Author Archives: Alex K Cossa

Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 8/17

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.


Ryan C

Silver Surfer Black #3 (Marvel)** – Tradd Moore is doing such a magnificent job channeling his inner Kirby that it makes this book a joy to experience even with a mediocre, uninspired Donny Cates script. I guess there’s a plot twist at the end here that might intrigue some people, but whatever. It’s not like the story really matters here, it’s a “closed loop” anyway. The art is why you buy this book, and buy it you should. Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Buy

Gideon Falls #16 (Image) **– Jeff Lemire is mailing in his third-rate “Twin Peaks” rip-off scripts at this point (literally and figuratively), but Andrea Sorrentino just keeps on getting better and better on art — in fact, there are a couple of double-page spreads here that will simply blow your mind. A book worth buying just for the art? Seems to be a theme this week. Overall: 7.5. Recommendation: Buy

Outer Darkness #9 (Image/Skybound) **– The best series no one seems to be talking about just keeps getting better. A brutally violent issue this time out gives Afu Chan a real chance to shine on art, and John Layman’s dark AF scripting is really firing on all cylinders. Not for all tastes, but for those who are on a very particular wavelength, comics don’t get a whole lot better. Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Detective Comics #1009 (DC) **- Not a bad “rebound” issue this time out, as Peter J. Tomasi’s “Bruce Wayne in a plane crash” script is thoroughly readable if uninspired, Deadshot comes off as a formidable foe, and Christian Duce’s art is sleek and stylish. Nothing overly awesome or anything, but a step in the right direction compared to recent stuff served up in this series. Overall: 6 Recommendation: Read

Logan

Ghosted in LA #2 (BOOM!)– Daphne settles into living with her ghost buddies in Rycroft Manor, and I really love how Sina Grace and Siobhan Keenan give them different personalities depending on which era they passed away in. This plot centers around Daphne going out with a total jerk named Brint, who is pretentious and thinks he’s owed sex, because she saw her ex with a new girl and wants to make her jealous. Ghosted in LA #2 is a great skewering of fuckboys and has some sweet interactions between Daphne and a ghost, who she is supposed to get a new album by his favorite band. Keenan’s expressive art and cute outfit designs plus these little wholesome moments keep the comic afloat in the middle of the melodrama. Overall: 7.5 Verdict: Read

Powers of X #2 (Marvel) – This was my least favorite chapter in Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men work as he and RB Silva do a great job integrating the Moira MacTaggart retcon into the foundation of the X-Men, show some strong scenes with Cyclops as a pragmatic leader, and have a similar salt of the Earth pragmatism with Wolverine 100 years in the future. 1,000 years in the future is when it falls apart and feels like a filler issue of his Avengers run with lots of talk about how future societies are like and hives and intelligence. However, it doesn’t have the emotional resonance of the other eras with characters we have gotten to know or just damn cool concepts like Apocalypse leading the X-Men. This is 3/4 of a good comic and the turbulent middle chapter in a series that has been firing on all cylinders up to this point. Overall: 7 Verdict: Read

Collapser #2 (DC/Young Animal) – In the second installment of Mikey Way, Shaun Simon, and Ilias Kyriazis’ series, Liam struggles with controlling his collapsing black hole abilities.
Before the opening credits roll, he’s out there wrecking Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids and seeing visions of cryptids and aliens that no one else can see. Way and Simon focus a lot on mental health in this issue, and Liam’s girlfriend Joss helps him check into a psych hospital because he’s been off his meds. Of course, all the aliens and phenomena are real, but Way, Simon, and Kyriazis take mental health seriously in Collapser #2 and work through what Liam sees and feels before throwing him back into action. Finally, Liam’s black hole abilities allow Kyriazis and colorist Cris Peter to play without layouts and provide different visuals than your usual alien invasion/superhero comic. Overall: 8.2 Verdict: Buy

Shean

Age of Conan Valeria #1 (Marvel) – In what looks to be probably the best book to come from this niche line at Marvel, we find a character worthy to occupy the same space as Conan. As we find one hero whose childhood has been marred by tragedy. As the death of her parents, leads her to live with her brother, who is ultimately betrayed by someone close to him. By issue’s end, our hero is focused on her goal in mind, as the story instantly brings comparisons to the underrated ” Quick and The Dead” movie, as both stories showcased strong female protagonists with tragic backgrounds.
Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

Conan The Barbarian Exodus #1 (Marvel) – In a rather bold move for a one shot, we get mostly vacant of dialogue story about Conan in the wild. As he tests his skills for survival as he fights every dangerous animal. He would soon test his skills against a ruthless oligarch who would get the better of him to have him imprisoned. By story’s end, not only has Conan escaped his Bondage but has killed the man responsible for putting him there. Overall: 9.8 Recommendation: Buy

Sword Master #2 (Marvel) – We find Lie as he finds out that his father’s enemies have been close to him the whole time, which he also finds out the powers of the sword.. He also catches the eye of another demon hunter, who has been searching for who occupies the title of Sword Master. In the second tale, we find Lie and Shang Chi in the midst of hell and a hand basket. As a fight with Ares army leads to an unfortunate situation that has put both heroes at a disadvantage. Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Returning To The X-Men: Powers Of X #2

This column was slightly delayed this week due to a few power outages in my neck of the woods, and my lack of foresight in keeping my laptop charged.


