Author Archives: Logan Dalton

Mini Reviews: WildC.A.T.s and Space Trash!

Space Trash Vol. 1

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 reviews of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full one for.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.

Logan

WildC.A.T.S #1 (DC Comics) – Matthew Rosenberg, Stephen Segovia, and Elmer Santos bring back the (maybe) classic 90s paramilitary super team in an action-packed, accessible way. Rosenberg continues his characterization of Cole Clash as a violent, but slightly lovable fuck-up shooting his way through the DC Universe and generally being a terrible teammate. However, my favorite part of this first issue was Segovia’s varied fight choreography for the various WildCATs from Grifter’s drunken gun fu to Zealot’s precision and Caitlin Fairchild basically being a kid on Grand Theft Auto 5 with all the cheat codes turned on. You don’t have to be a Wildstorm stan to jump into this book, but maybe you will be by the end. Overall: 8.4 Verdict: Buy

Space Trash Vol. 1 (Oni Press) Space Trash Vol. 1 is the opening salvo in Jenn Woodall’s queer punk dystopian sci-fi series. This volume introduces readers to the three leads Una, Stab, and Yuki and their place in the ecosystem of a fully automated school on the Moon. Woodall’s art is full of gorgeous and occasionally hilarious background details, like the graffiti that fills the school. I also love her approach to character design and personalities through fashion and hair styles. It takes a bit for the plot to kick in, but Space Trash ends up being quite revolutionary and relatable to our late capitalist world exploring themes of misinformation, surveillance, and of fucking course, queer liberation. Overall: 8.1 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 (**).

Mini Reviews: Catwoman: Lonely City #4

Catwoman: Lonely City #4

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 reviews of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full one for.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.

Logan

Catwoman: Lonely City #4 (DC/Black Label) – Cliff Chiang wraps up Catwoman: Lonely City with virtuosic effort as Selina, Poison Ivy, and the non-rhyming Etrigan break into the Bat-Cave to find the mysterious Orpheus with Harvey Dent and his Bat-cops on their heels. Chiang balances the messy and explosive (A magic battle between Etrigan and Clarion!) and the deeply personal with Selina struggling to shut the door on this era of her life while also kick-starting a new, less fascistic era for Gotham. I’m not a big fan of the Selina/Riddler romance, but I do love her relationship with his daughter Edie, who becomes the new Catwoman in a series of gorgeously acrobatic pages. Catwoman: Lonely City definitely has “final Catwoman story” vibes, but a heartfelt epilogue shows she still has a role to play in Gotham with Chiang using a more colorful palette to show the changes that new mayor Barbara Gordon has brought to the city. All in all, Catwoman Lonely City is a touching, action-packed story about legacy, resisting authoritarianism, and finding family in unexpected places. Overall: 8.9 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: Miracleman: The Silver Age #1

Miracleman: The Silver Age #1

After almost 30 years, writer Neil Gaiman and artist Mark Buckingham are finally going to conclude one of the great superhero epics, Miracleman, wrapping up the unfinished “Silver Age” storyline and maybe even getting to the long-awaited “Dark Age” arc where Miracleman’s utopia collapses and the corrupted, twisted Kid Miracleman returns. But, before getting to the new material, Gaiman and Buckingham serve up remastered versions of the first two issues of “Silver Age” with new coloring from Jordie Bellaire. Basically, Miracleman: The Silver Age #1 is a remastered version of Miracleman #23, and it’s all about Young Miracleman coming back from the dead after 40 years and honestly being freaked out and appalled by the new utopia he lives in, especially when Miracleman tells him about the Alan Moore retcon that all his “adventures” in the classic Marvelman comics were just a fantasy dream world created by the evil Gargunza. This is bookended by the a look in on what the young superheroes of this era are up to aka mostly nostalgia exercises, which is as much a commentary on the genre as it is on the world we live in where an almost 40 year old song topped the charts this summer and a 77 year old comic book character is topping the box office.

