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Review: American Carnage #1

American Carnage #1

Hate is one of those things that human beings have felt since the beginning of time. What has changed as of recent is that certain types of hate have become more acceptable. What was abhorred only a few years ago has been encouraged by certain people in power. The 2016 election and what has happened since has shown that America has not made any real progress from the founding of our country.

Certain hate groups have found themselves to be not so much “true” villains anymore. Morals have truly become divided along party lines.  Which brings me to question would someone or anyone who believes in hate be considered a “good person”? In the debut issue of brilliantly crafted American Carnage, writer Bryan Edward Hill and the creative team seeks to explore those lines of divide as an FBI agent goes undercover in a Neo Nazi group.

We open on FBI Agent Curry where she is testifying before an ethics board on the incident which led to her injuries. We soon find out a Neo-Nazi group terrorized a family Curry had befriended as the domestic terrorists firebombed their home with them in it. We also meet a former FBI Agent, Richard Wright, who now works as a private detective. Curry tries to convince Wright that there is something more sinister to a local politician. While it might seem on the surface nothing is there there’s clearly something brewing.

Overall, an excellent debut issue that drops you into a world that is unfortunately way too familiar. The story by Hill is excellent. The art by the creative team is beautiful. Altogether, a sobering looks at the ugliness hiding in plain sight.

Story: Bryan Edward Hill Art: Leandro Fernandez, Dean White, and Ben Oliver
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

TV Review: The Mandalorian S2E7 “Chapter 15: The Believer”

The penultimate episode of The Mandalorian Season 2 does do its job and sets up the final confrontation between Mando and Moff Gideon. However, “Chapter 15: The Believer” is also a damn good anti-imperialist, anti-fascist heist story from writer/director Rick Famuyiwa. Famuyiwa is most well known for his 2015 indie dramedy Dope, but he also directed “Chapter 6: The Prisoner” from the previous season of The Mandalorian that was about a heist go wrong and introduced the ex-Imperial sharpshooter and general smartass/asshole Mayfeld (Bill Burr). This episode acts as a companion to that episode and continues/wraps up Mayfeld’s arc while also kind of being a heist gone right story. It definitely seems more like a Mandalorian Season 1 episode with more of a focus on what life is like after the fall of the Empire and during the rise of the New Republic instead of adding Jedi/animated series lore even though Boba Fett is one hell of a getaway driver.

Famuyiwa kicks off “The Believer” with some grim, handheld shots of prisoners doing the equivalent of turning big rocks into smaller rocks, which is making TIE fighter wrecks into smaller wrecks. Without a word of explanation, Cara Dune uses her powers as a Marshal of the New Republic to recruit Mayfeld to help find Moff Gideon’s ship where Grogu is being held because he still has Imperial credentials. Not much can be worse than Mayfeld’s current situation, but it gets worse when he sees he’ll be on this mission with Mando, who left him to be arrested by the New Republic in the previous season. The crew of Dune, Mando, Mayfeld, Boba Fett, and Fennec Shand go to the mining planet of Morak, which has an Imperial base and more importantly an Imperial terminal where Mayfeld can find the location of Gideon’s cruiser.

What follows is a typical heist setup with Mando and Mayfeld hijacking a mining vehicle carrying rhydonium, an explosive mineral used to make weapons of mass destruction while Cara Dune and Fennec provide sniper support and Boba Fett and Slave I stand by for extraction. Even though they hate each other, Mando ends up riding in the vehicle with Mayfeld because he’s the only crew member not wanted by the Imperial Security Bureau. (Or the template for Clone troopers in a wryly delivered line from Temuera Morrison.) What follows is a study in microaggressions as Burr (Honestly playing himself.) gives Mando crap for taking off his Beskar armor and replacing it with Shoretrooper armor, talking about how the New Republic and Empire are basically the same for most folks in the galaxy. Famuyiwa drives this point home by having a long, lingering shot of the indigenous inhabitants of Morak and reminding viewers that despite all the corporatization and IP strip mining, Star Wars is a really a story about imperialism and interventionism with five of the six George Lucas films coming out during the Cold War and War on Terror.

The Mandalorian Chapter 15: The Believer

But Rick Famuyiwa also knows when to make Mayfeld shut the hell up as he does Speed with a Star Wars spin. If Mayfeld drives too fast (He’s definitely one of those guys who always goes 20 over on the highway.), the rhydonium goes boom. Plus there are pirates with thermal detonators, and Mando’s Imperial-made blaster runs out of bolts pretty quickly so he has to use his spear fighting and close combat skills to ward them off. Thankfully (?), some Imperial TIE fighters and stormtroopers finish off the remaining pirates, and Mando and Mayfeld are greeted with cheers by the garrison. All they have to do is go to the terminal in the officer Easy, peasy, pumpkin pie.

But, of course, it’s not that easy as Mayfeld recognizes his old commanding officer, Valin Hess (A frightening Richard Brake) in the mess hall. So, Mando ends up sacrificing his personal beliefs for the greater good of rescuing Grogu and removes his helmet so the terminal will work and get the information on Gideon’s ship. This is followed by a really gross interaction with Hess, who doesn’t recognize Mayfeld, and tries to make Mando say his Stormtrooper callsign. However, they end up getting drinks thanks to their transport being the only one to get through that day. There is more discomfort as Mayfeld basically grows a spine and confronts Hess for his actions that got 10,000 Imperial soldiers killed. Hess brushes this off and goes into a fascist diatribe about how people want “order”, not freedom.

