No Peace Under Heaven Review

No Peace Under Heaven can best be described as what happens when the written word meets all that action-packed anime you might have watched as a kid. I know most of you are thinking I described a manga just now, but this book is not that. At the core of each page, however, it’s apparent that the author, Trey Mack, was clearly influenced by Japanese culture, manga, anime, and old-school kung-fu flicks.

So yeah, I guess it is like a manga, minus the art, but with just as much action. And with a name like No Peace Under Heaven, I’m expecting a lot of bloodshed.

Enter Ashura, a young, reserved high-school student who is just trying to live his life day to day, but is haunted by nightmares of a past that is tainted with corruption and death. Ashura’s dreams are a phantasm of the eve his parents were murdered, and they are becoming more vivid with each passing night. He is left with nothing but unanswered questions and a desire to rectify his past and understand the power that is rapidly growing inside him.

I read the first three chapters of No Peace Under Heaven, and it definitely delivers on the action I was expecting. The battle scenes feel like something straight out of a Bruce Lee or Donnie Yen flick, with maybe some Ninja Scroll all rolled up into one. The basic structure of the plot is not unique – which is not necessarily a bad thing. For me, it’s all in how you tell a story, and given the hints of corruption sprinkled in these three chapters, I think it’ll be interesting to find out what really happened in Ashura’s past. The first chapter starts out a little slow, and it feels like a lot of information is poured out for the reader’s sake. I also was a little confused by Ashura’s personality at first, because while he appears to be a reserved person, he gives up a lot of details about himself almost too easily to other characters, which contradicted his nature. That being said, the story picks up more in chapters 2 and 3, where you get to see Ashura’s powers manifest in ways that I think will become central to the story in the future.

If you dig high-school students with special powers, jaded pasts, and a wicked motorcycle, you’ll probably dig this. You can read the first three chapters of No Peace Under Heaven online at http://heroicbloodshednopeace.blogspot.com/ , where you can also follow the story’s development and see some character art inspired by the (possible) future manga. Sorry, keeping my lips zipped on that one, but if you like the story, feel free to hound Trey about it all you want.

Until next time.

-Kia
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Trey Mack is the author of the battle manga inspired No Peace Under Heaven and is currently hard at work slaving away on more chapters for your personal entertainment. Also, he will  (secretly) bust your ass in a cypher.

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Review – Thrash: Rise of Shidou

You might remember a while ago when I interviewed California-native comic book artist and animator, Matt Johnson (and if you don’t, feel free to get familiar). It’s been close to a year since then and, as promised, Matt has delivered the pilot issue of his creator-owned series, Thrash: Rise of Shidou, co-written by CJ Airline who was a big part of the story’s development. Matt has been hard at work, producing the comic solo on the artistic side of things. He gave me the opportunity to read and even critique it, before presenting my official review to you guys. So here it is, my totally unbiased opinion:

It’s good.

Without giving too much away, we learn that Thrash is a mysterious warrior haunted by a past steeped in bloodshed and death. This is an introduction to the path that Thrash walks, the world he comes from, and the eery foreshadowing sense that the torment of his past is going to set the tone for the future of every character he crosses. Story-wise, I’m hoping to learn more about the relationship between characters like Lord Baccamus and Secca, since this issue only lightly touches on what is a clear tension between the two of them. Even though this is just the pilot, there’s a lot bubbling under the surface; glimmers of animosity that may make or break some of the characters.

Matt’s heavy animation influence is immediately apparent, from the way his panels are presented to his coloring style. He throws dynamic angles and motion at us when he really wants us to feel the fight scenes, and pulls back during the story-driven scenes. I would love to see the emotion in some of the characters during the “talking” scenes approached with the same dynamic detail and intensity of the action-driven scenes. That being said, Matt does a nice job of setting a uniform mood for the entire book with his color choices, and he makes everything feel like a cinematic shot plucked right out of an animated feature.

