Comic Shop Spotlight: COMICS FTW - Santa Rosa, California

COMICS-FTW--LOGOFor our first edition of our Spotlight on awesome comic book shops, we talk with Kris Bartolome, main operator at Santa Rosa, California’s Comics FTW.  This is an awesome and incredibly friendly guy with an amazing store, and we are very happy to have had this chance to question him a bit.  So, here we go…!


- As an introduction - Name, Rank, and Serial Number?

Kris Bartolome. Owner, manager, and janitor of Comics FTW. I’m pretty much the only one here.

- Quick question - who came up with the shop name?  I love it.

Oh man, I seriously spent about a month going back and forth on a long list of names. A lot of really terrible names: The Comic Spot, The Comic Shop of DOOM (yeah, all caps on “DOOM”), 2 Guys 1 Shop (I had a business partner in the early stages), On Comic Ground (Already taken, and in hindsight I really don’t dig the name), and a bunch of other really shitty ones. One day, I was talking to my cousin and asked him if anything really caught his attention and he randomly joked “You should just call it Comics FTW.”

- Comics FTW is a relatively recent addition to Northern California’s shifting collection of comic shops.  I’m curious as to how the current world-wide financial situation, as well as any personal hurdles, might have made opening Comics FTW difficult?  More to the point, how did you come to doing what every comic fan dreams of - opening your own shop?

I’ve been a comic fan since 3rd grade and like so many others, I’ve always dreamed of doing this. I worked for a little while at another shop owned by a good friend of mine, and became very familiar with the processes that go on in running a comic book store. I also did the retail grind after that for seven years, and studied Business and Economics in college. At some point, I decided that I didn’t like being so directionless and wanted to pursue this comic shop thing while I was young and still able to get back on my feet in case things flopped.

The biggest hurdle in opening a new comic shop is having the start-up capital. People like to have this idea that they can walk into a bank and just get a loan like it’s nothing, but the truth is that no bank or credit union wants to fund a risky venture like comic book retail. Opening the shop meant saving a LOT of my own income and draining a lot of my own credit cards.

- Though I first visited Comics FTW after you had been open for a bit already, I’ve been able to watch the shop grow and change for the better, and in many ways.  Having being lead to your shop by your awesome subscription/pull list service, it makes me wonder what changes might be your favorite since you’ve opened?  Also, what kind of ideas do you see for the near (or far) future?

Initially, my plan was to have a tiered discount system, with bigger discounts for longer pull lists. I immediately decided to make the 20% discount across the board when I saw that it was a big draw. Also, the decision to bag and board all comics on the wall was made the day before opening. I had always planned to offer free bags and boards for purchased comics, but I initially thought I’d be bagging and boarding at the counter as I sold the issues. After seeing the difference in visual presentation, it seemed like a no-brainer. It’s a lot of little stuff like that. How things are presented and displayed is important to me, and I think it’s made a difference in first impressions with the shop. Most of my changes revolve around making the shop look better, or making processes more efficient. That’s why people often comment that it feels like the shop is always changing. I just always find things to improve. I’ll never have a “perfect” shop.

- One of my favorite aspects of your shop has been the way you handle the “Variant” versions of certain issues that you get from publishers.  Most stores mark them up and sell them for double digit prices, yet the way FTW goes about it is very different.  Could you explain first how shops get these, and maybe some of the thinking behind the way FTW handles them?

Variant covers are usually incentives for retailers for ordering more copies of an issue. A shop can order one copy for every target amount of issues they order. It usually varies in how much a shop has to order, and can be anywhere from 10 to 1000. These variant covers almost always sell well above retail price, but the cost is the same as one regular issue (provided you order the target amount of regular issues). It wouldn’t be unusual for a store to set these issues aside and mark them up and sell them at these higher prices. Stores have been doing this forever. I actually raffle off any variants for free. In order to be qualified, you just have to be subscribed to a series that gets a raffle. After a couple weeks, I randomly grab a name and drop the variant into that subscriber’s box.

Generally speaking, I prefer to think long-term with most aspects of my business. Raffling rare covers in this way foregoes any profit I would’ve made on those items, but is a very attractive feature to subscribers. Folks have more incentive with asking me to pull their books for the next few months or years. I’m sure other owners and even customers think my decision to do this is crazy, but I know my current subscribers are happy about it and I know that new, prospective subscribers find it interesting.

