Review: The Fade Out #1; by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

The Fade Out #1The Fade Out #1 by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel like we’re spoiled by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. They go so well together, like PB&J, Cookies & Cream, Lono & Dead Hookers…they really are a dream team.
But it’s not like they’re doing anything crazy that’s changing boundaries or going outside of the norm; they’re just creating fucking awesome crime/noir stories that feel timeless. The kind of thing you read and are then convinced you’ve read before or seen a movie version of. (and I mean that as a total compliment, I’m not saying it’s just run of the mill).

Their latest, The Fade Out, seems to have a few things in common with ‘Satellite Sam’ Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin’s book about TV in NYC in the 50s. Except this book is in the movies in the late 40s in Hollywood, and is much better. There’s still sex, drugs, dames, scandal, but Ed and Sean show how to make it the best it can be. Every time I start a book of theirs, it feels like I flipped across the channels late at night and came across a great Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade movie, with the narration of the main character, all world weary, smoked a few too many cigarettes, had a drink or 5, and always had stories about women who’d done you wrong.

There really doesn’t seem to be much I can say about these guys, other than I hope they live forever, and keep producing such masterpieces. As much as I love Ed’s superhero work (Captain America especially) I think this really is his calling. Why he’s not making movies yet is beyond me. Screenplay, direct, whatever, I feel like Hollywood needs to take some of these and make them into the talkies.

So ya, I will for sure be checking out the rest of this series, and thanks to Humble Bundle and Image for a winner.


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Stray Bullets Vol. 1 by David Lapham

Stray Bullets, Vol. 1Stray Bullets, Vol. 1 by David Lapham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So this is a collection of interwoven crime/noir stories. They’re interesting enough to keep your attention, also kind of depressing as many are about the pointlessness of violence, and what Stray Bullets can do…
It’s about broken lives, how they break over time, and showing the cumulative effects of bad decisions, violence, abuse, anger and rage, and crime.
Not every story seems to be connected, but I think if you read more of them and pay a bit more attention, you will find more. Kinda like Pulp Fiction without the music and comedy.

There’s definitely something, but it’s a sad kinda crime/noir that leaves you feeling like you spent 10yrs sitting alone in a crappy apartment with one lightbulb in a gravy-stained tank top drinking bourbon out of a paper bag with your revolver laying on the table beside you as you contemplate if you want to face another sunrise…
That docked a star for me, because I read it during the day and I was in a good mood…lol, now I’m all woeful and pessimistic.

Good solid stuff, Black and White adds to the atmosphere, I would read more, but I won’t go out of my way to rush.

Thanks again Humble Bundle!


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Review: Satellite Sam, Vol. 1; by Matt (overworked and undersexed) Fraction & Howard (I remember the days of black and white so I don’t use colour) Chaykin

Satellite Sam, Volume 1Satellite Sam, Volume 1 by Matt Fraction
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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Ugh. Seriously, I see what Image did…they showed you the flashy stuff (Saga, Walking Dead, Sex Criminals) the big writers (Fraction, BKV, Aaron) and they got you to pay for that, while also unloading on you a ton of mediocre stuff and some downright turds. But…I’ll still buy the next Humble Bundle, just for the value alone of the great stuff. I’m willing to suffer the shit to get to the gooey nougat centre.

Between successful/popular Matt Fraction writing, and old dog/well-known/respected Howard Chaykin doing the art, you figure Satellite Sam would be a winner.

Well, you’d be wrong.

I’m also starting to think that Matt Fraction is becoming a little obsessed with sex in comics. Sex Criminals had humour and a balance of lightness and more serious stuff, a mixture that goes down easy. This is just the seedy sex of the depraved behind closed doors 1950s.

I never watched Mad Men, but this seems like Mad Men the comic, in a TV producing environment instead of an Ad Agency.

I also have to admit a secret…while I respect Howard Chaykin, and can tolerate his stuff, I don’t really LOVE his style of art. In black and white, it’s hard to tell some of his characters apart, and frankly, between that and the storyline, I didn’t make much effort to.

Satellite Sam is a TV show, and the star is found dead in a flophouse with tons of dildos and lingerie all over the floor. His son discovers that he’s also got boxes and boxes of photos he’s taken of all the floozies he’s fucked over the years…including the Female Co-Star of the show (who’s a born again Christian!). SCANDAL!

