Tag Archives: Caspar Wijngaard

Weekly Comic 100s: Dr. Strange, Spider-Ham, Shazam!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As promised, this week I’ve padded the rather slim pickings from December 26 with some leftovers from December 19.

By the way, folks, I tried to read Incoming!, the big issue that’s supposed to lead us into what Marvel’s doing in 2020. But I couldn’t get through it. It’s all supposed to link back to a mysterious murder, which was intriguing enough. But the massive scope of the story, with all the different plot threads and characters, was just too much to follow.

Thankfully, Marvel is pretty well represented this week…

TITLE: Dr. Strange #1
AUTHOR: Mark Waid
ARTISTS: Kev Walker, Java Tartaglia (Colorist), Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Phil Noto.
RELEASED: December 26, 2019

The twist here is that Stephen Strange now has use of his hands again. Now he can resume his work as a surgeon, while continuing on as a master of the mystic arts.

I’m not much of a Doctor Strange fan. But I can’t find much to fault this issue for. The opening page is its best. It’s got a Twilight Zone feel to it, while also reminding me of one of the opening splash pages for an issue of Saga.

I don’t feel a huge pull to come back next issue. But what the hell? I won’t rule it out.

TITLE: Spider-Ham #1 (of 5)
AUTHOR:
Zeb Wells
ARTISTS:
Will Robson, Erick Arciniega (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by Wendell Dalit.
RELEASED: December 26, 2019

For yours truly, the biggest surprise coming out of Spider-Ham #1 was that our titular character is on a team with other anthropomorphic animal heroes. Iron Mouse, Squawkeye, Quacksilver, etc. Basically the same Looney Tunes concept, but with the Avengers.

If you like this sort of thing, or enjoyed the character in Into the Spider-Verse, then this Spider-Ham miniseries should be right up your alley. Me? While the issue was fine, I’ll take a pass on this one.

TITLE: Shazam #9
AUTHOR:
Geoff Johns
ARTISTS: Marco Santucci, Scot Kolins, Dale Eaglesham, Michael Atiyeh (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Variant cover by Kaare Andrews.
RELEASED: December 18, 2019

Most of this book takes place in the “Wozenderlands,” an amalgamation of the worlds of The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. We’re told there was a “crisis,” and the worlds had to be merged. So essentially, it was Crisis on Infinite Earths, but with these fairy tale settings and characters.

That is so friggin’ random, that I absolutely love it. Who in the hell could have called this? All the while, we continue to advance the story of Billy Batson and his family. Truly, Shazam! has become one of the best books DC has right now.

TITLE: Batman/Superman #5
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: David Marquez, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 18, 2019

This whole “Secret Six” thing ended up not being the mystery I wanted it to be. And at times Williamson’s dialogue is a little awkward. But at the end of the day, this first story arc was fine. I did love the nice little “trust moment” he gave our titular characters in this issue.

I also feel like I haven’t heaped enough praise on David Marquez and Alejandro Sanchez. They’ve put together an absolutely beautiful book. Marquez can make virtually anything look good. Whether he’s working in the DC, Marvel, any other universe.

TITLE: Star Wars: Empire Ascendant
AUTHORS: Charles Soule, Greg Pak, Ethan Sacks, Simon Spurrier
ARTISTS: Luke Ross, Roland Boschi, Paolo Villanelli, Caspar Wijngaard. Cover by Ricardo Federici.
COLORISTS: Guru-eFX, Rachelle Rosenberg, Arif Prianto, Lee Loughridge
LETTERERS: Clayton Cowles, Travis Lanham
RELEASED: December 18, 2019

Empire Ascendant serves as a bridge into the four new Star Wars books Marvel’s releasing in the near future. Apparently they all take place after The Empire Strikes Back, as opposed to the previous ones, which were set beforehand.

We get four short stories set just before Empire. Not a lot from the main characters, Luke, Leia, etc. But if you give it a chance, this stuff actually has some meat to it. My personal favorite is the set-up for the Bounty Hunters series. I think The Mandalorian has wet the fandom’s collective appetite for more stuff like that.

TITLE: Family Tree #2
AUTHOR: Jeff Lemire
ARTISTS: Phil Hester, Eric Gapstur (Inker), Ryan Cody (Colorist), Steve Wands (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 18, 2019

Family Tree needs to be careful it doesn’t accidentally become a comedy.

It’s meant to be a horror/adventure comic about people being forcibly changed into trees. But there’s a flashback in this issue where Judd, the book’s resident grizzled old man character, is caring for a fully transformed…uh…tree person? When the tree tries to talk back to Judd, I couldn’t help it. My funny bone was tickled a bit. I still buy Family Tree as the horror story it’s trying to be. But sometimes there’s a thin like between horror and hilarity.

TITLE: The Low, Low Woods #1
AUTHOR: Carmen Maria Machado
ARTISTS:
Dani, Tamra Bonvillain (Colorist), Steve Wands (Letterer). Cover by J.A.W. Cooper.
RELEASED:
December 18, 2019

This feels like a Stephen King story. (Heh…)

The Low, Low Woods takes place in 1997, which hits a nostalgic soft spot for me. There’s a lot of exposition in this issue. We learn about a small town forever changed by a raging fire, and two teenage girls who discover some gory surprises.

