Author Archives: Logan Dalton

TV Review: Broad City S4E2 Twaining Day

“Twaining Day”  has two hilarious plot lines, two big time celebrity guest stars (Shania Twain as herself, and RuPaul as a Manhattan sushi “restauranteur” Marcel), and Abbi and Ilana going solo for most of the episode. Four seasons in, Broad City has never met a running gag it didn’t like, and writer/director Lucia Aniello and co-writer Paul W. Downs craft an entire an actual A-plot around Abbi training country pop star Shania Twain, who is a comedic gem. Abbi’s unexpected return to Soulstice also brings closure to her romantic (Well, mostly sexual.) relationship with Trey, still played with fantastic earnestness by Downs.

But before Ru Paul starts slinging one-liners, and Twain is more interested in “dishing” about Abbi and Trey’s relationship, Aniello and Downs get a little political in “Twaining Day’s” cold open where Abbi and Ilana are working as women’s clinic escorts fighting off anti-abortion protesters with the power of pink jerseys and puffs of a hash pipe. As a resident of a state with only remaining abortion clinic and personally witnessing graphic imagery in flashbulb billboards and harsh shouting of “pro-life” protesters on my route to work for a whole week, it’s very cool that Broad City aligns itself with progressive causes. Abbi is right that “everyone should chill out”, and maybe men should just chill out and eat giant cookies while under the effects of a contact high instead of telling women what they can or can’t do with their bodies.

Following this fantastic cold open and some gorgeous shots of a graphic design/artsy office space where Abbi is some sort of an executive assistant from Aniello, “Twaining Day” turns its attention to Ilana v. Marcel: Dawn of Sass-ness. Aniello and Downs play with the forced subservience of tip earning service professionals plus the (fading) gourmet reputation of Manhattan restaurants as well as Ru Paul’s (and his imitators) own persona to whip up one tasty Ilana plot. As a character who is often pure id, Ilana takes no shit from Marcel, when he says that she basically isn’t high class enough to work at Sushi Mambo. She goes full asshole and ends up earning his begrudging respect especially when she trips the oldest waiter on staff and gets the nickname “Other Tonya Harding”.

Glazer has real range as a comedian, and it’s a treat to see her shed her daffy, stoner persona and bite down on icy one-liners with a score and swoopy transitions that wouldn’t be out of place on Drag Race. But we know that’s not Ilana and couple literal tin foil monologues, and she’s back to her high energy, fun having self and earning boatloads of tips from all age groups with her quick compliments and knowledge of the best type of sushi to have after a heavy weed smoking session. Throughout the series, Ilana has been established as an outgoing, if non-filter having people person and working this kind of fast paced job fits her personality and is a big step in her growing up process. Plus Glazer and Ru Paul have an excellent repartee that shouldn’t just be wasted on one episode.

While Ilana advances in her career in “Twaining Day”, Abbi regresses a little bit making a terrible, lying excuse about her parent’s divorce to ditch work and pick up a random package at Soulstice. Lying isn’t one of her strong suits, and she utterly fails at subterfuge in trying to get the package and ends up having really hot, genital fracturing makeup sex with Trey and also training Shania Twain along the way. With the help of some improvised vocals from Twain (As confirmed by a behind the scenes featurette.), Abbi realizes that she only has a physical bond with Trey and may not be “relationship material”. And that’s okay as long she is honest with herself about her needs and feelings.

The last third of the episode is one big love letter from Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs (Who both writes and plays Trey) to Abbi and Trey shippers shooting sex scenes from really hot angles (That steam room equals yum.) that are comedically tempered by the fact that Abbi is little annoyed by the new Soulstice cleaner’s sense in interior decor. This combo of sexiness and awkwardness encapsulates Trey and Abbi’s relationship as they have real chemistry, but not much to talk about. However, it’s nice to have “Twaining Day” tie a bow on what was a big part of Abbi’s solo plots over the past three seasons and end her time as a “pube situation” cleaner with a glitzy celebrity cameo that reminded me a lot of Kelly Ripa’s in Broad City Season 2 where a notorious diva-ish celebrity ends up being funny, down to Earth, and a great fit for the show.

With a couple stellar guest performances from Shania Twain and Ru Paul plus some growth for Ilana and a complicated mixture of growth, regression, and closure for Abbi, “Twaining Day” shows that solo Ilana and Abbi plotlines can be just as fun as them together. Plus it nails the super awkwardness of returning to your old work where you’re pretty sure most of the people there resent you.

Overall Verdict: 8.5

Review: Wonder Woman/Conan #1

Wonder Woman/Conan #1 is not a superhero comic, and I love it for that. Writer Gail Simone, artists Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan, and colorist Wendy Broome dig deep into sword and sorcery (Well, mostly the sword part) and never look back and show that Diana of Themiscyra seamlessly fits into the Hyborian Age. Simone, Lopresti, and Ryan recast her as a champion pit fighter, who dominates the gladiators of Aquilonia with her familiar star and “W” emblem smeared in blood and mud instead of her classic costume as part of Broome’s dour, drab color palette. Conan is immediately drawn to her even though he was hanging out with a man, who bet a large sum of money against her, and he and Diana are set up as a star crossed pair from the first page.