Powers of X #2

But with Johnathan Hickman steering the X-Men in a new direction with both House and Powers Of X, I thought this might be a good time to start reading X-Men comics again.

It’s been nearly six years since I last picked up a new X-Men comic with any real consistency. The last series I read with any regularity featuring the merry mutants was Jason Aaron‘s Wolverine and the X-Men. Which apparently ended around six years ago. It’s fair to say that I’m a little out of touch with that side of the Marvel Universe (though I have been following both Old Man Logan and Dead Man Logan, but those series didn’t really involve the X-Men as much as a team book would). More than a little, honestly. A lot has happened in the six years I’ve been away, and since I barely pay attention to solicitations I have missed most of it.

But how easy is it to jump back in relatively blind after more than half a decade away? Join me, and I’ll tell you.


Expect spoilers as I try to make sense of the comic.


Start this event completely ignorant to much of the X-Men’s last five or so years has been an interesting experience. With Powers Of X #1, I wasn’t entirely sure what shape the story would take. We got three different timelines – Year 0, Year 100 and Year 1000 – in the first book, and that’s the same in issue #2. It’s giving the Powers Of X part of the story an anthology like feel, which helps someone like me realize that the futures we’re seeing we haven’t really explored much before, unless they stem from one of the many lives of Moira X.

The three timelines are all interesting for their own reasons, and I’m curious to see how this will all play into the whole as the House/Powers story unfolds over the next month and change, but the one that’s taken my interest the most, especially after this issue, is the Year 100 one. Seeing the X-Men on the back foot like never before, out of options and facing a culture ending threat… it almost sounds familiar, and yet it feels fresh. Which is an odd feeling when you really think about it, but I’m not going to question it too much.

I’ve learnt over the years that sometimes it’s okay to take things as the author intends without question too much until the finished product is in my hands.

The last issue in the Powers installment didn’t make as big an impression as the House Of X counterpart, and the same can ultimately be said for this issue. But then after the massive revelations in House Of X #2, I can’t exactly expect anything different. But that two two series tie into each other strongly is beyond doubt, as is evidenced by the Year 0 story in this issue. One could argue that House Of X #2 is merely the explanation between scenes in the Year 0 stories in Powers Of X. My questioning in the last column as to whether this series is required reading in order to get the full picture has a slightly clearer answer; at this point, I’d wager that you’re going to want to spend the money on both House and Powers Of X, though the former is still the stronger of the two.

Just as in the previous issue covered in this column, Powers Of X #2 also includes some handy dandy exposition pages that come almost immediately after you’ve read the pages that’ll make you wonder what the future terms mean. It’s a great way to add in some additional information without over burdening the dialogue with information for the readers. There’s also more of the mutant language scattered throughout the comic, too, and if you have the time, patience or google ability to translate it, then you’ll uncover another layer to this comic.

I haven’t any of those things, so other than the first issue I haven’t bothered to decipher the code. But it’s a cool feature for those that do.

Once again, the artists are on point. R.B. Silva is the artist and is joined on inking by Adriano Di Benedetto and colour artist Marte Gracia. The trio are solid, giving the comic and each time period within a unique visual flavour that comes together to form a perfect pecan pie (there’s no reason I chose pecan other than for alliteration).

There’s nothing in Powers Of X #2 anywhere close to as spine tingling as this moment from House Of X #1. Full quote below.

“You see I know how you humans love your symbolism, almost as much as you love you religion. And I wanted you – I needed you – to understand… you have new gods now.”

Magneto, House Of X, #1 p.47.

Powers Of X #2 is a pretty good comic – it is one that’s almost worth the elevated price of admission (at regular price this’d be absolutely worth it). As it is, it’s still worth a read; especially if you’re an X-Fan , new or old, who wants to know what’s going to happen in the company’s future.


Will I understand next week’s installment in the saga, House Of X #3? Do I regret skipping six years of X-Books? Am I ever going to find out how Xavier is walking again*?

We might find out next week. We might not.

Marvel provided a FREE copy for review purposes, but I read the comic in print from my LCS.

*The answer is yes, but it made no sense when two of my friends told me individually last week, but it basically boils down to “comics being comics” which I’ve kind of accepted with an air of nonchalance.

Underrated: Marvel’s Facsimile Comics

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Marvel’s Facsimile Comics.


