Category Archives: Reviews

TV Review: Gotham S1E2: Selina Kyle

gotham cast Fox‘s Gotham explores the world of Batman before Batman existed. We get to see the rise of his numerous rogues and allies, with the first episode showing off about a dozen of some of the iconic characters we now know. In this episode Detectives Gordon and Bullock investigate a child trafficking ring preying on Gotham’s street kids, including Selina Kyle. Meanwhile, Penguin resurfaces in the countryside and begins to make his way back to Gotham, leaving victims in his wake.

I’ve wondered how the series would flesh out those iconic characters, and it’s pretty clear from this episode’s title, “Selina Kyle,” which character this episode revolves around, sort of. While she appeared in the beginning of the episode, she really doesn’t show up much at all, appearing for maybe 20 minutes. Instead, the focus ins about her friends who have been abducted.

What we learn is, the abductions are for The Dollmaker, who has appeared in another DC television show, Arrow. Are these two series connected? Could be interesting….

The episode wraps up with more of Selina, that almost makes the episode’s title worth it.

Overall, the second episode is a solid one, not quite as good as the debut episode, but building out of it nicely.

Overall Score: 7.75

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Review: Brides of Helheim #1

BRIDES OF HELHEIM #1Among the stories and characters based in the mythos of bygone cultures, there almost deserves to be a separate sub-genre in comic culture for Nordic inspired stories.  Usually centered around either the Norse mythological or Vikings, these stories are so prevalent in the industry that they give a good challenge in terms of exposure to the stories of the ancient Greek pantheon, even though the Greek stories are much more embedded in the public consciousness. Among the more obvious cases of Nordic inspired characters is Thor from Marvel Comics, but it is a popular enough setting elsewhere as well, such as in the stories of How to Train Your Dragon or even parts of the recently released series Sirens.

Brides of Helheim, from Oni Press, is another entry into this world of the north, where the harsh winters and dangerous conditions are faced by men of rugged strength and women of rugged beauty. The setting is common enough here, but the story is maybe a little different. It introduces two characters seeking help against a menace to their small town, and while fans of the previous series (Helheim from 2013) will probably be quickly familiar with some of the characters, this previous knowledge is also not necessary. As I was reading this issue I was struck by two things. The first was that it was quite light on actual literal writing, by which I mean that there are few words here to guide the way for the reader. The second thing that struck me was that this didn’t matter. The story was strong bohenough in its layout that it didn’t really need the actual words so much, and instead relied on artwork which was extremely complementary to the setting and the characters. The artwork was a bit of a surprise as well in the sense that there is a general approach to the smaller publishers to their choice of covers. Generally as they have less attention, they go for the idea that “sex sells” and the covers are also therefore usually the best artwork of the entire issue, but this is flipped on its side for Brides of Helheim as the interior is far more engaging than the exterior.

This ends up being a simple story, heavy on the artwork and not so much on the dialogue, but also one which was engaging enough with the visuals and the characterization to make it easy to jump right in. While reading this the story flew right past, but it left me wanting more right away. It is pretty fun, and definitely worth a look.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Joëlle Jones
Story: 7.8 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy

Oni Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

TV Review: The Strain S1E12 Last Rites

the-strain-logo1Dutch returns with a plan to broadcast Eph’s warning about the vampiric plague. However, they face a new threat when Eichhorst launches his own attack against the pawn shop. Palmer receives a special visitor, and Gus gears up for the on-coming fight but discovers there’s another mysterious factor involved.

The Strain continues to bounce around multiple plot lines giving more than enough of each so as to not feel shorted on any of them. What’s impressive though, with it bouncing around, we learn so much that adds to the impetuous behind the oncoming battle. While the series is focused on The Master’s plan on taking over the world, it’s as much about Eichhorst and Abraham’s history dating back to World War II and the Holocaust.

A lot of the episode, even for as much as it bounces around, gives us more insight in what Abraham has gone through as far as his battles. Both he, and another team member are forced to say good-bye to something they love. It really brings a nice touch of humanity to all that’s going on.

Overall, the episode on its own was so-so, with some solid moments. But, as part of the larger narrative, it adds a lot.