In Wonder Woman/Conan #1 with a little help from partial amnesia, Simone easily transposes Diana to the key of blood, guts, and beheadings fantasy. She, Lopresti, and Ryan use the arena setting to showcase her warrior spirit and desire for freedom as Diana dispatches her opponents and immediately tries to make a break for it against the full force of arena’s security force and is overwhelmed by being rushed and crowded. Seemingly outmatched in the arena by a variety of different fighters inspired the various types of gladiators in ancient Rome, Lopresti uses this “challenge” to show Wonder Woman’s creativity as a fighter while also stressing that she wants to leave this life as soon as possible. Wonder Woman is a character known for her dedication to peace in love, but she must become a sort of goddess in war to survive in the senseless, autocratic Hyborian Age where there are no heroes, and creepy crow women watch one’s every move when they aren’t playing comic relief.

Aaron Lopresti with the help of inker Matt Ryan combines dynamic superhero poses with the grit of sword and sorcery, and it never feels like an awkward fit thanks to the barrage of earth tones from colorist Wendy Broome There are several splash pages in Wonder Woman/Conan #1, but they don’t feature colorful superheroes. The fights in the book are defiant and dangerous with plenty of improvisation and muscular forearms thrown instead of stylish slow-mo lasso whirls or bullets being blocked. Like the great Conan artists Tomas Giorello, Barry Windsor-Smith, and of course, Frank Frazetta, Lopresti is an artist of the body and force. He doesn’t draw Wonder Woman like a preening swimsuit model for the heterosexual male gaze, but as a strong, seasoned fighter, who has lived and died by being able to kill men with her bare hands or forearms.

Lopresti gives Conan strength and a build similar to Diana and demonstrates this in a exhilarating beheading sequence when he kills an Aesir (Hyborian Age Viking expy) and blood trails from the severed neck in a sequence that Zack Snyder probably wishes he could direct. And this killing isn’t for honor or any of the virtues that Simone mentions her in Howard-esque caption boxes, but so he can have a purse of money to spend on prostitutes in Aquilonia, a city where he once was a slave in the fighting pits. Simone writes Conan as a bulky, violent merc while also humanizing him by creating a bond between him and a bullied street kid (Who he primes for information.) and in the adorable flashbacks where he falls in love with “Yanna”, a young Wonder Woman. Broome’s colors in these scenes are positively radiant, and Lopresti and Ryan’s figures are prettier and not as wracked by violence and caked in dirt. Also, the Amazons are a tribe in Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age mythos so the nomadic Cimmerians could have easily run into them, and Gail Simone also fits in Wonder Woman into Conan’s world without having to use any bullshit multiversal portals or time travel.

Wonder Woman/Conan #1 is a total grit and grime, swords clashing, and dark magic brewing in the background fantasy yarn from Gail Simone, Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan, and Wendy Broome that happens to feature two of the greatest fictional warriors of all time. The childhood first true love story might seem a little cliched, but because of their fierce approach to combat and heart to help the downtrodden, Conan and Wonder Woman definitely have a real bond that is the real highlight of this violent, drab, yet exciting comic book.

Story: Gail Simone Pencils: Aaron Lopresti
Inks: Matt Ryan Colors: Wendy Broome

Story: 9 Art: 8 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Broad City S4E1 Sliding Doors

Broad City is back for its fourth season, and its premiere “Sliding Doors” is the show’s most structurally ambitious episode with some laughs, feels, and wigs along the way. Writers Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer and director Lucia Aniello do an episode long riff on the 1998 Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors and posit the question, “Were Abbi and Ilana fated to be friends?” The product is part alternative universe, part origin story, and it’s all set in the great year, 2011, when our president was black, and maybe Young Jeezy had a blue Lamborghini. (I can neither confirm nor deny this fact.)  Glazer and Jacobson play with expectations and aren’t afraid to show that before meeting each other that Abbi and Ilana were kinda pathetic.

Jacobson and Glazer run two parallel narratives through “Sliding Doors”: one is that Abbi and Ilana miss their train and end up hanging out all day like a typical episode of Broad City, and another where they make the train and end up off by themselves having a miserable day until the last scene of the episode. In this second narrative, Jacobson and Glazer expose the cracks in Abbi and Ilana’s characters like Abbi not standing up for herself and getting her ponytail snipped off and accidentally setting up Bever’s free-loader arc. (2011 Bevers is quite ripped, however.) And Ilana is just a mess, sleeping with expensive coffee in the bathroom at her barista job, and wandering into a college class where she has a presentation and forgetting what day and time it is, and what the class is. While she makes her walk of a shame to the front (A relatable moment to anyone who is afraid of public speaking, especially when utterly unprepared.), Aniello cuts to her whispering and harassing fellow, nameless students, a visual of foreshadowing about how she treats her co-workers and the unpaid interns in that one episode at Deals Deals Deals.