If you like this sort of thing, I’d definitely recommend it. For me personally, this issue is a little low on intrigue. But the characters and the setting are interesting enough to at least get me to consider coming back for issue #2.

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A Twisted Dark, Vol. 1 Review – The Horror in Your Head

TITLE: Twisted Dark, Vol. 1
AUTHOR: Neil Gibson
PENCILLERS: Atula Siriwardane, Caspar Wijngaard, Heru Prasetyo Djalal, Jan Wijngaard, Ant Mercer, Dan West
FORMAT:
Softcover
PUBLISHER:
TPub
PRICE: 
$14.99
RELEASED: August 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Twisted Dark is a series that lives up to its name in more ways than one.

From the UK-based TPub and author/editor/founder Neil Gibson, Twisted Dark is a collection of short psychological horror and suspense tales. This is indeed the twisted and dark underbelly of the human psyche. We’ll meet Rajeev, who rises to power in Dubai through manipulation and deceit. There’s Soames, a patient in a psychiatric ward convinced everything around him is a twisted game. We also have Ashbjorn, whose fractured mind is trying to shield him from the unspeakable pain of his horrific reality. These stories and characters stand alone for now. But they all exist in the shared universe of Twisted Dark. They may not know it, but their paths have already started to cross…

What I really enjoy about Twisted Dark is that it showcases the versatility of the black and white comic book. You’ve got so many different methods and textures on display here, at times from the same artist. Caspar Wijngaard, for instance, does “Routine.” We see deep blacks, a lot of jagged lines, and a high black and white contrast. He also does the cover, so it’s the style you expect when you open the book. But then later, we get “Cocaina,” in which he lowers the contrast, and starts playing with grays. His brother Jan Wijngaard also gets to show off with two stories. I would classify his style as softer than Caspar’s, and bit sketchier. It’s one thing to do that between different titles. It’s another to do it within a single volume, and is a real credit to both men as artists.

I stumbled across this book at C2E2 this year. It’s got a three-page opening story that provides a hell of a hook, and an appetizer for the book’s brand of storytelling. I love that first page (shown right). There’s a haunting sense of foreboding in the art alone. And then you read that lone bit of text at the bottom. Now that‘s a hook.

Most of these stories have a narrator with a very storybook-ish voice. Everything’s very plainly spoken, and seemingly unbiased. There’s a haunting quality in that. Especially after we see all these awful and disturbing things happen. We have no indication that the narrator is part of the horror itself in any way. But he’s your messenger, so you develop a subtle fear of him (her?) as well.

Once you hit the second or third story, you inevitably recognize a pattern to the storytelling. It’s the classic twist take on horror. (Twisted Dark…get it?) At some point in the story, you learn that your main character isn’t who you thought they were, or that they were being deceived somehow. Evil and/or bloodshed commences. You learn not to get too invested in who you’re seeing, and you’re always on the look-out for the swerve. This has obvious pros and cons. When you have an anthology of twist stories, they almost aren’t even twists anymore. They’re stories that adhere to a format. “Windowpayne” comes at about the midpoint of the book, and is about an entrepreneur with a facial scar who creates windowpanes that double as a sort of television. The character is interesting, but the story has an ending you can see a mile away because of the story patterns.

In apparent recognition of that pattern, the majority of the book’s subsequent twists become a little less jarring, though often no less violent. “Munchausen’s Little Proxy,” which is about a woman addicted to surgery, is more of a character piece than a narrative with a twist. Ditto for “The Pushman,” about a train worker from Tokyo. As there are several more volumes of Twisted Dark, I’m curious to see how the stories are positioned going forward.

On that note, all these stories and characters apparently exist in the same universe, and there are connections to be found. Perhaps I’m simply not eagle-eyed enough to spot them, as none were apparent to me as I closed the book. But I don’t doubt they’re there.

I appreciate the psychological component of Twisted Dark. While there’s no shortage of violence, they aren’t stories about violence, or gore, or monsters, or any of that. Twisted Dark recognizes that the scariest place of all is the human mind…

There’s an argument to be made that “The Routine” is the book’s best tale. It’s got a very horror-ish look, and it’s the first major twist we see, so it’s the most intense. But the character that gets the most development is Rajeev, by virtue of being the only one who’s story gets a sequel. He starts off as a humble but average man from south India who becomes a slave laborer, but in time rises to power. I wouldn’t call Rajeev’s tale the best in the book, but it does get the most page time, and thus the most progression. The second story, “A Heavenly Note,” is somewhat unique. While Rajeev rises to power in the first tale, the second one is about maintaining that power. That’s not always something you see in stories about the rise of tyrants. Obtaining power is one thing. Keeping it is another.

Twisted Dark would still work as a series featuring self-contained short stories. What we get is fairly simplistic, at least at this point. But the book manages to make good on it’s name. Plus, the idea that all these stories will somehow bleed into one another adds another level of intrigue. If you like your horror a little less gory, and more psychological, Twisted Dark is up your ally.

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