Author Archives: Aleece Reynaga

Review: Faith: Dreamside #1

Faith: Dreamside’s first issue primarily sets up groundwork for what is hopefully going to be a more interesting storyline. With only the series name and a brief mention of ghosts to go on, one is left to wonder where this story might go? A quick Google search explains that Faith will be entering another realm for this adventure, the Dreamside, but it’s still a mystery as to what it may hold.

This series picks up after Faith has been framed for murder, so if you’re not caught up, that’s not a huge issue here. The story does a great job of filling in background work. That’s part of its problem though. It’s more so about recalling the past and setting up the future than living in the present. There was one glimpse of humor in a scene where Faith escapes the police with the help of a familiar face—and that leaves hope there might be more to come.

In classic Faith fashion, the art more or less follows the traditional Faith we all know and love. It’s light-hearted, charming and fun. Simple scenes like Faith with her hair wrapped up in a towel, a mundane task and a simple side note left by the artist, makes living in her world just that much more real for readers. It’s in these scenes Faith is at her best. Not a day reporter or a superhero but just a woman in her apartment hanging out.

If you’re wondering whether or not you should pick this issue up, I’d wait for the collection bundle if you’re truly a fan. This particular issue doesn’t offer much but a slow build. We can only hope that the issues to follow will offer more and be worth the wait.

Story: Jody Houser Art: MJ Kim
Colors: Jordie Bellaire Letterer: Dave Sharpe

Review: Nancy Drew #1

Dynamite Entertainment takes on the classic story of Nancy Drew—created by an all-female team—Kelly Thompson and Jenn St-Ong. Thompson’s writing is effortless and well-rounded. While Farrell’s art is fun and reminiscent of a more classic newspaper comic style with a more modern twist. It’s even worth mentioning the coloring by Triona Farrell who is rather impressive in skill.

With resourceful friends, Mia and Noah, Ms. Drew takes on local high school crime. It seems our leading lady is also in high school but it’s never explicitly stated. So far there is no sign of parents or caretakers, so one is left to wonder if perhaps she is college-age. This comes into question when she finds herself drawn back to her hometown, Bayport, due to a suspect, anonymous, and threatening letter—and she is able to hop on a train without question or a care in the world.

Once in Bayport, Drew is greeted by former best friends, Bess and George. It’s incredibly refreshing to see realistic portrayals of people throughout—from plus-size friendly folk, characters of color, and LGBTQ+ friends—this story is all encompassing. While it appears this is becoming more common and normalized in the comic book community, it’s still exciting to see stories come to life without making a statement about what it’s trying to be, but simply is.

There is also a special appearance by (and spoiler alert) the Hardy boys—surely to bring about a spin-off—and the t issue ends on a literal cliffhanger. It will leave you anxious, wanting more, and to see where this adventure will go. This new series will be a great gift for grade five or six and above, but overall fit for the entire family, including you comic-loving adults.

Would recommend across the board.

Review: Rugrats #1

BOOM! Studio’s Rugrats captures the essence of the former Nickelodeon cartoon in it’s glory days. Published throught their KaBOOM! imprint, the story follows Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, and Lil as they attempt to understand the new technology their parents have become obsessed with. From nanny cams to drones, the new series aims to tackle it all and bring it into the new century.

Writer Box Brown successfully gives life to the voices of the once beloved characters. Brown also creates a charming journey that will leave fans wondering where the babies will go next.

Artist Lisa DuBois expresses the overall classic appearance of the franchise while also including a flavor of their own. Together this writer/artist duo seems unstoppable.

Rugrats is a perfect read if you’re simply picking it up for the nostalgia-factor, but also perfect and age appropriate, if you’re hoping to find a comic to introduce to the little ones in your life.

