Mini Reviews: Die, Namor, Border Town, Shazam! and More!
Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for.
These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.
Die #1 (Image Comics)* – Easily a best new series of 2018. This is a power team of two of my favorite creators: Stephanie Hans and Kieron Gillen. Gillen knows his table-top Role Playing Games, his magical world building, his teen comics, his team comics, his emotionally vulnerable men and women and casts that are diverse racially, sexually and in social class. He’s doing all of that here and it shines. Stephanie Hans creates luminous paintings. Her faces are sensitive and unmistakable. Her character designs are exciting in both the real world and fantasy world the story takes place. These are two of the best talents in comics today doing what they do best. I couldn’t be more excited. Overall 10 Recommendation: Buy! (PS: Our latest episode of Graphic Policy Radio is an interview with Gillen and Hans.)
Die #1 (Image Comics)* – Kieron Gillen’s latest offering is built on a very simple premise: what might have happened to the kids from the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon when they returned from their adventures in a magical land? The result is the most sublime merger of comics and gaming to hit the page and that’s saying quite a bit given all the great books that have built on the tropes of both mediums over the last few years. Gillen never misses a beat, introducing us to a group of characters we want to know more about. Though not for everyone, Stephanie Hans artwork is a great complement to it, equal parts menacing and fantastic. I got to the end and I want another issue now. Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy
Namor: The Best Defense #1 (Marvel)* – In what could be worst timing, we get Marvel’s own underwater superhero. As this could have been a great story, but never has the similarities been more apparent than on this one shot, as it comes off as straight up plagiarism.As this version is not formidable in anyway and is a much more neutered iteration of the character. I would say to read it simpl as an origin story, otherwise, nothing new here at all. Story: 4 Art: 6 Overall: 5 Recommendation: Read
Star Wars: Qui-Gon Jinn #1 (Marvel)* – In what definitely feels a companion story , we find Qui Gon Jinn at unease with the force. As him and a much younger Obi-Wan, find themselves rescuing a princess in the middle of a civil war. As Qui-Gon’s instincts leads him to a place where his Visions becomes amplified. By issue’s end, we see Qui-Gon is the first Jedi to foresee the wrath headed their way by way of the Sith. Story: 9 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy
Killmonger #1 (Marvel)* – In probably the best debut issue of an origin story I have read in a minute, we definitely get a masterclass in character study. As we find Erik as he is about to graduate MIT , his first instinct is to satisfy his blood lust for Klawe. He gets interrupted by Kingpin’s henchmen, King, Rook and Knight. by issue’s end, he begrudgingly joins this motley crew, even if it is just a stepping stone. Story :10 Art:10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy
Immortal Hulk: Best Defense #1 (Marvel)* – We find Bruce Banner looking for what happened to Doctor Strange. As the book unfolds like a sleepy town mystery, one which Captivates the reader from the onset. He soon finds more quandaries than he initially expected. By issue’s end, Bruce and Hulk must find a way forward and the road into gets more treacherous. Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy
Martian Manhunter #1 (DC Comics)** – I went in to this one with zero preconceptions and was absolutely blown away. Riley Rossmo’s art is a joy to behold, as usual, all inventive page layouts and ultra-expressive characters and chaotic action scenes, but Steve Orlando, well — he’s pretty up-and-down, isn’t he? Fortunately, he’s “up” here in a big way, re-envisioning J’Onn J’Onzz as a dirty cop from Mars trying to atone for past sins as a clean cop here on Earth. Oh, and there’s a Martian sex scene in here that you’ve gotta see to believe. Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy
Shazam! #1 (DC Comics)** – I suppose I should have known better, but — anyway, this is unmitigated crap. Geoff Johns’ updating of the Marvel family is obvious and unimaginative, Dale Eaglesham’s art is way too ’90s Image for a project like this — and nothing much really happens in the book, either, it’s pretty much all stage-setting. I enjoyed Mayo “Sen” Naito’s art on the backup strip, but that’s about all I can say for this poorly-considered work. Doc Shaner, Chris Samnee, Steve Rude — I’d love to see a “Shazam!” comic from one of them, but the approach DC is taking here is fundamentally flawed from the outset. Overall: 2 Recommendation: Pass
Batman #60 (DC Comics)** – Probably the best issue in quite some time, as Tom King’s Penguin/Bane storyline finally gels into something teeming with both suspense and menace, and the alternating art of Jorge Fornes and Mikel Janin accentuates the drama inherent in different scenes in fundamentally opposite, but equally appealing, styles. Oh, and that cliffhanger — holy shit! Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy
Border Town #4 (DC Comics/Vertigo)** – Yeah, okay, this issue is “guilty” of burying its storyline beneath its polemic, especially in the clumsy “info-dump” writer Eric M. Esquivel resorts to in his stage-setting for a Joe Arapaio stand-in character, but it’s still fun and engaging stuff with compelling characters, smart “world-building,” plenty of humor, and superb Ramon Villalobos art. Esquivel is a bit too “tell, don’t show” as a writer too frequently, but it’s not an ever-present feature at this point like it was in issue one. Yeah, this isn’t as good a #3, which remains the best installment to date, but it’s still pretty damn good and well worth four bucks. Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Buy
Shazam! #1 (DC Comics)* – I cannot express how excited I was for this one. Geoff Johns and Gary Franks take on the big red cheese was so refreshing. The way they flipped Billy Batson from aw shucks to street smart wiseass with a heart of gold. That along with Gary Franks gorgeous art made a spectacular combination. Well I’m happy to say this story picks up where that left off. Billy has gone from house outcast to leader of the pack and the whole Marvel Family is just a joy to see in action. Now sure not a lot happens this issue but that is not to say it isn’t a lot of fun. Seeing the group discuss their superhero team name was a gas the art by Dale Eaglesham was a great successor to Gary Frank. The colors were vibrant and just whole lot of fun. The cliffhanger with a return of a long thought dead character sets up some serious intrigue and I am definitely back next month. Fun, laughs, and a sprinkle of action. This was everything monthy comics should be. Overall: great feel and continuity and good to see a monthly from Captain Marvel again. Overall: 8.9 Recommendation: Buy
Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!
Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).