- You also run a good number of ‘special nights’ like your HeroClix Tournaments, group artwork sessions, midnight comic releases and more!  What’s your favorite among these, and what plans do you have for future ‘special’ things like these?

The game nights are fun, but the midnight releases and Free Comic Day are great business days, but my favorite is our Chill N’ Sketch nights where artists of all ages and skill levels hang out at the shop and just draw. It’s awesome because it fosters this really fun community of cool people with shared interests, and more and more people become interested in being involved in it. I’m always looking for things to set this shop apart from the others, especially in ways that make the business feel closer to the community. Things like Chill N’ Sketch make the shop less “the place where we buy comics” and more “that place we love going to and want to support.”

- Speaking from your own sales at Comics FTW, rather than the overall sale numbers world or nation-wide, what has been the most successful ongoing title for you, so far?  On that same note, which of the major crossover events have made the biggest splash?  Are there any that you’re looking forward to, in either a personal or business sense?  How about any that you’re not too excited about?

People don’t know this, but DC’s New 52 launch pretty much tripled my subscriptions. The first year was a real struggle, then this amazing (and controversial) thing happened and, for me, DC accomplished what they set out to do. It just made business a lot easier for me, and attracted so many new comic readers.

Event-wise, we did a midnight launch for Avengers vs. X-Men and it ended up being this huge party and drew a lot of attention to the crossover. I’ve had more subscribers for that main series than any other book. The events do well for me because of all the extra tie-ins that people want to buy, regardless of how good the story turns out to be. As a fan, I’m not too fond, but as a businessman, I keep my mouth shut. That’s not to say all of them are bad, but I’ve learned to be neutral about my tastes.

- You have an incredible amount of independent titles, from new issues to collections.  Have any favorites?  On the ‘business’ side’, which title/collection seems to be the most popular?

I’m not sure if Image Comics count as indy anymore, but a lot of their titles are doing extremely well lately. I do sell a decent amount of smaller press books, but the majority of them are through subscriptions as opposed to selling off of the comic wall.

- The DC and Marvel competitiveness seems to be reaching a new level, what with DC’s “New 52” and the recently launched “Marvel NOW!”.  Knowing that “Marvel NOW!” is still in its initial launch phase, while DC’s “New 52” has already entered its 2nd year, what do you feel have been the strengths and weaknesses with the two?

The strength of New 52 is it’s across the board revamp. Anyone can jump into a book without any previous knowledge of the character’s history. I had new subscribers that were much more open-minded because they didn’t have to worry about going back too far. At the same time, a lot of the creative direction for most of the characters didn’t change too much. A few books did have some drastic changes, and some of the books were just very good in general, but it didn’t feel like the majority of it was “new”. Alternatively, it feels like Marvel NOW has taken a lot of key books in very different creative directions, bringing a fresh perspective on old characters. At the same time, a lot of these aren’t as well-received as the New 52 books were, and some are just downright horrible.

- Running a comic store usually means little to no time to actually read and experience some of your product, but I wonder - any individual title, trade collection, or graphic novel that has been important and/or cool enough that you’ve been unable to resist keeping up with or sitting down to read (in the case of trades and graphic novels)?

The truth is, my personal monthly read list is pretty small. But I always stop everything I’m doing when I pull one of the titles out of the box and read it then and there. I actually read a little of everything (good or bad) to keep up with what’s going on, but currently the only things I really wait for are: Saga, Walking Dead, Batman, and Avengers. The list rotates often though. Scalped was easily my favorite book, but it ended last year. I also really dug Wolverine and the X-Men but I just haven’t been feeling it lately. I always keep an eye out for new crime/noir and horror stuff that generally comes out more sporadically.

- You have a very wide variety of non-print comic memorabilia, as well as items from other mediums such as film and television.  I must say, every time I visit I get lost in all of the figures, collector sets, etc.  What are some of the Top Sellers in this area, as far as character, film, TV show, etc.?  What would you say was the overall favorite?  Any come to mind that have been difficult to move?

For toys, I move a LOT of older Marvel figures. It’s hard to compete against big box retailers with new action figure lines, so I tend to focus on secondary market items. Marvel figures, particularly Marvel Legends, are always popular. Superhero figures in general sell a lot better for me than Star Trek, GI Joe, or Star Wars stuff. I also stopped carrying a big selection of busts and statues as those don’t seem to move very well either, regardless of who the character is.