This leads to Mayfeld shooting Hess in the head and a really intense fire fight as stealth goes out the window, and there’s a mad scramble to the roof and the extraction point. But this situation allows Fennec, Cara Dune, and especially Boba Fett to demonstrate what cool customers they are as they skillfully take out cannons, troopers, and even a couple TIE fighters in the end. Mayfeld also demonstrates his redemption as he goes from saluting Imperial officers and thinking that “Oh, the Empire wasn’t so bad.” to shooting the rhydonium stores so that the Empire can’t terrorize other planets. This shot leads Dune letting him go free on Morak while everyone else gets ready to confront Moff Gideon.

Helmet on or off, “The Believer” features some of Pedro Pascal‘s best acting of the season as he truly shows the discomfort he feels when he has to take off his Mandalorian armor and helmet. In most situations, he’s quick with a dry one-liner or a blaster, but he is almost speechless in the presence of Hess. Pascal plays against type and is almost anti-charismatic even though he is still quite pretty. He just wants to complete the task and get out of there and has no grasp of Imperial hierarchies and protocols. Thankfully, Mayfeld is there to do what he and Bill Burr do best: talk bullshit. There is a loose, almost improvised manner to the way that Burr delivers his lines about past campaigns and concocts a backstory for Mando being hard of hearing, and it shows that he might just be a little appreciative that Mando stuck his neck out for him to go to the terminal. They’re definitely not buddies, but at the end of the episode, Mayfeld has respect for Mando and his beliefs and practices and even turns his body away from Mando when he puts the Shoretrooper helmet back on.

The scene where the TIE fighters and legions of stormtroopers come in and mow down the pirates is one of the most thought provoking in recent Star Wars memory with Rick Famuyiwa adding to the derangement with a slow tracking shots of salutes, clapping, and back pats as Mando and Mayfeld successfully deliver their cargo of civilian casualty batter. This combined with the Imperial officers basically hanging out in the break room humanizes them and creates a kind of “banality of evil” effect that is quickly ripped to shreds when Hess reminds us that Imperials are truly monsters, who don’t care about things like civilian casualties, only power, order, and control like they have over Morak with their big base and TIE fighters and battalions.

Famuyiwa makes a good parallel between American imperialism and foreign policy and the Empire in “The Believer”. As Slave I descends into Morak, there’s a wide shot that shows it’s a nice little forest planet not unlike our previous indigenous resistance metaphor planet, Endor. However, Morak also has rhydonium (I.e. oil in the Middle East), which makes it valuable to the Empire’s efforts at re-establishing itself so it gets ruled with an iron fist. And it’s also the reason that those shipments keep getting hit. Rick Famuyiwa keeps the personalities of the pirates pretty ambiguous and doesn’t pass judgment on if they’re terrorists or freedom fighters.

This storytelling decision makes sense because ambiguity and grey areas seem to be the status quo of The Mandalorian where devout bounty hunters become father figures who are willing to compromise, mercenaries become cops that are okay with bending the rules occasionally, and Imperial snipers join whatever Morak’s version of #resistance is. It shows humans aren’t fixed in their ways, and that change is truly possible while shedding the Manichaean dualism of the Star Wars original trilogy. “The Believer” explores these dichotomies and contradictions in a suspenseful manner as Famuyiwa creates tension through both dialogue and action. Honestly, I was more stressed (and proud) when Mayfeld was confronting Hess for his actions as a commander during the Galactic Civil War than during the ensuing shoot out, which is basically a style plate for how competent and badass Mando’s crew/found family is, and why Moff Gideon is screwed next episode.

Even though there are no lightsabers, flashy namedroppers, and Boba Fett is just the getaway driver (Which is still pretty damn awesome), Rick Famuyiwa turns in the most thought-provoking and tense episode of The Mandalorian Season 2 yet with “The Believer”. He uses the canvas of the Star Wars universe to comment on fascism and imperialism. He gives Mayfeld a three-dimensional story arc and lands some huge moments for Mando’s journey thanks to a heart-rending and vulnerable performance from Pedro Pascal. Plus he pulls off one hell of a chase scene!

Overall Verdict: 9.2

Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 3/21

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.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.


Bang! #2 (Dark Horse)– If Bang! #1 was Matt Kindt and Wilfredo Torres stripping the James Bond films down to their essence in metafictional fashion, then Bang! #2 does the same for Die Hard. Or really any of the regular guy saves the day from highly trained terrorists while making one-liners with collateral damage all around him. Kindt comes up with the clever conceit of boiling down an action hero trait into a pill form and turns this issue’s hero, John Shaw, into basically a junkie, whose actions are connected as much to an adrenaline rush as any love for his fellow human. His actions definitely fall into the category of looks cool, but would be horrifying in the real world with the text of the in-universe John Shaw novels hinting at these horrors. And all of these elements are held into place by the smooth storytelling of Wilfredo Torres, who makes each action sequence seamless with colorist Nayoung Kim, who varies the intensity of their palette depending on the scene. Matt Kindt and Wilfredo Torres alchemize the contrivances, possible sociopathy, collateral damage, and yes, the thrilling action of the Die Hard series into the beauty that is Bang! #2. This is shaping up to be one of my favorite books of 2020 as it is both meta-commentary on and a wonderful example of different action genres/franchises. Overall: 9.6 Verdict: Buy

