Across the Universe with Silver Surfer #1

Iconic but often cancelled, Norrin Radd makes a surprising return in Silver Surfer #1 from Dan Slott and Michael and Laura Allred. In a somewhat risky move, Slott reimagines Silver Surfer as a spacefaring traveler in a psychedelic universe of fun and adventure, abandoning the traditional themes of philosophic introspection that readers know this character for. This tonal shift is more in line with titles like She-Hulk, Doop and FF, whose focus on quirky characterizations breaks up the gloomy (and sometimes downright apocalyptic) nature of the rest of the Marvel Universe.

Free from big events and dark storylines, Silver Surfer and its ilk are better suited for casual readers who just want a good read without the complicated drama of interconnected plots. This title in particular also clearly draws from the well-trodden adventure structure of Doctor Who, giving Norrin a female companion to take on his latest galaxy-hopping adventure. This all but ensures a peppier Silver Surfer, no longer doomed to roam the infinite ocean of stars alone. But the question remains: Does it work?

SILVERSURFER1Light and breezy, this iteration of Silver Surfer still sees Norrin wandering the universe, committing good deeds to atone for the horrors he committed as the herald of Galactus, but with a few changes. He largely abandons his dour nature for a sunnier one, complete with snappier dialogue and an understated sense of humor. A seemingly normal excursion brings him to the Impericon, an impossible deep-space city bustling with thousands of alien races. He quickly learns that he has been taken there to stop the Queen of Nevers and save them from her bloody quest, as many other defenders before him.

Like those other defenders, the deceitful Incredulous Zed kidnaps the one person that Norrin cares for above all else to use as leverage in forcing him to complete the task. Zed then teleports a young Earth woman named Dawn to the Impericon to hold hostage. Left behind while her twin sister Eve travels the world, Dawn’s dreams of a life beyond her sleepy beach town remain unfilled by her job at her family’s bed and breakfast. However, she’s a total stranger to Norrin, who has no idea who she is or why she’s so important to him. So begin their adventures together.

As promised, Slott and the Allreds deliver a lighthearted comic adventure abounding with quippy dialogue and kaleidoscopic settings. Their collaboration establishes the perfect tone for this lighter, brighter Silver Surfer, taking Norrin’s search for redemption into far more hopeful territory. This may alienate some readers, but the choice to makes sense given the direction that Marvel has been trending toward with its secondary character titles. The imagery is fun and inviting, even if Michael Allred’s style tends to flatten the space a bit too much for my liking. There’s some missed opportunities to really explore the size and scope of space, which is such a critical component of this series and its aesthetics, with some pages coming off as cluttered. Even for it, Silver Surfer #1 is a cool read with a promising future ahead of it.

Magen Cubed –

The Birth of a New Hero in Ms. Marvel #1

thumbAfter months of buzz, the highly anticipated Ms. Marvel #1 is finally here, establishing new mythology as Carol Danvers passes her original title to new hero Kamala Khan. It comes from the creative team of award-winning writer G. Willow Wilson, known for her graphic novel Cairo and novel Alif the Unseen, and artist Adrian Alphona, best known for his work on Marvel’s Runaways. Debuting in early February to critical acclaim and fan fervor, at the time of this writing Ms. Marvel has already gone to a second printing as the Kamala Corp., Ms. Marvel fans who derive their fandom mantle from Captain Marvel’s Carol Corp., eagerly snatched this book from store shelves. And there’s a very good reason for the fervor. Joyous and refreshing, this title has everything a superhero book should: A strong mythos rooted in some of Marvel’s biggest titles, a popular forebear to pass her mantle to a new generation, and endearing young hero worthy of the task. More than that, this is a smart, relevant, and human title that has so much to offer beyond action and fantasy.

The lure of this title is the titular character herself. An average sixteen-year-old from Jersey City, Kamala writes Avengers fanfiction, idolizes Captain Marvel, and loves all things superhero. A lot of readers already know how the story goes: Her life is boring, her family is a constant source of irritation, and she’s the target of the concern-trolling white kids at her school. Living vicariously through her colorful fantasies, she is the average young comic book fan personified, seeking escape from her humdrum existence through the world of superheroes. Not only does this instantly endear readers to the awkward but lovable Kamala, but as a Muslim woman, she also highlights views and experiences not too often seen in comics.

While there has been a lot of progress with female representation in Marvel titles like Captain Marvel, Black Widow, Ms-Marvel-01-03and Journey into Mystery, Kamala does these books one better. She reaches out to a far broader audience that is often left behind in a sea of predominantly white, predominantly male protagonists. For that her arrival is very exciting for readers of all backgrounds, helping to develop a far more inclusive pantheon of heroes. After all, while Kamala is certainly not the only Muslim woman in the Marvel Universe, there is always room for more well-written characters, and she helps to bring another voice to that demographic.

