Archive for the ‘Dork Storm Press’ Category

The Complete Dork Tower Vol. 5: Understanding Gamers

July 13, 2012 Leave a comment

July 9, 2005

Understanding Gamers: The Complete Dork Tower Vol. V (Dork Storm Press) by John Kovalic

John Kovalic‘s Dork Tower has been one of my favorite comic books for some time now. He has managed to take characters that could have easily been stupid and cliched and turned them into real people with real emotions and problems that any of us can relate to. Even the goofiest character in the book, Igor, is shown to have uncommon courage and compassion when called for, and an unwavering loyalty to his friends that some of us are never even lucky enough to find in the real world.

This volume, like “Livin’ La Vida Dorka” (volume 4) takes a break from the regular Dork Tower storyline to present “Understanding Gamers,” the brilliant one-issue special where Kovalic explained the mindset of those who live to game. It connects to even a non-gaming reader and shows that gamers aren’t quite the freaks they get portrayed as, especially in comparison to even some “normal” folks. The rest of the book is full of other strips and specials, some that even a regular visitor of Kovalic’s website such as myself may not have seen before.

There is a little duplication from previous volumes with some of the “Lord of the Rings” strips, but as Kovalic himself explains, that’s because he reprinted the “Lord of the Rings” Dork Tower special in its entirety here in this volume.

You don’t need to have read the previous Dork Tower volumes to read this one, but you’re cheating yourself if you don’t. This is one of the funniest comic books on the stands today.

Rating: 8/10


Dork Tower #30

September 24, 2011 Leave a comment

February 27, 2005

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: The Tao of Igor

The world according to Igor.

Writer: John Kovalic
Art: John Kovalic & Christopher Golden
Colors: John Kovalic
Letters: John Kovalic
Lethargic Lad Back-Up: Greg Hyland
Cover Art: John Kovalic
Publisher: Dork Storm

With many of his characters at a crossroads, John Kovalic takes this issue for all of them to receive counseling at the hands of one character that will never change – the good-natured geek Igor. Wanting only to help, Igor talks to both Matt and Kayleigh, struggling from their quasi-breakup and (in Matt’s case because Gilly has flown off to Europe. He talks to Carson about his money problems and filters everything through an ancient Zen tale about the empty mind and seeing the obvious. One of which applies to Igor, the other doesn’t.

Although the story is driven by the other characters, this issue is very much about Igor himself, about how he views the world, and about how he’s found his own brand of inner peace even through his utter lunacy. It’s a funny, funny little character piece that works extremely well.

Kovalic chose to print this issue of the usually black-and-white title in color, and that works too. It’s clear that this book isn’t usually a color title,, as some of the colors look a little washed-out, almost like a photocopy. However, for some of Igor’s “Zen” scenes, he applies a texture that gives the images a look of old parchment, which adds tremendously to the artwork and would never work in black-and-white.

We’ve got a few back-ups here as well, some extra Dork Tower strips and a short Dr. Blink, Superhero Shrink story, where he counsels a vaguely familiar arachnid-based superhero with severe depression. Like all Dr. Blink strips, it’s a great superhero satire. The issue is rounded off with a Lethargic Lad strip which, like all such strips, isn’t great satire. Supposedly this is a comic strip that pokes fun at superheroes, but this issue (like most), Greg Hyland simply tells a tale that could have fit easily in any goofy silver age story and throws out snarky comments about how stupid superheroes are in the meantime.

The tepid Lethargic Lad notwithstanding, this is a good issue. The color isn’t necessary (nor is it permanent, I think, based on this issue’s “Muskrat Ramblings” column), but it is welcome.

Rating: 8/10

PVP: The Dork Ages

September 4, 2011 Leave a comment

July 9, 2005

PVP: The Dork Ages by Scott Kurtz (Image Comics)

Scott Kurtz’s wildly funny PVP is the best of the current crop of webtoons, those comic strips that never would have found distribution in a newspaper but thrive on the Internet. Kurtz did six issues of a comic book based on his strip for Dork Storm Press before moving over to Image Comics — this paperback collects those six issues.

