Pisces #1 Review: Plenty of Signs of Intelligent Life in this One!

Pisces #1 Review: Plenty of Signs of Intelligent Life in this One!

Pisces #1
Written by: Kurtis J. Wiebe
Art by: Johnnie Christmas
Colors by: Tamra Bonvillain
Lettered by: Ed Brisson
Published by: Image Comics
Reviewed by Nikki S.

Another week, another case of “what in the heck did I just read?” Because seriously, this is not a book to be digested in one read-through, and it’s not a book that presents itself clearly. Pisces #1, written by Rat Queensscribe Kurtis J.…

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Here’s the cover for Pisces #5, coming in August from Image Comics! Colored by Tamra Bonvillain, drawn by me, written by Kurtis Wiebe.

Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe

Artist: Johnnie Christmas

Publisher: Image Comics / Shadowline

Cover Price: $3.99

Buy on ComiXology

In this second issue of Pisces, Wiebe and Christmas dive deep into Dillon’s daddy issues. To sum up Dillon’s relationship with his dad, let’s just say they don’t relate over football. An exchange of sharp words results in violence. Through Wiebe’s implied and direct dialogue we get a sense that Dillon’s dad cares about the success of his son, and Dillon regrets his behavior immediately―making you pity them both.

While exploring the depths of Dillon’s regrets, it’s unclear where he is in time and space in this issue, but the artful transitions keep you grounded. There’s always some kind of visual warning that time is shifting through smaller panels with blackish ooze seeping through cracks around Dillon, or the forming of new imagery in a panel where it shouldn’t be. Each time we see the ooze, it eventually forms into frightening figures, and when we see disembodied people in a puddle of it, it’s beautifully maddening. During one of these ooze-filled experiences, Dillon relives a kill from issue #1, and the blood spills and rises like there’s no gravity creating a sense that he’s out of his time. Here, it’s the coloring and stretched perspective that bolster Dillon’s hallucinations and gives the sense that they’re jumping off the page.

Whatever is happening to him, he knows it. He even implores a phrase to help him come back from these visions, “Miami. This is home.” Yet he explains it away as nightmares to his bus driver and a fellow veteran he meets on the beach. Dillon and this vet, Patrick, bond over their inescapable wartime memories reinforcing Dillon’s belief that his visions are nightmares. But when Patrick shares his recurring dream about his actual encounter with a tiger, a tiger that was trapped, starved and crazed, this could be a parallel to what’s happening to Dillon. He could be trapped and going crazy with guilt and that’s why he’s in and out of time. When Dillon parts from Patrick to go to work, Patrick leaves him with a kind suggestion to get help. And when the ooze comes back, Dillon again reminds himself that he’s home. The story even ends on that same note with another resurfacing regret: a call from his old war buddy, Henry.

Through the terrors that continue to haunt Dillon, Wiebe and Christmas succeed at capturing the perspective of a vet who struggles with PTSD while leaving you with unanswered questions: Where is Dillon in time and space, and what is the black ooze that keeps making an appearance? Wiebe and Christmas seem to be telling us that liquid, either in the form of tossed booze or black ooze is bad news. The first issue made us want to know if Dillon will find redemption from his regrets and we’re still wondering, but this one digs deeper into Dillon and his personal hell all the while making you eager to know what fresh horrors will come next.


, #BodyHorror, #Comics, #EdBrisson, #Horror, #ImageComics, #JohnnieChristmas, #KurtisJWiebe, #Pisces, #Pisces2, #Shadowline, #TamraBonvillain, body horror, comics, Ed Brisson, Horror, Image Comics, Johnnie Christmas, Kurtis J Wiebe, pisces, pisces2, Shadowline, Tamra Bonvillain
Mind Capsules - Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #12 and Wayward #8

Mind Capsules – Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #12 and Wayward #8

Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #12 Writer – Kaare Kyle Andrews Artist – Kaare Kyle Andrews It might have taken a little longer to hit the shelves but Iron First: The Living Weapon #12, the last issue of Kaare Kyle Andrews’ series was worth the wait. After defeating the god-being last issue, Danny Rand emerges from its corpse, healed up and ready to get on with life. The denizens of K’un Lun also…

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Wayward #8

Story By: Jim Zub
Art By: Steven Cummings
Art By: Tamra Bonvillain
Cover By: Steven Cummings
Cover By: Tamra Bonvillain
Cover Price: $3.50
Digital Price: $2.99
Diamond ID: MAR150614
Published: May 27, 2015

Ayane’s strange feline origin is revealed in the most unlikely of places. Cover A is part three of a five-part panorama by STEVEN CUMMINGS & TAMRA BONVILLAIN. Buy all five issues of this story arc to fit them together into a massive WAYWARD illustration. Cover B is a variant by acclaimed illustrator KEN NIIMURA (I KILL GIANTS).

