Pop Culture Corner: Top 5 Comic Books of April 2016

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By Nolan P. Smith

Staff Reporter

(Victor Valley)– April has come and gone, and with it, brought plenty of high quality, imaginative comic books. From a super team led by an ex-President to the debut of a Russian super power, April brought plenty of books to satisfy all.

Below are my top picks for April, in no particular order.

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Dept. H #1 Review

Matt Kindt has quickly become one of my favorite writers and artists in the comic business. His unique, gripping Mind MGMT was unlike anything I had read or seen before, and his writing over at Valiant (Ninjak, The Valiant) really drew me in. So when I was given an advanced opportunity to review his latest work, Dept. H from Dark Horse, I jumped at the chance.

Written and drawn by Kindt with coloring by his wife, Sharlene Kindt, Dept. H #1 introduces us to a world of deep-sea mystery and intrigue. Our protagonist, Mia, is heading down to an underwater government base, Dept. H, which is a part of USEAR (Underwater Science Exploration and Research). It’s not a pleasure trip, as her father, Dr. Hari Hardy, the man who created Dept. H, is dead. Not just dead- he has been murdered. In a base with only a handful of people a billion gallons of water below the surface- it is an inside job. One of his department has gone rogue- but who? And why?

That’s what Mia is hoping to find out. We get the sense of urgency here, and with that, an impending disaster. From the first page, where Mia notes that it isn’t the descent to Dept. H that frightens her, it’s the idea that she might not make it back to the surface. This is a scary ordeal

Kindt’s unique artistic style brings this underwater mystery to life. I love his style, and for this kick off issue, it really brings the reader below the seven seas. His style is not traditional in any sense, and I will admit, it took a few of his past books for me to appreciate his art of storytelling, but I have grown to love his simple, yet emotional style. Sharlene’s water colors add new dimensions to this work- her blue hues differentiate between flashbacks and the present day masterfully.

Dept. H #1 sets up an unnerving, underwater drama sure to keep the reader on the edge of their seats. I, for one, cannot wait for the next issue. The Kindt’s have created something really special here- I recommend picking up this issue: there is no way you will be disappointed.

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Black Eyed Kids #1 Review

AfterShock Comics rang in its one year anniversary with a bang, releasing diverse, yet outstanding titles. One of these books is Black Eyed Kids, from AfterShock Publisher Joe Pruett and artist Szymon Kudranski.

This title is extremely different from anything AfterShock currently publishes. This is a straight up suspense, horror comic that will suck you in from page 1 to the last panel. The book centers around mysterious kids with solid black eyes that seem to be terrorizing the night. From a convenience store to the security of ones home, these children strike with no known motives. We don’t know if these kids are even real children: are they possessed or something far darker?

Pruett and Kudranski create something so eerie, so atmospheric, that it sends chills down your spine as you read it. Kudranski’s artwork is so well suited for dark stories, his style is the perfect choice for Black Eyed Kids. Not a whole lot of details are given of what’s going on, but for a first issue, it easily hooks the reader into wanting to stick around to find out. Plus, this debut issue is only 1.99, which gives you no reason not to try out this start to what looks to be another hit series for AfterShock. Black Eyed Kids opens a new door for the horror genre in comics: are you brave enough to walk in?

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Divinity II #1 Review

With the first Divinity series from Valiant Entertainment, we were introduced to Abram Adams, one of three Russian cosmonauts sent out during the space race as the Cold War waged on. Having gone farther into the cosmos than any human before, the three got lost on a strange planet. Adams came into contact with something that changed him, giving him god like powers and catapulted him to the modern era. This series follows what happened to the other two cosmonauts, with the emphasis on Valentina Volkov.

Writer Matt Kindt and artist Trevor Hairsine, we get a very dark tale of Valentina, nicknamed Miska, and what led her to the program. For Adams, it was his intellect, but for Miska, it was the will to prove herself. Coming from a horrible and poverty stricken childhood, she took to the communist principles more than her teammates. But when she awakens on a strange planet and sees Adams has left, we see Miska show her true colors as she heads to Earth in search of Mother Russia.

