Author Archives: Josh Rathbun

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Review: Ninjak #1

Ninjak #1

Previously in the pages of the book Ninja-K, it was brought to light that MI-6, the organization that employs Colin King, AKA Ninjak (and also Ninja-K), had a lot of skeletons in the closet and was doing a lot of manipulation to make their agents see their way. Ninjak wanted no part anymore of this and bailed on MI-6. Ninjak #1 kicks of a brand-new series that sees the pieces of that puzzle start to take shape. While MI-6 has someone tailing Colin, MI-6 takes an even bigger blow in that someone has leaked the identities of all of their secret agents, resulting in a lot of death. Ninjak, being one of the best spies and assassins around, knows quite well of his tracker, Myna, and brings her into the fold as forces now want both of them dead.

I love the story that Jeff Parker has crafted with this. For one, he did the work and saw where the character was left. Some of Valiant’s work lately seems so detached from the previous continuity that it almost felt like no one cared to see how the characters work. Parker, picking up from the previous Ninja-K series, seemed to know exactly where to take the character and amplify the threats and action. There’s a lot going on inside the cover and I think if someone gives this book an honest chance, I think there’s a lot to like with Ninjak’s story.

The real obstacle of this book is going to be whether you can handle the art. Javier Pulido’s artwork is going to win some fans over and help lose some. It’s just such a departure from what your typical Valiant comic looks like. In my opinion, Javier’s panel layouts are top-notch and help his style. The colors are simple, as is the amount of detail in his work. Ultimately, I do like how this volume of Ninjak looks so far, but I’m not faulting the Valiant faithful who are turned off by what they see.

I’m glad to see Ninjak back and I’m even happier that someone read Ninja-K and built the story off where that one seemed to leave off. Ninjak is on the run and for those chasing, they face one of the most dangerous men alive. Ninjak #1 is chock full of action and has a very interesting art style to accompany it. While I do think some won’t fully appreciate the visuals, I do hope they give the story a chance because it’s exactly what’s needed with Ninjak.

Words and Art: Jeff Parker and Javier Pulido
Letters: Dave Sharpe and Javier Pulido
Story: 9.0 Art: 6.0: Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Captain America #30

Captain America #30

Captain America #30 wraps up Ta-Nehisi Coates’ run on Captain America. Captain America will (yet again) finally face off with his biggest foe, the Red Skull. After thoroughly thrashing Crossbones, Cap’s plan to defeat his foe lies not in punching him out but in exposing his true intentions to the many internet followers that the Red Skull has.

My first thought after reading this issue is that Coates wraps up his take on the character with not a bang but a whisper. There have been so many fights between Cap and the Skull and it’s maybe as damaging to expose your enemy to their blindsided followers as it is to beat them unconscious. But, it did feel a tad bit lackluster. This run hasn’t been about establishing power levels or memorable fights; it’s been more thought-provoking. I think there’s some legitimate darkness and evil to some of the rhetoric of the Red Skull that’s been used in this storyline and you can certainly see it reflected in our very real lives. I love that Coates tapped into that to see how damaging it can really be. To some, that’s boring and bland but I have an appreciation for stories driven like this. Cap is in a good place for when the next creative team relaunches the title.

I thought the overall look of Captain America #30 was good but not anything really special. I’ve liked Leonard Kirk’s work more on other books but there was just something about it with Cap that almost felt wasted on this issue. His artistic style really shines on a book with a lot of colorful suits and big action. Matt Milla’s colors work with the art and Joe Caramagna’s letters don’t hide anything but there’s almost a lack of energy to the overall product.

Captain America #30 is a fine end to the Coates era of Captain America. I think there were some important ideals tackled with this particular story and it really puts some thoughts in your head about extremism. It would have been nice to also see someone like the Red Skull get punched out, too. I think if you have passion for what Coates did with Cap or if you are critical of his work on the character, an issue like this is going to do little to sway your opinion. I found it to be a decent end for another memorable run of Captain America.

