Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 2/13/2021
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 #3 (DC)– The lead story of Future State: Dark Detective #3 definitely lives up to its title as Bruce Wayne discovers just how much of a surveillance state Gotham has become under the Magistrate and begins to fight back against it. Mariko Tamaki, Dan Mora, and Jordie Bellaire (Who brings the neon cyberpunk color palette) shows Batman using his mind and deductive skills over gadgets and physical combat to solve a billionaire’s murder and connect it to the Magistrate and Peacemakers. On the visual front, Mora and Bellaire give Bruce a world-weariness complete with stubble, a minimalist costume, and very mid-1990s approach to hacking that adds to his transformation from establishment billionaire to anti-authoritarian hacker. Tim Fox’s Next Batman makes an appearance in this issue, but Tamaki and Mora subvert the hero vs hero tropes having Bruce wish he had Fox’s suit and tech. However, he makes a crack about his inexperience. Mora uses symmetrical layouts that show half of Bruce and Fox’s cowl to make a contrast between them before returning to his drone snatching/hacking and murder solving mission. With the stakes becoming bleak, there’s really no room for Batman’s alter ego, Jeff, to be developed, and Tamaki nails Bruce’s obsessive focus on a mission while capturing a little of the sadness that he can’t be open around his roommate’s daughter.What starts as a straightforward chase/explosion comic with Huntress driving the motorcycle with Grifter behind her and Luke Fox in the side car turns into a never ending series of double crosses and blackmail. Matthew Rosenberg and Carmine Di Giandomenico really capture the spirit of this two part serial’s title, “Grifters”, with Fox, Huntress, and Grifter wheeling and dealing for a way to get out of Gotham, make some scratch, and keep the Magistrate off their back. There aren’t a lot of quiet moments in the book so it’s good that Di Giandomenico is a master of blur and speed lines and is a good match for Rosenberg’s dark, deadpan sense of humor like when Grifter tries to take out a big ol’ drone with guns akimbo. Funny bits and lines aside, “Grifters” is really a comic about screwing people over and compromising morals for safety, security, and maybe a paycheck. Matthew Rosenberg connects this theme to the big plot twist making it more satisfying as Cole Cash ends the story in a similar place as the beginning, but with a nice smidgen of growth. He’s a devilish outlaw gunfighter, who’s a bit of asshole, but is loveable nonetheless, and I’m glad that Rosenberg gets to write him in Batman: Urban Legends Overall: 8.3 Verdict: Buy
Black Hammer Visions #1 (Dark Horse)– The Black Hammer universe is full of homages, re-workings, and deeper psychological explorations of superhero characters, archetypes, and comics. However, in Black Hammer Visions #1, Patton Oswalt, Dean Kotz, and Jason Wordie do a pastiche of Daniel Clowes’ ode to adolescent misanthropy and general weirdness: Ghost World. Most of the story centers around Eunice and Barbara (Who are dead ringers for Enid and Rebecca) as they sit at a diner on the last day of high school, being quirky, and reminiscing about a classmate of theirs, Gail Gibbons aka Golden Gail. Golden Gail used to be a 50 year old who said a magic word and was transformed into a 10 year old superhero, but now she’s stuck as a 10 year old and it sucks. Oswalt and Kotz mine a lot of comedy out of Golden Gail’s foulmouthed and bleak sense of humor like when she does her science project about death. However, there is a sweetness in her (and her “cousin” Windy) bond with Eunice and Barbara as she assures them that sometimes friends move apart, and that it’s okay to march to the beat of your own drum. Thus, Black Hammer Visions #1 is a much more hopeful story than Ghost World. With the exception of one scene with guests from the original Black Hammer series, Dean Kotz’s art and Jason Wordie’s colors have a subdued, indie vibe with little flashes of detail to make the story richer and more humorous. In keeping with his comedian persona, Patton Oswalt and Kotz craft a comic that embraces the weird and offbeat and hits a sweet spot between the emotional vulnerability of indie comics and emotional bombast of superhero comics with a side of biting sarcasm. Overall: 9.0 Verdict: Buy
Future State: Green Lantern #2 (DC)– Geoffrey Thorne and Tom Raney handle the conclusion of Future State: Green Lantern #2’s lead story, and it sputters to the finish line despite gladiator John Stewart and the New God Orion making a cameo in his new souped up form. Thorne’s script reads like a bad mashup of Star Trek science-speak and a 2000 AD war comic (Rogue Trooper, Strontium Dog etc) with neither of the franchises’ smarts, sense of humor, or satirical edge. Two issues doesn’t give readers enough time to care about the large cast of former Green Lanterns around John Stewart, and Thorne also adds in loads of alien races and guest stars that are mainly used as plot devices. To go along with the story issues, Geoffrey Thorne really leans into the militaristic side of the Green Lantern Corps and basically turns them into space versions of American troops overseas while not exploring this dynamic and having Orion give contradictory, rah rah speeches. On the visual side, Raney’s art is serviceable: a mixture of DC’s 90s house style with the edgy violence and armor of the New 52 books. Michael Atiyeh does bring bursts of color and energy to Tom Raney’s line art, but he