- Just about every fan has that one comic, that one character, or that one graphic novel that changed the way they saw the medium.  For some it can be something that simply just opens their eye to the fact that comics are *awesome*, while others it’s something that took their already comic-loving mind and blew it open with new possibilities of what comics are capable of.  What would yours be?

I first started reading comics in elementary school with those old Marvel Team-Ups, and continued from there into a LOT of 80’s and 90’s X-Men. I’d say my view of the medium in general changed after I read The Dark Knight Returns. I’d never really been exposed to the darker, grittier side until that book, and I read Watchmen not too long after.

Sometime in high school, I was doing a research paper on comics in the 60’s and found a bunch of books on more underground stuff by creators like Robert Crumb. That led me into reading things from Harvey Pekar, Daniel Clowes, Peter Bagge, Adrian Tomine, the Hernandez brothers and a bunch others. I’d say high school was when my comic tastes expanded the most, as I was looking for new reading in every genre and I came to be more open-minded about indy books.

- Care to talk a bit about some of your favorite people in comics?  I mean in regards to writers, artists, etc.?  Any new ones you’ve gotten into?  Any old favorites who have kept their work strong all this time?

I’ve got a soft spot for Sergio Aragones. My dad took me to my first Comic Con when we lived in San Diego, and as an elementary school kid, I was lost. Then one day, this guy calls out to me to come over to his table and asked if I knew about Groo. He showed me a bunch of his work, drew a sketch of Groo for me, and gave me a signed copy of a first issue. I didn’t realize until way later who he was.

When I first started reading comics, I was all about Spider-Man, and Todd McFarlane was the guy. Him, Erik Larsen, and Jim Lee were my favorites. As I came to appreciate writers more in my older years, I tended to like Chris Claremont at first, then Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, and a few others.

Nowadays, I’m a huge fan of Jason Aaron, Jonathan Hickman, and Brian K. Vaughan. My favorite artists are Olivier Coipel and John Romita Jr. I try not to exclusively follow certain creators though, and I’m always checking out new stuff.

- Final question, and a common and cheap one, at that!  Who’s your favorite comic book character, superhero or otherwise?

I started with Spider-Man, and I’m pretty sure it’ll always be Spider-Man. He’s the underdog, but he’s got heart and the true essence of his character isn’t his powers, but his sense of responsibility. Plus he’s fun to read, and that’s the most important thing to me about comics.








INTERVIEW: Craig Schroeder of “HIT!” and Gentleman Baby Comics

Picture-small1Craig Shroeder, along with artist Daniel Hooker, are getting ready to release not only their first comic collaboration together, but also the first title for Craig’s Gentleman Baby Comics, a small press imprint sure to have a whole line of amazing titles as time goes by.  The ideas for “HIT!” are fresh, the writing tight and clever, and the artwork lends its own style - making this a comic to watch for!  Links for their Kickstarter, main website, and more are found at the end of the interview.  Hey - even some sample pages from the comic and photos of the creators!  Okay, here we go:


- We’ll start with the basic first question: what do you do when you’re not working on “HIT!”, or on future endeavors with Gentleman Baby Comics?

Both Daniel and I have day jobs. I work for the state of Florida and Daniel does graphic design. I always get self-conscious describing hobbies and what-not, but bear with me. I’m a bit of a cinephile and I spend a lot of time watching movies and catching up on good TV shows. I also read a lot of comics. I have been reading a lot of Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire right now, I don’t think there are any better writers working currently. I’ve had to balance my full-time job with writing this comic and launching Gentleman Baby Comics so that doesn’t leave a whole lot of extra time. And I would be in big trouble if I didn’t mention by lovely wife, Jessica (we’re about to celebrate our second anniversary), and our dog Scout.

- Give us a quick rundown of the premise for this comic.  I really find it excitingly interesting!

HIT! is about Connor Connolly, orphaned as a child, he was raised by Patrick O’Reilly, boss of the Irish crime syndicate in Boston. Connor becomes a brute for the mob. Their biggest muscle. Our story picks up in Hot Springs, AK., where Connor has been dispatched to perform a hit on an anonymous pair living in the suburbs. Connor is efficient and brutal, so when the plan goes sour Connor is caught off-guard. Furthermore, he discovers it’s not coincidence he’s been sent to Arkansas and a part of his past comes surging back into his life. It’s a six-issue arc, but each issue has a kind of self-contained story that propels Connor to the eventual conclusion.