When concern-troll classmate Zoe throws a party at the local park, Kamala wants to go, too naïve to see the malice behind Zoe’s patronizing remarks. Despite her friends’ warning, she asks her endearing but conservative father for permission to attend, only to find herself banned from going. Wanting to go out and have fun like the “normal” kids, she sneaks out, only to find she isn’t really welcome at the party. As she leaves, the effects of the Terrigenesis bomb Black Bolt detonated over New York reaches the neighborhood, engulfing the city in mist. As seen in the pages of Infinity and the ensuing Inhumanity, Black Bolt’s bomb is activating the powers of Inhuman descendants in the human population, manifesting these latent mutations in violent chain reactions.

Ms-Marvel-01Breathing in the mist, Kamala soon passes out, dreaming of her favorite heroes Captain Marvel, Iron Man and Captain America. Appearing to her like idols of devotional portraits, Captain Marvel tell her that she’s at a crossroads, set to decide what kind of person she wants to become. Kamala tells her that she wants to be beautiful, powerful, and less complicated, just like her hero. She wants to be normal, and with a final warning from her hero, gets her wish. Waking up from her vision she finds herself in a Terrigenesis cocoon. Panicked, she fights her way out of it, only to realize she’s been transformed into her role model. She’s certainly different, much to her surprise, but things are already looking more complicated than ever.

Full of warmth, charm and colorful fantasy, everything about this book is enchanting. Wilson creates a loveable Every Girl in Kamala, giving her a full and well-rounded world to inhabit, complete with a quirky supporting cast and plenty of subtle New Jersey pop culture shout-outs. The dialogue is natural and well-written, striking an affective balance of humor and earnestness that makes Kamala a compelling protagonist. Bringing the script to the page, Alphona’s artwork is all the more engaging. His lines are airy and light, gently exaggerating the character anatomy to affect a soft, storybook-like quality. This skillful touch develops a fun and appropriately whimsical graphic narrative, one that fits the youthful tone of the story but still maintains a level of visual complexity and fullness. Colorist Ian Herring brings it all home through the use of soft earth tones and dreamy turquoises, contrasted by the deep blues and striking reds of Kamala’s vision and final metamorphosis. Their collaboration makes for a truly lush and inviting visual experience with a cohesive and strongly defined aesthetic.

Living up to all the hype, Ms. Marvel #1 is a beautiful book from start to finish. A visual treat for readers of all ages, it establishes a hopeful new chapter in the Captain Marvel/Ms. Marvel mythology, as well as the Marvel pantheon at large. This is a must-read for fans both new and seasoned, full of a humor and humanity that injects a much-needed jolt of excitement and delight into the superhero genre. Give Kamala Khan the chance to steal your heart – I promise you won’t regret it.

Magen Cubed

Retro Review: A Blast from the Past with Moon Knight Special Edition #1

Having read and reviewed (and thoroughly enjoyed) the recent Moon Knight #1 from Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey, I was curious to dig through some of my backlog to see if I had any other Moon Knight lying around. To be honest, my knowledge of the night’s greatest detective is cursory at best, having read only sporadic appearances over the last twenty years or so. However, when I came across Moon Knight Special Edition #1 I knew it would be fun to review now. Published in October 1992, this special edition one-shot, complete with a cover gallery and mini-comic, falls more in line with what I’d read of the character growing up, albeit in a far more joking tone. So if you’re looking for a nostalgic dose of 90s Moon Knight, look no further.

Written by character creator Doug Moench with pencils by Art Nichols, Moon Knight Special Edition #1 follows the titular character as he teams up with martial arts master Shangi-Chi. Tasked with investigating a series of disappearances, this unlikely pair finds themselves embroiled in the strange world of the Golden Dawn mind-cult, which preys on young adults from their lair on a remote island. Populated by wave after wave of cartoonish, over-the-top obstacles and villains, the island and the cult that runs it are not exactly what they seem, much to Moon Knight’s growing frustration. The plot itself is as ridiculous and cheesy as the cult itself, but the long-suffering heroes are aware of it the entire time, putting much of the aggressive inanity into a sufficient context. Even for it, the conclusion feels a bit rushed and unresolved, adding a level of sobriety at the end that feels a little tacked on.

Moon_Knight_Special_Edition_Vol_1_1_WraparoundDespite the somewhat uneven handling of the script, Moench injects some great dialogue into this overly silly romp as Moon Knight and Shang-Chi try to get along for the sake of the mission. Much of their strained dynamics result in some truly funny moments throughout the issue, adding some much-needed humor to the story through useful tension and expert delivery. The buddy movie sensibility definitely works to ground the issue in defined characterizations and narrative voices, following the heroes as they grow to eventually tolerate each other and their opposing styles.

As for the artwork, Nichols’ clean page design and kinetic panel compositions carries this zany adventure to a satisfying end. As silly as the graphic narrative becomes, much of the imagery is compelling and visually interesting, making for a solid reading experience. The palettes of colorist Mike Thomas feel a bit muddy at times, especially during action sequences where character detail easily fades into dark amorphous backgrounds. Even for these rough spots, overall the colors are clean and effective throughout. The cover gallery and mini-comic are amusing and definitely worth a look.