Excalibur #9 (Marvel)– Tini Howard and Marcus To has the Excalibur team embark on a magical mystery tour to Starlight Citadel, the former home of the Captain Britain Corps and a nexus for the multiverse. And, then, they end up in a huge battle against Saturnyne and her army of, basically, Sailor scouts. Howard and To are starting to hit their tribe as they meld road story tropes with more fantasy elements. There’s also a dash of espionage as Meggan and Pete Wisdom check on what Morgan LeFay’s old cult is up too. Seeing characters like Rogue, Gambit, Jubilee self-actualize (And in Jubilee’s case, discover a new power set) makes for pleasing reading even if Excalibur isn’t the cream of the crop of the X-Books. Overall: 7.8 Verdict: Buy

X-Force #9 (Marvel)X-Force #9 begins with some much needed rest and relaxation for the team with Wolverine playing “snikt roulette” with Gabby and Daken, and even Sage finally getting out of the office and chatting with Domino about her resurrection. However, Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara pull the team back into danger as they investigate what’s going on in Terra Verde, a country that had a strained diplomatic relationship with Krakoa. The results are B-movie, and Percy and Cassara know it as Wolverine, Kid Omega, Domino, and a special guest star fight killer plants connected to a bastardized version of Central American mythology. It’s silly fun, and Cassara shows he can do comedy and spreads as well as body horror. Also, Percy continues to brew tension in the background of the main plot with Beast continuing to be extra-manipulative. Overall: 8.2 Verdict: Buy

 Outlawed #1 (Marvel)– This one-shot from Eve Ewing and Kim Jacinto is just as advertised: it’s Civil War, but with teen superheroes. The destination is familiar (With one twist.), but the journey works for me. Jacinto and colorist Espen Grundetjern channel the chaos of shonen manga action scenes as the Champions miscommunicate, and Viv Vision loses control and causes collateral damage at a school where a teen science summit is happening. And even though it’s couched in supehero action, Ewing captures a little bit of the zeitgeist and frustration of Generation Z, who is politically active and well-informed, especially about climate change, but is still underestimated by older generations. (See how Teen Vogue’s coverage has changed over the year, for example.) Outlawed definitely is a setup for the new Champions title and various teen-centric Marvel titles, but it’s like a yummy mozzarella stick appetizer, not a bad movie trailer. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Spider-Woman #1 (Marvel)– Jessica Drew is back and darker than ever in her solo series from Karla Pacheco and Pere Perez. Having to pay bills and provide for her son has led Jessica to take a corporate security gig for a billionaire daughter’s birthday part that turns into an all out action setpiece. Perez pours on the violent close-ups and explosions showing that Jessica may be starting to lose control even as she “saves the day”. Pacheco brings the sassy quips, but Jessica’s inner thoughts are filled with an overall feeling of “What have I done”. The backup from Pacheco and Paulo Siqueira adds context to Jessica’s money woes, new (and pretty decent) costume, and the ending of the primary story. Siqueira definitely indulges in some ass shots, but the story does wonders for Jessica’s motivation and the series’ ongoing plot. Overall: 8.3 Verdict: Buy

Spider-Woman #1 (Marvel)– Jessica Drew is back and darker than ever in her solo series from Karla Pacheco and Pere Perez. Having to pay bills and provide for her son has led Jessica to take a corporate security gig for a billionaire daughter’s birthday part that turns into an all out action setpiece. Perez pours on the violent close-ups and explosions showing that Jessica may be starting to lose control even as she “saves the day”. Pacheco brings the sassy quips, but Jessica’s inner thoughts are filled with an overall feeling of “What have I done”. The backup from Pacheco and Paulo Siqueira adds context to Jessica’s money woes, new (and pretty decent) costume, and the ending of the primary story. Siqueira definitely indulges in some ass shots, but the story does wonders for Jessica’s motivation and the series’ ongoing plot. Overall: 8.3 Verdict: 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 (**).

Review: Scarlet #3 (of 5)

Scarlet has fought back against the corruption that destroyed her life-and now the next American revolution is underway! The city of Portland has been shut down-or, in the eyes of some, taken hostage-and Scarlet must decide how far she is willing to take her crusade. Enter Kit, the woman who will reduce Portland to rubble.

It’s weird to read and review a comic about revolutionaries (or terrorists depending on your side) on a day when some is sending bombs to likely political opponents in real life. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Scarlet #3 describes itself as telling the “story of a generation pushed too far in an alternative world we may soon find ourselves in.” Except, it doesn’t feel all that alternative at all and that we’re in the beginning stages of the world Bendis created so many years ago.

When Scarlet began, it was a response to the situation of the time which gave rise to the Occupy Movement. It was Occupy gone to the extreme of militancy. Since then, while the book slumbered awaiting a return, Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, the Women’s March, March for Science, and so many more movements have risen up and mostly simmered down. Scarlet is what happens when that spark finally happens and it questions what comes after the revolution?

And this is specifically looks at that spark, the first gunshot, the moment that takes things to the next level. And again asks, what’s next?

It’s an interesting issue that explores how this, all of this comic and the real world movements, are born out of abuse by those in power, those with privilege. And it shows that some just won’t stand for it anymore and whether consciously or unconsciously, we’ll fight back.

The art by Alex Maleev, with lettering by Joshua Reed, is amazing as always. There’s a reality to it all despite the destroyed American city. We, the reader, can still connect and relate to everything. This doesn’t feel like a foreign future but a reality we can experience now. Reed’s lettering too is key as Scarlet has a habit of talking directly to the reader and with subtle switching of the speech bubbles, a different tone and experience is had.

