Author Archives: Logan Dalton

Review: Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye/Swamp Thing Special #1

CaveSwampIn its penultimate chapter, “Milk Wars” gets grody and corporate as Cave Carson, his daughter Chloe, and the hockey mask wearing vigilante Wild Dog team up with Swamp Thing against brainwashed cubicle dweller types and a spot-on parody of those soulless, yet addictive Pop Vinyl figures. Jon Rivera’s scripting is a little on the nose as far as the corporate satire goes, but is more than redeemed by some funny one-liners (A guy reading his fellow co-workers name badge while beheading him takes the cake.) and the cast chemistry between Cave, Chloe, and Wild Dog.

But the best part of Cave Carson/Swamp Thing Special #1 is the interplay between Langdon Foss’ (Bucky Barnes, The Winter Soldier) art and Nick Filardi that threads together like one of Swamp Thing’s tendrils. When Swamp Thing bursts into one of one Retconn’s (Evil mind-controlling and metafictional corporation) offices and wakes up Cave and the crew from a milk induced stupor, Filardi throws up the puke green, and Foss gets grotesque with faces and various liquids. It’s very third act of Hateful Eight, but without the two hours of self-indulgent dialogue. Sometimes, epiphanies about being rat in a cage, or cubicle slave in a cave aren’t beautiful come to Jesus moments, but involve puking your guts up.

However, Foss and Filardi can do sleek and beautiful too when Cave and Chloe try to blow the office and attempt to rescue those under lactose tolerant mind control. Foss channels his inner John McTiernan and also Michael Avon Oeming’s work in the original Cave Carson comic with air vent escapades and excavations that use every inch of the CaveOffice.jpgpage and turn overcrowded cubicle space into an action playground. Filardi contributes to the tense mood with pinks and blues that are the polar opposite of the clinical off white palette he uses for the office scenes earlier in the book. Almost, every page has Ben-Day dots giving the book an old school comic gone deranged feel.

Cave Carson/Swamp Thing Special explores similar themes of conformity and corporate subservience as the other “Milk Wars” comics, but also riffs off the viscous body horror of Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, and John Totleben Saga of the Swamp Thing run. Swamp Thing’s first big splash page is an homage to the classic “Anatomy Lesson” story with a chopped up body emerging out of his green form. Langdon Foss’ take on Swamp Thing finds a happy medium between the sad, detailed Bissette/Totleben Swamp Thing and the more cartoonish Swampy like in the Justice League Dark animated film. It might not be as regal or easy on the eyes, but erring on the cartoon side helps when Swamp Thing starts punching office workers or emerging from a Green salad. Yeah, this is a pretty weird and great comic, and there’s even a much less sexual, but just as psychedelic allusion to Swamp Thing’s magic fruit.

On the Eternity Girl backup story front, Magdalene Visaggio and Sonny Liew turn in their best work yet in a minimalist, yellow tinged parody of comics that break the fourth wall. Basically, when you run out of ideas or stories just tear everything down. The two pager is quite cathartic in age of reboots, reimaginings, and fresh starts and has elegant layouts and line work.

Cave Carson/Swamp Thing Special is a tiny bit office drone satire with a portion of DC “mature readers” body horror and is mostly a damn fun caper from Jon Rivera, Langdon Foss, and Nick Filardi. It’s gross, thrilling, and thought provoking (Sometimes all at once.) and provides a segue to the “Milk Wars” finale without taking up too much space from this adventure.

Story: Jon Rivera Art: Langdon Foss Colors: Nick Filardi
  Backup Story: Magdalene Visaggio Backup Art: Sonny Liew 
Story: 7.9 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy

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

Review: The Archies #5

TheArchies5.jpgIn The Archies #5, writers Matthew Rosenberg and Alex Segura, artist Joe Eisma, and colorist Matt Herms don’t shy away from showing that The Archies aren’t very good and continue to only find success by having opportunities fall in their lap. Like they somehow get to play a gig with Tegan and Sara in Vancouver and get some critical feedback. However, even though The Archies continue to fail upwards, they experience some real consequences in this issue.

The band is named after Archie, but Rosenberg and Segura spend a little time on Jughead’s character this issue as he becomes filled with anger and ennui. Eisma is great at drawing anger clouds and anger lines. As the story progresses, Jughead is having much less fun, which is his only reason for being in the band. He doesn’t want a record label or to schmooze around with CHVRCHES or a hallucination of the Monkees. Jughead just wants to hang out with his friends and have a good time. But, hey, he happens to be one hell of a drummer and demonstrates it at an open mic in Vancouver where he’s completely unfazed by Tegan and Sara being impressed with his talent and jokes about their last album accidentally coming on his phone all the time. I really liked how Herms used blasts of primary colors in the background while he plays his drum solo, which acts as shorthand for his virtuosic skill along with whirling white speed lines from Eisma.

