Review – The Paybacks #1

26259Writers: Donny Cates and Eliot Rahal
Art: Geoff Shaw
Colors: Lauren Affe
Letters: Michael Heisler
Cover: Geoff Shaw and Lauren Affe
Published by: Dark Horse Comics

Running around in the superhero business isn’t easy, gadgets, cars, jets and other equipment aren’t exactly easy to come across. Paybacks looks at the other side of the superhero world with what comes after your series goes bust or those great crimes turn out as pretty mundane. We see a vibrant cast of ex-heroes now acting as repo heroes that invade and reclaim all those wonderful toys and locations for their boss to help work off their own debts. It’s complicated to say the least but it carries a sense of action and humor that let it flow with sitcom quality.

Issue 1 of The Paybacks brings our team into the world of Night Knight and his amazing Unicorn. Saving the day while his mansion and secret lair get completely ransacked by the repo team. It’s a unique situation for sure, the lovely Night Knight isn’t quite a front-page hero although his situations are far from light-hearted or even innocent. It’s a welcoming introduction, pitting the classical hero pondering their profession and the world while they’re largely unaware of the rummaging through their estate until it’s too late.

Donny Cates and Eliot Rahal do a great job bringing the central characters to life while also slowly teasing the lives of the Payback team to readers, no one hogs up too much space to confuse the narrative and with the backstory coming in tidbits, it seems we’ll learn all about the team in due time.

Geoff Shaw and Lauren Affe bring to life the Night Mare and the world of The Paybacks, I think that’s how it goes… That said it’s a traditional presentation with sharper angles that accent the bodies and pages but it’s not so serious and rigid that punch lines and awkward moments can’t shine. The panels feel natural and the characters compliment the twists and quirks of the storyline as the moment itself catches them by surprise.

We’re only getting a tight sampling of The Paybacks in issue #1 but it’s enough to capture interest to see where this story and their radical lives and workplace hazards turn next.

Links: Preview | Pre-Order
Release Date: September 16, 2015

Story:★★★★½ 
Art:★★★★½ 
Dialog:★★★★★ 
Overall:★★★★½ 

Review – King Tiger #1

22470Script: Randy Stradley
Artist: Douglas Wheatley
Colors: Rain Beredo
Lettering: Michael Heisler
Cover Art: Douglas Wheatley and Rain Beredo
Publisher: Mike Richardson
Published by: Dark Horse Comics

King Tiger is on the scene, a mystic warrior able to combine combat and sorcery to take on supernatural foes and worlds. Or at least that’s the general idea, our first issue takes us to Nevada with a cult on the move and lingering tales of false hope sedating our true instincts flow as Milo and Tiger prepare for their next challenge.

While some have super mysterious lairs and otherworldly escapes, Tiger calls Rikki’s place his home base. Her large mansion / villa in Nevada plays host to pools, cars and incredible space. It pays to run around as a supernatural warrior these days, Rikki is a laid back, independent and handy to solve her own troubles while also tackling the needs of Tiger and she has the cashflow to handle anything else that comes up. We learn little bits about Milo including his experience on the streets and that he’s frankly seen some stuff in his time so he feels reliable. The story on Tiger isn’t so easy to come across, he prefers to hide his origins and details of his powers, after coming to America he spent a bit of his time gaming casinos and using his powers in a less noble fashion until facing a lynch mob from the casino staff.

King Tiger has a refined delivery, the pacing highlights multiple timelines and situations while able to keep a parallel storyline. Tiger and his friends operating in their latest situation while evil deeds run deep within the desert and brew for them. Characters come with their own quirks and the art delivery helps match up the script just right, the way we experience characters like Milo and Tiger, seeing their expressions and gestures after this storm that precluded the issue. It’s a unique blend of story and illustration as many pages carry dialogue along instead of landscapes or action and speedy moments.