But this book goes for titilation over substance, and fails. Yes there’s a kind of lurid, dirty appeal to the forbidden sex acts that we all now take mostly for granted (I mean most people are going to see 50 Shades of Grey for Valentine’s Day FFS), but at the same time, it’s kind of tired.

I don’t really care much for the head of the studio trying to expand his network, or his appeals to the FCC to get a bigger audience share, or the technology of early TV. It is interesting material for a proper history/biography book for sure, but it falls nearly as flat as the Superhero Union Contract Negotiations of COWL.

The son, Michael is a raging alcoholic, yet somehow, the murder of his father seems to spur him on to discover who he really was (other than a raging horndog). There’s lots of sex here, but no connections, just the equivalent of sad handjobs from homeless hookers. (Lono’s fave!)

No one is happy, everyone has vices, and there’s always positioning for power. Yawn. It’s obvious Fraction finds the early age of TV fascinating, and in this digital edition, we also get a conversation between Fraction and Chaykin about the 50s and early TV, which is more interesting that the whole of the first Volume.

Sex, booze, broads, TV, lies, scandal, coverups, somehow this all just falls pretty flat for me as a reader. I’m not really emotionally connecting to any character, they all seem pretty useless. Then as a reason to continue the series, or prolong it at least, they throw in the angle that it wasn’t a random crime of passion, but a murder that killed Michael’s father….DAA DUHHH DAAHHH!

I’m sorry, I would have liked to enjoy this, but it just feels like it’s pandering to a teenage audience who hasn’t figured out how to use PornHub yet. This would have totally worked on me at 14, for sure, but now it just comes across as cheap and makes you feel like taking a shower.

I think that might even be the aim, so ya, we get it, the 50s were just as depraved as today, but people felt the shame of keeping things under wraps and to themselves. I guess it’s up to you to decide if that’s better than nude celebrity selfies going viral or not.

I’ll be missing the rest of this on purpose, and I think maybe if Matt Fraction is so interested, he a Howard should just have a nice long sit down chat, and put out a podcast or something…

Sadly disappointing, again, like a sad handjob…2 in 2 days…not a good start to the week…at this rate I’ll have to start reading FF.


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Review: Southern Bastards – Here was a Man; by Jason Aaron

Southern Bastards, Vol. 1: Here Was a ManSouthern Bastards, Vol. 1: Here Was a Man by Jason Aaron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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My first Indy Week Buddy Read Shallows. Thanks to Humble Bundle for their last and superb Image Bundle. I will be flowing forth with tons of IMAGE reviews as such! (especially since I figured out how to load them onto my iPad!)

So this non-mainstream slice of Jason Aaron is his first since the glory days of SCALPED, a certain masterpiece of modern noir crime fiction. (I’m only in the middle of that series and I’m already hooked like a junkie for my next fix).

Aaron is in my Top 2-3 writers in the industry right now, no doubt. So when I read the jacket on the back of this one and look at all the names giving quotes and recommending this: Brubaker, Hickman, Fraction, Remender, Snyder; well holy fuck, that’s just like the 1927 Yankees talking about Gehrig or Ruth…a regular murderers row of talent. The best in the bizz.

Between that and the fairly accepted praise from friends on here who’s opinions I truly value, this was set up for greatness…

And boy, does it deliver.

Earl Tubb is one badass mofo. Having left the small Alabama town where his daddy was sheriff 40yrs ago, never to return…until now.
He comes back conflicted, and within hours, is knee deep in local bullshit all over again.
This feels like a Clint Eastwood movie just waiting to be made.
Cross Deliverance with Walking Tall and give ole’ Squint the reins.

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The county his father kept clean until his death is the usual Southern Hellhole, run by Coach Boss, a combination of Boss Hogg and the Coach in Varsity Blues, except filtered through Satan. The use of heavy reds and browns and yellows really give the feel of hell on Earth, heat, and damned souls.

Try as he might, Earl wants nothing more than to pack up his family house, and get the fuck out…but the murder of an old acquaintance is just a little too much for Earl to take when he sees the current Sheriff isn’t fixin’ to do a Good Goddamn thing about it.

This is the same kind of unflinching look at the real America of the South, that Scalped gave us of the Western/Plains Native Reserves. This is noir so dark, it’s black. It takes a chunk of you just to read it. Make no mistake, this isn’t some comic book, this is pure American Noir in the hands of a modern master.

