Archive for December, 2013

[Comic Review] The Incredible Adventures of Dog Mendonca and Pizza Boy

Posted in Comic Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2013 by Casey Hutton
Photo Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

Photo Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

An obscure title to say the least, but well worth the search. I struggled to find it in store locally, and although my efforts weren’t in vain, this title is easily picked up online, as is the follow up coming soon (slated for March of 2014).

The Adventures of Dog Mendonca and Pizza Boy was originally a comic released in Portugal and from what I understand gathered quite the following. This particular version is obviously the english translation and released via Dark Horse Comics.

The story begins with a little foreshadowing. One of the core characters, Eurico (who will be addressed as Pizza Boy from here on out) is late for work…delivering pizza. Out on a run, his scooter is stolen by what appear to be monsters. In a not-so-clever way, his path leads him to one Dog Mendonca, occult investigator, and is companion, a demon named Pazuul. Keep in mind Pazuul is possessing the body of a young girl.

Mendonca’s investigation and efforts in tracking down Pizza Boy’s missing scooter leads them on quite an adventure (as the title suggests). Gargoyles, vampire and Nazi zombies complete the cast of characters found throughout this title. Although pretty far-fetched and a little on the loosey-goosey side, the read is fun. If you don’t look too deep, the noir and pulp come across plenty. It’s cheesy and rather tongue in cheek, as it gives recognition and plenty of name drops from the creator’s influences and favorites.

The art is also amazing. A little dark in some places, but beautiful nonetheless. It lends to the overall feel of the book, and although at times the detail is such it is hard to discern every nook and cranny of the panel in the dark pages, what the eye can pick up is astonishing. Juan Cavia’s artwork was new to me prior to this title. And, it might be due to the combination of Santiago Villa’s colors, but I love it. Cavia expresses plenty in his panels, specifically in the facial expressions of his characters.

[Book Review] The Gutter and the Grave by Ed McBain

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2013 by Casey Hutton
Picture Courtesy of Hard Case Crime.

Picture Courtesy of Hard Case Crime.

I stumbled upon the publishing company known as Hard Case Crime roughly a year ago. Ever since, I’ve ordered/found several titles that I enjoy. The company has an artist collection both new and established, some alive and other deceased. Titles range from re-prints to new and exclusive. Whatever the case may be, I haven’t found a title yet that I’ve read and didn’t enjoy!

The Gutter and the Grave by Ed McBain is one I recently finished. A quick and pleasant read ringing in at only 217 pages. The story revolves around the main character named Matt Cordell, who just happens to be a washed up private investigator with an alcohol problem. He has seen better days…but none of them recently. He gets wrapped up in an old-fashioned who-done-it via an acquaintance from the old neighborhood in New York to look into a small problem of register theft. However, it doesn’t take long for the character and the story to spiral out of control and into the realm of homicide and classic would-be celebrity greed.

We follow along with the character as he delves into his unofficial investigation, through lies, betrayal and physical punishment. This title screams noir. A little bit of mystery with a little bit of cheese, and the end result is a pulp fiction read I found quite enjoyable. Although nothing comes from the left field, the story had more than enough to keep me interested and turning the pages. McBain managed to do wonders in allowing the jazz scene of the era to ooze from within. Many of the scenes in the book have that same flavor and lend to making this a strong, if short, title.

[Comic Review] Atomic Robo: Atomic Robo and the Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne, Volume One

Posted in Comic Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2013 by Casey Hutton

I’ve written this a hundred times…but I have to write it once more: I absolutely adore anything noir or pulp.

It’s a genre that, although has seen a rather large resurgence lately, is still a little hard to master. The good finds involve multiple dynamics in writing styles and/or artwork, depending on the case. Much of what I encounter is hit and miss, and although at times the creators have something right, it isn’t all there.

Photo Courtesy of Red 5 Comics and Atomic-Robo.

Photo Courtesy of Red 5 Comics and Atomic-Robo.

The name Atomic Robo has been one I’ve heard floating around several times in the course of the last year or two. I first heard of the title through Ideology of Madness and the gang’s Funnybooks with Aron and Paulie podcast. Several of the guys there are fans, and every few episodes, the name comes back to blip on my radar. After almost getting my hands one the first trade, Atomic Robo and the Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne, several times I finally decided to pick it up and give the series’ first six issues a try.

I would just like to say now, for the record, that I was not disappointed and regret not looking into it sooner.

The interior artwork (a mix of Scott Wegener’s pencils/inks and Ronda Pattison’s colors) is very distinct. Wegener’s influence of Mike Mignola can certainly be felt. But, instead of merely being a Mignola clone, the work stands on its own. The colors pop and each panel has something for your eyes to feast on. The covers themselves are great.

I can see why when Atomic Robo first hit the scene in 2007 (ish?) it started to work together a fan base.

Once Brian Clevinger’s witty and clever writing is thrown into the mix…it still feels refreshing and new. The six-issue trade is full of one-liners and cheeky humor and sometimes a little cheese thrown in. But it’s a combination of artistic styles that jive and come together for an overall read that left me light-hearted. I thought it was just a P.R. ploy in comparing this title’s main character to a robotic Indiana Jones…but really…that is one of the only ways to describe it. Although it has its darker moment, the feel is that of an action-adventure movie. Each issues, although sharing an overall storyline, is its own serial. Each one an adventure. Each one leading to something new. I found several memorable panels in the small collection…each one still has me chuckling as I look back to reflect. That sensation isn’t something that regularly occurs these days and is enough to warrant myself into picking up the next volume soon.

“Stephen Hawking is a bastard.”

And, if that isn’t enough, it will soon have its own RPG to go along with it. From what I understand, it’s based on the FATE system. Although I have had little to no experience with the system itself, I’m actually a little excited to delve deeper into this topic and, when the release rolls around, pick up the main book for investigation.