Douglas Wheatley goes to work on illustrating the world of King Tiger, the mansion, the portals to other worlds and times and all the perks that come for Tiger when living with Rikki. Rain Beredo works to help complement this with careful choices in ambience, the world does not simply glow, it uses focal points throughout the pages to help direct the reader from their eyes just wandering. In simple daily life scenes and especially in action we see a careful hand guiding the experience along by pencil and brush.

Overall, King Tiger #1 delivers on a promising story arc for readers to enjoy, certainly there’s a mix of mysticism, supernatural and just plain messed up scenarios that should capture readers of the genre.

Links: Preview | Pre-Order
Release Date: August 12, 2015

Story:★★★★☆ 
Art:★★★★½ 
Dialog:★★★★☆ 
Overall:★★★★☆ 

Review – Conan The Avenger #16 The Blood Oasis Part One

Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Brian Ching
Cover Artist: Jason Felix
Published by: Darkhorse Comics

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Cover by Jason Felix

A mysterious oasis with a massive inland lighthouse beckons to Conan amidst the scorching sands. Answering a call for help, he offers assistance, only to realize too late all is not what it seems—he’s stumbled into a trap!

Now free from Princess Thalis of Stygian, Conan and Natala journey through the south desert of Stygian, Natala pleads her frustrations of the pass events and how Conan seemed to not have cared, meanwhile Conan notices a sandstorm and the two take refuge as the storm passes, as the storm passes Conan notices 3 armored soldiers and beings to attack them, under the impression that the soldiers are from Thalis strikes them down, just as when Conan is about to finish one them off, one of them takes off his helmet and introduces himself as Valerius of Khauran.

Valerius tells Conan and Natala that he and a unknown companion are too is looking for the Oasis’s so the two decide to travel together, meanwhile in the shadows we see a man watching from the shadows in nearby desert stone. But it didn’t take long before he was expose by Conan, the man introduces himself as Kerim Shah from Iranistan, he tells them he’s just a traveler on business but Conan and Valerius don’t buy it and Conan states that if Kerim is lying he’ll take him out.

Later on the group finds Akrel the Tower of Silence a well-known temple/castle, at the front of the Tower of Silence a camp that has been set up by unknown soldiers is invested be vultures, as they get closer they see that the vultures are picking at the dead bodies of the soldiers, Conan and the others look around to see if anyone was alive and sure enough they find 3 woman trapped in a cage.

The woman tells them that Raiders had ambushed them and they hid while the raiders attacked, thinking that the raiders are inside Conan decides to enter the Tower of Silence, at the same time Kerim sneaks off and into the shadows again with bow in hand ready to make a move on Valerius unknown companion.

Blood of Oasis Part One starts off with good amount of mystique to it, characters Kerim Shah and Valerius are interesting but the biggest question is who is the other person Valerius is travelling with?, you can see that whoever Valerrius is escorting is clearly royalty, so the question I want answer will most likely be answer in the next issue, but I wonder how important will he or she be to the main plot of the story, and will he or she be any importance to the Oasis’s they all speak of.

Fred Van Lente’s writing is great in this issue, I particularly like how he shows Natala’s snobbish and pamper ways throughout it, Artist Brian Ching deserves equal praise for illustrating those expressing’s in great detail and even the action panels were well drawn and detail making it easy to flow panel to panel.

Links: Preview | Buy
Release Date: Out Now

Story:★★★☆☆ 
Art:★★★☆☆ 
Dialog:★★★☆☆ 
Overall:★★★☆☆ 

Review – Midnight Society: The Black Lake #1

Story and Art: Drew Edward Johnson
Colors: Lizzy John
Letters: Steve Dutro
Cover: Drew Edward Johnson & Lizzy John

Monsters, mayhem, mysticism and SCIENCE! All of these rest within the pages of Midnight Society, a pulp comic embracing the supernatural fabled creatures of the world. The story from Drew Edward Johnson brings a deep blend of science and monster fiction to life, shrinking devices, flying packs and mystical monsters fill the world and the explorers around the globe are on the warpath to make their name in history while basking in the fame of society.

