Tag: Nate Piekos

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    Shaolin Cowboy’s Surf and Turf Battle

    Leave it to Geoff Darrow to begin a new issue (and a new series) with a trio of talking vultures. The triad is circling the remains of a huge battle to find their next meal. And they provide the most intelligent dialogue in the book.

    Shaolin Cowboy’s latest battle, which nearly left him for dead, provides the backdrop for the vultures’ discussion of physiognomy, smorgasbords and cholesterol. Seeing a dead Asian combatant, one of the vultures declares, “It looks pretty fresh, and it’s been awhile since I’ve had any sashimi.”

    Old Nemeses Hell Bent on Revenge

    Shaolin Cowboy: Who'll Stop The Reign? #1 (variant cover)
    Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop The Reign? #1 (variant cover)

    In The Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign #1, Cowboy doesn’t have much to say. That leaves the vultures and less-intelligent humans to fill in the story. That plot revolves around a number of enemies trying to take advantage of Cowboy’s weakened state. Those include the vultures, a warden from hell, and a beer-guzzling crab-human hybrid. It’s quintessential Darrow. And that’s a beautiful thing.

    But it’s detailed artwork that Darrow fans demand. And this issue doesn’t disappoint. While the book doesn’t have the decapitation by chainsaw on a rope that we’ve come to expect from the Cowboy, there’s still plenty to feast your eyes on.

    There are impossible moves where the Cowboy propels himself into the back of a moving car. Bleak mountain landscapes complete with anti-Trump graffiti. And the generous use of two-page spreads with knife-legged dogs as a treat for the careful observer. Darrow creates a visual treat that will leave you coming back for the rest of this four-part series.


    The Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign? #1, Dark Horse Comics, Released April 19, 2017, Written and Art by Geoff Darrow, Colors by Dave Stewart, Lettering by Nate Piekos, $3.99.

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    Review: Aliens: Defiance #4 – Gonna Get Yourself Killed

    Review of Alines Defiance #4

    aliens defiance #4 reviewIn Aliens: Defiance, Episode 3: Mutiny, we see a second mutiny aboard the Europa. While Davis-01 is tending to Hendricks’ injuries, the rest of the Davises forgo their new mission and reactivate the Europa’s “nearfield.” Weyland-Yutani uses the ship’s local network to remotely reprogram the synthetics and issues the directive to kill Hendricks and Davis-01 and to return to the original mission.

    In Aliens: Defiance, Episode 4: Casualties, we learn that the only two survivors of this second mutiny are Davis-01 and PFC Hendricks. When Weyland-Yutani transmitted new orders for the Davises via the nearfield network, personal communications for Hendricks were also transmitted.

    A couple official messages confirm what Hendricks already suspects, she’s been tried in absentia and has been found AWOL. There’s also a message from Hendricks’ personal doctor, claiming there’s a loophole that would allow Hendricks to return to Lunar Base: Tranquility as a medical patient and not face any of her criminal sentence.

    Hendricks must decide who to trust, and quickly. Dr. Emi Yang offers an attractive option, if it isn’t a ploy on behalf of the Colonial Marines to trap Hendricks should she step foot back on Lunar Base: Tranquility. Davis-01 may not be all he seems. He claims to have reprogrammed himself to be completely immune to the influence of Weyland-Yutani, but his actions when he’s alone suggest that may not be the case.

    This is possibly the most interesting chapter yet, and there are no (living) Xenomorphs to be found. Brian Wood serves up a lot more of Zula Hendricks’ backstory in Episode 4. We get to see the battle where Zula sustained her injury, the awful way she was treated by her superiors after being the sole survivor of her first firefight, and the weight of her survivor’s guilt. The issue is a little heavy on exposition and light on action, but it feels like a natural transition. We got to know our protagonist a little in the first three chapters, but this chapter really sets the hook and makes us care about her.

    Aliens: Defiance, Episode 4: Casualties, Dark Horse Comics, released August 31, 2016, written by Brian Wood, art by Tony Brescini, colors by Dan Jackson, letters by Nate Piekos of Blambot, cover by Massimo Carnevale, $3.59

    Review by Brendan Allen.

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    Review: Aliens: Defiance #3 — For the Sake of Humanity

    aliens - defiance #3“No weakness. No mercy. No hesitation. Go twice as hard, Hendricks. Three times as hard. Then they’ll respect you.”

