Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 1/9/2021
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. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.
These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.
Future State: The Next Batman #1 (DC)– In the lead story of Future State: The Next Batman #1, John Ridley, Nick Derington, and Tamra Bonvillain paint a picture of Gotham run by private security who shoot masked vigilantes or villains on sight. Ridley uses this first issue to introduce the new Batman, Tim Fox, and show a variety of POVs on this future Gotham from the Fox family to two young kids in Little Santa Prisca who want to join the Banelitos and a cop and an ex-cop and cop, who trade barbs more than banter. The hook for this lead story is Derington’s fluid visuals and Bonvillain’s smooth colors that feels like Batman: The Animated Series with a tougher edge. I also like seeing the contrast between how Tim is seen as a deadbeat by his more outwardly successful brother, Luke, and his cool efficiency in the field.The second story “Outsiders” by Brandon Thomas, Sumit Kumar, Raul Fernandez, and Jordie Bellaire is a tightly plotted fight comic where Duke Thomas gets some kids away from the Magistrate’s domain, and Katana faces an old foe. This is easily one of the coolest Katana comics I’ve read, and Kumar and Fernandez’s loose pencils and ink-slinging plus electric colors from Bellaire show how tenacious a fighter she is even as she still misses her husband Maseo. The sequence everyone is going to be talking about is a double page, multi-staircase fight scene. Add a cool guest star that really progresses the plot, and I’m very excited for the next installment.The third story “Arkham Knights” by Paul Jenkins, Jack Herbert, and Gabe Eltaeb is about Astrid Arkham with armor and plenty of chivalric posturing leading an army of former villains against the Magistrate. It’s Robocop meets Arkham Asylum as Jenkins digs into the psyche of characters like Two-Face, Zsasz, and Clayface, who have all been given different names by Arkham as part of their rehabilitation. Her behavior is definitely weird and cultish, but with a touch of empathy as she makes sure they’re going to therapy. Herbert’s art is photorealistic and chunky, which works for the armored protagonist and antagonist , but not the tone of the story so much. Overall: 8.2 Verdict: Buy
Eternals #1 (Marvel)– I didn’t really know much about The Eternals before reading this comic, but Kieron Gillen, Esad Ribic, and Matthew Wilson do an excellent job explaining their mythos and also setting up a family drama/murder mystery/battle of the gods narrative. Gillen and Ribic focus on Ikaris and Sprite in the first issue: a powerhouse and trickster type and shows them go about a “typical day” before running into the first of two series hooks. This issue’s secret weapon is Gillen’s narration via The Machine, a device that lets the Eternals teleport around the Earth, which is witty and adds context and exposition in an entertaining way like comparing Deviants to Mogwais from Gremlins. On the visual side, Ribic and Wilson channel their epic work on Thor, but with a degree of removal for humanity. However, Ribic’s facial expressions on close-ups are superb, and when the Eternals interact with each other, it’s like a family reunion with weirder costumes and the archetypal inspiration for world deities. Many creators have aspired to doing the whole “gods with feet of clay” story in the Marvel Universe, but Gillen, Ribic, and Wilson have pulled it off balancing worldbuilding with genuinely funny and cool moments. Also, picking the big guy who likes to hit things is the best kind of POV character to have in a new, complex world. Overall: 8.8 Verdict: Buy
Future State: Harley Quinn #1 (DC)– Hannibal Lecter (sans cannibalism) and anime meet in Stephanie Phillips, Simone Di Meo, and Tamra Bonvillain’s Future State: Harley Quinn #1. Much of this comic is Dr. Jonathan Crane (He’s put aside his Scarecrow identity.) and Harley Quinn basically having a therapy-off while coming up with psychologically interesting ways to capture various villains in Gotham for the Magistrate. To keep the story interesting and to avoid talking heads, Phillips and Di Meo show Quinn’s schemes to capture characters like Pyg and Firefly in action while she relates them to Crane. However, it’s not all smooth sailing as the Magistrate’s mooks see Crane and Harley as “freaks”, and there’s a little jump scare with his old identity. The animation influenced art with garish, futuristic colors from Bonvillain and focus on Harley Quinn’s knowledge of the human psyche (She has a PhD, folks.) to take down baddies makes for entertaining reading as Phillips and Di Meo set up the real threat in the final pages. Overall: 8.6 Verdict: Buy
