Friday, January 13, 2012

UNDERCOVER REVIEWS - Tales of the Fallen

Review By David Zuzelo

Based on the world of FALLEN HEROES created by Barry Nugent

I haven’t read Unseen Shadows by Barry Nugent, but if there is one thing I really admire are authors that aren’t afraid to use multiple media to get their pulpy products to a wider audience. A quick perusal of the website showed me guns and magic and was intriguing enough to carry me into this large tome of sequential pulp prose n’ pictures!

Fragments of Fate introduce Professor Stone, whose knowledge of ancient relics and their uses has attracted some goons to capture him in a quest for the titular Fragments. As he retreats into his mind to avoid the pain his body is feeling beneath the inquisitions of a group of Serpent men. Back story is unleashed, and it is all pretty interesting, taking an ABLE TEAM meets TOMB RAIDER premise and making it work pretty well.

The dialog is sharp and the pacing is good in Peter Rogers' script, some of the action scenes jam a bit too much into the page. The artwork by Roy Huteson Stewart is an interesting mix of sketchy and detailed. Sometimes things are really stiff and awkward, and others-especially the detailed action scenes are flashy and work well. But the major disadvantage of using this style of art for the story that introduces these characters to me in a style that probably doesn’t reflect the way they would be described in other stories. It isn’t bad artwork, and it works at times in this setting, but I would have preferred to see it a bit later on, after I had a better bead on who exactly everyone is.

Entertaining, and certainly I want to see more about these characters.

Dan Thompson and Rob Carey (with Vicky Stonebridge on colors) present a very different type of tale with Band of Butchers. Major Clancy Wallencheck introduces himself, his skill set and ability to be ruthless in a tale set in Pakistan during a Black Ops assignation mission. The team carries out the mission of badass dialog and heavy gunfire, meet the inevitable betrayal and then provide a Bolanesque Hard Man finish to the tale of no heroes being here.

The story didn’t do much for me, but again I’m feeling at a disadvantage to know how these motivations play into the greater world of the Fallen Heroes. Band of Butchers does work when placed after Fragments of Fate however; it shows diversity in the overall story. From Lizard men and magical stones to the interiors of helicopters and men of dark purpose with big guns blowing out more brains than three human heads could hold-Fallen Heroes seems like a pretty wide vista of action and pulpy possibility. The artwork looks great when focused on gear and action.

The intriguing Jonathan Bishop, Wrath, is featured in Wrath of God by Cy Dethan, Steve Penfold and Gat Melvyn. Of all the episodes, this feels like the one that hits the concept of a prequel Graphic Novel for a series of novels / comics perfectly. The creators have put together a story that feels complete both as an action piece and a character study and that is no easy feat. The previous two stories felt like they were reliant on having a little understanding of the Fallen Heroes stories, this story reads like John Woo visualizing a Ninja Master novel with hearty doses of Acid being passed around the set. Dethan is spot on with his dialog, even when it runs a bit long and can turn phrases that work ideally with the artwork. And the art is similar to the earlier Stewart work, but less stylized and a bit more expressive. But the real star, to me, on the story is colorist Gat Melvyn. Ideally an action story rips across the page and the ballistic bits burst out of the page. Well, EVERY PANEL of this story whether they are static shots of a command center or body piled Church pews with a nutjob mangling everyone is made interesting and Colorists deserve a lot of praise, but watching one pull so much out of the artwork and enhancing every aspect of the storytelling is an outstanding feeling for a long time comics fan like myself.
If there was a Wrath novel, I’d read that first. Nothing average here…

Operation Solomon is a nice finishing piece, a bit of G.I. Joe and Raiders of the Lost Ark pulp fun that doesn’t play pastiche, it makes me hope that the rest of the Fallen Heroes tales are more like this. An elite squad story, complete with the usual bickering and infighting with superiors are sent into a cool location and find the Sword of Solomon (there is a great line of dialog when they find it, worth reading the story for alone). Betrayal ensues, action occurs and I’m thinking that this is what I was hoping for all along. A cohesive story that takes different elements of both Pulp and 80s Adventure novels and smashes them together effectively. I think each reader’s mileage may vary depending on what they enjoy, but I like both styles equally. Remote viewing and hi tech ninja gear collide and I’m all in!

Richard Clements and Conor Boyle have a nice synergy going with the words and pictures and definitely do the strongest job with the task of presenting a lot of back story and dense character development in a short page count. The art is the most polished of the batch, and gives me the best feel for the world of Fallen Heroes so far.

A large amount of back matter provides more insight, sort of a Hasbro Toys dossier for the characters and scenarios. I think I’ll go back to it after reading the novels however. I think a clearer view of why these characters are being featured here would help.

A large volume that is probably best going to serve those familiar with the characters, Tales of the Fallen is a diverse experience that does what it should do. Some introductions work better than others, but all add up to make an intriguing package for a pulp series that blends different genres effectively.

You can read more by checking out the original novel here:
Fallen Heroes (Kindle)
Unseen Shadows Website offers even more, including previews of these stories and more.


  1. Hey David

    I just wanted to stop by and say thanks for taking the time to review Tales of the Fallen. I will be sure to pass on your comments to the rest of the creative team as they are currently working on a second anthology.

    If you decide to pick up the novel I hope you enjoy it mate!

    All the best and thanks again.

    Barry Nugent

  2. Thanks Barry, best of luck with what is certainly an intriguing set of characters and a dedicated creative team!

  3. Thanks for the kind words, glad you liked the strip (even if you did get my name wrong..!)


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