While the tone of book is a little inconsistent, the clever dialogue and strong artwork of Moon Knight Special Edition #1 make for an entertaining read. It’s classic exaggerated 90s comic book fare with all the nostalgia, both good and bad, along for the ride. Issues like this are worth revisiting after books relaunch if only to see how many directions characters have gone over the years, from serious to silly and back again. This may not be the strongest example of Moon Knight, but it’s a fun revisit to the bygone days of my childhood.

Magen Cubed –

Review: Taking Flight in Miracleman #2

Marvel’s remastering of the deconstructionist classic Miracleman returns in its second chapter. This is second part of Book One: A Dream of Flying, with stories by Alan Moore and art by Garry Leach, Steve Dillon, Alan Davis and Paul Neary. #2collects reprints from Warriors #3 – #5, as well as reprints of original Marvelman adventures from creator Mick Angelo with art by Don Lawrence. As with #1, the backmatter features sketches and original artwork by Leech, offering a look into the production of the original Warriors serial.

Picking up directly after #1, this issue follows the return of Jonathan Bates, the former Kid Miracleman, in When Johnny Comes Marching Home and Dragons. Now a wealthy cybernetics mogul, Bates has morphed into a pitiless sociopath, corrupted by the destructive powers he now hides behind the polished veneer of status and industry. Back at the Moran household Liz is still struggling to deal with her husband’s transformation when Mike gets a call from Bates, inviting them to his offices. When Mike and Liz go to visit Bates, their polite chat takes a sinister turn as Bates’ true nature rears it vicious head. With no other choice, Mike transforms into Miracleman to stop the ensuing rampage as Bates lays waste to everything in his path, putting London in danger.

Miracleman2In the third story, The Yesterday Gambit, the Miracleman saga jumps three years into the future as Miracleman teams up with the alien Warpsmith to travel back in time. They arrive in 1963 on the day that the Miracleman family died, attempting to keep them from completing their fateful final mission. Young Miracleman dies and Miracleman loses his powers and memory, leaving Kid Miracleman alone to fester in his violent burgeoning tendencies. The resulting skirmish does nothing, however, as the family flies away to meet their inevitable death and Warpsmith wipes their memories of the event. In the end Miracleman and Warpsmith must return to their home timeline empty-handed, only to find themselves ambushed by Bates. This results in an ominous battle that alludes to dark days to come for Miracleman, past, present and future.

Whether you’re new to the series or a longtime fan, Miracleman #2 is worth picking up. Moore’s writing is so lush and descriptive that it sometimes reads more like an illustrated novel than a comic, enriching the graphic narrative through the pure strength of language. He presents a bleak but fascinating view into the internal machinations of the superhuman, and how even the best of intentions can become corrupted by the nature of ultimate power and strength. Today such deconstruction of the superhero genre is so commonplace as to become tired, but for the pre-Watchmen 1980s, this stands as a fresh and engaging glimpse into superhero fiction.

As for the art, Leech’s work, which for me is the real draw of the series, still holds up today through his command of page design and storytelling. His pencils are made all the more affective and intense by Steve Oliff’s palettes, bringing a new level of emotional subtly to the page through thoughtful color choice. While I was a little less engaged by the artwork in The Yesterday Gambit, it’s still a solid story and a good read, with a wealth of beautiful narration and great imagery. And be sure to look at the Marvelman reprints in the back of the issue, they are truly charming and a great deal of fun.

Magen Cubed –

Review: The Man without Fear Gets a Reboot with Daredevil #1

As many of Marvel’s most beloved heroes return to the shelves with their own monthly titles this year, many ongoing books are renumbering with exciting new #1’s. Daredevil #1 arrived in March from writer Mark Waid, pencilist Chris Samnee and color artist Javier Rodriguez, embarking on a strong new chapter in this title’s long and dynamic history. While established readers will recognize this issue as a continuation of previous storylines, but with Waid’s tight scripting and Samnee and Rodriguez’s energetic artwork, Daredevil #1 offers a strong draw to new readers.

Matt Murdock has come to San Francisco to begin the next chapter of his life with a new set of mysteries and adventures. Helping the San Francisco police with a kidnapping case, Daredevil takes to the streets to hunt down the abductors himself. Far from New York City, Matt’s a little out of his element, seguing into a summary of his origins for new audiences as his rescue mission brings the attention of one of the rocket-propelled kidnappers. The girl in his arms, Matt engages in an aerial pursuit across the city, facing danger and distraction at every turn. When he attempts to comfort the girl his senses pick up the sound of an explosive microdevice in her stomach, turning the high-flying chase into a race against time to save her. What begins as a fun done-in-one adventure opens up to a brand new mystery as the issue closes on the dramatic return of Foggy Nelson.