Unlike the “Golden Age” stories which mainly focused on different citizens of Miracleman’s utopian world, Miracleman: The Silver Age #1 returns the focus on superheroes, especially adolescent ones. Mark Buckingham and Bellaire may portray the superhero battle between Jenda, Zapster, and Klingstor the Galaxtron as a brightly colored, double page spread punch-fest, but it’s just kids playing in their backyard as drawn by Jack Kirby in the 1960s with one of the Miracle children basically having the ability to shapeshift into different Kirby monsters. They live in a perfect world, there’s no crime or supervillains so they fight each other in the ruins of old skyscrapers and clean up the debris before one of the adults notice. The Miracle children are the like the classic Legion of Superheroes with just a dash of the 1990s sarcasm. However, they’re quickly turned from their pointless fisticuffs to the human drama of Young Miracleman waking up because emotional conflict and tension is always more interesting than action figure battles. (And if you combine both, it’s a fucking masterpiece aka Miracleman #15)

Buckingham and Jordie Bellaire do a pastiche of modern and Golden Age art styles for the scenes with Young Miracleman that correlates well to Neil Gaiman’s 1950s British style dialogue. Seriously, I felt like Young Miracleman was one of the kids from Chronicles of Narnia or something, and it especially comes out when he’s alone again with Miracleman and slut shames Miraclewoman and is racist towards Huey Moon and xenophobic towards the the aliens that were responsible for bringing him back to the dead. It totally makes sense that someone born in the 1940s would act that way, especially if they’ve been in a coma since 1963 and reminds me of what Mark Millar did with Captain America in the Ultimates albeit with more restraint and a decade before. Gaiman and Buckingham lean into the trauma behind Young Miracleman’s beaming, innocent face, and although he doesn’t leave Olympus, there’s a general feeling of unease with even the Miracle children feeling sorry for them even as they have one last play battle as the issue wraps up.

Miracleman: The Silver Age #1 succeeds as an old/new first issue reintroducing the current status quo of Miracleman and his utopian world while providing insightful commentary on youth, the superhero genre, and the mixed bag that is nostalgia through the return of Young Miracleman and the activities of the Miracle children. Jordie Bellaire’s colors are a near perfect fusion of the old Eclipse books, classic comics, and modern techniques while Mark Buckingham’s use of double page spreads add more energy and momentum to Neil Gaiman’s scripting. Miracleman isn’t as fresh in the 2020s because so many comics, TV shows, and films have borrowed from whether intentionally or unintentionally, but dealing with trauma and the aimlessness of youth will always universal struggles.

Story: Neil Gaiman Art: Mark Buckingham 
Colors: Jordie Bellaire Letters: Todd Klein
Story: 8.2 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: TFAWZeus ComicscomiXology/Kindle

Review: Rings of Power S1E8 “Alloyed”

“Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky.”— J.R.R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings

Rings of Power

In its series finale, Rings of Power resolves its lingering mysteries (Who is Sauron? What’s the deal with The Stranger?) and sets up new paths, both dark and light, for its characters. Writers Gennifer Hutchison, J.D. Payne, and Patrick McKay predominantly focus on the Harfoots and Elves/Halbrand storylines with a slight side trip to Numenor showing how the defeat of their armies by Adar has started to destabilize this great human kingdom. However, “Alloyed” is mostly focused on setting up an epic conflict between good and evil that isn’t resolved until millennia later in the Lord of the Rings, and it nails this aspect while not neglecting the characters’ emotional arcs. Translation: this episode features quite a few hugs.

In their few appearance this season, the mysterious female mystics that popped up around the Harfoots’ storyline have been a bit of an annoyance, and in the end, just become a plot device to reveal more information about the Stranger (Daniel Weyman), namely, that he’s not Sauron, but a wizard like Gandalf, Saruman, or Radagast. (A closing piece of dialogue hints that he’s the first of those.) This sets up a really cool set-piece where the Stranger wizard-duels the three mystics, who are from Rhun in the east of Middle Earth, showcases his full power, and starts to speak in complete sentences while keeping his bond with the Harfoots, especially Nori (Markella Kavenagh). Kavenagh continues to be a delight as the reluctant hero, especially towards the end of the episode where she doesn’t know which direction to go with The Stranger. Rings of Power‘s writers have done a wonderful job making the Harfoots delightful, eccentric characters, and it’s fun seeing Sadoc (Lenny Henry), Malva, Poppy (Megan Richards), and Nori confuse the mystics even if there ends up being a sad cost in the end. They definitely embody ordinary bravey and will be (presumably) missed next season although I’m 100% here for The Stranger and Nori’s road trip through Middle Earth because Weyman and Kavenagh have adorably odd chemistry.

