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Review: The Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of the Counter-World #1

THE_MULTIVERSITY_THE_SOCIETY_OF_SUPER-HEROES_CONQUERORS_OF_THE_COUNTER-WORLD_1The Multiversity is Grant Morrison‘s sweep through DC Comics’ multiverse looking at unforgettable characters across the 52 known Earths. The series features a two-part framing story (the first is already out) and six complete extra-sized #1 adventures, each set in a parallel universe.

The Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of the Counter-World #1 takes us to Earth-20, and pulp super hero action with a post-modern twist. Who is the demon-like Green Lantern protecting Earth-20? What secret does Doc Fate hold that could save the world? Who are the hand-to-hand and air-to-air combat queens known as the Blackhawks? And what happens when these heroes come face to face with their diabolical Earth-40 counterparts – led by Vandal Savage – for an epic war between parallel worlds? The title alone tells you the type of story you’re about to read.

I wasn’t too keen on the first chapter of The Multiversity. Without a deep knowledge of DC Comics lore, I felt that reading the comic so much was going over my head, and I missed much of the point. This issue however continues the overall theme of heroes battling ultimate evil and undying hatred, however the inside nods and winks are less prevalent, making the entire issue much more enjoyable.

The entire issue has a pulp sense about it, in both look and story, and bringing back the feel of what comics should be, fun to read. The issue is a throwback to the classics, paying tribute to them. That also extends to the story in this issue. Though it’s tied into the larger event, the issue itself is self-contained. You’re able to pick it up without reading The Multiversity #1 and still enjoy it. It isn’t weighed down by nods and winks at all. It has a balance for those who want an entertaining self-contained story, those who care about the larger narrative, and then then those who know all the DC historical references that are present. Though I’m sure those references are there, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on not knowing them all.

Morrison is helped in the feel of the issue due to Chris Sprouse‘s amazing art. A pulp adventure should have a certain look to it all, and Sprouse harkens back to the classics, in both style, but also pacing and panel layout. Add in beautiful coloring, and you have a comic that’s fun to read, and fun to look at.

I love to read a fun, entertaining comic whose goal is to tell a self-contained story, and to be able to do that, while also tying into the greater narrative is impressive. For those who want a fun pulp adventure, this is a must read, for fans of Morrison’s work, you won’t be disappointed either.

Story: Grant Morrison Art: Chris Sprouse
Story: 8.25 Art: 9 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: Trees #5

Trees, a new Image series from Warren Ellis and Jason Howard, has been nothing short of interesting to follow thus far. I am not just referring to the unique story about seemingly banal trees that attached themselves to Earth from outer space, causing mass hysteria, but also to the ups and downs in quality. The series started out incredibly strong, poetically pulling one in through engrossing storytelling, and then the second issue came off as rather dull, for examples. Issue #5 is a good issue with especially captivating updates on threads that focus on individuals but sometimes boring beats on the larger picture.

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The best piece of Trees continues to be the escapades of the sheepish young artist, and this issue is his best showing yet. He finds himself in a shocking situation that allows the book to expertly display the fascinating culture Ellis has developed throughout that setting. Another highlight of the issue centers upon a young woman and her attempts to learn proper combat skills, compelling for similar reasons. The old man mentoring her comes off as a great combination of creepy, noble and intelligent, offering solid characterization. The small, intimate looks at specific characters are where this book shines.

While important for forming the larger narrative at hand, the parts of this issue that instead decide to use characters as a window into bigger concepts find themselves as less enjoyable. Things get harder to understand, feeling borderline confusing at times. It all serves for the main storyline in a way that makes sense, but it just isn’t exciting either. While certainly always interesting, when there isn’t some confusion there is bound to be some boredom.

The art work is completely free of boredom, this issue providing the strongest showing since the debut. The biggest improvement found in this issue in regards to the visuals is the more interesting playing around with colors. Certain pages towards the end find themselves drenched in a certain color, making for a cooler comic to look at. As always, the scratchy, rough composition lends itself to the gloom of the situation while the slight hint of stylistic cuteness keeps things partially light and fun.

What readers are left with is a good comic that adds to an incredibly intriguing comic book. The one thing that can definitely be said of Trees is that one never knows what to expect, in terms of quality and content. This fifth issue comes out a winner, but not a gold medalist.

Story: Warren Ellis Art: Jason Howard
Story: 7.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Buy

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

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Valiant Comes to Humble Bundle

VALIANT_HUMBLE BUNDLE_front pageHumble Bundle and Valiant Entertainment are proud to present the Humble Valiant Bundle – the ultimate digital comics collection featuring more than 120 issues of some of the most critically acclaimed titles anywhere in comics today!