If there’s something that The Archies does great as a comic book, it’s capturing the energy (Or lack thereof.) of a live show in an intimate venue. Except for the occasional well-timed caption or quip (Like Archie’s disgust at Reggie’s spotlight hogging bass playing.), Rosenberg and Segura get out of Eisma and Herms’ way and let facial expressions, line type, panel shape, and color choice do the work. The yawns from the crowd in Vancouver who are watching The Archies open for Tegan and Sara is everyone who has rolled their eyes at an opening act trying to hard and gone back to the bar/merch tent. (Shout out to poor acoustic guitar playing rando who I saw open for Metric once.)

Then, after a beat panel, Tegan and Sara go on stage, and the crowd goes wild. Eisma also draws Tegan and Sara with a cleaner, almost Jamie McKelvie-esque line compared to the harder edges for The Archies’ performance. Also, Herms’ “lighting” for the Tegan and Sara gig is a glorious use of color and fits in with the glossier, more danceable sound of their two most recent records, Heartthrob and Love You to Death. (Give “U-Turn” a listen if you haven’t yet.) But after the initial Archie and Betty fangirling all over them reveal, Rosenberg and Segura use Tegan and Sara as givers of helpful feedback. They don’t sugarcoat the fact that The Archies are less than headliner status, but encourage them, and it’s all wholesome and happy. Bingo, the frontman of The Bingoes aka The Archies co-touring act, is probably a little frustrated about how many chances an average teen band is getting. But, in this universe, The Archies are a fine second choice if Josie and the Pussycats are already booked.

Matthew Rosenberg, Alex Segura, Joe Eisma, and Matt Herms put the titular band through the wringer in The Archies #5 and hold off on the big rock star climax for yet another issue. Eisma’s rawer line put the band’s flaws front and center, including Archie’s neverending quest for fame (His cheeks are so pinchable though.) and overflowing of negative emotions from the usually chill Jughead. There’s some real talk and feelings in this comic that could definitely fit in with some tracks on The Con.

Story: Matthew Rosenberg and Alex Segura Art: Joe Eisma Colors: Matt Herms
Story: 8.8 Art:9.2 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Punks Not Dead #1

Swap out rock stars or punk gods or whatever honorific name we’re calling long dead, yet still revered musicians these days with superheroes, and you’ve got Punks Not Dead #1. Writer David Barnett and artist Martin Simmonds steep the story in the occult and espionage more so than punching and heat vision so fans of British pop culture icons (The highly overrated) Harry Potter and James Bond might find something to love in the new release from Shelly Bond’s Black Crown imprint.

Punks Not Dead is Ultimate Spider-Man only ruder and with more safety pins and leather jackets. The protagonist, Fergie, comes off as your typical white male everyman YA character with a perverse 2018 twist that he and his mom make their money by having fake arguments on the British equivalent of Maury Povich and Jerry Springer’s daytime shows, which gets them splashed all over the tabloids. In reality, Fergie is a thoughtful, withdrawn teen, who wants to know who is dad is. His fairly flat personality is just waiting to filled by the ghost Sid Vicious, who is a kind of archetype for punk rock itself and gets all the funny lines beginning when he plays a kind of supernatural corner man to Fergie in the beginning in the comic as he fights a school bully, Peter Parker vs Flash Thompson style. Simmonds colors Sid in jet black, and he is a shock of life to Fergie’s mundane meets modern reality star life. His most pivotal role in Punks Not Dead #1 is providing comic relief and playing music critic to Fergie’s mom’s record collection, but he also is an inspirational figure and is kind of sort of a Ghostbusters antagonist.

Technically, Simmonds’ art isn’t bad. He draws detailed character likenesses and makes strong storytelling decisions like zooming into Fergie’s face when he’s about to get popped by a bully or playing with panel layout angles when Fergie begins to realize that he’s talking to a ghost. However, his art is more early-1990s John Bolton Vertigo polished than dirty rotten punk rock with the exception of a red tinged flashback to a Sex Pistols gig in Preston, UK. The presentation is more 2018 remaster than raw live tracks. There could be story reasons for this as some say the Sex Pistols weren’t real punks, but a ruder, cruder boy band with Malcolm McLaren acting as a predecessor to Lou Pearlman. But, from what I’ve gathered from Punks Not Dead #1 (Especially the Barnett penned backmatter.), the book is about punk as an attitude and isn’t a thesis on authenticity or the genre or anything. It’s about the spirit of the movement, not the letter of the movement. There’s no quiz at the end: enjoy the ride and a big helping of underdog hero comfort food.

With this in mind, Punks Not Dead is a fairly funny mashup of the slice of life, urban fantasy, and espionage genres. I know I mentioned James Bond earlier, but the book is more like Ghostbusters with a drier British sense of humor and the paranormal bits playing backing bad to Fergie, this book’s real star and whose thoughts and fears are broadcast loudly through David Barnett’s narration. Martin Simmonds’ art is a bit too pretty for a punk book, but he joins the ranks of comic book artists who prove that painted art can work in both sequentials and covers.