The main meat of “Alloyed’s” narrative concerns Elrond (Robert Aramayo), Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards), and Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) working together to find a way to save the Elves from fading and dying forever using the one chunk of mithril that Elrond got from Durin IV before Khazad-Dum decided to sever their alliance with the Elves. This ends up being a hopeless situation with Gil-Galad (Benjamin Walker) telling Elrond to shut down the forges and give up on Middle Earth until Halbrand somehow has all the answers. Celebrimbor treats him like some kind of savant even quoting his frankly creepy ideas about power over the flesh to Galadriel. Coupled with the smoky interior of Celebrimbor’s forge, Galadriel starts to figure out that something isn’t quite right with the supposed king of the Southlands. Credit definitely has to be given to director Wayne Che Yip for using Clark’s body language and glances between her and Vickers to build the big reveal that shifts the status quo of the series while also returning Galadriel to her original motivation of defeating Sauron.

Yes, the early season theories are true, and Halbrand is actually Sauron as his lies of omission all flood back to Galadriel in a powerful scene by the river when he reveals that he’s been manipulating her all along all culminating in a dream sequence featuring her dead brother Finrod. Everything from accepting kingship of the Southlands to helping him on the raft was all orchestrated. Yip, Payne, McKay, and Hutchison explore pivotal scenes from their relationship this season and twist it as Sauron offers Galadriel a place by his side to heal/rule Middle Earth featuring dialogue that is very close to what Galadriel says when Frodo offers her the One Ring in Fellowship of the Ring. And speaking of the One Ring, that idea is very much in play in a more subtle way than, say, the Death Star plans showing up in the Star Wars prequels as Halbrand wants to place the mithril alloy in Gil-Galad’s crown instead of spreading it out among three Rings, which is what Celebrimbor, Galadriel, and Elrond eventually do.

The Sauron/Halbrand reveal works because he acts like has all along this season instead of immediately turning into a mustache twirler. Halbrand’s ability to work the room and get out of dangerous situations has been a part of his personality and is aided by Charlie Vickers’ charisma as a performer. He got Galadriel to persuade Miriel to send Numenorean ships and armies to help the Southlands so, of course, he’s going to ingratiate himself to Celebrimbor and use it as a learning opportunity to expand his own powers after his failed experiments in the north of Middle Earth. Visually, Wayne Che Yip uses the dream/mind sequence to set up the rivalry between Galadriel and Halbrand with a glimpse of the classic Sauron armor in the river where they’re arguing. But it’s also failed friendship with Galadriel bringing aid to the Southlands, and everything that she did for him being worth nothing. Thankfully, she has a real friendship with Elrond, and the writers share a sweet anecdote from his childhood to show that Galadriel and Elrond have a genuine relationship to go with their political connection too.

True to its title, Rings of Power and “Alloyed” end up being about different kinds of power whether that’s the mystics’ fire and shape-shifting and helping the Stranger remember his abilities as a wizard, Celebrimbor’s craft in forging the Elven rings, or the darkness that Halbrand has only hinted at. But there’s also the power of the community of the Harfoots who work together to put the Stranger on the right path and feel sad when Nori leaves with him, but look for her return as Poppy takes over as trail finder. Rings of Power is at its best when it focused on the relationships at its heart instead of fanning the flames of fan theories. However, “Alloyed” pulls off both the Sauron/Halbrand reveal while also reinforcing the friendships between Nori and the Stranger and Elrond and Galadriel.

The first season of Rings of Power ends in a dark place, but not without hope, which is definitely what I expected from a Tolkien adaptation as Payne, McKay, and Hutchison make an origin story for the Elf rings, Mt. Doom, and eventually the One Ring compelling and watchable on a weekly basis and even added nuance to “evil” characters like Halbrand and Adar while finding shades of darkness and doubt in characters that appeared in Lord of the Rings like Elrond, Galadriel, and Elendil. Plus the show looks damn good from the costume choices matching Galadriel’s mental state in this episode to the almost ASMR feel of Eregion’s forge not to mention the various other locations in the show, like Forodwraith, Khazad-Dum, and especially Numenor and Valinor.

Overall Verdict: 8.4

Mini Reviews: Least We Can Do, Chicken Devils, and Namor!

Namor: The Sub-Mariner - Conquered Shores #1

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 reviews of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full one for.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.

