Category Archives: Comic Reviews

Ghost Assassin: Prelude

Ghost Assassin: Prelude ghostassassin
Darkslinger Comics
(w) Adam Watson
(a) Charles Carvalho

FC, 16 pgs $3.00 US

Adam Watson always wanted to be a comic writer. He never considered opening his own comics publishing company, but a friend was always encouraging him to do so. When that friend died suddenly in 2005, Watson decided to act on his suggestion. In 2006, he founded Darkslinger Comics.

What continues to surprise me about the North American comics industry is that even though a small handful of publishers have the majority of the market share and readers are generally disinclined to trying something new, thousands if not tens of thousands of aspiring artists, writers, colorists and letterers continue to work hard to make comics. Comics take time and money to create, self-publish and promote. At the end of the day, the number of readers is likely to be small, the financial rewards little or even none.

Adam Watson doesn’t regret his decision. “You have total freedom to do whatever you want,” says Watson, discussing what he likes most about self-publishing comics. “As I am my own editor I have the final say in anything I create.”

He admits there are downsides. The biggest is cost. He’s a writer, not an artist, which means he pays others for artwork, colors and lettering. Having to pull together money to produce a comic means there are substantial delays between his projects. He’s also had trouble getting constructive feedback. “I usually just hear ‘It’s good’ from everyone that reads one of my scripts,” he says. “An editor might actually pick it apart.”

Fortunately, there is a lot of support for creators and publishers like Watson. Online communities like provide encouragement and services through a network of likeminded individuals while small publisher friendly retailers—both offline and online—make comics available to an interested audience.

Watson’s Ghost Assassin: Prelude, for instance, is currently available through, and It’s an overture to a planned series of the same name. The premise of the title is that an assassin is haunted and aided by the ghosts of people he has slain. The prelude introduces the hitman, David, and Todd, a ghost, as the two close in on David’s latest assignment.

What I liked most about Ghost Assassin: Prelude is that David’s target wasn’t the typical objective. He wasn’t a mobster, a criminal, a spy, a mole, a businessman, a two-timing spouse. In fact, the target’s death is unwarranted, a fact the ghostly Todd points out to David. As a hitman though, David does what he’s paid to do. His own morals don’t factor into the job.

Adam Watson wrote the tale. Illustrations come from Charles Carvalho, with coloring by Edward Bola and letters by Dave Rothe. Carvalho and Bola put together some impressive pages— wide shots that set the scene or smaller, more intimate moments such as when David and Todd stake out a movie theatre just prior to the hit. I wish though that Carvalho’s characters were more expressive. Their bodies are too stiff at times, their faces too rigid, devoid of emotion. An exception to this is the aforementioned theatre scene, but I think most of the credit needs to go to Bola. His use of colors added an emotional texture to what transpired.

Ghost Assassin: Prelude was published 2006. Watson followed that up with Ghost Assassin: Origin, which tells readers why David became a hitman and why he can see ghosts.  Coming up next is a two-issue miniseries tentatively called The Dig, in which Watson reveals how Todd ended up on David’s hit-list.

Watson hopes 2009 is a busy year for Darkslinger Comics. In addition to more Ghost Assassin, he has a six-issue miniseries planned for The Pauper, another of his creations, and a secret project he hopes will be available in the summer.

There is no doubt Watson has a lot of work ahead of him—raising money, finding creative teams, publishing and then marketing his works—but hard work is not something from which he shies away. Like so many other creators and publishers like him, passion for his own work and comics in general is what keeps him moving forward despite the long, arduous road ahead. (Chad Boudreau)

Black Summer

Black Summer blacksummer
Avatar Press
Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Juan Jose Ryp
FC, 192 pgs
Soft cover: $24.99 US / Hardcover: $32.99 US

Black Summer is about one superhero taking matters into his own hands. After he executes the President of the United States, the V.P., and members of their staff, John Horus tells the American people to begin steps necessary to elect a replacement government.

Our “hero” declared the ruling government was run by criminals, shown by how they stole two elections, started an illegal war in Iraq, and how their actions were made for corporate gain instead of benefiting the general population. John Horus claims his initiative to rid the country of evil was justifiable, and he had the power to do it.

