Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 04/24/2021
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.
SWORD #5 (Marvel)– Untethered from King in Black, Al Ewing and Valerio Schiti are free to explore mutant space politics in SWORD #5 with the Snarkwar (a war of succession for the Zn’rx aliens) sharing time with a buck naked Fabian Cortez trying to make murder legal in front of the Small Council. Cortez’s testimony is a masterclass in how power structures keep being devious and unethical, but don’t say the quiet part (For example, wars are for resources not just causes.) out loud. In a hilarious juxtaposition between his nudity and his far-from-subtle sentiments, Cortez calls humans “flatscans” and says their existence is a living death while trying to legalize the original crime. Ewing’s dialogue is delicious, but Cortez’s buffoonery is really driven by Schiti’s art like when he whines about only getting $100,000 and some real estate in Florida from his colonizer scion parents in front of Storm and Magneto, who is a Holocaust survivor and rocking his old school red costume courtesy of colorist Marte Gracia. The space stuff with the Snarkwar is less engaging, but Schiti draws some gorgeous vistas and bursts of violence. These scenes show that Cortez is expendable and also act as connective tissue between cosmic and mutant Marvel. (I gotta go back and read Al Ewing’s Guardians of the Galaxy.) Overall: 8.4 Verdict: Buy
Nightwing #79 (DC)– Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo, and Adriano Lucas provide that good home cooking in Nightwing #79 with a wonderful blend of high wire action, humor, and socioeconomic commentary. Given a huge windfall from Alfred’s estate, Dick Grayson struggles in a direction to focus his wealth, but he realizes that he can basically be a social safety net for Bludhaven. Sure, some of the wording and connection to his past as a circus acrobat is a little cheesy, but Taylor and Redondo are positioning Nightwing as a socially aware superhero. He cares more about ending the stranglehold of the corrupt Maroni crime family than some kids stealing his wallet while he was buying pizza for the neighborhood. And that’s not all that’s great about Nightwing as Tom Taylor writes fun, warm-hearted banter between Dick and Barbara Gordon, and Bruno Redondo’s layouts capture the athleticism of his fighting style with freeze frames and other tricks that capture non-stop motion across a spread. Throw in some glorious pinks and blues from Lucas and some fun Easter Eggs, and you’ve got a comic that is both a love letter to Nightwing’s past and sets him up as a true hero of now. Overall: 9.2 Verdict: Buy
Alice in Leatherland #1 (Black Mask)– Fairy tale and BDSM tropes collide in Iolanda Zanferdino and Elisa Romboli’s sweet, slice of life comic Alice in Leatherland. The titular Alice just wants to live a nice, quiet life and write children’s books in her small California town, but after her girlfriend cheats on her, she decides to move to San Francisco with her friend Robin. The rest of the comic is all about the drama of finding a place to live, especially in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Romboli’s art is adorable and hilarious, and there are a lot of silent sequences that capture Alice’s state of mind at any given period. I’m really excited to go down this leather daddy-meets performance art-meets cute fairy tale rabbit hole with her in upcoming issues. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy
Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters #2 (Oni Press)– Chris Samnee, Laura Samnee, and Matthew Wilson go for the heart strings in Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters #2 with plenty of flashbacks of the sisters Rainbow and Jonna in the before times. Wilson’s palette is lush and verdant compared to the current drab, post-apocalyptic world even though there are pops of colors every time a giant monster shows up. In very few words and mainly using body language, the Samnees show how Rainbow and Jonna have grown apart over the past year. This comic continue to be a masterpiece of visual storytelling with all kinds of great little touches like Crank!’s sound effects and Samnee’s facial expressions for Rainbow alone conveying a monster battle. It’s all about finding love and belonging at the end of the world, and I look forward to finding more about how the apocalypse happened. Overall: 9.0 Verdict: Buy
The Many Deaths of Laila Starr #1 (BOOM!)– Another hit from Ram V as he and artist Filipe Andrade go into Vertigo mode in a story where the god of Death gets fired and put in the body of a dead girl in Mumbai. Despite the dark subject matter and tragedy of it all, V has a sly, Pratchett-esque sense of humor that especially stands out when Death’s boss is talking about how eternal life is leading to good ol’ “corporate restructuring”. This sets up a conflict between death and immortality, but Laila Starr #1 chooses the human over the epic and meditates on these things in hospital rooms with regular, every day people. Then, Ram V adds a bit of a twist, and the stories off to the races. Filipe Andrade’s scratchy inks and vivid colors capture the flaws in all-powerful beings and the beauty in mortals. This is a clever series and continues to show that V isn’t afraid to tackle the big questions while telling fun genre stories. Overall: 9.2 Verdict: Buy
Ultramega #2 (Image)– The second installment of Ultramega is much different than the previous with James Harren exploring life after the death of the Ultramega when his blood flowed in the street. A prologue with gorgeous colors from Dave Stewart alludes at hope for another host of this force and is pure tokusatsu goodness, but the rest of the issue is really a drag. Noah takes up his dad’s mantle by fighting Kaiju Klan members with remote control Ultramega drones, but this ends up bringing more harm than good. Things continue to get worse and worse as Harren’s art becomes more bleak even if there is less large scale destruction than Ultramega #1. This series still isn’t a runaway hit for me and has a fridging problem, but James Harren and Stewart’s visuals are big and propulsive showing the real impact of kaijus and Ultramegas on the landscape and ordinary people. Overall: 7.6 Verdict: Read
