Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 1/16/2021
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: Dark Detective #1 (DC)– Bruce Wayne/Batman is presumed dead and broke as hell in the excellent lead story by Mariko Tamaki, Dan Mora, and Bellaire. They channel all kinds of fun influences, including Dark Knight Returns, the Snyder/Capullo run (Especially in Mora’s art style and the new costume), Batman Beyond, and even Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. However, “Dark Detective” is really about a man whose vigilante activity basically led to an authoritarian regime. During the scenes where Bruce isn’t fighting wannabe mutant gang muggers, Bellaire uses a garish color palette that definitely makes it feel like he is a fish out of water with the bright lights exposing his sadness and brokenness. But the reason I enjoyed this comic the most is the laser sight focus Tamaki and Mora give to Bruce’s character with every narrative caption, glance at cheese fries when he can only afford a cup of coffee, or missed punch telling the tale of a defeated man, who might just have a chance at a comeback. Because he’s Batman. Matthew Rosenberg, Carmine Di Giandomenico, and Antonio Fabela’s Grifter backup has a little less introspection and little more action. Cole Cash goes from cheating at cards to on the run from the Peacemakers and runs into Luke Fox, who he ends up teaming up with to finally get out of Gotham. Di Giandomenico’s fight choreography is impeccable as he uses playing card shaped panels to show Grifter in the middle of a bar fighter and uses wider, more explosive panels when he and Fox bust out of a paddy wagon. Rosenberg’s script has a real “if fun is outlawed, then only outlaws will have fun, and Fox and Grifter’s banter is a nice relief from the incredibly stressful situations they find themselves in. Overall: 9.0 Verdict: Buy
Future State: Justice League #1 (DC)– Joshua Williamson, Robson Rocha, Henriques, and Romulo Fajardo tell an old school style Justice League story with a fresh cast of characters. Williamson is smart and keeps the cast small with new versions of Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, and Batman plus Arthur and Mera’s daughter, Andy Curry aka Aquawoman. This allows for everyone sans GL (Who is the highly competent Jo Mullein from Far Sector) and Batman to build a bond even though the league’s new charter forbids fraternization. Williamson really follows the throughline of the sins of the last generation being visited on the current, both in his choice of villain and in key, cryptic flashbacks. This can also be seen in Rocha and Henrique’s art, which is like Howard Porter’s work on JLA, but with less chaotic layouts and anatomy. Ram V and Marcio Takara’s Justice League Dark is offbeat, but still epic with Zatanna, Detective Chimp (Who shares a body with Etrigan), Ragman, John Constantine, and some surprise guests holding out against the totalitarian rule of Merlin. There’s plenty of mystery (Etrigan won’t fight Merlin’s forces), action, and humor with a touch of foreboding symbolism even though V is in fun team-up mode compared to his work on, say, Swamp Thing. I really enjoy the medieval dystopian vibes that Takara’s art brings to the book as well as the characters riffing and bouncing off each other while the stakes rise. Overall: 8.4 Verdict: Buy
Commanders in Crisis #4 (Image)– Steve Orlando and Davide Tinto trot out a big, multiversal plot twist and have fun with the sympathetic villain tropes in Commanders in Crisis #4. The Crisis Command has found the killer of empathy and tries to figure out his motives and plans in the next 24 hours. Tinto’s art is clean and pleasing, and he excels at both the big action scenes and talking heads. This issue does have a big superhero fight, but Orlando and Tinto basically show how it’s all for nothing as the team learns something new and mysterious about one of their members. Commanders in Crisis #4 has some interesting reveals and cool worldbuilding to wrap up the first arc and digs an even deeper hole for the Crisis Command. The issue and the series so far definitely seem the like the first chapter in a complex epic. Overall: 7.9 Verdict: Buy
Autumnal #4 (Vault)– Daniel Kraus and Chris Shehan fill Autumnal #4 with revelations and potential answers of why this too perfect, leaf raking addicted suburban town is so real. When Kat’s research at the local library is curtailed, she ends up at the trailer park of Carol, an old elementary school classmate who is a heroin addict and badly disfigured after the 1996 roller rink fire Kat was looking into. Carol begins by giving just the bare details of the event, but breaks into a total flashback of a woman named Clemence, who lived in the woods and whose child with the mayor’s son was killed by him so things would be “normal”. Shehan’s art is scratchier and more horrific in these flashbacks to go with Jason Wordie’s intense color palette that is the opposite of how what he usually does for the town. The horror in Autumnal comes from a town not willing to deal with its own trauma and simmering in it while shunning folks who care about the truth like Carol and Kat. This theme is laid out by Kat’s tattoo remover, who she is getting a bit close to. Autumnal #4 adds more depth and backstory to the series plus some macabe visuals from Shehan and Wordie. Overall: 8.6 Verdict: Buy