Warren Ellis has taken the next step toward a new direction for the superhero genre. Like some of his past comics (The Authority and Transmetropolitan, for example), Ellis digs into the political ring and questions the corruptness found in government and elected officials. Ellis solves things with violence in Black Summer, making murder a justifiable means to solving wrongs.

Black Summer doesn’t cool down after the main plot is laid out in the first few pages of this collection. Ellis creates a dynamic world populated with only seven heroes, rich in history and character development. The action is intense as John Horus’ and his former team are targeted by the military, and the game that is played out because of this. It’s not pretty, as each player plays for keeps-if it’s for retribution, survival, or for questionable morality.

This series is a smart look at vigilante actions. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Really, does it matter? And it’s all put together elaborately by illustrator Juan Jose Ryp. (Dana Tillusz)

Torso Graphic Novel


Image Comics
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Marc Andreyko
BW, 268 pgs
$24.95 US / Higher in Canada

The world has seen its fair share of serial killers, but nowhere on this planet have people been more fascinated with their homegrown killers than in America. Names like Ted Bundy, The Zodiac Killer, The Boston Strangler and The Son of Sam are as familiar to most Americans as the names of their favourite movie stars. Only in the good ole U.S. would the exploits of these ruthless butchers be chronicled in books and movies to great financial success.

I cannot deny there is a certain morbid appeal in learning what dark core can lie in the heart of a human being.

In From Hell, the venerable Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell delivered a history lesson laced with fiction. Inexhaustibly researched, and as thick as any school textbook, From Hell presented Jack the Ripper as a significant player in history. The Ripper was the world’s first serial killer (recorded anyway), and his arrival heralded the beginning of the 20th century, a harsh and cold future where humans would do onto each other a number of atrocities.

Torso is also a history lesson explaining another significant development in serial killer lore: The first serial killer in America.

A number of dismembered bodies washed up along the shores of Lake Erie in and around Cleveland in the 1930s. The headless torsos left little clue as to their identity, the cause or the reason for death.

During this same period of time, Cleveland was under the thumb of a corrupt police force and justice system. Fresh from his triumph over Al Capone, Eliot Ness assumed the role of Cleveland’s Safety Director. He vowed to clean up the city and wasted no time making good on his word. The media and the public quickly fell in love with this golden poster boy for a better future.

While Ness cracked down on dirty cops, a handful of dedicated detectives struggled to make sense of the grisly Torso murders. As more and more human torsos were discovered, the cops were no closer to an arrest. The public was gripped by fear, demanding answers and an arrest. Eliot Ness stepped in and vowed the killer would be found.

Like its predecessor, From Hell, Torso is well researched. The writers had access to hundreds of photos and articles pertaining to the case. This factual backbone is the strength of the story. Bendis and Andreyko focus on the police work, detailing the theories, failures, successes and the evidence uncovered in the investigation. The latter is given the most detail, and it is darkly fascinating. Actual photographs and newspaper clippings are used throughout the book, keeping the reader firmly grounded in the reality of these events.

A comic book filled with mere facts would be a dull history lesson indeed, so the writers fleshed out the story through the eyes of its principal investigators. The story offers an insightful look at the downfall of one of America’s most famed heroes. The Torso case marked an important change in the career of Eliot Ness. Ness threw himself wholeheartedly into the investigation, determined to find the killer. As years passed with no progress, the public’s faith in Ness began to falter. As the pressure for an arrest continued to rise, Ness would make a series of decisions that would cost him his marriage and his reputation.

Equally portrayed in Torso are Walter Myrlo and Sam Simon, the two prime detectives working the field. These two struggle to make sense of the methods and the motive behind the gruesome murders and Bendis and Andreyke show us the withering effect such an investigation can have on those who work the front line.

Bendis has painted Torso with a film noir brush. His palette is all shadows and light. From the very first panels, Bendis sets the atmosphere: cold, dark and foreboding. He aptly creates a sense of time and place, covering a span of years without getting bogged down in unnecessary details. Torso never loses its pace, a triumph of both the writing and the cinematic style of the art.