Logan

Chicken Devils #1 (Aftershock) – Brian Buccelato’s Chicken Devil is back for another volume with a new artist (Mattia Monaco) and a side of domestic drama to go with the hot chicken vigilantism. Monaco brings a dose of anarchy to the comic with bursts of color any time something violent or stressful happens like Mitch dealing with an Albanian biker gang or trying to save his marriage in an Ikea. He trying to have a normal life in the midst of working with the cops to cover up his murders makes Chicken Devils darkly humorous like the early seasons of Breaking Bad. However, by the end of the first issue, the scope of the series expands with Mitch putting the restauranteur and dad hats to the side and embracing the vigilante label with some help. Talk about the ultimate mid-life crisis. Overall: 7.7 Verdict: Buy

The Least We Can Do #2 (Image) – The second issue of The Least We Can Do slows down and focuses on Uriel’s training to fight against the Eden Army. Predictably, it doesn’t go too well, and artist Elisa Romboli uses dynamic paneling to show Uriel get her ass kicked over and over again as she struggles to use her Medium in combat. And speaking of Mediums, Iolanda Zanfardino and Romboli provide a lot more information about the different kinds, and how it’s difficult to use one if it was stolen, not found. The Least We Can Do #2 is kind of heavy on telling/exposition, but I feel like I have a little better grasp on this world after reading. Overall: 7.1 Verdict: Read

Namor: The Sub-Mariner – Conquered Shores #1 (Marvel) – Just in time for his live action debut, Christopher Cantwell, Pasqual Ferry, and Matt Hollingsworth turn in a story of a victorious, aging, and regretful Namor in a world where the heroes are gone and waters cover the Earth. Ferry uses wide layouts for Atlantis and tighter ones for the oxygenated area of Atlantis and the human dwellings in New York to contrast their plight and provide motivation for Namor, who is retired as king and works to find some kind of equality between humans and Atlanteans. Having him be a kind of diplomat is interesting characterization, but the bruises he gets from Luke Cage’s men might put at end to that. All in all, Conquered Shores #1 is an interesting dystopian story illustrating the simple fact that getting what you always wanted isn’t always fulfilling plus it features gorgeous, at times haunting visuals from Pasqual Ferry and Hollingsworth and real world parallels to climate change and inequality. Overall: 8.6 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 (**).

Mini Reviews: Kaya and Rings of Power “The Eye”

Kaya #1

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 reviews of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full one for.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.

Logan

Kaya #1 (Image Comics) – Writer/artist Wes Craig begins a post-apocalyptic fantasy epic with hunter Kaya and royal princeling Jin finding a way to the North to find somewhere to be safe. Of course, this goes terribly wrong, and there are lizard riders, unlikely alliances, and lessons about the importance of survival versus history. Craig’s storytelling and Jason Wordie’s color palette are the big highlights of the series as he knows how to go for the big wide shot of abandoned villages and then tighten it up with a grid when Jin is bargaining for food. Craig’s cartoonish art style is perfect for conveying the emotions of grief and desperation as well as friendship, and overall, this is a good entry into an intriguing world. Overall: 8.9 verdict: Buy

Rings of Power S1E7 “The Eye”– In its darkest hour, Rings of Power has really found its quality. “The Eye” explores the fallout of the volcanic eruption in the Southlands. There’s more intrigue and heart in the Harfoot’s storyline plus weird-ass cultists, and setbacks in Elrond’s quest to save his people through the mining of mithril. Director Charlotte Brandstrom sets the tone for the episode in the first minutes with Galadriel and Theo finding an unlikely bond and looking for survivors in a flaming wasteland. Their interactions are wonderful, and Morfydd Clark adds a new layer of vulnerability to the Elf general. With orange and sepia filters and bleak cinematography, “The Eye” shows the true, human cost of war and revenge, but also resilience with a now-blinded Miriel vowing that Numenor will return to finish the job. The visual motif of flames continues as the Harfoots’ grove turns out to be blighted until the Stranger works his magic, and then it catches on fire again. However, Nori, Poppy, and the other Harfoots have grown and changed throughout this season and end up beginning a kind of adventure of their own. Change isn’t something that King Durin IV of Khazad-Dum is into as he forbids his son Prince Durin from mining mithril and gets in a heated argument with him that has actors Owain Arthur and Peter Mullan tapping into their dwarven rage. Durin III is strongly framed to be in the wrong especially in light of what could happen to the Elves, but one of the final frames of the episode challenges this assumption. By embracing the darkness and exploring guilt and defeat with a sliver of hope, “The Eye” is the strongest hour of Rings of Power this season and definitely connects to the work of an author that had to withstand the trenches in one of the world’s most pointless wars. Overall: 9.1


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 (**).

