Slush Pile: Captain Action, Code Name: Hunter, Diary of Night, Holy Scrolls, The Hookah Girl, Johnny Hiro, Like That, Making Rain

I’m going to get current on my review submissions if it kills me! Here’s the first batch of books people have asked me to talk about where I felt I had something to say. All books covered are complimentary copies provided by the creators.

Captain Action

Captain Action #0 cover
Captain Action #0

Written by Fabian Nicieza, art by Mark Sparacio, $1.99 US, Captain Action, Moonstone

There’s story promise in this 16-page teaser issue, and stunning photo-realistic art colored over pencils, but any new series has a huge hurdle to overcome with readers who want consistently good entertainment on a reliable basis. Today’s readers have short attention spans and few chances to catch their eye and keep their attention.

Since this came out in April, there’s also been a one-shot issue called First Mission, Last Day, only that’s not comics, it’s an “illustrated novella”. It’s a flashback to Captain Action’s first mission in the 1960s. The actual comic series is due in August. Until then, you can buy shirts, models, hats, bags, mugs, stickers, magnets, mousepads, and even throw pillows with the Captain Action logo. I’d have rather seen the series start more quickly.

Comic-wise, I have to admire a revamped 60s property that in the backstory calls itself an anachronism. Apparently, the original Captain Atom is dead (but still narrating), while his son is going to take on the mantle. The idea, I’m guessing, is that we watch him grow into the hero he can become. Although all we see of him in the first story is him passed out drunk and naked in bed with two women. (A second story has more action. Not that kind.) This teaser also includes a two-page text feature on the character’s history written by Michael Eury, who also wrote an entire book on the franchise.

Code Name: Hunter

Code Name Hunter #0.1 cover
Code Name Hunter #0.1

By Matt (co-writer) and Darcy (writer/artist) Sowers, $3.50 US, RCSI Publishing

I liked the webcomic, but I like it even better in colorful print. The animal characters are so vibrant! Issues #0.1-0.3 make up a prologue that establishes a world where magic has been banned, only to reappear during wartime in 1940 London. An employee of MI5 meets a pixie who speaks music with a crush on him, and the two have to figure out how to restore the order of things. The result is the establishment of a Torchwood-like agency to regulate magic.

Issue #1.1 jumps ahead to to near-modern day, with Agent Hunter and his partner setting out on additional investigations, but I enjoyed the WWII issues more, with the blending of fantasy and historical fiction. Read more online.

Diary of Night

Written by Will Allred, art by Gene Gonzales, $2.99 US, Bloodfire Studios

Gonzales’ art is always clean and lovely, making this vampire comic more attractive than many. Catherine is one, but she doesn’t fit in with others of her kind. The plot is more mysterious than it needs to be in the first issue, but she and another are looking for a third who’s disappeared.

What I found different were the little touches, such as a counseling session for new vampires that coincidentally tells the reader what particular rules of the mythology the writer is using. Catherine is obviously older and more jaded than many, making her relatable (at least for me). There’s a welcome sense of humor underlying these familiar elements, especially with tough girl Anne. I liked it enough to keep reading.

Issue #2 flashes back to her creation while establishing the series conflict. The balance of the remaining two issues of the miniseries sways more towards pointless chasing around than significant plot development for my taste, but overall, I’d like to see more of these characters. Maybe with a bit more depth next time.

Holy Scrolls

Holy Scrolls cover
Holy Scrolls

Story by Dr. Pam Fox Kuhlken and Brett Burner, written by Burner, art by Diego Candia, $6 US, Lamp Post Publications

A young boy, bored at the museum, is educated by an old man he bumps into. (This read a little creepy to me, that this stranger with a cane starts talking to a kid, but I think that’s an unfortunate side effect of a close-up panel by the artist that’s overly exaggerated.) Much of the comic is an illustration of the history the kid’s being told.

Don’t be misled by the publisher calling this a “graphic novel” — it’s a 32-page black-and-white comic. And it’s didactic, due to its purpose: to educate kids about the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls. There’s no story, just a frame for the instruction, but it’s a more interesting way to learn about these artifacts than most, if that’s your goal. Like most material produced with education in mind, that purpose overwhelms everything else about it.

The Hookah Girl and Other True Stories

The Hookah Girl and Other True Stories cover
The Hookah Girl and Other True Stories

By Marguerite Dabaie, $5 US, Self-Published

This anthology collects short stories about growing up as a Christian Palestinian girl in America. The opening sequence, which immediately won me over, shows that she’s pulling no punches. It’s a series of paper dolls, illustrating how Palestinian women are seen: the choices are Muslim, revolutionary, harem dancing girl, martyr, or herself, the starving artist. It’s a pointed yet funny way of skewering stereotypes.