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A preview of Wayward #8. Ayane’s strange feline origin is revealed in the most unlikely of places #comics Wayward #8 Story By: Jim Zub Art By: Steven Cummings Art By: Tamra Bonvillain Cover By: Steven Cummings…
Preview: Wayward #8 -

Story By: Jim Zub Art By: Steven Cummings, and Tamra Bonvillain Cover By: Steven Cummings, and Tamra Bonvillain Cover Price: $3.50 Diamond ID: MAR150614 Published: May 27, 2015 Ayane’s strange feline origin is revealed in the most unlikely of places. Cover A is part three of a five-part p…

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Herotaku Reviews: Planet Hulk #1

Herotaku Reviews: Planet Hulk #1

Warning, there will be spoilers for the first issue of Planet Hulk #1.

Planet Hulk #1
Published: Marvel Comics (May 2015)
Written By: Sam Humphries
Artist: Marc Laming
Colorist: Jordan Boyd
Letter: CV’S Travis Lanham
Production Design: Manny Mederos
Assistant Editors: Chris Robinson & Emily Shaw
Editor: Mark Paniccia

The Good

To start off, I was wondering what this book was going to be about. Given the…

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REVIEW | Wayward, Vol. 1: String Theory (Image Comics)

Jim Zubkavich and Steve Cummings break through the manga/Western comics barrier with Wayward. 

  • Paperback/full color/$9.99 (US)
  • Availability: 25 March 2015
  • Story: Jim Zubkavich (credited as “Jim Zub”)
  • Illustrations: Steve Cummings
  • Colors: John Rauch, Jim Zubkavich (credited as “Jim Zub”), Tamra Bonvillain, Ross Campbell, Josh Perez
  • Letters: Marshall Dillon
  • Backmatter: Zack Davisson
  • Publisher’s description: “Rori Lane is trying to start a new life when she reunites with her mother in Japan, but ancient creatures lurking in the shadows of Tokyo sense something hidden deep within her, threatening everything she holds dear. Can Rori unlock the secrets of her power before it’s too late? JIM ZUB (SKULLKICKERS, Samurai Jack) and STEVE CUMMINGS (Legends of the Dark Knight, Deadshot) team-up to create an all-new Image supernatural spectacle that combines the camaraderie and emotion of Buffy with the action and mystery of Hellboy. Collects WAYWARD #1-5.”

As seen in the publisher’s description text reproduced above, a lot of the promotional materials for Jim Zubkavich and Steve Cummings’ Wayward have taken to comparing the comic to both Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. It’s a fair enough juxtaposition, given the series’ youthful female lead and its contemporary occult adventure conceit. It’s also perhaps the easiest way to introduce the comic to readers unfamiliar with manga or anime—Wayward, in my mind, has more in common in terms of theme and subject matter with Julietta Suzuki’s Kamisama Kiss or Adachitoka’s Noragami than any of its peers in Western comics.

What does this all mean, in simple, concrete terms? Well, in a nutshell, this means Wayward is a genre coming-of-age story that has a high school-aged protagonist—Irish-Japanese transfer student Rori Lane, who already has her hands full dealing with identity issues and being an outsider in a society that values conformity—stumbling onto the affairs of Japan’s panoply of yōkai (supernatural monsters) and kami (deities, roughly translated), discovering that she has formidable supernatural abilities of her own, and being thrown haphazardly in the middle of a conflict beyond her ken.

Zubkavich and Cummings bring a Western comics sensibility to their interpretation of what might be described as a manga subgenre. The pacing of the initial storyline is far more brisk than that often seen in serials optimized for publication in biweekly/monthly manga magazine installments, and the art is free of the overt stylistic quirks some observers may have come to readily associate with the Japanese comics aesthetic. Wayward may take inspiration from manga and Japanese folklore, but it is still fully informed by Western comics craft.

These days, it would probably be considered irresponsible to review a comic that deals with Japanese characters and themes, penned by a Canadian writer and illustrated by an American artist, without addressing the topic of cultural appropriation. All throughout my reading Wayward, Vol. 1, my mind kept turning to the following quote from award-winning graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang’s 2014 National Book Festival speech:

We in the book community are in the middle of a sustained conversation about diversity. We talk about our need for diverse books with diverse characters written by diverse writers. I wholeheartedly agree. But I have noticed an undercurrent of fear in many of our discussions. We’re afraid of writing characters different from ourselves because we’re afraid of getting it wrong. We’re afraid of what the Internet might say. This fear can be a good thing if it drives us to do our homework, to be meticulous in our cultural research. But this fear crosses the line when we become so intimidated that we quietly make choices against stepping out of our own identities.

After all, our job as writers is to step out of ourselves, and to encourage our readers to do the same.

I am by no means an expert on Japanese culture and folklore, although I would describe myself as being more informed on these topics in the anime/manga context, relative to your average comics reader in North America. I have no inside track into the creative process behind Wayward, beyond what Zubkavich and Cummings have made public on blogs, interviews, social media, and the backmatter section of Wayward’s individual issues. And I don’t know anything about their personal lives outside of what’s readily accessible online to the general public. 