Kindt writes a story far darker than the previous Divinity, but nonetheless, knocks it out of the park. To put someone with Miska’s powers in the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin, I can only imagine the battles that will come out of this: with Adams, but also with the modern Valiant heroes like X-O Manowar. Divinity II shows the brutal nature behind Valiant’s latest superpower, and crafts one of the best debut issues to hit in 2016.

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Rough Riders #1 Review

Super teams are all the rage right now- with movies based on the Avengers having ruled the box office and a looming Justice League flick on the horizon, who doesn’t love to see heroes come together to combat evil and, in the end, save the world? Well, what if those heroes were at the end of the 1800’s and included Theodore Roosevelt? Then you would have Rough Riders, the latest series from AfterShock Comics.

Writer Adam Glass (Writer and Co-Runner of Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders) crafts a world where a young Teddy Roosevelt is far more than we thought. In this Steampunk-eque world, Roosevelt patrols the night, saving those in need and fighting against the darkness. But when the United States is in peril with a mysterious threat coming from Cuba, Roosevelt must put together a team to stop this threat, and what a team it is. Jack Johnson- the famed, undefeated boxer is the first to join the teams’ ranks, and the master of illusions, Harry Houdini, makes an appearance as well, with more legendary historic figures to come.

Glass creates a fun and gripping tale, casting Roosevelt in an almost Batman-like role. A simple man who overcomes the odds and risks his own life to help those in need, we get to see how Roosevelt came from being a weak bodied boy to a strong, scarred man. Artist Pat Oliffe (Spider-Girl) provides the visuals, as he crafts an excellent look for the first issue. I felt like I was reading a true to life team book, led by one of the most beloved Presidents in history.

Bringing together such a well-known group of historic figures, Rough Riders is poised to take no prisoners in this action packed romp through an alternate history. This issue has action, build up, comedy relief and more- everything you could ask for in a debut issue. Rough Riders #1 is an excellent start to a very different, original, and welcomed series.

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The Walking Dead- The Alien Review

Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin created something amazing and innovative with The Private Eye, a series that was meant to be purely digital and on a “pay what you want” platform. When Image Comic’s Robert Kirkman wanted to collect The Private Eye and print it as a hardcover, what Vaughan wanted in return was no small feat: to create an all digital, pay what you want story for The Walking Dead with Private Eye artist Martin. What we got is now available online: The Walking Dead- The Alien.

Set weeks after the zombie outbreak first began, we meet, Jeff, a young traveler in Barcelona, trying to save a boy from a pack of zombies, only to be saved himself by a knight in shining armor, literally: Claudia. She has heard rumors that the United States has a cure for this disease, and sets out to bring it back home. Of course, we all know how rumors are during an apocalypse. The duo make their way to the water to find a boat, and that’s when everything goes awry.

Vaughan and Martin craft an excellent story here, taking us to a place far away, but still in shambles nonetheless. Presented in black and white (and some red), just like Image Comic’s The Walking Dead series, the story does have a strong connection to the characters we know and love from the comic and television show, but I won’t name that connection here. Martin’s artwork looks so crisp and clean, and yet conveys the horror seen in the streets of Barcelona masterfully. Jeff and Claudia may be characters we never see or hear from again, but it was refreshing to see new faces in the never-ending zombie story.

The Walking Dead- The Alien is, for me, a very welcome addition to the TWD family.

This one shot is available right now at www.panelsyndicate.com and you pay what you want to download a digital copy. While you are there, make sure to check out The Private Eye, Barrier, and the other awesome books using this platform as well. You won’t be disappointed.

Nolan Smith is a longtime reporter with High Desert Daily, covering everything from the opening of a new comic book shop to a series on the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. A long time resident of the Victor Valley, Smith has worked in the educational sector in the High Desert for the past decade. He is also the Editor and Co-Founder of Pastrami Nation- a pop culture news site which features news, reviews and podcasts on various aspects of pop culture, including comic books, video games, films, anime, manga, cosplay and more. You can visit Pastrami Nation at www.pastramination.com.

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