Beware…Formula X (2013 – 215 Ink)

Beware: Formula X

Editor’s Note:  This review of Beware…Formula X has been moved to the top of the pile so we can let you know about  Mike Perkins (co-creator of Beware…) will be donating 50% of sales of this book, and several others, to support Boston Children’s Hospital in the wake of the Boston Bombings.  For more info click over to We Win Con.

Todd isn’t a popular kid.  As a matter of fact when faced with the choice between hanging out with the cute girl that likes him and continuing with his plant experiment for AP Botany, he actually has to take the time to think it through.  He decides that if he uses the fertilizer labeled “Formula X” on his fungal experiment, that it should give him enough time to go hand out with the girl for a while.

As with all things labeled “X” not really the most safe decision.  The fungus that mimics and orchid to attract and kill ants (by making fungal zombie ants) has a rapid growth spurt and using its biological  mechanism for spreading eats the janitor and then begins to  spread itself through the school.  Todd has to save the day.  His quick mind isn’t just for botany, with wiffle ball bats, road flares, and heat resistant gloves he makes improvised flame throwers.  He takes the fight to the plant.

Beware… which is is a bi-monthly ongoing from 215 Ink, hits all of the sci-fi horror buttons dead on.  It is by turns silly, intelligent and gross.  Done by a team of brothers Michael Perkins helms the writing.  He has this style of campy horror and sci-fi in the bag, with a story that is reminiscent of the horror comics like Tales From the Crypt, and Haunt of Horrors.  Visually the art, by brother Will Perkins, is a little more modernized.  The art is like anything that you would see in a modern horror comic book.  The fungal take over of people is a gross out in the fun way, and when he spoors and explodes it is even more fun.  This is worth picking up, and right now you can do it while donating to a great cause.

Next Time: Deadman: Exorcism #2


Ghost Rider: Fear Itself #2 (October – 2011- Marvel)

Ghost Rider: Fear Itself #2

Mephisto needs some help, and he has come to John Blaze for that help, much to Blaze’s amusement.  After all, he has just gotten rid of the curse of the Ghost Rider that Mephisto tricked him into in the first place.  Things are serious though, and even though Blaze wants nothing to do with Mephisto, there seems to be nowhere, and no one, else to turn to.  The Ghost Rider has been moved into the body of young Alejandra who has been trained since birth to be the weapon of divine sin destroying justice.

The vision of the future isn’t pretty either.  In an effort to eradicate The Serpent, an Asgaurdian deity that is stomping a mud hole in the earth, Adam will wipe all sin from the earth.  Leaving the future a bland and lifeless place.  The implication is that sin is our flaws, and our flaws are what make us human, and creative.  They give us drive, and desire.  Inner and real demons to overcome.

Blaze signs on, and soon finds himself trekking through the rain forest on a motorcycle on his way to confront the new Ghost Rider.  Upon his arrival Adam is getting Ghost Rider to give the penance stare to the others that were in training with her, the eradication of sin from the world is going to start with his own people.  Blaze interrupts and while Adam and Ghosty are distracted Mephisto sends in one of his major demons illiciting an overwhelming response for the Ghost Rider.  A swarm of locust pours from her mouth.

The direction this incarnation of Ghost Rider takes is pretty interesting, but not fantastically engaging.  It seems a lot like the antagonism that existed between John Blaze and Dan Ketch Ghost Rider in the 90’s.  So some of this seems like a bit of a retread to me.  The introduction of new and crazy powers for someone that is trained in how to be Ghost Rider is really interesting though.  Rob Williams seems to have a pretty firm (if not incredibly creative) take on Ghost Rider.  Matthew Clark’s art is good too.  Again nothing to unpredictable or surprising, just kind of by the book Ghost Rider.

Next Time:  Beware: Formula X


Darkhold #4 (January – 1993 – Marvel)

Darkhold #4

When last we left the Darkhold Redeemers they were jumping out of the frying pan and into the fryer.  Deep in the south of Perfection, South Carolina, Sam Buchanan was just about to get eaten by demons, when he is saved by a not so nice benefactor, Sabretooth.  Fortunately the demon that Sabertooth thought he killed isn’t dead, and has a grip of friends to back him up, giving Buchanan a chance to get away and try to find his partners.

Meanwhile Aurora, the woman who unleashed The Other on this unsuspecting little town, gets to witness firsthand what her foray into black magic has caused. Demons that she let loose tear apart her only friend in the town.  While those same demons were surrounding Vicki Montesi they passed her by like she was invisible.  Sitting in the basement of the local school in shock she is found by Louise Hastings and Buchanan just in time for Sabertooth to catch up with them.  Who in spite of his mutant healing factor is just about dead.

