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The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)

Indie Jones: DUNGEON PUNCHERS V.1 plus an interview with DUNGEON PUNCHERS’ writer/artist Kelsey Wroten!


Writer: Tom King
Art: Gabriel Hernandez
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee

I have yet to, for some reason, spend the time and words heaping the amount of praise on this comic book that it deserves and I’m here to change that here in short form (hopefully with some long form once this instant-classic wraps up in three issues).

What I really love about THE VISION by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta is, well, their vision for the android Avenger and his artificial family. The drama and emotion that this team achieves with each issue using characters that have only a textbook understanding of how feelings work is downright masterful. The exploration of humanity the Vision family goes on is as touching as it is oft times awkward and sometimes horrifying, especially in these most recent issues.

And that King and Walta are willing and able to take a mostly tertiary character such as Victor Macha – the “son” of Ultron and one-time destined destroyer of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – and in little over one issue present him in as harrowing a light as anything the Visions have experienced so far while incorporating him into their hellish decent into oblivion is downright masterful.

I could go on and on about THE VISION and hope to at a further date, but for now I couldn’t help but do a bit of a drive by and heap more exaltations on a book that deserves every bit of them.

Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.


Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Mico Suayan
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man

Fan fav Jeff Lemire, creator of SWEET TOOTH, continues the saga of Valiant’s nearly indestructible killing machine, Bloodshot. It’s kind funny how many, nearly indestructible killing machines Valiant actually has: Eternal Warrior, Ninjak, Rai, Bloodshot, etc. Ah well, that’s what happened when you were created in the 90’s. If you are unfamiliar with Bloodshot, he’s a soldier pumped with nanobots that give him a healing factor and typical superhuman abilities.

Getting into the spoilers of this issue, Bloodshot discovers he is not the first unkillable soldier. As he and former Bloodshots have all been dropped on an island (always an island), to duke it out with Deathmate- who appears to be the next gen Bloodshot. Of course Bloodshot’s creators, Project Rising Spirit is behind all this, as they watch the progress of Deathmate. Our Bloodshot comes up with a plan to battle the unbeatable Deathmate: Track down her base before they all get killed again for the day. Kind a funny that none of the other nearly indestructible killing machines, with arguably more experience than the current Bloodshot, couldn’t come up with this basic plan, but then he’s the protagonist. As chaos ensues, in a PREADTOR one kinda way, Bloodshot gets a visit from his subconscious ‘Bat-Mite’, Bloodsquirt and a big reveal on just who Deathmate is or rather was.

So not a particularly original concept so far, but Lemire is putting it all together nicely. Just enough interesting questions about what is going on, with good explanations (when they get explained) and some nice action. As is often the case, it’s the execution of the plot that is more important than the plot itself, and Lemire is doing a good job of it.

But the person really making the book is artist Mico Suayan. The Filipino artist has been doing covers and things for Marvel for years, but it seems he has recently changed his style. Originally, he had pencil gradations in his work, and for my money, that rarely looks good in comics, as it can get blobby and muddy. Now he has more of a cross hatching line work finish to his figures and it looks amazing! It just works so much better for comic books. If you are not buying this book, you should still flip through it, it looks great. And Suayan does a fine job with the cartoony Bloodsquirt as well.

Under Lemire and Suayan, BLOODSHOT: REBORN is becoming a book to watch.


Writer: David Walker
Art: Flaviano
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee

Every time I cast eyes sideways at a new issue of CIVIL WAR II on the shelves I can’t help but let out an exasperated sigh at something that, thus far, has been all the shameless shock value of the original, handled somehow with even less subtlety. Therefore, seeing a book I’m highly enjoying and with characters that had their own respective big roles in the original adorned with the banner of this year’s quest for more money left me trepidatious.

Thankfully, writer David Walker isn’t really interested in any of that fiddle-faddle.