- Can you tell us about your Kickstarter, and some of the awesome gifts you can get for backing it?  I really love the gift package where you can have yourself drawn into #1 as a target of a hit man.  Very clever!

We’re so excited about the Kickstarter. In just 12 days we reached our goal. We wanted to try and have some creative rewards. There’s some really cool comic book merch, like buttons, pins and stickers, but we wanted to do something really personal to the book. So we decided to draw some fans into the book. We have four rewards (two for men and two for women) where the backer can have their likeness drawn into a panel of the book. Of those four, we have one remaining. And for a little bit more, a backer is able to have their likeness drawn into the comic to be assassinated! We just wanted to provide some rewards that are a bit more intimate, without these backs we’d still be e-mailing ideas back and forth, so now that they are making this happen for us, we wanted to be able to give some really awesome rewards.

- Judging from the NPR interview, your meeting Daniel Hooker was almost like fate.  How did you get in touch with Daniel?  What drew you to his work?  His style is great, and I feel a perfect fit for what I’ve seen of the book.

Yeah, it was just an opportune moment in both of our lives, unbeknownst to either of us. I had been working on HIT! for several months and needed someone to do some sample panels for me. I knew Daniel through some mutual friends though we hadn’t really connected in some time. But, we were friends on Facebook and I had seen his art before. His art (to me) had a kind of fantastic and whimsical element to it, but was still grounded in reality. Even with our kind of gritty, noir comic, there is a kind of a fantastical element (that I still can’t quite put my finger on) that just seemed to lend itself perfectly to the kind of comic we wanted to make. I contacted him to do some sample panels. I was (and still am) very naive to the industry and my original intentions were to sell my script to an indie publisher. After going to a few cons, I realized a majority of the indie publishers in Florida had started a label to produce their own comic. And I’m a control freak so that immediately was an idea I was drawn to. I contacted Daniel again and asked if he’d be interested in doing the whole book. Daniel said he was so I emailed him the whole script and we’ve been working on it since.

- You weren’t headed straight for comics coming out of college.  I was wondering - did you have any goals set at the time, before comic writing banged your door in?  In other words, did you see yourself in possibly a different job, or working towards a different career?

Most definitely. I always wanted to write. I just wasn’t sure what. I always loved short stories, I am a huge fan of Flannery O’Connor and Raymond Carver who write really intimate and interpersonal short stories. And I always thought that was my “thing”. I tried writing short stories, some I liked some I didn’t, but the entire process just frustrated me. As a writer, and this may seem odd to people who don’t write, but you kind of know when what you’re writing has the potential to be something better. For me at least, there is a kind of excitement when I hit a beat in a story that works really well and it propels me into writing more. The more good stuff I think I’m writing, the more I write. Well, out of college, I wasn’t really writing anything that I felt good about or proud of. I tried to write and I was really just getting frustrated. Then when I started dabbling with comic book scripts, something clicked and I got that feeling again. I was finally excited about what I was writing.

- I understand you got the original idea for this comic during the final phase of a “Intro to Writing Graphic Novels” class.  How much of this idea is still in the finished scripts?  Any interesting things that were left out or put into the story?

Yeah, it was through an online writing community called LitReactor. I’ve always liked comics and read comics, but since I can’t draw a lick, it never dawned on me that there is an aspect of creating a comic book that has nothing to do with drawing. So I took this class and the final assignment was to write a one-issue comic of about twenty-two pages. The original idea for HIT! and the finished product are pretty similar. The original idea just came from a love of gangster/noir comics and movies. I was just kind of musing one day and I thought what if the most ruthless and formidable gangster I can think up, just gets brought to his knees physically and emotionally in one failed job. So I started writing this comic, which I originally intended to be just a one-shot. But as I started I realized I liked the characters a whole lot and they gave me so much room to expand the story and really pick apart the relationships between these thugs, essentially.

- Speaking of this class, what can you tell us about the experience?  I know there were some amazing guests/instructors.  What is the strongest thing you took from the class, in terms of the ‘big picture’ of your writing comics?