Minus some of those things that most comic book creators know are only resolved by continuing to make comics, I think Matt’s debut creator-owned book is a good one. It has good art and a good story going for it, and I know the man works hard with a “never good enough” attitude – which lets me know that every book he puts out will be better than the last.

Plus, I have a thing for super cut warriors with battle scars. So maybe I am biased. A little.

Go pick up the first issue of Thrash: Rise of Shidou on Indy Planet right ‘chea: http://indyplanet.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7486

And go be friends with Matt on Facebook and look at his art and stuff. He likes people.
https://www.facebook.com/Myndfury

Until next time.

-Kia

Stabb Gunner: A Review

Whenever I have to hop the 2 or the 5 train going into Manhattan, I’m always treated to an urban gallery showing of just a minute portion of the expansive graffiti art that the Bronx has to offer. Dancing alongside the buildings in awkward places are brightly colored tags, dripping with the passion of the artists that created them. This is what I was immediately reminded of when I read the first issue of Joseph Krzemienski and Courtland Ellis’ dynamically rendered digital comic, Stabb Gunner.

From the first glimpse of the cover, you’ll see what I’m talking about. I think I mentioned before that Courtland has a natural graffiti/hip hop influenced style, but Joseph’s colors only serve to enhance it, pretty much shoving Courtland’s art right in your face. It has a fluid motion, dynamic energy, and attitude that is pretty impossible to ignore thanks to the collaborative efforts of these two artists. With an animation-like, manga-influenced quality, Stabb Gunner almost reads just like that – sequential stills of an animation where the key parts of the story are hand-picked and wrapped in the nice digital package that is NxtBook, an app that makes reading digital comics simple and intuitive.

Joseph takes the helm as both colorist and writer of the Stabb Gunner universe. The story is pretty straight-forward. Enter Stabb Fisticuffs, a pretty nonchalant guy and talented fighter who has apparently given up a life of violence in favor of a more peaceful lifestyle as a wandering monk. If you can’t tell by his name, the story and characters don’t take themselves too seriously, but we still get the sense that there’s much more to Stabb than meets the eye. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that there’s a part of his past that seems to haunt him even now, and I’m sure it will come up again the deeper we dive into this story.

Honestly, this probably won’t be for you if you’re a fan of raw, gritty comics with almost no undertone of humor. But if you’re a fan of quirkiness and comedy in your comics with a side of action and serious character development, then I would recommend checking this out. I would also recommend it because, well, it’s free. You almost HAVE to. And you’re not really doing anything anyway, right?

This first issue is really a preview of Courtland and Joseph’s upcoming Stabb Gunner graphic novel, which will be released in print. Stay tuned for more news on that, but in the meantime, the boys were nice enough to send me over some preview pages from what would have been the second issue, but is now being incorporated into the graphic novel. Don’t say I don’t love you.

Stabb Gunner has been brought to you courtesy of The Fictory.

Stabb Gunner Comic: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/postagevfx/nxtd/#/0
Stabb Gunner Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stabb-Gunner-Scene-City/126491060790646

An Excerpt From New Genesis Presents: Sunny

Below is an excerpt from chapter 2 of New Genesis Presents: Sunny by J.T. Marques. The book can be purchased at Amazon.com for $0.99 (Kindle version) or $8.99 (Paperback) here:

New Genesis Presents: Sunny (Vol. 1)

Enjoy!

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New Genesis Presents: Sunny by J.T. Marques

History was never the best subject for Ida, mainly due to the fact that it was not as cut and dry as Math or English or Science—where, if applied to everyday life, could serve as a beneficial instrument to the user. She detested History. All the historical dates and locations seemed to always collide with the many character profiles and coordinates she had been forced to remember in her old life. The names of former targets were constantly leaking onto her exams, causing her to get wrong the questions she was sure she’d knew. It was just something else to add to the growing list of how her past still interfered with her daily life.

