Month: April 2016

Dark Days


Generally when you pick up a memoir by someone in a rock or metal band you kind of know what to expect, a little something about the band starting out as complete unknowns, something about them getting signed and releasing their first album and probably a lot of stuff about drink, drugs, groupies and hedonism that’s become an associated cliché with being in a popular (for its genre) rock/metal band.

Dark Days by Lamb of God singer D. Randall Blythe ,more commonly known as Randy Blythe, is completely and utterly unlike any of those books.

Whilst in Prague on the last days of the bands latest tour to the surprise of himself, his band, his road crew and later his family, Blythe found himself arrested and charged with Manslaughter and implicated in the death of a fan at a gig. Blythe was soon in a Czech prison potentially facing five to ten years imprisonment for a crime he had no recollection of.

Dark Days is engrossing, informative, surprisingly comical and occasionally emotionally wrenching as Blythe finds himself in a decrepit crumbling prison where hardly anyone speaks English, dealing with the bewildering Czech legal system and a Mongolian cellmate with a habit for whistling endlessly and a fondness for vodka.

Blythe is an eloquent writer and makes a point of stating that the book is his own work and not the product of some ghost writer. Whilst broken down into 4 parts Prague, Pankrac, The Trial and Epilogue, some of the chapters break from the story of his incarceration as he shares brutally honest stories of being an alcoholic for years and the struggle of being an addict, especially in a touring metal band where people are always offering you drinks and various other substances. This contrasts massively with the often more romanticised approach to alcohol and drugs in other books, Blythe openly admits he’s done profoundly stupid things whilst wasted and is also somewhat amazed that his friends and family haven’t disowned him previous to him getting sober for good.

One thing that radiates from the pages of Dark Days is the fact that Blythe is a man of honour and steadfast resolve in an age when many are more than happy to throw people under the bus at a moments notice, or blame someone or something for all their problems. Despite having no recollection of the events he is charged with he quickly accepts that he will face the consequences if he is indeed responsible.

Hellina #1


Hellina is one of several Bad Girl comics recently relaunched by Boundless Comics an imprint of Avatar Press. Whilst Avatar might now have carved out a niche with various creator owned titles they originally started out in the 90’s mainly publishing Bad Girl comics, Hellina being one of them.

Relaunched via a successful Kickstarter Hellina is back with Jai Nitz writing and Gabriel Andrade on art, with colours by Digikore and Jaymes Reed on letters.

Hellina is Hell’s Adjudicator, sent in to clean up when supernatural entities and creatures of the night get out of line. Heaven and Hell waged a war that lasted for millenia, with the bloody battle spilling out into various worlds and dimensions. Then Hell won. Now 500 years later Heaven’s angelic horde is making an appearance and is more than willing to fight dirty to change the status quo.

Whilst Bad Girl comics in themselves are a distinctly niche market, one that might even seem a little anachronistic, they aren’t without their fans. That being said the only thing Hellina really has going for it is Gabriel Andrade’s art because the writing makes this come across like an unintentional satire of Bad Girl comics, as though it’s just ticking boxes rather than telling a story with a narrative – gory violence, check, unnecessary sex, check.

Nitz establishes little in the way of a world for anything that actually happens here. The back story about the war between Heaven and Hell above is taken from the Kickstarter campaign description, rather than the comic itself. A  protracted fight sequence between Hellina and a horde of vampires, werewolves and other creatures which are  fighting each other makes up the bulk of the story here.

The fight then comes to a rather abrupt end after the leader of the vampires, Simon, says “I’ve lived over 500 years I’d rather go out fucking than fighting at this point”, cue apparently obligatory sex. There’s no indication as to why Hellina would accept this offer unless it’s her usual tactic for defusing battles? Why this stops the werewolves and vampires fighting isn’t really explained either.

If Simon was some former paramour that Hellina actually knew from some time in her past then at least this would make sense rather than some random vampire guy. If Hellina is a highly sexed nymphomaniac who lives for bloodshed and fucking why do they then go to some appartment somewhere, leaving all the various creatures behind, instead of just having animalistic sex on the battlefield?

There’s nothing wrong with sex in comics if it’s done well and actually works in the narrative like in the excellent InSEXts from Aftershock Comics by Marguerite Bennett and Ariela Kristantina or the critically acclaimed Sunstone from Image Comics by Stjepan Sejic but here it just seems to be awkwardly shoehorned in.  For a comic aimed at a niche market and deliberately sold as an adult oriented Bad Girl comic the sex in Hellina is no more explicit than in Avatar’s titles like Ferals, this isn’t The Young Witches by Ricardo Barreiro and Francisco Solano López .

Aside from Hellina herself Simon is the only other character who is actually named here, and he isn’t around for very long, so it’s hard to really get invested in anything that happens. Whilst Nitz’s writing might be lacking Andrade, an artist with plenty of experience at Avatar (working on Ferals and Uber amongst others), at least makes that that fight impressively kinetic and is quite experienced at depicting bloody carnage. One page impressively uses Hellina’s whip to break up the panels depicting the on-going fight. If Hellina has anything going for it, it’s definitely Gabriel Andrade’s interior art because he really is in his element here and some good (and rather bad) covers, it’s just a shame that the writing is so lacking. Maybe

The actual concept of Hellina – a trash talking whip wielding agent of Hell that happens to be a sexy badass woman – is pretty solid,  only Nitz does very little with it here.  Maybe expecting good writing in a Bad Girl comic is like expecting good acting in a porn film?

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