Author Archives: Josh Rathbun

Review: Wolverine #15

Wolverine #15

It’s been a while since I checked up on Wolverine’s solo adventures and for sure, I checked out long before Jonathan Hickman revamped the X-line in spectacular fashion. I’m glad I did because Wolverine #15 had a few nice surprises that kept me interested.

The pirate lord Sevyr Blackmore tells the tale of when he met Solem, a mutant with adamantium skin. Sevyr captured him when Solem was a kid but found he couldn’t kill him and couldn’t keep him held captive because he escaped everything. Instead, he took him under his wing and taught him the life of a pirate and in these kinds of tales, the student soon becomes the teacher and Solem turns out to be very, very good at what he’s learned. After all has been said, Wolverine and Sevyr go at it, with the winner to continue on the trail of Solem.

I got drawn into this issue of Wolverine pretty easy, despite my own shortcomings with not knowing much of who the cast was. I can confirm Sevyr’s tale works well for someone new to Wolverine. I like Ben Percy’s work, notably his work on Year Zero for AWA Studios. I think it would be hard to write villains for Wolverine. He heals and can cut anything in his path. Sevyr’s acidic blood mixed with having the foresight to install a magnetic floor to keep Logan in one spot seemed like a winning formula to me. And having Solem be a step or two ahead of Logan is a nice touch.

I was not expecting to be impressed with the art of Adam Kubert in 2021 or to have him throw out visuals that keep his work looking so fresh. I mean, I like his art and all but what I saw in the pages of Wolverine really stood out to me. I could gush all over this issue. While I’m sure Percy’s script is tight, Adam Kubert really knows how to make the story flow from panel to panel. I thought the colors by Frank Martin looked a tiny bit odd paired with Kubert’s art but I was sold after a few pages.

Could it be better? Sure. Everything can be better. I’m not much of a fan of Wolverine because he used to just pop up everywhere and mess up the place. Characters like Wolverine tend to feel a bit stale to me and I can honestly say I haven’t picked up his solo book in years. However, I was really enjoying what I read from Wolverine #15, so it’s definitely possible to put some good shine on something that for me was dull. Enough so that I want to see where this tale is going to go. Sevyr and Solem seem interesting enough as foils to Logan. This is definitely a book to read but it wouldn’t hurt to buy it since there was enough thought to make it feel like the story went somewhere and delivered on some good action.

Story: Benjamin Percy Art: Adam Kubert
Color: Frank Martin Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit Design: Tom Muller
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0

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Review: Moon Knight #2

Moon Knight #2

What’s a rather disgusting way that someone could control someone? How about by having drops of sweat contaminate their water. Moon Knight #2 breaks the question of why the elderly mob was all under the control of one mind, as Moon Knight cracks that problem by discovering the building’s janitor has the ability to control others through his sweat. There’s still someone in the shadows that’s out to get Moon Knight but that’s a tale for another issue.

Moon Knight is a character that works very well in a supernatural world so pairing him with a vampire assistant actually kinda works. I don’t know how I feel with there being an issue between Khonshu and MK. It feels like every volume of this title has this trope and it gets old but for now, it’s not presenting any storytelling problems. Having Marc Spector in full control works for me. I do kind of feel like being an older Marvel fan and reader of Moon Knight that I’m having to adapt to a lot of changes to the world he exists in but nothing feels like a negative. I like what Jed MacKay is doing here, establishing what feels like a normal version of Marc and putting him in what almost feels like a position that Daredevil would be in: a savior to those who need him and one that people can easily reach. Also, I thought the sequence where Marc tastes the sweat, gross as it was, led to a really powerful moment showcasing what you get when you cross the ex-Avenger. It’s a subtle but awesome reminder that Moon Knight is a bad-ass.

Alessandro Cappuccio’s art is reminisce to me of an early Jae Lee and I think it rocks on a book like Moon Knight. I think an art style like this could really pay off if this books gets really deep into things like vampires or even Marc’s association with werewolves and other supernatural threats. It’s dark and brooding and there’s something almost fearsome in the eyes of the possessed in this issue. And again, back to the moment Moon Knight defeated the poisonous janitor, the visuals were impressive. Great colors by Rachelle Rosenberg and Cory Petit’s letters continue to work. And I hope we continue to see Steve McNiven covers as I thought this issue had a great cover.

