The secret of Murder City

Over the past few years, many a comic book series has transitioned to the small screen with much success. From superhero-based shows like Arrow, The Flash and Daredevil to supernatural dramas such as Outcast and the record-breaking The Walking Dead, fans have been treated to a plethora of live action adaptations of their illustrated favorites. “There’s no better time to be a comic book fan,” as they say, and it seems the comics-to-TV trend isn’t dying away anytime soon.

Here’s another comic book series that many believe could be the next hit TV show.

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Nailbiter: The Murder Edition vol. 1

Written by Joshua Williamson and illustrated by Mike Henderson, Nailbiter is a crime/mystery comic that takes place in Buckaroo, Oregon, a (fictional) city which gave birth to 16 of the most notorious serial killers in the world. In this first volume, NSA Agent Nicholas Finch travels to the city to investigate the disappearance of his friend Charles Carrol, an FBI agent who went missing while investigating the cause of the town’s apparent penchant for producing psychotic murderers. It doesn’t take long for the hot-headed NSA agent to find trouble…

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…and for trouble to find him.

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Without any solid leads, Agent Finch reluctantly turns to the most notorious Buckaroo Butcher for help – Edward “Nailbiter” Warren – a serial killer whose M.O. involves kidnapping men and women who have a habit of chewing their fingernails, keeping them alive long enough until their fingernails grew back and chewing his victims’ fingers to the bone before killing them.

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I didn’t think something with such dark subject matter could be this much fun. A good gory comic is one that balances out its intense scenes with the other elements of the story, and the creators of Nailbiter play that game really well. There’s definitely a lot of action, as well as some heavy parts, but somehow the comic manages to throw in some humorous jabs from time to time.

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What I like most about this comic book series is that it has a lot of personality. Not only will you enjoy its dynamic characters but you’ll also get the feeling that the city has a life of its own. You’ll want to get to know the place as much as its people, except you can’t really do that. Not this early in the story anyway. So you just find yourself hooked on the mystery surrounding Buckaroo, Oregon.

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Overall, Nailbiter is a thrilling read that is sure to suck you in from the very first page. Great characters, great storytelling, and playfully sinister art all come together in this exciting murder mystery series. If I had to guess why people want to see this on television, only one thing comes to mind: they probably can’t get enough of it.

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Free Comic Book Day!

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We’re one week away from Free Comic Book Day! If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s the day when comic book shops give comic books away (as the name suggests) – and yes, it’s really free! If you’ve never picked up a comic book before, now’s the best time to do it. FCBD events are always packed, so you’ll find plenty of people you can chat with to find out what’s good on the shelves.

In the past few years, FCBD has grown here in the Philippines, and there are more and more people attending each year. Apart from giving away free comics, the biggest bookstores and comic shops gather top Filipino artists – including those who work for big publishers like Marvel and DC – and have them do sketches for comic book fans. Last year I had the honor of having superstar artist Stephen Segovia do a sketch for me on a blank comic book cover.

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The sketch, featuring Flashes Jay Garrick and Barry Allen, was done completely with ink. It was amazing to watch something like this get drawn right before my eyes, and to just witness a talented artist doing what he does best. I think it took about an hour and a half to finish but it was definitely worth the wait.

They also raffled off some freebies and I was lucky enough to win an actual page from a comic book series I read. The large illustration you see here, photographed with the magazine, was actually used during the production of the comic book. How cool is that?

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So if there’s a comic book shop in your area, do drop by and ask if they’re participating in this year’s FCBD. You might just find your next adventure waiting for you there.

Free Comic Book Day happens annually on the first Saturday of May.

Fatal attraction

This week, I’m rereading the first volume of the crime/mystery/horror series Fatale from the ultra-talented duo of writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips. It’s been over a year since I read it and I just recently got a hold of the second volume so a little refresher is in order.

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Fatale Deluxe Edition Volume One. Collects the first two story arcs Death Follows Me and The Devil’s Business.