could have used a more imaginative script. Just like issue one, Future State: Green Lantern’s backups outshine its lead story. First up, Josie Campbell and Andie Tong tell an odd couple/team-up story of Teen Lantern and Mogo going to meet with Jo Mullein for training. Campbell and Tong show that even if she doesn’t have an actual power ring, Teen Lantern has courage and willpower that she uses to help her new planet-sized friend in the depths of space. The interactions between Mogo and Teen Lantern are super cute, and colorist Will Quintana nails the palette of utter nothingness. However, the second backup from Robert Venditti and Dexter Soy is only slightly better than the lead story and is a glorified montage of Hal Jordan fighting through the universe and looking for the Green Lantern Corps. I love how Soy varies his line weight and art style beginning with a Hal that looks straight from an artist in the early 2000s that I don’t want to mention by name to channeling Jamal Campbell clean, sleek style when this issue’s epic guest star shows up at the end. Venditti’s plot isn’t so much a story, but a thesis about why Hal Jordan is irrelevant when there are so many other Green Lanterns with more complex personalities and diverse backgrounds. I can definitely get behind that sentiment, but his story doesn’t really defend and saves the “alternative” for an upcoming Green Lantern storyline that I don’t think Venditti is even writing. Overall: 6.3 Verdict: Pass
Commanders in Crisis #5 (Image)– Steve Orlando and Davide Tinto turn in a classic split the team up so they can be better fleshed out issue. They also dig into the underpinnings of the series. In a world where empathy is dead, why would anyone be a superhero? Commanders in Crisis #5 is full of bits and bobs of cool ideas even if some of them don’t connect like the first superheroes wearing mask because they’re both queer and covering for each other, or TV show algorithms and social media posts turned physical and evil. Tinto’s animation-tinged art style continues to make Orlando’s high concepts flesh, and they introduce a new villain for the cool, yet fractured Crisis Command team to face. Overall: 7.5 Verdict: Read
Casual Fling #1 (AWA Studios) – Definitely a different comic than most of what’s on the shelves. The series seems to take a bit of inspiration from films as the story focuses on a woman who has an affair. The end of the comic teases rough times ahead including stalking and maybe some blackmail but we’ll see what the next issue brings. It gets a lot of points for originality for comics but it feels like a story we’ve seen before elsewhere. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read
Future State: Justice League #2 (DC Comics) – Two stories that aren’t bad but also didn’t quite hook me. Both also leave things wide open making them feel like chapters in an ongoing series that we’ll get more of. I kind of hope we do as each has a lot of potential but as is I felt like I was left hanging. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read
Future State: Kara Zor-El, Superwoman #2 (DC Comics) – A more interesting Future State comic. It feels in some ways a discussion not just of Superwoman but how she differs from Superman. This manifests in their legacy and how they pass that along. While the first half of the comic had me shrugging my shoulders, the second half was poetic and really beautiful. The art too is amazing and stunning. Overall Rating: 7.5 Recommendation: Read
Future State: Robin Eternal #2 (DC Comics) – There’s a lot of potential built in here and hopefully we get to see more of this Robin. Wacked out on Lazarus Resin, Robin and his team still have a goal of stopping the shipment to help Gotham. The art really helps up the issue as Robin begins to lose his grip on reality on the Lazarus Resin and we as readers have to guess what’s what with what he’s seeing. There’s a good setup for an ongoing and I hope to see it but as is it feels like a decent start but with what’s to come likely being even better. Overall Rating: 7.15 Recommendation: Read
Future State: Teen Titans #2 (DC Comics) – This issue feels epic and though it doesn’t completely wrap up the story, I still am left satisfied. There’s a lot of hints and dancing around the past but it looks like we’re going to get some of that in the upcoming Teen TItans: Academy. There’s really good action, really fantastic art, and most of all, it hits the right emotional notes. The comic feels like superheroes being superheroes and sacrificing themselves. There’s also a nice magical moment to wrap things up. While it’s a small piece of the puzzle, it still works and has me really exciting to see what’s to come. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy
Rorschach #5 (DC Comics/DC Black Label) – As a piece of the puzzle, the comic is great. It gives us an interesting look at Turley, the candidate running against Redford and the target of a failed assassination. As a politician and candidate, I feel like I have a better sense of that. Like a lot of what Tom King writes, this is but a sliver of the bigger picture. It doesn’t stand on its own but it’s really good. While the series as a whole works better as a political thriller than tie-in to Watchmen, it can be enjoyed on its own without that distraction. The art continues to be interesting, not quite clicking with the time period it takes place in. But, as another chapter in the mystery, I’m hooked to see how it ties into the bigger picture. Overall Rating: 8.0 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 (**).