Review: Hockey Karma - With Your Best Shot
HOCKEY KARMA - An I Reads You Review

STORY: Howard Shapiro – @hockeyplayer
ART: Andres J. Mossa
COLORS: Andres J. Mossa
LETTERS: Ryan Ferrier
ISBN: 978-0-9861489-3-4; paperback (November 1, 2016)
160pp, Color, $14.95 U.S., $17.95 CAN

Hockey Karma is an full-color, original graphic novel written by Howard Shapiro; drawn and colored by Andres Mossa; and lettered by Ryan Ferrier. Published by Animal Media Group, Hockey Karma is the third graphic novel in the Forever Friends Trilogy. This final installment focuses on an aging hockey star and his frustrated best friend.

As Hockey Karma begins, hockey star, Jeremiah “Jake” Jacobson, is struggling with his place on the team for which he has been a star for 14 seasons, the Bay City Blades. Thirty-two-years old and struggling with injuries, Jake has focused his ire on fast-rising newcomer, Barclay Pedersen, an 18-year-old rookie. As Jake sinks deeper into bitterness, his wife, Felicity, notices that Jake is practically absent from the lives of her and their two children. Can Jake stop his downward spiral?

Meanwhile, Tom Leonard, Jake's best friend and agent, is struggling to get a charitable organization started. Jake was supposed to help him, but is uber-focused on preserving his fading career. Tom begins to realize that he might be on his on, and a chance encounter with a former flame who might help Tom discover the power of believing in himself. Can Tom step out of Jake's shadow?

I have not read the previous entries in the Forever Friends Trilogy, Stereotypical Freaks and The Hockey Saint. I received a copy-for-review of Hockey Karma and the press materials helped me focus on this third novel rather than on the other two. Still, I think any reader can find Hockey Karma enjoyable without reading the other comics before it.

Writer Howard Shapiro presents Hockey Karma in fairly hot and cold terms. This is a character, family, friendship, and workplace drama without tears. Shapiro makes the characters blunt about their shortcomings. There are no teary interventions; the character with an addiction is presented with the resolution in stark terms. The book offers a rah-rah, happy ending that might make even Walt Disney roll his eyes, but the characters have earned it because it did not come easy.

I recognized artist Andres Mossa's name from his work as a colorist on some of Marvel Comics' Star Wars comic book series. Mossa is not a grand master of figure drawing, but his characters have a poignant human quality about them. Also, it is hard not to like Mossa's dazzling colors.

On the title page for each chapter, Howard Shapiro offers “recommended listening,” songs that he thinks could be the right soundtrack for that particular chapter. The songs are a collection of classic and modern rock songs and selections from alt-rock and college radio. I don't think that Hockey Karma needs a soundtrack, although there are a few times when it needs an injection of drama.

Hockey Karma moves to its own beat, digging into themes of friendship, life changes, and intimate relationships. And that beat engages the reader until its satisfying final chapters and last panel. Hockey Karma is not perfect, but it has heart and its emotions feel genuine.

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

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