A special one-time offering loaded with collections of Valiant’s best-selling series and online debuts, customers purchasing the Humble Valiant Bundle can choose to benefit three vitally important charities – Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the Hero Initiative, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF).

The Humble Valiant Bundle features a longbox-busting digital library of 24 graphic novels and collections, and spans all of Valiant’s most popular superhero titles – including X-O Manowar, Archer & Armstrong, Harbinger, Bloodshot, Quantum and Woody, and more! With a total retail value of more than $420, the Humble Valiant Bundle is the single biggest comics offering ever presented by Humble Bundle.

Featuring work by an all-star cast of top talents – including writers Joshua Dysart, Matt Kindt, Bob Layton, Jim Shooter, Fred Van Lente, and Robert Venditti, alongside artists Doug Braithwaite, Clayton Crain, Cary Nord and more – the Valiant Humble Bundle is the perfect place to discover why Valiant continues to win over fans and critics around the world with high quality storytelling and outstanding artwork.

Fans can name their price to receive the first TWO volumes of X-O Manowar, Archer & Armstrong, Quantum and Woody, Harbinger and Unity. Plus: get the classic Shadowman video game as an extra-added bonus!

Contribute more than the average price to get even more of Valiant’s blockbuster publishing line with the first two volumes of Bloodshot, Shadowman and Eternal Warrior – plus the first volume of Rai and Harbinger Wars!

For $15 or more, Valiant will open the vaults and unleash the entire Valiant Masters digital series, showcasing the legendary origins of one of the greatest universes in comics. Re-presenting the original adventures of Ninjak, Rai, Bloodshot, Shadowman, and H.A.R.D. Corps – plus a Humble Bundle-exclusive Valiant Masters volume of classic X-O Manowar not available in print – the Valiant Masters series celebrates Valiant’s historic legacy, and include dozens of pages of rarely seen bonus materials and special features.

The Humble Valiant Bundle runs for two weeks beginning Wednesday, September 17, 2014 and ends Wednesday, October 1, 2014 at 11 a.m. PDT.

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TV Review: Doctor Who S8E4 Listen

doctor who capaldiDoctor Who can do goofy, can do sci-fi, but I think the show is often at its best when it does horror. Some of my favorite episodes are the scarier ones, which mix scares along with the usual craziness that’s associated with the Doctor.

Mixing in some time travel, Clara and the Doctor head back in time and meet a young Danny Pink and deal with the idea of nightmares, and the idea we’ve all experienced the same one at one point in our lives.

The episode is a fascinating one, in that it not only tells us a lot about Danny, and his past, but also about the Doctor now. Clara shows lots of caring and affection, but the Doctor also has shown he has tossed his affection and caring. This Doctor is no longer sugar-coating things, instead he just wants to get the job done, which is to protect humanity.

But the episode not only dives into Pink’s past, but also the Doctor’s asking in a way if the Doctor is defined by his companion(s)? These first four episodes continue to deconstruct the Doctor, his motivations, and now his past and origin. And it even sheds some light into the War Doctor we know so little about with this episode.

The season has been interesting so far, with a goal to entertain, and also challenge what we think and know of the Doctor.

Overall Score: 8

Review: Super-Secret Crisis War: Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends One-Shot

In between each issue of IDW Publishing’s Super-Secret Crisis War, a miniseries telling the action-packed tale of a myriad of Cartoon Network characters altogether in the same story together, is a one-shot crossover issue that spotlights properties that didn’t quite make the cut. The respective Johnny Bravo and Bill and Mandy issues were good fun, but the latest one-shot from writer iVan Cohen and artist Paulina Ganucheau, devoted to Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, is by far the best. It’s not just cute fun, but also heartwarming and filled with joy. It’s a fantastic comic book that entertains through not just nostalgia-mining the psyches of Foster’s fans, but also through wonderful story-telling.

cn_sscw-fosters_cvrSomething this issue does demonstrably better than the previous one-shots is incorporate more characters into the plot, simultaneously making things more interesting and supplying more fan service. A great deal of effort was put into this issue to assure that no major character was cut, and to make sure each of those characters fit their likeness in the television show. This feels like a complete look into the world of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, rather than a quick tread. The characterization is spot-on and the look is spot-on and the tone is spot-on.

It’s a genuinely funny and emotionally-resonate little story, done with just the right colorful, cheerful art and just the right gags and just the right light-hearted tugs at the heartstrings. Bloo’s constant self-centered, ethically-oblivious actions and the poor Frankie’s horrible struggles with her work at the foster home are palpable, making the laughs certainly come easy.  Still, those who need to be criticized are criticized, and those who deserved to be rewarded are rewarded, so the comedy isn’t mean.