The premise of the comic strip, and this collection, is simple — Kurtz is telling the story of the staff of a video game magazine: the hard-working boss Cole, his best friend, the uber-pretentious Brent Sienna, Brent’s girlfriend Jade (the rare gamer girl), lunatic tech-teen Francis and the company intern, Skull, a big blue troll with a heart of gold and a brain of styrofoam.

Kurtz was still in the learning stage when he started this comic — the first three stories are quite short, although entertaining. The third issue, a take on Manga and Anime, is particularly wild, but may be confusing for people not into that sort of thing. Starting with the fourth issue, the “PVP Christmas Special,” Kurtz hit his stride. The Christmas story is a send-up of everything from “Miracle on 34th Street” to “It’s a Wonderful Life,” to “A Christmas Carol,” with jokes from sources as various as Superman comics, the “Battle of the Planets” cartoon and Isaac Asimov. Issue five, a Matrix parody, pokes just as much fun at the current state of comic strips as it does of that movie, and the last story in the collection is a gut-busting yet oddly sweet tale about Skull the Troll trying to reunite estranged lovers Brent Sienna and Jade Fontaine. The book also gives us several pin-up pages and, for those of us who are into that sort of thing — a roleplaying module that will allow you to game as the superhero characters the PVP crew plays in the comic.

This is a great package. PVP is a wonderful strip, and it’s impossible for anyone with a heart not to find something to love in this collection.

Rating: 8/10

PS 238 #20

August 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Feburary 24, 2007

Quick Rating: Good

Zodon’s adventure through the timestream catches up with the present!

Writer: Aaron Williams
Art: Aaron Williams
Cover Art: Aaron Williams
Publisher: Dork Storm/Do-Gooder Press

Back in PS 238 #13, our hapless non-powered superhero kid Tyler got caught up in a time-travel adventure, trying to thwart the schemes of his classmate, the would-be supervillain named Zodon. This issue, the time-traveling catches up to Tyler, and he has to go through the adventure with his past self, all over again.

This issue is rather difficult to review. It’s a funny issue, as ever, full of great gags and portents of the future. The thing is, unless you’re intimately familiar with issue #13 (and I haven’t read that issue in many months), you’ll be terminally lost in trying to read the comic. Going over it, even having read the first issue, feels like reading one of those old “Choose Your Own Adventure” comics straight through instead of jumping around like you’re supposed to. All the pieces are there, but they feel totally out of order. Now to be fair, this is obviously exactly what Aaron Williams intended. In execution, though, it’s just a little tough to follow.

There’s a lot of good stuff here, though, especially Zodon’s solution to rescuing himself from his time-lost state. The last page in particular sets up a rather unexpected subplot, which feeds directly into the more emotional half of this title, the part that reminds us that while we are, in fact, dealing with superheroes, we’re also still dealing with children, and that these super-kids have the same issues and fears that regular kids do. It’s this stuff that really makes this a special comic book, and I’m quite anxious for next issue.

We follow up the main feature with Williams’s two back-ups. Nodwick makes its debut here after finishing off his own 36-issue run, and although it is now in a comic strip format rather than long-form, Williams apparently isn’t abandoning the ongoing stories, thank goodness. One of Nodwick’s henchmen buddies is being chased down by his employers, and Nodwick has been called upon to help. Then we have a few pages of Full Frontal Nerdity, in which our gaming geeks deal with the impact of various pop culture elements on their lives.

This is a fun issue, but the accessibility problem keeps it from being as good as this title usually is.

Rating: 7/10

PS 238 #19

March 30, 2011 Leave a comment

December 16, 2006

Quick Rating: Great

Tyler leads his team into battle!

Writer: Aaron Williams
Art: Aaron Williams
Cover Art: Aaron Williams
Publisher: Dork Storm/Henchman Publishing

Tyler and his team of kid superheroes has managed to track down Charles Brigman, the bully who’s been teleporting kids away from school and dropping them in a nearby lake. Now the young heroes of PS 238 take a stand against the bully that’s terrorizing their school.