Yeah, Punks Not Dead #1 is yet another white boy Hero’s Journey story, but David Barnett and Martin Simmond’s sense of humor, (obvious) punk sensibilities, and paranormal investigation/espionage elements spice up the usual recipe and make it a dish worth sampling even if you’re more of a post punk listener like me.

Story: David Barnett Art: Martin Simmonds
Story: 8.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

IDW/Black Crown provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Star Wars: Thrawn #1

Star Wars: Thrawn #1 CoverReleased from the continuity limbo of “Legends”, fan favorite Star Wars EU character (The future Grand Admiral.) Thrawn gets his own solo comic, a six issue adaptation of his creator Timothy Zahn’s novel Thrawn. In Star Wars: Thrawn #1, writer Jody Houser, artist Luke Ross, and colorist Nolan Woodard tell the story of how a blue skinned Chiss alien almost immediately became the favorite of Emperor Palpatine and shed insight into how he became one of the greatest strategists and most complex villains in the Star Wars mythos. It’s less origin story/Easter Egg cutesiness and more the first move in a chess game that goes beyond Empire versus Rebels. (Fingers crossed that the Yuuzhan Vong are a thing in the Disney Star Wars-verse.) Plus Thrawn is just flat out cool even if he’s a lieutenant and not a grand admiral in this comic.

To go along with the chess metaphor, it’s fitting that the first few pages of Thrawn #1 are arranged in a neat nine panel grid from Ross that complements his precise figure work. Without a single word out of his mouth, Houser and Ross establish Thrawn as both a wily fighter and tactician, who eludes a platoon of stormtroopers and smuggles himself onboard their ship. Colorist Woodard lays out a dark palette and only relents for Thrawn’s blue skin and red eyes, and this gift for cloak and dagger fights serves the book well later.

Even though he seems like he’s always in control, Thrawn has one weakness: his difficulties speaking Basic, the lingua franca of the Galactic Empire. This leads him to bond with Eli, who just wants to keep his head down, crunch numbers, and run calculations on an Imperial supply ship, but ends up becoming the closest companion to one of the most ambitious men in the galaxy. Eli also allows Houser to keep some of the Thrawn mystique intact by having him as the narrator instead of letting readers have a glimpse into Thrawn’s tactical, unorthodox mind. Unlike, say the Prequel trilogy where we find out that Darth Vader used to be a nine year old who had the penchant for saying ThrawnInterior“Yippee” and grew into a whiny 19 year old that complained about sand, Thrawn #1 forms a portrait of its protagonist’s youth by showing how other people react to him.

And one of those people is Emperor Palpatine himself, who is illustrated in wrinkly lines from Luke Ross and a mix of darkness and light showing the glow of Coruscant and the power of the Dark Side of the Force. Even though he’s an exile from his people, Thrawn talks and bargains with the Emperor like an equal in a epic tete a tete. However, Palpatine is definitely playing dirty when he says that Thrawn’s old war companion, Anakin Skywalker, is dead, and this undisclosed fact might be the most intriguing element of the series so far as well as being a great callback to Obi Wan telling Luke that Anakin is dead. During these scenes, Ross and Woodard tap into the epic vein of Star Wars with blue tinged background shots of Anakin and red flames for Vader hinting that he and Thrawn will most likely come face to face some day.

But Thrawn #1 isn’t all foreshadowing and foreboding. The main portion of the book reminded me of the early scenes in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek where Kirk and Spock are at Starfleet Academy and starting to adjust to the roles they’ll later take on as legendary pop culture figures, but with an evil twist. Thrawn immediately has an handicap at the Academy when his instructor, Deenlark, gives him a lieutenant’s plaque even though he’s a cadet. Of course, he uses this to his advantage. Houser also executes a pragmatic twist on the old “rookie hazing” trope with Thrawn devising an interesting punishment-by-way-of-promotion for his tormentors, who are at officer school because of nepotism. Thrawn doesn’t join the Empire for hubris or power trip reasons, but to solve problems in productive ways. He’s not a villain; he’s a consultant.

Thanks to Luke Ross’ screen toned, yet easy to follow art, Nolan Woodard’s blue and black color palette, and Jody Houser’s precise writing and plotting, Thrawn #1 is a riveting read even for the most origin story fatigued comic book/Star Wars fan.