It was Friday. Ms. Keener was half way through writing notes on the Civil War on the board when a paper ball suddenly struck Ida in the back of her head. Already knowing who it was who threw it, Ida decided to let it go. Another ball hit her, followed by another. This time, she turned around to stare into the faces of the same girls that tortured her daily.

Sidney and her gang of flunkies made no reservations about how they felt about Ida and they took every opportunity that presented itself to dominate her with their asinine, juvenile actions. Sidney snickered, folded her hands, and looked to the ceiling like she had no part in the act. Her moronic-looking friends followed in the charade, their lips fighting back smiles as they turned away in opposite directions. Ida turned back around, urging herself to stay calm. As her heart beats quickened, her hands began to tremble.

(Do it?)

A paper ball hit her again. She could hear the hushed snickering of the girls grow louder.

“What a loser,” she heard one of them say.

Ida swallowed, trying hard to dislodge the lump she felt forming at the base of her throat before it could set. It wasn’t a normal lump, the kind that appears when a person was nervous or about to cry. Ida knew what kind of lump it was and it petrified her….

It would implant its cancerous seed in the pit of her stomach and grow, incubating slowly until maturity. Then, it would elevate to her chest, twisting and churning with a sick sort of endless motion. Finally, it would settle in the hollow of her throat. Like a piece of tobacco stewing in its own juices at the side of her mouth, it would put her at ease.

Now, the lump sickened her. The juices that almost always brought her comfort now made her want to choke for she knew why it was present and recognized what it represented.

Manifested from the metallic smell of blood, the carnage she’d left behind. The sound of bones cracking and the tearing of flesh. The looks on the faces of her victims. The terror. The destruction. The death.

The lump represented a mission.

Ida closed her eyes. Images entered into her mind in an overflow of brilliancy. She would start by mapping out detailed entrance plans to their homes, breaking down which attack routes would maximize pain while minimizing manpower. Then, sweetly…

(oh, so very sweetly indeed…)

… she would stalk her targets —for weeks if necessary. Watching them eat, watching them laugh and go about their daily lives—observing their every move, from taking their children to school to making love to their spouses or mistresses. She would watch and she would wait. Right before her mission was complete, right before her target’s eyes would adjust to realize that their soon-to-be killer was none other than a frail child, the lump would form in her throat and it would make her smile. Her horribly sadistic smile and her white-painted face were the last things her victims would ever see again.

Ida shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. With much strain, she forced herself to focus her attention back to the task of writing down her notes.

Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, her pencil scrawled unsteadily on the paper and the words disturbed her.

Is that what John Wilkes Booth was? An assassin? If so, what was she? What did his one bullet have in common with her dozens? How could it compare to the hundreds released from her weapons?

Assassin was too good of a word for what she was… for what she had done.

No. That wasn’t the word for it at all.

A shot to the back of the head was clean. Instantaneous. Death came swiftly, easily—on wings, on chariots with trumpets and heavenly lights. Death was sweet. What she had inflicted was Hell, pure and undiluted. It was what she was trained to do and she had done it well.

It felt like decades were passing, slow and tedious, as her mind fought back the glee that beckoned. It was so tempting; the mere exertion from just thinking of it was intoxicating. It gave her the simplest morbid pleasure—the kind that accompanied eating loads of chocolate while pulling the wings off flies. She didn’t know why this was. But to have denied it, to have denied the numbing, thrumming thrill that rumbled throughout her interior when she was about to attack… would have made her a fool.

At least it was better than this, she thought with velvety animosity. At least I knew my place.

“Stop,” she commanded to herself in a whisper.

She massaged her temple. The contentment of her past sometimes felt like an electric blanket in the midst of a blizzard.

That’s not me anymore. That’s not me anymore. That’s not me anymore …

The continuous loop of words played as meager background music to her thoughts. It held no value. The slow crunching began again; a single sheet of paper was being balled in hushed merriment. The sound of it invaded her spirit, threatening to collapse her soul. When it landed to the right of her back, her stomach lurched, churning in tight, miserable folds of rage.

