Author Archives: Josh Rathbun

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Review: The Tankies

The Tankies

Within The Tankies are three tales: in “The Tankies”, we meet Corporate Stiles, a hardened vet who is ready to bring his men against the German Tiger tank, a machine feared to be unrivaled. Then in “The Firefly & His Majesty”, Stiles and co. lead a Firefly, which is a Sherman tank, up against the German’s newest weapon, the King Tiger. Lastly, “The Green Fields Beyond” sees Stiles and company’s involvement in Korea against the Communists.

These stories were originally published under the “Battlefields” title that Dynamite had going with Garth Ennis from back in 2011. Last year saw Dead Reckoning release The Stringbags, which was another WW2 Ennis book. That said, it’s nice to see these stories see light again and to also be dedicated to longtime Ennis collaborator and Judge Dredd co-creator Carlos Ezquerra, who passed away in 2018. Like any Ennis-written War Story, they certainly aren’t for the squeamish and the language is something totally beyond colorful. I do feel that a good Ennis war story is as good as it gets.

Reading through The Tankies, you can see that the research has been done to be accurate to the times portrayed. You’ll almost feel like an expert in tanks after reading this. There’s a great afterword by Ennis at the end that really encompasses the amount of research done for such a book as The Tankies. And to finish the book, a section of sketches from Carlos Ezquerra.

I’ve always appreciated the artwork of Carlos Ezquerra. He worked with Ennis on many stories, from Kev at Wildstorm to World Of Tanks at Dark Horse, just to name a few. With The Tankies, I feel like he took this job seriously and put forth a great amount of detail in everything from weapons of destruction to the people using them. His character expressions are great. I have a real appreciation of the art within these pages.

I enjoyed reading The Tankies very much. Honestly, I buy every war story Ennis works on when I know about them. While some might not enjoy the destructive power of war or the violence man casts upon themselves with it, I always appreciate the history lesson of it and the little things that Ennis and Ezquerra inject into it. If you enjoy war or if you like what Garth Ennis brings to comics, The Tankies is just the book for you. It’s not as funny as Ennis and Ezquerra’s work in The Adventures Of The Rifle Brigade but certainly feels similar in tone to World Of Tanks.

Story: Garth Ennis Art: Carlos Ezquerra
Ink: Hector Ezquerra Color: Tony Avina Letterer: Simon Bowland
Story: 10 Art: 8.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Dead Reckoning provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: Magic #1

Magic #1

Welcome to Ravnica, the home of magic. Kaya the Ghost-Assassin. Ral Zarek the Stormheart. Vraska the Queen of the Downtrodden. While each resides somewhere different in Ravnica, each will face down many foes due to a sudden attack in Magic #1. Who sent them is unknown but it’s part of the mystery of the multiverse of Magic.

I’m coming into Magic #1 as someone who knows absolutely zero about Magic: The Gathering but with any fantasy system, it’s about finding the components and putting them into terms you are familiar with. As someone who has played Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder, I wasn’t completely confused with the goings-on of this first issue. It’s definitely a good setup issue. It provides an introduction to Ravnica and the various Planeswalkers and a couple of steps into what each is capable of. I’m not ready to go get a deck but the character work laid out within the pages is definitely enough to keep me entertained.

I’m fairly impressed with Magic #1. Jed McKay put together a simple enough story, which is great for someone like me who doesn’t understand MTG and yet there’s enough of the terms and abilities and such thrown about that it quickly brings you into the fold. McKay has put in a good amount of worldbuilding, action, and intrigue to really help make Magic #1 a quality fantasy comic.

Add Ig Guara’s art to the mix, I really like the art style used here. One of the great things about fantasy is the mixture of the strange and exotic and there’s definitely a lot of strange and exotic with this issue and having an artist up to the task of drawing all of this up is key. I know some of this has to come from the game itself but there’s a lot of cool character designs here. It’s a comic book with a lot of bright and vibrant colors. Arianna Consonni’s colors really add to the fantasy feeling and with Ed Dukeshire’s letters, I feel this issue of Magic is an adventurous first issue.