[RPG Review] Savage Worlds & Deadlands: Noir

Posted in RPG Review with tags , , , , , , , on December 14, 2013 by Casey Hutton

Before I delve too deep into Deadlands: Noir, I wanted to bring up the topic of Pinnacle Entertainment’s Savage Worlds generic setting/ruleset.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Entertainment.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Entertainment.

I have had the Savage Worlds core rules in my possession for quite some time, as it was given to me as a gift along with their Realm of Cthulhu release. I had flipped through it, and found myself slightly confused. Not because the rules themselves are that confusing, but because they were rather simple. Savage Worlds is a ruleset that can literally be used in just about any setting you can imagine, from horror to science fiction to fantasy. Each setting they themselves have released adds a few tweaks to the rules to add some flavor, but in general, with one book you can run any form of RPG setting you have in mind.

Personally, I have played in or ran sessions using these rules that involve superheroes (which, with their Super Powers Companion, makes things rather dynamic and open) and adventures in the Weird West (in the form of their Deadlands: Reloaded campaign setting). All of which, once a basic understanding of the rules had been had, were great sessions. Adults as well as younger players can have fun while not getting bogged down with overly complicated rules. Each session is, essentially, what the Game Master makes of it. Honestly, you can be as simple, rules light as you want or you can tweak things to make them as dice-heavy as the gaming group likes.

Some rules can be flaky, as is the case with the card-based initiative…but even that can be bypassed if you truly do not care for it (they have a dice-based alternative). I was even in that boat, before I delved into Deadlands. What’s more wild west than drawing an ace of spades of a joker? After that, I was in love with it. After being exposed to this method of random initiative in other formats, I had no problems using it in my own Superheroes sessions and it didn’t detract from the feeling at all. In fact, the gaming group seems to love it. That, combined with their Action Deck, the group had a blast and a little something else up their sleeve for when they needed it.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Entertainment.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Entertainment.

This brings me to one of the company’s more recent releases, their Deadlands: Noir setting. Originally, I caught wind of this release as a Kickstarter sometime last year. I’ve always been a sucker for that noir, or pulp, feel in just about anything, whether movies and television, or books and comics. So, after watching their action comics based around the setting I was hooked and waited rather impatiently for when the title was actually released. However, like everything, it was lost in the shuffle due to life and work. But, this holiday season I was doing some digging for gifts and ran across it once more, this time in hardcopy. I ordered it for myself, and read through it from cover to cover the same day. It brings Deadlands and the setting’s lore into the 1930s. New Orleans in the 1930s, to be exact (although locales are expanded on in the Companion release). Same dark, Weird History flavor but instead of horses and dusty western adventure it adds seedy alleyways and private detectives into the mix.

From a fluff standpoint, I feel Pinnacle did a great job in updating their lore and keeping things congruent with other Deadlands releases. They added some edges and hinderances more fitting to the era, and even adapted finances to reflect the impact of the great depression. The core book itself adds little in the way of rules themselves. Instead, it’s all about setting up the table for a bumped up timeline.

Thrilled that I had finally gotten into my hands the long awaited title release, I hopped on over to Pinnacle’s website and dug around on their store. Although there are several PDF releases (which is the norm it seems these days), I still feel that the title is heavily supported. A handful of adventures have already been released, as well as a couple noir-based dime novels. As an added bonus, if the Game Master plans on running anything within the confines of Deadlands: Noir‘s concept of 1935’s New Orleans, you have the added support of several map packs based in and around it.

All-in-all, a worthwhile purchase. If you’re already a fan of Deadlands, which has been around for quite some time, or pulp…or really, just into anything new with a solid grasp on their vision and feel, pick up this title.

[Book Review] The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , , , , , on December 1, 2013 by Casey Hutton

I tend to stick to what I know I’ll enjoy. I’m a fickle reader and it’s a rare occasion when I do branch out and actually read something outside of my genre of choice (which, by the way, is science fiction/fantasy). I walk the new release aisles and table at my local literature conglomerate, and most often when I do pick up something outside of that normal scope…it sits, and eventually gets packed away with the spine hardly being cracked. However, when a title comes highly recommended by someone I respect…well…I make a little extra effort.

Photo Courtesy of Dutton Books.

Photo Courtesy of Dutton Books.

In this case, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green was thrust in my hands one afternoon. It’s sat on my nightstand ever since. I’ve started it multiple times, and time and time again, it was put back down. It has nothing to do with the author or his style of writing. In fact, it’s more or less as simple as the subject matter hits a little close to home. But, all it takes is time and with its bright blue cover staring me in the face day after day, I finally sat down and read it from cover to cover. And then…I read it again.

The story is about a young woman named Hazel, her coping with cancer, it’s treatment and then a little something in her life changes, altering her perspective.

John Green is a strong writer. Hazel has a life of her own, and he has a way to incorporate hope and humor into a situation that really…well…has none. Once I was able to set aside my qualms about the subject matter, I found myself turning page after page. Once I reached the end…I was more than just hopped up as I usually am about a title. I don’t get emotional often, but this book had me on the cusp the entire time…wanting to read more as my senses tingled with anticipation. Green drew me in, made me attached to the main character and had me reeling with each and every page.

This title is one that will be a part of my collection. Not just one I’ll put into a box when my annual bookshelf cleanup occurs, but, one that I’ll keep out and push into guests hands when they want a recommendation. If you haven’t read the title…do it, even if you’re like me and it’s not something that would normally be found on your plate. In a reader’s world full of knights, dragons and adventure…well…The Fault In Our Stars still managed to find a place close to my heart.

So to that friend who bought another copy just to lend out to me…thank you ever so much. It’s been some time since a title hit me where it counts, and for that, you are the greatest.