Story: Ta-Nehisi Coates Art: Leonard Kirk
Colors: Matt Milla Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Story: 7.0 Art: 6.0 Overall: 6.5

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Review: Hellboy And The B.P.R.D.: The Secret Of Chesbro House #1 (of 2)

Hellboy And The B.P.R.D.: The Secret Of Chesbro House #1

Hellboy returns in Hellboy And The B.P.R.D.: The Secret Of Chesbro House #1, the start of a 2-issue mini-series as he is brought into the Chesbro house to take on the supernatural aspects of it. The Chesbro house in itself is a place of mystery and lore, with stories of sex rituals, disappearances, and secret rooms that no one can find. The heirs would like to sell it but it must be rid of the evil presence. Once they make contact with the dead spirits do they truly get a sense of what evil resides within the walls of the Chesbro house.

I think one of the great things about a character like Hellboy is that you can place him in a story like this, one that’s not necessarily that original, and just by what he is and what the B.P.R.D. are about and it truly elevates the storytelling to another level. We’ve all read or heard stories of haunted houses and even the basics of the Chesbro house aren’t original. The teens who want to have nothing to do with it or the creepy caretaker who runs the place but Mignola and Golden, just by having their own supernatural avenger, make the story feel really fresh and exciting. It did feel just a hair too long to get to the exciting and then that felt a bit short-lived but Hellboy And The B.P.R.D.: The Secret Of Chesbro House #1 already feels like another great Hellboy story.

There’s not a bad panel in this entire issue. Shawn McManus, Dave Stewart, and Clem Robins unleash a spectacular-looking issue. McManus’s style is so clean and stylish with the right amount of detail added, his art pops in this issue. Illustrating a haunted house would lead to some difficulties for some and the amount of detail thrown into The Secret Of Chesbro House might have slowed some. There are full backgrounds throughout the issue and I think many a reader will appreciate that extra bit of detail thrown in. There’s nothing bad you could probably ever say about Dave Stewart’s colors and I couldn’t imagine too many people doing a better job with the material. Clem Robins is at the top of her game on an issue like this, as I can’t imagine trying to put words on this level of art an easy task.

Part one of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.’s adventures with a haunted house might seem like a bit of overkill for the characters involved but with great storytelling and art that matches the quality, readers should get a lot of enjoyment out of this story. I’ve been a Hellboy/B.P.R.D. fan for many years and I’m always appreciative of the fact that Mignola and company continue to craft such interesting tales with Hellboy. The Secret of Chesbro House is yet another quality adventure in the Mignolaverse.

Story: Mike Mignola with Christopher Golden Art: Shawn McManus
Colors: Dave Stewart Letters: Clem Robins
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Black Cat Annual #1

Black Cat Annual #1

Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat, gets stuck in South Korea and is forced into a team-up with White Fox and Tiger Division in Black Cat Annual #1. Their target? The super-powerful Taegukgi, who is working for a local crime lord. However, it goes from bad to worse when they find said crime lord and all of his henchmen dead, meaning someone else is now in control of a very deadly superhero.

One thing I’ve really enjoyed with the annuals this year from Marvel is that the stories have felt a bit different, from Iron Man being a mentor to Miles Morales in the Iron Man annual to the team-up with Tiger Division in this issue. I do wish these were just a bit bigger. I’m a fan of the old 64-page annuals. Back to Black Cat Annual #1, it’s nice to see some newer characters get a bit more use and if remembering correctly, collectors made a big deal out of Taegukgi’s first appearance. The fact that Black Cat ends up with a bomb planted in her neck and spends large amounts of time complaining about it to White Fox did seem a bit played out. Is there just no other way to get help from someone than by booby-trapping them?

Nick Fury’s story in the second part dealing with the infinity gems has been a better use of pages than some of the stories in the older annuals but to me, this chapter just seemed a bit too brief. Go figure. And if I guessed who the shadowy figure is, then I am a bit more excited to follow where this story goes. However, there’s a part of me that thinks It’s just more of Marvel Comics trying to make all their books feel just like their cinematic endeavors. It’s a little thing but they used to be called the infinity GEMS. If they had any stones, they’d go back to calling them that.

I thought the creative team did a fine job on this book. Jed MacKay wrote both parts of this book and one thing that stood out to me was his characters do “sound” different from one another. I liked Juan Ferreyra’s art better in the second half story. I really thought the style added to the story. And in saying that, Joey Vazquez’s art was good, too. I just preferred one to the other.

You could certainly do worse than buying or reading Black Cat Annual #1. It just didn’t feel like that much of a throwaway story and I’m also glad to see a character like Black Cat getting the much-needed push. I think those that read this issue have probably never heard of the added characters in this issue but that’s okay, you have to start somewhere. This issue was definitely worth a read.