Story: Box Brown
Art: Lisa Dubois
Main Cover: Jorge Coronoa
Lunchbox Subscription Variant Cover: Shelli Paroline & Braden Lamb
Variant Cover: Art Baltazar

BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica #1

Free college tuition for Riverdale residents?! Hiram Lodge is up to his old antics, looking to build a university and strip mall over Sweetwater Swamp. However, a certain botany-loving super-villain is ready to take a stand against the entrepreneur to preserve the wetlands. Poison Ivy enlists best friend, Harley Quinn, on a trip to the one and only Riverdale where they will encounter another iconic duo—Betty and Veronica.

Being a die hard fan of both Harley and Ivy and Betty and Veronica as separate entities, I was naturally hesitant to the idea of them coming together for a crossover in Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica. I wasn’t quite sure how these two worlds could possibly work together with both of them being so different. Within mere pages, Paul Dini and Marc Andreyko put my concerns at ease, with a hilariously creative story that far surpassed my limited expectations.

Despite loving the creative storyline, I was slightly put off by the hypersexualization of the beloved high school teens of Riverdale. While some might not protest, it felt disturbing as a long time fan to go from classic wholesome kids to sex kittens with ample cleavage and unnecessary ass shots. I can understand a promiscuous Harley, as she is a notorious flirt, but to attach such a heavy male gaze for seemingly no reason for the Riverdale characters seemed a bit much.

Luckily the storyline is so fun, it’s enough to carry the overall series, and I will definitely be picking up next issue.

Story: Paul Dini and Marc Andreyko Art: Laura Braga
Story: 10 Art: 5.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics/Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: CLUE #1

Do you like board games? What about murder? Well, if you like both then you’re in luck. The popular and infamous board game CLUE has been brought to life once again. As most murder mysteries begin, we are brought to a strange dinner party with a hodgepodge of guests, someone is killed, and an old lady is put into a chokehold. That being said, humor is dropped in throughout the pages at all the right places, making it an enjoyable and fast read. The story is narrated by the butler, Upton, who consistently breaks the fourth wall to speak to readers. He brings the most light-hearted banter to the piece.

From the start, readers are told to be on a lookout for at least three clues in this issue alone. This had me scanning each panel several times over. Much to my disappointment, I couldn’t find them if there were any blatant visuals. My hope is that the clues weren’t simply in the dialogue. That seems too easy. I had fun searching for them though, and I wish there was at least one blatantly obvious clue to help the curious and invested, like me.

I’m looking forward to getting to know the other characters more. While they are introduced, we don’t learn much about their motives just yet, and the story is merely pushing the plot to the kill. It moved fast and I would have liked to see it a little slower but I supposed there are only so many pages a comic can have.

Just when you think the story is over, after the last few pages of advertisements, it’s made known an additional three pages has been added to each edition, and each variant has a different storyline. This is there way of getting readers to buy more comics and confuse you further about whodunnit. As much as I want to know where the story goes, I don’t think I’m will to shell out the extra funds for even my favorite of comics.

Story: Paul Allor Art: Nelson Daniel Cover: Gabriel Rodriguez
Story: 9.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Riverdale #3

This issue of Riverdale is great in that it dives more into Josie and the Pussycats, their team dynamics, and gives more representation to the underdogs (or cats if you will). The creative team explores the small period of time where Veronica joins the band. The premise for this section is to “haze” Veronica into the Pussycats. I put haze in quotes because it’s not as severe as the negative connotations that comes with the term. They do however, end up hanging out at the Whyte Worm bar and getting tattoos, which I found entirely unbelievable. This felt a off-kilter for the brand. I know I shouldn’t take everything literal, but I am still holding Archie Comics to its word, in that they said this is to help explain what happens in between the actual television show’s episodes. So if they are they showing this in the comics, are we expected to believe Veronica and the girls have tattoos now in the series? This is highly unlikely given the fact Veronica has been known to sport around cute sleeveless dresses. I don’t think the character herself would do this at all.