My favorite parts of “Sliding Doors” were all the various meet-cute moments showing the genuine connection that Abbi and Ilana. And it’s mostly little stuff. They bond over a shared love of pizza, weed, and wanting to be a throuple with the Obamas. Abbi also thinks that Ilana looks better with curly hair than straightened, and Aniello lingers on her unstraightening her hair and creating the signature Ilana ‘do early in the episode. It’s up there with Tony Stark’s first flight in the Mark II armor in Iron Man, or James Bond shooting a gun at the camera in Casino Royale. Abbi and Ilana just vibe and work well together even if Abbi has much more of a filter and is a little less outgoing.

“Sliding Doors” also has a really damn good plot twist for a half hour comedy show, and you almost have to rewatch the episode to get the full context for the real and “fantasy” way that Abbi and Ilana met. Until the surprise, semi-political ending, the fake way that Abbi and Ilana meet plays like a fantasy New York romantic comedy with more weed, bowls, and a burrito bowl devouring played by Jane Krakowski, who is more Professor Trelawney than Long Island Medium. Keeping these Broad City-isms, whether jokes or visual motifs, helps the surprise linger longer.

However, the real meeting between Abbi and Ilana is much messier and kind of random than their epic quest through New York. It nails the weird logistical reality of making friends as an adult when you run into one another at the same bars, shops, or coffee places and eventually add each other on Facebook and maybe even hang out eventually. Aniello, Jacobson, and Glazer also get the immediate chemistry between Abbi and Ilana beginning with their “obviously had a hard day” appearance like Abbi’s “artsty” haircut or Ilana’s baggy white T-shirt she wears because some asshole stole her tank top and then we get the walking, talking, and smoking as their bond slowly begins to form.

Using a complex, yet thoroughly entertaining, interweaving plot structure that would make those cute, breakdancing NYU-Tisch students smile, Lucia Aniello, Abbi Jacobson, and Ilana Glazer tell the origin story of one the best female friendships on TV and basically how Abbi and Ilana were meant to be. Also, 2011 Bevers is quite sexy, and Abbi’s bangs were so cute back in the day.

Verdict: 9.0

Review: Runaways #1

The beloved Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona-created teen superhero team the Runaways are back with a new volume and an all-star creative team featuring writer Rainbow Rowell, artist Kris Anka, and Eisner winning colorist Matthew Wilson. Although it is a fantastic character study of Nico Minoru and her life post-Runaways and A-Force, Runaways #1 feels more like a zero issue than the first issue of a new series. It tries to tie up threads from previous stories like bringing Gert Yorke back from the dead via time travel so the team can have its “classic lineup”. The plot is Rowell refurbishing an old house, putting metaphorical bubble gum on leaky gutters instead of building a new one. However, with Gert back to her snarky old self and a mysterious final page, it looks like Runaways #2 and beyond will hopefully have more of Rowell and Anka’s vision for the team as a whole.

On a craft level, Runaways #1 is nearly flawless. Rainbow Rowell doesn’t fall into the prose writer-to-comics trap of over narration with her captions helping show Nico’s fear and anxieties about her magical abilities. She also writes plenty of snappy dialogue to counterbalance the angsty captions. They complement Kris Anka’s art work, who uses a lot of double page layouts for quick, readable storytelling because most of the issue is an emotions-running-high medical procedure gone wrong with Nico constantly trying to find the right spell to bring back Gert from near death. This allows for touches of comedy like her accidentally summoning a podiatrist instead of a surgeon as well as for Matthew Wilson to do all kinds of splashy, energy colors. Nico’s staff of one abilities could also be seen as a metaphor for the creative process and trying to balance originality and telling a story that still resonates. Brian K. Vaughan, Joss Whedon, and kind of, Noelle Stevenson had great Runaways runs, what new is there to add in 2017?

Hopefully, Kris Anka will be able to stay on Runaways for quite some time. He’s known as a great artist of attractive men and women and Nico, Chase, Gert, and unnamed podiatrist are all beautiful or stylish in their own way. (I loved the podiatrist’s cool googles and clear head in an insane situation and hope she returns even though Nico wiped her memory with a Wizard of Oz inspired spell.) However, Anka’s faces aren’t just aesthetically pleasing, but also great at telling a story. Nico’s range of expressiveness throughout the story is impressive as she goes from breaking down over the possibility of her friend Gert dying to confidently casting a healing spell with some pinks from Wilson and then looking concerned when Gert still is near death. Anka can show emotions via gesture too like Chase holding his hair in frustration or accidentally burning herself by making ramen, which Chase shows his concern for by grasping his hand. Without trotting out a whole lot of lore, Rowell and Anka use these touches, glances, and sometimes words to show a pre-baked relationship between Nico, Chase, and Gert, and I can’t wait to see what they do with the rest of the team, especially a much missed Molly Hayes.