Magic #1 is very much in the vein of IDW’s Dungeons & Dragons comics, which I also really enjoy. We can never have enough fantasy-driven work in comics so if that’s what you like, take a chance with Magic.

Story: Jed MacKay Art: Ig Guara
Color: Arianna Consonni Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0

BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: Savage Dragon #258

Savage Dragon #258

Savage Dragon #258 takes readers on “A Walk On The Wildside”. Amy Dragon sneaks off on an adventure with Walter, the talking tiger. Sadly, dinnertime is not the time for such actions and they find themselves in trouble (and snow) moment after moment.

To be honest, Savage Dragon #258 was a bit of a snoozer. Amy and Walter’s little adventure wasn’t that exciting. The most exciting part was the beginning where Malcolm was battling the God of Thunder. After that, it delved into something a lot more chill and peaceful which didn’t really resonate with me. Partly, I don’t get to read every issue of Savage Dragon that comes out. I do want to say that while the story wasn’t my cup ‘o tea, I think that it’s an impressive feat that series creator Erik Larsen can keep Savage Dragon in some oddball adventures like this one, which helps it be unique.

While I wasn’t blown away by the story, Larsen’s art is still something to behold and this issue had quite a few moments where I liked what I was seeing. The opening page was full-on Kirby (in a good way) and what followed was a very energetic two-page splash. Nikos Koutsis is a fantastic colorist for Larsen’s work and I thought that this issue showed that. I do feel like Larsen has gotten a bit loose with his pencils, as compared to how I think his older issues of Savage Dragon look but I do still think there are quality visuals in this issue. It’s good to know that I can still appreciate the art on a book like this, even if the story doesn’t click with me.

Story: Erik Larsen Art: Erik Larsen
Letterer: Ferran Delgado Colorist: Nikos Koutsis Flats: Mike Toris
Story: 5.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 6.0

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: King in Black #5

King in Black #5

King in Black #5 is the big finale to Marvel’s latest event as Venom finally faces off with Knull. In what felt like a bit of a one-sided affair, Venom mops the town up with Knull. Possessing the Enigma Force makes Eddie Brock Knull’s equal. Even more so, he’s equipped with a weapon made of the Silver Surfer’s board and Mjolnir. It all ends with everything being hunky-dory for everyone, save Eddie, who now appears to be the new King In Black.

You know…I wanted to dislike this so much. There’s something about Donny Cates’ writing that is so enjoyable and yet, some of his work seriously feels like a child who gets to do whatever with his action figures…and I mean that in a positive way. King in Black did really feel like all the power was with Venom, leaving Knull pretty weak, but it all just works. It’s not perfect. I’m not sure how I feel about Venom more-or-less wielding Mjolnir but for what it’s worth, this was a really fun read, spotlighting a character I normally care very little for and leaving me with a newfound appreciation for Venom. I thought the dialogue is great. Knull is one of those pompous characters that has never known defeat so seeing someone like that get taken down is pretty much a guaranteed enjoyable moment.

On the artistic side, Ryan Stegman really put a lot into every page. I felt the layouts stood out to me in a really unique way and the colors really pop. And if I can bring attention to one thing that I like about his art, I feel that he does a good job of conveying emotion on a character’s face. Knull looked really fierce and sinister. Venom just looked awesome.

King in Black #5 was a total package of fun and excitement, coupled with some really cool art. I’m not huge on Marvel or DC events but my overall feeling is that this one ended up being fun while also bringing a lot of stuff that Cates has worked on at Marvel to a head. As far as Venom goes, King in Black serves as a good exclamation point on a really great run for the character. Not sure if it’s worth the cost of admission but I think you’d like what you would read.

Story: Donny Cates Art: Ryan Stegman
Ink: JP Mayer, Ryan Stegman Color: Frank Martin, Jason Keith Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Early Review: Shadowman #1

Shadowman #1

It’s been a few years since we’ve had a Shadowman book and we probably would have had this one last year if the pandemic had not changed the publishing approach for Valiant. With Shadowman #1, Valiant has Cullen Bunn, who is no stranger to their universe, having written the very excellent Punk Mambo mini-series from a few years back and also Roku. Valiant has stated that this book will be more of a horror book than a superhero title. It sounds just like the kind of book I like from Bunn.

