Author Archives: Alex K Cossa

Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 2/16

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.


Elana

Die #3 (Image): An extraordinarily powerful story about uni-directional class war and about fantasy stories about war. Stephanie Hans paints one hell of a god-send and her depictions of trench warfare are devastating. Kieron Gillen gets to the heart of JRR Tolkien’s works as promised on my podcast — http://bit.ly/DieGPpod). More people have made art about Tolkien than almost any other 20th century writer. But this is saying something new. It is poetry and politics on the page. Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Joe Hesh

Batman Who Laughs #3 (DC) Snyder and Jock are back at it again and they are putting on a clinic. This mini series has been flat out fantastic. From the idea of the Jokers ultimate revenge through corrupting Batman to all the alternate Bruce Waynes now in our universe. I’ve enjoyed it all. Its not just the grandiose moments that Snyder does well, its the little ones too. I like the idea of Batman being born the day he climbed out of the well. This kind of building on the Batman mythos is exceptional. The Grim Knight is a welcome addition and i hope to enjoy the one shot coming up. Bringing James Gordon Jr. Back is wonderful too as he was a great character and particularly unique. So far we are half way done with this mini series and from what I heard it really hits the fan from here out. The only downside I see is that I wish Snyder and Jock were the regular monthly team on the main book. If you haven’t been on Batman for a while you want to pick this one up. The dark knight at his finest. Overall: Not a qualm at all and awaiting with batted breath for the next installment. Score: 9 Recommendation: Buy 

Shean

Star Wars Age of Republic Count Dooku #1 (Marvel)– In this one shot featuring the still mysterious Count Dooku, we find out more about his duplicitous nature As we meet him as he seeks out an arms syndicate, while accidentally running into a Jedi Knight shortly after Qui Gon Jinn had been killed by Darth Maul. As the reader sees moments where his former self is enough for most including the Jedi Knight they sent to believe that his intentions were pure, as he ponders for a moment, if he had stayed with the Jedi Order, would his Padawan still be alive? By issue’s end, he begrudgingly Kills everyone involved while expanding the Sith’s foothold in the Empire. Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy

Savage Sword of Conan #1(Marvel)- In this reboot of the series, we find the Cimirrian lost at sea. This is until he is found by a slave ship looking to sell him and his fellow captives, a plan he doesn’t want no part of. Eventually, he finds a way to escape, while discovering that the Captain is more than what he seems, as he becomes the first glimpse of a well known villain in the pantheon of adversaries Conan would face. By issue’s end, he burns the ship, frees himself and embarks on a new adventure. Overall: 9.8 Recommendation: Buy

Logan

Wonder Twins #1 (DC/Wonder)– Zan and Jayna the Wonder Twins try to get the hang of Earth and high school in the new series from Mark Russell and Stephen Byrne. Byrne has a smooth, expressive art style that works for a more episodic, humor driven story even though Superman and Batman’s tales of high school woe are funnier than Zan running around like a dog in heat. Russell writes the Trinity like real people, which takes a while getting used to, and counterbalances this by writing the Wonder Twins themselves with more empathy and less as a SuperFriends joke. Jayna is definitely the more likable one in the easygoing, and hopefully, Zan gets more depth instead of just being a hormonal wannabe bro as the series progresses. Overall: 7.6 Verdict: Read

 Ironheart #3 (Marvel)– Even though Vecchio and Geoffo’s interior art pales in comparison to Amy Reeder’s covers, Eve Ewing’s introspective and character driven, yet action packed run on Ironheart continues with a dark, moody third chapter. Riri is so busy trying to connect the pieces to a cellphone theft/human trafficking ring that she’s neglecting her schoolwork, friends both super and otherwise, family, and also feelings about the death of her friend Natalie. She would rather be getting in headstrong fights with ninja things and playing around with high end technology than opening up. Ewing and Vecchio make Riri a determined and likable character (Who is a stealth sneakerhead), but also give her flaws that make her story even more compelling although she’s struggling in the villain department so far. Overall: 8 Verdict: 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: Warhammer: Crown Of Destruction

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: Warhammer: Crown Of Destruction.


It’s often easy to discount Games Workshop based comics as little more than a generic cash in with little appeal beyond those who already play Games Workshop games such as Warhammer. As you may have guessed by this collection featuring in Underrated, that’s not always the case. 

