erasing clouds

by tonydoug wright

This is the first Champion City Comics review for 2005 and all three selections are from Candle Light Press. If you would like your work to be reviewed for Champion City Comics please contact me at

Zoo Force: Bean and Nothingness by John Ira Thomas and Jeremy Smith (Candle Light Press 2004)

Sometimes our favorite super heroes are removed from their familiar settings and sent on missions to outer space, another planet or a bizarre realm where two-headed monkeys rule a kingdom of dog people. These new surroundings add a new level of excitement and danger to the story but somehow the hero manages to survive and returns back to his or her home city or planet. Rarely do we see heroes sent into the realm of dreams but John Ira Thomas and Jeremy Smith explore the world of dreams and eating before bedtime with Zoo Force: Bean and Nothingness.

Zoo Force: Bean and Nothingness, a follow-up to Thomas and Smith's Zoo Force: Dear Eniko, follows the adventures of the Defenders of the La Tornada Trailer Park: Pythagoras (a chicken), Snowball (a polar bear), Ding (a human with an incredibly long tongue) and Prairie Dawg (a human with a prairie dog's head). This time the members of Zoo Force have feasted on too much Cajun food from JambaLion and the end result is a wacky trip into the dreams of each Zoo Force member.

Pythagoras finds himself in Hades where he meets his old Greek cronies Aecus and Rhadamanthus; Snowball takes a trip to the North Pole to visit her Artic family; Ding is sent into the woods to communicate with the trees and Prairie Dawg stumbles into a personal nightmare realm. Folks, we are not talking about the dream where you are falling or the dream where a bear is chasing you, because John Ira Thomas creates a witty and unusual tale of dreams mixed with Greek philosophy with an impressive design of black and white artwork by Jeremy Smith.

Of course a Zoo Force graphic novel would not be complete if we could not follow the adventures of Captain Cat and his anti-Zoo Force team of misfits. Following the Zoo Force tale, we are treated to Captain Cat's rants and ravings concerning comic book grants and less-than-spectacular Hollywood scripts. Is there anything better than a genius cat whose tirades can be compared to the likes of Ignatius J. Reilly? Finally, the Captain Cat saga is presented in a totally original manner that one would expect from the folks at Candle Light Press.

Although Zoo Force: Bean and Nothingness is primarily a work of humor, it is equally a work of intelligence that shows how comics and graphic novels can be deep rather than shallow or juvenile. Sure there are many people out there who do not expect to read about a philosophical debate between a figure of Greek mythology and a chicken but the chicken can hold his own. John Ira Thomas gives the reader and opportunity to ponder the relevance of beans in the universe while Jeremy Smith visually creates a beautiful and imaginative dreamscape.

The Fairer Sex: A Tale Of Shades And Angels by John Ira Thomas and Jeremy Smith (Candle Light Press 2004)

Vigilantes are nothing new to the world of comics or graphic novels. Batman, perhaps the most famous vigilante of all, is a crusader out to clean up Gotham from all the riff-raff running wild in the streets. It is well known that Batman has a no kill code that somehow keeps him in the good graces of the law. Imagine what would happen if a vigilante decided to go on a killing spree where every man in town was marked for death. Now imagine that vigilante as a woman.

Two detectives in Freedom City, TX are given the task to investigate why a lone vigilante known as the Madonna is killing men at random in The Fairer Sex: A Tale Of Shades And Angels by John Ira Thomas and Jeremy Smith. This sequel to Numbers: A Tale Of Shades And Angels picks up with the getaway of Eddie Foote, the major character in Numbers, but then quickly shifts to the disturbing Madonna killing spree that is under investigation by detectives Tom Hobbes and Fred Haygood.

This case takes both Hobbes and Haygood on an emotional and psychological journey into the mind of the Madonna. Both detectives attempt to figure out why a woman would go on an all male killing spree but when they come close to the truth they discover something very disconcerting. The dirty secrets of Freedom City come out and nobody is prepared. Can Hobbes and Haygood stop the Madonna before she strikes again?

The Fairer Sex: A Tale Of Shades And Angels succeeds on all levels at being a great crime story. Thomas has created a magnificent story filled with excellent dialogue and suspense that is complimented very well by Jeremy Smith's superb artwork and visuals. The Madonna is shrouded in mystery while both Hobbes and Haygood are presented as characters with depth and not clichéd cops. Please note that this work is definitely for mature audiences due to violent images and an intense attack scene.

Man is Vox: Paingels by John Ira Thomas and Carter Allen (Candle Light Press 2004)

When I pick up a certain comic book or graphic novel I am under the impression that I will be reading some kind of action-packed superhero story or a wild tale of cops and robbers. Knowing what to expect from a comic book or graphic novel can be comforting, so when a copy of Man Is Vox: Paingels was sent to me I immediately prepared myself for a challenging read. My experience reading Man Is Vox: Barracudae, the predecessor to Man Is Vox: Paingels, was somewhat testing at first but then after a few reads I discovered that I was on one hell of a literary and artistic journey.

It is somewhat difficult describing this work by John Ira Thomas and Carter Allen because Candle Light Press excels at delivering a story that is completely out-of-the-box. A synopsis of one or two paragraphs will not do this story justice because Man Is Vox: Paingels is an unusual tale of a mentally unbalanced man (The Husband), a shotgun-toting vigilante (The Shotgun Bride) and a mind-reading oddball (Mr. Way). Their journeys take them to a place where chaos and insanity are the norm. Carter Allen's incredible artwork is a potpourri of styles that reflects a schizophrenic environment where these oddball characters exist.

There is nothing normal about Man Is Vox: Paingels but there is something daring and original with this story because John Ira Thomas threw out conventional comic book and graphic novel plot development and created a work of literature that challenges the reader. Carter Allen also defies conventional comic book and graphic novel artwork by incorporating an impressive array of styles and layouts. Man Is Vox: Paingels is different, thought-provoking and disturbing all at the same time.

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