Shadowman #1 opens by establishing who Shadowman is. He fights the evil of the Deadside, which is sort of a halfway point of the afterlife. Something big and bad has broken through to our world and in good fashion, is defeated and sent back to where it has come from. From there, we get more action as a fancy party is to play host for a more gruesome event for Shadowman.

In the past, Valiant’s first issues would always hook me on a book. Lately, it’s not as easy, as I have disliked a few books here and there. One of those was Roku, which was also written by Bunn. My hopes going into Shadowman was it would harkon back to a feeling I used to get with their books and I can say that this was a first issue that did not disappoint. I liked that it did read as a single issue story. And going off the second part of the book, it definitely felt like something from the realm of horror. While I wasn’t blown away by the dialogue, much of the story is pushed along by Shadowman’s inner dialogue, which is nicely done. Add in that it’s a good jumping-on spot for the character, and it feels like this could be one of the better books to come out of 2021.

Jon Davis-Hunt brings the art and his Shadowman just looks so awesome. Seriously, the way he looks in his suit/costume is fantastic. He manages to draw lots of disgusting things throughout the first issue. All I can say is I hope he’s on Shadowman for a long time because he’s definitely got a really detailed style and with colorist Jordie Bellaire on this book with him, it could be one of the best-looking Shadowman books we’ve gotten. I thought the lettering by Cowles was a nice cherry on top of everything else with Shadowman.

I think Shadowman #1 is just what the Valiant fan base needs. Maybe they don’t love books like Savage and maybe X-O Manowar left them a bit grumpy but I feel this feels like a natural progression of who Shadowman is. The writing is there and the art is there. And if nothing else, it left me feeling like a publisher could draw me in hard with a really good first issue.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colors: Jordie Bellaire Letters: Clayton Cowles
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: Alien #1

Alien #1

In Alien #1, we meet Gabriel. He’s been in space for a very long time and was once captured by a brutal and violent xenomorph breed. While there’s no idea of how he escaped, he’s haunted by his dreams full of xenomorphs and his companions meeting their painful demises. He heads back home to an adult son that wants nothing to do with them, other than stealing what information he can to prepare for an assault of Weyland-Yutani, the corporation that sent his father to space. It doesn’t work out for the son as he’s now trapped in a lab full of the same creatures that are haunting his father’s every sleeping moment.

I’m a big fan of Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s work on Last God so I was pulled into reading Marvel’s big launch of Alien. That said, the second Alien movie is the last time I liked the Xenomorphs so it’s not the easiest sell for me. Aside from Warren Ellis’ butcher job on the Stormwatch characters, I’ve probably never read another Aliens-themed comic.

The problem with that is that I’m not sure this is the book that’s going to get me to want to read more of this world. The character work on this first issue leaves me wanting a bit more. Gabriel and the various Bishop cyborgs have some personality but everyone else is written as if they are just pages away from an untimely demise. Maybe I’m hoping for more out of this property but I’m definitely wanting something more out of my reading experience. Overall, I think the story is okay. In fact, I’d say the opening scene of this helps establish what Gabriel’s ordeal is fairly well. Sadly, I’m hoping Jr. gets his in a most brutal fashion. The reader isn’t given much reason to like him.

To be truthful, I wish for less photo-realism here and do not like the art. Salvador Larroca’s photo-referenced art just doesn’t do it for me and makes Aliens look rather bland. I know it’s not really Larroca’s fault. He was on Star Wars for quite a while and there’s an expectation that the SW characters look a lot like what you see them as in the movies. People would want the Bishops to look like Lance Henriksen and he does illustrate with a good amount of detail on the aliens but his characters just look so stiff and weird. I recognize the skill to work on a book like this but it’s just not pleasurable to me.

Maybe what I want out of this is too much or maybe the Alien comics just aren’t for me. That said, this is a $4.99 comic book and I don’t feel like the cost is worth it. Alien #1 is a fairly average story with average art. The world won’t end if you don’t get it.