Anywhere from twelve to thirty victims have been attributed to the Torso killer. The case has never officially been solved. In order to wrap Torso with a dramatic finish, Bendis and Andreyko put on a fictional spin. It’s a chilling and satisfying conclusion, and it works because we’ve come to care for the principal characters. Torso may be an intriguing history lesson, but it’s the interpersonal relationships at its core that makes this one a winner. (Chad Boudreau)

Peepshow: The Cartoon Diary of Joe Matt

Peepshow: The Cartoon Diary of Joe Mattpeepshow
by Joe Matt
Drawn & Quarterly
BW, 100 pgs
$14.95 US / Higher in Canada

Read Joe Matt. It’s that simple. Marvel at a man who is willing to work out his problems in full public view. We should be thankful that he has chosen to do so.

To fully enjoy the work of Joe Matt, you need to embrace the voyeur inside yourself. There is no doubt we all like to watch. If the success of reality TV is any indication, the faceless masses like to watch real people in real situations, even if that reality is filtered through the lens of a camera.

There is no filtration system to save you from the truth of Joe Matt. He reveals his life to the reader and it’s not a pretty thing. In fact, it’s an ugly thing; a pockmarked, stringy-haired reality with big calf-muscles. Joe Matt eats his own scabs. He urinates in the sink. He watches a great deal of pornography. He discloses all his secrets, leaving nothing unsaid.

A depiction of Joe’s lesser qualities would quickly become a tiresome read of excess if not for Joe Matt’s exploration into his own darker sides and neurosis. He delves into his family past, his Catholic upbringing and even his failed relationships in order to shed light on his personality and behaviours. He never attempts to apologize for or to justify his actions. That would be an insult to the reader. What we see in Peepshow is Joe Matt on a journey of self-exploration. Peepshow is a diary after all, a means for private record and self-communication. Joe Matt has simply given us the key.

Back in 1988, Joe Matt started putting together a series of one-page autobiographical strips, which were initially published in numerous anthologies and magazines. These strips were eventually bound together in a single, over-sized collection called Peepshow: The Cartoon Diary of Joe Matt. Each page is a self-contained strip that captures a certain train of thought or moment in Joe’s life. He holds nothing back and you have to respect him for that even if you can’t stomach the read.

Despite his various personal flaws, Joe Matt does indeed possess an enormous amount of talent. His cartooning is fantastic, a comedic joy to the eyes. Even the bleakest of tales is laced with visual comedy. He wastes no space, jamming the pages with fine detail and slight flourishes. His black and white lines possess a great amount of life, alternating between gag panels and narrative explorations. His cartoons are poignant, often hilarious, sometimes depressing, but always a treat to examine long after you’ve finished reading the text. (Chad Boudreau)

Batman #687

june10-batman687Batman #687

DC Comics
Writer: Judd Winick
Pencils: Ed Benes
Inks: Rob Hunter

FC, 40 pgs w/ ads
$3.99 US / More in Canda

Last week Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely kicked off the Dick Grayson/Little Creep era of Batman in great form and this week the other creators involved got their say in the new direction.

Batman #687 was packed with plot– a nice little Bruce/Dick flashback, backtracking a bit and showing the aftermath of Final Crisis with Dick, Supes, and Diana discussing Bruce’s death, and someone finally showing Alfred’s response to the death. VERY effective stuff.

Following this, we see a little bit more of Dick’s decision making in taking up the mantle of the bat and all that entails (i.e. the move from Wayne Manor into Gotham among other things).

This issue by Judd Winick and Ed Benes got into the heads of the characters more than Morrison did and fills in the gaps between Battle For the Cowl #3 and Batman and Robin #1. We see what leads to Dick putting the little creep in the Robin suit in a sequence with a well known Villain. Like I said– this thing was PACKED with story!

Batman #687 did everything Batman and Robin #1 didn’t do in setting the stage for the new status quo. This should actually have come out BEFORE Batman and Robin #1 because it obviously takes place first. The final page with the new Bats coming face to face with an A-List Bat-villain just whets my appetite for the next book.

(This actually surprises me as when I first heard that DC was going to go this direction again I was contemplating dropping all the Bat-books. They’ve managed to hook me, whether or not they can keep me is another story. I like what I’m seeing though.)

I’ve always like Judd Winick’s storytelling; lots of people don’t, but anyone who can up with the classic line “Wow- the Joker and a naked President. That isn’t something you see every day” is someone whose books I will always give a look.

I’m not so enthused with Ed Benes. I liked his JLA but this doesn’t seem quite as detailed to me. (Ken Boechler)