Getting It Together #4 (Image)– Sina Grace, Omar Spahi, Jenny D Fine, and Mx Struble’s slice of life goodness wraps up with Grace taking on interior art duties as Lauren moves to L.A. to start a solo career. After the tumultuous events of previous issues, Getting It Together #4 is all about growing up and finding your own path with Sam and Jack rekindling their friendship, and Jack using his art skills to help the queer community instead of just troll for dick. But Lauren and her reactions to LA is the main focus of this final issue as she deals with writer’s block, deadlines, mixed signals, and just the general difficulty of moving to a new, strange place. I love the contrast in Grace’s clean line versus Fine’s more chaotic approach, and he and Struble make a great tag team to show creativity and music visually. Plotwise, Grace and Spahi leave some threads open like the results of Lauren’s first solo show, the new lineup of Nipslip, and of course, Sam and Jack’s relationship so I hope we get more of this relatable and visually soothing series. Overall: 9.2 Verdict: Buy
Hellions #8 (Marvel)– Zeb Wells and Stephen Segovia’s Hellions #8 is a tour de force in moral dilemmas, fights against racist robot fights, and draws a dark parallel in how humans treat mutants with how mutants treat A.I. But before the big questions get asked, there lots of blasting, Cameron Hodge monologues, and cheeky Wells-penned one-liners. I love how he gives the “Hodgemind” A.I. a mini character arc as their language changes through their interactions with Havok so the inevitable betrayal hits a little harder in the end. Visually, Segovia’s work is the extreme 90s meets Marvel house style, which personally isn’t my cup of tea, but works with this kind of story and cast of characters. His homage to an early 90s blockbuster via Empath’s abilities is pretty fun and made me like the team asshole if only for a panel or two. Hellions continue to be the most consistent ongoing X-book with its entertaining blend of humor, explosive action, and ongoing moral quandaries. Overall: 8.9 Verdict: Buy
X-Factor #6 (Marvel)– Leah Williams and David Baldeon showcase some fun character interactions and creative use of powers (Together, Eye-Boy, Daken, Rachel Summers, and Prodigy are an unstoppable lie detector), but I’m not really connecting with the “mystery” of Siryn’s multiple deaths in X-Factor #6. It’s like they expect you have to tons of background knowledge about previous X-Factor comics to be emotionally hooked instead of setting it up in the current comic so the “big reveal” with Siryn comes across as a Diet Caffeine Free Phoenix situation. (Because apparently Phoenix belongs to the Avengers office now.) However, X-Factor #6 isn’t a total wash, and the team’s interactions with the British CSI techs is actually pretty funny like a parody of Broadchurch. Speaking of humor, Baldeon does draw some fun facial expressions like Northstar’s reaction to Prodigy wanting to start a body farm so he can basically pioneer the scientific field of mutant decomposition. I really enjoy how Williams writes Prodigy with a thirst for knowledge that matches his abilities and with a dark secret to boot that gets relegated to a data page instead of the main plot, which I honestly have seen before and wish was over. Another criticism I have is that Baldeon draws Polaris and Siryn way too similar, which isn’t good because the big final scene hinges on an interaction between them. I really like the cast of characters in X-Factor, but this storyline is turning out to be skippable. Overall: 6.3 Verdict: Pass
Happy Hour #3 (Ahoy!) Peter Milligan and Michael Montenat give readers our first look at Landor Cohen’s unhappiness commune, and it’s a total shithole with colorist Felipe Sobreiro even using lots of browns. So, yeah, Jerry and Kim aren’t going to find a utopia at the end of their road trip. What they do find is Gleesville, a town that was home to racial unrest and violent incidents, and now executes visitors who aren’t up to par on the level of happiness. Jerry avoids execution by having a genuinely happy moment, and the relationship between him and Kim gets a little tenser as Milligan and Montenant veer away from the dark jokes and into the complicated nature of human interactions. Their relationship is easily the best part of Happy Hour along with its satirical assault on extreme emotions and call to just be a human being and not tell other folks how they should or shouldn’t feel. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy
Shang-Chi #4 (Marvel) – The series has been good so far and this issue delivers some twists and turns that throw the future into question. Things aren’t quite as clear as if Shang-Chi’s mission is a good thing or not but we get a lot more of the new history the team is crafting and the pacing and action continue to be solid. It’s just been a solid ride so far and a great relaunch of the character. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy
X-Men #16 (Marvel) – The series starts its post X of Swords direction with some interesting concepts that don’t quite make a lot of sense for what’s been set up so far. This is one that really plays for the long-time readers, new ones might shrug their shoulders over it. But, the art continues to be nice, so there’s that. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read
Taskmaster #2 (Marvel) – It’s Taskmaster vs. Hyperion in the start of his mission. The series is a lot of fun with great pacing, humor, and action. This takes a match that’s clearly lopsided and gives it some twists that makes it realistic. I didn’t know I wanted a series with this character but now I want even more. It just nails that entertaining aspect. Overall Rating: 8.5 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 (**).