Story: Jed MacKay Art: Joey Vazquez and Juan Ferreyra
Color: Brian Reber Letterer: Ferran Delgado
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

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Review: Barbaric #1

Barbaric #1

Barbaric #1 is the story of a total bastard of a barbarian who was cursed by witches to be good. His axe, which talks to him and loves blood, keeps him on the straight and narrow as its own little lie detector. He has a real hatred of witches, which plays right into the crux of the story, where a witch is targeted by an angry mob. There’s that tricky thing about being good that pulls him in to help the witch. Well, that and the creatures that are springing forth from the ground.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Barbaric #1. Barbaric is definitely an apt name for this book. For a book that could have easily come off as just another hack-and-slash or even a Conan rip-off, Barbaric definitely comes off as something totally different. It plays up the language and the violence a lot. It’s a brutal book, with a gleam of humor and ultimately makes for a unique fantasy comic book. Michael Moreci’s writing is on-point here. It was a nice change to have characters speak like normal characters and not drum up fantasy speak. The dialogue felt more natural.

I thought the visuals were well-suited for the story. Nathan Gooden and Addison Duke’s art totally embellishes the blood and guts and glory of Barbaric. A really gritty style of art is on display with this comic and they don’t shy away from violent depictions of an axe-wielding madman going to town on a bunch of people. Good lettering throughout by Jim Campbell.

I normally recommend the D&D books that IDW Publishing puts out but this might be the new book to recommend to people who are looking for something different and enjoyable. Barbaric #1 totally lives up to its name (but in a good way) and delivers the bloody ass-kickings you’d want from a hard-R fantasy story. A man and his talking axe make for a fine story. Personally, I’d buy this issue and continue on from there.

Story: Michael Moreci Art: Nathan Gooden
Color: Addison Duke Letterer: Jim Campbell
Story: 9.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: The Mighty Crusaders: The Shield

The Mighty Crusaders: The Shield

Archie Comics latest attempt at making the Mighty Crusaders characters work has brought Rob Liefeld into the fold to try and launch this into something that sticks around. If The Mighty Crusaders: The Shield is any indication of how it’ll fare, I doubt Rob or this attempt will be on long.

The original Shield is lost in time. There are others who have carried the name. The Shield that is leading the Mighty Crusaders is telling the rest of the team of another. The latest is a man with little memory but enough to know he’s a near-invincible hard-ass who can eat bullets like they are nothing and just smash some random people who bust in his house for an unknown reason. And that’s it!

The Mighty Crusaders: The Shield seems to come off as a story drawn out first and then they had to add some story pages and that’s probably being generous. Sadly, I think the visuals are pretty bland. It has the feel of a book of pin-up shots with a story being secondary. Liefeld does some good work explaining all the different people who were The Shield and there’s enough mystery with this current person who has taken up the mantle. I do think the art is decent and the coloring and lettering work well but Rob’s writing isn’t helping this much.

I’m not looking to take shots on someone in the industry but I just don’t feel like The Mighty Crusaders: The Shield is a great comic or really good use of Liefeld’s art. I do think The Mighty Crusaders: The Shield ends up recycling a lot of his poses and typical artistic foibles. Archie Comics just doesn’t stick to anything that’s not the Archie digests and I would not be surprised if this newest launch just disappears. I guess you can just enjoy The Mighty Crusaders: The Shield while it lasts but I doubt this is going to last long at all.

Story: Rob Liefeld Script: David Gallaher Art: Rob Liefeld Letterer: Jack Morelli
Story: 4.0 Art: 6.0 Overall: 5.0

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Review: Spawn’s Universe #1

Spawn's Universe #1

Big things are happening in Spawn’s universe expanding the world beyond the title character. The hope is to spawn (no pun intended) a universe of stories. Spawn’s Universe #1 is the next step in creator Todd McFarlane‘s plan to do exactly that.

Spawn’s Universe #1 is home to a lot of great comic artists and I thought they all knocked it out of the park. Whether it was Jim Cheung doing the main character, or Brett Booth on Gunslinger, Stephen Segovia working with Medieval, or Marcio Takara on art for She-Spawn’s story, I thought all of the artists working on this issue really nailed the look and feel of what they were given to illustrate. Art-wise, this is the kind of effort that I think could get people interested in this book. There’s not an ugly page to be found here and each artists’ style feels so distinct from one another. The various colorists and letterers put the cherry on top of a fantastic-looking issue.