Recently Marvel Comics have been releasing what they call Facsimile Editions of some of their key issues, which essentially just reprints those issues for (modern) cover price. The cynical person would say that this is just a cash grab from a publisher looking to take advantage of people who want to own a copy of those stories in print, whereas I’m looking at it as a great opportunity to own an exact copy of Giant Size X-Men for less than a fraction of the actual cost.

Before you say that it’s available on Marvel Unlimited, I don’t care. Mainly because I don’t have Marvel Unlimited, but mostly because it allows me to read a print version of the story – something I haven’t yet been able to do.

Yes, I understand that some of us may have a copy of two of the original story already, but are those copies exact to the original printing?

Probably not.

(It should be said at this time that I have never been able to touch an original of any of the comics that the Facsimile Editions reprint, much less actually read one, so I have no way of actually verifying this myself but at least that’s the idea).

Because most of us will never get a chance to view an original copy of many of the original comics, these Facsimile Editions are a great alternative to seeing the original comic (not the stories, because you can find those in a multitude of other place – I own several versions of Incredible Hulk #181, just not an original), including the ads. It’s a recreation of a piece of history in much the same way a reproduction Velociraptor claw is. Which exactly how I’m looking at it; there’s no way I would ever read an original copy of Giant Size X-Men #1 or Incredible Hulk #181 if I was ever lucky enough to find one for a non-exorbitant price, but I sure as hell will read these Facsimile Editions.

Because I’m the kind of nerd who loves looking at old comics; the ads, the commentary… it’s a snapshot of where the industry was at the time, and in many ways the older comics mean more for that than the story inside (because those I can read elsewhere).

That’s why these books are underrated.


Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover something else next week.

Review: Punk Mambo #5

Punk Mambo #5

In Punk Mambo #5, Punk Mambo’s final boss battle pits her against an enemy who has stolen phenomenal powers. There’s no way she can win!

In this spellbinding series finale, can Punk Mambo make the ultimate sacrifice to repay her debt?

Find out the final fate of this fan-favorite character.

Cullen Bunn, Adam Gorham and Jose Villarrubia bring home Punk Mambo’s first solo series with a bang. Once again there’s a roughness to the art that fits so well within the story. It suits the title character to a T. Gorham and Villarrubia’s visual storytelling allows Bunn to focus on the internal and external voice of Punk Mambo.

A new god of voodoo was created last issue as a man absorbed spirits, ghosts and even the gods of voodoo themselves. This issue sees Punk Mambo walk casually into his lair to punch him right in the face.

Punk Mambo #5 delivers an oddly satisfying sequence. The comic’s steeped in the magical powers of Mambo and her adversary through some sweeping double-page spreads and vivid pastel coloring. The pace of the story isn’t slow, but nothing feels rushed. The frenetic pace is reminiscent of the music genre that Punk Mambo (very likely) enjoys so much. It’s fast, exciting and exactly as long as it needs to be. The mystical nature of the sequence allows the artistic team to really let loose and play with layouts and colors. It feels like being swept along in a riptide. In a sense you are, as the half dozen or so pages whip by.

Punk Mambo #5 balances the mystical battle with a lovely (sadly) implied fistfight and then a conclusion that ties up some of the character growth that Mambo has gone through this series. There’s the somewhat obligatory lines that open the story for further installments, when in another Punk Mambo series or as a guest in others down the road (Shadowman, maybe?), but that doesn’t take away from how brilliant the series has been from start to finish.

If anything, it gives me hope that we’ll get more of the character sooner than later.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Adam Gorham
Colours: Jose Villarrubia Letters: Dave Sharpe
Story: 9.2 Art: 9.2 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #6

The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #6

The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #6, the captivating conclusion has arrived!

It is going to be very difficult to talk about this issue without spoiling anything about the series. So I’m going to break the review into two parts; one will be utterly spoiler free and full of analogies and metaphors and the other will begin with a very obvious spoiler warning, because although I won’t give away major plot points for The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #6, I will assume you’ve read the five issues released so far. If you want to read the spoiler free bit and drop down, you can do that easily. You’ll find the scores at the end after a clear notice the spoilers have ended.

If ever there has been a series that encapsulates excellence in comic book story telling, it’s this one. The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada is the kind of book you really should go in completely blind too. Whether you read Valiant’s comics or not, this series is one you should read. As the end of Harada’s tale (that’s not a spoiler, that’s a statement based on the series name), this couldn’t be more fitting. A hero to many, a villain to more; a man many have thought of as a god, and who has been labelled as a devil, over the course of his life should not have an ending in black and white.

There’s a lot to this series. A lot to unpack.

Toyo Harada is the kind of character that doesn’t come around often, and when they do, they’re always divisively popular as they begin to make one question whether they are truly villainous or merely driven by their goals. Harada was often framed as the villain in Harbinger, though one can argue that was simply because of the side of the story we were following, rather than the character being evil (again, there’s the divisive aspect of the man – there are more times than not that I find myself agreeing with his goals, but not always his methods). As Alan Moore wrote in Watchmen “I understand. Without condoning or condemning, I understand.”