There’s something surreal about this issue’s release today of all days and it feels as though it’s as pertinent to today’s political situation as it was when the series debuted 8 years ago. It’s the rage many of us feeling and a reality many of us would like to see happen. All it’ll take is a spark and some inspiration. But for now, we can imagine that revolution kicking off and experience that possible reality on the printed page.

Story: Brian Michael Bendis Art: Alex Maleev
Lettering: Joshua Reed Design: Curtis King, Jr.
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The American Way: Those Above and Those Below #1

It’s been a decade since the Civil Defense Corps was exposed as a fraud created by the U.S. Government for propaganda purposes. While most of the heroes who survived the catastrophe have retired or disappeared, the New American still carries on, trying to keep communities safe amid the social turmoil of the 1970s. But with the nation split in two over civil rights and the changing political landscape, this isn’t easy. Some of the American’s former colleagues are on opposite sides of the law: Amber Waves joined a group of domestic terrorists, while Missy, a.k.a. Ole Miss, has thrown her hat into the political ring. As the ground shifts beneath his feet and new threats arise, which side will the American choose?

Unfortunately for me, I never read the original American Way series (though will be rectifying that soon). Even without that under my belt The American Way: Those Above and Those Below #1 is a perfect introduction to the world dreamed up by writer John Ridley and artist Georges Jeanty.

Ridley is one of my favorite creators delivering thought provoking entertainment and some of the most layered and relevant television in recent years with American Crime. So, since the announcement of this series I’ve been awaiting its release to see what Ridley might deliver and much like that groundbreaking television work, the first issue lays the groundwork for what feels like what will be a comic series that will challenge the reader to not just be entertained but also think.

The American Way: Those Above and Those Below #1 moves the original story forward in history, factoring in how real-life events might be affected by the presence of superheroes, and how those events change the heroes in turn. Taking place in 1972 the time in American history is just as important as the characters. History is a character here and understanding where the United States was at the time helps. Weaving entertainment with real history and socio-political issues is something that Ridley excels at and this first issue is no exception.

As I said, I never read the original series, but this first issue is a perfect primer to catch up and learn about this world that I want to see more of. The characters are quickly and interestingly introduced enough that you can figure out personalities, backgrounds, and issues, and even the major events of the previous volume are touched upon enough that you feel like you have enough to work with. Those that have read the previous volume will of course have more to work with than newcomers but being new to this world doesn’t put you at a disadvantage.

Artist Georges Jeanty along with inker Danny Miki and colorist Nick Filardi delivers the art that matches Ridley’s fantsastic story. The trio are able to deliver a world where superheroes fit in, our world, just with people with powers. There’s a grittiness to it all and the use of coloring helps set the mood and action for each scene. Letterer Travis Lanham also helps set the mood with slight changes to the lettering that helps bring out the personality of each character.

An amazing beginning that has me excited to see what Ridley will deliver in the subsequent issues and a set up that feels like we’ll get the depth he’s delivered elsewhere in comic form. Absolutely amazing on every level and it matches my anticipation in every way.

Story: John Ridley Art: Georges Jeanty
Ink: Danny Miki Color: Nick Filardi Letters: Travis Lanham

Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Few #6

TheFew-06_cvr.jpgAfter her long journey of self-discovery, after they’ve taken everything from her, Edan Hale has turned on the Palace and infiltrates its city to strike a devastating blow, but Captain Jariks is waiting for her. As for Peter and Davey, they have learned the truth of Edan’s past and her tie to their younger sister. They must decide if she is still worth befriending or too far down the path of destruction. It’s a bloody, epic conclusion to one of the best series of 2017.

Before I go into the review, I want to say how much fun it has been reading and reviewing this series. Out of all the books currently in the direct market, The Few exemplifies the most of what comics as a medium can be, visually outstanding, narratively gripping, and sharply political. I plan on rereading this series again and again. If I ever do a list of Top Comics of 2017, this will be going somewhere up in the top 5. I thank Sean Lewis, Hayden Sherman, and Image Comics for having the smarts to create and publish this powerful dystopian scifi.

The fun begins with the cover, Edan striking a badass pose as she faces the Palace with a gun in hand. It also works thematically as a representation of Edan going turncoat, abandoning the home and values she once upheld with brutal force. She now plans on tearing it all down. Even more significant are the sentences on the back cover:

“A Hero To One.

“A Terrorist To Another.

“A Necessity To Herself.”

There is that word again, “necessity.” Throughout the series, it has been a dangerous concept justifying horrific actions. However, what this back cover suggests is that it can be more complex than that. It depends on the viewpoint of the judge. Actions can be justified, unjustified, or even both. This happens to be the thematic climax of Edan’s character arc.

As always with each chapter, there is a quote by a famous author/figure in history:

“As you get older it’s harder to have heroes. It’s almost more necessary.”


Ernest Hemingway said that, and I think he means that people develop higher standards for who they consider a hero. They’re needed for better results. Now, does that mean Edan reaches the standard? Probably depends on your own. Personally, I think she becomes both.

The book opens to a two page spread of The Palace at night. It’s a sprawling black and white metropolis with a gray aerial tone. This is an interesting visualization given that Sherman colored the Palace mostly red in the previous issue. I think this change in color has meaning in perspective. From the previous issue, the perspective was that of Captain Jariks, a person who despite knowing her country’s flaws still regards it highly. In this issue, the perspective is that of Edan as indicated by the narrative captions. As someone that has turned against the Palace, the black and white coloring mirrors her cold disdain for it.