The second half focuses on the blossoming relationship and dynamics between Betty and Jughead. In the show, there relationship came out of nowhere, was incredibly rushed, and forced on viewers without a lot of build. Here we have at least on actual hint to a potential relationship between the two with minor flirting on the page.

Cheryl storms into The Blue and Gold and says she needs #Bughead’s help. It feels a bit much but feeds into their larger Twitter market. Cheryl suspects her father is cheating on her mother because he has been acting funny and requests their help to find answers. This story lined ventured off into a territory unexplored in the show. It wasn’t terribly surprising given Clifford Blossom’s shady character but was somewhat interesting. Although, I must say, I’m still hung up on the show tie-ins and logistics. I don’t think that’s something I can ever get past and will constantly try to see how the two go hand in hand.

As far as art goes, I wasn’t quite loving this issue. Cheryl’s face is quite terrifying when she is seeing Betty and Jughead off after delivering the news of her father. Cheryl is supposed to be gorgeous and glam, but here she just looks questionable at best. 

Kevin is nowhere to be seen, but it’s implied he will have his own section in the next issue, if the photo at the end of the comic is any indication. They’ve drawn him to look like he’s in his late 20s or 30s, which is unfortunate. I’m still very intrigued and excited to see a full on exploration of Kevin’s relationship with Joaquin. If I don’t get to see a first date and other cute shenanigans I may just give up on this one. Here’s to hoping!

Script: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, James DeWille, Will Ewing
Art: Joe Eisma, Thomas Pitilli, Andre Szymanowicz, Janice Chiang, John Workman
Cover: Francesco Francavilla
Variant Covers: Marguerite Sauvage, Wilfredo Torres

Victor LaValle Talks About his New BOOM! Studios series Destroyer

I first met Victor LaValle last fall in his “First Novels” course. When he isn’t spending time with his family in Harlem, or writing the next great American novel, he’s teaching in the MFA program at Columbia University. In just a matter of months, I felt I had learned more from his single class than I had in all of the classes I’d ever taken combined. So naturally, I had to take a second course with him in the spring before I graduated. This is how I know LaValle knows what he’s doing when it comes to crafting a good story. His sixth book. The Changeling, will be coming out this June, but BOOM! StudiosDestroyer will be his first venture into the comic book world. Naturally, given my interest in comics and being a fan of LaValle’s seemingly effortless genius and creativity, I jumped at the chance to interview him about it.

AR: What comic books did you read growing up?

Victor LaValle: The first “big” comic I remember reading was the famous Superman vs. Muhammad Ali comic, written by Dennis O’Neil and illustrated by Neal Adams. It was a gorgeous oversized comic, more like a graphic novel really. It came out in 1978 so I didn’t read it then, I was too young, but it was handed down to me by an older neighbor as if it was holy scripture. And it was.

After that I read the X-Men, of course. God Loves Man Kills was a particular influence on me, really, for the rest of my life as a writer. Even before I wrote a comic that particular storyline played a part in what I did.

In no particular order some of my favorites of the early years were The New Teen Titans (the George Perez/Marv Wolfman years), John Byrne’s Next Men and his Alpha Flight run. Simonson’s Thor, Sandman, Swamp Thing, Morrison’s Animal Man. There’s probably a million more to name, but that’s where I’ll stop for now.

AR: How did you get started in comic books?

VL: I wrote a short piece for Clive Barker’s Hellraiser Bestiary in 2014. It was published by BOOM! Studios. I had a good time working with the editor and he told me to pitch him any ideas if I had them. About two years later I reached out with the idea for my upcoming comic, DESTROYER. I wrote out a pitch that they liked very much. That was the start of the conversation. From there they helped me hash out an outline for the first six issue arc, one that would be satisfying in itself and still leave room for more stories in the future.

Character designs by Dan Mora

AR: What’s the concept behind Destroyer?