With its fast-paced action and sharp dialogue, Daredevil #1 proves to be an exciting opening issue. Waid delivers a satisfying read that builds on the foundations he’s already established, catching readers up quickly and offering a nice introduction of Matt’s continuing adventures. With such a seamless transition from one leg of the title to the next the renumbering seems unnecessary, but even for it this #1 is a compelling read. Samnee’s strong sense of storytelling carries the book through clever and engaging page design. His artwork is as fun as it is absorbing, effortlessly navigating the equal measures tension and humor throughout the script. Rodriguez’s flat bold fields of color affect a strong balance of vintage adventure comic sensibility with the bright dynamism of this altogether surreal sensory world that Matt operates within. Their collaboration make this book a frenetic, funny and highly entertaining book.

Action-packed, well-plotted and wonderfully executed, Daredevil #1 is a strong offering from a successful creative team. Longtime readers will appreciate the strong continuity, and new readers can quickly catch up and enjoy what storytellers Waid and Samnee have in store. Even if you’re new to the Man without Fear, this title has an easy learning curve and is easily accessible, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Magen Cubed –

Review: Captain America: Winter Soldier

Coming to screens in April, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is pulled from the pages of the award-winning Winter Soldier storyline by writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting. Spanning Captain America issues #1-9 and #11-14, Winter Soldier is a fast-paced spy story that changed Cap’s status quo forever. Aided by artistic team Mike Perkins, Michael Lark and John Paul Leon, Brubaker and Epting reenergized the Captain America mythos in the introduction of the arc’s titular character, reviving Cap’s dead partner Bucky Barnes as highly-skilled Soviet assassin the Winter Soldier. Full of action, intrigue and poignant character development, this saga lives up to the hype as its movie adaptation makes its way to a theater near you.

Since the end of World War II, Soviet Russia has used its secret weapon, the ruthlessly efficient and untraceable Winter Soldier, to assassinate key Western political figures. Deactivated at the end of the Cold War, this undercover agent is once again revived by the power-hungry General Lukin and used to do his dirty work. Lukin, who has come into possession of a vastly powerful and reality-bending Cosmic Cube, embarks on a plot of death and destruction that brings Captain America to his door. Cap, still reeling from a series of recent traumas, is in no shape to come face to face with Bucky or the horrors that have been done to him. What begins with the surprising assassination of the Red Skull ends in a globe-trotting spy story of regret and redemption as Cap struggles to save his best friend from himself.

CaptainAmericaWS1Brubaker is a masterful storyteller and his gift for plotting really shows in Winter Soldier. His scripting throughout the arc is air-tight, settling into a compelling pace and never letting up as every component of the unfolding mystery seamlessly comes together. While certainly action-packed, the globe-trotting adventure is elegantly tempered by flashback sequences and downtime, slowing down to afford some truly poignant moments. The interlude, The Lonesome Death of Jack Monroe from artists Leon and Palmer, chronicles the tragic last months of Jack Monroe’s life as his mind begins to slip as result of the Super Soldier Serum. Likewise, Cap’s flashbacks to the 1940s, as well as the development of Bucky’s experiences as the Winter Soldier, create a strong personal undercurrent to balance the story effectively.

However, while I enjoy Brubaker’s work, I find that his characterizations are often quite thin. Winter Soldier, unfortunately, is no exception. The somewhat generic dialogue feels a bit tired throughout, as Steve recycles uninspired lines plucked right from equally uninspiring action movies with a blandly flirtatious Sharon. This is a little irksome, but, compared to the rest of the compelling character drama, ultimately doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the story. I just wish some of the emotional weight reserved for Bucky’s and Jack’s storylines could have been a little bit more equally distributed among the rest of the principle cast.

Epting, who handles the bulk of the artwork, brings the story to the page with energy and gravitas. His strong sense of narrative truly shines through the use of thoughtful page design and panel transition, expertly pacing each critical scene. The quality of his lines and dramatic use of shadow sets a somber tone that grounds the story in a real sense of weight and physicality. Overall his style meshes impeccably with Perkins and flashback artist Lark, making for a cohesive reading experience from start to finish. This is also due largely in part to the work of colorist Frank D’Armata. D’Armata’s dark and moody palettes affect a somber tone throughout, and the use of grayscale color schemes during the flashback sequences is a nice touch.

Overall Winter Soldier is a great story from a dynamic creative team. It’s fun, it’s compelling, and it’s wonderfully crafted from start to finish. This arc is required reading for Captain America fans but I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an exciting superhero read. Oh, and be sure to see the movie. I hear it’s pretty good.

Magen Cubed  –

Retro Comics: Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown #4

With its fourth issue, this 80s action-adventure romp comes to a dramatic close, ending this enjoyable flashback on an overall high note. After Logan’s apparent death at Alex’s hands, the spy/mercenary Quark uses her blooming romantic relationship with Alex to lead him to India and directly into the clutches of General Meltdown. In this issue we learn that this globe-trotting journey has been a complex rouse created by Meltdown and Doctor Neutron, meant to pit Alex against Meltdown so that the general can absorb Alex’s devastating radioactive blast. Logan, however, has other plans.