Buchanan talks Sabertooth down, and everybody takes a second to catch their breath which is when Louise figures out where the demons are coming from.  They are the N’Garai and they come from a portal that is located in the rock quarry.  Vicki, who is invisible to the N’Garai, and Sabertooth decide to make a run for the portal to destroy it, but upon arriving find Modred there already.  He has no plans to close the portal, all he wants to do is test if humans can go through it so he can get into Chthon’s realm.  Throwing someone that is caught up in the battle against the demons into the portal he finds that he will not be able to cross over into that realm, at the cost of innocent life.  Only one person can stop them, so with a belt of grenades Aurora (the woman who used the Darkhold page in the first place) pitches herself into the portal, blowing it to smithereens.  The Darkholders save the day again, but just in time for the Dwarf to show up with another black envelope.  This time for a man named Styge.

Chris Cooper hits the plot line of Darkhold full stride in this issue.  At this point it has moved forward from episodic to ongoing, and it becomes the kind of title that, at the time, I had to pick up month to month.  I was always wondering what was going to come up next.  The art from Nick Felchle seems less chunky and bold than previous issues, but he has no problem conveying different kinds of N’Garai.  Nothing to crazy though, everything seems to be cut from a superhero with a cray head or body mold.  Overall this is a decent issue that keeps me coming back for more.

Next Time:  Ghost Rider: Fear Itself #2


The Strange Adventures of H. P. Lovecraft #2 (May – 2009 – Image)

The Strange Adventures of H. P. Lovecraft #2

After waking up from a dream that he plans on converting to a Weird Tale H.P. Lovecraft discovers that the dream is in fact reality. That the sailors that mugged him, took his watch, and his money were in fact attacked in the night and brutally murdered.  Unfortunately his watch was found at the crime scene and he is instantly suspected of being the murderer.  After all both of his parents succumbed to insanity and his spinster aunts, though dotting, fear him just a little bit.

HPL isn’t going to let a little suspected criminal activity prevent him from going back to the library to visit the love of his life and find out the news that she was eager to give him the day before.  Before he can talk to her though a dark and foreboding book that sits in the middle of the library calls out to him.  It knows that he is the key to some kind of gate, and begins to reveal itself to him when the book is interrupted by Sylvia’s new fiance.

Fiance is a bit of the jock bully type and leaves no question in HPL’s mind that he wants him to never be around Sylvia again.  The dejected, and some what weak willed Lovecraft just sulks home.  Unable to even bring himself to write he falls asleep, only to awake from a dream where fiance dies a horrible death at the hands of something unknowable and evil.

HPL is on his way to rescue the fiance of the woman he loves.  Arriving at the home crazy things are afoot.  Rooms falling apart into landscapes of outer space.  Creatures that seem to have no beginning and no end with beautiful nude women for hair, and infants tumbling from tentacle and fanged mouths.   All the while HPL attempting to defend a man that he calls his friend, but that took his woman.  The creature has a message for Lovecraft too, a dire message of warning.  Lovecraft is single minded in his focus to get his friend out of the mad house though, and somehow he manages it to do it, with some of his sanity intact (doesn’t seem like all of it though).

I wasn’t super impressed with the art in this title until about half way though this issue.  As soon as the creature springing from the pages of Lovecraft’s actual tales appears this issue makes a drastic turn for the amazing.  You could just sit and try and pick apart the craziness that is the Shoggoth that attacks this home, there is so much detail and conflicting imagery that it is stunning, a real tribute to the skill of Tony Salmons.

Mac Carter puts together a great story as well.  This is a great mixture of crime and Mythos fiction that honestly probably deserves a little more recognition than the title gets.  I wish they would have turned this into an ongoing series, it could have been stunning.

Next Time: Darkhold #4


Swamp Thing #1 (November – 2011 – DC)

Swam Thing #1

Alec Holland wants nothing to do with The Green, or Swamp Thing.  He died and for a while he was the Swamp Thing, but now that he has his humanity back he wants nothing to do with any of it.  So when Superman shows up at his new job (he has moved from botany into construction just to get away from plants), he is none to excited to help out.  He knows all about the birds falling out of the air dead, and the fish holocaust, and the cattle die off.  He still wants nothing to do with it.

Meanwhile at an archaeological dig a red tornado digs up the bones of a mastodon, which formulate a new creature that comes to attack the people that had been working at the dig.  Flies swarm into their ears and they twist their own heads backwards.  Doesn’t seem like a very pleasant way to go.

Skip to the bedroom of Alec Holland.  In a dream he is reliving his death, only to awaken to a room full of foliage.  Plants are crawling across the floor and filling the room.  He is about to give them the formula that he has created, in his time as a botanist, that accelerates the growth of plants, when Swamp Thing arrives to stop him.