The other entries are short, reportorial pieces about culture and her observations, whether visiting a festival, making grape leaves, the lives of her grandparents, or women’s roles. I really appreciated the opportunity to inhabit another viewpoint, however briefly. Dabaie has an educated eye for the perfect detail to sum up a setting or moment. This book is over much too soon — I hope she follows through on her plans to make additional volumes.

Johnny Hiro

Johnny Hiro #1 cover
Johnny Hiro #1

By Fred Chao, $2.95 US, AdHouse Books

Slacker adventure = crazy fun, as a T Rex attacking the apartment of Johnny and his girlfriend Mayumi. Like Street Angel, this is a straightforward almost-superhero story by a talented indie artist. It’s well-drawn, with great storytelling flow, and weird pop culture references. I liked it a lot. Chao creates a distinctive world with characters I want to know better.

Here are some preview pages, here’s an interview, and here’s another review that goes into more detail about why this is good.

Like That

Like That cover
Like That

By Patrick Rills, inked by Allen Gladfelter, $6 US, Icon Studios

A modern romance explores how a relationship developed but not where it goes next, because college student Ryan can’t commit or make up his mind. He’s more concerned with how he’s going to describe their relationship to others instead of enjoying or participating in it.

The art’s realistic in terms of character poses because it’s based on photos, and the cast is even credited. I wish he’d followed the 180-degree rule more, though; if this was a movie, the camera would be spinning through most scenes. And the photos make the scenes that are supposed to demonstrate motion very stiff and frozen-looking.

The male characters all have the same voice; since they’re all in the same place in life, maybe that’s plausible, although it makes it difficult to keep the characters straight. We also don’t get a great idea of what these two people see in each other, which makes it hard to figure out what ending the author was trying to suggest. The lack of resolution seems like a copout.

However, this is a darn sight better than many other comics that attempt similar subjects. I’m pointing out these things because it’s good and it could have been better.

Making Rain

Making Rain cover
Making Rain

By Ursula Murray Husted, $10 US, Self-Published

A wonderful meditation on loss as a young girl copes with her grandmother’s passing. She attends the funeral, family members visit, and then she has to return to school.

The thick brush-looking linework makes the figures rough-edged, as though their raw emotions are visible. The blue tones and brown ink on cream paper are an unusual but very effective choice.

Husted does a beautiful job of capturing how a child sees the world. The adult reader will recognize the impact of what young Rosie hears while Rosie herself doesn’t. Husted trusts the reader to fill in necessary gaps, as when the teacher reads the note from her mother; we don’t see it, but we know exactly what it says.

You can read the whole thing online yourself, which I recommend.

10 Responses to “Slush Pile: Captain Action, Code Name: Hunter, Diary of Night, Holy Scrolls, The Hookah Girl, Johnny Hiro, Like That, Making Rain”

  1. Wein Editor-in-Chief of Bloodfire » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] hadn’t even heard of Bloodfire Studios until I read Diary of Night recently, and here they are making a major staff announcement: Their new Editor-in-Chief will be […]

  2. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » July 22, 2008: S&M Barbie Says:

    […] Johanna Draper Carlson and Don MacPherson on a variety of recent […]

  3. Looking Up Available to Order » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] very much enjoyed Ursula Murray Husted’s Making Rain, and her new book, Looking Up, is now available for order. The author describes it as “a love […]

  4. Captain Action Encourages Voter Registration » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] It’s not the first time a comic book has encouraged voter participation — free copies of Ex Machina #1 were given to newly registered voters in 2004 — but this new promotion takes a more modern, online spin. Register to vote, send a copy of your confirmation to, and you’ll get a free digital copy of Captain Action #0. […]

  5. AdHouse Books Coming in 2009 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] collection of Fred Chao’s Johnny Hiro (June) containing the three issues out so far plus two […]

  6. MoCCA Art Festival 2009 (Johanna) » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Hiro, collecting the three previous issues with a lot […]

  7. Johanna’s MoCCA Books and Comics » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Dabaie had the second volume of her Hookah Girl and Other True Stories, short stories about the cross-cultural struggle of being American Christian Palestinian. Subjects […]

  8. Captain Action: The Original Super-Hero Action Figure (Revised Second Edition) » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] the cult toy for several generations of collectors and fans, leading to recent revivals of both comic and toy. This book offers the complete history of the toy and its development and an examination of […]

  9. From the Slush Pile: Cross Country, Dolltopia, Jam in the Band, Looking Up, Legacy, Experts » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] first saw Husted’s impressive work with her previous book, Making Rain. This book is in the same style, a quiet portrait of a key moment in everyday life. In addition to […]

  10. Three Comic Kickstarters Worth Buying: Galaxion, Stray in the Woods, Lions of Valletta » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] on the waterfront of Malta. (I’ve previously praised Husted’s prior two graphic novels, Making Rain and Looking Up.) Visually, the book contains some amazing allusions to art history, and the […]




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