Review: “Joe Palooka” By Mike Bullock And Fernando Peniche (Illustrations)

I was provided an advanced copy of this MMA Comic Book (as it’s billed on their website) by the publishers for the purpose of reading and reviewing it. Note the final version has not released yet, so what I note here might change by the time it hits the shelves, so to speak.

Anyone familiar with classic comics knows the name Joe Palooka from the original comic about a boxer by the same name, which originated in 1921. This book, which comprises issues #1 through #6 of the new series, tells the story of a new Joe Palooka.

Nick Davis is your everyday guy. He’s got a good-looking girlfriend. A younger sister to take care of. And oh yeah, he’s an aspiring MMA fighter.

The story opens with Davis winning an MMA match handily, then transitions to a bank robbery, in which Davis is a patron of the bank who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s content just watching and staying out of trouble until an elderly guard is beat up and shot, where Davis jumps in to stop the robbery. In the process, Davis shoots one of the robbers, thereby leaving his prints on a gun. He runs before the police show up, but, feeling guilty, he returns to the scene. Unfortunately, the guard’s son is a detective, and as the guard lies dying on the ambulance gurney, he fingers Davis in the crowd. Innocent? Guilty? What did he tell his son? Davis doesn’t wait to find out, taking off and beginning a life on the run.

This life takes him to Mexico and eventually Hong Kong, which he’s adopted by Tommy Chang, an MMA promoter with an inflated sense of self and penchant for referring to himself in the third person. Chang gets Davis, who by now has adopted the stage persona of Joe Palooka, various fights where both make money, Davis sending his money back to his girlfriend. The fights keep getting more dangerous, and Davis / Palooka stays on the run, and the detective keeps closing in on Palooka by trailing his girlfriend.

This leads to a climax outside Vegas, where Palooka has gone to fight and hopefully meet up with his girlfriend and sister.

Overall, I really liked the artwork of this series. As a martial artist myself, much of it looked realistic, which I found refreshing. Yeah, there’s some philosophical Miyagi-wannabe stuff, but that’s not a killer. I did find the story a bit predictable, although Issue #6 certainly left the story open for future issues. I will definitely be checking them out.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Review: “The Rag: Winter/Spring 2013”

I was provided a copy of this online magazine by the editor for the purposes of reading and reviewing it.

The theme of this issue was good / evil and what makes a person choose one path or the other. In that regard, the magazine certainly meets that goal. Each author takes a little different tack when approaching the subject, although each definitely has an edgy feel to it.

While not a big fan of poetry, the few sprinkled poems break up the prose offerings enough to provide a nice change of pace while still sticking with the theme.

I tend to be very much a fan of sci-fi / fantasy, but was pleased to see each of the stories in this issue are well-grounded in reality. While there are some very improbable or unlikely choices made by some characters, they are all realistic choices that could be made. At the same time, some characters were very human and did exactly what one would expect to do in the circumstance.

My favorite piece was probably “Zeke Stargazing” by Rachel Kimbrough. It certainly paints the picture of a Christmas nobody will soon forget.

I have bookmarked the web page for this magazine and will likely revisit them regularly to get copies of newer issues. I am definitely a fan of what they had to offer in this issue and can’t wait to read others. I would like to see some tighter editing of the stories, but this by no means detracts from the overall effect.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Review: “Sorcerers Of The Nightwing: The Ravenscliff Series #1” By Geoffrey Huntington

I was provided a copy of this eBook by the marketing department at Diversion Books for the purpose of reading and reviewing it. They are re-releasing the first two books of this series at present and, this fall, will be releasing the third book in the series for the first time in English.

Devon March is the fourteen year old son of a single dad who has known from a young age that demons are indeed real. They are in his closet, they are under his bed, and on occasion, they pop out to try and disrupt his life. Devon’s father has always prepared him for the battles, telling Devon he’s stronger than any of them. This works for Devon.

Then, Devon’s father dies. Curiously, Devon’s custody is given to Amanda Muir Crandall, the mistress of Ravenscliff Manor, someone Devon never even knew he existed. The neighboring town is antagonistic toward the Muirs, given the family and manor has a long history of ghosts, trouble and unexplained behavior.

Into this mess Devon is thrown, upon which supernatural activity suddenly picks up in the area. Suddenly Devon must deal with a long-dead Muir trying to release demons upon the world, call Devon and his latent powers to the dark side, and generally serve a cold dish of revenge upon the remaining Muirs. Throw in that Devon suddenly has a budding romance with Cecily, who may or may not be related, and there are plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader interested.

Overall, I found this a very fascinating read. A true litmus test for me is when I have more than a single chapter to complete the book, and I forego sleep to do so. It’s meant to be a YA novel, and I think it’s pretty close to that. I was amused at the mix of “safe” cuss words while a few uncensored “B.S.” bombs were dropped.

My only beef with the book is that there are times throughout it when I speedbumped on a particular word or phrase. It could be the wrong word (“puss” instead of “pus”), a missing word or incomplete sentence, or some other anomaly that made me re-read a passage. It wasn’t enough to cause major problems, but considering the book was originally written in 2002, you would have hoped such errors would have been caught by now.

I will definitely be hunting down the second book in the series as well as the third, when it’s finally released in English by Diversion Books this fall.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Review: “Death Ain’t But A Word” By Zander Marks


I was sent this book by the author for the purposes of reading and reviewing it.

This book is the story of Wilkin Jones, a crackhead who doesn’t really act like a crackhead. He seems to be able to turn it down whenever he wants. He does odd jobs for extra cash. And oh yeah, he can see the dead. Chief among these is Humphrey, Wilkin’s best friend who was killed when he was seven years old. Things start to get interesting when Humphrey’s murderer shows up after 23 years, intent on destroying any evidence of Humphrey’s remains, which happen to be buried under a seedy motel. As Wilkin runs, Humphrey’s skull in tow, the story travels across several states before its paranormal conclusion.

All that said, I really like the story of Wilkin. I like the premise of the book and where Marks went with it. My biggest frustration was with writing style. Too many repetitive sentences starting with a pronoun (He, She, It, etc.) or a character’s name. I think some variety would have made it more fluid and less choppy.

I also had some issues with the portrayal of dream scenes, where dialog is all in italics, but with no differentiation between one character’s lines and another’s. None of them had quotation marks. I found myself reading and re-reading those sections for context.

The format and plot were a bit predictable, but overall I really like the story. I would definitely recommend it for people who like edgy fiction.

Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)