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Amerikarate #1

Writers: Corey Kalman, Brockton McKinney
Artist: Devin Roth
Publisher: Action Lab Danger Zone

Amerikarate fuses self-deprecating comedy with B-movie action flare in a way that only this creative team can provide. It’s so far been described as a mashup between Footloose and every major action movie hero of the 80s, and rightfully so. Needless to say, it feels right at home with the plethora of other absurdist action comedies from its publisher Action Lab.

The premise of this comic is simple: Sam Kickwell is a US veteran and martial arts expert who stumbles into a town where karate is illegal. This is due to the fact that the town suffered a ninja attack years earlier, and no amount of anti-American villains who swing through town will change their minds. And accompanying Sam is his limbless brother Rick, who is without a doubt one of the book’s major highlights.

NC Comicon Creative Director Brockton McKinney is of course no stranger to the world of B-movies and absurd action comedies, having written comics like the fantastic Ehmm Theory and last year’s Gingerdead Man reboot. Bringing the same kind of kinetic energy and bizarre world-building to Amerikarate, he and co-writer Corey Kalman deliver one heck of a ride. The book is incredibly self-aware of its ridiculousness and in terms of where it draws inspiration from. 80s gurus will no doubt love its nostalgia, while readers who aren’t as well-versed in this era will still find the comic easily accessible and highly entertaining.

Likewise, Devin Roth’s pencils and colors perfectly capture the book’s absurdist feel. Roth executes a flawlessly cartoonish style, merging the aesthetic of a Rob Guillory comic with the flow and pacing of an 80s movie. Creating characters that are either abnormally large or abnormally small, and action violence that’s both unrestrained and overtly ridiculous, Roth is dynamic on all fronts here. If you like anything these creators have done before, get on over to Ultimate and pick this one up, and then get it signed in a few weeks at NC Comicon: Oak City!

-Kevin Schaefer for Ultimate Comics

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Royal City #1

Created, Written, and Illustrated by Jeff Lemire
Published by Image Comics

Something is wrong in Royal City. It’s not just that the factory is slowing down. It’s not just that Peter Pike had a stroke, right there in the middle of his potato salad. No, there’s something else, something around the edges. Something that’s not supposed to be there. Some… one. Who’s really not supposed to be there. And for the Pike family, things are about to get much, much worse.

This isn’t exactly a horror book, though there are supernatural elements so clever that I gave the book a second read (and yes, the twists all held up the second time). It’s not just a small-town soap opera. It’s… it’s nostalgia, it’s a poignant twist-up of memory and pain. This book is about going back to your home town, and Mom wants everything to stay the same and Dad’s a little clueless and your one sister is working on her stuff and your one brother is NOT working on his stuff and you don’t know if staying around would do any good at all and you sure as Hell don’t want to stay around but there’s nowhere else you can be from. It’s a debate between escaping the ghosts of your past and screwing up your courage to actually listen to those ghosts and maybe grow the Hell up a little bit. It’s that horrible choice where you have to move forward with your life but there is no right answer, not even digging in and investing in the world of your youth.

Jeff Lemire makes me cry with every collection of Descender, a wonderful emotional science fiction adventure. But this week, Lemire got to do a little Cameron Crowe by way of Tim Burton, and I didn’t cry, but I think I’ll call my dad.

-MATT CONNER for Ultimate Comics