 

Overall Score: 7.75

Review: Bob’s Burgers #2

The first issue of Bob’s Burgers did a lot right and came out of the ringer as a solid read, despite some problems both as an individual issue and as a set-up for an ongoing series. The characterization and look of the show was faithfully retained and the comic offered lots of laughs. The format of this series, split up into five sections respectively devoted to individual members of the Belcher family, is fresh and unique. Unfortunately, not every story of the first issue was a winner, and the big creative team wasn’t able to squeeze out enough attention for Bob and Linda, the parents of the Belcher family; their sections only being page-long notes and letters fictionally written by them doesn’t help this issue. The second issue offers three stories that all work, offering a stronger read than the last even though the comic still begs for more from the parents.

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The short story devoted to Tina here is even better than the last, offering a hugely glorious and dumb sci-fi story about a battle between humanity and robots, ultimately ended peacefully through dance. There’s lots of action and lots of downright goofy bits of Tina quirkiness. Louise’s story is much better than last month’s weak offering, giving readers a fun mystery with a cute, silly ending that makes sense. Gene’s story isn’t as good as the one last time, but it’s good, offering a musical with lots of Shakespeare and flatulence. In their totality, these stories embody a distinctly silly and fun atmosphere, sure to make any fan of the show feel at home.

The page devoted to Bob and the page devoted to Linda just don’t do much, however. Like last time, they’re fine, but at the end of the day they just make the void for the two characters seem more gaping. It’s not intrinsically bad that they don’t get their own stories, but they should have big roles in the stories actually presented to make up. On the flip side, the art does more than cleverly translate the art style and visual humor of the show. The comics craft is put to good use here, offering cool, smart visual tricks. One example of this is the series of word bubbles from Louise’s big mouth, increasing as she gets angrier and louder. There are a few instances like this, and it’s neat to see.

I enjoyed Bob’s Burgers #2 a lot for what it is, chock full of creative, funny entertainment. I just wish it would incorporate the other two fifths of the Bob’s Burgers main cast, to make the laughs even better.

Story: Rachel Hastings, Mike Olsen, Justin Hook, Jeff Drake, Chad Brewster Art: Frank Forte, Tony Gennaro, Tyler Garrison, Kimball Shirley, Anthony Aguinaldo, Hector Reynoso, Robin Brigstocke, Steven Theis, Derek Schroeder
Story: 7.5 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

To check out Matt’s about.me, click here

Dynamite provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: G.I. Joe #1

While it’s struggled to maintain mainstream relevance anywhere close to what it had in the past, the G.I. Joe property still has a solid grip on a certain group of fans. While it hasn’t been making waves in the comics industry as well as, say, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has, G.I. Joe comics continue to come out and continued to be purchased and enjoyed. This week, IDW decided to relaunch its G.I. Joe series with a new #1 written by Karen Traviss with art by Steve Kurth, setting up a story promising “The Fall of G.I. Joe.” The sad news is that you’re probably better off rummaging through your closet to play with your old G.I. Joe action figures than you’d be reading this dull debut; decent art isn’t enough to elevate the boring, unsatisfying plot.

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The idea for this story is actually an intriguing one, sure to satisfy anyone even vaguely a fan of G.I. Joe; previously infamous organization Cobra has gained considerably positive international favor as a peace organization. With Cobra seemingly ending world conflict nonviolently, the United States deduces the G.I. Joe department is unnecessary. This first issue introduces us to how the Joes are taking this into their own hands. All of this sounds potentially cool, but its execution is free of any excitement, any fun, and any action, certainly not appealing for younger audiences and not even older readers.

Full of dialogue mulling over big political struggle, bringing up issues like bought-out politicians and dishonest, national motives, this issue presents a whole lot, but doesn’t manage to make any of it stick. It’s nice that the main protagonist is a female, but the book doesn’t allow for any characterization to make her enjoyable to follow. It’s clear that the Joes are taking a big risk, going against the US government and following their collective gut, but the book never delves deep enough into their motives. There isn’t anything besides talking, and even the comedy fails to affect.

The art is good, although nothing to write home about. It’s technically without significant flaw, offering convincing facial expression and movement. The layouts are relatively interesting, occasionally offering a page that sticks out. At the end of the day, an artist can only visualize talking heads so well, anyway.

There is a great story buried in G.I. Joe #1, making its poor quality especially disappointing. I loved playing with my G.I. Joe action figures when I was young and this issue definitely didn’t manage to bring any of that back up beyond the basic concept. Pulling readers in with a compelling concept is only half the battle, after all.

