Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 10/16/2021
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.
Night of the Ghoul #1 (Comixology Originals)– Scott Snyder and Francesco Francavilla have almost perfectly synthesized classic and postmodern horror in Night of the Ghoul #1. However, beneath its celluloid trappings, asylum setting, and lurching monsters, this comic also has the beating heart of a family drama with estranged father and son, Forrest and Orson, trying to uncover a mystery about a lost classic horror film (Fittingly called Night of the Ghoul) and its director T.F. Merritt while fact and fiction blurs together. I love the palette that Francavilla uses for this book: monochrome for the film within the comic, eerie for the rest home that’s the main setting of Night of the Ghoul, and bright and intense for shots of Orson’s mom who he actually lives with. This color scheme enhances Francesco Francavilla’s spot-on character acting, and he and Snyder build slow-burn tension through use of shadow and repeated panels. Night of the Ghoul #1 is definitely a metafictional work, but Scott Snyder grounds it with artifice-free dialogue and cutting lines about how sometimes a monster is just a monster that complements Francavilla’s full-bore grindhouse poster visuals. Overall: 8.8 Verdict: Buy
Superman: Son of Kal-El #4 (DC)– Tom Taylor writes and Daniele Di Nicuolo pinch hits on art in an installment of Superman: Son of Kal-El that brings the new, more activist-minded, and bolder Superman up against his first baddie, Bendix. Taylor, Di Nicuolo, and colorists Hi-Fi and Gabe Eltaeb strike many parallels between Jon Kent and Clark Kent from his love for Jonathan and Martha Kent, carrying a journalist in his arms (Jay Nakamura in this caste), and a race against The Flash, who is also legacy hero. Finally, there’s a confrontation inside a skyscraper office where Superman can’t punch his well-heeled opponent because it would lead to an international incident. Daniele Di Nicuolo skillfully uses body language and poses to show the enmity between Jon and Bendix as well as the growing bond between him and Jay. However, he also plays with the page during pivotal scenes like using a full page cutaway to show a montage of young Jon growing up at the Kents’ house or a tilted double page spread as a pleasant dinner turns into a disaster film. I love how Tom Taylor gives Jon Kent his own nemesis while strengthening his relationships with other queer metahumans plus the Justice League and his own flesh and blood family. Jon misses his day and is way inexperienced, but he’s starting to make the mantle of Superman his own. Overall: 8.2 Verdict: Buy
Catwoman: Lonely City #1 (DC/Black Label)– Cartoonist Cliff Chiang aims to tell the definitive Selina Kyle story in Catwoman: Lonely City, and he’s off to a good start in this sleek opening chapter. Set in a world where Batman, Alfred, and Dick Grayson are dead, and Barbara Gordon is running for mayor against Harvey Dent (Or the artist formerly known as Two-Face.), Catwoman: Lonely City #1 takes its time showing Selina’s attempts at reintegrating into society after a prison stint before jumping into the action. Chiang approaches Gotham and the page like an architect breathing with beat panels that show Selina’s lost a step or red-tinged flashbacks of Batman’s last moments. It adds context to his steady narration and rhythmic dialogue. In his design choices, he goes for classic, yet slightly more dystopian while keeping a smoothness perfect for rooftop chases instead of piling on the guns and sci-fi shit. Cliff Chiang is at his best when showing Selina move in space pulling her out of the frame for extra stealth and then putting in a big splash for her triumphs and failures. Catwoman: Lonely City #1 is an intriguing Selina Kyle story while also being a craft masterpiece even in Chiang’s lettering whose even-handedness gives it a Todd Klein-esque literary quality. Overall: 9.4 Verdict: Buy
X-Men: Trial of Magneto #3 (Marvel)– After two powerful opening issues, Trial of Magneto #3 is pretty skippable as the X-Men and Avengers punch some monsters while Leah Williams, Lucas Werneck, and David Messina show that Scarlet Witch is not quite herself. It’s pretty fun watching Eye-Boy strategize with Captain America or Synch get a power boost from Wasp, and Williams lands a strong character beat in the early going with male characters’ dialogue overwhelming Scarlet Witch’s resurrection process. However, it’s all downhill from there with the monster fight taking a little too long for such generic baddies, and the last few pages being a little too abrupt and obvious. I haven’t lost all my goodwill for this series (Leah Williams writes one hell of a Northstar), but it’s not the belle of the X-Men line any more. Overall: 6.0 Verdict: Pass.
Nightwing #85 (DC)– Tom Taylor, Robbi Rodriguez, and Adriano Lucas continue to lean into the relationship between Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson as they race the clock to take Seer, who has corrupted the Oracle system and jeopardized virtually every hero in the DC Universe. There are sepia toned flashbacks to better days, and Taylor grapples with misfires with the characters (Killing Joke, Ric Grayson) while cementing their bond in an emotional sequence. Rodriguez’s messy, almost street art style works well for the fear and chaos enveloping chaos and works well with the smoky palette that Lucas uses. A Batgirl/Nightwing team-up against the Magistrate’s goon is easily the highlight of the book, but it gets undercut at the end. All in all, this is a damn good Barbara Gordon story from Tom Taylor and Robbi Rodriguez and shows her struggle with Oracle out of the picture as she continues to take responsibility for her successsors (Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown) and allies. Overall: 8.3 Verdict: Buy.
Gunslinger Spawn #1 (Image)– Gunslinger Spawn has an insanely cool design and a decent story to go with it as Todd McFarlane and Brett Booth tell the tale of angels and demons with some fish out of water comedy elements. Everyone has a dark past including the kid at the service station trying to explain the concept of gasoline and horsepower to a Hellspawn from 1864. Booth’s art is totally 1990s revival and fits the tone of the story. There are also three backups. The first one from McFarlane and Thomas Nachlik involves lynching and is honestly kind of tone deaf, but shows Gunslinger Spawn in his original setting. The second one featuring art by Philip Tan shows the amount of pain that Gunslinger Spawn goes through to put a bullet through the forehead of angel and reveals he’s one of the weakest Hellspawns. The final backup from Ales Kot and Kevin Keane places Gunslinger Spawn into the context of American colonization of Mexico in the 1840s while also being a steadily paced Western with callbacks to the main story. The colors from Marcelo Maiolo and FCO Plascencia are also gorgeous and cinematic. Overall: 7.4 Verdict: 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 (**).