TV Review: Rings of Power S1E6 “Udun”

Udun

Although it’s not as single-location focused as some of the battle episodes of another certain fantasy show, writers Nicholas Adams, Justin Doble, J.D. Payne, and Patrick McKay center “Udun” around the battle between the humans of the Southlands and Adar (Joseph Mawle) and his Orcs plus a last minute save from the Numenoreans and Galadriel (Morfydd Clark). At times, “Udun” feels like a cover version of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, but it distinguishes itself from other Tolkien adaptations by giving psychological depth to one of the Orc characters and its use of the television medium for stronger characterization and long-form mythmaking beyond a feature film. For better or worse, it’s blows Rings of Power‘s storyline wide open and confirms that evil is something that infects the bones of Middle Earth as well as the hearts

Although, at times, he feels like a hybrid of Aragorn and Legolas, Ismael Cruz Cordova continues to nail both the role of action hero and romantic lead with his performance as Arondir throughout the episode. For example, he gets to be part of the big, yet poorly lit opening setpiece where he shoots a flaming arrow and brings down the Elven watchtower. Then, almost immediately he shares a tender moment with the quite badass Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) where they bond over planting a special kind of seed before the battle with the Orcs and save the other seeds for after the battle. This symbolizes them having a future after the war ends. I love that the writers give Brownyn and Arondir a love of growing things in common, and it makes their relationship more organic and believable instead of the usual “crisis bond” in these kinds of movies/TV shows a la Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock’s characters in Speed.

Before they become the literal cavalry saving the day, Adams, Doble, Payne, and McKay use some of “Udun’s” running time to explore the relationship between Galadriel, Elendil (Lloyd Owen), and Isildur (Maxim Baldry). In contrast with the darkness covering the Southlands at the open and close of the episode, the scenes with the Numenorean ships coming to Middle Earth is bathed in the rosy fingers of dawn courtesy of director Charlotte Brandstrom as Galadriel watches Isildur sneak out and look at his first glimpse of land. They have a real general/younger soldier moment with Galadriel reminding him to be humble and the difference between current and idealized Numor. Then, she and Elendil share a terser exchange. The meter of Rings of Power‘s dialogue can be all over the place, but the writers and Owen really nail Elendil’s grief about his wife when asked about her by Galadriel, he mumbles “She drowned”. For now, Elendil is focused on the task at which is liberating the Southlands and installing a quite noble and less roguish Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) as king.

Udun

Although, “Udun” excels at the quiet character moments, it falls back on devices and scenarios that appeared in previous Tolkien adaptations. Basically, with the exception of the Orcs dressing up the men of the Southlands as Orcs and using them as cannon fodder and up to the confrontation between Adar and Galadriel, the battle is kind of a Wish.com Battle of Helm’s Deep with a much more TV-budget friendly location and less characters to root for and connect with. For example, Bronwyn telling Theo (Tyro Muhafidin) to protect those who can’t fight is basically verbatim the conversation Theoden has with Eowyn in The Two Towers except Eowyn is a compelling hero, and Theo is a craven brat. And like Gandalf and Eomer, the Numenorean cavalry comes in and saves the day and looks good doing it. The charge isn’t Peter Jackson levels of epic, but Brandstrom does a solid job showing an empire that’s not quite at its peak, yet still pretty glorious. Think the opening battle scene between the Romans and Germans in Gladiator showing the last gasp of imperial power before the decline and fall begins with Marcus Aurelius’ son Commodus.

However, “Udun’s” most powerful scene isn’t a chase scene, cavalry charge, or multi-volcano eruption (Mt. Doom Origins!). It’s an interrogation sequence between Galadriel and Adar where Clark digs into a darker side of her character, and Mawle finds a more sympathetic side of his until it’s undermined by the aforementioned mass murder and environmental destruction. Adar reveals that he was part of the first generation of Elves turned into Orcs by Sauron, but prefers to be called an “Uruk” and still says that he should be treated like humans and Elves instead of something twisted or evil. He just wants a homeland for Uruks while Galadriel wants to exterminate his entire race so maybe she’s the bad guy. The conversation grapples with the problematic aspect of Orcs being “Other” and their one-dimensional characterization throughout the works of Tolkien and its adaptations, but the writers end up back-pedaling once the flames start falling and the episodes wrap up. Still, by the end of “Udun”, Adar is a three-dimensional character who is crafty, yet a father figure to his Uruks and not just a walking fan theory or Sauron Jr. I’d love to see him share a beer with Killmonger, Magneto, and Shylock from Merchant of Venice if he survived the volcanic eruption.