I wrote this in the review of the second issue, and have yet to find a better descriptor of the character from my own words.

Obviously, there’ll be a lot more to unpack than I could possibly go into without staying spoiler free. But let’s just say that you won’t read this book just once.

It’s a story you’ll want to read numerous times; like any great book, each read gives you a deeper understanding of the material. Each read allows you to pick up on details you missed the first or second time in much the same way a video review allows a referee to go back and look again at a play – it gives them more clarity on the moment.

Each read of this book, this wonderful story wrapped in some of the best art you’re likely to see in a comic, just gets better and better.


Begin Spoilers


Alright. There will be spoilers here, but only minor if you’ve read the previous issue.

When The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #5 ended we were thrown a curve ball on the final page. I genuinely did not see it coming; the first part of this issue is dedicated to explaining how the final page of the previous issue, with Harada being a bit more than the atomic stain we assumed he was by the mid point of the story, tying up the loose ends that Dysart had been leaving us to pull at.

After Harada’s utter defeat at the coalition of nations and companies arrayed against him, we get to see an entirely new side to that conflict. We see how Harada had planned for and anticipated almost everything. We see how his story comes full circle. It’s a surprisingly emotional comic that will leave you with more questions about how you see the world; about how you interpret the phrase “the ends justify the means” and it will leave you rethinking your personal definition of hero and villain.

The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #6 is more than a comic. I mean yes, it is literally a comic, but it serves as so much more; it’s the finale to perhaps the greatest miniseries of the year, it’s a brilliant read in it’s own right. Dysart will play with your expectations like a lead guitarist plucking out a solo on stage or a mariachi manipulating the strings in an intimate setting. He twists around Harada’s tale before finally revealing his hand in a near perfect moment.

For while Harada has lost personally, he was willing to sacrifice everything so that his ideals would live on. In so doing, he ensure that his enemies are able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

There were less spoilers there than I expected.


End Spoilers


This has been a fantastic journey from beginning to end. If you haven’t read Dysart’s full run with the character, I highly suggest you do so. That way you’ll get the full impact of this story. If you haven’t, and you don’t want to, then you should still read The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada. It’s the kind of comic that other publishers wish they had; this has been the jewel in Valiant’s cap this year, and comes at a time when the publisher is just getting their feet under them once again after a couple of misses in 2018. Utterly phenomenal.

Story: Joshua Dysart Art: Cafu and Doug Braithwaite
Colours: Andrew Dalhouse
and Diego Rodriguez Letters: Dave Sharpe
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided a FREE copy for review, but this is a book I’ll be buying when it hits the racks.

Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 8/10

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.


Ryan C

Savage Avengers #4 (Marvel)** – Story-wise, this mini has basically been treading water since the first issue, and that trend continues here, in the penultimate chapter — but just because Gerry Duggan is mailing it in, don’t take that to mean Mike Deodato, Jr. is following suit. This comic looks absolutely great — but unfortunately, that alone doesn’t make it worth either your time or your money. Overall: 4. Recommendation: look at it at the shop, then give it a pass. 

Batman #76 (DC)**– After a lackluster start to the “City Of Bane” arc, Tom King at least cobbles together a nominally readable script here, even if the mystery as to what’s going on continues to fall a bit flat. Tony S. Daniel’s art is what it is — a continuation of the tired “New 52” aesthetic, but I dunno. If you like that sort of thing, you’ll like how this one looks. All in all it’s pretty much just a middling comic. If that’s good enough for you, have at it, otherwise follow the advice in the very next sentence… Overall: 5 Recommendation: Pass

Postal: Deliverance #2 (Image/Top Cow) **– This welcome return to Matt Hawkins’ so-called “Edenverse” builds on a strong first issue with Bryan Hill dishing out some Biblical “justice” and the corruption of a new generation in his script, while Raffaele Ienco delivers some serious goods with his fine, detailed art. Killer stuff, not for the faint of heart. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Descendent #4 (Aftershock) **– Not sure what happened with this conspiracy thriller, but after a strong pair of issues to start things off, Stephanie Phillipss scripting is getting seriously contrived and hakneyed, and the art by Evgeniy Bornyakov seems equally uninspired. I think there’s one installment left to go here, but I doubt I’m interested enough in things at this point to see whether or not they can pull off a last-second course correction. Overall: 3 Recommendation: Pass