I was really happy with Moon Knight #2. He’s one of my favorite Marvel characters. I think most of the Moon Knight runs always start with a lot of promise and great execution, but then after a year or two just become something rather unremarkable. I hope Marvel and even Jed MacKay can continue to give us issues like this one because I know it’s a character with a bigger future ahead and a loyal fanbase that want these adventures to continue. I definitely think this is an issue to read.

Story: Jed MacKay Art: Alessandro Cappuccio
Color: Rachelle Rosenberg Letterer: Cory Petit
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0

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Review: X-O Manowar #5

X-O Manowar #5

The last adventure of X-O Manowar saw him involved in a grudge match with some European General who ended up sneaking his army into Brooklyn in a lame attempt to harm the family that befriended X-O. He easily defeated them and then when he was hanging out with his billionaire friend on his yacht, was attacked by a nanite swarm and left sinking in the ocean.  Honestly, it wasn’t the greatest tale that could be told of Valiant’s flagship character.

X-O Manowar #5 starts with our titular character sinking in the ocean, unable to communicate with Shanhara, the living armor that X-O Manowar wears. The nanite swarm continues to attack and X-O finds a sunken vessel to explode, helping him rise to the surface. Once free of the threat, we get a lot of talk about what is possibly causing the threat, which it now seems to be focused solely at Shanhara. If that wasn’t enough, we now see Shanhara personified in a minecraft-like world where faceless enemies assault her.

There’s good and there’s bad about X-O Manowar #5. First, seeing some sort of reason for the nanite attacks reveal itself is nice at this point in the story. And while the billionaire buddy of X-O comes off as a bit annoying, he’s able to deduct and problem solve in a way that really works within the story. Sadly, the entire issue feels like X-O is just some clueless dolt. Then there’s the end of this book, where Shanhara more-or-less looks like Valiant heroine Livewire, who has worn the armor before, being attacked by Minecraft creepers, further cementing the idea that her mindset is now that of a child, continues to come off as unimaginative for a character that is more advanced than anything on earth and has existed for a thousand years.

The art continues to look great when there’s action. The opening part of the story really makes what Emilio Laiso and Raffaele Forte and Ruth Redmond do on art look superb. I think he really knocks the action sequences out of the part. WIth an issue like this, there’s enough of that. I really thought the colors popped on the opening sequence. Throughout the issue, I could see that Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s letters look thorough. I thought all the covers for this issue look fantastic and as a Valiant collector, I can’t wait to get copies of this issue for my collection.

While I’m glad that the publishing pause with X-O Manowar is done, I’m still left feeling a bit unimpressed with the title. The visuals are there but the story isn’t quite working for me. With recent Valiant titles like Shadowman and Ninjak being as good as they are, X-O Manowar comes off as the weak sibling in the family.

Story: Dennis Hopeless Art: Emilio Laiso
Ink: Raffaele Forte Color: Ruth Redmond Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Story: 5.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 6.0

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Review: Groo Meets Tarzan #1

Groo Meets Tarzan #1

Groo Meets Tarzan is something I never knew I needed until I read it. I’ve read loads of Groo The Wanderer comics growing up but it’s been quite a while since I read any adventures of the cheese dip-loving idiot swordsman and his faithful dog, Rufferto. And by that same line, I’ve never read a Tarzan story. Never Ever.

Groo Meets Tarzan #1 opens at the 2021 San Diego Comic-Con. You know, the one that didn’t happen. Fans are rushing to meet Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones, only it’s not for their creations but for being mistaken for other creations, which is really heating up Sergio. But the talk goes to the creation of a story, one where Tarzan and Groo meet each other. Sergio has booked this trip to a sketchy wildlife preserve to help gain some needed insight into the project. As nighttime takes Sergio to his dreams, the story is that of Tarzan, strong and reliable, chasing down slavers. The flipside is that of Groo and Rufferto, known to cause destruction wherever they go, being led to cheese dip where it won’t actually be. Both of these characters are well on their way to a meeting.

