Author Archives: Josh Rathbun

Review: Conan the Barbarian #15

Conan the Barbarian #15

I’m a bit of a Jim Zub fan and when I found out he was working on Conan, I had to grab Conan the Barbarian #15 for a review. I’ve loved what he’s done with IDW’s Dungeons & Dragons comics and Dynamite’s Pathfinder. He knows this type of fantasy world really well and I was curious to see what he brings to the Cimmerian, even if this was chapter 3 of the storyline.

Conan and his small party are trapped underground maze known as the Crucible, all for those who worship the God of Many-Deaths. Sadly, they awake to one member murdered while they all slept. As there are no answers at first to the killing, they make their way through the Crucible, dining on rats and all the other expected things that happen when trapped in a death maze. After Conan slays a great underwater beast, they find their way out of the Crucible and into an arena, where Conan will once again have to do battle to save what remains of his compatriots.

This was the third issue in the story but Zub does a splendid job with catching the reader up on what has happened earlier. The narration that accompanies this issue really sends me back to reading Conan when I was younger and it’s an element that I miss a lot with newer books. There was a couple of great action sequences inside this issue, one adorned with a pretty rad splash page. Look, it’s straight-forward and it’s not like the wheel was reinvented but I just thought this was a fun issue to read.

Let’s talk the art of Conan for a moment. Rogé António is a fine artist for this book. I liked the look of this issue very much. Not too much detail but not lacking in any areas. I’m pretty easy to please. With Israel Silva coloring his art, I thought the both of them made for a good art team. Travis Lanham deserves a lot of credit on lettering because not only is he having to work on word balloon placement but Conan has its fair share of narration boxes to place and the art isn’t obscured by anything.

I thought Conan the Barbarian #15 was an easy issue to follow and I wasn’t confused much at all picking this one up in the middle of the storyline. It brought me back to how I felt as a kid reading Conan’s adventures. I’m glad that I continue to enjoy Jim Zub’s work as much as I do. He’s an underrated writer in comics and doesn’t get the credit he deserves. With a quality art team, this issue is definitely worth a read for someone looking to venture out to something different in comics.

Story: Jim Zub Art: Rogé António
Colors: Israel Silva Letterer: Travis Lanham
Story: 8.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

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Review: Fantastic Four #25

Fantastic Four #25

In Fantastic Four #25, an otherworldly being of incredible power is looking for an omnipotent power than Reed Richards has locked away many, many years ago (but never mentioned). Separate, none of the Fantastic Four can stop this villain. Combined with the might of the FF and a bunch of their friends and family, they are able to defeat the bad guy and save the day.

Let’s be honest: that’s the synopsis of many Fantastic Four stories. These plot pieces make up your typical FF story. What separates the good and bad stories is how you put those pieces together. The Fantastic Four are not quite the superheroes that many others in the Marvel Universe are. They are adventurers and explorers and the bizarre and unknown are their backyard over most anyone else. So having a story where the plot isn’t exactly original, it helps that the writer puts pieces in place that makes it a bit more interesting.

Writer Dan Slott makes the FF feel like the FF.  In my opinion, there’s a lot that Slott does with these characters. Fantastic Four #25 features a strong family dynamic and the threat is certainly a deadly one. I’ve been a fan of the FF since I was a child and while I haven’t been reading it much in the last two years, the first story in the 25th issue did feel like a classic. That said, the other story in this issue, between a newly-reborn Uatu and the original Nick Fury felt a bit off and unexciting. You can’t win them all, true believers.

For being the Fantastic Four, it’s Fantastic a-whole-lot-of-people. Doom and his servant, another set of jobbers in the Baxter building, Ben’s adopted-ish kids that he has with Alicia. There’s a lot of people in the story so there’s two ways to look at it. Too many moving pieces that take away a bit of focus from Reed and Co. Or, it enhances the family dynamic, another quality of what makes the FF who they are. I personally felt it was maybe too many people for a single issue. Ben and Johnny do not contribute much to this, which was a bummer.

Holy cow! The art in Fantastic Four was pretty…fantastic? I am new to the art team of R.B. Silva and Jesus Abertov but they blew me away. They totally nail the character looks and there were some pages, like the one of Reed and Valeria working in the lab, that stood out. One thing I enjoyed visually was the scene with Reed and Valeria in the lab, totally looking like something out of the Kirby era. The action sequences stand out with both high marks in detail and panel work, not skimping on backgrounds.  Great lettering all around from Joe Caramagna. And I think it makes a huge difference on a book to have an eye-catching cover and I thought the Mark Brooks cover was top-notch.

