Author Archives: Josh Rathbun

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Review: Conan the Barbarian #17

Conan the Barbarian #17

Last time I read Conan, he was escaping the Crucible and cut down the main baddie with a sword called The Tooth Of The Northstar, a stolen weapon. Conan decided he’d return the weapon to whom it belonged. However, nothing can ever be easy for the Cimmerian. The blade has a certain control over those that wield it – Conan is no different, as he falls to the sword’s control and cleaves in twain just about every living thing that is put in front of him and unfortunately for Conan, it’s still hungry.

Jim Zub has been writing Conan The Barbarian for five issues now and I’ve really liked it a lot. I was worried once Jason Aaron left the book that I wouldn’t enjoy it but the Cimmerian is in great hands with a writer who can not only write good fantasy action but thrives in this element. Conan the Barbarian #17, depicting a possessed weapon taking control of Conan, is a pretty brutal issue and we see glimpses of the world of the sword itself. I know Zub knows the world of Dungeons And Dragons well and so often you could come across such an item. I love it. It makes Conan more than just a hack and slash character.

I’m a big fan of Robert Gill. He worked on a bunch of Valiant Entertainment books a few years back and I’d genuinely missed seeing his work. I think his art is well-suited for Conan and he just does a lot of good, violent work throughout Conan the Barbarian #17. When telling the story of a man possessed by a weapon, you are bound to have to illustrate a lot of human demise, and Gill’s work pairs well with Israel Silva’s colors. I’m hoping Gill can stay on the title for a good, long time.

This was an awesome issue and like the “Tooth Of The Northstar”, I hunger for more of this story. Do yourself a favor and get Conan the Barbarian #17.

Story: Jim Zub Art: Robert Gill
Color: Israel Silva Letterer: Travis Lanham
Story: 9.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Byte-Sized #1

Byte-Sized #1

An army base has had something break out. It disabled the vehicles so no one could follow. It hitched a ride through the snow to end up in the home of a family, hidden safely in its Christmas tree. It’s a robotic creature of sorts and it’s sights, whether friendly or not, are set on the family’s daughter.

The timing on this book is a bit perfect, as it’s set during Christmas and we’re a few weeks away. Byte-Sized #1 is that kind of book for those who want a holiday story that is a bit more kid-friendly. That said, I thought this book was a bit boring. Really, so much does not happen in this book. We don’t see the creature break out. We don’t see much of anything except glowing eyes and we get a reveal at the end. The most action is when the family dog chews up a sock. I think writer Cullen Bunn maybe took it a bit too easy with this one. Hey, I might not even be the targeted audience for this but I just didn’t dig it. It happens.

Nelson Blake II’s art is a bit basic. There’s not a lot of detail but he does a good job of telling a story. It certainly fits the tone of Byte-Sized #1 well and was probably my favorite part of this book. Snakebite Cortez’s colors are good but would be suited better with some art that was a bit more detailed.

Do you love stories where robotic creatures break free from the government stooges and eventually befriend some young child? I’m pretty sure that’s where we’re going with Byte-Sized. I get that there’s probably a lot of inspiration from the likes of Gremlins or Batteries Not Included but maybe I need more issues to get some enjoyment from Byte-Sized. Kudos to AWA Studios for continuing to do different material with everything. Their scope is so wide in what they put out that you are bound to find something you’ll like. It just might not be this.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Nelson Blake II
Color: Snakebite Cortez Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Story: 4.0 Art: 5.0 Overall: 4.5

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Review: Rai #10

Rai #10

I feel like those who are not reading Rai have truly missed out on an absolutely fantastic story. Set in the 41st century, Rai and his brother Raijin have wandered the world looking for the lost remnants of their adversary, Father, looking to destroy them. Along the way, they’ve had some rather creative run-ins with Father’s offspring. The latest tale involves Fusion, another of Father’s machinations, who controls New Ur, a positronic city. In the last issue, they showed their true colors and came for Rai and his companions.

Rai #10 continues the action as Rai and Fusion do their thing. Raijin and Alice, Rai’s companions, are attacked and Alice falls…only to don the look of Bloodshot. Rai’s victory is short-lived as he leaves to the wilderness to be confronted by the dark he’d heard so much of, but it’s not the dark but the Darque, a nod to one of Valiant’s best villains that we’ve not seen in quite a few years.

Dan Abnett had been tasked with bringing back Rai and those adventures started in the event Fallen World. Since issue one, it’s been one of the best books they’ve published. The world around Rai has been greatly fleshed out and a lot of the threats have been really interesting. In a previous run, it’s revealed that positronic individuals are discriminated against and murdered for fun so having New Ur turn that around as a society against humans was a fun twist. There are a few story threads with Rai and they are given the proper amount of pages to not be neglected. Alice, who I was sure was going to be a throwaway character, ends up something far more interesting here, possibly becoming Bloodshot.