Even if Runaways #1 has the slick dialogue and inking style of a modern comic, it reminded me a lot of what made Chris Claremont’s work on the X-titles so great. My favorite parts of those books weren’t the space battles, globe trotting, and supervillain fights, but seeing how these superhuman people reacted to human situations like heartbreak, leaving home (See early Kitty Pryde stories.), or the inability to connect with another person intimately. (Rogue’s entire arc.) Rowell, Anka, and Wilson mine a similar vein by starting the comic with a slow-paced look at Nico’s post-superhero career existential crisis featuring a dumpy apartment and issues with her magic before unleashing a double page splash of Chase carrying Gert Supergirl in Crisis on Infinite Earths way.

In Runaways #1, Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka tell a story about guilt, fractured friendship, and trying to create your own identity in your early twenties that happens to feature magical surgery, time travel, a dinosaur, and a smorgasbord of gorgeous colors by Matthew Wilson.

Story: Rainbow Rowell Art: Kris Anka Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 7.0 Art: 9 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Action Comics #987

Action-Comics-987-lenticular-coverAction Comics #987 begins as yet another issue of Dan Jurgens’ early 90s throwback, yet incredibly fun on Action Comics even though it hints at the final reveal of Mr. Oz’s identity. Superman saves the day, is heroic and moral, and there are scenes at the Daily Planet with his supporting cast. He and Lois even spend time glancing at each other when blowhard sports reporter Steve Lombard tries to impress their son Jon aka Superboy with tales of his football glory days. However, it all takes a turn for the darker as artists Viktor Bogdanovic, Jonathan Glapion, and Jay Leisten twist and flips their panel layouts to show Mr. Oz manipulating the entire world and feeding humanity’s worst impulses against the pall of a dark and depressing color palette from Mike Spicer.

The driving force behind Action Comics #987 is that humans don’t deserve someone like Superman to save them. This is Mr. Oz’s motivation for all his activities since he first popped up in Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr’s Superman run in 2014. He wants to show Superman that humans aren’t worth giving hope too and will always choose darkness through a tapestry of depravity featuring everything from human trafficking and racially motivated violence. Adorable seals even die in an oil spill because LexOil employees work long hours and decided to get drunk while operating their rig. Superman is too slow to save/stop everything, and Bogdanovic, Glapion, and Leisten show the pain in his eyes and his actions as he lashes out in anger against a guerillas in the country of Logamba, who killed people he delivered a vaccine to. Perhaps the world is too complex and far gone for the Big Blue Scout to save.

All these events happen rapidly and simultaneously while Clark is enjoying civilian life with his wife, son, and co-workers, and this means he can’t save everyone. The inability to save everyone with his great powers has always been one of Superman’s biggest vulnerabilities (And a big smack in the face to those who say he has none.), especially the modern Superman, who is haunted by the death of his adopted parents. Jurgens explored this in the fantastic “Revenge” arc when Superman came into contact with and was blinded by the Black Vault in Belle Reve and brings it to a crescendo of a more universal nature in Action Comics #987. He can write Superman as a person, hero, and idea, and all three elements crash together in “The Oz Effect” arc.

AwwSuperman

Towards the end of Action Comics #987, Mr. Oz tells Superman that he gave the humans connected to him a choice between light and darkness. This is also a hint of how this comic is structured. It starts out with lots of red, yellow, and blues from Mike Spicer, and full page heroic poses from Viktor Bogdanovic as Superman stops the robbery of a medical vaccine without throwing a single punch. Jurgens’ narrative captions are bright and heroic as Superman/Clark is genuinely enjoying moving back to Metropolis from upstate.

But, when Oz begins his coordinated “attacks” , the usual sunny Metropolis skyline turns grey, and Viktor Bogdanovic draws Superman as a blur to his square until he takes a barrage of bullets for immigrant workers and goes back to classic roots of protecting the marginalized for a split second before returning to the plot. Inkers Jonathan Glapion and Jay Leisten, who worked on comics like Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman and Death of Wolverine, add a more foreboding edge and plenty of black space to Bogdanovic’s square jawed figure and open posing, especially when Mr. Oz is working his “magic”. This plus a blinding burst of white from Spicer when they arrive at the Fortress of Solitude, which is basically Mr. Oz’s Air BnB at this point, gives the second half of the comic an unsettling feel.

By digging into the  heart of Superman’s ability to bring hope and also his inability to save everyone, Dan Jurgens, Viktor Bogdanovic, Jonathan Glapion,  Jay Leisten, and Mike Spicer give Action Comics #987 a solid ideological foundation before the big reveal. The final page definitely surprised me and is a real shock to who Superman is as a character with Action Comics #988 providing some much needed context.

Story: Dan Jurgens Pencils: Viktor Bogdanovic
Inks: Jonathan Glapion, Jay Leisten, Viktor Bogdanovic Colors: Mike Spicer

Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Advance Review: The Archies #1

The Archies #1 is an earnest as heck comic from writers Matthew Rosenberg and Alex Segura, artist Joe Eisma, and colorist Matt Herms that tells the story of the early days of The Archies. The band lineup is Archie on lead guitar and vocals, Jughead on drums, Reggie on bass, Betty on tambourine and backup vocals, and Veronica on keyboard, and they play open mic gigs to crowds in the single digits. However, the Archies (Especially Archie himself) have a lot of heart and passion for playing music together, and their fortunes could be on the rise in the future even though

Joe Eisma is the perfect artist for The Archies ongoing series because he understands the pulsating energy of playing a gig with a band, and the concert scenes are easily the highlight of the book. He can do humor too cutting away to reaction shots of Jughead or Archie when things get serious and also draws clothes that actual human young people wear. Matt Herms pumps up the colors for the concert scenes with cool Photoshop lighting effects and some fantastic purples in the Archies’ gig that opens up the issue before retreating lower in the mix for the post-gig hangout at Pop’s.