It was a great class. It was taught by Bree Ogden who is a literary agent and comic writer out of Seattle. She was really great, both from a creative and business standpoint. The experience was really great and as far as extracting a single “big picture” take-home I really can’t narrow it down. I really think the class just pulled back the curtain on comics for me. It helped me realize that there is a creative process in comic books that I’m not only capable of but I relate to.

- The whole idea of Gangsters existing within a super power/superhero type of world is great!  With this you mention films by Martin Scorsese as being a huge influence. 

I feel like I must clarify, in that our gangsters don’t have superpowers. The template for my story I wanted to be like a classic super hero vs. villain story line but set in a kind recognizable world of gangsters and thugs. So I wanted Connor to be my Batman and Patrick to be my Joker. I feel like the majority of crime stories are about thugs vs. the law or Gang 1 vs. Gang 2; I wanted to try and create a gangster story that pitted two daunting gangsters against one another to do battle like Superman vs. Lex Luthor.

That being said, Martin Scorsese is a huge influence. I’m sure there are some subconscious parallels between my characters and his, but the part of Scorsese that I tried to emulate the most is how good he is at making you have genuine feelings for really despicable people. There’s not a whole lot of redeeming qualities to Joe Pesci’s Nicky Santoro in Casino, but when he gets in the corn field it’s hard not to feel for the guy. Connor does some awful things, but there is never a doubt in anyone’s mind that he is and will remain the hero of the piece. And I think that’s what Scorsese does at his best.

- As the writer of this upcoming series, what were some of the main themes you were trying to hit on?  Also, what are some of the things you took in as inspiration for this, other than Scorsese?

Oh man, I almost want to plead the fifth here, so as not to give away the twist in Issue 1 that propels the rest of the series. But I’ll be vague and obnoxious instead: Connor, a man who has been trained to have no emotion, has lived with a sizable emotional void in his life. I kind of wanted to explore what it’s like for a guy in this world to suddenly and unexpectedly have that void fulfilled.

As far as inspiration goes, I’ve just been reading a lot! The guys who I’ve connected the most with during this whole process have been Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire. I think I like them so much because they write these really broad and ambitious stories that are so grounded and character driven. For example, Lemire’s The Underwater Welder has this really ambitious and fantastic science-fiction element that takes a complete back seat to how perfectly he explores the psyche of the main character.

- I really find your villain, Patrick O’Reilly, very interesting.  From his character design to what has been mentioned about him thus far, he feels like a serious man you wouldn’t want to tangle with.  Were there any heavy inspirations that brought this character to life?

I’m not sure. I’ve joked with my Dad a little bit, because I didn’t realize until Daniel started drawing the characters that he looks a lot like my father. (I want to go ahead and clarify, that he is not inspired by my dad. When the series progresses and Patrick gets really vile, I don’t want there to be any confusion). I had the most fun with Patrick because I wanted to create a really dichotomous villain. I specifically made him look non-threatening and malleable so when he turns into a monster it is that much more unsettling. I’m also a horror movie geek and my favorite kinds of horror movies are the kind of smart and calm psychopaths. I think there’s just something really unnerving about a nerd in a cabbie hat screaming obscenities and ordering murders. I knew I wanted to kind of separate him from the kind of slick looking, level-headed mobsters from the movies. I always got the feeling that Don Corleone, and mobsters of his ilk, got where they were due to a mixture of moxie and finesse. I wanted to make it clear that Patrick got to where he is because he’s brutal and unstable.

- Let’s hear about some of the other main characters.  Who are they, and can you tell us something about their personal motivations and/or goals for this first story?

Other than Connor and Patrick, the other main character of Issue 1 is Bradan Byrne. Bradan’s basically a prospect, he’s been Patrick’s errand boy for years and this is the first time Patrick has sent him to do something important. Connor doesn’t like him and has basically worked out a plan so Bradan will have very few opportunities to screw anything up. Of course, I’d like to tell you about the people they’ve been sent to kill, but I think it would be best if I left you in the dark, like Connor. Throughout the series though there are a number of really cool characters that Connor embraces. One who I really enjoyed writing, is named Joey “Lips” McGee, who will appear in Issue 3. He is an antagonist to Connor and I don’t want to give away too much but he’s a bigger brute than Connor (and his nickname came about due to the gnarly scar that runs straight from under his nose to his chin, separating his lips into four quadrants).

