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Viper Comics

More Viper Reviews

Written and Drawn by Various

Josh Howard, the man behind DEAD @17 and LOST BOOKS OF EVE, would hardly seem like the creator you’d find behind an anthology focused on Bigfoot and Yeti. After all, he’s best known for drawing attractive young women, not big, hairy beasts. But here he is, editing and contributing to an anthology focused on the legendary creatures of the forest and snow. And adding to the ambition quotient, this is the first full-length anthology of any kind to come from Viper Comics, who had only put together 48-64 pagers previously. So there was more than a bit of curiosity on my part about how this would turn out.

The answer: pretty well, for the most part. As with all anthologies, the quality of the stories and art is a bit of a mixed bag; there are those who clearly went into the creation of their work with a strong sense of what their tale was going to be and what it meant. Others, however, lack focus, direction, and freshness right out of the gate. Howard himself leads off the book with one that works perfectly, and also manages to feel exactly like a Josh Howard story. But Robin and Lawrence Etherington’s “Memoirs of a Bigfoot” gets so focused on the beauty of its art that the story never settles and becomes compelling reading.

Amusingly, the credits for the twenty-eight pieces read like a “who’s who” of everyone who’s ever worked for Viper, which made me smile; I respect the kind of loyalty the publisher obviously creates amongst its talent. This might be the riskiest project they’ve undertaken to date, and for those who buy it, I think they’ll find it to be a satisfying one. I don’t know that I’d recommend the company get into the anthology business full-time, but if they can put out one of this quality every year or two, they’ll be doing alright for themselves.

Marc Mason

Written and Drawn by Wes Molebash

Wes Molebash’s charming webcomic gets a second printed volume, and that’s a pleasant gift for traditional and non-traditional comics fan alike. Newlyweds Andy and Katie continue to adjust to the foibles of married life, as well as navigate the lives of their best friends. Whether it’s arguing about Katie’s refusal to open Christmas gifts early or Andy’s seasonal affective disorder, Molebash finds the humor in life’s quiet moments and creates a believable, appealing strip with characters you never tire of.

There are so many standout moments in this collection that it’s hard to pick a favorite. But an early series of strips that details Andy’s accidental destruction of part of the ceiling with a golf club might be my favorite. Aided and abetted by Steve, his best friend, Andy manages to make one stupid (and in-character) blunder after another in an attempt to make sure that Katie won’t notice the damage when she gets home. Of course, those sorts of things never work, but the journey is a hoot.

Not only is this a terrific book, but by publishing these smaller collections in the strip-sized format, they’re affordable, too. Five bucks will get you this volume, and another five will get you the first one. YOU’LL HAVE THAT is a terrific value all the way around, and you’ll put the book down without ever questioning if you got your money’s worth. Wes Molebash is a talented creator, and he keeps getting better. If more comic strips were this good, the newspaper would be much less of a wasteland every day.

Marc Mason

Written by Scott Zirkel and Drawn by Courtney Huddleston

Owen Bryce is your traditionally nerdy you boy. A neighbor’s dog chases him every day. Bullies pick on him and his best friend Kyle. He loves video games… and he doesn’t have a lot of social skill otherwise. But as complicated as that might make his life, it gets a whole lot more complicated they day he runs away from the dog and suddenly finds himself fifty miles from home in an instant.

That could have been a fluke, but when he falls out of his treehouse later that day and floats rather than hitting the ground, Owen realizes he has what he always wanted: super powers! Unfortunately, he doesn’t quite know exactly what all of them are, and he has no idea how to use them. Not to mention, they don’t really seem to work unless he stops actively trying to do things with them. Plus, he makes the sad choice to wear a pink “Hers” towel as a cape the first time he goes out in public and tries to play hero.

A BIT HAYWIRE is a very charming book, lighthearted and aimed squarely at the younger audience. Huddleston’s art has a genuine and easy look about it, and his page layouts are easy for the reader to follow; any successful book that works for the youth demo must take into account that reader’s level of experience with reading, as well as reading comics, and he does that very well. The story itself has strong elements of danger and excitement to it, but nothing that would be offensive to a parent. But at the same time, there’s a subversive undercurrent to the story; essentially, if you remove the powers from the equation, Owen is dealing with hitting puberty. Changes in his body, strange moments where he loses control of his body… there’s a message here, and that message is that you have to embrace those changes and be happy with who you are. Sneaky stuff by Zirkel and Huddleston. And a good book, too.

Marc Mason

DEAD @ 17 #1
Written and Drawn by Josh Howard

At the end of the previous DEAD limited series (the finale of a trilogy), Nara was truly dead, sacrificing herself that her pregnant best friend would live, and the stage was set for a happily ever after. It was a tidy resolution, wrapped with a pretty bow. But Josh Howard left plenty of wiggle room in his universe to play in, and DEAD @ 17 has now returned as an ongoing title.

Smartly, though, this new incarnation of the book is quite different. Nara and company are allowed to rest, and a new cast is introduced, starting with 17-year old Asia Black, a young girl with some violent tendencies and a birthday a day away. Unfortunately, circumstances look to be conspiring against her, as her alcohol-fueled rage against her mother’s abusive boyfriend gets the best of her.

By presenting an all-new set of characters, Howard not only makes this new DEAD new-reader friendly, he also gives himself room to take the stories in different directions. Nara had to hide herself after she was buried and put in the grave; if (and that’s if) Asia dies from the events in this issue, no one may ever know that it happened. Only the next issue can say, and that’s part of the real appeal of a fresh start.

The art is confident, and it’s clear just how much Howard has grown as a storyteller since the first DEAD book years ago. I must admit, I was suspect when I heard that the DEAD well was going to be tapped again, but if the level of entertainment we get here can be maintained, it’ll have proved to be a good idea.

Marc Mason

Written by Jason Burns and Drawn by Ron Chan

Alan Sirois is one of the more… unusual private detectives you’ll meet. While you might think only a crazy person would want that job, in Alan’s case, you might be right. His partner is named Mr. Bloomberg, and if that doesn’t seem odd, that’s only because there’s no indication from the name that Bloomberg is a ventriloquist’s dummy.

When last we left the DSM-IV duo, they were hot on the case of a murderer who was mutilating his victims and leaving notes to Sirois on the body. Unfortunately, thanks to his mental state and his gift for being on the crime scene when the cops arrive, Alan is also a prime suspect in these crimes, and it’s hard to blame the boys in blue for thinking so.

In fact, one of the more interesting elements to the book is that you’re not quite sure at this point that Alan isn’t the killer in question. If a man has had a mental break strong enough that he believes in the life of his dummy, there’s nothing to convince you that he’s not quite off enough to start killing people. That’s a testimony to just how well Burns has made Alan and Bloomberg live on the page. They’re a fascinating pair, and strong enough that the mystery doesn’t threaten to overwhelm them as the core of the book.

Whoever the killer is, they’re toying with the protagonists in brutal fashion, and plenty of trouble is ahead of them. DUMMY’S GUIDE is a lot of fun, and features one of the most unique casts of characters on the stands right now. Give it a look and I think you’ll find it enjoyable.

Marc Mason

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