Avast there, me hearties! New graphic novel, “Blowback”, offers a pirate-spiced time travel romp… here’s a review

Blowback Graphic Novel Cover

Action and time travel adventure fans should definitely be checking out Blowback, an independent action/adventure graphic novel just released on Amazon and comiXology, written and created by James Hereth and Rhonda Smiley,with art and lettering by Kev Hopgood, coloured by Charlie Kirchoff.

“It’s an entirely new type of writing project for both of us,” Hereth rightly enthused to VoyageLA recently, “and we’re thrilled to finally get it out to an audience.”

In Blowback, a present-day US Marine and his unit disappear in the Bermuda Triangle, only to find themselves in the year 1776. There, they battle to maintain the course of history as they face off against a stranded World War Two era destroyer turned ruthless pirate ship.

If you’re a fan of the book 1633, an alternate history novel co-written by American authors Eric Flint and David Weber, then Blowback should appeal to you, although it doesn’t quite go to the same lengths in terms of alternate history as that tale. (Which, quite coincidentally, led to Kev Hopgood draw some sample pages of a proposed, as yet unrealised comic that I was lined up to edit a couple of years back).

The concept of an action adventure comic strip mashing modern day military technology with a historical setting isn’t new, of course. Here in the UK, Willie Patterson gave us “The Phantom Patrol”, pitting the crew of a World War Two tank against history, in the pages of Swift, back in 1963. But in Blowback, writers and creators James Hereth and Rhonda Smiley successfully deliver an enjoyable romp of a story, quickly setting up the team dynamics and dropping them into the action in the opening pages.

Against the backdrop of the developing battle for American independence of the day, a time traveler turned pirate keen to ensure it isn’t a success, we also have the marines caught up in the conflict trying to find a way home inside the Bermuda Triangle… no easy task!

Blowback Graphic Novel Sample Art
Blowback Graphic Novel Sample Art

With Kev Hopgood firing on all cylinders on the art, more than ably complemented by Charlie Kirchoff on colouring duties, the result is a largely fast-paced action story, the graphic novel format providing opportunity for character development you’d usually imagine gets left on the cutting room floor of a blockbuster film. I

Blowback Graphic Novel Sample Art

t’s neatly done, with some threads open, perhaps, for potential follow up. Kev delivers some terrific action sequences throughout, and clearly enjoyed creating the look of the historical setting too, which he does with aplomb, including some startling scenes where, without giving you spoilers, the eighteenth century has been mashed thanks to future intervention.

Blowback Writer/Creators James Hereth and Rhonda Smiley
Blowback Writer/Creators James Hereth and Rhonda Smiley

Writer/Creators James Hereth and Rhonda Smiley, are screenwriters whose credits include the live-action Ninja Turtles and Jungle Book series, the animated feature, Race, and Chris Pratt’s movie debut, Extreme Team.

Inspired by films like The Final Countdown and Time Bandits, which also juxtapose multiple time periods, the two looked to create an action-filled tale where cannons face off against grenade launchers, muskets exchange fire with M16s, and pirate brutality clashes against modern military tactics.

While this isn’t technically James first published comic, it is the first one available worldwide. “And the first one that’s professional grade,” he feels. “It’s a big deal for Rhonda and me, and the culmination of a very, very long journey.”

Blowback first started life as a screenplay of the big-budget blockbuster variety but although it did win an award for best Sci Fi screenplay under its previous title, Revolution Redux, and garner some industry interest, James notes it didn’t result in a sale.

“200 million dollar budgets might be a bit of a deterrent for buyers when it comes to lesser-known scribes,” he muses.

“So, for the chance to see this story come to life, Rhonda and I turned to a different medium. A medium where we’d be the ones with creative control. Where studio executives wouldn’t be sending over notes upon notes upon notes. Where the writers, not the director, would be crafting the final cut.”

Kev Hopgood and friend
Kev Hopgood and friend

Kev Hopgood proved an ideal addition to the project, thanks to his wide-ranging experience on period pieces like Lawless and Warhammer, as well as SF and military action like 2000AD’s “Judge Dredd” and, going back some years, Marvel UK’s Action Force.

The last few months have considerably raised the profile of the artist and film maker, whose own novel, Dead in the Water, reached the top 50 in the Launch Pad prose writing competition last month, and who has also written a screenplay himself, Blood and Bronze, centring on Alexander the Great.

In December, Marvel announced the upcoming Disney+ series, Armor Wars, featuring War Machine, which Hopgood co-created with Len Kaminski during their run on Iron Man – which has helped raise Kev’s already Hugh profile as a creator.

Following on the heels of that was the release of Blowback, with the artist contributing pencils, inks, and lettering.

Blowback Graphic Novel Sample Art

The final piece of the puzzle in creating the graphic novel was colourist Charlie Kirchoff, who was recommended by Hopgood. Charlie has brought numerous titles to life, including Star Wars Adventures, Star Trek Year Five, and Back to the Future: Tales from the Time Train, as well as the Image series, Secret Identities and The Hard Place.

I enjoyed reading Blowback and I think many of you out there will too. For me, as a graphic novel, it works well; as a proof of concept for that 200 million dollar budget film, it fires on all cylinders… or should that be cannons? Do check it out.

John Freeman

• Blowback is available in paperback now from AmazonUK, is rated Teen Plus (17+ on comiXology) due to violence, harsh language, and brief nudity

For more about Blowback visit www.blowbackuniverse.com

James Hereth is online at www.jameshereth.com

Rhonda Smiley is online at www.rhondasmiley.com

Kev Hopgood is online at www.kevhopgood.com

Charlie Kirchoff is online at charliekirchoff.com

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