The story takes readers into the efforts of two such explorers, looking to find the answers to one fabled creature, knowing they risk toying with forces well beyond their control as they go on the pursuit. It’s a challenge of explorer curiosity and responsibility, are findings simply for educational use or something to tag and exploit as a trophy? Where are the lines and limits to a frontier as new as this or is it simply a case of wild freedom.

Johnson pursues these questions while spinning a world deep in pulp themes, from the language to the setting, it’s a complete throwback while embracing some alternative history freedoms where old-time science fiction comes to life and mystical arts are alive and well when need be. Johnson sets Matilda Finn on her mission to find and save the lives of those lost within The Black Lake and gives her challenges that will place her into her toughest situations of her career as a secret agent so far.

Lizzy John and Drew Edward Johnson do well as a duo in this book, bouncing off each other through the pages with detailed illustrations and intense color selections to help sell the emotion of each panel, going from drab darkness to vivid moments of fight or flight that capture the eye. Johnson delivers a heavy amount of detail with characters and creatures alike, allowing each page to read with even more detail than the dialogue itself as eyes and body gesture speak volumes in each panel.

Overall Midnight Society: The Black Lake is a welcome addition into the Dark Horse line-up, it certainly shows promise early on with upcoming installments sure to help show mysteries about Matilda and her employers.

Links: Pre-Order
Release Date: June 10, 2015

Story:★★★★☆ 
Art:★★★★½ 
Dialog:★★★½☆ 
Overall:★★★★☆ 

Weekend Ride: GMC Canyon SLE All-Terrain

Tons of things have gone on for the members at BAMFAS in our daily lives and careers, this past weekend we worked with GMC on a hands-on weekend with the 2015 GMC Canyon SLE in Phoenix. This article isn’t a total review but a bit of a diary of experiences with the Canyon over the 5 days we had with it.

*Full disclosure: Vee / VeGiTAX2 was a representative of GMC at Madden Bowl XXI in Phoenix.

First Glance

We came across our SLE 4WD after arriving by plane, the Quicksilver Metallic finish stood out in a line of new and used cars in the lot. It catches light and stands out with a crisp finish, the metallic flake balances with the paint to catch the eye without being overkill, many silver finishes often fall on the flat side, creating a dull appearance that feels lackluster. While many cars are doing this more, trucks don’t always get the same treatment, GMC put a solid blend in on this color to really catch the eyes.

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Once loaded up with luggage in the crew cab to prevent any rain from reaching the luggage we were on the move, the dash immediately boots up as the driver enters the car, allowing the nav / user interface to run post with enough time before they pull out of the car. It’s a good consideration to those on the go as the system is ready before the driver is on the move. Features like the backup camera engage automatically by response to the transmission choice, the moment reverse engages it kicks on with guidance pattern to help new drivers understand if they’re on the right angle to get out. As a new driver to the Canyon it was a nice help, the radius adjusting on the fly in response to my wheel angles.

Power

Once we were on the move it was easy to feel the power of the 3.5L V6, it packs 305hp with 269lb-ft of torque and has no problem picking up the pace as needed, getting on the freeway it rolled on the power quickly to the drivetrain, the key of course is the same with any manual to apply the acceleration equally. For those who might be heavier on the gas, the manual mode also allows for more control by letting drivers wind out the gears to their desire vs having the automatic try to catch the proper gear to match the acceleration profile.

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Personally I enjoyed both options, not for power purposes but to feel a closer level of control while cruising as someone coming from manual cars. It’s not about winding out gears but just being able to feel things out while enjoying the ride, after a long day though it’s nice to slip into drive mode and leave that up to the automatic to handle. When taking things off on the trail it’s certainly understandable that drivers would want more control of their car also and this completely plays to that area.

