Author: Barry Reese

Pulp Ark 2012 — Off To A Roaring Start!

Pulp Ark 2012 doesn’t officially kick off until later today but organizer Tommy Hancock is reporting that the convention is off to a great start! In just the first few hours, more fans have come through the doors today than attended the entire weekend last year! In related news, sales are strong for those vendors who have already set up their tables and with more authors, vendors and participants arriving over the next 24 hours, it’s safe to say that Pulp Ark 2012 is going to be a pulp con for the ages!

From the 86th Floor: Reviews by Barry Reese

Written by Adam Lance Garcia
Published by Airship 27 Productions
ISBN 978-10934935-75-0
243 pages, $24.95

For much of the past year, I’ve had one person after another tell me that I should read this book. I resisted because nothing turns me off more than unceasing hype. Hell, I still haven’t seen Titanic for just that reason. That and the fact that the history books ruined the ending for me. The ship sinks, right?

Anyway, I finally broke down and purchased this book not long ago. It is a high-priced item, costing a little more than I usually like to plunk down for a paperback book, but the production values are typical Airship 27: which means the paper is high quality, the cover is engaging and the formatting is professional. So you could definitely argue that you got your money’s worth.

Now… about the story itself.

Let me start by saying that I don’t think this book is particularly revolutionary but it is a damned good read, especially for someone’s first novel.

Basically, Adam takes a mostly B-Level character and molds him into something more. Hell, the Green Lama is pitted against the hordes of the C’thulhu Mythos in this one! And Adam displays a deft hand at balancing action with characterization.

I particularly liked the supporting characters in this one: Caraway, Jean and Ken all stole quite a few scenes from the emerald-wearing hero. In fact, I’d say that the way they orbited the hero was quite well done and pretty classic, in my opinion. Even in the old Doc Savage series, Doc was pretty staid compared to the bickering of Monk and Ham.

There are several Easter eggs in the story that made me smile, especially the reference to the rampaging ape in the early chapters. It shows that Adam has a clear grasp on the audience who will be reading this.

If I had a complaint — and it’s a minor one — I think that Adam overdoes it a little on the Lama-speak and the C’thulhu words. Throw in all the German and Greek phrases, too, and I felt like I was skimming an awful lot. I’d tone that down somewhat in future volumes. I mean, we get it — that guy’s German. This guy likes to say “Ma-ni pad me” a lot. Too much of that stuff breaks up the narrative flow, in my opinion.

This book is a terrific, fast-paced read that features believable characters that you grow to care about. It’s a wonderful introduction to The Green Lama and definitely positions Adam Garcia as a leading voice in the New Pulp movement.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Tales of the Rook


Pro Se Press and Reese Unlimited are proud to announce TALES OF THE ROOK, a special anthology project that will bring together many of New Pulp’s finest! The Rook has become one of New Pulp’s most popular characters and has starred in six volumes so far, with more on the way. Tales of the Rook will allow other writers to tackle the character and his world, many of whom will be doing so for the very first time. Confirmed for the book are:

* Mike Bullock
* Perry Constantine
* Michael Edwards
* Ron Fortier
* Tommy Hancock
* Bobby Nash

In addition, Rook creator Barry Reese will also be contributing a brand new tale!

All stories will be set in the official Rook canon and several stories will feature cameo appearances by other New Pulp heroes.

“I’m both amazed and honored to have creators of this caliber doing stories featuring The Rook. I can easily predict that a wonderful time will be had by all who read this book,” Reese said.

TALES OF THE ROOK is expected to take flight in 2012.

Reviews from the 86th Floor: Barry Reese looks at Fortune’s Pawn

Written by Nancy A. Hansen
Pro Se Press
ISBN 9781466243460
179 pages, $12.00

Okay, let’s establish something right away: I don’t generally read fantasy. I did when I was younger, really digging Dragonlance and the like… but nowadays, the only time I read fantasy is when I dig open a Robert E. Howard collection for old-times sake. So I’m not really the target audience for this one. But I’ve read some short stories by Nancy in the past and enjoyed them so I figured I’d dive into her first novel and see how it went.