Story: Phillip Kennedy Johnson Art: Salvador Larroca
Color: Guru-eFX Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 6.0 Art: 5.0 Overall: 5.5

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: Bloodshot #11

Bloodshot #11

Bloodshot #11 sees the villain Rampage explain everything that happened since 2018’s Bloodshot Salvation series. He had lost his ability to access his nanites but upon stumbling upon a political rally and feeling that he needed God’s help, he’s struck by lightning and the nanites were back under his control. This issue also sees Bloodshot, KT and Wiggins infiltrate an underwater server farm where they’re attacked by a cybernetic villain. Rampage, who is now calling himself Harmony, stepped up his game and took control of Bloodshot’s comrades and had them attack him.

I thought the art was the stronger aspect of Bloodshot #11 and I really like the style of Pedro Andreo. He’s got a good amount of detail mixed with what feels like a bit of a manga twist. I thought Coupled with colors by Andrew Dalhouse, the pages inside Bloodshot look pretty great. This issue had a few action sequences that visually, really stood out. Dave Sharpe‘s lettering is always on-point.

The story was alright. Rampage, explaining his story to someone off-panel, felt rushed. And while most of the Bloodshot material felt like it flowed at a standard pace, once Rampage showed up to take control, it again had a weird pace, like something was amiss. That said, I have really enjoyed KT and Wigins, who originally appeared in 2020’s Bloodshot movie. I do think Bloodshot benefits from having a supporting cast. Also, Tim Seeley has done a superb job of injecting a small bit of humor into Bloodshot’s personality, making him more than just an emotionless gun.

There’s just one issue left of this run of Bloodshot. I’m hoping for a big fight between Bloodshot and Rampage, although I had those same hopes when Salvation was ending, only to not get it. That said, Bloodshot #11 has something really cool going on with the art, although the story needs just a bit of work.

Story: Tim Seeley Art: Pedro Andreo
Color: Andrew Dalhouse Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Story: 7.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.5

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

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Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Infernal Tides

Dungeons & Dragons: Infernal Tides

The forces of evil are back in Baldur’s Gate and this time, they have some truly heinous stuff planned in Dungeons & Dragons: Infernal Tides. As they try to force the plane of Avernus into the more natural world, a group of heroes will need to rise up and stop them. A group with a good balance of skills. Possibly, one with a miniature giant space hamster. Yes, Minsc and company return to Baldur’s Gate to kick butts.

I feel that there is a lot to like about Dungeons & Dragons: Infernal Tides. It brings back Jim Zub and Max Dunbar. All the creative teams have knocked it out of the park but Zub is a bit more involved with the properties and it just shows in how these tales are delivered. Quickly, you know who is who and what they can do. We see the threat quickly and the story builds them up. But, the one thing I think that might be the most important is that when you have a cast like the one that Infernal Tides has, it’s important to craft their individual voices. Zub makes them feel like a true party and while a character like Minsc has such a strong, outstanding personality, he doesn’t drown everyone out.

Max Dunbar illustrates another great Dungeons & Dragons story. Paired with Sebastian Cheng, David Garcia Cruz, and Neil Uyetake, Infernal Tides features a lot of great character design and action sequences. I thought there was a really great 2-page splash in issue 2. As someone who has been reading these adventures since Evil At Baldur’s Gate, it’s good to have a colorist that I think is perfect for Max Dunbar’s art.

Ultimately, IDW Publishing does Dungeons & Dragons right. I’ve been really happy with all of the stories they’ve done but I do feel there’s something a bit more special, exciting and enjoyable about Jim Zub and Max Dunbar working on a tale set in Baldur’s Gate. Dungeons & Dragons: Infernal Tides ends up as another truly enjoyable tale of Minsc and company that’s sure to keep fantasy readers enthralled.