Story: Jody Houser Art: Luke Ross Colors: Nolan Woodard
Story: 8.3 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1

WildHuntCoverDetective Chimp and Grant Morrison fans, rejoice! Both play pivotal roles in Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt, a one-shot that acts as the penultimate chapter of obscure DC Comic character and evil version of Batman filled “Metal” crossover. Morrison is joined by writers/DC architects Scott Snyder, James Tynion, and Joshua Williamson and a blockbuster art team of Howard Porter, Jorge Jimenez, Doug Mahnke, Jamie Mendoza, Hi-Fi, Alejandro Sanchez, and Wil Quintana to show the last stand of the multiverse against the Dark Multiverse and its metal album cover Batmen. You might want to dust off that copy of Final Crisis or at least check out the Wiki page of The Bleed before diving into this one-shot. The Batman: Red Death one-shot helps the emotional beats land.

The Wild Hunt has several gears it hits. There’s the Morrisonian multiversal technobabble that gets dropped pretty early on and thankfully is roasted by mad scientists, like T.O. Morrow and Sivana, who are apparently good guys in this crossover. This is when the book is at its least fun. However, it’s entertaining when the writers say “Screw it!” and let Porter, Jimenez, and Mahnke cut loose with super cool double page splashes that show these high (As balls.) concept in action. Some personal visual highlights include Jimenez’s manga meets speed lines pages of Raven interfacing with and then empathizing with The Bleed (Barrier between universes.) and then throwing down a kick-ass one-liner with a purple background. There’s also Porter’s ballad of Red Death, who gets a golden makeover and a little redemption in a decent homage to Crisis on Infinite Earths down to his final fate. (Maybe, you should read that comic too before taking on this one.)

The third gear of Wild Hunt, and honestly I blame Morrison for this one, is pure comics kookiness embodied by the first and final pages of the book. (I think they were drawn by Mahnke and Mendoza, but don’t quote me because his style blends well.) Morrison and Mahnke retell the origin story of Detective Chimp and gets a little metafictional by including the map from Multiversity and the sheet music from Superman’s song in Final Crisis. These panels feel like a couple of old rockers digging into their greatest hits before the last third of the comics hits, and they realize they need a new hit single to get the fans on their feet again. (In light of the event of Wild Hunt #1, this comic could be taken literally or metaphorically.)

ChimpYearOne

However, I don’t think they stick the landing and going for wacky for the sake of wackiness instead of something poignant. I do find the idea of Detective Chimp as a kind of ersatz furry Batman to be fascinating, and he gets a full Hero’s Journey in Wild Hunt #1 as he comes to grips with using the vast knowledge of the DC multiverse stored underneath his deer stalker. (The origin for his trademark headwear gave me all the feels.) He wants to be hopeful and look up in the sky, but hell is opening up at his feet. Chimp is piddling around a keyboard and trying to find a tune to save the world, and hell, he might have found it. Also, his piano playing is a nice throughline between Morrison’s work on Final Crisis and Snyder’s on Metal because a shared superhero universe is a neverending symphony of players, characters and creators both.

With searing multiversal land (and sound)scapes from Howard Porter, Jorge Jimenez, and Doug Mahnke; enchanting and frightening colors from Hi-Fi, Alejandro Sanchez, and Wil Quintana; and a very Grant Morrison, The Wild Hunt #1 is a decent setup to the Metal finale even though the last few pages will either make you laugh nervously or do a hard eye roll.

Story: Scott Snyder, Grant Morrison, James Tynion IV, Josh Williamson Art: Howard Porter, Jorge Jimenez, Doug Mahnke with Jamie Mendoza
Colors: Hi-Fi, Alejandro Sanchez, Wil Quintana

Story: 7.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Mother Panic/Batman Special #1

PanicBatmanIn the second chapter of DC Comics/Young Animal crossover “Milk Wars”, writer Jody Houser, artist Ty Templeton, and colorist Keiren Smith serve up a large helping of Catholic guilt. Mother Panic/Batman Special uses religious iconography and of course, dairy products, to look at the sadness and loneliness at the center of both Gotham vigilantes. Templeton’s art fluctuates from bright pop art bursts similar to his work on Batman ’66 to a more Gothic style when Mother Panic thinks about her terrible childhood at the Gather House and how she killed her father. Along the way, he and Houser pose the question of whether vigilantes, especially ones of the darker side, should take child sidekicks, and they draw a parallel between the Gather House’s brainwashing and Batman dressing up young boys (And occasionally a girl.) in yellow capes and green pixie boots.

Even though she’s almost 80 years younger than him in character years, Violet Paige aka Mother Panic wasn’t about to get upstaged by Batman in this comic. In the issue’s funniest meta joke, Violet’s swearing is censored, but she has no fucks left when she infiltrates the new Gather House and sees Batman in a priest’s collar preaching to a group of children in a Robin costume. As he rants about how none of this is real, Batman aka Father Bruce and the “Holy Sidekick Choir of Merciful Justice” point out her surface-level moral failings like her use of profanity and breaking random 10 Commandments. However, she is after the truth of what is going on with these kids and knows that everything isn’t okay.