Juan Jose Ryp is one of my favorite artists in comics. He’s been on this entire run of Rai and delivered a lot of spectacular pages. There’s so much detail in his work and with this series, he’s done a lot of creative action sequences. Rai #10 is no different and with having Andrew Dalhouse on colors, they make each page a must-see.

This issue ends this volume of Rai and with some cliffhangers, too. My hopes are that it’s not for long and that we can get this team back on these characters. The pandemic has had such an awful effect on everything and been brutal on the work of smaller publishers. Still, this issue continues my thoughts that Rai is one of the best books of 2020 and that everyone asking for good comics should be rushing to get this one.

Story: Dan Abnett Artist: Juan José Ryp
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse Letter: Dave Sharpe

Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Post Americana #1

Post Americana #1

Steve Skroce‘s last project begins with Post Americana #1 taking us to a place called the Bubble and it’s a hulking installation built into a Colorado mountain, housing many of the 1%. One of them is to be the new leader of the United States but others have some different ideas. After bombing the inauguration, an escape happens, though short-lived, as they crash into the wastelands, the housing of various raiders and cannibals.

Post Americana #1 is a beautiful book to look at. I’ve been a fan of Steve Skroce for quite some time and really dug the last couple of projects he worked on, like Maestros and We Stand On Guard. Like Maestros, Skroce put in double time on this, doing both the writing and art. Skroce is at the top of his game, delivering page-after-page of highly-detailed artwork. His style is just about my favorite thing to look at.

Dave Stewart definitely adds another level of awesomeness with his colors. They go together well. It helps sell the image of a blade going through someone’s head or various mutated wasteland folks.  And besides the art, Skroce is a pretty good storyteller. If I had to nitpick, I’d say the dialogue is the weakest part of Post Americana #1.

A comic book like Post Americana #1 might draw readers in with its art but it is a pretty good story with an adequate balance of action and humor. If you read Skroce’s previous Image Comics book Maestros, you’ll like this as much, too.

Story: Steve Skroce Art: Steve Skroce Colors: Dave Stewart
Story: 7.0 Art: 10 Overall: 8.5

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Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #276

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #276

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #276 kicks off the first part of “Untold Tales”. Scarlett, Snake-Eyes, and the gang drop down in Abysmia to locate a tech dabbling in poison gas and nuclear material. They meet up with their Abysmia contacts, one who is incredibly versatile with a knife, who more or less clears a path for the Joes to get to their target, only to have her own personal vendetta stand in the way of justice.

I can say I don’t know everything about G.I. Joe and I’m not sure how many stories don’t feature COBRA as the antagonists but there was no hint of that organization within the story. Writer Larry Hama, who has written this series for so long, gives them a break and instead it gives the story a bit more realism, I think. This issue felt very wordy. Even more so when you think that issue 275 was a silent issue. My only bone to pick with this issue was the ending felt very rushed but other than that, the pacing is great for such a story.

Netho Diaz is still doing art on G.I. Joe and with this issue, I thought I saw a few times where his art looked better than normal. He’s got a good hand for detail and in my opinion, is one of the best artists working on a licensed book. I’m glad IDW has an artist of this caliber working on the Joes. There are times when I feel like his art draws a bit of inspiration from the likes of Neal Adams, especially in the facial details. Jagdish Kumar’s coloring is used in a variety of different locations throughout the issue and he helps sell what’s going on within the pages.

I don’t know if “Untold Tales” is going to be a bunch of single-issue stories or if this issue will build onto something much bigger but as far as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #276 goes, it works well as a solo issue story comprised of a good team of Joe favorites. One chapter in, “Untold Tales” is shaping up to be another quality story.

Story: Larry Hama Arti: Netho Diaz
Inks: Jagdish Kumar Color: J. Brown Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Story: 8.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.5

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Review: Avengers #39

Avengers #39

In Avengers #39, a million years ago, a baby is saved from death by a wolf pack. Years later, she comes upon someone who speaks in her mind, leading her to the first mutants on Earth. Bigoted humans come and attack them and the young child unleashes her power, which is the Phoenix, engulfing everything in flames. From there, she heads to Asgard to recruit Odin.

If I was looking to read about the Avengers, I’d probably avoid this issue. Honestly, this revisionist history that Marvel allows drives me a bit crazy. The past is never good enough and we need mutants and the Phoenix used one million years ago. I feel like Jason Aaron is better than this. Overall, this is just a cheap appetizer for the main course, which is “Enter The Phoenix,” the next story arc which starts in the next issue.