Although not a perfect episode, “Udun” shows that Rings of Power is at its strongest when it digs beneath its surface-level good vs evil conflict and looks at the light and darkness in each major player from revenge-driven Galadriel to unlikely king Halbrand and even Uruk daddy/postcolonial theorist Adar. But, when lit properly (Aka when the Numenoreans arrive), it succeeds on a spectacle/action level as well, especially in its fiery closing moments.

Overall Verdict: 8.0

Review: Doughnuts and Doom

Doughnuts and Doom

Doughnuts and Doom is a delightful queer romantic comedy with witches, music, mishap, and of course, donuts. It’s a slow-burn storyline from cartoonist Balazs Lorinci about a witch/online potion seller named Margot and a musician/donut store employee named Elena. A mishap at the local donut store brings them together as Margot accidentally curses Elena while feeling a little hangry after failing her spell license test, and like any good rom-com, they keep bumping into each other and become good friends and maybe more. The story explores the pitfalls of relationships and being a young person with good humor and energy complemented by Lorinci’s soft lines and color palette. It also indulges in quite a few romantic comedy tropes like meet cutes, absurd misunderstandings, inability to read signals, and of course, a show-stopping musical number, but the charm of Balazs Lorinci’s art style and the depth that he gives the two leads make it go over like popcorn and facemasks instead of stale bread crumbs.

Another enjoyable thing about Doughnuts and Doom is that Elena and Margot get their own lives and arcs outside of their budding relationship. Lorinci immediately creates empathy for both characters by putting obstacles in their paths. Elena’s band is struggling to find an audience, and she’s burning the candle on both ends trying to create music and also pay the bills by working at the donut shop. This situation is definitely relatable to anyone who has worked multiple jobs or had to balance creative work and the day job, and it’s really rewarding when Margot listens to Elena’s band’s music on and connects to it, honestly, getting a part of her soul handed to her on a platter. Balazs Lorinci writes lyrics for Elena’s band (A two-piece, like the White Stripes, but swap the genders and more mishaps at gigs), and it adds to the comic’s themes of loneliness and finding that special connection in an unexpected place.

As a witch, Margot’s struggles are more rooted in the supernatural as Doughnuts and Doom opens with her failing her spell license test. (Thankfully, she has potions to fall back on especially in the financial department.) Later, in the book, she opens up to Elena about her fear of performing in front of people, and as a person who is deathly afraid of appearing on video, public speaking, and doesn’t listen to their own podcasts, I can definitely relate and smiled big-time at her big, let’s say, shining moment towards the ends of book. Margot’s issues with magic set up much of the plot of Doughnuts and Doom as she accidentally curses the donut Elena eats on her break leading to her get electrocuted at her gig. This sets up another meeting of the two where Margot cooks up a potion to remove the curse, but it ends up being a lot more complicated than that. Margot struggles with something that should be second nature to her, but it isn’t portrayed as a moral failing by Balazs Lorinci even though it’s a huge source of tension throughout and leads to personal troubles and with the powers that be/bureaucrats of the witching world.

Along with lovely character arcs for its two lead characters, Doughnuts and Doom features a unique visual style. I love the crackles of color that Lorinci includes any time something magical or musical happens in the comic, and that extends to the sparks that fly between Elena and Margot. There are also random little things I like about the art like that he draws cute noses and over the top facial expressions that especially work in the misunderstanding era of Elena and Margot’s relationship when Margot kind of came off as a Karen when she wanted a specific kind of donut. (But, honestly, no one’s perfect, and flunking a hard test plus being hungry is not a bad combination.) During the concert sequences, Balazs Lorinci uses wider panels and split screen compositions to show the energy from Elena and her drummer Tyler, and how it ebbs and flows in the crowd, and especially Margot.

All in all, Doughnuts and Doom is an eminently relatable and fiercely queer romantic comedy graphic novel that will warm your heart like the “Hot and Ready” sign at your local donut shop coupled with your favorite track on your “yearning” playlist. (It pairs nicely with “Silk Chiffon” by MUNA, or “Pang” by Caroline Polachek.)

Story/Art: Balazs Lorinci
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.6 Overall: 8.3 Recommendation: Buy

IDW/Top Shelf provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Mini Reviews: Vanish, Judgement Day, and Rings of Power

Vanish #1

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 reviews of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full one for.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.