This opening spread is but one of the many examples of how much an art beast Hayden Sherman is. His style reminiscent of Frank Miller and punkzines that at first looks simplistic but becomes more complex and detailed the closer you look. The coloring plays a big factor here. Sherman is not representing reality but presenting ideas, adding a striking layer to visually represent the themes of the story. Also, they just look cool, especially during fight scenes. There’s a scene where red moves around with the combatants like an amoeba. In another fight, a 14-panel grid(!!!) switches back and forth between red/black and light/dark gray. Never in a moment does the art look dull in this book.

Going back to the opening spread, the true beauty of Sherman’s art is how it heightens Sean Lewis’ story, particularly dialogue and narration:

“My dear Palace. Bustling streets. Tall buildings. Home. We’ve been doing this dance for a while, friend. And tonight it ends.”

I hate the “We’ve been doing this dance” part of the paragraph. It’s a cliche done too many times in action stories and smudges the graveness of Edan’s statement. She is reminiscing about the Palace yes, but in a way to indicate she no longer sees it as her home. Combined with Sherman’s  dark art, it’s apparent Edan has nothing but cold disdain for the Palace. She is determined to do something to it for revenge. This can be interpreted without seeing Edan’s face. Never before have I seen a collaborative work where the writer and artist takes full of advantage of comics ability to combine text and image for deeper thematic meaning.

On one hand, this vendetta is justifiable given previous events. The reader feels for Edan and is cheering her on. I certainly was ready to watch her kick the Palace’s ass. Then I flipped to the next page and those feelings got complex.

The scene transitions to the Few’s campsite. Edan has made a dirty bomb, which shocked me as an American because of how strongly associated that weapon is with terrorism. Edan narrates that she has plans to cause massive damage on the Palace with it. She does not specify who the targets are. In fact, she does not seem to care about differentiating between military, government, or civilians. Edan’s revelation that the Palace are bad, while an important part of her development, has a dark consequence to it. Edan hasn’t become more empathetic. She simply has changed the target of her brutality. This is not portrayed as a good thing. The Few see that Edan is more violent than ever and keep their distance. She realizes this and decides to go alone. Her isolation represented by a blizzard as she disappears into.


What’s amazing about this turn is that I still feel Edan’s justified. After all, the Palace have to be stopped. At the same time though I feel wary how hate has consumed her. It doesn’t get much better as Edan infiltrates the Palace during a festival and plots her attack with the specific goal of hurting them in a way that makes a statement. Just like the dirty bomb, I can’t help but associate this line of thinking with terrorism. It’s a mode of thinking that doesn’t take into consideration civilian harm. What happens if a person whose only sin is just happening to be born in the Palace gets stuck in the crossfire? The comic has no qualms siding with those that fight for their survival against oppressive regimes, but it becomes murky when attacks have no motivation except hate.

There is a happy ending (well, happy enough), but the comic never lets go of complexity. Even more challenging is the idea that complexity is a necessary part of freedom fighting. Edan does her best to make her target but the destruction she causes could lead to civilian casualties. Minimal perhaps, but still possible.

Bringing up history, I don’t think there is a single armed rebellion where there weren’t innocent casualties. The American Revolution, the Soviet Revolution, etc. In many cases, these revolutions would be overshadowed by later atrocities committed by the new regime. Even in peaceful revolutions, innocents are killed. I think the ending of The Few is a way of forcing the reader to face this issue. Edan has become a freedom fighter instead of an oppressor, she is fighting the good fight with the right people, but has to live with collateral damage. Like the back cover of the issue says, hero to one, terrorist to another. In the end, a necessity to herself and the world because who else is going to stand up to the Palace?

One of the flaws to this otherwise outstanding character arc is how it takes development away from other characters. Peter, Davey, and Captain Jariks are full of potential, but rarely fleshed out. The most disappointing is Captain Jariks, who earlier in the series got upset learning how the Palace had a hand in creating Herrod, a blood-thirsty militia leader. In #6, her complexity disappears and she reverts to being an unquestioning loyalist. Peter and Davey at least get a little more growth when having to make a decision regarding Edan. The dialogue exchanged between them is an intense emotional journey. The Few manages to have strong drama along with its striking visuals.

What stands out to me most about the series is its political relevancy. We have a comic about an oppressive, ultranationalist regime that views a group of outsiders as immoral leeches that only want to destroy them and take their belongings, a wall built to keep non-natives out, brutal police that don’t mind gunning down even children if they profile them as a threat, a roaming gang of sociopathic men that find pleasure in the pain and misery they cause others, a small group of diverse rebels fighting desperately for survival while finding it hard to trust each other and worried that they could become the thing they oppose. This is Trump’s America as it is now, albeit an extreme fictional version. I don’t know if it was Sean Lewis’ intent or not, but there is no way of avoiding the similarities. I see this series in two ways: At it’s best, it is a cautionary tale of what will happen to America if we do not unite and work out our issues. At it’s most frightening, it is a prediction of what is going to happen years from now, and those on the left or at least against ultranationalist, xenophobic regimes will need to be ready for the inevitable war. I think many of us can agree we hope the former happens. But more and more each day, envisioning the latter as becoming a necessity.