My favorite thing about Avengers #39 was page after page of Dale Keown art. He’s definitely one of those artists that should be working on a big-time book. Maybe Avengers is that and I just don’t know.  There’s a level of beauty in his human characters that’s really pleasing to the eye. His action sequences look fairly epic. Jason Keith’s colors fill it all in and honestly, the colors are great on the Phoenix reveal page.

This felt like a whole lot of build-up for a better story, which I guess will be the upcoming Phoenix rehash that Marvel is serving up. Avengers #39 is fairly lackluster in the storytelling but it’s a really nice issue on the eyes.

Story: Jason Aaron Art: Dale Keown
Color: Jason Keith Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Story: 4.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 6.5
Recommendation: Pass

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Review: Savage Avengers #15

Savage Avengers #15

The disciples of Kulan Gath are preparing for Gath to come to Earth and reign supreme. Two different squads of Avengers take him on – one with a direct assault and then the group that takes the focus on this issue head towards a drug cartel taken over by Gath’s disciples. So what happens when you get the Punisher, Wolverine, Black Widow, Elektra, and Hellstrom together? Probably a whole lot of killing in Savage Avengers #15.

There was something enjoyable in Savage Avengers #15 due to just how absurdly, over-the-top silly and violent this book is. They might as well change the name to Murder Avengers because these members are, basically, just murdering anything with a pulse that is in their way. I thought it was a bit on the silly side to see a character like Black Widow reduced to showing off her top assets and then moments like Wolverine putting the Priest Of Sickles (dumb name) in a wood chipper. As wonky as that sounds, there’s also a lot of pure, unadulterated humor and enjoyment to seeing these characters doing some of these actions. Savage Avengers #15 ends up being fun in its excesses. Suffice to say that writer Gerry Duggan puts these characters in an amazing amount of crazy situations.

I haven’t been reading Savage Avengers prior to this issue so there’s some stuff I have questions about. It would have been nice to have seen the team that went up against Kulan Gath, other than the last page reveal. All we really get is a goofy story where is disciples are poisoning cocaine.

I always enjoy Patrick Zircher’s art. He puts a great amount of detail in his pencils. Here, his art is used to showcase a lot of blood and violence and his style works very well here. I do wish that a few of the panel backgrounds had something going on. Java Tartaglia’s colors are a good pairing but I do wish for a bit of a brighter color palette.

Savage Avengers is the kind of book where the premise should take me right out of it. I’m an old-school Avengers fan and it’s been a really long time since I liked an issue of any adjective-driven Avengers team. But with how ridiculous some of the stuff in this is, I’m a bit torn on how I felt but I decided to go with the positive. The Murder Avengers won me over but just barely.

Story: Gerry Duggan Art: Patch Zircher
Ink: Patch Zircher Color: Java Tartaglia Letterer: Travis Lanham
Story: 6.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.0

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Review: Justice League: Endless Winter

Justice League: Endless Winter #1

From the ruins of Superman’s Fortress Of Solitude rises the Frost King, a delusional madman with the power to freeze the globe and an army that can withstand the Justice League? And how does he tie to Black Adam and Swamp Thing?

As I had started reading through Justice League: Endless Winter, the opening salvo for this little event, I had worried it would be just another mediocre event with some Z-list bad guy. The jury is still out, I guess. because it’s just one issue. I do feel that there are a few layers to this event to dig into. The Flash is concerned about family, looking for answers from the superhero community. There are some loser villains that catch an L at the beginning. Is there more to them in Endless Winter? The Frost King, the big bad, doesn’t see the Justice League when he’s confronted but instead those that faced him hundreds of years ago. For me, there are these additional nuggets that leave me wanting to know the answers. I’m curious enough to read the next issue of this story, which will take place in the pages of The Flash.

The writing team is comprised of Ron Marz and Andy Lanning. I feel like these two veterans have crafted a good first issue of Endless Winter. We know the Justice League is tough and skilled and they give us that at first, and in doing so, we know Frost King must be pretty bad-ass to dispatch them as easily as he does. Everyone has a unique voice in that they sound like they should. And this ties in with the current DC universe, having it take place at a point after the Brian Bendis Man Of Steel series. There’s a good amount of unanswered questions and maybe a part of this feels cliché, because how often in comics does the bad guy just wipe the floor with the heroes when he first pops up? But it still works.