    PFC Zula Hendricks’ mantra has gotten her through battles in the past, fighting through barriers of sex and race. Now, she’s using the same mindset to overcome a new kind of discrimination. She is desperately trying to get the Davises to see her as an asset instead of a liability, to look past her humanity and disability. She has started making some traction, but her heroics at the end of the last chapter have left her bruised and broken.

    Aliens: Defiance, Episode 3: Mutiny opens with Davis 1 tending to Zula’s injuries. During this exchange, we gain insight into how the current situation is even possible. There is a local network on board the Europa called a “nearfield” that keeps all the synthetics synched with Weyland-Yutani. Davis 1 disabled the system, allowing independent thought among the drones. He also made modifications to his own system that would block directives from the nearfield should it be reactivated.

    The rest of the Davises have decided this charade has gone on long enough and reactivate the nearfield to receive orders from Weyland-Yutani. The new directive is simple. Weyland-Yutani orders the loyal synthetics to get control of the ship, kill Hendricks, kill any remaining rogue Davis units (Davis 1), and to continue broadcasting the ship’s current location.

    Brian Wood has left me impressed yet again with his choices that stray from the formula in order to deliver a fresh, exciting tale. There are no shortcuts or cheap pops in this series thus far. We’re a quarter through the 12-issue run of this title and we are still getting deep character development and unexpected plot twists.

    Aliens: Defiance, Episode 3: Mutiny, Dark Horse Comics, August 17, 2016, script by Brian Wood, art by Riccardo Burchielli, colors by Dan Jackson, letters by Nate Piekos of Blambot, cover by Massimo Carnevale, $3.59

    Review by Brendan Allen.

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    Review: Aliens: Defiance #2 – Getting the Job Done

    Review of Aliens Defiance #2

    Aliens Defiance #2 CoverIn Aliens: Defiance, Episode One: Derelict, Colonial Marine Private First Class Zula Hendricks finds herself aboard a ship full of Weyland-Yutani combat androids headed toward an apparently abandoned hauler adrift in space. Her mission is to enter a code into the ship’s computer and transfer the flight recorder data to Tranquility Base: Luna. That will transfer salvage rights to Weyland-Yutani.

    Once aboard the ship, she and the synthetic soldiers discover Xenomorph infestation. Hendricks later learns from one of the synthetics, designated Davis-01, that Weyland-Yutani was fully aware of the Xenomorphs aboard the hauler. Weyland-Yutani had applied for the salvage in order to capture the creatures, weaponize them, and bring them to Earth. Davis-01 is an apparent anomaly among Weyland-Yutani synthetics who has willfully rejected his programming in favor of independent thought.

    In Aliens: Defiance, Episode 2: Kinetic, the Davises (all the synthetics are named Davis) are AWOL and have put down any synthetics who refused to go along with the new plan, to locate and destroy any remaining Xenomorphs. This puts our protagonist in the awkward and deadly situation where she must either also defy orders and go AWOL, or potentially be executed by this band of rogue androids. Zula feels like she may be able to trust Davis-01, but the other security drones have noticed the braces on her back and legs and see her as a liability. This just adds to the already palpable tension of the situation.

    The ship arrives at LV-44-40, a deep space science station that hasn’t sent any data transmissions for 7 hours. Upon approach, the crew learns that all automated systems on the station are down, but there is a large heat signature coming from one the storage bays. PFC Hendricks and Davis-01 will have to board the craft to see if the signature is coming from survivors or Xenomorphs.

    I continue to be impressed with this outstanding series. I love that Brian Wood cast aside the obvious angle, a shoot ‘em up gore fest devoid of much story, in favor of giving us real depth and character development. There is a great balance of suspense, action, and horror. The art by Tristan Jones is fantastic as usual, and Dan Jackson’s color talents bring it home.