Visually, narratively, and politically charged, The Few #6 is a satisfying conclusion. There are some turns that seem too convenient or easily achieved, but it does not dampen the raw, visceral reading experience. It is a series that I can say for certain goes beyond entertainment and enters the realm of true literature. I recommend this to anyone that is yearning for relevant scifi comics or relevant scifi in general.

Story: Sean Lewis Art: Hayden Sherman
Story: 9.5 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Few #2


The Few is a six-issue miniseries about a dystopian future where what was known as the United States has mostly disappeared, the majority of the country under control of a megastate called the Palace. Those that have not fallen underneath Palace control are called the Few. Civil conflict has broken out between the two factions, and loyal Palace soldier Edan Hale has been assigned the task of infiltrating the Few’s headquarters. Along the way, she unexpectedly saves a child and befriends brothers Peter and Davey, two members of the Few. They’re on their way to the headquarters, unknown to them that she is a spy. It’s not going all good for Edan. She is haunted by the ghost of her commanding officer, Ephram Charr. To make matters worse, the merciless militant Herrod and his army of Ragers are right behind them along with a squad of Palace soldiers. If the three factions intercept, there’s no telling what carnage will unfold.

In my review of the first issue, I criticized The Few for lacking story content. I now consider this unfair. The first cover showed protagonist Edan Hale running with a bundle on her shoulders. And what do you know? In the first major scene, she’s being chased. So, story content is shown, just not a whole lot. It’s probably better this way because showing too much content can give away the story entirely.

No, the ideal cover or poster is a clue to what happens in the story. #1’s cover did this superbly, and issue #2 continues this trend. Davey and the baby are shown with a bloodied figure behind them that looks like Solid Snake after a bad day. Turns out, he is a figure from Edan’s past, but more on that later.

The composition of the cover is exceptional, and the minimalist coloring sets the dystopian tone of the series. This issue has a variant cover as part of Image’s 25th anniversary, some of these covers being recreations of older ones. Recall that in my previous review, I said that The Few looked similar to another dystopian American sci-fi…



Hayden Sherman continues to prove he is a master of negative space to create a bleak, death-like atmosphere, arguably even more so as some scenes of snow are blinding in their whiteness. Character designs still have legs that appear longer than upper bodies that have a squarish outline. These designs are not bothersome, in fact there is something rather odd and unique about them. The choices of clothing, a series of jackets and boots and military gear, fits the winter climate. There is a surprising amount of detail put into these and character faces which are highly expressive. However, the sketchiness of the inking can cloud the reader’s vision. It works for vehicles and buildings, and arguably gives character’s a gruffer look, but it can be a bit much.


It’s interesting that even though I call Sherman’s art minimalist, he has so much detail in certain areas. In fact, detail is the artistic highlight of this issue. Two locations are revealed: The Palace and the Few’s hidden headquarters. Both are introduced in two-page spreads and are breathtaking.

Only one section of the Palace is shown, a shopping center, but Sherman crams a maximal amount of detail. Streets are littered with pedestrians, each designed uniquely; walkways and skyscrapers have bolts and screws, metal supports and cracks, trash and stains speck here and there on concrete surfaces. Neon lights dimly glow, steam from manholes perspiring against their bulbs. The Palace in its gritty metropolitan splendor is brought to life. Sherman sticks to a minimalist color palette of brown, green, white, and black, yet somehow makes all the detail more intense.

The Few’s headquarters is equally detailed but with a different aesthetic. It looks more like an underwater city, shadowed metal structures only visible by the intense yellow glow of lights. It’s an eerie appearance, one that hints at conspiracy and danger.

If minimalism brings out the best in Sherman’s natural settings, then maximalism does just as much for the urban.

For issue #2, Sean Lewis expands the mythology of The Few, particularly the three main factions: The Palace, The Few, and Herrod and his Ragers.* Each faction is complex. All are guilty of deplorable actions and fostering a climate that makes these actions permissible.

Edan monologues explaining the backstory of how the Palace came to be. It suggests there was a second civil war over resources, and the Palace managed to take control by obtaining the majority. These actions caused massive suffering, but as Edan’s father told her, “it was necessary.”


This word, “necessary”, is particularly unnerving. The Few is socially relevant given that many of its themes on civil conflict touch upon modern America. “Necessary” is another layer to this social commentary. In just three months, President Trump and his cabinet have passed borderline if not full-on fascist immigration policies, attacked and banned media outlets, and are in the process of butchering the Affordable Care Act, not to mention unraveling protections for transgender school students and other minorities. It is all deemed necessary to make America great again, and stubborn loyalists tell dissenters to obey (a massive hypocrisy given they did everything in their power to attempt at crippling Obama).

“Necessary” is a dangerous word. It gives an excuse for actions, no matter how horrible, even if they have devastating consequences. The Palace’s necessary actions created The Few and Herrod. Both parties actions against the Palace appears justified, but are just as brutal. The Few are so paranoid, they will even search and imprison their own for interrogation; they might even employ terrorist tactics. Herrod is a butcher, killing anyone, even women and children, he deems deserving. He will do anything for revenge on the Palace. Human lives do not matter to him.

It is hard to tell which side is worse, or even who the reader should be cheering for. The danger of necessity and conflict’s moral complexity are deeply explored and interwoven, allowing Sean Lewis to develop them naturally.

These two themes become parts to another essential theme in issue #2: the past coming back to haunt the present. Ephram Charr, Edan’s commanding officer, appears to her several times, even though he is not really there. Is he a ghost? A manifestation of guilt? Whatever the case, Charr drops hints that Edan is also willing to do whatever is necessary no matter what.