PanicInterior

The breaking point is when Violet sees a young girl that she’s saved multiple times in the main Mother Panic series enter the sidekick creation machine thing (It’s like something out of the Lego Batman games, but more nefarious.) and knows that she wants her to break the cycle of violence and revenge. After this, Ty Templeton loses the gaudy, religious trappings and replaces them with a flurry of quick hitting panels as Batman and Mother Panic go mano a mano and fight for reality itself. The fight choreography reminded me a lot of Batman ’66 especially with Keiren Smith’s bright background colors, and the “Milk Wars” theme of light exterior, dark interior continues in Mother Panic/Batman Special. On the outside, it looks like it’s Robin cosplay day or a Sunday School class, but these kids are being trained to go to war just like Violet was when she was a young girl with the body horror replaced by bright surrealism.

Even though it’s a crossover comic, Houser and Templeton find time to develop the character of Violet Paige between the crazy quilt of visuals and milk puns. A strong emphasis is placed on Violet’s strength as she sees through the ecclesiastical illusion and defies the Gotham City vigilante tropes to own her dark past instead of repressing it with toys and child sidekicks. However, as Mother Panic/Batman reaches its conclusion, Violet’s strength becomes tempered with responsibility because she lets the would-be Fennec Fox, who tugs on her cape and looks up to her as an inspiration, stay in her guest bedroom. Her war on crime doesn’t have to be a solo flagellation, and perhaps she can use her wealth and sense of empathy that is buried beneath snark and violence to help people and be a light and not a burning torch. It’ll be interesting to see if this thread continues in the conclusion of “Milk Wars” and the upcoming Mother Panic: Gotham A.D. series.

In Mother Panic/Batman Special , Jody Houser, Ty Templeton, and Keiren Smith deconstruct the child sidekick trope and takes a look at the connection between childhood trauma and masked vigilantes through the imagery of religious liturgy. Just like JLA/Doom Patrol showed how the “traditional family” could be a cover for all kinds of evil, Mother Panic/Batman goes for organized religion. These institutions, in and of themselves, are not bad, but can be used for nefarious ends because of their primal connection with humans. The comic doesn’t go full religious satire, but it’s a memorable framing narrative. I am never going to get the six panel Batman Year One  remix with him becoming a priest and not a “bat” out of my head.

Lastly, but certainly not least, Mother Panic/Batman also features the second installment in Magdalene Visaggio and Sonny Liew’s Eternity Girl serial featuring revenge, oozing body parts, and a late Bronze Age aesthetic. The two pager is a like an eye catching teaser trailer and has gotten me more excited for the upcoming miniseries with its play on superhero and horror tropes.

Story: Jody Houser Art: Ty Templeton Colors: Keiren Smith
  Backup Story: Mags Visaggio Backup Art: Sonny Liew 
Story: 8.1 Art: 9.5 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy

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

Review: The Wicked + the Divine 1923 AD Special

WicDiv1923CoverAs The Wicked + the Divine starts to round its final bend, writer Kieron Gillen and guest artist Aud Koch (America) return to the literal beginning, namely, the Pantheon of 1923 that graced the first pages of WicDiv #1. In keeping with the modernist mood of the time period, Gillen and Koch experiment and tell a 56 page Agatha Christie (Ananke may or may not be a stand-in for her.) drawing room mystery featuring all of the Pantheon members, who have all stayed alive to this point. There’s also a lighthouse. Most of the comic book is Gillen’s prose, which is purple-y, atmospheric, and channels several of the great modern writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, possibly Langston Hughes, and T.S. Eliot, who is racist and pretentious as hell. Large sections of text are broken up by fantastic art from Koch showing the murders is  better than telling us about them and end in a fine, kinetic tribute to one of the first motion pictures.

The issue is a meditation on the conflict between regression and progression, so-called high art and low art (Poetry and film in this case, and possibly by extension, prose and comics.), and there is a driving angst about the possibility of yet another world rending war that isn’t helped by Nazi with a German Expressionist aesthetic, Woden’s pronouncements. And beneath the lofty themes, it’s one hell of a murder mystery. WicDiv #1923 AD is technically a standalone story, but Gillen and Koch make it into a period piece remake of “The Faust Act”  and potentially the whole series complete with a whodunit about the exploding head murder of Lucifer as well as a framing narrative leading directly into WicDiv. It’s a multi-layered showcase for the prose stylings of Gillen and Koch’s ability to tell a visually arresting story in a few powerful panels or pages.