It’s the comedown after a huge shot of musical adrenaline and helps capture the mood of uncertainty that Archie and the gang have about the future of their band. Are they gonna go big? Are they going to break up? Does anyone even care? Eisma makes a clear distinction between the big epic moves and gestures that the Archies do on stage versus when they’re just shooting the breeze as friends. (Or frenemies in Reggie’s case.) Archie is confident on hell shredding on his guitar or moving back to back with Betty while doing vocal harmonies, but after that, he’s back to his goofy, yet still passionate self. Eisma hits that sweet spot between the “hot Archie” of Riverdale and Fiona Staples and humorous, “nu-house style” work of Dan Parent in Your Pal Archie in his art style that fits the tone of the book.

Matthew Rosenberg and Alex Segura’s plot forThe Archies #1 is a lot of dot connecting and setup for The Archies on tour antics that will be the main story of the ongoing series. Archie does a lot of fourth wall breaking exposition, but Rosenberg, Segura, and Eisma successfully sell his passion for music throughout the book and give him a fun two man dynamic with Jughead, who is there to not take things too seriously and make dry quips about food. But he cares in his own way, and it’s nice to see Jughead and Archie actually be friends and not bogged down by pointless drama. Archie definitely takes up most of the panel time, but Rosenberg and Segura give Veronica, Betty, and Reggie hints of personality along the way like Veronica’s bored look when Archie geeks out on and on about the band.

Even if The Archies #1 feels like a particularly scrumptious appetizer to a future main course (CHVRCHES is going to be in this comic, guys.), Matthew Rosenberg, Alex Segura, Joe Eisma, and Matt Herms create an intoxicating aura of energy and passion every time the band takes the stage. There is a scene late in the issue that made me realize that Eisma is definitely the best at drawing live music in comics. They’re not superstars yet, but each member of the Archies loves what they do in their own way. I can’t wait to see what shenanigans they get into as they go on tour.

Story: Matthew Rosenberg and Alex Segura Art: Joe Eisma Colors: Matt Herms
Story: 7.5 Art: 9 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy

Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Shade the Changing Girl #12

Shade the Changing Girl #12 Cover

The first year of Shade the Changing Girl concludes in multiple body swapping, life and death fashion as writer Cecil Castellucci makes all the story threads collide and artists Marley Zarcone, Ande Parks, and Kelly Fitzpatrick channel madness, love, and poetry in surreal psychedelic form. It’s the end of Honey Rich’s life, and the beginning of Loma Shade, Earth girl’s. The comic begins with a nod to Mulholland Drive and some satire of the Hollywood blockbuster system, but leaves Hollywood behind for human connection even if most of the characters are aliens.

I cannot praise Kelly Fitzpatrick’s colors on backgrounds and the Madness circle things enough in Shade #12 throughout the series. There’s blue for when Shade (in Honey’s body) runs to reunite with Lepuck, and then an intense red when Lepuck realize that he’s talking to Honey in Shade’s body. Then, it turns a more subdued background when Lepuck remembers that Life with Honey was Shade’s favorite. The biggest highlight of Fitzpatrick’s work is the full page rainbow and pink splashes to mark Rac Shade’s triumphant return and shunning of his not-the-nicest boyfriend, Mellu.

MortalitySux

The return of Rac Shade marks the most experimental part of Shade #12 with Castellucci, Zarcone, Parks, and Fitzpatrick firing on all cylinders to craft a psychedelic delight. His words have filled the margin of numerous pages of Shade the Changing Girl, and his physical-ish presence in the Madness is pretty overwhelming. Castellucci and Zarcone show the non-linear nature of the Madness where “time means nothing” by having a double page spread where you spin a pencil to pick a scene to read. This double page spread does a decent job of distilling all the major relationships into one cohesive, color shifting, panel flipping unit. It’s an ability that only a true great soul, like Loma or Rac, can control, and Mellu ends up going all melting Nazi in the Raiders of the Lost Ark with his short lived powers.

It’s definitely more of a C-story, but I really latched onto the River, Teacup, and hippo friend, who is a Madness tracker, sub-plot throughout the second arc of Shade the Changing Girl. They are just smart, normal, yet outsider kids looking for Shade, who transformed a mean bully (Megan) into a quirky friend. I love River’s remarks about using the power of technology and the Internet (In his case, hacking his way to plane tickets, hotel, and a fake field trip to L.A.) to make a real life connection with Shade and bond with Teacup along the way. In the middle of a mind expanding, metaphysical story, Castellucci and Zarcone manage to capture the simple pleasure of meeting Internet friends in real life with a side of floating hippos, sort of chestbursters, and body swapping.