Control

It poured the first few days in Phoenix, while it was fun driving in RWD mode, the interest was putting that All Terrain feature to use, slipping into automatic 4WD mode allowed the Canyon to use best judgement while traveling over wet and puddled surfaces. While running on gravel and pavement we hit many scenarios but regardless the Canyon kept traction on without slip. Regardless of higher speeds on the freeways with sections of flooded underpasses on a fresh first rain or on gravel roads and dirt sucking up water and making puddles the Canyon handled the terrain without issue and in total comfort.

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With a smooth ride and stable response the key was the steering using the upgrade packages for the all-terrain mode. Luckily the Canyon demonstrated smooth control, fairly generous turn radius and strong grip around the long bends without a lean. Those who get used to the dimensions fast will have no issues in parking lots or tight spaces, the steering response is quick for a higher profile vehicle without having a large dead zone or too much play in the wheel. Even with the electric steering the car still translates the road to the driver without feeling dead or clouded.

With smooth control and ride the Canyon of course finishes rounding out the package with a braking kit that allows for smooth speed reduction and quick response in tight moments. While we didn’t push the truck into extreme braking we did have our share of stop and go not just in commuter traffic but in high pedestrian areas and wet weather which tested the response over the days.

Sound

While the Bose audio system within the SLE is very enjoyable, the feature of the GMC Canyon is the cabin sound or really, the lack of sound. The truck minimizes road noise to allow for a smooth ride experience, instead of hearing every element of the road and nature in the drive there’s a quiet experience that allows for passengers and the driver to talk, enjoy the scenery, use the hands free system or the radio. It’s a genuinely welcome experience for those coming from older models or other brands that have heavier cabin noise that catch winds and rough pavement sounds.

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The audio system in the Canyon allows for multiple levels of compatibility, aside from the radio, it allows for XM reception and bluetooth connectivity for media sync. The sound is rich and smooth even at higher volume levels without distortion. The combination brings a rich sound field with nice bass and welcoming midrange, the higher range does suffer somewhat but a bit of tuning with the head unit can fix that.

Interior

One of the big features of the GMC line is the Professional Grade quality, as such stitched leather throughout the cabin welcomes drivers and passengers in the SLE, it’s a comfortable seating zone for the driver while the passengers can enjoy the stitched leather and metal accents throughout the truck interior and take in the features of USB charging, WiFi hotspot and bluetooth connectivity to share music and heighten the experience while riding along.

During the ride it was pure comfort, the electric seats allowed for quick adjustment depending on the time of day and level of traffic with materials that ensured a comfortable ride during the journey. Despite any rougher bumps or terrain, none of managed to really translate to the seating itself.

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For many it’s easy to claim a top quality interior experience but it’s always clear at some point where the plastic or the vinyl comes into play at just the wrong point. In the case of the Canyon these elements exist when needed (who would really have a leather wrapped 12v port?) and they’re carefully used to keep up the design goals.

Overall

Our Canyon drive was a positive one, with over 400 miles put on in mixed freeway and street driving we didn’t even go through a whole tank. With a V6 pushing 305hp and variable driving through the experience it was very enjoyable having power and fuel economy on our side. The Canyon provided a smooth ride in multiple driving conditions and a comfortable experience through not only the seating but the low noise cabin and responsive climate control and automated 4WD and even lighting system.

After being in other class competitors like the Frontier and Tacoma I can say it’s a very different feel in the Canyon, the ride is stiff enough for off-road but not so much that it’s jarring to the ride, it takes the hits and works hard to make sure everyone has the best ride possible. For those looking to find a truck that delivers comfort and functionality the Canyon has the best of both worlds, a comfortable interior for the family and a functional design and power to take on bigger workloads.

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Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution (PC) Thoughts

The latest installment of Naruto Shippuden has landed for console and PC players, the dream match installment is a filler arc for gaming that aims to pit legends against legends in a new battle format to spice things up while players wait for the larger story arc in the manga to reach a milestone that allows the developers to reach a strong release, possibly even the final depending on how this goes down.