That’s right Scott Snyder waits until the final page of this title reboot to reveal Swamp Thing.  Like all things that Scott Snyder works on everything from dialogue to exposition are spot on.  Even long passages of conversation between Holland and Superman feel natural instead of long.  That coupled with some truly beautiful, and horrific, artwork from Yanick Paquette makes this one of the best  New 52 first issues that I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

Swamp Thing is so important to so many people that love horror comics.  The directions that Alan Moore took the title showed a lot of people that an ongoing series could not only be exciting issue to issue but could also go into deep themes and ideas over the long haul of the title.  Birthed from Swamp Thing was Hellblazer which did much the same, and continues into Constantine (another New 52 title I’m really enjoying).  To see this treated with the seriousness and respect it deserves is nice because some of these New 52 sure don’t.

Next Time: The Strange Adventures of H. P. Lovecraft #2


The Whistling Skull #2 (March – 2013 – DC)

The Whistling Skull #2

The Whistling Skull is awesome, but it seems like each issue is trying to bite off more than it can chew.  In each twenty four page issue they are trying to cram a little bit of four different story lines in.  As a consequence each story line just isn’t moving along that quickly.  This is only the second issue though, so it may be growing pains of a new title.  Only problem with that, is that this isn’t supposed to be ongoing, it only has a five issue run.  I’m sure this is all planned out, but right now it seems like they won’t get to the end, by the end.

The first of the stories that they are trying to tell takes place in Japan.  The JSA including skull are trapped in some kind of crazy battle with some kind of villains.  Last issue there was a giant mech.  This issue Skull is trapped in a coffin with some kind of critter.

Skip to next story line.  The Skeleton are trying to determine whether or not to announce that The Whistling Skull is dead in Asia somewhere.  The rest of his team has been recovered, but they are thinking that he is dead.

Skip to next story line, and this is the main story line.  Back in a European village Skull and his “simple” partner are investigating the disappearances that are happening in the little town.  To that end they decide to go see the traveling circus that is in town.  This isn’t a circus with animals and clowns though.  It is more a traveling freak show that terrifies poor Nigel.  He runs from the tent and we…

Skip to the next story line.  We are in the past again where we learn more about the origins of Nigel and Williams friendship.  Nigel is simple and slow, and doesn’t ever defend himself against the bullies that are always picking on him.  William wants to help him understand that he is bigger and stronger than the people that are picking on him.  Nigel is willing to stand up for himself with Williams encouragement.

Back tot he main story line.  The two heroes go into the woods surrounding the village in the hopes of finding out what is happening with the disappearances.  They run into some kids that are fleeing for their lives, and Skull shoots the perpetrator, who looks stunningly like one of the freaks from the freak show.

The writing is a bit scatter brain sometimes, but it seems like B. Clay Moore has a handle on what is going on.  I’m hopeful that by the end of the five issue run we will have a really clear picture of what is going on.  Tony Harris continues to provide some of the most amazing and visceral art that I have seen in a comic in a while, and that is a big part of what keeps this title so great to me.  Visually this book is a treat.

Next Time:  Swamp Thing #1


Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance #3 (October – 1992 – Marvel)

Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance #3

Ghost Rider and John Blaze are still on the hunt for Lilith, but she has plans to unleash some of her children on them in an effort to wipe them out.  As they hunt she uses Pilgrim’s ability to travel instantly in space to arrive on the door step of her child Skinner.  Skinner has moved on in his life, he no longer hunts humans and monsters, and he wants nothing to do with what he thinks is a dead religion.  Now he has a family; he has a wife and kids.  There is a deeper familial obligation at work when Lilith shows up on his door step.

Lilith commands him to go and hunt Ghosty and Blaze.  He eliminates his old family by killing them, and then the hunt is on.  Skinner, as far as horror villains go, is pretty interesting. He has a kind of bone spur thing going that allows giant blades to come out of his arms (sort of like Wolverine’s claws), the flesh on his body is another matter though.  The whole of his being is his bones, all of his flesh is gathered from the corpses of his victims, with his family being the last bits that he has placed on himself (and his only memento of them).  So when John Blaze burns all of the flesh off of Skinner, though Skinner lives he is even more enraged than he was before.  The last bits of his murdered family are gone.

Writer Howard Mackie paints a really bleak story here.  One that is punctuated by two fathers.  Blaze who is trying to save the world and thereby endangering his family, and Skinner who is torn between the Lilin and his new family.  Blaze contemplates that maybe the risk that he is putting his family in makes him no different than Skinner.  Something that Ghost Rider, in a rare moment of humanity, assures him he is not.

Artist Adam Kubert makes this story pop off of the page.  The bones that sprout from Skinner look painful and raw.  the rage on Blaze’s face when he realizes that Skinner murdered his own family is palpable.  This cover also happens to be one of my favorite Spirits of Vengeance covers.  I remember the first time I saw it at the newsstand that I was actually horrified that maybe Ghost Rider and Blaze were defeated in a battle with this new and bulky foe.  I really dig the whited out cover look too.