“It’s okay. This is nothing,” she whispered through clinched teeth. Her pencil broke in two.

It took every ounce of her concentration not to lose herself, not to lose the grip she held on the person she now wanted to be. The line she walked, the one that kept her sane—the one that kept her from reverting back to the monster she used to be—was paper-thin. Microscopic. The unbalance of it all was…

Another paper ball.

(Do… it!)

Their laughter scraped across every muscle in her neck. The dull ache catapulted fantasies to the front of her mind that she didn’t want to imagine. She tried to remind herself the consequences of such notions, but the scenes played out in her mind like a movie nevertheless. There she was, breaking each and every one of those ignorant girls apart with her bare hands. Crushing them like aluminum cans under a rolling car tire.

How easy would it be? she asked herself. Too easy, her thoughts answered back in a menacing tone. Child’s play. But it wouldn’t stop there… couldn’t. No. Not with all the witnesses. Her lips twitched. They would have to go too.

She felt her shoulders rise and fall once, almost absentmindedly. A shrug. Another paper ball settled between her shoulder blades and the room seemed to sway on its axis. A single note of sound resounded against her eardrums. A twig snapping? It didn’t matter. Nothing did at that moment. She balled her fist and pivoted her foot and began to turn.

Like flashes of brightness slicing through the blackness of a dark room, thoughts of Momma Brown entered her mind and stopped her cold. What if my actions broke Momma Brown’s heart? she considered, feeling the sting from the onset of fresh tears. Or worse, what if it put me at risk of Lieutenant Cooper finding me… a fate a hundred times worse than death.

She glanced up to the clock centered above the door. There was ten more minutes left of class. The fact that two, idiot-free days awaited her brought her an ounce of consolation. She rubbed her eyes free of the moisture triggered by anger. And with the grit of her teeth, she decided to endure the girl’s antics until the end of the day.

But someone else had other plans.

Dead Zone Review

Dead Zone #1 – More Is Better


Story and Letters: Keith Braun

Pencils: Roman Morales III

Inks: Greg Harms

Colors: Kyle Chaney Jr.

Label: Plan B Comics

Dead Zone is pretty much a comic packed to the brim with action, like The Expendables in comic book form, except with one guy and less cameos. The book is a fairly short read and doesn’t give much in the way of story, except to set up the plot in which our hero, Dead Zone, hands out copious amounts of ass kicking.

I read the Plan B Black and White Limited Edition which premiered at ComicCONN in Connecticut. The art style lends itself nicely to the overall action-packed theme of the book. Roman Morales III has a laser eye for detail, which is only complimented by Greg Harm’s inks, bringing the hero Dead Zone to life in a way that makes him pop off the page. His armor is my personal fave; intricate, right down to the tiniest of scratches, bolts and dents. There are times, however, when Dead Zone seems to be the most interesting subject on the page, where the less important characters (the goons who have the unfortunate role of simply getting a bullet put through their brain) are not as rendered and seem to be an after thought. For the most part, though, the art is nicely done and the level of contrast that the inks bring to the book make it a juicy visual product.

I also had a chance to see the full-color version of the book with colors by Kyle Chaney Jr., who does a great job of enhancing the visual appeal of the comic while making the action-packed panels that much sweeter. Everything pops off the page that much more  because of Kyle’s colors, bringing the gritty atmosphere to life in a way that makes for some sexy eye candy.

Don’t expect something that is going to put you on an emotional journey of self-discovery here, but if you’re looking to be entertained and you want to feast your eyes on nicely rendered artwork, then Dead Zone is the book for you.

I give Dead Zone a 7 out of 10.

Dead Zone is currently available through Plan B Comics in both a printed format and as a digital download.

www.planbcomics.com

Check out the other positive reviews that Dead Zone has been getting here:

http://www.comicvine.com/myvine/alexhasek/reviews/

http://investcomics.com/reviews/investcomics-comic-book-reviews-9-19-11

Dead Zone is © 2011 Keith Allen Braun. All rights reserved.