    Aliens: Defiance #2, released May 25, 2016, script by Brian Wood, art by Tristan Jones, colors by Dan Jackson, letters by Nate Piekos of Blambot, cover by Massimo Carnevale, $3.59

    Review by Brendan Allen

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    Review: Angel-Catbird — My, That Mouse Looks Tasty!

    angel-catbird #1 HB review margaret atwood

    angel catbird #1 HB coverHybrid human animals are nothing new to comics, but when a genetic splicing experiment goes wrong in Angel-Catbird #1, meek programmer Strig Feleedus finds out that there are definite pros and cons to becoming a hybrid. Hired by the shadowy Muroid Inc to perfect a genetic algorithm, he quickly realizes there’s something a bit off about his boss Muroid and something oh so right about his female colleague Cate Leone.

    Cate, it turns out, is from a long line of shape-shifters and she serves not just as Strig’s love interest in Angel-Catbird, but as a half-cat she also helps corral the gang of lunk-headed, exotic cat/humans. A peculiar group that includes the hybrid cat/person/bat Count Catula.

    Strig transforms into a human/cat/owl creature, much to his surprise. Then rats start to show up at the cat’s exclusive nightclub the Catastrophe and things get out of hand: It turns out that the rats are controlled by Muroid, who is half-rat himself. He’s more than a bit crazy, rubbing his hands together in glee as he proceeds with his plans for total world domination. Um, his Plan for Total World Domination, with the help of his little rat people. And there’s no space for cats in a world run by rats, that’s for sure.

    Detail from "Angel-Catbird #1 HB"

    Written by Margaret Atwood, an author whose name you might be more familiar with if you read novels and poetry, Angel-Catbird is fun, but seems like it’s aimed more at a teen audience. There’s a lack of depth in the storytelling that is so characteristic of more adult graphic novels. It’s also littered with factoids about domestic cats, about indoor versus outdoor cats, about the number of birds estimated killed annually by outdoor cats, etc. Interesting, but by placing them as footnotes throughout the story, they killed the narrative flow and pulled me out of the story time and again.

    Still, Atwood and artist Johnnie Christmas set up a classic good versus evil tension, complete with the diabolical genius and the ingenue love interest, so in some sense it’s a classic adventure mystery. Atwood herself says she aimed for a noir, 40’s style mystery, but Angel-Catbird isn’t anywhere near dark enough for a true noir tale. Nonetheless, if you’re a cat person you’ll love this, and if you just like chewing on part human, part animal stories, well, I’d pounce on this one if I were you!

    Angel-Catbird #1 HB, written by Margaret Atwood, art by Johnnie Christmas, colors by Tamra Bonvillain, letters by Nate Piekos of Blambot. Published by Dark Horse Books on Sept 7, 2016.

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    Review: Aliens: Defiance #1 — Suck It Up, Soldier!

    Review of Aliens: Defiance #1

    aliens: defiance #1Private First Class Zula Hendricks thinks she is aboard a ship full of Weyland-Yutani Corporate Security Drones (combat synthetics) solely as a mater of protocol. Weyland-Yutani has claimed salvage rights to a mass hauler adrift in space with no functioning transponder or communication. Because of the ship’s location, a Colonial Marine must board the craft with Weyland-Yutani’s androids to enter a code and transfer the craft’s flight recorder data.

    In the first pages of Aliens: Defiance, Episode 1: Derelict, we see that PFC Hendricks was severely wounded in the line of duty and required intensive reconstructive surgery to her spine, nanotherapy, and rehab to be able to even walk. The fact that she is still serving on active duty is a testament to her grit and determination. This mission is the Colonial Marines’ version of light duty until she makes a full recovery.

    The story sets up in much the way you would expect: Upon boarding the hauler, Zula discovers the ship isn’t completely devoid of life. There are no live humans aboard. There are…wait for it…Xenomorphs! As formulaic as this sounds for the franchise, with Weyland-Yutani wanting to capture and weaponize Xenomorphs and sending an unwitting crew into almost certain demise, there’s actually a very interesting and unexpected twist that sets this series apart from its predecessors.

    Brian Wood gives us honest, whole characters that make sense. PFC Zula Hendricks comes across as a very proud and determined soldier who is reticent to show any weakness at all, making her all the more determined during her lengthy recovery period. Synthetic Davis shows a range of emotion and actions that are wholly unexpected from a Weyland-Yutani synthetic.

    The art by Tristan Jones is remarkable. The set pieces are tight and claustrophobic when the crew is battling Xenomorphs, and the reader is reminded that there really is nowhere to run in open space. A hole in a suit or a crack in a helmet can be a death sentence.