If the setup sounds like a simplistic “kiddie” comic, think again. Granted, this a book that kids could read and enjoy quite easily, but Aaron Williams doesn’t flinch from the ramifications of Charles’ powers. Sure, right now he’s just teleporting kids relatively safely over an open lake, but suppose he teleported them somewhere else? Into traffic? A mile in the air? In the middle of the desert? His powers could be extremely dangerous, and he knows it. But the story really belongs to Tyler (a.k.a. “Moon Shadow”) and his crew. Williams accomplishes a brilliant balancing act in this issue, painting them as genuine children, but at the same time, showing the germs of heroism that many of them possess. Others may have the power, but not the drive, and those possibilities are addressed as well. In the end, he turns out a book that’s very, very funny, but at the same time, one of the best examinations of the super hero currently being published.

As Williams closes off Charles’ story, he begins laying groundwork for later storylines. Zodon, the would-be supervillain neutered by an automatic censoring device (one of the funniest running gags in the book) is plotting something. Zodon is one of the most interesting characters in the book – although he has at times flirted with standing on the side of the heroes, in his heart he’s still got that megalomaniacal urge that propels a would-be Dr. Doom. The resultant character is someone you want to see redeem himself, but at the same time, want to see really let loose to be bad.

All things considered, this is an absolutely magnificent comic book series, and this issue is one of the best yet.

Rating: 9/10

The Collected Dork Tower Vol. 3: Heart of Dorkness

March 24, 2011 Leave a comment

July 9, 2005

Story and Art: John Kovalic
Publisher: Dork Storm Press

John Kovalic’s “Dork Tower” series, since I discovered it a few years ago, has been one of the best treats I’ve enjoyed as a comic book reader. It’s the story of Matt, Igor, Ken and Carson — four average gaming geeks (average except that Carson happens to be a muskrat) who walk a balance between existing in the real world and escaping to a game world.

This volume, third in the series, offers some of the best plot advancement yet. For some time now Kovalic has danced around the fact that Matt and Gilly the Perky Goth would be kindred spirits if they ever actually met. In this book, he finally gives us that meeting — with a monkeywrench thrown in. Matt meets Gilly, all right… right after he gets back together with his game-hating, geek-intolerant ex-girlfriend.

“Dork Tower” is one of the few series that really makes you feel for the characters without ever resorting to sappy moments or losing the fact that it’s a comedy first. We want Matt and Gilly to get together, but the obstacles in their way are so funny we don’t want them to stop. Every page of this book is packed with laughs. I can’t imagine anyone not loving this book. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — if Charles Schulz had played “Dungeons and Dragons,” the result would have been “Dork Tower.”

Rating: 8/10

Someboy’s First Comic Book: Full Frontal Nerdity Annual #1

March 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Wondering what Somebody’s First Comic Book is all about? The explanation is on this page!

Aaron Williams
Aaron Williams
Dork Storm/Henchman Publishing

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: Never heard of it, but based entirely on the cover, I’m thinkin’ this is a comic for and/or about nerds.

IMPRESSIONS: Interesting… this doesn’t seem to be an ordinary comic book. You read it sideways and you get what appears to be a bunch of newspaper-style comic strips, all about three guys playing games. Most of the stuff seems to be a sort of Dungeons and Dragons pastiche, although occasionally they lapse into other gimmicks like miniatures, toys, and jokes about Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter… there’s even a gag in here about the Janet Jackson Super Bowl fiasco, although since this book was probably released right after that happened, I won’t take points off for timeliness.

The writing is really sharp. Although the characters are, of course, geeks, Aaron Williams does try to make them all real people as well. Frank, Nelson, and Lewis are all distinctive personalities, different from one another, while still having the sort of core social awkwardness that seems to fit this setting very well. The jokes are funny without feeling like they’re exploitive or at the expense of the audience, which I imagine is largely made up of people very similar to our three “nerds.” Williams also supplies all the artwork for this book, and his style is good. The characters are simple and cartoony enough to be suitable for an animated series, while the toys and props are a bit more detailed, probably to satisfy the more meticulous members of the audience.

This was a fun little book. I’d read more of these.