Did a “fear of getting characters different from [them] wrong” influence Wayward? I have absolutely no idea. But I do feel confident in writing that Zubkavich and Cummings have been as “meticulous in [their] cultural research” as they can be, and that they have both the professional and personal backgrounds to mitigate, if not avoid altogether, the orientalism that occasionally plagues Western works of popular entertainment that spotlight Asian cultures. After all, Zubkavich’s lengthy résumé includes stints writing officially licensed comics and animation featuring characters from popular Japanese video game properties, for both the Japanese and the international markets. Cummings, who lives in Yokohama with his family, is immersed in modern Japanese life. In addition, they have recruited Japanese folklore scholar Zack Davisson (author of Yurei: The Japanese Ghost and a translator who has worked for Dark Horse Manga and Drawn & Quarterly) to serve as something of an unofficial consultant on the title.

If there’s anything that might be deemed controversial in the comic (fully keeping in mind that the bar for qualifying as controversial in comics has been set so much lower in the social media era), it should have nothing to do with cross-cultural concerns and more with the portrayal of a self-harm incident involving a key character in the book’s second chapter. It’s a genuinely disturbing and startling scene given the contrasting tone of the material preceding it, but it serves a purpose beyond shock value—it rapidly advances the task of character development, and underlines, in no uncertain terms, the thematic and emotional stakes in play.

None of these ancillary concerns and issues should take away from the strengths of the work, however. Wayward is a solidly entertaining and proficiently crafted comic, regardless of whether one views it against the background of manga or Western publications.

My Pick of the Week

Wayward #8 

By Jim ZubSteven Cummings & Tamra Bonvillain 

In this issue of Wayward we finally get some answers. We find out what happened to Rori and Shirai, not to mention a beautifully illustrated sneak peak of Ayane’s origin story. But in true Wayward style we are left with even more questions and another cliffhanger. Only time will tell what’s in store for our wayward gang. 

Comics Review: Wayward TPB #1

Wayward, Vol. 1: String Theory by Jim Zub
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WAYWARD is by far the most intelligent urban fantasy comic I’ve laid eyes on. It’s the type of comic whose teenage ingénue and emotional flexibility hit the mark from Page One. It rarely happens. WAYWARD is a rare book.

Now landing in her second home of Japan, Rori Lane’s journeys anew and discovers her remarkable magic-weaving abilities on the spot. The teenager is a good but uncommon fit as Tokyo’s reluctant hero: she holds great disdain for inaction, she values covering her bases, and her sense of right and wrong, though skewed to her fragmented emotional interests, is nevertheless present. She also packs a mean punch (with or without a grocery bag in hand).

Rori’s introduction to the demons, goblins, and ghouls of Japanese folklore is all parts funny, smart, odd, and ridiculously cool, and it’s what gives WAYWARD a good chunk of its charm. The best example are the fox yokai, whom series creators Jim Zub and Steve Cummings cleverly manifest as hulking samurai-beasts with a(n) (humorously) irrational fear of human technology. Kitsune legends vary far and wide, and it’s a pleasure to find a book whose writer/artist team knows precisely the story they wish to tell and how to tell it.

Cummings’ line art is outstanding. If you meet someone who disagrees, punch them in the face.

His sense of “cool Japan” is not bubbly or commercial or even, necessarily, “cool.” It’s just Japan, really. Cummings lives and works in Japan. And his understanding (and experience) of the look, feel, smell, and disposition of the Japanese people and their desires gives WAYWARD nuance. Cracks in an apartment building; school cafeteria benches; vending machines for iced coffee at the park; decidedly boring peri-urban Tokyo, complete with laundered bedsheets on the terrace. Cummings’ work is succinct, and it feels right.

This book’s genuine sense of place and function is likewise reflected in its characters. Character art is very personable (e.g., Rori pinning her hair back; Ayane wanders, easily distracted), and the discriminating color scheme is jaw-dropping and effective (e.g., Rori has red hair, fashionably mixes patterns/solids, and always wears boots). The first two issues are more deliberate as far as ensuring Rori stands out of a crowd (e.g., muted and dry urban milieu), but even in subsequent stories, the art finds a way to keep pace and snare your attention (e.g., fighting underground, where it’s dark).

WAYWARD is a good book. If it doesn’t blow you away, then that’s okay; it’s not supposed to. It’s supposed to lure you in and give you a pinch of awe as you nod your head, thinking, at first, “This is pretty cool. I get it. I like it.” But then someone’s head gets ripped off, someone devours a ghoul with their bare hands, or someone self-harms because the spinning chaos of the real world is too much of an anesthetic. WAYWARD is tagged “M” for mature readers (adults), but make no mistake, teenagers will quickly identify with every frustration and trauma Rori encounters in her incipient adulthood.

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