    Dan Jackson gives us great filters of light and dark. The scenes on board Colonial and Weyland-Yutani ships are light, well lit, airy. The scenes aboard the doomed hauler are dark, spooky, lit in reds and yellows. I don’t think colorists get nearly enough credit for their contributions to great comics, but at least half of the setting is the color. If it isn’t right, there’s nothing scary about the best written script or the most brilliantly drawn panel.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the first chapter of this twelve part series. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on Aliens: Defiance, Episode 2: Kinetic.

    Aliens: Defiance #1, Dark Horse Comics, released April 27, 2016, script by Brian Wood, art by Tristan Jones, colors by Dan Jackson, lettering by Nate Piekos of Blambot, cover by Massimo Carnivale, 30th Anniversary variant cover art by Mark A. Nelson, $3.59

    Review by Brendan Allen.

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    Review: The Shadow Glass #1

    Review: The Shadow Glass #1

    The Shadow Glass, #1London. The mid-1560’s. And for one young lass, Rosalind, it’s a place where she can dress as a boy so that she can carry a sword and enjoy some of the greater freedoms afforded young men of the era. But when it’s revealed that her father is dying of a tumor, Rose learns that her lineage is a bit more complicated, and that her biological father is a man named Thomas Hughes, a man who has vanished from her life entirely. Until the very last page of issue #1, where he makes a surprise reappearance!

    The title object of the story is also the center of the mystery, a scrying mirror that lets those who know the ancient oaths and prayers to use as a window into another dimension and to communicate with the spirit world. In this first issue we just know there’s a precious black mirror held in a wooden chest, but subsequent issues bring the Shadow Glass to the fore, as fans of the series will learn.

    Unusually, The Shadow Glass #1 is both written and drawn by the same person, Aly Fell, and it’s beautifully done. The story moves along with grace, but it’s the panels and costumes that mark this as a highly collectible series and the artist as one you might want to look up for commissions. His style is that good.

    Unfortunately, the storyline is a bit harder to follow, and it wasn’t until I read the summary of the series on Dark Horse that I learned that Rose is a student of “England’s greatest occultist” who is “the Queen’s occult advisor.” This is not information easily gleaned from this first issue, for sure, suggesting that perhaps a co-writer could have been a good addition to The Shadow Glass.

    Still, if for nothing else than the beautiful artwork, it’s worth picking up The Shadow Glass #1 and seeing if the story grabs you. Sneak peak: Issue #2 brings a lot more occult into the story.

    The Shadow Glass #1, story and art by Aly Fell, letters by Nate Piekos. Published by Dark Horse, March 2016.

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    The Best Comics of 2015 – Part 1 of 5 – Dark Horse


    As we look forward to the new year, we want to stop and remember the great books that were released in 2015. What follows is the first in a series of five “Best Comics of 2015” posts we’ll be posting through January 6. Starting January 7, you’ll have the opportunity to weigh in and help us crown the Best Comic of 2015!

    Known for publishing licensed books such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Conan, Predator, and Tomb Raider, Dark Horse Comics also has a strong commitment to creator-owned series. Series like Colder, Usagi Yojimbo, Hellboy, ElfQuest hit the shelves month in and month out. If you see the horse on the cover, you’re going to get a great comic!

    The Best of Dark Horse (in no particular order):

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    Fight Club 2
    By: Chuck Palahniuk, Cameron Stewart, Dave Stewart, Nate Piekos, David Mack

    I know that I’m about to break the first rule of Fight Club, but I think the sequel warrants a little leeway, don’t you? In the 10 years that we’ve waited for Chuck Palahniuk to invite us to Fight Club again, we’ve been hoping that Marla and the novel’s protagonist were free of Durden and were left to settle in to normal lives. It seems as if others–even Marla herself–have other plans.

    Throwing us right back into the ring, Palahniuk delivers Fight Club 2, a story that is equally compelling to fans of the book and the movie. Palahniuk teams with Eisner-award winner Cameron Stewart to take us for a full-on beat down, and I’ve loved every minute of it.

    One thing that really stood out to me from the first issue was Chuck Palahniuk and Cameron Stewart’s panel design. From the first page you get this feeling that this isn’t Chuck’s first time writing for comics. Cameron Stewart flexes his artistic muscle, resulting in art that will forever take over when I re-read the novel. And I’m completely ok with that.