The extended length of the book allows Gillen and Koch more than adequate time to explore the personalities and even some of the personal journeys of the different Pantheon members. Lucifer dies fairly early, and his living form only appears in the drawing of the dramatis personae on the first page, but he’s perfectly Fitzgerald/Gatsby. Lucifer is very new money trying to impress blue bloods like Baal, who’s an American trying too hard to be British like a certain limp wristed anti-Semitic bank clerk, and Set, who gets a sharp, sexy design similar to Desire from Sandman and the prose of Virginia Woolf. He tries to be profound, but is all fluff just like Fitzgerald’s novels. But there’s nothing wrong with having a little cotton candy, now and then.

lighthouse

My personal favorite member of the 1923 Pantheon is Morrigan, who is obviously James Joyce with his free indirect discourse, rapid shifts from omniscient narrator to third person limited, and affinity for Guinness. Gillen uses him as a kind of loner oracle that some Pantheon members find amusing, and most find annoying. But he speaks what’s on everyone’s mind and describes everything around him in great detail letting a little truth shine in the artifice of light dancing, purple prose, and Neptune’s speech, which is the opposite of purple prose. And Koch’s drawing of his death scene is the epitome of modern art with a bleak color palette He’s too much of a wild card like modern Morrigan so Ananke had to take him off the table. This is all in the service and to ensure events run on the smooth side rather than the artsy, mass murdering side because even if she’s less of a killer than modern Ananke, the immortal Agatha Christie will do whatever it takes for the next Recurrence to occur, the Great Darkness to be staved off, and for inspiration to continue. This involves tragic sacrifices, light shows, and silent film title cards because hey, this is the Roaring Twenties, and a little party never killed anybody.

The WicDiv 1923 Special, especially the parts where Set and Baal were extolling the supremacy of poetry (And, by extension, poetry by white people.) while blasting dance and silent film aficionadoes Susanoo and Amaterasu reminded me of my second year at university, circa 2013. That was the year I switched from writing mainly poetry to mainly pop culture and to be honest, mainly comics, criticism all thanks to a professor, who enjoyed ripping student poems to shreds and uncritically banned writing “genre fiction” in our short story unit. (I included as many references to Spawn and Nintendo 64 games in my story as possible to tick her off.) In WicDiv 1923, Set and Baal are angry that the “common people” have access to art via the new medium of film and want things to go back to the good ol’ days when books were chained to desks in monasteries. (They don’t mention monks and vows of silence, but it’s implied in other words.)

This is just like the poets and reviewers of poets I knew who, for all their attempts at populism, were just writing for a small, “elite” group of other poets. But, when I write about Star Wars or Superman or even WicDiv, more people can connect to the themes and ideas in what has unfairly been called “low culture” in the past. There’s nothing wrong with making art that actually reaches people and connects to them. That’s truly how you connect and inspire people just like Amaterasu’s dancing and film, which were inspired by style and film icon, Louise Brooks. (No brooks, no bob hairstyle.)  She has a selfless, democratic approach to art while Baal and Set want to keep theirs inaccessible like the top of the lighthouse, and this is where their connection to the totalitarian Woden comes in even though they sneer at his cheap monster movies, which were super influential on modern film. Who doesn’t love German expressionism? Especially the woodcuts of Frans Masereel, who could be considered as an early comic book creator with his 1919 work Passionate Journey. Nazis should all be punched though.  This is all serves to show that art is subjective and should be for everyone and not trapped in canons and hierarchies and all those stuffy, boring old things.

In WicDiv 1923 ADKieron Gillen and Aud Koch use the setting of the 1920s and the angst of modernism and the world between the World Wars to tell a riveting murder mystery, a wonderful homage to silent film, and a kind of ars poetica for WicDiv. Koch’s ability to shift from cubism to chiaroscuro-lit expressionism and even classic compositions are unprecedented, and all her pages from this comic deserve a MoMA exhibit and eventually a retrospective. All in all, this is a comic that everyone from wannabe flappers and pretentious poets to action junkies and mystery readers can enjoy and probably spend the rest of 2018 unpacking.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Aud Koch
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Motherlands #1

Motherlands #1 is a pretty damn bleak mother/daughter story, and no one will be comparing it to Lady Bird any time soon. But writer Si Spurrier, artist Rachel Stott, and colorist Felipe Sobreiro capture a little of the attitude, piss, and vinegar of old school 2000 AD progs in a comic that Vertigo on the cover. They embrace the dystopia and a world that features psychic abilities and multiversal travel as well as reality television and nursing homes. After a flimsy flashback that does a decent job establishing the main “sci-fi” part of this new world and a tough, effective chase sequence, Motherlands finds its footing by honing in on the relationship between Tabitha and her mother, Selena, who are both trawlers aka interdimensional bounty hunters. However, Tabitha treats her job like a beat cop or something she does to pay rent and keep food on the table while Selena did hers to be famous like the Kim Kardashian of trawlers complete with fancy outfits, one liners, and interpersonal drama.