After being buried in a shallow grave, Logan comes back as Alex predicted thanks to his healing factor. From there he follows the staged clues left behind by Quark to arrive in India, at the power plant meant to serve as the stage of General Meltdown’s ascension into untold levels of power. Led by Quark, Alex believes that he’s rushing into the plant to avoid an impending meltdown, and is instead met by Meltdown. Dramatic monologues ensue as Alex squares off against the power-hungry mutant, as Quark (still masquerading as Scarlett) is wounded in the skirmish. Fueled by heartbreak and rage, Alex unleashes a massive blast on Meltdown, playing right into Meltdown’s hands.


Just when all seems lost, Logan arrives to stop Meltdown, piercing him with a slew of control rods as to dampen and wither his powers. Still channeling excessive levels of power, Alex redirects the radioactive onslaught up and into space, sparing the plant and everyone inside. With Meltdown dead and Scarlett seemingly lost in the crossfire, Logan and Alex make their escape to Bombay, taking a moment to breathe as their adventure comes to an end. In the epilogue we see Neutron plan for the future, quickly overcoming this setback to move onto the next big scheme at the expense of the world’s superhero community.

Overall this was an enjoyable series, with plenty of twists and turns and amazing art to boot. In this closing issue Muth and Williams deliver a visually exciting story, with explosive action sequences in the Alex/Meltdown showdown and dramatic page design. The use of color was especially affective here, with lovely golds and earth tones against eerie blues and greens to explore the interior of the plant. This book is just unquestionably nice to read, providing a consistently engaging visual experience from start to finish. I wish I could say the same of Walter and Louise Simonsons’ scripting. While definitely fun, this issue in particular really suffers from the overuse of cliché dialogue and exchanges between Alex and Quark so sugary-sweet as to induce a diabetic episode. I have to give the Simonsons props for an entertaining plot for Muth and Williams to capitalize on, but the dialogue is often so bad that I had to laugh, and not in a good way. For all the soft spots, Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown is still a highly entertaining nostalgic trip to the comics of a bygone era.

Magen Cubed –

Review: A Hard Day’s Work with She-Hulk #1

Fresh from the successes of female-led titles like Captain Marvel, Black Widow and Ms. Marvel, Marvel Comics finally brings one of its most enduring characters back to the page with She-Hulk #1. Since her first appearance in 1980’s Savage She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters has made numerous appearances in the pages of Fantastic Four, Avengers, and Incredible Hulk, as well as several separate runs of her solo Sensational She-Hulk. In that time, Jennifer has been around the block, not only as the hulking green hero but as a savvy New York attorney, offering legal counsel to many of her fellow heroes.

In February Jennifer finally came back to the shelves in her own anticipated ongoing solo title. Fresh off her recent major role in FF from Matt Fraction and Lee and Mike Allred, Jennifer is back to basics. This new book is helmed by the creative team of writer Charles Soule, artist Javier Pulido, and color artist Munsta Vicente, and offers a fun ride for readers new and old.


An upbeat title that takes several cues from its predecessors, the opening issue follows Jennifer’s misadventures as she balances her life as a superhero with her career.  Realizing that she was only brought on for her connections in the superhero community, Jennifer quits her position at Paine and Luckberg, LLP. to find a more appreciative firm. After this incident she goes out to drown her sorrows at the nearby lawyer bar. There she runs into Holly Harlow, the widow of a recently deceased villain and inventor.

Holly, alone with two children to raise, has reason to believe that Tony Stark stole some of her husband’s patents before his death. She wants Jennifer to represent her in court, hoping to support her family on what little legacy her husband left behind. Although hesitant at first, Jennifer agrees to take the case, using her longstanding relationship with Stark to settle matters out of court. What seems like a simple case quickly takes a strange and frustrating turn for Jennifer, sending her into battle against lawyers, robots, and Stark’s very intimidating one-man legal department, Legal. Despite the obstacles thrown at her, Jennifer finds a way to solve Holly’s troubles and makes a pretty penny in the process, giving her enough capital (and confidence) to open her own practice.

A fun romp into the flipside of the superhero business, She-Hulk preserves the wit and charm of her earlier titles while still doing something new. Soule delivers a solid script here, maintaining a likeable playfulness in showing off Jennifer’s legal savvy as she maneuvers through Stark’s obnoxious corporate defenses. Pulido brings this quirky world to life with a strong sense of storytelling, buoyed by the retro sensibilities of his line work and several clever comedic flourishes throughout. Vicente’s clean bright color palettes help to develop this cool visual aesthetic, making for a fun visual experience from start to finish.