Dan Slott has been on this book for a few years and from the few issues I’ve read of his FF run, I’ve really enjoyed it and wished that I kept up in a better fashion on it. R.B. Silva and Jesus Abertov crushed the visuals. I think for a new reader, Fantastic Four #25 would not be the most friendly issue to pick up but I do think this was a pretty good issue of Fantastic Four and definitely worth the read.

Story: Dan Slott Art: R.B. Silva, Paco Medina, Will Robson
Color: Jesus Aburtov, Marcio Menyz Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 7.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Read

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Review: The Devil’s Red Bride #1

The Devil’s Red Bride #1

From the start, The Devil’s Red Bride #1 is a visceral, bloody tale set of warfare most brutal. A clan at war with another. One warrior that sets its clan apart from the other. However, their lord who wears the Red Devil mask, is not the one leading them into battle. The flipside of this tale is Ketsuko, whose clan fell to the Red Devil many years ago, who now is on her own path for vengeance.

Samurai tales are right up my alley. I live on a steady diet of Akira Kurosawa movies and The Blind Swordsman and really, just about anything of the ilk. So for me, I tend to flock to comics that go down that very same road. From my own taste in this genre, I can say The Devil’s Red Bride #1 totally works, both in story and tone. I wish I was more of a scholar of 16th century Japanese history and assume this is the Edo period. For that, this type of samurai story feels like it has a lot of parallels in what I enjoy. Sebastian Girner, who wrote The Devil’s Red Bride, seems to have done his research and is able to channel a really good samurai/revenge story.

Artist John Bivens and colorist Iris Monahan deliver a beauty of a tale. The color palette works perfectly with the art. It’s a stylish book that feels respectful of the material. There are some absolutely killer pages here. The opening page feels like something from a traditional woodblock print. As the story progresses, there’s some great panel work and a bit of gore thrown in for good measure. As with many books, I wish there was a smidgen more detail thrown into the art but it’s a minor complaint here. I think this comic looks quite excellent.

Overall, I think that if your tastes are like mine, you grew up on samurai cinema or if you just want something totally different, The Devil’s Red Bride #1 offers all of that. I’m looking forward to where this story goes and one can hope it ends like so many samurai tales, with two opponents standing their ground and steel being swung all over the place. Recommended.

Story: Sebastian Girner Art: John Bivens
Color: Iris Monahan Letterer: Jeff Powell Designer: Tim Daniel
Story: 9.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Read/Buy

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Review: No Heroine #3

No Heroine #3

In No Heroine #3, Kayla is still dealing with vampires. Now, the vamps are throwing out all the stops to try and get her to leave them alone. All the while, Kayla is dealing with a loss so huge it sends her spiraling down the wrong path.

There are some details to Frank Gogol‘s writing that really stand out. In a story that delves into the supernatural, the real villain is the addiction that Kayla seems unable to shake.  It’s all done in a manner that doesn’t make light of such a topic. I think Gogol is able to bring that out in a way that a lot of writers aren’t capable of. The flip side is there are moments with the character that I don’t want to spoil with the review that came off disappointing and I’ll leave it at that.

Criss and Shawna Madd handle the visuals on No Heroine. They work well enough together but as far as their style, it’s not quite my cup of tea. It’s just a hair inconsistent to me. There were times when the art and colors popped and there were times when I would look at some panels and feel a bit more work was needed. It’s not all negative. Ahmed Raafat delivers another great-looking cover that’s sure to help get eyes on this book.

No Heroine #3 finishes as a fairly decent Vampire story that has that added layer with the addiction problems that the heroine Kayla is dealing with. While the story didn’t blow my socks off, I felt that it was a good read and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a horror story that’s a bit off the beaten path. I wish the art grabbed me a bit more as I didn’t love the overall appearance but with that said, it wasn’t enough to make me dislike No Heroine.

Story: Frank Gogol Artist: Criss Madd
Colorist: Shawna Madd Letterer: Sean Rinehart Cover Art: Ahmed Raafat
Story: 7.0 Art: 5.0 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Worth a read.