There is a real feeling of closure to Shade the Changing Girl #12, especially in Honey Rich’s death scene, which is richly philosophical (And Teacup quips about this part of it.) and down to Earth. Honey realizes that she would be pushing her boundaries to seek stardom in Shade’s body and finds a sweet release in mortality. Zarcone brings back the black and white Life with Honey Honey Rich as a final reminder that her sitcom touched the lives of people beyond the stars. Also, her death in the chrysalis shaped Madness vest gives Shade a new lease of life as a whole girl and not just an Avian messing around in Megan Boyer’s head.

Death and rebirth: it’s doesn’t get more beautiful and poetic than that. Shade the Changing Girl #12 explores these universal themes through the insights and character arcs crafted by Cecil Castellucci; the clean, yet bad dream-like art of Marley Zarcone and Ande Parks, and Kelly Fitzpatrick’s kaleidoscope rainbow color palette. It also sets up a newly whole Shade the Changing Girl for more adventures as a human girl.

Story: Cecil Castellucci Art: Marley Zarcone with Ande Parks
Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick Backup Art: Katie Jones 
Story: 8.2 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

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

Review: Iceman #5

“Oh no, love. You’re not alone. No matter what or who you’ve been… Give me your hands!”- “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide” by David Bowie

In Iceman #5, Bobby finally comes out as gay to his parents, and they don’t accept him unconditionally. It’s an issue that really hit home for me personally and is easily Sina Grace’s best writing on the series. The scenes where the Drakes ask their son insensitive, probing questions about his sexuality are more painful than any blow from the unstoppable, time displaced from the 1960s Juggernaut, who is this issue’s villain of the week. Artist Alessandro Vitti and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg draw a mano a mano battle between Iceman and Juggernaut that is juxtaposed with his coming out letter. These scenes show the cathartic nature of superhero comics for queer people, and their ability to make me escape from my issues with a tale of derring-do and overcoming seemingly unbeatable odds.

In previous issues,  I feel like Grace portrayed Bobby’s parents more sympathetically, but their insensitive, bigoted words towards him in Iceman #5 show why he didn’t come out to him earlier and wanted to do it via letter where he could filter and write out his thoughts in a more organized manner. Vitti draws them with big wrinkles and glaring, ugly expressions as they treat Bobby’s sexuality as hypothetical and even ask him questions about sex life. His mom even uses “mutie” and “queer” as slurs and blames his dad’s side of the family for passing these “genes” to him. Instead of accepting, she constantly talks about how he’s a disappointment, and Mr. Drake won’t even recognize him as their son anymore. Grace and Vitti defuse the tension a little bit with some Idie and Quentin Quire antics, but they get blocked off from the narrative by a literal wall of ice given a glistening sheen by Rosenberg. And Kitty Pryde shows she’s an amazing friend by giving Bobby the opportunity to cut loose against Juggernaut (He probably should have backup though.)

IcemanAngry

And after taking non-stop verbal body blows from his parents, a solo fight against Juggernaut is what Bobby (and the plot of Iceman #5) needs. When the battle begins, Vitti draws a craggier Iceman (Because he’s angry.), and Rosenberg emphasizes the red on his uniform shirt. The battle itself is a blockbuster one and extremely creative as Bobby doesn’t have to hold back against the Juggernaut, whose only motivation is to wreck stuff and kill the X-Men blue team, who brought him to present times from the 1960s.

The dad jokes are gone, and Vitti and Rosenberg replace with double page, shoujo manga-esque spreads of Bobby freezing the speed of light to hit the Juggernaut and then using his ability to change into a vapor to escape his clutches and finally put the kibosh on him. After these pages and a beautiful transformation, the fact that Iceman is an omega level mutant is at the forefront of his character and not just a trivia fact. As he mentions to his dad at the end of the issue, being honest about who he loves has helped him use his mutant powers more effectively. This is definitely true because Bobby does a lot of cool things this issue like impaling Juggernaut on an icicle and sending his ice golems to save civilians while he focuses on keeping Juggy occupied. Water is all around us, and in Bobby’s capable hands, it can be a powerful weapon. Vitti and Rosenberg get really creative with his powers in this issue, especially when he is about to beat the Juggernaut.

The bittersweet ending to Iceman #5 where Bobby and his dad have a polite chat about his letter, say they love each other, and reconcile in the snow rings true to my own experience as a queer man. My parents don’t approve of my sexuality, but they actually do still care about me, and we have a pretty good relationship. Personally, this makes me hurt a lot deeper than a simple Westboro Baptist Church type of hate because it’s infused with love.

Iceman #5 works as a comic because Sina Grace, Alessandro Vitti, and  holds a mirror to mine and other queer men’s experiences using mutant powers and superhero battles as big visual metaphors of both triumph and empowerment when Iceman defeats Juggernaut all by his lonesome and the feeling of being an outsider with his vapor abilities.