Overall this issue is just fun, reviving a character with a rich history and an eager readership. Longtime She-Hulk fans will love the playful writing and entertaining artwork, while new readers will find plenty of love in Jennifer’s continuing adventures. If you’re looking to a lighthearted and engaging superhero book, I highly recommend She-Hulk #1.

Magen Cubed –

Indie Creators: Devin Kraft

Originally from Roswell, New Mexico, Devin Kraft is an indie comics artist and illustrator from Cheshire Cat Studios ( A transplant from the desert, he is currently based out of Dallas, Texas, which is just down the highway from me here in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. I first encountered Devin’s work while trawling the convention floor at Dallas Comic Con in 2012, grabbing a business card and heading home to follow his efforts online, keeping an eye on his projects and illustrations. Devin is currently hard at work on the third volume of his creator-owned comic Dragon Slayer, a dynamic blend of Eastern/Western fables and genre-mashing, resulting in an intriguing hunting epic. I had a chance to talk to Devin about comics, writing, the local indie comics scene, and a whole lot more.


Q. Your big project right now is your comic Dragon Slayer. What do you want people to know about it?

A. How much of a labor of love this comic is! It has been one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever done, and not just in terms of writing or illustrating, but promotion and distribution as well.  Minus some much appreciated editorial help from my cousin Brooks and some graphic design help from his brother Matt, I’ve done Dragon Slayer primarily alone, which means I have to field every job at some point or another.

First I have to write, pencil, ink, tone and letter each issue, then I have to design the book, promote it, and distribute it.  I self-publish, so I have to hand mail every copy sold through the Kickstarter, or sell them via comic conventions.  It’s definitely a lot of work, but I love it.

I came up with the concept for the book in 2009, and I started working on the book late 2012.  Usually I just sell comics at conventions, but I wanted to use Kickstarter hoping it would help get people interested in the comic.  Kickstarter has been huge for me, as I have been able to engage my audience as well as get immediate feedback from issue to issue.  Dragon Slayer is definitely a product of that collaboration with fans of the book, and that’s what I’ve always wanted from comicking.

Q. I’ve read a bit of Dragon Slayer so far and I really enjoy visual blend of Eastern fable with Western sci-fi/fantasy. That’s an aesthetic that I often see but isn’t always integrated successfully. What are some of your influences for this comic? Any particular homages?

A. I hope I pull the aesthetic off successfully!  My favorite stories and art styles are hybrids of Eastern and Western culture.  I love Japanese artists who pay attention to anatomy, and American or European artists who know when to let anatomy slide in favor of more expressionistic storytelling.

As far as specific examples go, the three biggest spiritual influences have been Katsuhiro Otomo (primarily in how lavishly he portrays destroyed cities in his work), Matsumoto Taiyou (for pacing, and allowing his stories to breathe), and Terada Katsuya (for his brilliant sense of design).  All three were heavily influenced by Moebius, but I’d be hard pressed to think of any artists who have a more distinctly “Japanese” style.

DevinKraft1As far as storytelling goes, my main influences for Dragon Slayer are Neil Gaiman, Aesop’s Fables, the Coen Brothers, and Quentin Tarantino. I’m hoping the end product will be a viable mix of traditional and contemporary storytelling resulting in something fresh and original.

Q. I know a lot of creators across many fields have mixed feelings about crowdfunding projects. Some love it, some despise it, and it always seem to be a well-debated topic all over the web. Having Kickstarted your comic twice now, how have your experiences with crowdfunding been so far?

A. I personally love crowdfunding, as that is what has allowed me to continue writing/drawing/producing Dragon Slayer. When I first went to the Dallas Comic Con in 2012, I printed up five comics I had drawn thinking I would sell through my stock.  I quickly found out how difficult it is to pitch an original idea to people at a crowded convention, so I was worried about getting the comics I did finish into an audience’s hands.

Kickstarter was a great platform to present the idea to an audience as well as interact with people interested in the concept.  There’s always a point in each issue where I burn out a bit because I’m fielding three people’s jobs or so, and having people who care about the story and are excited for the next issue is what keeps me going sometimes.  I hang on to all the fanart people send me and I decorate my room with it as a reminder that people do actually care about what I’m doing.

Q. How long do you plan for Dragon Slayer to run? Will it just be three volumes, or is there more story to tell?

Dragon Slayer is going to wrap up with the third issue, which will be about the size of the first two issues combined.  I always thought of it as a self-contained story, but the more I played around in that world the more short stories I came up with.  I might base a future comic in the same world as Dragon Slayer, for sure.  If I could pass off the art duties to someone else, I’d love to do write some shorts fleshing out the world a little bit more.

Q. While digging through your older comics, I found myself very much intrigued by the imagery of many of your one-offs, specifically Devil and Dr. John. Do you find yourself drawn to one-offs more than serialized work, or vice versa? Do you prefer one format over another?