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That out of the way, how does it stack up? Well in regard to story, it’s pretty lacking, the slight story modes available are limited to large sections of cut-scenes and the tournament story mode is generally lacking, the Mecha Naruto story is a unique twist but it leaves lots of questions and suffers from running errands endlessly to pass the time. While it introduces some of the things to expect later in the tournament (oh those filler tasks) it’s not exactly a welcome thing.

Graphically the game held up strong, no dips in the gameplay and while the game was locked to 30fps, given the integration for video and audio pacing, it’s somewhat understandable as many titles can go very bad when the framerate is modified. Sync issues can kill the enjoyment and if for now it’s the case they need to lock things then so be it. It’s playable and smooth during battles and given the amount of action there’s no point where the limit stands out heavily.

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The immersion was strong with the game, visually and acoustically the game brings home the effect of the Naruto series, we’re at a point with shading where anime style animation and details are possible to clone what so many are used to seeing each week in the show. Bandai Namco has reached a great pinnacle with the engine and hopefully they’ll be able to apply that to other licenses in the future or take it even further on next-gen platforms.

Overall it’s a fun run when it comes to versus battles and grinding out matches with tough AI in tournaments, survival and other modes but there’s a large part of the experience missing with the story mode essentially dead. For those looking to pick it up, it’s something I would say to get on sale if possible, it’s a heavy investment at 50+, I picked it up just under 39 with discounts from Steam and it felt like a fair shake at that price point.

Review – To Hell You Ride: White Man’s Guilt #1 of 5

Story: Lance Henriksen and Joseph Maddrey
Art: Tom Mandrake
Colors: Cris Peter with Mat Lopes
Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Cover: Tom Mandrake and Cris Peter
Published By: Dark Horse

To Hell You Ride begins in 1880 and explains some Native American lore. When the land becomes desecrated by white men the Native Americans partake in a ritual. The ritual however, gets interrupted by these white men and it ultimately turns into a curse. Cut to present day, Seven George (a.k.a. Two-Dogs) is an Indian with some severe issues living in a world with no more traditions and balance. He’s a joke to the townsfolk and he is such a mess that all seems lost. All of this changes though when there are signs from his ancestors that he can not ignore and soon his life will change forever.

To Hell You Ride is a very interesting and sad story. The lore part of the comic is told very well and has a very different feeling than most other comics. The main character, George is very heartbreaking and tragic on many levels. The writing as a whole is great, it really projects feelings of despair very well. The art is very nice too, like the writing it conveys the emotions wonderfully. This comic doesn’t really tackle the subject matter I’m used to but it’s nice to read something different especially when it is so packed with emotion.

Release Date: December 12th, 2012

Links: Preview | Order (Digital) | Order (Print)

Story:★★★½☆ 
Art:★★★½☆ 
Dialog:★★★½☆ 
Overall:★★★½☆ 

Review – Criminal Macabre: Final Night 1 of 4

Story: Steve Niles
Art: Christopher Mitten
Colors: Michelle Madsen
Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Cover: Justin Erickson
Published By: Dark Horse

Cal McDonald in his usual cantankerous way has a feeling that something bad is about to go down, he just doesn’t know what and he is isn’t sure if he cares. As he drowns his sorrows, a cop, Alice Blood, approaches him and asks for his help. Cal, always eager to help, get more details. Barrow, Alaska (home of 30 Days of Night) has been attacked and Alice wants Cal on the case. There has been more than the usual number of attacks (massacres) and Alice believes they stem from one vampire in particular. Meanwhile, Mo’lock and the other ghouls are facing a threat of their own and are on a mission to find the perpetrator. They soon learn that the ghoul attack is very connected to Cal’s new case and something needs to be done…quickly.