Iceman #5 is a powerful, cathartic end to the first arc of the comic and showed me that I’m not alone…

Story: Sina Grace Art: Alessandro Vitti Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Story: 9.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #31

The Wicked + the Divine #31 is the best the series has been in a long time as writer Kieron Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie, and colorist Matthew Wilson hit a sorrowful groove as “Imperial Phase Part II” draws to a close. This is a memorable issue that will be dissected, oohed and aahed at, sobbed over, and yes, screamed at just like WicDiv #5, #8, #11, #13, and #18, which have been my favorite regular issues of the series to date. With these superlatives out of the way, WicDiv #31 features momentous events, like the Norns, Woden, and Dionysus finally turning on Ananke’s machine to the tune of a glorious Wilson color palette, Persephone coming clean, and some sort of real talk about Dio and Urdr’s feelings for each other. Plus a tragic twist.

I am really enjoying Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson’s focus on the character of Dionysus throughout “Imperial Phase Part II”, and WicDiv #31 is no exception. In his first appearance, McKelvie draws lines on Dio’s usual smooth face and gives his eyes a hazy spaced out look, which is to be expected after he spent all of the previous issue sitting in the dark and pleading with Baphomet to leave his abusive relationship with Morrigan. McKelvie depicts Dionysus as a husk of his rave inducing self with basically bad selfie lighting from Wilson, but his wholesome spirit hasn’t faded.

He has a conversation with Urdr, who is a little on edge about the turning on Ananke’s machine thing because Woden is sketchy and Dionysus is tired, plus there’s the whole crush thing. But, even though Urdr and Dionysus don’t directly talk about their feelings for each other, Dio kind of nails how relationships and friendships should work. He basically says that emotions, especially love are important, but they shouldn’t get in the way of caring and supporting a friendship. This is really freaking selfless and par for the course for a man, who admits that his key motivation in life is making other people happy. Dionysus’ smiling face or crowd surfing body should definitely be in the dictionary next to mudita, a kind of happiness that comes from other people’s happiness. However, this ends up being his downfall as Woden uses his abilities in a more toxic way turning a happy party into a hive mind, worship into a cult. But, before everything gets fuzzy, Gillen and McKelvie give us a character defining moment of Urdr looking up and perhaps for the first time, realizing the effect the Pantheon has on other people and admiring those Eisner winning Matthew Wilson colors.

But Woden’s hijacking of Dio’s power isn’t just a simple “Dionysus is a cinnamon roll too good for this world” plot point, it actually takes WicDiv #31 back into the musical realm. Woden and Dionysus’ actions at Valhalla support my theory that, in the end, there are two kinds of dance floors: one filled with light, energy, fantastic music, and camaraderie and another one that is crowded, filled with groping straight men, and plays the Chainsmokers. Dionysus represents the first as evidenced by the immortal WicDiv #8, and Woden represents the second with misogyny, objectification of women, and general fuckboy attitude and spinelessness. Dionysus is about people having a good time and forgetting their troubles for a night and maybe having fond memories of waving their arms and dancing to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with gods while sitting in their poorly lit cubicles. Woden is all about metaphorically (and probably) getting off the power of the patriarchy to rob women (And people in general in this issue) of their agency. It’s selfishness versus selflessness, and unfortunately, it looks like selfishness has the upper hand in 2017. But Dionysus’ nice little grape Pantheon icon isn’t a skull just yet so there might still be some hope for this beautiful, emotionally honest, and soulful man. I’m probably the naive one in this case.

Dio, Urdr, Woden, Amaterasu, and Sakhmet play the “active” roles in WicDiv #31, but Gillen and McKelvie don’t neglect their heroine, Persephone, who finally kind of does the right thing by telling Baal and the Outsiders that Sakhmet is lurking at one of her favorite haunts: the Egyptian wing of the British Museum. When Sakhmet is out, Persephone starts by lounging in her deliciously foreshadow-y skull and rose pattern leggings with McKelvie nailing her apathy before swinging into a bit of anger when she talks to her ex Baal on the phone. Plotwise, Gillen has her as a wild card, but that’s likely to change after she learns Amaterasu’s fate. Annoying problematicness aside, an Amaterasu gig back in WicDiv #1 was Persephone’s entry to the world of the Pantheon so it should have a major effect on her demeanor going forward. This issue also shows that Persephone has a bit of a conscience and is starting to maybe realize that chaos wasn’t the best decision.

Yes, chaos ends up in death: the death of Amaterasu to be particular as she goes to the British Museum to soothe the sharp teeth and claw toes of Sakhmet with her abilities instead of calling Baal for some muscle like he provided against Luci in the first arc. Amaterasu has a “nice” personality, but is supremely self-absorbed, and her little monologue about the glories of the British Empire’s treasures in the British Museum and family causes her to drop her guard around Sakhmet. It’s also a final nod towards her cultural appropriation as she has turned the Japanese Shinto faith into her own white girl ShinTwo cult, and sad, if poetic that she dies destroying the artifacts that the U.K. took from their old colony of Egypt. McKelvie frames it like a slasher flick with plenty of gore and killer/victim juxtaposition shot although this death feels earned and is also a product of stupid decisions. One thing I love about WicDiv on a macro level is that characters who make not-the-smartest-decisions like going against a bloodthirsty murderer without backup or teaming up with Woden get consequences. It’s like the early seasons of Game of Thrones where behaving nobly, yet stupidly led to death or negative consequences versus the current one starring Jon Snow of House Plot Armor.