Heavy #4 (Vault)– Max Bemis, Eryk Donovan, and Cris Peter combine multiverse rending action with a character defining moment for Bill as he and Slim band together to take down multiple iterations of Moore, a rogue agent of The Wait.(Think Purgatory, but more bureaucracy) Donovan and Peter bring the over the top violence and candy colors, but soften things sometimes like when Bill thinks back to his wife, who was more spiritual than him when he was alive. The entire issue is hinged around a moral choice, and it’s heartening to see Bill make the best of two terrible options as Bemis’ script skewers the idea of a hero. Of course, it doesn’t end well, and Heavy #4 turns back to dark comedy with its new status quo. Action, raunchy comedy, out of the box artwork, and yes, even a nice touch of moral philosophy, Heavy really has it all. Overall: 8.8 Verdict: Buy
Marauders #17 (Marvel)- With Sebastian Shaw conveniently out of the way, Marauders #17 sluggishly tries to pick up a new plotline. Gerry Duggan juggles lots of things in this issue from Emma Frost planning a party/potential assassination of Shinobi Shaw and Kate rewarding the Lowtown mutants for nursing Lockheed to health and learning more about the gentrification in Madripoor. There’s also the ritual combat between Callisto and Storm, which has the strongest emotional resonance, as Storm sees it as her last debt owed to Krakoa before she can fly free. (Basically, she kills Callisto to restore Callisto’s full powers.) Matteo Lolli’s art can be quite striking at times like any time Storm and Callisto interact, or Kate Pryde threatening wealthy people. However, this title is really still finding its footing post “Kill Shaw” and X of Swords. Overall: 7.0 Verdict: Read
SWORD #2 (Marvel)– This is a “King in Black” tie-in, but it’s also an Al Ewing comic, and he and Valerio Schiti do an excellent job of showing how this rag tag, yet perfectly matched ability-wise team works under pressure. D-list villains like Mentallo and Fabian Cortez play key roles in Abigail Brand’s plan to secure Krakoa from Knull and enact “Protocol V”, which we get to see in action this issue. The data pages add more context to Brand’s plan and shows that she’s competent, definitely a pragmatist, and more than a little amoral. Ewing’s skill writing an ensemble cast stands out in this book as each SWORD member or key guest star gets their chance to shine. Wiz Kid shrugging off Grendel dragons like they’re flies on his windshield is quite funny and epic thanks to Schiti and Marte Gracia’s full page spread. Schiti really knows when to go to wide screen, or cut to a good closeup like when Cortez is trying to curry favor with Magneto to have more influence on the Quiet Council. SWORD #2 is a master class in how to do team comics and is a tie-in that enhances the King in Black event, shows how it really affects Krakoa, and above all, is an opportunity for Brand to show her mettle. Overall: 9.0 Verdict: Buy
King in Black: Thunderbolts #1 (Marvel)– This is basically Marvel Suicide Squad, but with Kingpin instead of Waller. However, it’s a fun time, and Kingpin’s reasoning for choosing the name Thunderbolts is very on-point. Matthew Rosenberg and Juan Ferreyra create a high level of tension as Taskmaster, Star, Ampere, Snakehead, Rhino, Batroc, and Mr. Fear travel Knull-ridden New York looking for Fisk’s mysterious contact. Most characters get to prove their competence like Taskmaster beheading a symbiote in silhouette, but there is definitely a feeling of being overmatched and escaping by the skin of one’s teeth throughout this comic. Add in fun banter from Rosenberg, a great final page reveal, Ferrerya having a ball showing unmasked Mr. Fear and Taskmaster in a Goth-meets-nu metal New York City, and you’ve got a nice popcorn read. Villain protagonists in limited series are always a good time. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy
Future State: Robin Eternal (DC Comics) – An intriguing concept that has some interesting aspects but it takes a bit too long to get to the point and action. It’s a heist comic, get to the heist. Instead, there’s a bit too much of Robin connecting with other characters that play a role but there’s just too much talking, not enough over the top sequences. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read
Future State: Superman/Wonder Woman #1 (DC Comics) – The comic fleshes out Wonder Woman’s world a lot more than her own comic and there’s some solid back and forth between her and Superman but there’s a spark that’s missing. An evil sun springs out some solid details as to the impact on Earth but it feels a bit like a filler arc than something that’s really special. Overall Rating: 6.75 Recommendation: Read
Future State: Teen Titans #1 (DC Comics) – I really want to know what happened here after getting through the issue. A tragedy happened that lead to the death of a lot of heroes and there’s some battles still being fought. But, it’s that ending that’ll have you wanting answers. Some great art helps put this well over the top as to a solid issue and direction. Overall Rating: 8.45 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 (**).