Next Time:  Whistling Skull #2


The Walking Dead #1 (October – 2003 – Image)

The Walking Dead #1

At this point everything about this comic book is basically iconic.  Almost everyone has either read these comics or they have been watching the wildly popular show (when my fellow chef’s are asking me week to week if I have watched the newest episode, you know it has hit the main stream).  I’m trying to come into reviews of the comic clean though.  Trying my best to not put Andrew Lincoln’s face over the comic book version of Rick Grimes.  Trying really hard to not hear the actor’s voices.

With that in mind here is Rick Grimes in a shoot out on the highway.  Rick is shot.  Rick wakes up in the hospital, post zombie apocalypse.  As he stumbles through the wasteland of Harrison Memorial Hospital he has his first encounter with the walkers.  A cafeteria full of them attack and through dumb luck Rick survives, only to escape into a world gone horribly wrong.

Making his way back home he encounters more of the dead.  His mind seems unable to wrap its way around what is going on.  Because of the information  overload he doesn’t notice when  Morgan and Duane Jones sneak up behind him and knock him on the head with a shovel.  He awakes in a strange place again, but surrounded by much friendlier faces.  Morgan and Duane give him a meal and a place to stay for the night, so Rick repays them with guns and weapons, but he is moving on in the hopes of finding his family in Atlanta.

Robert Kirkman has a handle on the tone of people in an impossible situation.  Rick is filled with hope and promise.  He expects to just make his way to Atlanta, find the police or the Army there protecting it, and his family safe and sound.  Morgan and Duane feel the same way, that if they hole up in the house they have taken over that they will be just fine when the Army comes and wipes out all the zombies.  They are still ignorant to the world that they find themselves in, and unfortunately I can no longer divorce myself from what I know of the story.  Their hope is sad, because they live in a fairly hopeless world.

A world rendered in glorious black and white detail by Tony Moore.  Moore doesn’t need color to convey the rot and decay of the zombie horde.  They are nasty and frightening looking.  There is so much focus on how viscerally disgusting they are that sometimes the living get lost in the mix, and that is a good thing.  The Walking Dead at this point is all about the zombies.  The people are just there to be fodder for now.

We all know about the TV show, and how amazing this comic is, but revisiting it I can see why all over again.  This is just the beginning and unlike so many first issues, I know that I’m already re-hooked.

Next Time: Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance #3


R.I.P.D.: City of the Damned #2 (December – 2012 – Dark Horse)

R.I.P.D.: City of the Damned #2

In this second issue of the 4 part mini-series, Ray and Crispin Mathers are on their way to Black Pool, a town that has gotten the attention of R.I.P.D. Writer Jeremy Barlow starts this one out with some action, as Roy Pulsifer tries to board a mysterious train, only to be attacked by a smoke demon in an attempt to stop them from going to Black Pool.

It is here that a religious struggle begins between the two. Crispin, the crusader, is firm in his belief of the Christian God he fights for but Roy presents a more egalitarian and agnostic ideal. His past transgressions seem to have tainted his zeal for religion. Still, in order to do this job, he must know that the crusader is at least partially correct in his beliefs and he just about says as much.

Artist Tony Parker goes to great lengths to illustrate the vast openness of the old west, with long horizons and impressive mountain scenes. The two are on horseback and this lends to some pretty spectacular vistas with wide open spaces in airy panels. I feel that the book could use a little more color. Kind of washed out and bland, Michelle Madsen’s color palette is out dated and stale.

When they finally reach Black Pool, Tony Parker changes gears to cramp the panels and give a sense of claustrophobia to the heroes. Black Pool turns out to be a strange and overly inviting town. The denizens all have an automaton-like way and every conversation ends with them urging the two up to the old mine. This is illustrated with strange angles of character interaction and reminiscent of the films of Sergio Leone. There is a nice little twist when Roy realizes that in order to be here among the living, he is in a different body.

It quickly becomes apparent to the pair that something odd is happening at the old mine and they set off to investigate. What they find there is something of ancient evil (no surprise here since we were told in issue 1 that the mine under Black Pool contained an ancient evil). It is here that Tony Parker shines. He pencils/inks some rather gruesome monsters that are saved for the end of the issue to keep you coming back.

Roy Pulsifer is an interesting character, plain spoken and tough like the movie cowboys we all love. There is a nice subtext happening here between Roy and Crispin that carries the otherwise lifeless plot (you see what I did there?) along in this horror comic.

R.I.P.D. – THE CITY OF THE DAMNED is available now from Dark Horse Comics.

Next Time: The Walking Dead #1