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Review: Superman: The Man Of Steel Vol. 1

Superman: The Man Of Steel Vol. 1

I’ve heard for so many years how great John Byrne’s Superman work was. He took over post-Crisis and redefined the character for the (then) modern age. Not an easy book to collect, with various out-of-print volumes. DC Comics has finally released a hardcover collecting the first part of Byrne’s work in Superman: The Man Of Steel Vol. 1. I hold his X-Men, Fantastic Four and even his Alpha Flight stuff in pretty high regard. I’m not a huge Superman fan or DC fan. Would I feel the same way with Supes?

The story is one we’re all familiar with: A scientist on a doomed planet sends his only son across the universe to an alien planet in an attempt to save his life and to spare him from his home world’s destruction. Upon crash-landing on Earth, he’s found by your typical Earth couple who adopt him and raise him as their own and in doing so, he discovers his amazing abilities and decides to use those to help do the right thing and save others. From there, tales with Braniac, Darkseid, the Phantom Stranger and others round out the volume.

John Byrne’s Superman work ends up being pretty stellar to someone like me, who gets to read it for the first time so many decades later. For one, I feel that for one who doesn’t love the decompression of storytelling that everyone has embraced, the pacing is quite enjoyable. The Man Of Steel mini-series would take well over a year by the new standard if done today. I felt like Byrne understood the characters. He wrote a truly amazing Superman and put him through the ringer, so to speak.  And in saying that, Superman comes off truly relevant to the world he exists in. Art-wise, I have always enjoyed John Byrne’s pencils/art and so I knew what I was getting into with this. I knew that part would not disappoint.

Any problems? Mostly that I’m not a huge Superman fan. It feels odd to like this as much as I do. I’m sure a more traveled Superman/DC Comics fan could pick this apart but from what I know, this is one of the most sought-after comic book runs to get collected again. For me, it’s great to know that something that I’ve heard be so enjoyable actually held up over time, at least for me. This first volume maintains its look by having the art being done by Byrne and by Jerry Ordway in some spots. Terry Austin is one of the inkers involved with this and he’s probably the best inker Byrne worked with. The Adventures Of Superman issues are written by Marv Wolfman and also included. It’s great to see the other books of this era included.

Superman: The Man Of Steel Vol. 1 ends up collecting Byrne’s Man Of Steel mini-series, Superman 1-4, Adventures Of Superman 424-428, and Action Comics 584 through 587. Some extras included are some Who’s Who ‘87 entries. It has a cover price of $49.99 and feels totally worth the price. Also, if DC Comics had released this a few years ago, it would most-likely just have a plain hardcover design underneath the dust jacket. This collection has a very nice art-on-book cover under the DJ. DC Comics has started to put some real quality on the collected editions that get released. If you are a Supes fan, this is one for you.

Story: John Byrne, Marv Wolfman, Jerry Ordway Art: John Byrne, Jerry Ordway
Ink: Dick Giordano, Terry Austin, Jerry Ordway, Mike Machlan, Karl Kesel
Color: Tom Ziuko Letterer: John Costanza, Albert DeGuzman
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: A definite read

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Review: Rai: Book One

Rai: Book One

Rai: Book One takes us to the 41st century, the great hero Rai and his smaller and younger-looking (but older) brother Raijin wander the Earth looking for artifacts that could bring back their adversary, Father. He created Rai and all the other Rais that have existed. But he’s a bloodthirsty force that Rai has had to fight time and time again. His forces are expert killers, raiders, dinosaurs, and even a crazy model home, but they are no match for Rai.

Rai: Book One has a great blend of science fiction and action. Series writer Dan Abnett, who previously wrote Rai’s adventures in the preceding Fallen World mini-series, seems to understand how the character works. The book takes place in the 41st century, so there’s a lot of interesting and creative world-building done, too. Raiders and dinosaurs and even the haunted model home make up some of the threats that Rai and Raijin face and it feels like a refreshing slap of creativity.

Two of my favorite things about Rai are this:  For one, most of this is written as single-issue stories. Issues 4 and 5 are a two-parter. But, you could pretty much pick up any issue of this and be able to jump right in. Issue 2, where the Rais come upon the model home dedicated to its own preservation was one of my favorite single issues I read last year. The other favorite thing about Rai is the art.

I think that Juan Jose Ryp’s art on this book is jaw-dropping. I’m a bit biased; he’s one of my all-time favorite artists, but what he does with a page, very few can do. His work on Rai is very detailed and with Andrew Dalhouse on colors, it makes for a perfect pairing. Ryp has a way with action and violence in his work that stands out. Rai is the kind of book that could be appreciated for the art alone.

