Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 1/23/2021
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: Catwoman #1 (DC)– Now, this is a Future State tie-in that I can unequivocally recommend as all you basically have to know is Gotham is a fascist state, and Batman is MIA. Ram V and Otto Schmidt peel back the layers on the resistance as Catwoman and her Strays of Alleytown mastermind a train heist whose stakes ramp up until a killer cliffhanger. Schmidt’s visuals are fluid, and I enjoy some of the small touches he brings like Selina being a little clumsy with her new high tech suit while easily subduing guards with her whip. Future State: Catwoman #1 is a fun heist comic, but it’s really a giant metaphor for grassroots movements taking out stodgy authoritarian bureaucracies with Catwoman and her crew cracking wise and kicking ass while making fools of the Magistrate’s soldiers. Also, the guest appearances genuinely move the story along and aren’t just fun fan cameos. This book is a yummy side dish to the crime epic that is Ram V’s Catwoman run. Overall: 9.2 Verdict: Buy
Future State: Nightwing #1 (DC)– Dick Grayson is still agile as hell in his armored version of the “disco wing” suit, but Andrew Constant and Nicola Scott spend most of Future State: Nightwing #1 showing how weary and worn down he is. His one-liners are more cynical, and he’s breaking femurs (With style and grace) when the Magistrate’s soldiers are already subdued. With Batman presumed dead, Nightwing is the top vigilante in Gotham working out of the Arkham Cave, and he most definitely has a death wish. Scott’s fight choreography is fun to watch per usual, but there’s an air of sadness to things even when a guest character shows up. Personally, I’m not a fan of grimdark Nightwing, but it does fit the tone of Future State, and it has solid action even though the baddies are a little underdeveloped. Overall: 7.0 Verdict: Read
Future State: The Next Batman #2 (DC)– John Ridley, Laura Braga, and layout guy Nick Derington spend more time showing Tim Fox’s Batman in action and showing how he works, thinks, and his general strengths and weaknesses as a hero. There’s lots of grids in this book, and it’s perfect for Ridley’s narration plus close-ups of Batman fighting the Magistrates or frantically trying to get away and get a bead on two murderers. In traditional Batman stories, Gotham is an ally, but because it’s now a surveillance state, he must fight the city itself, and the inability to hold long cellphone conversations and Tim’s lack of fighting skill and gadgets compared to Bruce make everything more tense. Plus colorist Arif Prianto throws in an added layer of darkness. Ridley’s story is much more focused in The Next Batman #2 and is full of suspense and moral quandaries as Tim’s targets are quite sympathetic, especially compared to the Magistrate’s soldiers, who are just there to bag capes and don’t give a shit about actual crime in Gotham.Writer Vita Ayala really plays to their artist Aneke’s strength with body language and crafts a real relationship drama in “Batgirls”. Basically, Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown are trapped in jail with Steph seemingly having joined the side of the villains while Cass desperately wants to find a way to either find Batman (Bruce Wayne) or the missing Oracle. Almost from their first conflict, Ayala gets what makes Steph and Cass tick as people. They alter these former Batgirls’ voices to show the new, even more dystopian Gotham has worn on them with Steph being rougher and more cynical and Cass being more verbal, yet still earnest and always ready with the knock out punch. The guest star-strewn prison setting is ripe for a little drama, and I’m excited to see if Cass and Steph are able to rediscover their heroic legacy again. Also, a fun nerdy side-bar is that Vita Ayala uses plot points from The Odyssey as a prison code language, and I’m kind of in love with it.If “Next Batman” and “Batgirls” were hits, then Paula Sevenbergen, Rob Haynes, and Emanuela Luppacino’s “Gotham Sirens” is of more middling quality. Luppacino gives Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and their new buddy Dee Dee plenty of personality as they drink, dance, and break into a tech billionaire’s mansion and find his female robots binge watching Sex and the City. Sevenbergen was going for fun adventures and digging deeper into the tech side of the Magistrate and Gotham, but can’t really pull off the balancing act. Also, since Dee Dee’s personality is mentioning TV shows, having a weird relationship with her maker Dilton (I hope Archie Comics doesn’t read this story.), and furthering the plot, the group dynamic really comes off as unbalanced especially when Sevenbergen throws in an overextended origin story in the middle of the plot. Honestly, the best part of this story is the friendship between Catwoman and Slam Bradley, and maybe Ram V will pick that thread up to use in his book. Overall: 8.4 Verdict: Buy
Barbalien Red Planet #3 (Dark Horse)– Every issue, I fall in love with this comic even more. Jeff Lemire, Tate Bombral, Gabriel Walta, and Jordie Bellaire build up Spiral City’s queer (and superpowered) community even more as Barbalien is wounded in a battle with a Martian bounty hunter and taken to Dr. Day’s clinic where she treats AIDS patients and members of the LGBT community. Day is a Black lesbian woman with solar-connected powers, and she and Barbalien really bond while he recovers. She talks about how the heroes of Spiral City have neglected marginalized folks, and how she fill in as best as she can while also playing a little bit of match maker between him and Miguel. Walta and Bellaire’s visuals are really the cherry on top with every panel being a unique gem and easy to follow from shape shifting Martian battles to tender kisses. You can really follow the emotional pulse of Barbalien: Red Planet without even reading the words, but Brombal and Lemire continue to do a fantastic job centering Black and Latinx queer activists between alien raygun duels. Overall: 9.3 Verdict: Buy