Joe Hesh

 Absolute Carnage #1 (Marvel) Wow. Just wow. Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman deliver the best Marvel comic of the year. Not only is the writing and art just fantastic, but they give me the best Eddie story I’ve ever read. Love the love/hate relationship with Peter and Eddie and they managed to something with Carnage that the original Maximum Carnage story never could: Make Carnage a scary leviathan like force. Cletus Kasady alone was terrfying but Cletus tied to an age old evil God, is the thing of joy and nightmares. I love how this comic didn’t end after the first chapter and gave you 3 solid chapters to wet your appetite before leaving you hanging. The plot is awesome and just reprehensible at the same time. Grave robbing to make Carnage even more powerful. I love the relationship bond between Eddie and his other and Tom Hardy should have had this book to read before playing him in the movie. It might sound like I’m gushing here, but I am. I have nothing bad to say about this issue at all and as something I wasn’t even going to glance at, now might be my comic of the year. Overall: 10 just plain 10. Recommendation: Buy this. I read my copy but I’m damn sure buying this.

Logan

Doom Patrol Weight of the Worlds #2 (DC/Young Animal) Round 2 of Gerard Way, Jeremy Lambert, and James Harvey’s Doom Patrol features more weirdness, empathy, and mind expanding double page spreads. The highlight is Harvey’s diagram of Dannyland aka a genderqueer street on steroids that doubles as the Doom Patrol’s HQ and much more. This issue follows a throughline of positive reinforcement from Robotman’s new body getting cool new powers and upgrades (Like a flamethrower) for every good deed he does to Lotion the Cat realizing that the children of two potential planetary divorcees just need a hug, and finally Larry Trainor finding peace with the Negative Spirit that used to reside within him. The hug scene and another early one where Robotman sees the world through his new, though sadly non-human body marry words and pictures with an immersive spread from James Harvey combined with almost lyrical writing from Way and Lambert. The book feels more like an experimental art piece or a warm and fuzzy therapy session with tripped out dream imagery than a superhero comic, but I assure you that some day saving happens in Doom Patrol #2. Overall: 8.4 Verdict: Buy \

Die #6 (Image)- In an issue based on the annoying RPG concept of grinding, the party must find enough fair gold to kickstart an escape from the city of Glass which is in perpetual war with Eternal Prussia. Angela’s hacking/cyberpunk Neo abilities are crucial to this plan so Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans spend some time with her while she walks her dog looking for gold. She finds parallels between the world of Die and her past life as a game developer, which destroyed her marriage and personal life. Hans’ artwork captures the beautiful tragedy of her solo quest and the mechanics of games with everything having a choice or consequence. The art and Gillen’s writing lightens up a little bit towards the end with an epic escape sequence featuring a cool dragon. Then, Die’s anti-fantasy theme pops up in the conclusion, and Gillen and Hans remind us that this isn’t an adventure comic, but a horror one about being trapped in relationships and patterns of one’s past for too long. Overall: 8.6 Verdict: Buy

Absolute Carnage #1 (Marvel)– Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman lean into the absurdity, blood guts, and cosmic horror aspects of the symbiote and turn in a thrilling issue of this crossover. It’s divided into three acts: Eddie Brock and son (Who think he’s his brother) Dylan escaping Carnage in the New York subway tunnels, Eddie forging an unlikely alliance with Spider-Man and the Maker, and finally, a close doors chase and fight between Venom, Spider-Man, John Jameson, and a symbiote Norman Osborn. Stegman and inker JP Mayer revel in the utter chaos of the several big fight scenes in this issue and can slow things down too like when Eddie confides in Spider-Man that Dylan is his son and not his brother. The plotting can be a little clunky or exposition heavy at times, but Cates get the information across that Carnage is a god and is trying to absorb the little bits of symbiote left in anyone who was ever a host for it. The mechanics are a little absurd, but Stegman’s takes on the “Carnage-ized” version of characters are a treat, and Cates wisely continues to put the relationship between Eddie and Dylan at the center of this ever expanding story. Overall: 8 Verdict: Buy

Daredevil #9 (Marvel)– I’m really enjoying Chip Zdarsky’s and Lalit Kumar Sharma’s recent work on Daredevil and exploring a Hell’s Kitchen with no Daredevil, Kingpin, or even Matt Murdock practicing law. My most favorite part of Zdarsky’s run (Other than the previous Punisher reactions) is his nuanced look at Matt’s faith, and this is a big part of Daredevil #9 with a large portion of the issue being devoted to him and Reed Richards discussing the existence of God over a game of chess. As a lawyer and Catholic, Matt strives to believe in some order and justice in the universe, but that’s difficult for him in a world of corrupt cops, child trafficking, and bookstores that are mob fronts. Sharma turns in some wonderful visual transitions like the tears of a nun about a lost child turning into Matt going after the trafficker while wearing a variation of his “Man without Fear” costume. And to go along with all the philosophizing and bare knuckles brawls, there is time for romance as Zdarsky and Sharma continue to create some steamy chemistry between Matt and Mindy Libris, a bookstore manager and wife of a crime family scion that likes the business a little too much. Overall: 9.0 Verdict: Buy