Logan

Vanish #1 (Image Comics) Vanish #1 is the edginess I craved from Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, and Sonia Oback. The story follows a former Chosen One-type figure around as he abuses drugs and alcohol to numb his pain and avoid getting the job done against his Big Bad’s former associates. Vanish takes the total piss out of the Harry Potter series (A handgun could definitely finish Lord Voldemort off) while paying homage to 90s Image comics like Spawn and The Darkness with high energy, violent storytelling from Stegman and Mayer. It’s full of cool poses and costumes too like a Black Parade-inspired get-up for our protagonist. Also, the combination of human struggles with an over the top setting and plot reminds me a lot of my other favorite Cates comics (Venom, God Country) Vanish is good, dumb fun: the comic book equivalent of throwing back shots at your local Emo Nite. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Rings of Power S1E5 “Partings”Rings of Power turns up the intrigue as it begins the second half of the season. Every plotline becomes interconnected as Elrond finds out that Gil-Galad and Celebrimbor exploited his friendship with Durin and the Dwarves to find mithril and keep Elves alive while darkness spreads in Middle Earth. The triumph of evil continues in big and small ways whether that’s half the Southlanders joining Adar, the Stranger almost freezing Nori to death after saving the Harfoots from wolves, or Pharazon’s son Kemen burning 2 Numenorean ships to try to prevent them from helping the men of the Southlands. But “Partings” isn’t just cool Balrog flashbacks or the Numenorean navy flexing its power and is chock-full with small, interesting character moments. For example, Galadriel comes clean to Halbrand about how her last army mutinied, and she might have an obsession with ridding Middle Earth of every last Orc. Also, Durin and Elrond share a humorous moment where Durin repatriates an Elven table while working together to balance friendship, duty, and the fate of the Elven race after the mithril discovery. While waiting for the attack of Adar and his Orc legions, writer Justin Doble deepens the relationship between Arondir and the Southlanders he’s protecting showing some archery fundamentals to (future stepson, to be honest) Theo and understanding that there is a proclivity for evil among them, but they can also resist. All in all, “Partings” sharply draws the battle lines with the Southlanders, some Elves, and Numenoreans taking on the still mysterious Adar and his Orcs, but there’s also division in regards to the mithril, Pharazon, and even Halbrand, who may or may not want to be king. Overall: 8.3

Brett

A.X.E.: Judgement Day #5 (Marvel) – Overall, this event has gone down as one of Marvel’s best in a long time. There’s been a lot of action but also some depth about gods, destiny, and what living a good life means. Things look desperate in this issue but it delivers one hell of an ending that shakes things up in a major way. The art is solid as usual and the comic does a great job of capturing the desperate moment the world is in. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Vanish #1 (Image Comics) – Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, and Sonia Oback deliver a debut that I feel like I’ve seen before. The concepts and comic don’t feel original or new but there’s a slickness about it all that harkens back to earlier Image. The story involves wizards in our real world acting as heroes and villains. Take some Birthright, mix in Thunderbolts, add in whatever magical kids story you prefer, and throw in the look of 90s Spawn and you get Vanish. Overall: 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 (**).

TV Review: Lord of the Rings – Rings of Power S1E4 “The Great Wave”

The Great Wave

Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power hits the midway point with portents of doom and unexpected alliances in “The Great Wave”. Writers Stephany Folsom, J.D. Payne, and Patrick McKay continue the focus on the kingdom of Numenor beginning with a powerful, opening dream sequence where the queen regent Miriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) sees the island destroyed by the titular giant wave while she is blessing babies in the palace. Although she jails Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) for sedition, she is more open to working with the Elves and being faithful to the gods of Middle Earth, the Valar, then she initially let on leading to a surprising conclusion to this episode. As well as spending time in Numenor, “The Great Wave” turns its eye to how the humans of the Southlands are faring and offers a first glimpse at the mysterious Adar (Joseph Mawle) plus a return to Elrond’s (Robert Aramayo) visit to the Dwarves. The episode is chock-full with references that fans of the J.R.R. Tolkien-penned source material will appreciate, but lacks the visual wow factor and emotions of the previous episode as it sets up the back half of the season.