A. Being an independent comic artist, I don’t have the infrastructure that the average comic has.  It takes a lot of work just to finish a single issue, and I usually do the short comics for myself keeping in mind they potentially may never reach an audience.  Devil and Dr. John, for example, was written and illustrated while I was an exchange student in Japan when I was 21.  I didn’t print it up until 2012, roughly five years after I had finished it.  I put the pages up for free on Deviantart and Facebook, and I even had it translated into Japanese to submit to some manga contests when I was job hunting in Japan in 2009, but even with all of that I’d be surprised if more than ten people read it before it was physically printed.

In college I would draw comics instead of doodling in class, figuring it would be better (and more focused) practice than aimless scribbles.  By drawing a page or so a day, I ended up completing twenty comics that I had no clue how to get to an audience.  My first comic was a Chinese noir inspired riff on Alice in Wonderland that I finished about five issues of, and towards the end of college I finished five issues of a comic called Paradise about an omniscient horticulturist fighting an omnipresent murderer (trust me, it’s cooler than it sounds, and it had zombies before zombies got played to death).

I think you have so much more room to play with and subvert tropes with serialized storytelling, so as a writer I much prefer that, but it takes a colossal amount of effort to wear both hats, and without any audience backing you up drawing serialized stories can feel like a lot of effort for a potentially empty room, so that’s why I did one-offs back in the day.

I really just want stories to have a solid thesis statement and to stick to that, and sometimes serialized media can lose the plot over time.  Alternatively, sometimes you need more room to properly explore your concept, so it becomes essential to tell it over several episodes.

Q. I noticed on your site you have a nicely cataloged visual resources page, which spares from me having to ask you where you draw inspiration from. I have to ask (as someone who’s far less fastidious in keeping track of her own resources): do you find that it helps to have all of your influential material organized and within reach? And where else do you mine for art-fuel?

A. I once heard that a good way to engage your audience was to create a learning environment, and that was one of the concepts behind my website.  I wanted to educate fans and future artists about artists who they might not hear about anywhere else.  There are widely known artists who work on Marvel and DC’s flagship titles, then there are the artist’s artists who have never gained mainstream attention for whatever reason.  My goal was to at least present people with these artist’s works in hopes they would serve as an inspiration to aspiring artists as well.

Case in point it took me years to find out how awesome Moebius was.  I actually had come across his book DevinKraft340 Days in the Desert in a Japanese bookstore, but I never knew how influential he was to my favorite artists. I also spent the majority of my time in Japan hunting down obscure artbooks, and this exposed me to a lot of alternative Japanese illustrators, and I wanted to pass this knowledge on to any budding artists who were looking for something new.

For art fuel I find myself checking my Tumblr a lot. I’m really picky about who and what I follow on Tumblr, so my feed has become a great mix of comic illustration tips, fashion, high art, and photography that always serves to plow through any artists’ block I may be struggling with.  Beyond that, I love going to Half Price Books or to comic shops and just checking through every single book on the shelf that I haven’t seen before.  I can kill a good hour or two at a decent bookstore.

Q. You’re based out of Dallas, which is just down the highway from me. Most of the American indie creators I keep up with these days are stationed on either coast or in Austin. They all have unique communities that they engage with, unique venues, things like that. (Obviously the internet and social networking opens up the indie community as a whole, so it doesn’t even need mentioning anymore.) But, from one local to another, how would you describe the indie comics world for us here in north-central Texas?

A. I’m from Roswell, New Mexico, originally, and it’s such a small town that it’d be really difficult to live solely off of such a niche form of art (comicking).  Coming to Dallas, I started attending conventions having only read about them in magazines when I was a kid.  It wasn’t long before I decided I was ready to exhibit at some of these conventions, and doing that has allowed me to connect with a bunch of awesome and talented people, both in the form of peers and in the form of fans.

Dallas has some phenomenal local talent that would be snatched up by the bigger companies immediately if they had headquarters here.  The artists I know here all employ vastly different styles from each other based on vastly different influences, so there’s a lot of diversity. It’s always a lot of fun at the big conventions to browse the booths, as every booth has such a totally different style from the next.

I’m guaranteed to forget someone in this list, but a few of my local favorites are: The Space Gun Studios guys, Robert Wilson IV, Chad Thomas, Evan Bryce Cranston, the Ghostwerks comics crew, Sho-Nuff Studios, Jose Ramirez, Jose Esquivel, and Kristian Donaldson, among others.

Q. Outside of comics, you do a lot of illustrations and commission work. I know you’ve had some success with your Studio Ghibli series in particular. Are there any favorites or highlights you’d like to share?

A. When I need to take a break from creator owned stuff, I do fanart, and I always try to have fun with it.  Until recently, I never really designed posters for conventions specifically-I’d draw them more for myself than anything.  It’s always fun to see which prints con goers gravitate towards at a convention, and at Sci-Fi Expo people really seemed to love my recent Sherlock print.  My Tardis design usually sells out pretty quickly, so I suspect people just love the BBC (as they should).

