Monday, August 14, 2017

Lady Mechanika: La Dama de la Muerte (Benitez)

Slated for September 26, 17 release, get your preorders in!

Lady Mechanika, part human and part machine, is haunted. As a detective in early 20th century England, she has done things she regrets and caused people she cares for to die. The Lady, running from her past and pain, heads across the ocean.

In Mexico, she arrives and is welcomed by the citizens of a small town. Lady arrives November 1869, on the Day of the Dead and celebrates life and loss with them. Her red eyes are explained away and beautifully melded with face makeup in the classic sugar skull.

Santa Muerta, the Devil's mistress, Lady of the Underworld. She has a penchant for forcing people's hand. While Mechanika may have a need to heal, Santa Muerta prefers people sweat it out a bit.

During the celebration, a messenger arrives and the villagers prepare for midnight when the demon rider Jinetes will come for their payments from the living. Lady Mechanika, decides to put her faith in science and logic, and hunt down the Jinetes to free the people.

La Dama de la Muerte is the collected trilogy volume from 2016.

Like other great series, Mechanika has had a minimal number of published issues. It focuses on stunning artwork and story. Set in a Steam Punk world, those who do not care for this genre will still be able to enjoy this collection. The extent of technology in this series begins with the fact that Lady herself is part machine (generally unnoticeable), and ends with the fact that she arrives in Mexico on a train (not unusual for 1869). It neatly sidesteps the need for deep genre familiarity and allows you to wallow in vibrant colors and beautiful design details.

This clean presentation is as graceful as the Lady Mechanika herself. It brings gorgeous cover to cover artwork, lots of full page alternate covers, but unfortunately not a lot of back story or additional editorial content. If you are unfamiliar with the series, this can stand alone, but will absolutely leave a couple questions unanswered for the un-indoctrinated.

Minor spoiler** There is one specific scene reminding me of a particularly brutal Wolverine/Logan attack. Lady can work a knife.. End spoil.

The presentation had one flaw which irked, the collection is penned in English, and calls out anything being spoken in Spanish <*translated to English> by sandwiching inside of <alligator brackets>. This drove me a little crazy as the majority of text uses these. They are after all in Mexico and just about every word is Spanish translated. Why not put the things spoken in English in brackets.. This gripe does not take away from the work; it is just a personal annoyance that would cause me to burst if I failed to mention. I might have to find a Spanish language version of this just to see what it looks like translated and if I am just moronic for being annoyed. Does it present better?



This work was provided to me by the publisher for review purposes. I considered writing this review in Spanish until I realized I do not understand Spanish. As an old friend of mine used to say frequently, 'Por favor lavar mi langosta.' <Please wash my lobster.>

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Paris, City of Fools - The Change 03 (Guy Adams)

Count your damned blessings people. The third installment of The Change includes the boilerplate legal note in the book details. 'This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.'

Hopefully Paris is not filled with giant murderous marionettes, living entities made of paint, or other horrors. If it it is infested, let us hope the resemblance is minimally accurate. Anything you can dream up post change can manifest, how and why is any one's guess.

Book three of The Change is a fine standalone book as well as world continuation. In this version of Earth, anyone looking to the sky on the date of change fell over instantly as lifeless meat sacks. Those who witnessed via recorded media are lunatics. Everyone else is just surviving day by day.

One might think themselves crazy if they dwell on the topic.

In Paris, the safest place is in the Catacombs. What once was a dangerous trap for the unsuspecting, now serves as a maze of dark safety for bands of humans. Growing mushrooms for sustenance and eating food scavenged from city raids, they are getting along reasonably.

Loic is a sixteen year old citizen of the underground. He is a member of one of the scavenger teams. He looks after post-apocalypse adoptive brother Adrien. He gets by.

Unfortunately, The Impressionists do not require light to move through the tunnels. They are not afraid of the dark, not disturbed by the moaning movements of the centuries old dead sitting by the walls. When The Impressionists raid the colony of survivors, they wrap their paint around their victims and drag them away, who knows where.

After Loic returns from a scavenging trip he finds that The Impressionists have taken Adrien and another child. Loic heads back to the surface in search of his brother.

Of all the books of The Change, this novella was by far my favorite. It contained some severe images which required me to wikipedia. For example, La Tricoteuse sitting by a guillotine knitting the innards of the dead. While historically inaccurate (use of innards), it is absolutely representative of the dark and disturbing La Tricoteuse pass time. Humans are screwed up.

The real kick for me was reading an argument between Robespierre’s children. Atheism arguing with Ego arguing with... it was a nice touch.

Great novella for sure.

Disclosure: This collection of words (nouns verbs adverbs etc) was presented digitally by the publication company for my opinion to be applied against in the form of written perception. Chance of false opinion is an impossibility as I am kind of an outspoken ass who likes to complain as much as talk about things I enjoy.

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New York, Queen of Coney Island - The Change 02 (Guy Adams)

Who would expect to be begging a Queen in a bouncy castle for safe passage through post apocalyptic cannibal territory in order to reach a prison likely full of corpses? Not Grace, but here she was standing with God, doing exactly that in Novella #2 in Guy Adams' YA horror/action/scifi/wtf series The Change.