Instead of the just as tired as it originally was tag line of “Whose Side Are You On?” Luke Cage and Danny Rand are firmly on their own side again, and their side would rather help out the people on the street than get involved in another fatality riddled superhero conflict. And on those streets, D-level villains are being executed and no one seems to care, or thinks they have it coming even if they’re innocent at the time of everything but having a checkered past, and if that sounds eerily similar to a certain kind of “Civil War” we’re having in real life, well duh.

These characters together have always been about class relations and society’s ills and I would expect no different in our currently heated climate. That Walker took what could have easily been a tie-in cash in and has used it to tell a personal tale about Power Man and Iron Fist and their emotional connection to their superhero day jobs and associates in that life that are now pummeling each other again as well and mixing it in with a parallel to current events is praiseworthy both in its skill and its adherence to the true roots of this unlikely Superhero Duo.

That respect for the source material, Walker and company’s willingness to get a bit dirty incorporating some of the more bitter aspects of our current way of life into the pages, and their ability to still tell a joking, off-beat superhero tale all the while is exactly why this book is as good as it is and I hope we continue to see such storytelling for a nice long run with Marvel’s Heroes for Hire.


Writer / Artist: Walter Simonson
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Masked Man

Seemingly whenever they find time IDW or Simonson gets to it, we get another issue of RAGNAROK, the post Asgard tales of Thor, other wise know as the “Walking Thor”.

As I’ve reviewed this book before, this comic is about Thor’s dead body coming back to life (as it were) after infamous Ragnarok. And he’s checking out the state of the nine realms. God of death, Angantyr had charged a Dark Elf to put an end to Thor, before his undead return. This, of course did more to bring Thor back than anything else. Her husband (with young daughter in tow) sow revenge on Thor. But now that he knows Thor is Thor and that Angantyr basically set him and his wife up, he’s joined Thor against Angantyr. Meanwhile, the fire giant Surtr (oh please let him be in the new movie), is throwing every fire demon he has at Thor. Last issue was the battle royal, and this one is the aftermath.

This book continues to be an interesting look at the once glorious nine realms. The fact that master comicbook artisan Walter Simonson is drawing and writing it, really makes it something to check out. This issue gets into just what splendid powers of Asgard still remain in Thor. Simonson also gets into the more ‘uncomfortable’ Norse powers/myths that Marvel will probably not touch (yummy). Overall the biggest question on my mind is, is there an endgame to this? Is Thor going to be able to restore anything of the old world? Or will he just end up wandering the wasteland, ala Mad Max. Either way, it’s pretty interesting to see Thor this way.

Simonson’s artwork is just about as in-your-face-amazing as it’s ever been. A few weeks ago I admonished an artist for not knowing how to use the technique of one illustration and several panels to tell a story. On page ten, Simonson perfectly shows ‘how’ to do this right. It created pacing, timing and believe it or not, it even help create a joke of the situation. On the flip side, I don’t think his seventh page is as successful. The sideway faces make me feel I should read the page on it’s side- but that doesn’t work. Fans of Simonson’s art should also make special note of this issue as it has eight pages showcasing his thoughts, rough pencils and final inks of some of the pages in this issue.

So while Ragnarok isn’t a barnburner of a comic, it is an interesting ‘reboot’ if you will of Thor (no connection to Marvel of course). And I was quite sad to see what happened to the dwarves. Why Walter, why?


Writer: Kelsey Wroten
Art: Kelsey Wroten
Publisher: Stela
Reviewer: Lyzard

The task of dungeon diving is almost as arduous as explaining the adventure to non-players. Whether you play Dungeons & Dragons, Warcraft, or one of the numerous other tabletop and digital RPG games, the experience of cutting down orcs and outwitting dragons is unique to each player and group.