WicDiv #31 is a smorgasbord of visual storytelling delights, like Matthew Wilson’s color palette for Dionysus’ (hopefully not) final performance) and Amaterasu’s last foray as a superpower or the weathering on Dio’s face from Jamie McKelvie, and quotable insights about friendships and relationships and even asexuality and aromanticism from Kieron Gillen via Dionysus, but it’s a big downer moment for the series even if Urdr gets her most uplifting panel yet. After the conversations, arguments, and tiptoeing around, this is the plunge after the deep breath. WicDiv #31 is the guns a-blazing after the Mexican standoff or conversations about Bible passages and American hamburgers in Paris.

To not end this review on a glib Pulp Fiction reference, WicDiv #31 (Especially the Amaterasu scenes) pairs nicely with “Rabbit Heart” by Florence + the Machine , which is one of the first tracks on Kieron Gillen’s The Wicked + the Divine playlist. It’ll break your ginger sun goddess loving heart.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10  Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Kim and Kim Love is a Battlefield #2

“Feel your feelings fool!”-The Regrettes

Mags Visaggio, Eva Cabrera, and Claudia Aguirre continue to showcase one of the best friendships period in Kim and Kim Love is a Battlefield #2  with some real talk, ass kicking, and humorous Terry Pratchett with touch of matriarchal worldbuilding as Kim Q and Kim D run after Kim D’s ex Laz, who has a vial of blood from their last bounty that is worth a hell of a lot of money. Cabrera and Aguirre can sure choreograph a fight scene against faceless mooks featuring sick bass guitar moves, but it’s the conversations after and before the battles that really hit home. This is because Kim and Kim: Love is a Battlefield #2 is about a strained relationship between two friends because one friend keeps trying to make up with an ex, who continually tries to hurt her. And they happen to be interplanetary bounty hunters, who go to literal Hell sometimes.

Visaggio keeps Kim and Kim Love is a Battlefield fresh by switching the character dynamic and making Kim Q basically even though she totally hooked up with former enemy and definite fuzzy dude Saar last issue. Exhibit A through Z is the final fight scene of the issue where Kim Q is painfully taking out a horde of Laz’s goons while Kim D chases after her ex. Through Cabrera’s facial expressions, it’s pretty obvious that Kim D is grasping at one last reunion with Laz, which Kim Q totally calls her out on while getting sewn up back in the van. Never underestimate the power of physical attraction and deep sexy chemistry to trump reason and morality.

Kim Q and Kim D’s “descent into the underworld” is yet another nice riff off classical storytelling tropes from Mags Visaggio because Hell isn’t ruled by an emo rocker and his ugly friends or a blue flamed hair guy, who keeps women against their will, but a wise and badass grandmother figure, who happens to be Kim D’s ancestor. Claudia Aguirre uses some sick yellows and purples to show the transfer in dimensions while Eva Cabrera adds some shiny glitter to the background to show different it is from the waking world. Also, both Kim’s are incredibly truthful in Hell with Kim D waxing incredibly poetic about a giraffe necklace that she got from Laz for her “monthiversary” that turns out to be a fake. On the other hand, a bright eyed Kim Q pours out her heart about how Kim D is “stuck” with her, and those eyes return when Kim Q continues to tell Kim D how much she cares throughout the issue. As always, Visaggio tempers the emotional moments with clever humor like having Kim Q remark about how the patriarchy is destroying romance novels.

Even though their physical fights are against death-shades and masked goons, the real battle in Kim and Kim: Love is a Battlefield #2 is between emotional honesty and deflection. Early on in the issue, Kim Q says that she’s there for Kim D to pour out her feelings after the messiness of the previous installment. However, Kim D keeps ducking the question and won’t even clear up why her necromancy had some unnecessary side effects although the caption boxes reveal that Laz was on her mind too much while she was in Hell. Usually, Kim D’s trademark wink followed by a question about Kim Q’s sexy times is adorable or funny, but it’s a little annoying when she has some real things to work through. And this annoyance erupts like a volcano when the usually bound-at-the-hip Kim Q and Kim D take a little break from each other. It’s not a melodramatic “Cyclops leaves the X-Men and becomes a shirtless fishing boat crew member” break, but there’s definitely a little more space between them than usual.

Kim and Kim: Love is a Battlefield #2 combines soul searing friend chats about relationships past and present with ass kicking, interdimensional travel, and a fierce fashion aeshetic. Mags Visaggio, Eva Cabrera, and Claudia Aguirre continue to do fantastic work crafting one of the most complicated, funny, and plain awesome female friendships in comics.

Story: Mags Visaggio Art: Eva Cabrera Colors: Claudia Aguirre
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Black Mask Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

« Older Entries