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Hugh Likes Comics: Canto

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Canto1

Canto #1
Written by David M. Booher
Drawn by Drew Zucker
Colored by Vittorio Astone
Lettered by Deron Bennett
Published by IDW

The Skinny: A boy with a clockwork heart ventures into a dark world in this grim steampunk fairytale.

Canto’s people live in chains. Denied freedom, identity and even hearts, they toil for cruel masters bigger and stronger than themselves. But Canto believes in two things: A fairytale about a boy who saved a princess, and the girl who gave him his name. When she is injured by the cruel slavers, he’ll do the only thing he can to save her: Leave the confines of their labor camp and bring back her heart.
A sinister but none-the-less charming steampunk fable, Canto #1 opens with a familiar fantasy theme, but plays it expertly. Booher and Zucker’s steampunk fable starts on all the right notes for a great series. The story flows around the gaps in the characters’ knowledge, the questions that Canto will have to find the answers for. It is also doesn’t flinch away from the horrors of its world.
Zucker’s designs are doing a lot of great work here. Canto and his people are little clockwork knights, and their is brutal and violent without being gory. They don’t have or lose blood, but Time. It’s a clever and occasionally devastating use of metaphor that works well on the page. The designs are all funhouse mirror, with the squat, dwarfish slaves and their towering, bestial masters. Even Canto’s face looks like a mask. Astone’s moody colors are dark but also deep and rich. The art and colors are what really elevates the story.
Canto #1 is an excellent start to a story that looks to take a critical, or at least subtextual eye the tired quest motif. I can’t wait to see how far it goes with its material. You can find it digitally through Comixology, or pick up a physical copy at your local comics shop!

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Hugh Likes Video Games: SteamWorld Quest

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Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
Developed by Image and Form Games
Published by Thunderful
Played on Nintendo Switch

The Skinny: A lighthearted but mechanically deep card-RPG sort of set in the SteamWorld Universe.

Each SteamWorld title is a little different. From the dungeon diving of SteamWorld Dig to the Tactical gunplay of SteamWorld Heist, each is a charming and innovative little gem of a game. The latest game in the series, SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech, builds on that reputation.
A fantasy RPG, SteamWorld Quest is framed as a storybook being read in the main SteamWorld post-post-apocalypse setting. Like its predecessors, this game is short but deeply engaging. The hand-drawn art style and the snarky writing work well. There are lots of little sight gags and clever bits that only really work if as a fantasy story told in a world of steampunk robots. This seems counter intuitive until you meet the first mini-boss, a black knight with a birdcage for a head.
The card-based RPG combat, which are stylized punchcards, naturally, has a good balance of randomness as strategy. Each character has a deck of eight cards which represent attacks, spells, buffs, and healing. Characters also manage items, weapons, and equipment. In combat, you have a hand of cards pulled from all three decks, and play three cards a turn. Three cards from the same character creates a combo, with a variety of special effects. During combat, you have to build up steam by playing low level cards. More powerful abilities cost steam, so you have to balance your decks to be able to play better cards. As a veteran RPG player, I found it pretty intuitive, with a lot of depth and options over the five playable characters.
At around twenty hours, the game isn’t very long for an RPG but you can go back to previous chapters to grind for items, experience, and money, or to find hidden secrets. The story isn’t very complicated, but it is filled with charm and clever little references to games like Final Fantasy IV and other old-school RPGs.
SteamWorld Quest is a lighthearted but perfectly executed take on the card RPG. It’s available for PC and from the Nintendo Switch eshop.
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Hugh Likes Comics: The Unstoppable Wasp Unlimited Vol. 1: Fix Everything

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The Unstoppable Wasp Unlimited Vol. 1: Fix Everything
Written by Jeremy Wihitley
Drawn by Gurihiru
Published by Marvel Comics

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The Skinny: After escaping from the assassin school where she was raised and establishing a lab for teenage scientists, Nadia Van Dyne discovers that her greatest enemy may be herself.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the over-too-soon first volume of Unstoppable Wasp, I was delighted that Marvel revived the series. This book collects the first five issues of the second volume, and is even better than the first, mixing superhero action with personal drama and super-science in a way that is accessible and compelling.
One of the things that really drew me to Nadia as a character was her optimism and sunny personality. In a world filled with gruff badasses whose personal traumas made them into tough loners, Nadia relished the opportunity to finally live the life she was always denied. She was a constant delight in a grimdark universe.
But of course nobody can be happy all the time, and Nadia’s father, the original Ant Man Hank Pym, had a history of mental illness that wasn’t presented as thoughtfully or carefully as it maybe should have been. When an unexpected super-villain attack catches Nadia by surprise and puts her friends in danger, she cracks. But Whitley and Gurihiru do an amazing job in how they present and resolve Nadia’s mental health crisis, as well as the reactions of her friends and mentors. This is rarely handled well in a medium where so many rogues galleries are littered with the ‘criminally insane,’ and it is all the more an achievement that it was handled so deftly and so frankly in a comic with a YA audience.
Whitley has managed a rare comeback with a character: building on the first volume and raising the personal stakes without falling back on the status quo. That’s an easy trap for comics to fall into, and I’m glad that he not only avoided it, but vaulted it. Gurihiru’s art is a perfect fit for the book as well. Their style is fun and poppy but still has that edge to it that the book needs. This book is a must read for its hidden depths.
Unstoppable Wasp Unlimited Vol. 1: Fix Everything is available digitally from Comixology, and you can also find it on Amazon and at your local comics shop.
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Hugh Likes Fiction: Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye

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Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye
Written by Christiana Ellis
Published by the Author
ARC provided by the author

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The Skinny: This serial fiction project edited into a novel crosses genres as quickly and easily as the characters move between worlds.

