on 9/11 to the Mountains of the Hindu Kush as Pigman seeks vengeance.

Interesting controversial story of twin Muslim brothers who each take different paths after September 11. 


Orphans #1
Eric Palicki, Branco Jovanovic

Alexis Quinn is a uniquely 21st century Robin Hood, stealing technology from killers and redistributing it where it will do the most good.

Nice start to a action/adventure series that’s well worth a look. 


The Accelerators #1
R.F.I. Porto, Gavin P. Smith

Two time travelers, Alexa and Bertram, pursue each other through the decades in a deadly cat-and-mouse chase. She is the last survivor of a 1960s research project studying time travel; he is a soldier desperate to wipe out any trace of Alexa's research, including perhaps Alexa herself. Each of them is armed with a time machine, but these machines have a very special rule: They can only move forward in time, never backward. To save herself, Alexa must leap further and further into the future, with Bertram never far behind. Caught in the crossfire between Alexa and Bertram is Spatz, a teenager from the 1990s who tries to help Alexa but instead gets dragged along with her into another time. In this nightmarish future, everyone has their own personal time machine and people pass the time watching gruesome spectacles such as the Time Games, a gladiator-style death match that kidnaps unwitting combatants from throughout history and forces them to fight each other for sport. Now, they must survive the Time Games and escape from this surreal dystopia.

Time travel stories can certainly become very problematic very quickly - this one is no exception - but the story is fairly interesting and exciting.


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