The comic itself is light-years away from mean; by the end, it tells a story that gracefully manages to be just happy and heartwarming enough to still be enjoyable rather than forced and sappy. There isn’t really a direct moral lesson, and it isn’t even expecting the reader to take it all that seriously. It’s a silly, convivial little story that raises spirits and makes the case for being a friend to those in need and having a good ol’ goofy time, and for that, it’s remarkable.

Story: iVan Cohen Art: Paulina
Story: 9.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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

IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Godzilla Cataclysm #2

The first issue of Godzilla: Cataclysm was an amazing comic book, filled with solid suspense, exciting action, and cool, large-scale storytelling that truly delivered. It had a more grim and gritty atmosphere than what is typically conjured up when people think of Godzilla. Cataclysm is a five-issue mini-series finely written by Cullen Bunn and gorgeously drawn, inked and colored by Dave Wachter. The second story drops a lot of the suspense of the first issue and delivers mainly in the other two departments, featuring lots of jaw-dropping monster battling and clever back story that makes the plot at hand even more interesting.

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The action of the first issue was given as a reward for getting through all of the eerie build up, but in this issue it’s given away liberally. Immaculately-done artwork fills this book up to the brim, depicting a great deal of sweet, raw fun. Maybe every once in a while the action gets a tad dull, but it’s rarer than reasonable traffic in Pittsburgh. It’s almost always lots of fist-pumping, fantastic entertainment. Every depiction of these big brutes fighting is something I wouldn’t mind on my iPhone’s lock screen, or on the wall of my dorm.

I had a slight fear after the debut issue that there wouldn’t be enough done in this series to set it apart and elevate it to something special as a whole, but this issue proves it wrong. This issue continues the angle of the monsters being seen as religious deities and expands upon it, bringing up issues like human sacrifice and prayer. The protagonist is not only an interesting and likeable wise old man archetype, but a catalyst for big reveals currently kept in the dark. This man and some others of his age have a unique history with Godzilla, and the implications of this are massive.

While it didn’t have quite the impact on me that the first issue did, this one convinced me more so that this is going to be something special when it’s all done with. Godzilla Cataclysm is a kick-ass comic book, filled with enough monster-worship to quench the thirst of even the most hardcore Godzilla fan. If you’re too lame to jump on now, I implore you to at least pick up the trade when it inevitably hits store shelves.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Dave Wachter
Story:  8.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy

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

IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: George Pérez’s Sirens #1

BOOM_Sirens_001_coverAWriter and artist George Pérez is known for some pretty famous comic book runs in the broad history of comics. He came to fame in the 1970s for his work in the Avengers. In the 1980s he became known for helping to make the Teen Titans the successful DC Comics answer to the popularity of Marvel’s X-Men, and his run at the beginning of the second volume of Wonder Woman helped to revitalize the character that had become too tied to a hoaky past. Despite this success in the early part of his career, Pérez has not been known for a lot of big flashy events since then, rather going on with his career in a mostly consistent if not generally flashy direction. As a fan of his earlier stuff, it was thus interesting for me to hear that he was going to be working on a new series from BOOM! Studios called Sirens, but in a bit of a departure from his regular playground of superheroes, Pérez chose the cosmic setting for his new series.

Pérez is well-regarded by many fans for the depth and complexity with which he writes female characters, treating them less than props and more like equals to their male counterparts. He is also well-known, especially in regards to Wonder Woman for taking a common element of comics and reinvigorating it with fresh ideas without destroying its core. This would seem to be the approach taken with the series Sirens. The eponymous group of heroes is an all-female team of space heroes. While initially diving into this book, it seems as though Pérez might have lost his touch to some degree. Instead of a strong cohesive narrative, there is a lot of jumping around between characters and even between genres. Readers will see some science-fiction, some fantasy and even a little Western in the opening pages and might wonder where this is all headed. It would seem though that one of the main problems with reinvigorating the genre of outer space heroines is more difficult now than it was twenty years ago, especially with the introduction of many stronger characters into the field of sci-fi.

While the reader might be left wondering what is going on for the first part of the story in issue #1, the confusion does end up being worth the effort. Although it takes a fairly roundabout way to get there, the story does get on track towards the end, coalescing as it does into the team, though in a less conventional way than some origin stories. In the end this ends up being a pretty satisfying read, as Pérez goes from nothing to a compelling story with compelling characters in little time. Although there is still a little bit of confusion by the end of the first issue, the degree to which Pérez has pulled it together is evidence enough that the story should be clear and concise enough by the following issue.