 Future Foundation #1 (Marvel)– FF #1 has a great cast, fun cartooning from Will Robson, and Jeremy Whitley gives each member of this very large teenage superhero/science team at least one page to shine and have a voice. However, it’s more concerned with setting up future plot developments than telling an exciting done-in-one prison escape featuring Julie Power and guest starring Yondu. Whitley and Robson do a great job showing the prison break, including Onome fixing Yondu’s giant gun so it actually works and talking about how Shuri inspired her to be the next great Wakandan engineer and Julie traveling at light speed so their rescuee, Rebecca can find her personal effects. But, then, they get caught up in flexing that the Maker is the next villain that they don’t wrap up the story. Future Foundation has characters I want to spend more time with, art that makes me smiles, and is only missing the story mechanics to be solid teen superhero/Fantastic Four spinoff title. Overall: 7 Verdict: Read

Shean

Agents of Atlas (Marvel) – In this miniseries, we get reacquainted with this new superteam, as they take on a dragon terrorizing the Pacific. This is until the Protector intervenes, as a new addition to the group. We are taken to the various bunkers, where each of them find each major city being attacked by Dragons. By issue’s end, the team goes all out while we find exactly what happened to the original team. Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

Aero#1 (Marvel)– In two different stories, we find about this import from Shanghai. In the reprint of this character’s original run, we find her origins. In the second half, we get a team up adventure with her and Wave, where we get some of Wave’s origin story. By issue’s end, the writers provide a perfect setup for this character. Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Aero #2 (Marvel)– In this second issue we find our hero struggling with her powers and how to defeat supervillains. We also find out just how normal her life was, having a boyfriend and a comfortable job, both which looks boring to what she becomes. Inthe second half, we meet Wave’s mentor, Red Feather, who takes her weapons back. By issue’s end, we find out even more about characters, setting up Wave’s solo book to be one to watch. Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Underrated: The Impact Of Comic Book Television Shows And Movies

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: the impact of comic book TV shows and movies (outside of the Big Two).


Last week I reran a column for Underrated about The Death Defying Doctor Mirage as I had lost track of time Saturday morning, when I usually write the column, because I was watching the four episodes of The Boys on Amazon Prime that I had left after slowly picking away at the series during the week.

It was then I realized that adaptations of comic books in an episodic format are strangely underrated. Even the comic book movies, to some extent, also fall under that umbrella. Now, to be clear when I say these things are underrated, my tongue is not in my cheek; I am well aware that comic book movies are a multi billion dollar industry, and that some of those films are critical darlings – and rightly so. But I’m not talking about the movies per se, but rather their impact on comics. Not how the comics change over time to better reflect the movies, because that does happen, but rather the impact that the movies and television shows have in driving people to comic shops.

Yup.

Without the comics obviously these shows and movies wouldn’t exist in the same way (if at all). I mean you may end up with something like Heroes (remember that show from the mid-2000’s?), but there’d be no real guarantee that it’d take off. No, without the comics there’d be no live action adaptations.

But it’s not just a one way street.

I see it first hand when working at my LCS that the shows do drive purchases of the trades. To a lesser extent the floppies also sell, but in my experience that tends to be what people assume to be the key issues more than anything else; not always, and obviously it’s going to be different in different shops. It’s also important to note that the majority of the shows that push the comics aren’t always the ones I expected; shows like Doom Patrol and others that are also based on lesser known properties tend to generate more interest than the big ticket superhero movies. Personally, I think that’s because we all know who Batman, Spider-Man et al are, but even among comic book fans, few have read things like The Boys, Happy and Umbrella Academy.

It’s those adaptations that seem to have the higher impact on people wanting to circle back to the comics. Whether that’s because the people asking are already readers of comics, just not those comics, or because the idea of a smaller world to discover is less intimidating that trying to find your way into the X-Men (though the last few movies haven’t been great), the Avengers or Shazam comics.

The older a property, the more chance you’ve got at picking up a crappy story.

Now this two way street I’m seeing may be a localized trend. Your shop may have noticed something entirely different; maybe your shop has seen a surge of Avengers comics after folks have experienced the MCU, or maybe there was a sudden rush for Shazam books. Maybe the impact of the adaptations hasn’t been felt in your shop, and that sucks.

The impact of comics on television and cinema is undeniable. But there is a feedback from movie goers and others who binge Daredevil back to comicdom. It’s a small, and often underrated trend, but it is there. It’s turning the folks who wander in to a shop for the first or second time on to their new favourite book that’s the real challenge (though if you’re passionate about comics and can articulate that well, it shouldn’t be a huge hurdle).


Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover something else next week.