- It really looks like you’ve been getting some great local support on this.  How has that helped in the promotion for your comic, as well as the Kickstarter?

It’s been really awesome! Our friends and family have been outstanding, not only in the Kickstarter contributions but also in spreading the word and just providing moral support. The community (we both live in Tallahassee) has also been great. We’ve been embraced by our local comic shops and were even able to set up in one this past weekend and meet the customers, and hopefully, future fans. Then there’s just been an outpouring of support from unexpected places. We were able to sit down with the local NPR affiliate and do an interview and that really helped get the word out. Also, I know it’s cliche to say it, but the power of social media has definitely been on our side. We’ve been promoting pretty hard on Facebook and Twitter and have gotten nothing but support from total strangers!

- I absolutely love the mask design for this book.  Can you tell us what went on behind the scenes when creating the masks?  Do these masks have anything to do with the character’s personality, as far as the different animals go?

When I originally wrote the script it was two ski masks rather than a wolf and a pig. But I quickly realized how boring it is to look at two faces covered in cloth for multiple pages so I decided to change it. I wanted something that kind of represented the characters personality. At the time, I don’t think I realized how fun it would be to play around with the wolf and pig masks but as I continued to write I feel like the masks really allowed me to add some cool stuff to the script. Then, once Daniel got a hold of it, it just really took off. Daniel was able to make adjustments and play with the masks even more and I think the image of the wolf and pig will be the kind of lasting image of Issue 1.

- You’ve stated you’d like to have the first issue out by Free Comic Book Day this upcoming May.  How are things looking towards having this goal completed?

Good! We’re on track as of writing this. Daniel does have a one-year old son (and another on the way) so we wanted to make sure we gave him a lot of time. Of course, there’s always obstacles and unforeseen setbacks, but as of right now we are right on track to having this thing cranked out by the beginning of May.

- You guys also seem to have plans for a lot of convention visits, including the famous San Diego Comic Con.  Do you have special plans for these conventions?  What conventions are you planning on hitting this year?

It all depends on how well the Kickstarter goes. We will definitely be hitting up the ones in Florida (except MegaCon which happens in March, so we won’t be able to make that one), but depending on how well the Kickstarter goes, we will be able to expand our convention schedule. If we get enough money we are hoping to make it to some of the conventions in Georgia and some of the surrounding states. I really don’t know what to expect as a vendor at these things, I’m nervous about being overwhelmed or ill-prepared. That being said, I think we have some cool ideas: I want to get a few friends to take turns dressed like Connor and Bradan in their wolf and pig outfits and have them take pictures. I think that would be super fun and a really good way to help spread the word.

- Any future plans with Gentleman Baby Comics that you can talk about?  Any ideas floating around in your head?  I’m curious to see it grow, and where you can take us.

We’re trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but we have talked about some future projects. I have one story that I can’t get out of my head. I’ve talked with Daniel and he is interested in it, so hopefully when I have the time I can take these rough outlines and characters and put them together. Also, there are things I would love to try, like a great, original super hero story (who doesn’t want to write a great super hero story). Right now we’re really working hard on HIT!, but I would be lying if I said we haven’t already started thinking about what’s to come.

- Well, thank you, Craig, for sitting down with these questions!  I really want to thank you for joining us here, and for working on what will surely be a great title.  Best of luck to you guys!


All the info you need, including their main website!