This is not the only scene where Edan’s moral is highly questionable. In a flashback, she is chasing down a teenage terrorist spray painting targets for smart bombs. The art for this scene is fantastic, Hayden Sherman using thick lines and frantic color splatter to capture the speed and intensity of the chase. Particularly interesting is the coloring of the terrorist as pastel red. It’s a unique choice for blood and scenes of violence over the traditional dark red, one that fits the art style perfectly. By the end of the chase, Edan makes a decision that while justified is still questionable given the perpetrator’s age.

There is no clear cut good and evil in The Few. Everyone has justification for their actions while still being deplorable most of the time. There are characters that even recognize the complexity of the conflict, such as newly introduced Captain Jariks. She is a loyal soldier of the Palace, but when she learns of Herrod’s origins, why he hates them so much, she can’t help but understand him and feel frustrated her side created the monster in the first place.

While I stated earlier that necessity is a dangerous excuse for heinous actions, what if the world gets to the point where all sides of a conflict are forced to and even justified as such? In a bleak world of survive or die, with no chance of reverting the mistakes of the past, maybe heartlessness is the new normal.

The Few #2 is an excellent follow-up to the series’ promising start. It expands on characters, world-building, and themes while delivering even more top notch art. There is no telling what will happen in the next issue, but it’s no doubt going to be epic. Go out and get this book now.

*I wrote in my first review that the Ragers were fighting for a mysterious man named Herrod. I was completely wrong. The crazy old guy leading them is Herrod. My bad.

Story: Sean Lewis Art: Hayden Sherman
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Few #5



Last time, Edan, Pete, Davey, and the remnants of the Few squared off with Herrod and the Ragers. Herrod was defeated, but the Few took heavy losses, and Davey’s life is now hanging by a thread. Worse, Edan’s secret has come out, and Pete must decide what to do with her. Meanwhile in the Palace, decorated soldier Colonel Aliss Hale has learned of his daughter’s treason, sending him into a deep depression. Will his love for Edan trump his loyalty to the Palace? As the end approaches, pre-existing tensions will reach a boiling point in this issue, and after the events that transpire, there will be no turning back.

I’ve reviewed this series since issue #1, and I must say that no other issue has awed me with its visually beauty while simultaneously experiencing emotions of despair, joy, and anticipation quite like it. This for me is the best of the series and here is why.

As always with my reviews, it starts with the cover. The photograph is of Tracee, the young sister of Pete and Davey. I won’t reveal why, but she ties Edan’s dark past to her current predicament, the first connection with the Few that now weighs heavy on her conscious. Sherman’s color choices have always been fascinating, but I find symbolic relevance here. Tracee is ethnically black yet colored white. I’m guessing a mark of innocence. The background of her photograph is orange, intensely so. There’s something beautiful about this choice, capturing the energy of a happy disposition.

The gray hand holding Tracee’s photograph is ominous, a deathly gray contrasting the lively orange. Did something bad happen to Tracee? Is looking at the photograph filling the person with a dark feeling? Mind you, I read this comic and know what happens, so maybe I’m making up crap in order to give this cover more meaning than it has. I’ll let you decide on that.

I’ve repeated ad nauseum about Hayden Sherman’s amazing art, his mastery of panel layout, experimental coloring, and moody atmosphere. Issue #3 and #4 were more action-packed, allowing him to draw brutal destruction that would give Mad Max a run for its money. Issue #5 has Sherman return to atmosphere but just so happens to be his best work because of how it illustrates the raw emotion and thematic significance of Sean Lewis’ script.


It starts with the opening pages of the Few entering a small town via RVs. It is surprisingly pristine, appearing to be closed down due to weather and not abandoned. Edan reminisces how even her father respected the Few for keeping their old homes intake, as though it’s there way of saying “We’re here too.” This scene is thematically part of Edan’s arc as she comes to recognize the humanity of the Few instead of little more than faceless terrorists. Lewis wrote this arc in a beautiful, heartfelt way and it has come to its peak. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean Edan’s saved.

The next scene is an intense interrogation as she confesses to Pete. Sherman decompresses it with close ups as the two exchange dialogue back and forth, tension boiling naturally. Edan’s arc might have come to a significant turn, but so has Pete. He now realizes his duty as the leader of the Few, to protect them from all potential threats including Edan. It is an intense and excruciating scene, especially with the photograph of Tracee present. It is an object that reminds Edan of her sullied past, how deep she truly hurt Pete. Death and melancholy are present in the dull, grayish color choices, a palette that has been omnipresent in the series to symbolize the desperation of the world, now more so given the scene’s emotional significance.

The story cuts to a new scene in the Palace. Captain Irks, who has been pursuing Edan, goes to a skyscraper for a meeting with Colonel Aliss Hale. Red is a prominent color in this scene, and something about its particular hue feels domineering. It seems purposeful, a symbolic representation of the authoritarianism and chauvinism running deep in the city’s culture. Colonel Hale is drunkenly sobbing, broken that Edan would betray the Palace. With the red around him and his figure cast mostly in shadow, one gets the notion he is completely brainwashed and willing to do anything for his country. A common theme in the series is the danger of necessity, the willingness to do even the most heinous acts if you feel the conditions are justified. This scene adds a scarier layer, one that shows a person can justify their actions when completely enamored with the party they serve. I think of all the MAGAs and Pepe memes online, how they staunchly defend far right wing politics to the point of psychotic behavior like harassment. Perhaps even more insidiously subtle are people that persist in showcasing their patriotism with an overabundance of American flags, bald eagles, and other paraphenalia. We can say it’s just extravagance, but what if they’re so enamored with the U.S., they’re neurotically driven to overcompensate, and any flaw in that vision causes a massive meltdown?