Miriel’s decision to either side with Galadriel and help the humans of the Southlands or continue an isolationist stance is at the center of “The Great Wave”. Galadriel might have great power, but she’s a terrible diplomat and gets a lesson in interpersonal communication from her cellmate Halbrand (Charlie Vickers). The characterization is a little condescending and feels like the writers needed some conflict to spin their wheels until the real reason why Miriel decides to help the Elves comes into play. Clark does get to show off Galadriel’s sheer presence and unyielding presence when she handles a palantir (A magic, seeing stone that can see far-off locations/possible futures) like a champ impressing Miriel, who is revealed to be barely hanging on by a thread because of her sick father Tar-Palantir. As regent, she’s very much an interim head coach, who wants to keep the country/team sailing smoothly and not tear everything down and start a new status quo. It takes an unsettling portent in a moment of visual splendor from director Wayne Che Yip to disrupt this.

The Southlands’ scenes explore the effects of the supernatural on Middle Earth’s status quo from a different perspective. Building off last week’s fog-obscured character reveal, Folsom, Payne, and McKay stay mystery-shrouded around the character Adar letting makeup and costume design shows that he’s been through some hard time and has an affinity to the Elves, hence, the name. These visual touches cause Arondir to freak out a little bit and have spawned even more fan theories. Mawle plays Adar with unyielding authority offering no terms except surrender to Arondir, who is to run the message to the humans of the Southlands. However, the real supernatural stuff comes from Bronwyn’s (Nazanin Boniadi) son Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) and his Morgul blade as he and his friend/bad influence Rowan (Ian Blackburn) go to the village to get supplies for the starving Southlanders.

The Great Wave
this kid is so fucking annoying for no reason…

However, I have mixed feelings about the Theo storyline. The inclusion of the blade and the namedropping of Sauron from tavern owner Waldreg (Geoff Morrell nails the creepy old man vibes.) add an air of menace and a connection to what’s going on with Galadriel and Numenor. Theo himself doesn’t get much characterization beyond being a scared, annoying brat, who has the plot armor to get around a legion of Orcs and return to the tower of Ostirith where the people of the Southlands are taking shelter. There’s a point about the seductive nature of power in his hunger to hold onto the blade, but mostly, I think the cool, evil sword is wasted on him. The final chase sequence does add to Brownyn’s mom of the year case as she runs through hails of arrows to find Theo with Arondir (A potential future step-dad?) in tow doing cool slow-mo ducks and dodges and tricks worthy of another heartthrob Silvan Elf (Legolas). I like that the writers and Yip keep showing how vulnerable the Orcs are to light, which could come in handy down the road.

Definitely compared to my reviews of the first three episodes, I’ve been a bit negative of this one, but “The Great Wave” wasn’t in a total wash, and lot of that was thanks to a return to Khazad-Dum. Elrond thinks there’s something secret going on in the mines and doesn’t buy Prince Durin IV’s (Owain Arthur) wife Disa’s (Sophia Omvete) excuses and ends up going on a mini-adventure through Khazad-Dum finally finding out that the dwarves have discovered a new metal named mithril. However, this series of events is more than just an origin story for the metal that corrupted the dwarves and saved Frodo’s life in Fellowship of the Ring, but further develops Prince Durin and Elrond’s friendship that they must balance with duty.

Both Elves and Dwarves think that they’re spying on each other, but Elrond also helps with Prince Durin’s strained relationship with his taciturn, my way or the high way father King Durin III (Peter Mullan) by saying that he wishes that he could have had one last conversation with his father, Earendil. Earendil didn’t actually die, but was placed in the stars by the Valar so Elrond has to basically relive the grief every time he sees the night sky. This anecdote isn’t just fan service for Silmarillion, but adds a dimension of grief to Elrond’s character, especially when he tells Durin IV to just have a conversation with his dad: something he could never have again. However, despite Prince Durin IV giving Elrond mithril as a token of friendship, or Disa’s gorgeous song to save the caved-in miners, there’s a darker edge to wrap up this plot as Durin IV basically comissions Durin III as a spy on the Elves. Duty comes before friendship yet again.

Even though it doesn’t do it in the most entertaining way with time-filling arguments and focuses on one-dimensional characters like Theo, “The Great Wave” gets Rings of Power to its mid-point goal with the Elves and humans of Nuemnor allying to fight evil in the Southlands. Thankfully, it’s not all sunshine and roses with some of the humans of the Southlands being followers of Sauron plus the whole vision of Numenor underwater, its feeble king Tar-Palantir, and Pharazon using the military expedition for political opportunism promising his men that they’ll be giving the Elves orders. However, hopefully, later episodes have more of a personal or emotional connection like the scenes with Durin IV and Elrond aren’t just focused on getting from narrative point A to point B.

Overall Verdict: 7.6

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