Do spies really use code words? If so this might be the most realistic spy/assassin comic ever made, but it does get old really fast…

Sweet Lullaby #1
Writer: AJ Scherkenbach
Artist: J. Briscoe Allison
Published by: Darby Pop Publishing

Previously in Sweet Lullaby: Lullaby is a strong-willed, second generation covert assassin, trained from a very young age by her father, Z. Typically, she adopts a new look and identity for each mission. And upon receiving orders to “terminate,” Lullaby does so with clever, and sadistic, precision. But, Lullaby’s black and white world is about to turn grey and that means the streets could soon run red.

Good Girl Gone Bad

It’s hard writing comic books for grumpy old men like me to read. At first I thought that this book seemed too formulaic, like I had seen it all before, but then I started reading all the code words the writer used and I got fed up with it being too different and hard to follow. Sometimes you just can’t please people.

In some ways, this gives us the worst of all possibilities; a generic spy story, hot pneumatic heroine with clichéd dead parent, but with the most annoying uses of the words dream, boogieman, sleep and black I have ever read. I don’t even know if they are real world spy terms, but it became both frustrating to read and annoying when characters also have code names including those words.

Anyway, I feel so much better getting those annoyances off my chest, because apart from that, this is really quite fun. Not perfect, but definitely worth reading.

Is there an award for the best use of a lawnmower ever?

It’s funny, from watching American TV and films I assume that everyone has a ride on petrol mower, probably in much the same way that Americans expect that I have bad teeth, drink tea and talk like Prince William (well ok, the last one is probably true…) But as this comic shows us, there are small hand pushed mowers being used in New Mexico and when the next-door neighbour is a complete misogynistic creep the best way of dealing with him is putting his face through a fast revolving blade.

This book takes 22 pages and manages to give us well rounded characters both in the present and 20 years previously. That in itself is a huge achievement considering most comic series would take an entire first arc to manage that same feat. But I suppose that is the difference between an independent comic and an established name, this must hit all the right notes straight away just to be noticed at all.

Speaking of independent comics…

One of the worst things I find about smaller publishers is that there is almost always a compromise somewhere; be it the production values, the artwork, colouring, proof reading or simply being all round terrible. This series seems to suffer with none of those issues. Perhaps it is a factor of digital publishing or merely that the bar for entry has been raised, but compared to 10 years ago the standard of independent comics has risen dramatically.

With the exception of the irritating code names this book has really solid writing, the production of the book, its layout and pacing are perfect and the art is actually superb. Now I realise that the art is probably the most subjective part of any comic book, but for me to appreciate it the artist has to have created characters who are consistent and recognisable on every page. So many times I have looked at comics and been forced to back track and squint at the page just to work out who people are, but not here.

Now some of the characters have completely unfeasible anatomy with one guy so ripped his forearm is bigger than his head and our heroine occasionally clearly has no pelvis, but for me that is just part of the art style of the book. Here we get wonderful scene transitions from daylight, to thunderstorms, fluorescent lighting to dusk, it is the best part of the entire issue. It kindly prints at the top of the page ‘Today’ or ’20 years ago’ but the transitions are done so well, after the first one that is completely unnecessary.

For me the biggest compliment I can give it is that after finishing writing this review, I am off to read the next two issues the writer kindly sent over. With most series, I read the first issue and toss the rest into the pile marked ‘perhaps’ which almost always translates into ‘never.’ The first 3 issues are all available now with the collected trade out in March, but either way they would be worth looking out for.

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About Author

Etienne has loved comics ever since Hasbro licensed a random collection of out of scale transforming toys from Japan and gave them to Marvel and said 'make up something so we can sell this crap to kids.' Well, they managed to do that for 6 years to this kid, and in the process create an entire mythos, dozens of TV shows and at least 1 decent film. Not bad going for a giant advert. Since then Etienne might have grown up a bit, but the seed that Transformers started in 1984 has taken root and 30 years later he's still obsessed with his comics.

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