Cable #7 (Marvel)– Cable has really found its footing post X of Swords as Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto use a kind of “team-up” format with Cable and a guest star going on a mission together. This month’s guest is his sister (It’s complicated!) Rachel Summers, and they go to Philly and rescue babies kidnapped by the Order of X cult (Think Rachel Dolezal meets Jim Jones). As usual, Noto does a good job showing the Summers siblings’ powers in action and getting some hilarious reaction shots with they link up telepathically with a couple of beat cops. Also, going forward it looks like Cable #7 is bringing everything full circle back to the 90s with a glimpse behind the curtain at this arc’s Big Bad plus next issue’s guest star. However, stylistically, it’s handled in a very self-aware way with lots of tongue and cheek jokes about Cable’s convoluted backstory plus there’s Noto’s modern design sensibility. Add a heart to heart between father Scott and son Nate, and Cable is off to a great start in 2021. Overall: 9.0 Verdict: Buy
X-Force #16 (Marvel)– Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara go back to the ol’ body horror well in X-Force #16 as the team investigates an underwater parasite connected to Krakoa. Cassara gets to draw some disgusting undersea life and have Wolverine stare into the abyss while also joking about him sinking quicker because of his adamantium armor. Percy uses the parasite as a bigger metaphor for Krakoa not being the utopia it seems like your new laptop running into a couple nasty viruses or your car needing repairs or being sick when it’s been a while. And, of course, being a parasite, it affects other folks, especially Namor, who shows very pretty and pissed off and wrecks its shit. His appearance reminds us that even though he’s technically “the first mutant”, his kingdom comes first, and that he could sink Krakoa whenever he wants. Namor is a fascinating character to me, and it’s cool to see him pop up in the X-Books again and continue to play a key role in the Marvel Universe. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy
Crimson Flower #1 (Dark Horse) – A revenge tale taking place in Russia from Matt Kindt and Matt Lesniewski. The debut is decent though didn’t quite stand out as special to me. The art has a bit of a “underground comics” vibe to it that doesn’t quite click and feels odd for the subject. Maybe there’s more to come with its Russian roots but as it stands the comic feels like a run-of-the-mill revenge story. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read
Legacy of Mandrake the Magician (Red 5 Comics) – The series has been adorable and too short. I’m hoping for more to come and this is a great example of how to update a property and honor what has come before. I’ve never been much of a fan of the character before this but I’m interested in seeing more. It’s just got a solid style in writing, story, and art that comes together for a fun new direction for the property. Overall Rating: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy
Future State: Catwoman (DC Comics) – Not a bad comic but there’s another “heist” Future State story that’s a bit too similar in concept. The art is great and the story progresses really well with the twists and turns and eventual reveal. But, that reveal has me scratching my head concerning other Batman related Future State releases. Definitely entertaining and worth checking out. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy
Future State: Nightwing (DC Comics) – A really solid direction for the character that plays off Batman being dead. The art is good, where the story goes is great. It’s just a really solid, well done comic that sucked me in. This is the type of story I’d love to see done live action. Overall Rating: 8.3 Recommendation: Buy
Future State: Shazam! (DC Comics) – What’s up with Shazam! in this possible future? This comic begins to answer that question and while it’s an interesting concept, it doesn’t quite work for me. I won’t spoil it but overall the reveal was a bit expected and feels like something we’ve seen before many times elsewhere. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read
Future State: Superman: Worlds of War #1 (DC Comics) – World War Superman? We get our answer as to where Superman is in a comic that features three stories that intertwine. The opening is fantastic as it really focuses on what Superman means for Earth before revealing where he’s been. It really sets a great tone and vision for the character. The other two stories feature Midnighter and Mister Miracle and both tie into the Superman story. It’s a great way to flesh out what’s going on from different perspectives. A really interesting comic that’s full of potential. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy
Future State: The Next Batman #2 (DC Comics) – Two out of three’s not bad? The story of the new Batman continues and there’s some really good material there about law and order and what’s going on in Gotham. The second story is about the search for Oracle and has a great setting within a prison. It could easily be a series by itself. The third, focused on Gotham Sirens, is a bit odd with the other Catwoman comic being out and Poison Ivy being in prison in the second story. A bit of a mixed comic but a world I’d love to see continue as ongoing comics or graphic novels after Future State. Overall Rating: 7.75 Recommendation: Read
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 (**).