The grotesqueness of Spurrier’s writing matches both Stott’s art and the world of Motherlands. Most of the issue features Tabitha tracking a hapless criminal, who has a real back hair issue and spends the entire chase talking about how he used to masturbate to her mom when he was kid. It’s really demeaning for Tabitha, who claims that trawling is “just her job”, but has a little bit of pent-up resentment that she isn’t getting any fulfillment out of her life and gets compared to her mother all the time. Spurrier makes Tabitha’s mark one of the most annoying fuckers in the multiverse while Stott lets the reader earn a little catharsis as he takes two slugs in the knee cap and then gets his pelvis broken at the main hub where Tabitha collects her bounty. Sobreiro indulges in a little disgusting ketchup red for the scenes of violence while laying on a nostalgic, fresh shade of lipstick red for the flashbacks of Selena doing her thing. The past was definitely more glamorous if not more problematic.

Until the plot twist at the end, Motherlands #1 is by no means a hopeful or even fun comic book. However, in the tradition of the best science fiction, it is a fantastic metaphor for millennials and Baby Boomer’s attitude towards capitalism and by extension, work and life. Selena sees the life of a trawler and jumping between dimensions as highly exciting and mugs for the camera wearing sunglasses like a movie star while Tabitha wears more functional armor and hunts down a perp like she’s punching a time clock. She knows that she’s just a cog in a machine or a “clusterfuck” as one supporting character calls the hopping between various dimensions. Tabitha doesn’t try to fit her life into some kind of epic narrative like her narrative until the last few pages when things gets downright Skywalker-esque, but in a FUBAR kind of way.

Motherlands #1 is a rough bit of SF from a talented creative team, and with the lion’s share of the exposition and worldbuilding out of the way, Si Spurrier, Rachel Stott, and Felipe Sobreiro are free to lean on the prickly, yet interesting relationship between Selena and Tabitha as they hunt down one hell of a bounty in a multiverse that makes the multiverse in Rick and Morty look downright utopian. (I’ve never seen a single episode of that show so suck it, nerds.)

Story: Si Spurrier Art: Rachel Stott Colors: Felipe Sobreiro
Story: 7 Art: 8.2 Overall: 7.6 Recommendation: Read

Vertigo provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review: JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1

JLA DOOM PATROL SPECIAL #1Grab a milkshake, put a cherry on top, and maybe add a shot of whiskey or two, and you’ve got JLA/Doom Patrol #1, the first chapter of the monthlong DC Comics/Young Animal “Milk Wars” crossover. Writers Gerard Way and Steve Orlando combine the surrealism and fourth wall obliterating metafiction of Doom Patrol  with the punching and personality-driven Justice League of America to create the soft serve chocolate swirl of “event” comics. It roasts these kind of stories while indulging in all the tropes, including a spread it all around your dorm room four page spread from artist Aco and colorists Tamra Bonvillain and Marissa Louise of the Doom Patrol fighting the literally homogenized version of the JLA.

It’s super entertaining, in general, to see the book go from a critique of corporate comics to a 1950s Americana small town mystery thriller, then a slugfest, and finally an unlikely team-up thanks to a couple stinger pages that put those Wolverine “post-credits” pages in inconsequential Marvel Comics to shame. The play of genre, tongue in cheek sense satire, and embrace of the strange side of superhero stories makes JLA/Doom Patrol generally fantastic. It’s the comic book equivalent of getting a tasty dessert and getting some nutritious visuals and ideas along the way.

From his first appearance on the obviously homaging All Star Superman cover from Frank Quitely, Milkman Man is a fantastic villain even if the real Big Bad is the aptly named Retconn corporation. Besides being connected to a plot point in the main Doom Patrol series, Milkman Man is Superman drained of all his inspirational power, connection to social activism, and humanity. Aco might homage Action Comics #1 when he lifts Danny the Ambulance and throws it at the Doom Patrol, but this is a Superman, who punches down and stands for the status quo. With his neighborhood watch buddies, including a thoroughly neutered (and hilarious) Lobo, he’s here to make sure that outsiders stay down, and that superhero comics are just mind numbing punch outs and don’t have any real connection to people, their feelings, and the world around him.

Milkman Man is cereal mascot at best and alt right “Politics don’t belong in my white DP_JLA_1_3male spandex clad power fantasies” mascot at worst. In his first appearance, Aco goes for pure horror with inset panels of him shoving milk down the throats of an average white Middle America family.  This powerful, nearly silent scene played against an idyllic color palette from Bonvillain and Louise is a reminder that even when art claims to be apolitical, just for fun, or not have a message that it, in fact, does have a message. The Retconn Corporation wants to “homogenize” the DC Comics characters, including their classic Trinity, and turn them from powerful icons of justice into basically toys and merchandise as revealed in a couple pages that seem like a “behind the scenes” of a corporate board meeting. Milkman Man’s reaction to reading the actual Action Comics #1 (After yet another gorgeous and meta as hell double page spread from Aco, Bonvillain, and Louise.) is a reminder of how powerful Superman’s origin story is from Way and Orlando, who realize that pop culture can change the world and immigrants get the job done.