The Change: New York, has the same ultimate premise as the first. Everyone sees something in the sky and their lives end instantly. Those who missed the event but see it on film, they go wonky in the brain. Folks like Grace, kept in a cage by her hyper religious uncle, missed it all until his corpse was bloated on the floor and scooted close enough to grab the keys.

On exiting her uncle's remote cabin, Grace finds the world forever modified. Fire fights in the streets when mythical creatures are not stalking humans for a blood and sinew dinner. She is heading to Rikers Island to see if her incarcerated brother is still alive, her last family member she is aware of. It is a long shot, eight months after the change, but she is compelled to try, no matter the danger.

How do you get to Rikers? According to Foogs, a talking Puffer Fish creature guarding the gates to Coney Island: ‘Ah... once upon a time that would have been easy, all you had to do was shoot someone in the head. I hear it’s more complicated now. If she likes you, she’ll help.’

"She" is The Queen of Coney Island. Once a homeless woman who seems to share the underlying architecture and a historic psychic bond with Coney. Grudgingly willing to help, but everything has a price.

Book two in The Change series followed the same vein as the original. It is YA but highly adult accessible and entirely enjoyable. This book also proved that these Novellas, while a series, are solid stand alone books. If you want to try one out, pick any in the series and give it a shot.

To be honest, this specific book was not my favorite in the series, but it was by no means a poor showing. Each of the novellas are as different as can be, so anyone who reads them all will find themselves hard pressed to not play favorites.

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. As a result, I read it and am providing the above review which may or may not age well in the cellar and get a future generation drunk while looking for home made review juice and not recognizing they grabbed an alcoholic one. Sometimes the review juice is sour. In this case it was sweet, aromatic, and had great mouth feel.

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London, Orbital - The Change 01 (Guy Adams)

Neverwhere makes a baby with Rick and Morty, what is born is the wholly original series 'The Change', written by Guy Adams.

The Change impacted the London suburbs as bizarrely as it did the rest of the planet, with close to any imaginable horrors coming to life. It's more than just London, the entire world is in a state of 'screwed beyond comprehension'. Anyone who witnessed it, staring into the sky while the fabric of our world shredded, died on the spot. They dropped to the ground like their strings were cut and existence was over. Those who witnessed it second hand, via recording or playback, went crazy; It just broke them and they fell apart in whatever manner their minds required in order to remain 'living'.

Everyone else just plugs along. The blind, the sleeping, the hermits and Luddite technophobes. If they failed to witness the end, they live through the aftermath until something else tries to kill them.

Howard lived and to the best of his knowledge was not crazy. Hard to tell since he had no memory of any personal history.. Full amnesia. Even his name is a guess, based on a journal in his pocket. He just woke up blank and started walking down the crowded freeway filled with cars, corpses, and periodic unexplained bloodstains.

Howard is rescued, after being maimed by locust style swarms of pigeons with teeth, a taste for meat, and flock coordination. His savior is a boy named 'Hubcap' who brings him to relative safety in a group of survivors. Relative is key terminology as they are being hunted by something hungrier and crazier than any mutant pigeons could be.

The world of The Change is a teen fiction export from the UK. It is short, clocking in around 160 pages and probably falls more to the vein of Novella, but is solid from cover to cover. London Orbital is the first in a series, currently three novella, but seems ripe for easy expansion due to the way it was crafted. It relies heavily on world building, but delivers the world quickly and easily, spacing out key data into punchy conversation and short journal snippets.

Unfortunately for me, while the target audience (teens) might take The Change at face value and survive, I would not be so lucky. As an adult, I cannot resist obsessively speculating what was in the sky that murdered the planet, or ways in which you could filter video or perspective to see via tape. I would be dead or crazy as a loon in the world of The Change after day one.

While this Novella is not 'graphic', it absolutely does not hold punches when it comes to accurate and potentially queasy descriptions. It may not be appropriate for 0-8 year old age ranges but who really knows these days, my five year old loves Jurassic World after all. He cheers for the Dinosaurs..

This should not be confused with another series from the UK in the 1960's called The Changes which was equally enjoyable for different reasons. Nor the books of the Change by SM Stirling which I personally have mixed feelings on.

Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the publisher for review purposes. Had I said no, there is minimal risk they would have left me to die on an ant hill covered in honey. Lucky for me, I like ants and honey, so I do not know how that would have changed my perception. I would advise if this book sucks and then eaten protein laden honey on toast.

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Taproot - Keezy Young

Preorder is avail, release on September 27 2017.

I loved (loooooooooooved) this graphic novel. I hated (despised?) the sub title. Let's get that out of the way so I can be super excited. See section "UGH!" later in the review for a medium sized rant.

Hamal makes plants grow as a caretaker in a flower nursery. He nurtures the plants and sometimes sings to them. They grow despite the conditions. People trust him to help.

Hamal also cares for the dead. He can see ghosts, speak to ghosts, and befriends them. They do not frighten him, he has spoken to them most of his life, even before he knew what they were.