When I’m not working on sequentials, I’ll usually have one or two new poster concepts to post on my Etsy store ( each week.  I’ve been focusing on finishing off Dragon Slayer, but once that’s finished I’ll probably relax with some fanart for a few weeks.

Q. Your work draws from and incorporates a lot of different genres, which makes for some fun comics. Is there a particular genre you love more than the others? Is there a genre you’d like to tackle but haven’t yet?

A. It’s really tough for me because I love slice of life alternative comics as well as deep philosophical comics, but my art style is kinetic and lends itself to action, so I always feel like there’s a gulf between the stories I would like to write and the stories I would like to draw.  I’d love to write personal pensive stories like Craig Thompson, Daniel Clowes, or Adrian Tomine, but I would go nuts drawing talking heads all the time.  Maybe when I’m older and more comfortable with my style as well as more versatile I’ll grow up into the storyteller I want to be.

I’d love to dabble in each genre.  I think horror would be a blast to do. Junji Ito’s Uzumaki got me really inspired to do something in that vein.  I’d also love to write stories about relationships, but again, I’d hate drawing them.  I could probably have a field day with the action genre since I grew up on Chinese noir films when I was a kid.

Q. Before we wrap this up, are there any other projects coming up that you’d like to plug? Any upcoming convention appearances you want to highlight?

A. The collected edition of Dragon Slayer will be available on Kickstarter either April or May, depending on when I get all the pages wrapped up and the book designed.  The Space Gun Studios team is coloring the book, so it’s going to look amazing once all is said and done.  I’m already working on the comic after Dragon Slayer mentally, so that’s going to be fun to dive into.

As far as conventions, I’ll be doing Staple! March 1st-2nd in Austin, and then I’ll be doing The Heart of Texas Comicon in Waco March 7th-8th. I’ll definitely be at Dallas Comicon in May as well, hopefully with finished copies of Dragon Slayer!

As far as social media goes, I’m on just about everything. I kind of have to be, but I’m pretty active on each platform, so if anyone messages I’ll catch it pretty fast.

Thanks so much to Devin for talking the time to talk to me. Be sure to follow his work at Cheshire Cat Studios ( and stop by his Etsy store for more ( I look forward to seeing more from him in the future.

Magen Cubed  –

Retro Comics: Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown #3

By far the most interesting issue in the series up to this point, Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown #3 follows Logan as he tracks down Alex and Quark. Incorporating horror elements into the book’s already impressive visual narrative, this issue continues to play with genre conventions to satisfying ends. It’s an 80s flashback worth having as Quark leads Alex into General Meltdown’s clutches, and Logan fights to survive Doctor Neutron’s experimentation.

Fleeing across Mexico from their alleged CIA pursuers, Alex and Quark fly into Merida, where Quark checks in with Meltdown while Alex rests. Still posing as the nurse Scarlett, Quark finds her persona beginning to slip as she develops feelings for Alex. It is a cliché for the femme fatale to fall for the flawed hero, but this scene leads to one of the loveliest sequences in the book as Quark goes into the women’s room to change. Five wordless panels against a red-smeared watercolor background invoke a sense of sad resignation far more profound than the Simonsons’ fun but cheesy script. It’s pages like this that make the work of Muth and Williams the real stars of this series.


Meanwhile, Logan’s hunt for Alex puts him in danger when he brought down in an ambush and captured by Meltdown’s thugs. His mind wiped in a series of experiments, he’s dropped off in a castle in a Soviet-controlled region of the Carpathian Mountains, where Quark leads Alex. The castle, right out of Dracula, is where Meltdown and Neutron arrange for Alex to encounter Logan, now a mindless beast bent on tearing Alex to shreds. Alex, wanting to save his friend, has no choice but to fight back or be killed. In the skirmish he accidentally kills Logan, just in time for the cliffhanger ending, and swears revenge on whoever is behind this.

I have to say, I don’t think I’ve never read a superhero book quite like this before. It has pulp aspirations with a revenge story on the side. The buddy comedy set-up of the first issue has turned into a cool globe-trotting adventure, with plenty of brutal action, mysterious locales, and a dash of horror for good measure. To their credit, Walter and Louise Simonson deliver a story that is both fun and interesting, and manages to hold up today with its many twists and turns. It’s so 80s that it hurts sometimes, but in an increasingly endearing way.

Brought to the page by the amazing collaboration of Muth and Williams, with their strong sense of storytelling and compatible styles, this series just gets better as it goes along. I found this to be the most visually pleasing issue so far, from the inventive panel construction of Meltdown’s underground hideout sequence to the sumptuous color palettes throughout. For a world so dark and gritty, there is a real beauty in the soft, gauzy whites and blues of Alex’s scenes with Quark, and a raw, earthy vitality to the reds and blacks of Logan’s pages. This is one of the most visually unified collaborative superhero books I’ve seen to date, which makes it one of the most satisfying.

Magen Cubed –