Story: Karen Travis Art: Steve Kurth
Story: 3.5 Art: 7.0 Overall: 3.75 Recommendation: Pass

To check out Matt’s about.me, click here

IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Harley Quinn: Futures End #1

3HGVHisGenerally speaking I tend to stay away from series like Harley Quinn. There is nothing inherently wrong with the concept behind the series, but it depends on a number of key factors in order for it to be successful. It is similar in a way to Deadpool from Marvel, a series that takes itself seriously but doesn’t. One that relies on jokes about pop culture references in order to make for an easy chuckle, and one which relies on breaking the fourth wall to speak directly to the fans from a crazed mind. All of this is set up on one underlying premise, that the writer can actually make a plot that is both engaging and funny while also being fresh and original.  This is the inherent downfall of this specific format, at least in my opinion.

While this format is not for me, I don’t disparage those that do like it, and instead just stay away from either commentary on the format or the stories. In the case of Harley Quinn: Futures End, I found myself a little curious as to what was going to transpire, especially as I have read quite a few of the other issues and found their alternate timeline stories to be interesting enough.  In retrospect though, I probably should have stayed away, as I didn’t really enjoy this story that much to the point that it is likely my least favorite entry in Futures End thus far.

harley weddingThe story is quite convoluted and throws in things which are not even really relevant, such as the mode of transport which Harley chooses at the beginning of the movie. Soon the plot veers into what seems to be an homage to not only one but two Tom Hanks movies, as elements of Cast Away and Joe Versus the Volcano are stolen for what passes for a plot here. Mostly though the jokes and humor fall flat, to the point that it seemed like it needed a laugh track to highlight when I was supposed to be amused.

Generally speaking I am the type of reader that likes a story first and the art second, to the point that as long as the art is not confusing or distracting that I won’t let it affect my reading experience. In this case though, the art is absolutely the best thing about this issue. The high point of the story for me was the almost beautiful visual of Harley in her (first of two) wedding gown, which out of nowhere pays homage to Disney princesses as well as seemingly to Pepe Le Pew. In the end though, the entire issue pretty much an all-around disappointment, with a plot so inane that it is hard for me to fathom how even a Harley Quinn fan might find it entertaining. Even on the surface the promise of a wedding between the two seemed like a fun and promising idea, especially for a potential future time line, but there were so many other ways to go with it that this just feels like a dud.

 Story: Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner Art: Chad Hardin
Story: 4.0 Art: 7.5 Overall: 4.0 Recommendation: Pass

Review: Hollow’s Prism #1

hollow's prismHollow’s Prism follows the story of Thenn, a mercenary and rebel from a faraway planet that has been fighting against the people that enslaved her race. After five years on the run and in rebellion, her crew finally gives up on her and the ideals for a safer life. This setup reveals a number of somewhat generic clichés in terms of science fiction. There is a somewhat generic crew, and a somewhat generic setting, and this leads to an even more generic result, of the main character being left behind to die on an abandoned planet.

All of this works towards setting up this issue to being somewhat like a lot of bland science fiction. There is little difference between the events here and what one might expect from some golden age science fiction. However, after this is set up, the story really does get a lot more interesting. In terms of the cliché of characters being trapped on planets, there is one commonality, and that is that the characters escape. The same holds true for this story as the main character does indeed find a way off of the planet, but it is an unconventional way, at least in terms of the story telling. Really in that regard, what it interesting here is the concept behind the planet which makes this a workable idea.

This clever mechanic is what I sometimes like and sometimes dislike about the independent releases from Comixology every week. Sometimes these series are such stretches in terms of paying homage to the medium that they are not original in any way, which makes them not really worth reading. In this case though, although the setting and background of the characters is fairly generic, the plot is not, and even realizes one of the better accolades in terms of my reading, which can be summed up easily as “I wish that I had thought of that!” The end result is still a little rough, as is the case with most of these series that Comixology releases as they are often newcomers looking to break into the business, but as is the case here, there is some potential here.

 Story: Christa Yelich-Koth  Art: Conrad Teves
Story: 7.5 Art: 6.0 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Comixology and Green-Eyed Unicorn Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy

Review: Sinestro: Futures End #1

052.DCC.Snstr.1.0_384x591_5390e32c825b73.89189651Like many of the Futures End series, the version with Sinestro starts out in a future that is broken off from the past. As this standalone issue progresses, one has to remember that this is only a possible version of the future.  The initial setting is fairly generic, and maybe even trying to steal a bit of the popularity of the prison sequence from Guardians of the Galaxy. Sinestro is held captive inside the Tartaros Ultra-Max Penitentiary, having been placed there by the Apex League, a newly introduced group of interstellar peacekeepers. What starts off as a fairly common setting rapidly starts to transform into a sequence of surprises. The first of these is this introduction of the Apex League, as one would assume that in the end that it would have been Hal Jordan that was the one to finally capture Sinestro.