VL: At the end of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the famous monster (or, the Creation, as its called in the book) disappears into the Arctic, saying he’s going to kill himself. I decided that the Monster changed his mind and decided, instead, to live out eternity in the company of the natural world, among the animals since humans had proven so unwelcoming. But in 2017 he’s drawn back into contact with humanity and he’s pretty damn angry about it. In fact he declares war on humanity.

Meanwhile, 9000 miles away, the last living descendant of the Frankenstein line is a scientist, a black woman, who has been doing her own strange experiments. Her 12 year old son was murdered by the Chicago police and she has brought the boy back to life using the most cutting edge modern technology. These three beings–the Monster, the scientist, the android son–will be forced into contact, into combat with one another and with the larger world.

AR: Where did the idea of Destroyer come from?

VL: The murder of black people by the police is hardly a new story in the United States. It was happening long before there were dash cams and cell phones to capture the mayhem. But in 2015 there were scores of these videos, all being shared widely, and I watched them right alongside so many others. I began to wonder what it would be like to bring these people back from the dead, to give them a chance at renewed life. Would they be angry? Would they be damaged? What about their loved ones? Would they want revenge on the ones who murdered their kin?

All this, somehow, led me back to Mary Shelley’s seminal novel. I don’t think enough people have read it–even though it is such a famous book. I thought there were elements in the Frankenstein story that could be repurposed, continued, in a tale told today. I decided to reanimate that old book, and its characters, which seemed fitting. And then I added my own, very current, spin.

Interior art by Dietrich Smith

AR: Comics have a long history of having underlying political messages, and it sounds like yours will, but are there particular messages you’re hoping comes across to readers?

VL: I’m hoping this book gets at some of the biggest questions facing our country, and many countries, right now: who is in charge of this system? What do they really want? Do we matter to them at all?

These are large concerns so I’m embedding them in the very personal story of a woman who lost her son to police violence and the endless number of repercussions that arise from that single, terrible experience. On the individual level I’d hope to make the experience of that mother–the highs and lows, the kind of madness such a thing might cause–into something that almost anyone reading would be able to grasp and, ideally, empathize with.

AR:What’s the idea behind the name “Destroyer”? Is this the name of the young boy? Or are you not allowed to reveal this yet?

VL: The idea of who, exactly, will become the “Destroyer” will morph and change through the issues but I was also making use of a quote from Mary Shelley’s original novel. The Monster (or Creation, as he’s called in the book) eventually loses his shit and stops begging Victor Frankenstein to love him. Victor has rejected him and that’s that. The Monster’s vengeance will be to kill anyone and everyone who Victor ever loved. Which he goes on to do.

He has a quote that always stops me up for the power of its rage and vengeance. It goes like this: “I, like the arch fiend, bore a hell within me; and, finding myself unsympathized with, wished to tear up the trees, spread havoc and destruction around me, and then to have sat down and enjoyed the ruin.”

I mean, wow.

That line summarized the feeling of our central character, Dr. Baker, too. She has the urge to tear down everything, kill everyone, in the wake of her son’s loss. But, since this is a comic, she actually gets to bring her son back. Does that solve everything? No. And then it only gets worse when the original Monster shows up, angry as hell as well.

Good times.

AR: Let’s be honest, do you like Frankenstein so much because it involves a genius named Victor?

VL: I’d lying if I said I didn’t enjoy hearing my name attached to the term “genius.” I would also love it being attached to the term “financially solvent.” The former seems more likely, if I’m honest.

The CW’s Riverdale’s Real Mystery is Ignoring Its Diverse Cast

The CW hit, Riverdale, has a major representation problem and it’s being severely overlooked. Despite being one of the most diversely casted teen dramas on the air, their representation of people of color and the LGBTQ+ community, is seemingly unimportant to the writers, this despite Kevin Keller and Josie McCoy being prominently mentioned and shown in the promotional material. While there is no arguing these characters are present in the show, they are primarily seen and not heard. The few characters who are given lines either disappear from the story altogether, are used to prop up the core four’s storyline, or simply ignored.