The story revolves around Josephine, a woman with an obscure past riddled with very deadly secrets. She doesn’t age, and she has the apparent ability to charm men into doing whatever she wants – just some of the side effects of a curse placed on her decades ago. And of course, that kind of power comes with a lot of trouble. Dirty cops, occult worshipers, demons and pretty much every manner of shady individuals want a piece of her.

It’s quite hard to find a series where the level of art matches the level of storytelling – even more so when both are on an exceptional level. The story is multi-layered. You have so many things intersecting, so many plot threads coming together to weave a beautiful noir tapestry. That, in itself, is a treat. If this were prose, I’d still read it. But then you get art like THIS and everything feels perfect.

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Phillips’ illustrations fit the story extremely well. Most of the first story arc takes place in the 1950’s and you feel like you’re transported to that era when you read this book.

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The attention to detail is astounding; from the clothing, to the hairstyles to the cars and the scenery. It’s like reading one of those classic films where everyone looks so elegant – but with a dark, gritty twist.

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I don’t always reread previous volumes before getting into the next one, but this series deserves the attention. I’m actually enjoying it more the second time around and I’m seeing some details which I might have missed or forgotten. More than anything, I’m getting really pumped up for volume two, which should be another great read.

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Awesome cover art for the second volume. Collects the last three story arcs West of Hell, Pray for Rain and Curse the Demon.

The Baltimore series

I just finished reading Baltimore: The Plague Ships, the first volume of the supernatural series by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden and Ben Steinbeck. The graphic novel is a continuation of the novel Baltimore, or, the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, written by Mignola and Golden.

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I read the book last year and enjoyed it immensely, which is why I was really excited to get started on this series. You know how, when you read a good book, you wish the story could go on forever? In most cases, you’re left to imagine what happens with the characters after everything that had transpired in the novel. With Baltimore, you get to find out.

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It’s also nice to see the characters illustrated and in full color. Steinbeck’s art complements the macabre story really well with its gothic vibe.

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Reading it at night makes the experience that much more enjoyable too.

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As with his other works, Mignola managed to make the occult fun without losing its darker aspects. Baltimore is horror mingled with lots of action and enriched by elements of fantasy and mysticism.

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The series is already six volumes in with The Cult of the Red King released last month – a seventh volume entitled Empty Graves is already in the works.

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Overall, volume one did a great job transitioning the story from its written form to the illustrated medium and ended with a good set-up for the next arc. But as enjoyable as it was, I get the feeling the creators were only getting warmed up when they made it. I’m excited for volume two and I am definitely looking forward to seeing how far they can take the Baltimore mythos.

The weekend that was

Last Saturday I read one of Matt Kindt’s earlier works entitled 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man. I became a huge fan of Kindt when I started following his recently-concluded Mind MGMT series, a comic book about a secret organization of spies with out-of-this-world mental capabilities. 3 Story, meanwhile, follows the life of Craig Pressgang, a boy who literally couldn’t stop growing.

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I tried tempering my expectations going into this one since it’s something Kindt made earlier in his career, plus Mind MGMT sets the bar really high not just for his works but for comics in general. But I was pleasantly surprised that the book didn’t feel like it was a lesser creation. Far from it, actually; the graphic novel has a lot of the things I enjoy about Kindt’s comics.

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For instance, his funky art. Kindt uses simple illustrations and brings them to life with his masterful use of watercolors. One thing that makes a comic book good is if it balances the use of words and pictures, and this is something Kindt does particularly well – he lets you read his art as his words guide you along.

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Kindt is widely known for his spy comics, so of course the protagonist gets recruited by the CIA. The book is actually presented as a secret file detailing Pressgang’s life, hence the title.

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Overall, 3 Story is a treat. For first-time readers of Kindt, you’ll get a good glimpse of his brilliance which you can fully appreciate when you dive into his lengthier works. For those who have read his comics before, you probably already know that reading anything from Kindt is always pleasurable, and this is no exception. Dynamic characters, emotional sequences, brilliant imagery and exceptional storytelling – Nobody does it like Matt Kindt.