If you haven’t already, grab yourself some fast, because like the best Ribs/BBQ, you DO NOT want to miss out on this.


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Review: Scalped: Vol. 6 – The Gnawing…by Jason Aaron

Scalped, Vol. 6: The GnawingScalped, Vol. 6: The Gnawing by Jason Aaron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Compared to this, the dark knight is like My Little Pony. Holy fuck, noir. This is dark, this is grit. This is 150 shades of grey. Layer upon layer of complexity and interwoven relationships. It really is cranked up to 11 and then never stops. You want some bad ass motherfuckers? Try Red Crow…guy is stone cold. Takes out the Hmongs’ man, while on the phone with him. Then tells him to come and get it…then takes a beating like Rocky fucking Balboa. Saves the Rez, and still gets the last laugh…oh and the whole time? Nitz and the FBI are on him like brown on rice…oh, and he finds out there’s a rat from the FBI in his inner circle…oh and his daughter is a train wreck too, but he tried to save her…

Catcher…fuuuuck.

Dash is a Bad Bad Baaaaaad Horse. Manages to get revenge on Diesel, evade being caught as the rat, stops another guy fro. Ratting him out to Red Crow, and dodges Nitz, gets saved from Red Crow’s #2 by Catcher, and still manages to come out positively on the karmic scale…

I agree with Mike and Sam on their reviews…there aren’t enough words…Jason Aaron…fuuuuck. This volume alone gives you a decade of freedom for me to not ever disparage your work.

READ. THIS. NOW.


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Review: Scalped, Vol. 5 – High Lonesome; by Jason Aaron

Scalped, Vol. 5: High LonesomeScalped, Vol. 5: High Lonesome by Jason Aaron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Jason Aaron has already made it to my top 5 comic writer list, and with this kind of work, he could make the jump to favourite of ALL genres. This is crime noir that sits comfortably alongside Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, and in his own medium, Ed Brubaker. The best noir ironically requires shades of grey; many…not quite 50…but a lot. Aaron has a cast in this series we have been getting to know, but here in this volume, we delve into the back stories of some of the more important members we haven’t yet…FBI Special Agent Nitz; Diesel, the 1/16 Kickapoo Indian wannabe; Catcher, the crazy old timer who’s fried and spooky, and a career criminal with many names who may destroy everything for Dash.

This is just epically great. Characters I should hate are seen in the contextual light of their experiences, which changes my opinion to a bit greyer…
Revelations are made that add even more layers of depth and lies to get through, and we are left with the setup for a big swing in momentum.

I could gush more, but if you’re not already on this train, get on now!! At the very least, read more Jason Aaron…in a just world, he’ll be screenwriting and directing any time now…


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Review: Scalped: Vol. 4 – The Gravel in Your Guts; by Jason Aaron

Scalped, Vol. 4: The Gravel in Your GutsScalped, Vol. 4: The Gravel in Your Guts by Jason Aaron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well shit got even darker than it already was pretty fast…

Intro by the great Ed Brubaker rightly points out: This is Noir. Noir is when you know shit gonna go bad, but you can’t help but watch, you just know things aren’t getting better.

There’s some beautiful work being done in the Noir world, and Jason Aaron makes it raw, unflinching, and downright sad.

He also writes characters that are some crazy shades of grey. Red Crow was an asshole at the start, but now we get a glimpse into who he thinks he is, why he’s done what he’s done, and who he thinks is evil. Dash was going to be our unconventional hero, but he’s getting tainted with darkness all over his white hat too.

It’s like this is the Graphic Novel version of Alice in Chains beautifully miserable “Down in a Hole”.

Down in a hole, feelin so small
Down in a hole, losin my soul
I’d like to fly but my
Wings have been so denied

Red Crow is becoming a Shakespearean villain (ie. multiple layers of evil/bad on top of what used to be a pure/decent soul; or simply one bad decision that led down the road to years and years of them).

The “romance” between Dash and Carol Red Crow is agonizing and makes you feel like shit, because you know it’s based on something so real. Neither of them has anyone else they can come close to trusting, so they join together for the downward spiral.

(This really is an early 90s Alternative Music video adaptation I swear.)

Bravo to Mr. Aaron, it’s so authentic, so real, I’m amazed this hasn’t been made into an HBO series yet. It’s right up there with those ideas.

If you’re not already reading this series, what is wrong with you? Wake up! Get it!

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