Todd McFarlane handled the writing duties on all the stories and the one thing I’d say is I do kinda like how he writes. It feels like a mix of old and new, still decompressed for the newer era of comics but with a nice bit of narrative caption boxes throughout the issue. The story did seem to have a few problems. My main one is that I’m pretty sure there are characters used here and I have no idea who they are. Who is the guy on Omega’s island? Who was the guy with angel wings? Are these people that read the monthly title would know? There’s a lot of action in the pages and Spawn’s still a cool character but adding in some more of the Spawns and Cy-Gor was an added treat. The short stories are good starting points for what will happen with the supporting cast. I thought Gunslinger Spawn’s solo story was the best of the lot.

Overall, Spawn’s Universe #1 is a tiny bit confusing to read but it’s nice to look at. I’m hoping it’s just that I’m not a monthly Spawn reader that causes it but then it begs the question: is this a good jumping-on point for new readers to Spawn? I think that Spawn’s Universe will be a rewarding experience for those who have stuck with the title but that’s it, outside of just simple artistic enjoyment. Still, Spawn is 300+ issues old and a new launching pad should still offer something for the older readers. Hopefully, newer readers can make sense of it all.

Story: Todd McFarlane Art: Jim Cheung, Brett Booth, Stephen Segovia, Marcio Takara
Inks: Adelso Corona, Todd McFarlane Lettering: Tom Orzechowski, Andworld Design
Colors: Fco Plascencia, Andrew Dalhouse, Peter Steigerwald
Story: 5.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 7.0

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Review: Shadowman #3

Shadowman #3

Shadowman #3 sees the Shadowman bounce from Haiti to Barcelona, still trying to figure out who is trying to cause the blights from the Deadside to break through. Shadowman meets his match in the Pallbearer, a supernatural threat who is killing those associated with loas, the spiritual interm

I’m not sure what I like more on Shadowman, Cullen Bunn’s writing or John Davis-Hunt’s artwork. With Jordie Bellaire’s colors and Clayton Cowles’ letters, they really do make for a special creative team for Shadowman. The approach seems to be single-issue stories, driven by a central threat to the overall arc, and for me, it totally works. Cullen does horror really well and his approach appears more like a horror story than a superhero one. This issue also saw Josef, who was in Cullen’s Punk Mambo series, pop up to assist Shadowman and Baron Samedi. Speaking of Samedi, he certainly comes off as an untrustworthy ally but he doesn’t chew the scenery much and ends up offering small bits of humor. I hope for the series that he’s more like an ally and less of the untrustworthy variety.

There’s a lot of dark and creepy creatures that John Davis-Hunt has to illustrate and lots of dark, eerie settings and this issue wasn’t any different than the last couple but he has a style that really helps build on the dark atmosphere of Shadowman. He might be responsible for the best-looking Shadowman. I just think his version looks the coolest. That said, he does a grand job drawing lots of disgusting things for Shadowman to face.

Shadowman #3 is a continuation of outstanding single issues. This relaunch has been absolutely fantastic and I’m excited about where this is going. The creative team is doing some big-time work on the book and after reading this issue, I want more. Shadowman’s story is beautiful, dark and disturbing, and every bit captivating. If you are looking for something a bit different than your typical fare, Shadowman is that book.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: John Davis-Hunt
Color: Jordie Bellaire Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Shang-Chi #1

Shang-Chi #1

In Shang-Chi #1, Shang-Chi has toppled his father and his organization. Now, he stands as the head of the Five Weapons Society, he’s using the organization to fix some of his father’s wrongdoings. Easier said than done, as attackers with beast-like hands start to attack, which leads to Shang-Chi locating a shop owner with a mysterious root created from an old Chinese Yeti. Even worse, Spider-Man is after a drug ring and believes both to be connected. Shang-Chi isn’t ready to divulge his association to his father’s old group. It’s only after Spider-Man falls prey to the yeren root that Shang-Chi has no choice but to fill Spider-Man in on everything. The only question that remains is whether it puts Shang-Chi at odds with his superhero brethren.