It looked like Howard Porter was trying something different with his art. Maybe it was Marco Santucci’s involvement but it was a bit hit-or-miss for me. That said, I think I liked where the art was going. I’ve seen Porter’s work criticized a bit as being too 90’s. I feel like he’s taking some chances and mixing things up to give a different artistic look and while I felt there were just a couple of spots that looked weird, I think I like this style going forward from him. The colors were perfect throughout Endless Winter and come off so bright and vibrant.

I didn’t see any sort of checklist to know how long Endless Winter was going to be. I just know the next part is in The Flash #767. I’ll definitely be checking that issue out to see where this all goes. For a first chapter, Justice League: Endless Winter has plenty to keep a reader interested and happy. I’m not much of a DC reader and I enjoyed this so I think if this is your wheelhouse, you’ll be pleased.

Story: Andy Lanning, Ron Marz Art: Howard Porter, Marco Santucci
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0

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Review: Knock Em Dead #1

Knock Em Dead #1

Pryor Brice is a guy just trying to make his way in the world of stand-up comedy. Night after night, he bombs and dies on-stage. He’s struggling with his craft but what happens when he’s killed in an accident with a stranger who has a lot of career advice for Brice? Knock ‘Em Dead presents the oddest comedy situation you’ll probably read.

I enjoy Eliot Rahal’s writing a whole lot. Some of his previous work, like Quantum & Woody, Midnight Vista, and Hot Lunch Special, show how wide a range he has and that he’s got an expanding area of what he’s willing to work in. It’s pretty fantastic in that nothing he writes feels like anything else he’s done. With Knock ‘Em Dead dealing with stand-up comedy, it felt like you could really feel the anxiety and discomfort of going up and bombing, as Pryor Brice does throughout this issue. I thought this one did flow a bit slower than some of Eliot’s other books. And having met Eliot, he’s a hilarious guy and I wish a bit more of that humor would have found its way into the pages.

This is my first exposure to Mattia Monaco’s work. I like what I saw of Monaco’s art. Not overly detailed and when coupled with Matt Milla’s colors, they really helped sell the atmosphere of what the story encompasses. Not for nothing but Taylor Esposito’s lettering is always A+ in everything he works on.

I had a bit higher hopes for the first issue of Knock ‘Em Dead. I loved the look but only kinda liked the story portion. That said, I’m definitely picking up the rest of this series as I tend to like everything Eliot Rahal writes. But, with how the story is playing out, I’m sure it really kicks into gear with the next issue. Here’s hoping for that.

Story: Eliot Rahal Art: Mattia Monaco
Color: Matt Mailia Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Story: 5.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Buy

AfterShock provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: X-O Manowar #2

X-O Manowar #2

In X-O Manowar #2, Aric,  better known as X-O Manowar, battles a robot who he finds out is linked to rich bad guy Troy Whitaker. After confronting Whitaker, he lets him off the hook, only to have Whitaker show the upper hand in a most villainous way.

Writer Dennis Hallum’s take on X-O is interesting, for sure. He’s taken the character out of his comfort zones and left him as another person in the life of the Morris family, a mom and son who need a Visigoth warrior in their lives. Worse, after some of the actions caused by Whitaker, he’s painted as an enemy, complete with the law coming after him. There’s nothing wrong with that and a character like Aric needs a bit more humanity thrust upon him. For me, it stumbles, such as the cops who end up coming off like a couple of slouches who are clearly out of their league to do anything.

I like Emilio Laiso’s art on X-O Manowar #2. He shows an adequate amount of detail in his work. Honestly, it’s what a superhero book should look like. For the most part, I like the colors and thought Ruth Redmond pairs really well with Laiso’s art. Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s lettering is solid, for the most part. Also, I like all the covers on this issue.

The relationship between Aric and Shanhara has evolved through the different series. When X-O came back in 2012, the armor did not speak to Aric and when the series was rebooted a few years ago under writer Matt Kindt, the armor learned to communicate. With this latest series, Shanhara has taken on the personality of a bratty teen who quips back at Aric. It feels completely wrong. Aric’s dialogue isn’t much better between them.

There’s something that feels off on the onomatopoeia, or sound effects, where throughout this issue, they look incomplete. They don’t look fully colored or maybe they are just a wonky font but it looks off.

After reading this issue, I feel like we’re at a low point for the character. The art is fine but that’s never been an issue with X-O Manowar. The story is a bit uninspiring to keep with and there are elements that don’t feel complete. I really hope it’s a case of a mediocre issue and not something more indicative of the entirety of this run of X-O Manowar. As it stands, I’m left wanting more from X-O Manowar #2 and it can’t give it to me.

Story: Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum Art: Emilio Laiso
Colors: Ruth Redmond Letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Story: 5.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 6.0

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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