To me, serial fiction and genre mashups go hand in hand. This tradition goes back to the pulps, where heroic adventurers were as likely to stop mad scientists and alien invasions as they were to travel to hidden lost civilizations and battle classically inspired monsters. It continues with superhero comics to this day, but Christiana Ellis’s delightful Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye brings things back around with a modern twist.
Collected and edited from a web serial, the story follows the eponymous detective as she travels between dimensions with the help of the portal generator implanted in her arm. When an elvish femme fatale hires her to track down her missing brother, however, she’s soon caught in a web of intrigue involving dwarven gangsters, malevolent AI and a clairvoyant sorceress/loan shark. And soon, it’s not just her client, but the whole multiverse that’s in danger.
Split into three books, the first is the most traditionally structured as a detective story, and is my favorite of the three. But the whole collection is chock full of charming characters, clever writing, and most of all, unexpected consequences. It’s a fun romp around the multiverse, although if the author ever continues the project, I’d love to see this crew of characters travel a bit more widely than the ‘slices’ of multiverse we get to see here.
Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye is available from Amazon and is a great addition to your Kindle. Why not take a trip to another dimension this summer?
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Hugh Likes Video Games: Castlevania Anniversary Collection

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Castlevania Anniversary Collection
Published by Konami
Played on Nintendo Switch

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The Skinny: A bare-bones but cheap and well-emulated collection of vampire-slaying classics.

Regular readers of Hugh Likes Video Games will know that I like me some vampire killing, and I was saddened by Konami’s decision to move away from making new games. This collection of eight retro games isn’t a full reverse course, but it’s still a welcome development.
The $20 digital-only collection is a grab bag of the first eight games of the series, from the ubiquitous NES titles to the obscure Kid Dracula, which was never released in the U.S. The collection features games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Gameboy, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis.
This digital collection is pretty bare-bones compared to a lot of recent collections and retro devices like the NES Classic. While it does have a single save state for each game and a playback feature, along with a few different display options, that’s about it. There’s no rewind function, and the menu is very basic.
The emulation itself feels spot-on, and is as just as smooth, and in the case of the two Game Boy entries, just as clunky as you remember. The games look and feel great on the Switch in handheld mode. It also includes a digital book that serves as a manual, but has few interesting production art and interviews.
The Castlevania Anniversary Collection is a mixed bag of titles that is a bit ephemeral, but the low price point makes this greatest hits collection a steal for classic Castlevania fans. The collection is available from the PS4, X-Box One, and Switch online stores, as well as Steam.
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Hugh Likes Comics: Crowded

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Crowded Vol 1: Soft Apocalypse
Written by Christopher Sebela
Drawn by Ro Stein and Ted Brandt
Colored by Triona Farrell
Published by Image Comics

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The Skinny: A contract bodyguard has her work cut out for her protecting her latest client from crowdfunded assassins.

In a future where anything can be crowd funded, and the gig economy has taken over, even assassinations can be crowdfunded. But when wild girl Charlie’s finds herself with a million-dollar bounty on her head, her only hope may lie in bodyguard for hire Vita. If they don’t kill each other, anyway.
Equal parts action movie, dystopian thriller, and buddy comedy, Crowded is a wild ride.But the character work is what really sets the writing apart. Sebela delivers a lot of depth to these characters with very simple strokes. He takes stock tropes like the world-weary bodyguard and transforms them into deep, complex characters that you come to care about. Even the villain of the arc, slimy livestereaming assassin Trotter, is if not sympathetic, complicated in his motivations.
Stein’s art, with inking by Brandt, is expressive, bold and easy to follow. Farrell’s colors are a mix of glaring digital neons and the grays and browns of urban decay. The art really sells the story, which walks a fine line between goofy action and cyberpunk horror.
Crowded juxtaposes over the top action sequences with the very real cyberpunk horrors of a rising gig economy, omnipresent digital surveillance, and collapsing American infrastructure. As ridiculous as it all seems, it is a frighteningly plausible near future.
Crowded: Soft Apocalypse collects the first six issues of the comic, and is available from Comixology, the usual digital retailers, or your local comics shop.
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Podcast: CCR55 – The Battle of El Alamein (1969)

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CCR55 El Alemein

Tonight your hosts, Hugh, Rich the Time Traveler, Opopanax, and Jurd, battle with Nazi apologists.

Click HERE to listen to the Podcast!

And click HERE to watch the movie online!

Chrononaut Cinema Reviews is presented by http://skinner.fm and http://hughjodonnell.com, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

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