The next to final scene is a damning, yet brilliantly illustrated point to this rabid jingoism. It involves a swarm of drones using holographic screens to project a speech on-screen. The catalyst of the scene leads to a series of four two-page spreads, one of the panels containing this simple but devastating lettering:

The emotional context this spread has to the unfolding events is devastating. The Palace is not only detrimental to the Few but its citizens as well. They get to live a comfortable life but in exchange for their sanity and value of life. Pete discovers a similar problem in the Few, wondering if the two sides will ever stop killing each other. He knows that an attack is still needed or else the Few will be wiped out. The truly dark power of Necessity is that it ties people to take actions that repeat an endless cycle of violence because the only other option is roll over and die.

I’m probably making The Few seem like a pessimistic series. To a certain extent, it is. All dystopias are like that. You need a pretty dark outlook on the state of the world to envision nightmarish futures. However, there’s always a kernel of hope. It happens earlier in a scene with Edan having a moment with the baby she’s been caring for since issue #1. The baby has called her mama. The area they’re in is claustrophobic and gray, yet feels calming, a moment of peace. Outside her window, the ghost of Ephram appears and tells her “Now you can fight for what you really believe” before disappearing. This scene is one of forgiveness and growth. Edan realizes she believes in the shared humanity of the people she once feared and will protect them with her life. It is a beautiful scene, a glimmer of hope that gives Edan a reason to fight on. Even after the devastating scene of the drones, she takes her anguish and uses it to fuel for her cause.

It has been a long while since a comic, a single issue no less, has been able to make me go through a whirlwind of emotions like this, experiencing both the lowest of despair and the highest of joy. It’s beautifully rendered in word and visual by the amazing creative team. The one flaw to an otherwise fantastic issue is that I think the Few forgive Edan too easily for her crimes. Maybe save that after a major conflict in the final issue. It continues to bug me, but then I think of everything else the issue has achieved and learn to deal with it.

The Few #5 is the most visually stunning, emotional issue of this amazing, relevant scifi series. Both Sean Lewis and Hayden Sherman bring their A-games with the kind of passion all comics should have. This is Eisner-worthy material, and I’ll be rooting for the comic when the time comes.

Story: Sean Lewis Art: Hayden Sherman
Story: 9.5 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: The Sheriff of Babylon #8

The Sheriff of Babylon #8 CoverChris and Sofia are in the wrong place at the wrong time when a bomb goes off, threatening to add two more corpses to the body count that’s been growing on their own mission to get back at the murderers who started them on this path to begin with.

The Sheriff of Babylon #8 is about so much more than what’s listed above. Nassir. Sofia. What’s the real connection that brings these two together? What’s their history? What demons does Nassir have in his closet? All of that is explored here as Nassir is interrogated and brought into the mission at hand, the capture of the terrorist Abu Rahim. But, is everyone on board with that mission?

Writer Tom King has woven a tale that’s so much more than its parts. The comic is one part murder mystery and one part look into the war in Iraq and particularly the Green Zone.

It’s that last part which is really on display here by King. Much of the comic is that history of Nassir and his connection to Sofia and in just a few panels King pulls us out of that and reminds us that this is all taking place in the middle of a war zone where danger is all around.

King’s writing is enhanced by Mitch Gerads. The details Gerads puts in every panel is amazing. It can be subtle, but it adds so much to the overall story. It’s absolutely amazing and a masterclass in storytelling.

A perfect example of this is towards the end of the comic which features the use of a Superman sheet that features comic book panels. For many, the use of this sheet might be overlooked, but its coloring makes it stand out, almost screaming at the reader to be noticed. It’s small details like this that adds so much to the story. Here, a symbol of American ideals, freedom, justice, AMERICAN way, can’t be ignored and underlies a theme that’s been threaded throughout a lot of the series. A perfect example of imagery that enhances the dialogue.

The Sheriff of Babylon #8 is another issue of this absolutely amazing series, one of the best of the year and the best comic Vertigo has released in quite some time. This is the perfect combination of story and art which come together to tell a story that’s as entertaining as it makes you think.

Story: Tom King Art: Mitch Gerads
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

TV Review: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S3E14 Watchdogs

Agents_of_SHIELD_logoA radical group emerges with plans to eliminate Inhumans and Agent Mack is caught in the crossfire with his brother. Elsewhere: Simmons unearths a powerful chemical compound that could impact the future for Inhumans.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is again full of potential and doesn’t quite reach the level it could or should. The show focuses on a vigilante group called the Watchdogs, a hate group hunting Inhumans with some pretty cool technology. Mixed into that all Mack is dealing with his brother who has some sympathetic feelings for the Watchdogs.

The episode could do some excellent work when to comes to exploring hate groups, especially with the fact that Mack and his brother are African-American. And though the show touches upon it all a bit, it never quite fully commits to the allegory.

There’s some cute moments here and there and it gives SHIELD a new focus on the Watchdogs, who unfortunately are just another arm of Hydra instead of being used they way they should, a domestic terrorist organization.

The cute fun moments don’t quite make up for what is essentially a bridge episode that never lives up to its potential.

Overall Score: 7.1

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