The writing on Groo Meets Tarzan blends fantasy action and comedy very well and maybe better than probably anyone would. Evanier has written Groo for many, many years but he got his work doing a lot of other, more serious work, and I think that even reading Groo as long as I have, I have more-or-less forgotten that he can do serious and do it well. All the comedy works (for me) as I was a long-time reader of Groo and I think the Groo reader probably has the easier time with this. It feels more like a Groo story.

Artistically speaking, this book blends the Thomas Yeates art nicely with Sergio Aragones’ work. This issue has all of Tarzan’s stuff by Yeates. There’s a good amount of back and forth between the art styles. Yeates opts for something a bit more refined than you’d normally see in a Groo book, lot more detail thrown into his linework. It wouldn’t be a Groo book if we didn’t have some epic two-page showcasing about too many people on a page with jokes all around and we get a good one near the beginning.

I don’t have a bad thing to say about Groo Meets Tarzan, other than they haven’t met yet. I’m not sure what will happen when they do. Fight? Eat cheese dip? Who knows until next month but Groo Meets Tarzan is not at all what I was expecting but I’m glad I read it. Mostly a funny story, but the Tarzan moments do throw some serious moments into the mix. It’s a very enjoyable comic showcasing that Sergio and Mark are the best at the comedy side of comics. I highly recommend it.

Story: Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier Art: Sergio Aragones and Thomas Yeates
Colors by: Tom Luth Letterers: Stan Sakai (Groo pages)
and Adam Pruett (Tarzan pages)
Story: 9.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Shadowman #4

Shadowman #4

The opening arc of Shadowman has kept my interests pretty high. As a reader, we have a Shadowman book where the protagonist can let loose and dive right into the heart of the evil around him. We’ve seen in this series that the Deadside, which is as it sounds, is trying to use the Earth as its own power battery and there are powerful creatures escaping to the Earth. And rightfully so, we’ve seen Shadowman step up and take out whatever threat has arisen. The first three issues have been very enjoyable. Is Shadowman #4 going to hit like the previous three?

Another thing has escaped the Deadside. This is something that spreads a hallucinogenic experience to those it comes in contact with. Its effect is that of a very violent drug trip and that leads Shadowman and Samedi to track it to a crackhouse on the streets of London. Shadowman falls victim and comes face-to-face with his biggest threat; the Deadside is taking on a physical form and has let itself known to Shadowman. After overcoming the effects, Shadowman dispatches his foe but knows something far bigger and sinister now walks the world. He thinks he understands the relationship between the Deadside and the Earth and how he must deal with it.

To me, there was a lot to unravel with this issue. The villain of this issue was downright creepy and what it caused in its wake was really disturbing stuff. People imagining their babies are spawning into grotesque creatures or people hurting themselves because of what they think they see. I thought the way the fight between it and Shadowman went down was interesting. It wasn’t much of a fight but an invitation to see the true culprit. There’s something really interesting building within the pages of Shadowman and writer Cullen Bunn basically makes it sound like the series is going on hiatus to set up some other machinations within the Valiant universe. That part is a really big letdown, as this book has been great for every issue. Jon Davis-Hunt continues illustrating the creepiest, sickest villains around and with Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles, have continued to put out one of the better-looking books around.

I think that one key element has been that we see a lot with this series how normal folks have reacted or been treated by the Deadside beings and it really helps ratchet up the threats that Shadowman faces. And Shadowman, while being a hero, isn’t quite a superhero with this take. I hope when the book returns, it’s with this same creative team. They have done no wrongs on Shadowman and honestly, you can argue it’s the best we’ve gotten with the character in many years. Let’s hope that the publishing break isn’t a big one because whether it’s the entire four issues or just this fourth one, these stories are setting up something and should not be forgotten about.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colors: Jordie Bellaire Letters: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

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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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