First impressions: the cover is intriguing but I really, really would not have obscured the title. This is okay if it’s Spider-Man or something: we all know what the title is anyway so breaking it or obscuring it can be a bold design move. But when it’s an unfamiliar title (especially one that’s rendered in a confusing font), I think it’s not bold… I think it’s not wise. I showed the book to three different people and not one of them could figure out what the title was from the front or spine — the font chosen was way too busy. It looks like the book is called Forgude’s Pawd.

Okay, once I got past the cover design issues, I jumped into the story and found that it was told in a very readable style. For some reason the opening with the weremon seemed awkward to me but I think it just took a few pages to get into Nancy’s world. Once things shifted to the ill-fated family, things picked up and from there it all went smoothly.

The basic premise is classic and familiar: a prophecy warns that a red-haired child will rise up to overthrow the bad guys so the villains are out killing everyone with red hair. One infant survives such an attack and grows up to become our protagonist. Callie is an enjoyable character and her motivations and emotions are well depicted.

I found the parts of the story featuring conversations between characters or internal monologues to be the best part of the tale. The action scenes were clearly depicted but lacked the kind of edge that I usually like in my fantasy (think Robert E. Howard’s ability to depict sweaty violence). I was impressed by Nancy’s willingness to get her literary hands dirty, though — no one is safe in this book, including little kids. Everybody has an equal opportunity to get eviscerated.

This is obviously the first chapter in a larger story and I’m curious about where it goes from here. If I were a diehard fantasy fan, I think this would be something that would definitely go onto my shelf of favorites. As it is, I would still recommend it to anyone looking to dip their toes into the fantasy genre or who are looking for a character-driven adventure of any type.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Reviews from the 86th Floor: Barry Reese tackles The Death Tower

Written by Maxwell Grant
This review is of the Bantam Edition
Originally published January 1932
Bantam Edition published December 1969

The Death Tower of the title is not actually a tower but rather a 40-story skyscraper of which our villain, Doctor Palermo, occupies the top floor. This is a very early adventure of the Shadow and features repeated references to the radio program, several forced uses of “The Shadow Knows” tagline and a main character who isn’t quite as infallible as you might be used to seeing — he’s wrong on a few occasions and even accidentally kills someone near the end (they deserved it, though).

I actually prefer this version of the Shadow to the one you usually found over the course of the series: his occasional failures here keep him grounded and I actually enjoyed the fact that we don’t see Lamont Cranston at all — his identity here is George Clarendon. We also get to see Harry Vincent and the recruitment of a new agent, Clyde Burke. Their interplay was well done and added to the story.

Palermo is a worthy foil for the Shadow — he’s full of tricks, is a master of disguise and even has his own version of the Shadow’s aides (a mute Arab, a master marksman and a femme fatale). I only wish Palermo had sported some cool pulp-villain style name… Palermo not being particularly evocative. Anyway, Palermo comes literally within inches of killing the Shadow and may actually be my favorite villain of the series. There was so much room for future stories with him — alas, as with most pulp villains, that wasn’t meant to be.

The writing is classic pulp, with several thrilling scenes and the occasional clunker of an idea. The Death Tower is my favorite Shadow book, mainly because of the villain and the fact that this really feels like a Shadow Year One adventure, where he’s still breathtakingly dangerous but not yet the seasoned hero that he later becomes.

I give 5 out of 5 stars.

Reviews from the 86th Floor: Barry Reese Looks at The Myth Hunter


Written by Percival Constantine

ISBN 978-1461050599

Pulpwork Press

208 pages, $11.95

When one first looks at The Myth Hunter, thoughts of Tomb Raider (or even the short-lived Tia Carrere vehicle, Relic Hunter) invariably come to the fore. This isn’t to suggest that the book is merely an homage to to earlier creations, though: it’s just an inevitable comparison that will be made by virtually everyone who reads the book.

Elisa Hill is our “Myth Hunter” in question and she’s the daughter of parents whose belief in a lost civilization led to their professional ruin. Originally seeking out treasures for profit, Elisa eventually turns to more noble callings and attracts the attention of an organization known as the Order. Former associates become enemies and Elisa is thrown into a thrilling adventure that a search for Lemuria, battles with changelings and a whole lot of by-the-seat-of-your-pants excitement.

What separates Elisa from Lara Croft and the others who came before her is that Constantine takes the time to flesh her out, showing her to be a flawed but ultimately heroic figure. She’s not just your standard issue “adventuring hottie,” and that works well for the book as a whole.