Along with having strong metaphors, a well-written villain, and some knock your skull off your body visuals, JLA/Doom Patrol succeeds because Way, Orlando, Aco, Bonvillain, and Louise realize that one thing that makes DC Comics great is that they’re pretty fucking weird. As the unflappable comic book character brought to life Casey Brinke says to Milkman Man, “Some of the best people are weirdos.” I mean, this is a universe where their most iconic hero wears his underwear on the outside and saves cats from trees while a bisexual, chain smoking, left wing British magician can have 300 straight issues of his comic and age in real time.

Way and Orlando’s understanding of the weirdness of DC Comics really comes out when the JLA and Doom Patrol interact as (Not so.) regular people and not milk drinking, mind controlled Stepford superheroes towards the end of the book. Ray and Danny the Ambulance kind of, sort of flirt, Larry Trainor the Negative Man opens up way too much to Lobo, and Killer Frost and Crazy Jane really bond over trying to do good with their vast, yet unwieldy powers. After the punching of the first 2/3 of the comic, Aco settles down into a casual hangout vibe for these scenes before going stylized with the aforementioned “stinger” sequences. It’s a reminder that some of the best superhero stories aren’t just action figure fights, but treat their larger than life characters like human beings with thoughts, motivations, and of course, flaws.

In JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1, Gerard Way, Steve Orlando, Aco, Hugo Petrus, Tamra Bonvillain, and Marissa Louise combine the best of DC Rebirth and the best of Young Animal in one beautiful, oversized package. And as a bonus, Mags Visaggio and Sonny Liew begin to tell the poetic, retro-styled origin story of Eternity Girl in a two page backup.

Story: Gerard Way and Steve Orlando Art: Aco with Hugo Petrus Colors: Tamra Bonvillain and Marissa Louise
  Backup Story: Mags Visaggio Backup Art: Sonny Liew 
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

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

Review: Betty and Veronica Vixens #3

The story picks up a little bit in Betty and Veronica Vixens #3 as the Vixens hit up their first biker bar and get in a fight with some Neo-Nazis  courtesy of writer Jamie Lee Rotante, artist Eva Cabrera, and colorist Elaina Unger. It’s a hell of a cold open, and part of the big picture conflict between the Vixens riding bikes and looking cool and rebellious and them actually righting wrongs in the world. In an admirable move, Rotante and Cabrera don’t give a clear answer to this. The Vixens care very much about their friend/motorcycle guru Bubbles, whose boyfriend got beat up and lost her bike to the Southside Serpents, and also punch Nazis, but they also do random things like knock over trash cans and retaliate for being charged too much for chewing gum.

Who knew that color palettes could be so funny? But I laughed out loud when I turned the page from a grimy Neo-Nazi bar scene to the lush, primary color world of Riverdale High River Vixen practice thanks to Unger’s work at showing the clash between the Vixens’ old life as cheerleader and new life as bike riding vigilantes. Even though most of the girls and their antagonists wear black and white, Rotante and Cabrera give them pops of personality with different hair styles and color like Evelyn’s rebel blond and Betty’s All-American locks. But, as exhibited in her work on both volumes of Kim and Kim, Eva Cabrera’s real talent is action, and the lack of choreography and martial arts background from the Vixens is a kind of choreography on its own as Toni Topaz’s lands a blood splattering hook on a racist Nazi’s jaw.  On a more subtle level, there’s a great two panel sequence where Ethel realizes that the guys she’s been making small talk with are white supremacists, and there’s a look of terror on her face as it seems like the Vixens might be a little over their heads. (I did have issues telling Midge and Ethel apart throughout the comic.)

In Betty and Veronica Vixens #3, Jamie Lee Rotante continues to use a non-linear narrative interspersing high adrenaline biker girl scenes with less exciting flashback scenes that show how the gang came to be with their first vigilante exploits and a lot of issues with communication and coordination. Seriously, with school, extracurriculars, and possibly part time jobs, it’s really hard to get a bunch of high (or the opposite in Evelyn’s case) achieving high schoolers in the same place at the same time. At this point in the flashbacks, the gang is like Batman in his makeshift ninja costume falling off fire escapes, but they’ll be the opening splash page soon. There’s even a nifty training montage/double page spread.

Betty and Veronica Vixens #3 has solid action, team-building, and raises the stakes storywise while spending most of its story time on the Vixens members while those losers Archie, Jughead (Okay, him not so much.) , and Reggie are nowhere to be found. Jamie Lee Rotante, Eva Cabrera, and Elaina Unger continue to break the mold of Riverdale stories centered around love triangles and replace them a story of female friendship and Nazi punching.

Story: Jamie Lee Rotante Art: Eva Cabrera Colors: Elaina Unger
Story: 8 Art: 8.3 Overall: 8.1 Recommendation: Buy

Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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