DUNGEON PUNCHERS, while featuring all the tropes and characters associated with classic role-playing games, is not meant to replicate the specific event while had while gathered around a table sticky with Mountain Dew or a computer monitor that cost more than your wardrobe. Instead, DUNGEON PUNCHER reminds me of trying to fall asleep while my roommate and her guild went on yet another late night raid in WoW. Out of context hearing “a lady should never have guts on her gowns” can be rather confusing. In context… it can still be ridiculous. But that’s the point. The conversations had while trying to keep everyone in line and prevent a Leroy Jenkins are utterly absurd and DUNGEON PUNCHERS captures the hilarity of both how players play these games but also how they play off one another. Creator Kelsey Wroten describes the comic as “The Breakfast Club, but in a dungeon. You have this rag-tag group of conflicting personalities (in this case a warrior, elf, knight, and mage rather than a jock, prep, nerd, and weirdo) trapped in a scenario not of their choosing and they have to work together to get through it.” I wouldn’t be half-surprised to have a Simple Minds reference with how “hipster” the comic’s tone can be sometimes.

The barrier for entry into the world of DUNGEON PUNCHERS isn’t the lack of RPG experience a reader may have, but rather a lack of technology. You can only read DUNGEON PUNCHERS off of Stela Unlimited, an app for your mobile device that features comics specifically designed for viewing on smaller screens. Readers pay a monthly subscription cost for access to current and past issues, along with the ability to interact with the creators. Currently only Apple users have access to Stela, however an Android version is in the works.

Not only is the distribution method unique, so are the visuals for comics that are meant for purely digital consumption. You scroll through the comic page by page so you are rarely viewing more than one panel at a time. The pacing is radically quicker than your normal paper-based comic. The dialogue is snappy, the tone is snarky, and the drawings are simply funny with an emphasis on the simpl(e). Wroten’s work is about as far away as you can get from the fantasy drawings of Frank Frazetta. Such small screen viewing benefits from a less-detailed, more cartoonish artistic style.

For those who have spent far too many hours with friends (virtual or real) getting lost in a fantasy world, DUNGEON PUNCHERS will remind you of all those horrible messes you have blamed another party member for getting you into. For the uninitiated, the unsullied, DUNGEON PUNCHERS may not necessarily convince you to join in the fun but it will be fun itself to read.

And now, here’s an interview with DUNGEON PUNCHERS’ Kelsey Wroten…

LYZARD (LYZ): You’ve been creating comics independently since 2008. How would you describe your style?

KELSEY WROTEN (KW): I would say that for the most part I have been working in zines and mini comics. This means that I was free to explore as many different styles of comics as I could write. The two types that seems to stick though are fantasy, and more realistic stories about love and frustration. Most of my work is in the vein of the latter, with DUNGEON PUNCHERS being a notable exception. If I were to surmise what I do in few words: cute/sad/funny cartoons.

LYZ: Who are your influences, artistically and narratively?

KW: I started taking comics seriously after reading GHOST WORLD in high school. I kind of realized at that moment that comics could be more than just entertainment. They could be a more salient medium that connects with people. I felt like GHOST WORLD described my exact life, though it was written about teenage girls 10+ years before, and by a man. I decided I wanted to learn how to do that. I had always enjoyed writing, and I liked to draw. I was already writing these super maudlin short stories, it was the perfect storm for comics. I wouldn’t hold myself as the end-all-be-all on this but at that time (around 2008 or so) I feel like comics were starting to be noticed by the public at large as a narrative form that was becoming as important as literary novels. I noticed the change in book stores when they took graphic novels out of the kids section ha. Anyway, long story short, I wanted to make comics that would affect someone else like GHOST WORLD had affected me.

LYZ: What are some of your favorite comics? Artists? Writers?

KW: I really dig all of Dan Clowes work, especially GHOST WORLD and ICE HAVEN. When I was just starting I really got into Ariel Schrag’s comics that she wrote in high school. I wrote her a super embarrassing letter and she responded. Really amazing for me at the time. I also really love Jillian Tamaki as an artist and writer. She proves that you can be funny and poignant at the same time. Micheal Deforge is like that too. Simon Hanselmann. Noelle Stevenson. Jereme Sorese. Rebecca Dunlap just did a crazy comic called DREAM TUBE that made me rethink stuff. Most of the work I really enjoy are both artists and writers. I admire a lot of people. Love them comics artists, love them cartoonists.