The growth shown between this and the previous book I reviewed by this author (Love and Bullets) is quite noticeable. With that one, there were scenes that really jumped off the page but it was tempered by creative choices that I thought brought other scenes to a screeching halt (mainly the lampoonish behavior of the main villain). There’s no such worries here — this was great fun, handled with a deft hand. I’d love to see more adventures of The Myth Hunter.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Reviews from the 86th Floor: Barry Reese Looks at The Black Bat Graphic Novel

The Black Bat

Written by Mike Bullock

Art by Michael Metcalf and Fernando Peniche

Letters by Josh Aitken

Moonstone Books

ISBN 978-1-933076-96-6


Longtime readers of my review column know that I’m a big fan of Mike Bullock’s run on The Phantom. So when Moonstone announced their “Return of the Originals” projects, I was intrigued to see Bullock’s name on both a revival (The Black Bat) and a new creation (Death Angel). This collection collects stories of both characters, though the cover is a bit misleading — it prominently features The Black Bat, with a relatively small “Also Starring Death Angel” logo on the lower right. There aren’t enough Black Bat pages to make it a graphic novel on its own so I understand the inclusion of Death Angel but I would have preferred a title that made it clearer that this was, in fact, a book with equal amounts of both heroes.

The front and back covers are by Tom Grindberg and are absolutely gorgeous. I really, really liked both images and I think the cover will definitely help sell a few copies. Super stuff.

Inside the book we get alternating Black Bat & Death Angel stories (both comic and prose), with one short teaming the two. In both cases, the heroes are tracking down drug pushers and the like. I was a little confused about the era these stories were set in — some things in the Black Bat stories definitely made me think this was set in the 1930s (fashion, the language used, etc.) but Death Angel seemed more modern, both in design and in terms of her hi-tech nano-fiber tachyon-shooting power suit. The two characters interact, so obviously they are in the same era, whenever that may be.

Let’s tackle The Black Bat first. This is not your father’s Black Bat. As in the original stories, this is District Attorney Anthony Quinn. Blinded by a criminal’s attack, Quinn later gets his vision restored and takes to the night as a vigilante. But in this version, The Black Bat suffers from multiple personality disorder and is as bloodthirsty as The Spider. While interrogating criminals, he uses various legal terms to question them, all the while arguing with himself for leading the witness, etc. It’s an interesting take on the character but purists will feel that this is not The Black Bat and perhaps should have been a new character instead. I’m okay with updating characters and this one retains enough of the original for me to recognize him but his willingness to kill (and kill graphically) was shocking. I wish there had been more time to show The Black Bat in his civilian identity, though. The profile that’s included implies that he’s relatively normal in his day-to-day affairs and that it’s only as The Black Bat that his mental instability comes to light. I’m curious how that would have played out. There were places in the story – and I’m not sure if the fault lies with the script or the art, or both — where things felt very, very disjointed and the scene jumps made me pause and flip back a few page to see if I’d missed something. It kinda felt like I was reading the Cliff note’s version of much cooler stories.

From an art standpoint… Hmm. Michael Metcalf does all but one of the Black Bat stories (Fernando Peniche does the one that teams The Black Bat with Death Angel) and I have to admit… I did not like it. The art is far too scratchy and actually looked unfinished in places. It detracted from the story. There were individual panels that looked kind of cool but overall, the story was not served well by this. The Peniche art was a step up and I liked it much better.

Death Angel is a far stronger package overall — perhaps because the burdens of our past expectations are not challenged here. With The Black Bat, pulp fans are constantly comparing and contrasting this version to the original — but Death Angel is a new character and is free from that. Strangely, Michael Metcalf does the art on these sections, as well, but the art looks much, much better. I can only assume that Metcalf deliberately used a different style on The Black Bat stories — this artwork is much stronger.

As with The Black Bat, Death Angel is a vicious character. Her stories all revolve around two things: drugs and sexual abuse. This latter plays well off her origin but I would have liked to have seen a little more variety in the threats she faces here. I found the Death Angel stories to be more interesting and would definitely like to see more.

The overall package… I will say that taken as a whole, this is probably my least favorite of Bullock’s works to date. If I separated out the character arcs, I’d give much higher marks to the Death Angel portions of the book.