Josie and the Pussycats (Ashleigh Murray, Hayley Law, Asha Bromfield) have shown viewers musical talent and promise. Josie (Murray) is the only person of color who has been given significant screen time, dialogue, and backstory. Viewers are pulled in when they learn about her overbearing father pressuring her to follow his footsteps and supportive mayoral mother, but then only give the first eight episodes and disappears for the rest of the season. Not even a single line has been introduced to explain where she has gone. Even an “I can’t believe Josie gets to record a single in Los Angeles” would suffice.

Valerie (Law), has been Archie’s love interest, and seemingly the only thing that makes his character even remotely interesting. The show appeared to be on the right track, gradually building their inevitable relationship when they finally come together after the talent show, but then she quickly becomes a sounding board for Archie’s ridiculous rants and nothing more until she finally leaves him for ignoring her. Many viewers felt as though it wasn’t just Archie who ignored Valerie, but the writers, since fan are given virtually nothing about her other than she is a musician who won’t take any of his nonsense.

Melody’s character (Bromfield) is virtually non-existent. I’m pretty sure the actress hasn’t even had more than a single line in the entire first season. Josie and Valerie are given minimal agency, while Melody is given absolutely none, completely ignored. As of right now, Melody’s character serves no other purpose than completing the infamous trio of rocker women. That being said, my favorite fan theory is that Melody killed Jason and the motive was simply because everyone ignored her.

Other characters being blatantly ignored like this include Ginger Lopez and Tina Patel (Cheryl’s “minions”). You may have no idea who these characters are, as they are never properly introduced, but they are definitely there. Cheryl kicked them off the River Vixens because they didn’t vote for her during the infamous Veronica vs. Cheryl dance off. I’m supposed to believe these two girls just stood there without emotion while their alleged livelihood is being taken away from them? The lack of focus also took away any emotional impact from the scene. Without knowing them, it’s hard to care if they’ve been booted from the clique.

Kevin Keller is another character being treated unfairly. He is by far a fan favorite and one of the only LGBT+ characters with a major role. He gets some of the funniest lines and viewers are never disappointed with his hilarious reactions. We learn a minimal amount of his backstory—he’s the son of the sheriff who is accepting of his son’s sexuality—and I do give credit where credit is due, I appreciate the fact Kevin’s sexuality is a non-issue, only used to further drive a complicated plotline. What’s bothersome is the fact he is only given an implied storyline.

For example, viewers see Kevin connect with Joaquin and an exciting, new storyline is introduced. Then Joaquin is dropped and doesn’t appear again until a couple of episodes later, where it’s revealed that he and Kevin are now full-fledged dating. When did this happen? Viewers don’t get to see the relationship progress in the slightest. We only get to see them make out one more time at Jughead’s birthday party. It’s very possible the development of this relationship was cut and left on the cutting room floor, but the crew completely lost an opportunity to appease fan’s needs for a well-rounded gay character with his own storyline.

Another example is that it’s implied the infamous character Moose, is in the closet and is willing to hook up with Kevin as long as no one knows. This is a new piece of information for long-time Archie Comics fans, as he has previously been known purely for being the stereotypical “dumb” jock. This small piece of information makes a previously dull character, more complex and interesting, but it’s never mentioned again. The writers had an opportunity to expand here and dive deeper into this character but chose to only use him again several episodes later, as a punching bag to a gang of thugs. There was no character development at all.

The problem seems to lie in the story of Riverdale not being fully realized yet. The writers need to decide if this is a story about the core four or the town of Riverdale as a whole. With a focus on the parents, it would seem the writers have decided the whole. If this is correct, then they need to give their diverse cast’s characters more substance and agency. If the story’s goal is to center around the core four, then random, deep insights to other character’s past that were once introduced and then forgotten (i.e. Josie), need to be dropped. Once this is sorted out, many of these issues won’t be as prominent and the storyline will seem more consistent, although many viewers are hoping to see more of these forgotten characters, so let’s hope they don’t choose the latter.