Eternals #4 (Marvel)– Yeah, a superhero/cosmic being murder mystery is overdone at this point, but it’s really just Kieron Gillen, Esad Ribic, and Matthew Wilson’s Trojan Horse to get readers to learn more about the Eternals’ personalities and relationships. Although there are some sidebars featuring Sersi and Phastos as well as Ikaris protecting his human charge, the focal point is Kingo and Thena interrogating Druig, who has just become the next in line to be ruler of the Eternal city of Polaria. Flashbacks show how these beings manipulate human history from the sidelines, and Ribic’s take on the Mongol conquest is suitably epic. There’s really a majestic quality to his art that comes out in both conversation and fight scenes. Gillen’s humor in his script continues to be a delight and flesh out characters I was unfamiliar with. Eternals is my new cosmic soap opera, for sure. Overall: 8.2 Verdict: Buy
Women Of Marvel #1 (Marvel)– This anthology kicks off with a hilarious one pager from Mariko Tamaki and Peach Momoko about Lady Deathstrike getting manicure followed by a thrilling Peggy Carter as Captain America story from Elsa Sjunneson and Naomi Franquiz where she teams up with a Black, disabled spy named Lilliane to kick Nazi ass. Tamaki returns with Nina Vakueva, Rachel Stott, June Brighman, and Marika Cresta for some funny slice of life one pagers where Emma Frost uses her telepathy to make cut-offs and a tee look like her White Queen get-up, Medusa multitasks with her hair, Jean Grey starts to care for a succulent, and Hela struggles with insomnia. Next is a Natasha Alterici/Joanna Estep story where Mystique acts motherly and sabotages a young Rogue’s field trip to get her to join the Brotherhood while dealing with Stegron and reanimated dinosaurs. Anne Toole and Kei Zama tell a Misty Knight story where she helps the daughter of a technopathic find a new start with richly detailed art and a fun cameo for readers of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Captain America. After that, Nadia Shammas and Skylar Partridge tell a damn near perfect She-Hulk story that involves being lost in the Natural History Museum, a big brawl against the Rhino, and some legal humor. I really miss She-Hulk being written that way. Sophie Campbell and Eleonora Carlini craft a Marrow and Feral story with manga-style battles even though they eventually bond over being fellow outsiders in Krakoa. Finally, the anthology goes out on a high note with a hilarious Bachelor parody from Zoraida Cordova and Maria Frohlich as Gamora goes undercover to take down an extraterrestrial trafficker with Rocket feeding her lines on the other end. Women of Marvel #1 is a true showcase of female comics talent, and I loved seeing the different sides of character whether through the Tamaki one-pagers or more substantial stories. Overall: 9.3 Verdict: Buy
X-Force #19 (Marvel)– Quentin Quire gets some help fighting his inner demons in a horror-tinged issue of X-Force from Benjamin Percy, Garry Brown, and Guru eFX. Like its companion book Wolverine, X-Force has so many plots going on, but Percy and Brown wisely focus on Quentin Quire hunting down his evil doppelganger that is trying to take his flesh DNA with the help of Jean Grey, Domino, and Phoebe Cuckoo. As fellow omega mutant telepaths, Jean and Quentin have had similar life experiences, and she trains him in some new techniques like seeing each mind as a door and opens up about how this has burned her in the past. (The Scott/Emma affair). X-Force #19 is like a slasher flick with a pink color palette from Guru eFX. The bad guy, Xeno (I think), is pretty boring, but Brown’s art and the unique interactions between Quentin and Jean kept me interested and X-Force on my books to check out. Overall: 7.4 Verdict: Read.
Children of the Atom #2 (Marvel) – There’s something fun and charming about the series. The issue ties in nicely with the Outlawed storyline that Marvel hasn’t really taken advantage of. There’s also some intriguing debate about mutants and the law outside of Krakoa. The issue shows off the potential of the series and is just a lot of fun. Overall Rating: 7.75 Recommendation: Buy
Radiant Black #3 (Image Comics) – The series hasn’t really clicked for me so far, but this issue is bringing me around. The inclusion of Nathan’s story and focusing more on him trying to get his life together brings a bit of a grounded aspect to the character and also we finally get a glimpse of him trying to do some good with his powers. The art too feels like a step up with some really solid page layouts and one moment that feels a bit “positive”, a nice change from the often times downer the series has been. This feels like the real start to everything. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy
Way of X #1 (Marvel) – I’ve been generally down on the current X-Men line as they’ve crossed from true “heroes” to having a lot of problematic areas. Way of X feels like it’s addressing some of my misgivings with a series focused on Nightcrawler who has become a skeptic to the mutant nation’s promises. It’s a key addition to the line that admits not all is right and some of what is presented is downright bad. The art too delivers some great visuals that play off of what Nightcrawler has issues with, emphasizing his doubt. Overall Rating: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy
You Promised Me Darkness #1 (Behemoth) – A comet gives people powers and this is the story of the being who is murdering to suck that power up and making it its own. The story has a lot of potential but its presentation is odd in both narrative and art. The comic is dark, really dark, which at times makes it difficult to make out what’s going on with its black and white art. The story too is mostly voice over narrative up until the last few pages making it feel a little clunky. It stretches the set-up out a bit too much and doesn’t get to the point quick enough. Overall Rating: 7.0 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 (**).