Do I think it’s worth your time and money? If you’re looking for the classic Black Bat or if you like your heroes to be of the “don’t kill, but bring the bad guys in for justice” variety… No. If you’re looking for bloodthirsty vigilante types or want to sample a genuinely interesting New Pulp hero in Death Angel, I’d say yes.

I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

The Shadow Returns!

After sixteen years, The Shadow will once again be haunting the comic book shops. The classic character who starred in both pulp magazines and his popular radio show will be returning in the hands of Dynamite Entertainment. Dynamite currently publishes pulp-related properties The Green Hornet, The Phantom and John Carter of Mars. Dynamite’s President and Publisher were quoted in a press release, saying “pursuing The Shadow has been a lifetime quest.”

No creative teams have been announced thus far.

Reviews from the 86th Floor: Barry Reese looks at Phantom: Guardian of the Eastern Dark



Written by Mike Bullock

Art by Sivestre Szilagyi and Fernando Peniche

Moonstone Books

ISBN 978-1-933076-81-2


This heavy tome collects the entire 12 issue run of Moonstone’s second ongoing Phantom series. All issues are written by Mike Bullock while Silvestre Szilagyi handles the art on what was originally issues 1-3, 5-6 and 8-12. Fernando Peniche is the artist on issues 4 and 7.

If you’re a fan of The Phantom, then you’re probably already aware of Bullock’s contributions to the character. He was the primary writer of The Phantom during the character’s time with Moonstone and he peppered his stories with real-life issues related to Africa. This collection is very much a sequel to Bullock’s work on the first Moonstone Phantom series, as it brings back one of his greatest creations, the villain known as Him. Indeed, the entire 12-issue arc is based around Him’s return and the various ways that he manipulates The Phantom. The stories are fast-paced and action-packed, featuring The Phantom in a number of dramatic situations… he even battles a polar bear towards the end!

The artwork is serviceable — Szilagyi is a good storyteller though his style lacks some of the flair that would help set the stories apart. He seems to come from the lineage of guys like Don Heck: draftsman who know how to clearly lay out a page and can hit all the required notes but there’s not any pages here that scream “Boy, I wish I could get that one as a poster!” Peniche is a far more dramatic artist but has some wonky anatomy and layouts at times.

If I had any criticism of the storyline as a whole, it would be that there’s little downtime for The Phantom. Diana is very much a background figure in the series and Kit and Heloise do show up for a couple of drama-inducing pages but I would have enjoyed seeing an issue somewhere in the run where The Phantom would have spent more time with his family: I think mixing in a “small” story amidst the proceedings would have made the final chapters have more power. As it is, readers are required to already have feelings for the kids and understand The Phantom’s devotion to his family — there’s not really much in the way of explaining that to new readers along the way.

I consider this book well worth the money and it should be of interest to any Phantom fans. I will say that my favorite Bullock storyline is collected in The Phantom: Checkmate and it serves as an excellent lead-in to this volume, since it also features Him. Get ’em both, if you haven’t already.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Reviews from the 86th Floor: Barry Reese looks at The Good, The Bad and The Unknown

The Good, The Bad and The Unknown
Written by Mike Frigon
Art by Verne Anderson
Wild Cat Books
ISBN 0982311680
276 pages, $13.50

This one’s an odd mix: a novel length tale of the Moon Man followed by short stories of Doctor Satan and then Secret Agent X. The Moon Man tale is an epic one and very exciting — it is definitely the standout tale of the bunch. It does lag a bit in the middle and I think the whole thing could have been trimmed a little to make it punchier but there are some great action sequences and the Moon Man and his cast are handled very well.

The Doctor Satan story is fun — it’s hard to get Satan wrong — and I enjoyed the twists and turns the story took.

The Secret Agent X story… eh. I’ve never cared for X so I’m a hard sell here. It’s well written and the notion of an “evil” Secret Agent X is a fun one. I think I honestly enjoyed this story more than any of the old Secret Agent X tales.

The art by Verne Anderson is interesting. It’s very different from traditional pulp artwork but it works here. There are 26 (!) pieces of art and some work far better than others but overall I really liked it. It’s cartoony in places but I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. It’s fun to see a different take on Moon Man and Doctor Satan in particular.

I give it 3 out of 5 stars.