LYZ: Do you have a background in tabletop games such as Dungeon & Dragons?

KW: Yes I played a lot through college. We played in a non traditional way. Not by the book. What we essentially were doing was playing pretend together at a table for five hours every week or so. It was really akin to being a kid again. I really enjoyed it. We were creating a story around circumstances of chance dictated by the die. DUNGEON PUNCHERS is a good example of that sort of story telling making it’s way into my work. The scenario is typical of Dungeons and Dragons: The Usual Suspects (Elf, Warrior, Knight, Mage) in a dungeon. But the execution and narrative is not. I like to describe DUNGEON PUNCHERS as “The Breakfast Club, but in a dungeon.” You have this rag-tag group of conflicting personalities trapped in a scenario not of their choosing and they have to work together to get through it.

LYZ: Why did you choose to work with Stela?

KW: A friend of mine was my editor at Stela, so he already understood my work and what I am about. Getting a publisher/editor that is on your side is a huge plus. I also enjoyed the challenge of the iPhone element. It really is a different style of pacing, but I’ll get to that on a later question. I also really liked that I was free to write the entire comic. Like I mentioned before, I really enjoy writing, and heretofore had not gotten to write a comic with this wide of an audience. My writing had been restricted to zineland, really. I had been working on licensed properties or on a team up until that point in the world of commercial comics. The proposition of writing the story I wanted to was very enticing for me as a creator. Stela is very good to creators.

LYZ: How do you personally consume media nowadays? Are you a paper or digital reader? The type to watch Netflix or YouTube on your commute?

KW: I would say that I consume a lot of digital media. I used to shy away from things like webcomics and YouTube series, and now some of my favorite stories are being told that way. It’s becoming more accepted. There is a bit of elitism and fetishization to the printed page. I am a member of that church (or cult?) but I also defect a lot of the time and rarely regret it. There’s just so much goddamn good content on the internet, you can’t shun it and act like it doesn’t exist because it isn’t paper. That being said, I love printed books, I make zines. One day I’d like to seem my work on physical bookshelves. I am a complex animal.

LYZ: Since the comic is meant to be read on mobile devices how does that affect your illustrations? For the most part each “page” is full art, single panel.

KW: My story is unusual in the new form of comics that Stela employs because each “screen” is a “panel.” For a lot of teams that worked on books, they invested more in the infinite verticality of the page. Print is obviously restricted by physical dimensions. In Stela, the page could be 10’ long one screen and 4’ the next. I typically work for the printed page, so my panels are usually small, depicting an instant in time, instead of a whole scene. Each “screen” on the iPhone must be understood individually. So each “panel” in my story is a “page” in traditional comics form. It is pretty different.

LYZ: What about in terms of narrative and pacing? People associate mobile consumption as one that plays into short attention span. While on paper your comic would run 48 pages, it seems to move along much quicker than a traditional comic book.

KW: I do believe that my comic was playing into the immediate consumption gambit. I wanted to write something readers could enjoy and understand directly. Maybe while they are commuting or taking a break. Though the first episode of DUNGEON PUNCHERS is 48 iPhone “pages” the time spent with it is more likened to a typical 10 or so page comic. The entire narrative itself is something like 270 iPhone “pages” but it feels like 70 or so typical pages. So yes, that is very different. But I also think you can play with it. I think several types of reaction are easier to illicit when you can’t see the next panel on the page. I think jokes can be funnier, more unexpected. And scares can be scarier. Moments of discomfort seem to last longer because you don’t know when they will end. That sort of thing. You can just flip to the end of the “book” and see what happens. You have to scroll through the entire narrative to that.

Lyzard is Lyz Reblin, a graduate student at the University of Texas pursuing a master's degree in Media Studies... which is just a fancy way of saying she plays a lot video games, watches far too many horror films, and then tries to pass it all off as "research."

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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