In interviews, writers have mentioned one might consider the first season of Riverdale as a prequel to where we meet them in the original Archie comics. Where we meet the characters now, aren’t necessarily where they will end up, and there is a chance they might become closer to who their characters are in the original canon. Perhaps that means we will finally see an asexual Jughead (which is a whole other issue entirely), the epic love triangle that is Betty, Archie, and Veronica will finally rear its ugly head, and so on. That being said, this gives viewers hope that the character’s currently being mistreated or overlooked might have a bigger role and impact in future episodes to come.

Review: Riverdale #2

Riverdale goes Breakfast Club as the infamous teens are stuck in detention after a massive food fight.  I found Riverdale #2 to be a breath of fresh air compared to the hot mess that is Riverdale the tv show. It’s difficult not to compare the two since the writer said themselves that these two (show and comic) are meant to go hand in hand.

I found the story to be original and satisfying. It truly does deliver in terms of bringing more character to the characters in between episodes. There is even several lines hinting that Jughead likes Betty (something that didn’t come into the show when that relationship was forced on us) and I like that these writers are taking the time to get a few things right. It makes me feel as though they have been reading my reviews or listening to my Riverdale podcast (AV CLUB with Lian and Aleece) and taking into account everything I’ve been frustrated about.

I’d also like to take a moment to point out and appreciate the tone of characters being written well to match with their television personas. In this issue we see a lot of Jughead’s dark humor and I could hear it in Cole Sprouse’s voice just like I would on the show.

While minimal, Mr. Weatherbee, Melody, Ginger, and Tina all have lines, and this makes my heart happy. I have even more hope than ever that each of these previously ignored characters will get even larger roles in the future, in both the show, and the comic. Bringing recognition to the people of color in the cast shouldn’t be an issue but it has been and I feel as though the writers here are on the right track.

My only concern was, where is Kevin in this piece? If the writers bring in a solid Kevin/Joaquin storyline, even a simple first date, they will truly win over my heart. If you’ve been watching the show you know he’s only had an implied storyline (meaning they don’t show us the development of his new relationship). So let’s just see if these writers really are reading my reviews and will give me what I’m looking for in future issues.

Script: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Greg Murray, Daniel King
Art: Joe Eisma, Thomas Pitilli, Andre Szymanowicz, John Workman
Story: 10 Art: 6 Recommendation: Buy

Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Doctor Who: Ghost Stories #2

Doctor Who: Ghost Stories #2 seemed to be a little too cheesy for my taste. Being a self-proclaimed Whovian, I like to think I can handle a little cheese with my Doctor, but this issue crossed a line for me. Aside from the overbearing moral messages being forced on readers, I found the narrative to be too suffocating. I didn’t like being told what was happening. I wanted to see it.

I also found it difficult to believe Lucy would allow her daughter, Jennifer, to run into the lair of the man who nearly just killed her husband. I’m also expected to believe the villain falls to his knees in defeat and we are only in issue two. It’s moving too fast now and it seems the writer is attempting to simply get from point A to point B. There is an overarching storyline of gemstones to be found but I’m having trouble recalling what their importance is supposed to be.

While the political undertones of The Harmony Shoal throwing shade at the Trump administration is amusing, it doesn’t quite make up for the lack of interest I’ve taken. It’s another moral message we’re supposed to run along with, but it’s predictable in the worst kinds of way, and I’m not here for it.

I was really looking forward to this series, but I’m more interested in the original storyline from the television show than the one here. In the show, what’s most intriguing about this character “The Ghost” is the double life he leads and the romance. It had a Clark Kent and Lois Lane-type of vibe that worked. However, this new series lacks both the mystery and the romance that the series did so well with.

Story: George Mann Artist: Pasquale Qualano
Story: 2.0 Art: 5.0 Overall: 4.0 Recommendation: Pass

Titan Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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