I’ve never read anything written by Gene Luen Yang before this issue. I know, it’s a total oversight and I know of all sorts of comics that everyone just loves but I just never had the chance until this moment but I left this issue feeling like I am going to just love where he’s going with Shang-Chi. I’m a fan of Shang-Chi, the character, and with this being billed as Shang vs. the Marvel Universe, I’d love to see how he handles some of the other heroes he’s going to run into with this series. He’s called the Master Of Kung-Fu. I hope Shang-Chi gets to prove it.

Now, outside of my own childhood fantasies of characters throwing down, I think the story is intriguing, with the yeren root, which is named after a mythological Chinese yeti. Just having something like that pop up here lead me down the Google rabbit hole of reading all about Chinese yetis. Awesome stuff. Gene’s dialogue feels really fresh throughout the entire issue and he does such a great job making everyone sound so different and really establishes their personalities.

Dike Ruan and Triona Farrell make the art team on Shang-Chi and there’s a good quality dynamic at work here. Dike employs a good amount of detail but doesn’t overdo it. There’s not a lot of wasted linework with his art. Triona Farrell’s colors just come off a hair too dark for me throughout the entire issue but it’s not enough to ruin my enjoyment of what I’m seeing on every page.

In the end, I’m glad one of my favorite characters is finding ways to stay in print and with a movie in the near future. It’s a good time to be Shang-Chi. I love the position he’s in and the fact he’s not going to play nice with others is even better. This first issue is definitely worth checking out.

Story: Gene Luen Yang Art: Dike Ruan
Color: Triona Farrell Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Story: 8.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.5

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Review: Fantastic Four: Life Story #1

Fantastic Four: Life Story #1

It’s a story that all comic book fans know: Four people go up to space on an experimental rocket where they are bombarded with cosmic rays. When they crash down to Earth, each of the four display a multitude of super abilities. They decide to band together for the betterment of humanity and call themselves the Fantastic Four. Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 kicks off a new take on Marvel’s first family.

The Fantastic Four have such a classic origin story. Why even tinker with it? That’s the question I was left with after reading this. I am not sure if this is meant to be canon within the Marvel U or what. With this latest rehash of Marvel’s first family’s origin, things are expanded in ways that sometimes just feel a bit unnecessary. I don’t want to nitpick everything because it’s not fair to the creative team and, to be honest, I’m a huge fan of the FF, going back to when I was a kid. They were one of the first Marvel books I picked up. Is it a case of me being too much of a fan and not wanting to accept change? Is it just a mediocre attempt at looking at the Fantastic Four in the 1960s?

Mark Russell’s update of the FF sees them being the fourth group to try and reach space. Reed meets with President Kennedy. Also present is Dr. Jones, another big-mind who ends up being passed on time after time due to Reed’s intellect and approach. The entire project shuts down and Reed is left to assemble a team and sneak a rocket up into space. With some minor tweaks, the FF is born from the flight, and Reed is left with a shocking vision from space, one of a devourer of worlds being out there.

So it falls to me to be a fan that can’t get past certain things. I just don’t like quite a few of the retcons thrown into this. It’s still not a bad book and I think someone new to the characters might get enjoyment from it. As a reviewer and a long-time fan, there’s a part of me that wants to chalk it up to not being the best story but I really think it comes down to just being an older fan set in his ways with these characters. And for a team of adventurers who’ve had the stories they’ve had, there’s not a whole lot of action within this book. Maybe one of the biggest problems I had with this is that going through the FF’s 1960 adventures, we got the mole man and a glimpse of Galactus and…that’s kinda it. No Doom, no Namor, no Frightful Four, or even the discovery of the Inhumans.

That said, I think one of Mark Russell’s strength’s is dialogue and there were a few times in this book where I really liked what was said. Reed’s 1967 answer to the question of the existence of aliens really stood out to me. And I did like Dr. Jones and the way he was woven into their history in key moments.

Life Story does have consistent good art throughout the issue. Sean Izaakse and Nolan Woodard do some solid work on this book. I really liked the colors throughout this issue and that can certainly go a long way. Like I said in my critique of the writing, there’s not a lot of action here so there’s not a bunch of cool-looking scenes of the FF’s adventures but Izaakse and Woodard make a lot of pages of people talking look pretty good.

Am I too hard? Am I too much of a fan of the Fantastic Four, unable to budge? Probably that’s the case. That said, I still found some enjoyment in this and it was way better than the Ultimate version from the early 2000s.

Story: Mark Russell Art: Sean Izaakse
Color: Nolan Woodard Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 6.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 6.5

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