Another development which is maybe foreshadowed and maybe not is the eventual turning of Soranik into a Yellow Lantern. Although this is not really consistent with her character development, it is an interesting though perhaps logical conclusion to having a series focused on Sinestro. This development is not so much of a spoiler though, as her presence here is really as an afterthought as she only appears in a few panels. What is not an afterthought is the end result of the Sinestro Corps. Although the series is still in its early days at only issue #5, this issue does highlight a possible outcome which perhaps many comic fans have never thought of, tying both the past and the future together.

In reading this issue, it starts off the same as a lot of others.  For instance, as compared to the Teen Titans version of Futures End, little seems to be different on the surface. In the Teen Titans version, a story was told with some new characters and some old, but which did not really change much in terms of the DC Universe, other than introducing a new villain. While this series might start like that, it builds well over its final pages and its ending is really worth reading, especially for those that are fans of Geoff John’s run on Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Igor Lima 
Story: 8.7 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Aliens: Fire and Stone #1

aliens fire and stoneThis new Aliens series from Dark Horse sets out with the concept to tie the story line of Prometheus into the bigger shared universe. This is alluded to in the preamble to the series, part of which mentions another new series from Dark Horse which focuses on Prometheus (which I have not read). In trying to tie together different elements from the series, this is partially successful, though at times it seems to be paying almost too much homage to other series.

The crowded halls of the movie Aliens is evident here as are a few other major staples of the series (minor spoiler to follow) such as every escape craft ever used having an alien tag along on it, and that is no different here. The end state of this story is a bit of a further stretch as well, as it is almost as if it is alluding to the forest planet from the movie Predators, at least in atmosphere and setting if not in actual plot.

As such this first issue is not so much of anything new, more like a pastiche of every other Aliens films with even a bit of Predator thrown in. This is a bit problematic as well when also adding Prometheus to the mix, as the level of interconnectedness is a bit much to take with all of the continuity glitches that such a merge would make. At its base though, this issue succeeds, if one forgets about all which doesn’t make sense from a continuity standpoint and focuses on the story alone here. It may not be groundbreaking, but fans can’t really get enough of the xenomorphs, who show up too infrequently in pop culture, and this story at least offers something a little new to go along with a lot of the old.

 Story: Chris Roberson  Art: Patric Reynolds
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Review: Butterfly #1

Butterfly_001_coverEspionage is one of the toughest genres to create original work within.  Generally speaking, it is constrained by the realities of the world that we leave in.  For instance, if a writer wants to create an organization for spying which is not the C.I.A. then it is still going to be a lot like the C.I.A. Treadstone, I.M.F. and S.H.I.E.L.D. may not be exactly the C.I.A. but they are pretty close and they help define the worlds which they are based in. As this reality of writing in this genre relates to this issue, it faces a challenging task to start with, as this is a story based in current times around a C.I.A. operative.

In Butterfly, the character Rebecca is introduced initially with a strong link to her past, though this is quickly discarded to look at her present. In the first of a number of clichéd occurrences the character finds out that she has been double crossed and then discovers that most of her handlers are dead. This puts her onto a journey where she is forced to resort to her spycraft and to find out why this has happened to her.

Despite the challenges that this story faces, there are a few redeeming factors. The first is the contemporary setting versus the overall atmosphere. That is to say that while the story could compete with the likes of a Jason Bourne or James Bond story, it doesn’t.  Instead it seems to want to channel John Le Carre, Ken Follett and Frederick Forsythe with a story and visual that is reminiscent more of the Cold War than it is of the digital age. The second advantage to the writing is the choice of characters and characterization. The main female lead is well written, and her past is fleshed out in a way to make her both engaging and mysterious.

All told, the story ends up a bit in the middle in terms of a reading experience. The story is constrained by a lack of much new, but the writers have done what they can to put their own spin on the story and genre, and have come up with something different and intriguing. The art is especially well handled in this issue.  While the artistic style would be out of place in a superhero story, it is a natural fit here and does almost as much for the story as the writing.  The end result is that this is worth a look, even if it has gone to well-trodden territory

Story: Arash Amel and Marguerite Bennett Art: Antonio Fuso
Story: 7.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.4 Recommendation: Read

BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

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