Story and Art:  George Perez
Story: 7.8 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.8 Recommendation: Buy

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

Review: Purgatori #1

purI have been an on-again off-again reader of comics for pretty much my whole life. One of those off-again periods happened to coincide with the explosion in the 1990s of the “bad girl” comics, of which there were many representatives, but of which Lady Death was among the most successful. The basic characteristics of most of these characters were pretty similar. They would have ridiculously sculpted feminine physiques, ridiculous even by the standards of the usual presentation of comic book women, and their clothing were usually equally ridiculous. The other commonality was their power, a lot stronger than they looked, and usually derived from some supernatural source. I didn’t know them though, by the time that I had regained an interest on comics I was too late to catch up.

After the popularity of the characters died off, they kind of scattered. Some ended up at the same publishers though with less focus, while others bounced around a fair bit. One of those that bounced was Lady Death, but strangely her entourage did not, at least not in all parts. One of the more popular supporting characters, Purgatori, was sold off separately and also could not find a home for a while. Eventually the character ended up at Dynamite. Generally speaking Dynamite has been an industry leader in terms of revamping public domain characters and making them modern and approachable, but they generally have stayed away from such characters with recent pasts elsewhere.

As a reader of Purgatori #1, I am a little bit in the middle of the experience. Any #1 is a good place to start off with a new character, as creators usually have the insight to make the characters a little more approachable. At the same time, the theme matter of Purgatori is a little bit outside of what I am used to. A trend which I avoided mostly was the vampire trend in pop culture, including in comics. That Purgatori is a demon/vampire blend doesn’t really connect with me as a reader that tends more towards science-fiction. As an aspiring writer of fiction myself, I recognize that stories require one of two things – engaging concepts or engaging characters, though preferably both. In the case of this series, the concept is a little mundane, as the setting of Hell is not really a new one when even the likes of Superman and Iron Man have been there. Contrasted against that is the character of Purgatori. While the writer, Aaron Gillespie, has been given a pre-established character and has limited ability within which to make her unique from the concept, he at least succeeds in the characterization.

Though she is potentially new to a lot of readers, the main character is still approachable. She is bad, but also a little good, serious but also sassy. It makes for the kind of character that can hold a series even if the setting is not very interesting. As this series stands for me, I will check out issue #2 to see where it goes, even if it is not my style, just because the writer has made the character compelling enough.

Story: Aaron Gillespie Art: Javier Garcia Miranda
Story: 7.8 Art: 8.2 Overall: 7.8 Recommendation: Read

Dynamite Entertainment provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

BOOM_Sirens_001_coverBWednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in! Below are ten suggestions of comics, graphic novels, or trade paperbacks you should spend some extra time checking out and think about picking up.

Pick of the Week: George Perez’s Sirens #1 (BOOM! Studios) – The name George Pérez should say it all, but one of comics’ living masters is back with his own original title courtesy of BOOM! As an intergalactic force enslaves planets across the galaxy, the legendary team known only as the Sirens must reunite to save the galaxy—but is that even possible when the Sirens themselves don’t even remember who they are?

The Delinquents #2 (Valiant) – The first issue had me laughing the whole time. Just an amazing limited series that brings together Valiant’s Archer & Armstrong and Quantum & Woody.

Elric Vol. 1: The Ruby Throne (Titan Comics) – A stunning new comic adaptation of the classic Elric of Melniboné novels by Michael Moorcock! The ancient island of Melniboné has been ruled by Elric, the albino emperor, for millennia. Reliant on magic and herbs for his strength and prolonged life, Elric’s grip on Melniboné is crumbling, as his people slide into decadence. Now his envious cousin Yyrkoon, Prince of Melniboné, plots to overthrow him and claim the Ruby Throne for himself!

Meka (Magnetic Press) – The sci-fi action novel tells the story of two soldiers who pilot giant humanoid war vehicles called “meka” in an interstellar war. When their vehicle is disabled in the opening sequence, they must rely on their wits and each other to survive in the ruined warzone they inadvertently created.

Oddly Normal #1 (Image Comics) – It looks like a new all-ages comic from Image (though could be wrong on the all-ages part).  Meet Oddly Normal, a ten-year-old girl with pointed ears and green hair–a half-witch who will be the first to tell you that having a mother from a magical land called Fignation and a father from Earth doesn’t make it easy to make friends at school!

Stray Bullets: The Killers #7 (Image Comics) – Each issue is fantastic. What happens when when you find out you’ve been living in a prison your whole life and had no idea?

Thor: God of Thunder #25 (Marvel) – It’s an over-sized final issue before the brand new series featuring the brand new female Thor! One chapter in the God of Thunder’s life reaches its end…and another begins.

Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #33 (IDW Publishing) – IDW has been knocking it out of the park with their Transformers universe that moves the story along, but at the same time feels familiar for long time fans. What’s scarier than Megatron? Try a Megatron that’s a religious fanatic trying to do good.

Trees #5 (Image Comics) – Luca has a plan for Eligia. It is not the plan she thinks it is. She is his knife now. Warren Ellis’ series has been weird and fascinating with each issue.

The Wicked + The Divine #4 (Image Comics) -Kieron Gillen and Jamie Mckelvie’s fantastic series continues. The mystery is solved. But does pop-god Lucifer like the answer? The answer is a word that rhymes with “Go”, “Blow” and “Pro.”

Is Aquaman a Victim of Power Creep?

aquamanPower creep is a loosely defined term mostly because it is subjective in its application. Generally speaking though, power creep can be roughly described as the general evolution of character’s powers over time. For the fickle readers and writers of comics, these powers becomes part of the character’s canon, and represent abilities and powers which should be perpetuated. In the golden age of comics, Wonder Woman once found herself trapped in outer space, and needing a source of oxygen, she ground her earrings to dust, somehow releasing enough oxygen that she could safely breathe. It did not matter that this was a throwaway occurrence or that it made very little sense, but all of a sudden Wonder Woman’s earrings had the ability to allow her to breathe in outer space. The same kind of runaway powers are prevalent in almost every hero, with debates over who can smash a planet, or a sun or a galaxy.

The advent of power creep is not always to an infinite degree. Sometimes the creep comes and then goes. Many fans either applauded or decried the post-Crisis Superman as written by John Byrne. Gone was the outlandishly powerful character who could scarcely be stopped by any theoretical angle. It seemed as though that anytime that he faced a threat that he developed a hitherto unseen power and that this power became another part of his canon. Fans might even look to the extreme such as in the movie Superman II when he throws his S-symbol from his chest and it becomes a giant cellophane trap for his enemies. In contrast Byrne created a character, that while still strong far beyond human capabilities, still had some limitations. The new more approachable and realistic character was what some wanted to see and what others did not. Regardless, this character did not last long either before returning to near omnipotent powers.

Among the core members of the Justice League and of the A-list of DC Comics characters, Aquaman is the one that has received the most negative attention in the years since his introduction. He was long thought of a running joke among those that looked at the medium from afar, with numerous comedic jabs at his unimpressive powers being a staple of social media and some paid professional comedians. The question is though, how did the character end up as a running gag for so long.The main problem it would seem is in the setting of the character. The undersea world is a great one for exploration, with the likes of Jacques Cousteau having made a career just out of underwater exploration. The appeal of the underwater world is there, but equally in terms of how comics tend to allow power creep onto characters, it also became one of a limitation. For DC characters with such ill-defined power or ability inspiration as “Super”, “Wonder” or “Bat” it is easy to expand their abilities beyond those of those words, as the words can be taken to mean different things, even in the case of “Bat” which might only be a creature to some, but to others represents the night or sneakiness or resourcefulness. “Aqua” it would seem is a limitation in terms of how comic writers thought of powers to develop for the character.

Some writers rightfully pointed to the fact that a character that can swim underwater and withstand the great depths and pressures of the oceans would be equally be superhumanly strong, maybe not the levels of Superman and Wonder Woman, but well beyond that of a normal human. While there were some sensical derivations of his powers, others were goofy. The ability to speak to or command marine life might have been a logical power to attach to the character, but equally this power was ill-defined and also generally useless, at least when it compared to the ability to move mountains or walk through walls. Equally so, when the character lost his hand in the 1990s during a reboot/darkening of the character, it was replaced by nothing other than a small harpoon, the writers once again unable to think of anything for the character beyond the aspect of the sea. His power creep did not occur to a great degree, but it seemed that when it did, that the character just became a bit more aquatic than he had before. Even compared to a pretty aquatic character in Namor, the Sub-Mariner, Aquaman’s powers were very sea based as Namor showed the ability to fly.

aqotherTo be fair since the relaunch of the new 52, the character is one of the DC properties that has really taken off, now ostensibly holding down two separate series at DC, a capability that previously had only been able to be accomplished by Superman, Batman, sometimes Green Lantern and rarely Wonder Woman. It would seem that the serious tone for the character now is one which has aided him, at least in the public perception. As his own entourage of the Others provides his own superhero team, they fill out the slow creep into more powers that another character might have experienced since long ago. As to whether power creep is actually a good thing or not is up to the fans to decide, but for so long it seemed, at least until recent years that Aquaman was left behind in the balance of powers.

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