Rai doesn’t quite recap its previous events at the beginning of the book but through reading it, you learn what got him and little Raijin to this point. Honestly, it’s not that confusing and I feel Rai: Book One is ripe for new readers. This first volume from the relaunch of Rai starts off with all guns blazing and never lets up. It comes out in shops on September 16th and should leave with you on that same day.

Story: Dan Abnett Art: Juan Jose Ryp
Color: Andrew Dalhouse Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Story: 9.0 Art: 10 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: I think it’s worth buying

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Review: Reaver #11


Reaver is an absolute treat for those looking for a very violent fantasy book. Reaver #11, part five of “The Grim After” takes a look back at Essen Breaker and how he and Bren became connected. For those not in the know, he’s a giant of a man who kills just about anything in his path. They call him the Devil’s Son.  In typical fashion, there’s strife and fighting and in the end, a whole lot of blood has been spilled. You do read Reaver, right?

Reaver is my favorite thing that Image Comics is putting out. Hard-edge fantasy with quite a few likeable characters to boot. I feel like this is definitely one of Justin Jordan’s best books that he’s done and he’s done quite a few great comics worth reading. Over the course of this storyline, and the entire series in general, I love what his “Hell’s Half-Dozen” as gone through. If there’s one critique to throw out about the writing, it’s that the usage of the F-word is so commonplace that for me, it makes the dialogue feel very unnatural.

For the most part, I have enjoyed Niko Henichon’s art but there were a few pages that seemed a bit rushed. That said, Niko has a style suited for a book like Reaver. There are some rather cool splash pages at the front of this that are a real treat, pages which highlight The Devil’s Son. Becky Cloonan’s covers continue to be eye-catching.

It’s the end of “The Grim After” but what comes after should be another epic story for Reaver. If you are looking for an adult fantasy story, I feel there’s none better. To me, Reaver is a total breath of fresh air and comes off wholly original. If you want something different in the genre that’s high quality, then it’s definitely Reaver that you are after.

Story: Justin Jordan Art: Niko Henrichon
Letterer: Clayton Cowles Editor: John Moisan Cover Artist: Becky Cloonan
Story: 8.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

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Advance Review: Doctor Tomorrow #5

Doctor Tomorrow #5

Previously in Doctor Tomorrow, we met Bart Simms – many versions of Bart Simms, in fact. The youngest one meets an adult one who is locked in battle with foe capable of global destruction in Hadrian. Only in typical comic book fashion, we learn that Hadrian is another Bart Simms, who ends up blasting his younger version into an alternate future where his childhood best friend gives him years of training.

Doctor Tomorrow #5 picks up with our younger version of Bart all grown up and ready to fight the battle he has trained for in the future. But for those who followed this series, there was a lot more going on than just your typical battle. Bart’s home life was in shambles due to his mother’s passing and it had placed a strain between him and his father, who in this issue is quite shocked that his son is all grown up and that he missed those years of his life.

I thought the Doctor Tomorrow #5 creative team delivered an exciting finale to Doctor Tomorrow. Series writer Alejandro Arbona and artist Jim Towe are a team that I hope will be back to further the adventures of Bart in another series. Kelly Fitzpatrick‘s colors flowed well with Towe’s pencils. It helped give this series a bright look. Jim Towe’s pencils felt like they had a bit of a unique look to them that was pleasant to look at. I thought the effort put in to create the dialogue between Bart and his father was a pretty good moment and a spot that could have easily been passed over as a loose thread.  If I had to nitpick, it would be that there were a few times that the dialogue felt a bit too cliché during the big fight.

I’ve really enjoyed Doctor Tomorrow and for a few reasons. For one, it brought your regular superhero fisticuffs to the Valiant Universe, a place not necessarily brimming with heroes and villains. It was old school. It was the young hero, ready to face down his foe who was, in essence, himself. It gives Valiant a book with a huge all-ages feel that isn’t burdened by being only written for kids. Doctor Tomorrow brought out all the big Valiant characters but they really were only used as background spectators to Bart’s battle against his own Hadrian. While I never know how much anything Valiant does goes to bring in new fans, I think the regular fan of the publisher will enjoy Doctor Tomorrow very much.

Story: Alejandro Arbona Art: Jim Towe
Color: Kelly Fitzpatrick Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Read

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