    You wanted more Tyler? You got more Tyler! [Martin M.]

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    By: Rafael Albuquerque, Mike Johnson, Nate Piekos

    What happens to your keys or that matching sock when you lose them? The short answer is that they’re in The Meld. Here’s the long answer. Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson’s five-issue miniseries, ei8ht takes us on a journey to a place that exists outside of time. Past, present, and future meet in a story that draws you in and keeps you hooked right up until the end.

    The team expertly uses color to help the reader know when we are, with the past in green, present in purple, and future in blue. The resulting effect is that a seemingly disjointed story comes together in a way we haven’t seen before.

    ei8ht is one of those books that’s a little off the beaten path, but sticks with you after you read it and I’m so glad I gave it a chance. The first arc was captivating and hinted at a much larger world for future (or past) stories, and I’m 100% on board for the next trip. [Josh C.]

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    Lady Killer
    By: Joëlle Jones, Jamie S. Rich, Laura Allred

    Co-written by Jamie S. Rich and Joëlle Jones, Lady Killer is a tour de force unlike anything modern day comics has seen in a very long time.

    Many people liken the series to Hannibal, Silence of the Lambs or Dexter, but really, Lady Killer is in a league all its own. The series takes the classic idea of the American housewife and turns it, rather violently, on its blood-soaked ear from the get go.

    The strength of the story’s main character, Josie Schuller, hits on the struggle to take back what was once “yours.” To find a place that you can come to in your life where you have to work as hard as you possibly can to make a bad thing right. If there is any analogy that I can take away from this story, it’s that you can take control of your life. And Josie is a strong character that will take her life back, screaming, bloody and impaled, but at the end, her life will be hers.

    The storytelling is flawless as is the characterization that Jamie and Joëlle bring to the table. The world they create is rich and filled with colorful and villainous characters that make you actually fear for Josie and her family. This fear for the main character within the comics world is indeed a rare and welcome commodity as it serves to create an emotional connection with Josie and her family, and makes this book a tense page-turner. [Ethan S.]

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    Harrow County
    By: Cullen Bunn, Tyler Crook

    A book that will make your skin crawl, literally. Witten by the prolific Cullen Bunn (the busiest man in comics), Harrow County is a creepy little piece of Southern Gothic storytelling. The story centers on a young girl named Emmy, around her 18th birthday she begins to get visions and exhibit strange powers. Is she an instrument of good or evil is the question that forms the spine of this delightfully unsettling horror book.

    Tyler Crook’s art is both gorgeous and at times disturbing. At its core this is a coming of age story about a young girl questioning her future and her path in life as the world she knows and people around are changed forever. Like the best horror stories, the scariest things are the seemingly familiar. [John C.]

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    Archie Vs. Predator
    By: Alex de Campi, Fernando Ruiz, Rich Koslowski, Jason Millet, John Workman

    Archie’s no stranger to being prey—after all, Betty and Veronica have been pursuing him for more than 70 years! But what happens when he’s up against the universe’s most terrifying hunters? Dark Horse and Archie Comics teamed up this year to bring us Archie vs. Predator by Alex de Campi (Grindhouse, No Mercy), Fernando Ruiz (Archie: The Married Life), and Rich Koslowski (Three Fingers), delivering equal measures of gore and humor, and making it one of my favorite miniseries of 2015!

    Archie vs. Predator starts out like any ordinary tale from Riverdale: Jughead wins a luxury beach vacation and brings the whole gang out for spring break. A popularity contest and a confrontation between Betty and Veronica ensues. However, when things quickly escalate, a vengeful Betty accidentally attracts the attention of a Predator, who follows them home. Ridiculously violent hijinks ensue.

    De Campi shines a thoughtful light on the age-old triangle of America’s favorite teenagers–and the back-and-forth between Betty and Veronica–and it’s endlessly fun to see such rampant gore in the classic Archie style. A must-read! [Elisabeth F.]

    Honorable Mentions:

    Stay tuned to the TFAW Blog in the coming days as we’ll be posting four more Best Comics of 2015 lists. At the end, YOU will decide which one will be crowned as the Best Comic of 2015!


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