Story: Jim Zub Art: Max Dunbar
Colors: Sebastian Cheng, David Garcia Cruz Letters: Neil Uyetake
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0

IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: Hollow Heart #1

Hollow Heart #1

In Hollow Heart #1, El was once human. Now, he’s a jumble of organs housed in a monstrous metal body. El is is something far beyond being human who wants to be done with his existence. It’s worth noting that his living conditions are not great, either, as he’s also treated as less-than-human by those around him. That is until he meets Mateo, a mechanic that works his metal frame who I am assuming is the first person to show El any kind of care and respect.

I’m not at all sure what I expected from Hollow Heart but when I was done reading Hollow Heart #1, I was left impressed with the storytelling in this debut. While not heavy on dialogue, the plot is very intriguing, albeit a bit bleak and dark. But through that darkness is a bit of romance. Hollow Heart offers a glimpse into a darker aspect of existence. Props to writer Paul Allor for this story.

I didn’t think the art was as detailed as I would like. That said, I think the art does match the bleak, dark nature of the story. Paul Tucker’s art really hits the mood. I thought the colors kinda rocked throughout the issue.

If you wanted to shake up your regular comic reading with something quite a bit different, Hollow Heart #1 is just that book. It’s a unique and odd romantic story between a man and what’s left of a man locked in a casing. But it really stands out as good storytelling with a bleak approach. This is an easy recommendation.

Story: Paul Allor Art: Paul Tucker
Color: Paul Tucker Letterer: Paul Allor
Story: 9.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 8.0
Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Savage #1

Savage #1

For those not keeping up on Valiant Entertainment’s books, seeing a character like Savage might be a bit of a confusing thing. Many readers of the 90s were familiar with when then-Valiant had the Turok license and paired him with some of their big guns and even gave him his own ongoing. Those days are gone and Turok is doing just about nothing of note but Savage #1 is picking right up as Valiant’s newest dinosaur hunter series.

If you didn’t read the mini-series that spawned Savage, a bit of a recap: a world-famous soccer player and his pregnant wife disappear while in flight. They land on a strange island populated with dinosaurs. The wife gives birth but the child is more-or-less raised in a wild, violent environment known as the Faraway, where time bends back on itself and all manner of creature roam. After a big throwdown with the human scum of the island, Savage is portaled to current day England.

Savage #1 is the newest mini-series and sees what’s happened to Savage since he just showed up. He’s a teen sensation thrust into the limelight – limelight he may not necessarily want. In short time, dinosaurs and other creatures are let loose and Savage does what he does best – he goes to war with them, only to be captured by those that set them free in the first place.

I was really skeptical of this first issue. I think the first Savage series was pretty good and it honed something that a lot of us fans of Valiant thought was missing. I was a huge Turok fan and while he’s not Turok, he’s an awesome equivalent to what we once had. But when the writer of that previous mini, B. Clay Moore, was not returning, nor were the art team of Lewis Larosa and Clayton Henry, it just felt like nothing about a new Savage series would be anywhere near entertaining. I can say that I’m a bit wrong in that regard.

I’m only familiar with Max Bemis from when he was writing Moon Knight for Marvel, which I enjoyed. Here, he takes a fish out of water story and puts him back into something primordial. I don’t want to give away too much but this was a bloodbath of a book, action-packed and overall, really awesome. It reminds me that Valiant can have a character like this again, one that’s got a familiar presence while at the same time, being a newer character free of years of continuity.

Nathan Stockman, Triona Farrell, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou aren’t going to stack up to Larosa and Henry but that’s okay. Really, any book with dinos should be done by Larosa. It’s a rule. But on a serious note, the art team opens with a rad fight scene and closes with some rather creative fighting. From a visual standpoint, this issue is as action-packed as any previous issue of Savage. While I would prefer a bit more detail, I really can’t complain about the art. The visuals are wild.

Savage #1 ends up as the blood-and-guts battle royale book that I desperately needed. I’m glad that this is finally seeing the light of day, as I am sure this was probably supposed to have been released last year and should have finished by now. And for older Valiant fans, it’s okay to like this. Turok will never return to Valiant and with a character as wild as Savage, they’d never need him back in the first place.

Story: Max Bemis Art: Nathan Stockman
Colorist: Triona Farrell Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Story: 9.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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