When Hamal meets Taye "Blue" Alvarado, his world axis flips. Blue is dead, nailed by a truck. While his corporeal life ended, Blue found himself suck and he never left the earth. Meeting Hamal struck down his loneliness.

Out of concern for him, Blue is perpetually attempting to talk Hamal into dating beautiful women, being happy, finding love. Hamal however, has already found love. Blue. He loves Blue, utterly and completely.

On a disturbing tangent and with increased frequency, Blue has been stepping out of reality, finding himself walking in an ethereal forest of death. The other ghosts Hamal cares for also spend time in the forest, unaware of the cause for their displacement. When a reaper locates Blue in the forest, he advises that Hamal is unknowingly using Necromancy and killing his world. If he doesn't stop, those things he loves may be destroyed and the forest, may consume Blue.

Hamal and Blue need to set the world in balance before it ends.

Holy.. This comic broke my heart. To be spoiler free, I cannot describe how, but it has been a long time since a single page of a comic gutted me and brought me to tears. The characters are so damn genuine, it just hurts.

The artwork in this comic is also something unique. Looking at Keezy Young's website, it is clear that this style is nothing new for the author. There are several web comics and long term projects which share it. I didn't know that I cared for the artistic style, feeling unfinished / hurried. Soon after starting, I embraced it at a genetic level. I came full circle and found myself nostalgically remembering early Miyazaki work and the even more nostalgic 'Enchanted Journey' from 1984 (city chipmunks moving to a forest).

The Reaper was a real treat. In opposition to the personalities of Hamal and Blue, I was really astounded by the conciseness and Reaper character. Visually and in text, it acted as a wonderful offset...

Simplistic, but deep. This is a highly suggested work to seek out on publication. I will also be digging into the other work Keezy has created.

I have a complaint... The subtitle....."A Story about a Gardner and a Ghost".. Fuck that. Why even write that.. It pigeon holes this entire work as being some silly undertaking before anyone even hears the premise. The author's website adds insult to injury by describing "Taproot is about a gardener who can see ghosts, and the ghost who falls in love with him." Both of these diminish the work, clipping key tendons right before a big race.

This is a fragile balance between life and death. It is about Hamal and his link to the ecosystem of his world and his ability to both take and provide. One could easily infer that the term Taproot is referencing Hamal as a central life support for everything that depends on him.

It just irks me, and begins the novel like a gimmick rather than the beautiful thing it really is.


Disclosure: This Graphic Novel was provided for review purposes by the Publisher. They made no claim that lack of review would result in an unmarked package arriving filled with nervous Gila Monsters. Nor did they thinly veil statements about where a secret stash of anti-venom was located. All of that was in my head, which simply means they need to step up their game!

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Think Tank - Hawkins/Ekedal (Image/TopCow)

Meh. This was good but not great.
Spoilers follow, I didn't spend much time trying to dance around anything.
Think Tank covers the life of Dr Loren, Genius and DARPA Engineer who is dead tired of feeling guilty that his work is used to kill people. Even work he does for non-lethal projects have lethal applications. I dont feel bad for him. Boundless cash and cutting edge projects entertain him and keep him involved at the level he is. David Loren is an infantile fratboy who annoyed the crap out of me. Good thing I like geeky technology. (Cool links cited to real world in the postscript)

On a whim David breaks with military standard and heads out for a night on the town where he spills his guts to a woman in a bar. Some sex fluids are swapped and Dr. Loren is ultimately arrested and returned to base. He proceeds to spend the following chapters/issues breaking out of a military based so he can be free of his shackles.

In the final pages, where you learn that the girl friend works for the military as a mole, prior pages on second read make no sense; For example, the mind reading deviceh picking up her thoughts in the bar and post coitus. It does not catch that she knows who he is and that he is being played, instead plays out some next morning regret.

The art in this graphic novel was well drawn but a bit two dimensional. There was not a lot of depth to it, and I spent a lot of time picking background from foreground just to understand what was in view.

Many panels show blood in violent white bursts, as seen in other well known comics. Unfortunately, the same technique is used for other purposes. When showing engineered custom acids eating off somones clothes (but not harming flesh), the bright whites cause confusion against the backdrop of the blood replacememt. Takes too much effort to decipher.

Multiple panels show a David Loren reminiscent of Kurt Cobain. This in it's own right is not bad, just made my 1990's self a bit sad. The ends though, add in his devious smile as the story progresses and his personality starts to grate on my nerves.

I dunno. I personally feel like this could have been better. I am not sad that I read it, but felt it was a bit lackluster and was surprised that there were several printings of the original issues. I could have read something else and been equally satisfied.
Both author and artist are well known for other work. Maybe just over written and understyled.


Disclosure- This was provided for review purposes by the publisher. While not all tea is a preferred beverage, I still like tea in general. I like coffee better. Sometimes a review work is barely tolerable tea. Sometimes it is simply dirty water. Sometimes it is made with water from a superfund site. Superfund coffee would still be coffee and thus always drinkable. I lost my train of thought and am thirsty.

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