Criminal Macabre: Final Night is the first issue in a four-part series crossing over Steve Niles’ other masterpiece, 30 Days of Night. This issue sets up the story nicely and ends with all hell breaking loose. Cal is such an awesome character and for all intents and purposes should be completely unlikable but Niles manages to make him and his toxic personality a great anti-hero that you really root for! Christopher Mitten’s art is amazing. It’s dark and unique and really brings the story to life. Criminal Macabre has so many great elements that it becomes difficult to single any one thing out. I am ridiculously excited about this crossover and can’t wait for the next issue!

Release Date: December 12th, 2012

Links: Preview | Order (Digital) | Order (Print)

Story:★★★★☆ 
Art:★★★★½ 
Dialog:★★★★½ 
Overall:★★★★½ 

Review – Orchid #11

Script: Tom Morello
Art: Scott Hepburn
Colors: Dan Jackson
Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Cover: Massimo Carnevale
Published By: Dark Horse

After getting the crap kicked out of them, Orchid and Simon are a little worse for the wear. Luckily, Barrabas, who has now turned on Wolfe, has shown up and is kicking some genetically modified animal ass! Once some of the dust settles, Orchid sees that her ally Westin, has betrayed her and the movement. Things have not gone according to plan and Orchid is feeling defeated. Just when things are looking their worst Orchid finds unexpected help and regains some much-needed strength. The Shadow Rebels are beginning to take a dent out of Wolfe’s army, but Wolfe is determined to come out the victor, and unearths the big guns!

With all hell breaking loose and only one issue of Orchid left to go everything is in chaos and only one side will be able to emerge victorious. This issue of Orchid does an amazing job setting up the last issue for the Shadow Rebels last and undoubtedly biggest stand of their lives. Inspirational and maddening at the same time, Orchid is perfection. Tom Morello’s writing is awe-inspiring and the artwork of Scott Hepburn is breathtaking. Orchid has come together flawlessly and I have no doubt that the final issue will be the pièce de résistance!

Release Date: December 12th, 2012

Links: Preview | Order (Digital) | Order (Print)

Story:★★★★★ 
Art:★★★★★ 
Dialog:★★★★★ 
Overall:★★★★★ 

Review – Orchid #10

Script: Tom Morello
Art: Scott Hepburn
Colors: Dan Jackson
Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Cover: Massimo Carnevale
Published By: Dark Horse

The battle has begun and things are not looking so good for our band of Shadow Rebels. Enzio is overwhelmed and relying on Orchid to finish her mission of killing the heartless, disgusting Tomo Wolfe. Thanks to their explosive expert, Westin, Orchid and her army have penetrated Wolfe’s fortress and are on their way to destroy him. Wolfe, unaware of Orchid’s arrival has just learned that Barrabas has turned on him and is wreaking havoc in Fortress Penuel. His day quickly gets worse as Gletkin, Wolfe’s mindless drone of a right hand man tries to restore order but fails miserably when Wolfe gives the order to find Barrabas and kill him. Wolfe, as his world is unraveling, soon learns that they have a new secret weapon, a traitor to the Shadow rebels! What would a revolution be without a few hiccups? Still, nothing will stop Orchid and her crew and she may have a few tricks up her sleeve as well.

The Shadow Rebels fight has reached a fevered pitch with only a couple of issues of this amazing comic left to go. Everything is coming to a head, death on both sides, small triumphs, big losses. Who will come out on top? Like every past issue this one is excellent and exceeds expectations. The writing is poignant and the art is impeccable. The end of Orchid is bittersweet, I can’t wait for the conclusion but not having an issue to read every month is to put it simply, gonna suck! At least there are a couple of issues left and it’s going to be a helluva ride!

Release Date: October 17th, 2012

Links: Preview | Order (Digital) | Order (Print)

Story:★★★★★ 
Art:★★★★★ 
Dialog:★★★★★ 
Overall:★★★★★