Returning To The X-Men: House Of X #2

It’s been nearly six years since I last picked up a new X-Men comic. The last series I read with any regularity featuring the merry mutants was Jason Aaron‘s Wolverine and the X-Men. Which apparently ended around six years ago. It’s fair to say that I’m a little out of touch with that side of the Marvel Universe (though I have been following both Old Man Logan and Dead Man Logan, but those series didn’t really involve the X-Men as much as a team book would). More than a little, honestly. A lot has happened in the six years I’ve been away, and since I barely pay attention to solicitations I have missed most of it.

But with Johnathan Hickman steering the X-Men in a new direction with this week’s House Of X #2 I thought this might be a good time to start reading X-Men comics again.

But how easy is it to jump back in relatively blind after more than half a decade away? Join me, and I’ll tell you.


Expect spoilers as I try to make sense of the comic.

Especially this issue.


“You see I know how you humans love your symbolism, almost as much as you love you religion. And I wanted you – I needed you – to understand… you have new gods now.”

Magneto, House Of X, #1 p.47.
House of X #2

We’re three issues in to Hickman’s story now, although this is only the second under the House Of X moniker. First thing’s first, I really enjoyed this comic. More than I honestly thought I would because I didn’t let the burning questions I could feel brewing out of the back of my mind until after I had finished a book that focuses entirely on Moira X. A mutant who’s power is reincarnation. In the same life. Each and every time. Moira gets to relive her life, free to correct any mistakes she believes she may have made along the way – and free to make more. But every time she dies, she starts again.

I suppose it does give the term “comic book death” a new meaning.

Anyway, through Moira X’s mutant power we get to explore some interesting alternate timelines that I am sure will somehow reappear in the future in a What If story of some kind (which I’m totally down for, incidentally). The many lives of Moira X revealed in House Of X #2 are touched on in brief, but I won’t go into them too much here. I don’t want to give away all the fun.

House of X #2

The big twist this issue was oddly subtle. In retrospect, it’s pretty bloody obvious, but as I go into these comics utterly blind I was a touch surprised that Moira X wasn’t a new character. You’ve probably guessed that there can’t be two characters in the X-Men’s life named Moira, and that Moira X has been more commonly known as Moira MacTaggert.

Now I’m assuming that Moira has only just been revealed as a mutant, and that’s why the entirety of House Of X #2 is dedicated to revealing this long-hidden history of the character that is in no way a brand new plot device conceived recently by Marvel’s writers room. Regardless of the choice, as someone who hasn’t read X-Men comics in a while (so take this how you will), I can say it works. Moira being revealed as a mutant, and a mutant with a very old soul, adds an entirely new dynamic to the story.

It also asks the question as to whether any of the stories we’ve read in the past have been in one of Moira’s past nine or so lives, or has everything we’ve read since the 60’s been a part of Moira’s plan?

Honestly, I don’t worry so much about the answer. I’m actually more curious as to how old Magneto is than whether Moira is a grand architect of mutantkind’s future.

The comic itself is a really good read. It’s the kind of issue that has an impact on you long after you’ve read it even though nothing really happens; Hickman’s writing is utterly gripping. Although he’s certainly a long game writer, this is a great standalone issue that is probably easier for a person to pick up than it has any right to be. Of course, I’m sure I am missing a lot of subtleties from my time away from the X-Men, but that just gives me more incentive to dive back into the issues I’ve missed.

Which, in the spirit of this column, I’ll do after the sixth issue of Powers Of X.


Will I understand next week’s installment in the saga, Powers Of X #2? Do I regret skipping six years of X-Books? Am I ever going to find out how Xavier is walking again?

We might find out next week. We might not.

Marvel provided a FREE copy for review purposes, but I read the comic in print from my LCS.

Review: Berserker Unbound #1

Berserker Unbound #1

In Berserker Unbound #1, a merciless sword and sorcery warrior finds himself blasted through a wormhole to a modern-day metropolis where he must protect those around him from an evil wizard determined to send him to hell. 

There were two or three main reasons I picked this book up. One was because it was written by Jeff Lemire, one of the most exciting writers in comics today, the second was the premise of a barbarian warrior being dumped in our world in the present day really interested me and the third was simply the cover. It is wonderful. It told me everything I needed to know about the comic in all of five seconds. It’s also very indicative of the art style within the comic, as Mike Deodato Jr. provided the art for both the interior and exterior (though Dave Stewart provides the colors on the cover, with Frank Martin taking care of the interiors). I’m always happy when the interior artist also produces the cover art because it helps avoid a cover selling a book to a customer based on the art style only to have a totally different artist on the inside.

Berserker Unbound #1 opens with a fairly standard fantasy trope as the Mongrel King trudges across a barren badlands-esque landscape reminiscing over past battles and revealing his reason for the continuous fighting; his wife and daughter. Lemire crafts a compelling tale and weaves a lot of characterization into the Mongrel King during the first issue, helping him stand apart from the inevitable comparison to Conan and others of that ilk. With this being a Lemire book, my expectations were already high going into this series. Lemire took an axe to those expectations and left them bloodied in the dust. The story seems simple enough as a premise, and indeed the first issue ends pretty much where you would expect it to so there’s little surprise plotwise, but it’s how Lemire takes you to his destination – the narration, the pacing – and the way he toys with how you expect things to turn out? It’s wonderful.