Twitter: @Gentleman_Baby

REVIEW: “the Crow: Skinning the Wolves” #1

(IDW PUBLISHING, 2013)   -   Reviewed by Feral Fang

The-Crow_Skinning-The-Wolves_1-665x1024To me and a few of my good friends, the original Crow collection was an indie bible of sorts - a violent, twisted story with vibrant, black & white artwork that seemed to make every line perfect, whether it be a bit sloppy or loose.  It just fit as a package.  While there were many other indie titles and collections that I read throughout the years, the original collection still intrigues me (even with the horrid film they made of it).  This new title, subtitled “Skinning the Wolves”, is written by Crow creator James O’Barr and the artist Jim Terry, with O’Barr handling the initial breakdowns.  So, there is a lot of the older O’Barr style in this, even if just seen through some of Terry’s artwork.  A few of the breakdowns really shine through, giving way for some of the classic linework we know from earlier O’Barr artwork.  The addition of artist Jim Terry brings a new life to the Crow look (though this version seems to not have the Crow ‘make-up’).  The story opens on a Nazi gathering at a train station, unloading the ‘passengers’ to a camp.  Somewhere within this we are introduced to a tough guy/badass, who quickly takes out a few Nazi soldiers and is eventually killed.  You can see where this is headed, especially as a crow circles the camp before, during, and after the confrontation.  This title is pretty well done, though flawed.  What I didn’t like about it was the quick pacing and small number of pages.  Printed on thicker glossy stock than the usual, the book feels like a full sized story in hand, but reads in all of about 4 minutes, as there really isn’t much to it.  If anything, it seems like a preview of the title, as opposed to the first issue.  I’m figuring this is mostly due to the thick paper and the short ‘story’/introduction, which leaves me a bit curious as to what issue #2 might hold, yet also a bit annoyed at how little there is in this issue.  It really does feel like a back story.  I’ll be checking this out as it goes, so I guess we’ll see where it takes it, or doesn’t.  I’m totally “eh” on this one but, as stated, I’ll be checking out the 2nd issue, at least.  You just never know - Image Comics’ “Happy!” started out with a kinda-crappy first issue and grew into one of my favorite current titles.

2 1/2 out of 5 Snarls



REVIEW: “Captain America” #2 (Marvel NOW!)

(MARVEL NOW!, 2013)   -   Reviewed by Feral Fang

Captain-America-Marvel-NOW-2-cover-665x1024The Marvel Now! ‘Captain America’ title keeps getting better and better, and I was already excited after the first issue, so this makes me happy.  Opening up one year after the end of issue #1, we find Cap and his new side-kick roughing it - no shelter, hardly any food, dangers around every corner.  Steve Rogers has grown long hair and a beard, and the boy he is protecting (Ian) also sports a more aged look, even with it only being a year that has passed.  This shows you how much the two have gone through in the past 12 months - the battles and the hunger has nearly broken them, causing Cap to momentarily consider ending their lives.  He only toys with the idea for a split second before regaining his composure, but it was an option for a second, that’s how bad things have gotten for them.  Still trapped in Dimension Z, they deal with dangerous sand storms, a hostile environment on all fronts, and an attack by ‘the Mutates’, creatures that resemble how it might look if you mixed the Brood with Venom.  Genetically engineered ‘evil’, these creatures have varied powers and vehicles with which to attack.  This fight leads into an awesome creature reveal, which then leads us to the end of the issue, with both Cap and Ian in a very deadly situation.  The writing by Rick Remender and John Romita Jr.’s artwork are still perfectly executed, and I was excited to see more flashbacks to the younger Steve Rogers, the vulnerable and powerless kid with the world crashing around him.  The character study underlining the main storyline is great and flows perfectly from scene-to-scene.  This is still my favorite Marvel Now! title so far, and once again the team behind this book have created something really special.

— 5 out of 5 Murder-Slices



REVIEW: “JSA Liberty Files: the Whistling Skull” #1

(DC COMICS, 2013)   -   Reviewed by Feral Fang

whistling-skull-cover_510x785-small1I am seriously in love with ‘the Whistling Skull’.  Only one issue in and I can tell this is going to be a great one, one that will hopefully move from this 6-issue mini-series into a regular title.  Where should I start?  The setting and premise (or what we know of it from this first issue) works so well with Tony Harris’ unique art style that it seems like one couldn’t exist fully without the other.  B. Clay Moore’s script is witty, while still taking the characters and situations serious, to an extent.  This book is silly when it’s serious, and fun when it’s freaky.  Harris’ facial expressions are genius, and his varied character design is definitely something to look at while browsing at your local shop.  Before you buy it, of course - because I highly recommend this title!  It almost feels like an odd off-shoot of ‘Hellboy’, but in it’s own universe, style, etc.  Like it’s in the same genre, if anything.  Not because there’s Nazis (there is), not because the main character’s head is a skull (it is), and not because it deals with supernatural themes (it does).  Basically, if you like things like Hellboy, I think you will like this book.  If you happen to love Hellboy, this is definitely the book for you!  This title feels so classic, so interestingly written and visually awesome, I’d really be surprised if this isn’t a hit.  I, for one, am along for the 6 issue ride, that much I can tell you.  I just really love this title.  Here’s to 5 more stunning issues!

— 5 out of 5 Sailing Rockets