Speaking of wonderful things, the artwork of Deodato Jr. is another such thing in this issue. The bleakness of the world, the savagery of the inevitable action.. everything about the artistic presentation of this book is phenomenal. Credit also should go to Martin’s coloring work, of course, which elevates the already great visuals to the next level. Colourists often get the short end of the stick when it comes to the credit they deserve. They shouldn’t. Berserker Unbound #1 is a prime example of a comic where both artists’ work elevates the book a step above anything else I’ve read so far.

When it comes to any story written by Jeff Lemire, I usually find there’s a slower start (though that doesn’t mean I’m not normally hooked within the first issue or two), but that’s not the case here. The opening salvo to this story grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and screamed: “READ ME!” So I did. And I’ll continue to read this series until it’s over.

Join me, won’t you?

Story: Jeff Lemire Art: Mike Deodato Jr.
Color: Frank Martin
Story: 9.1 Art: 9.6 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Dark Horse provided a FREE copy for review. I’ve also added this to my pull list.

Review: Fallen World #4

Fallen World #4

In Fallen World #4, Rai’s greatest enemy has returned in a whole new form, and he’s got an army with him!

Can the cyborg samurai save innocent people from the powerful foe?

What roles will fan-favorite characters Eternal Warrior, Geomancer, and War Mother play in the battle?

Fallen World #4, written by Dan Abnett, featuring art by Adam Polina, colors by Ulises Arreola and letters by Jeff Powell is the penultimate issue in the series that follows the events of 4001 A.D. and War Mother. It also serves as the first time we see War Mother interact with another character from New Japan, the new Geomancer, and the Eternal Warrior.

Unfortunately, it’s also the weakest book so far in the series.

Gone are the allegories to the present day and our current struggles, replaced by an issue of combat and action that does little to provide any real excitement (which feels odd to say).

Regarding those allegories…

My love for this series is, in part, due to the analogs to our current world. There are clear problems between humans and their former slaves, the artificially intelligent positrons. This leads to some powerfully haunting moments in the first issue. The second issue introduced us to a religious sect that worship Father – or rather their idea of Father, crafted to suit their needs. It’s a series of undertones that add what all great science fiction has. That’s a powerful modern relevance despite the book being set two thousand years in the future. The third issue has added an interesting commentary on a foreign body trying to impose its will on the existent population. It’s a population that is less than thrilled with the proposition being offered by the foreign body.

From the review of Fallen World #3 I wrote last month.

Whereas the fourth issue has a throwaway line that infers people are willing to surrender far too much for the easy way out. It is a powerful line, but it’s lost amidst the rest of the issue and isn’t really revisited in any great detail, which is a shame.

Once again, the comic is split between two different plotlines; following Rai and the Eternal Warrior, the Geomancer and War Mother. Rai’s story is mostly focused on his impending confrontation with Father, and how the supporting characters try to help make such a thing a possibility in the finale of the miniseries. I’d love to say that the action of screen and the story itself are exciting, but it feels almost routine. Fallen World #4 is a by the numbers comic that is entirely at odds with the first two issues in the series – and as a person who was deeply enjoying the direction of the story, that’s a disappointing thing to say.

At this point, it would be nice to say that the diverging tale brings enough to the comic to save it, but there’s something a flatness in the way the Eternal Warrior, the Geomancer and War Mother interact; any of the emotion and humour from the previous issue seems to have drained away to be replaced with mostly forgettable dialogue (though there are highlights – for the most part it’s just “okay”).

I am aware that art is subjective, which makes talking about it tricky at times because this series has once again fallen below expectations for me. There are some wonderfully descriptive pages, and then you look at Gilad’s face and you wonder if it’s the same character that we saw last issue because he seems to have had an impromptu hair cut (which he seems to keep refreshing after every page or so), and the scars across his face have pretty much all but disappeared. Now while some of my misgivings can be attributed to the review pdf, there’s more than I can reasonably sweep under the rug.

That said, this series is still buoyed by two remarkable issues at the outset of the series, and another pretty good one right in the middle. While there has been a downward trend appearing, we’ve still got an issue left that will allow Abnett, Pollina and co to course correct for a much better finale than the fourth issue implies we’ll get. But, after a disappointing fourth issue, I’m still cautiously optimistic about the fifth.

Story: Dan Abnett Art: Adam Pollina
Colors: Ulises Arreola Letters: Jeff Powell
Story: 6.8 Art: 7.1 Overall: 7.0
Recommendation: Buy if you’ve come this far

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

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