Although I found this in a thrift shop for $2, I was utterly captivated by it from start to finish. I tell you the price I paid more to give an indication of what I was willing to pay based on the cover and blurb on the back, not because I want to brag about my find. Any higher a price and I probably would have left it on the shelf – though seeing as how it was with the kids books I may have at least moved it to the adult section. 

As I may have indicated, I went into this book with pretty low expectations on the story (though oddly I would have been surprised if the art wasn’t at the very least “pretty damn good”). But given that this four issue collection was written by Kieron Gillen, I probably should have had higher expectations than I did. Yes, it’s the third book in the series, no that didn’t bother me any.

Gillen’s story about disgrace, honour and cowardice is pure escapist fantasy, but it is solid and more than enjoyable. I loved the artistic direction of the book. Dwayne Harris, while not to everybody’s taste, encapsulates the visual feel I expected from a gritty comic that had some very loud 2000AD  echoes.

A lot of the folks I talk to at my LCS generally discount these comics as not being worth reading; and while they may not always be the best things you’ll ever read, they’re far better than most (including myself) give them credit for. That’s why I think these stories are Underrated. Next time a Warhammer comic looks interesting to you, check it out. You may find yourself enjoying it more than expected.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Review: The Punisher #8

The Punisher #8

I wish I could say that I’ve been a long standing fan of the Punisher, that I’ve followed his adventures through the years and that my Punisher collection is numerous and vast. But I can’t. I’ve read maybe half a dozen Punisher comics in my life that didn’t involve a crossover of some kind or another (usually with Wolverine),and after having devoured season two of the Netflix adaptation in two days, I was excited to get started with the current arc.

Frank Castle is in jail in a Hydra controlled country where he is waiting for his execution date by killing the odd Hydra guard and accepting a brutal beating meant for a nun.

The Punisher #8 tells the story of the inmates’ attempt at a jailbreak, and Castle leading the plan. Why would he help criminals escape prison? A good question with a surprisingly simple answer that you’ll find within the comic’s pages. The process and planning for the escape has Frank’s narration over the step-by-step actions and it works really well as a story device. Although I can’t honestly compare the few issues of this series to other Punisher comics, it’s every bit as good as the others I have read; Matthew Rosenberg‘s story puts Frank in a relative new (to me at least) situation where you get to see how capable and deadly a man he really is.

Given the comic’s setting, the art is suitably grim and gloomy. The Punisher frequently comes across as the most menacing person on the page (as he should), and the audience is reminded several times why he frequently runs afoul of the other Marvel heroes; Frank Castle is not a nice man. He’s only just on the side of not-a-villain, and watching the occasional moments where the hero/good man shines through is often more jarring than watching him shove a stun baton down a guards throat before turning it on (last issue, if you’re wondering).

I can’t judge this as a Punisher fan, but as a fan of the show who wants to read Punisher comics, this was an excellent place for me to start getting into the character’s comics. It doesn’t hurt that this would be a really interesting story regardless of the lead character, but that it stars Frank Castle is the cherry on top of the sundae. The next issue can’t come soon enough.

Story: Matthew Rosenberg Artist: Szymon Kudranski
Colourist: Antonio Fabela Letter: VC’s Cory Petit 
Story: 8.7 Art: 8.6 Overall: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Livewire #3

On the run!

Livewire #3

Fleeing from more than just the law, Livewire’s about to find out whether she has the strength to survive on her own in a world that hates and fears her, with only her memories of better days to rely on…but if she’s not careful, even those can be snatched away by the mercenary hunting her down!

Livewire#3 deals much more directly with Livewire’s recent past, and how she perceives and justifies her turning off the power to the US.

After escaping the people who captured and implanted a power nullifier of some kind in her brain, Amanda McKee faces a threat from her past in the form of a character I genuinely don’t remember, but could easily have featured in a prior series (I didn’t look it up because it wasn’t relevant to me – everything I needed to know about the character and their relationship with Livewire was provided in this comic).

Although there’s a lot to unpack within this comic, the events within its pages probably happen over the course of minutes rather than hours, giving Livewire #3 a frenetic pace with a very minimal cast of characters. This gives the comic a very intimate feel, which although quite at odds with the previous issue, is still every bit as intense. Vita Ayala reinforces Livewire’s capabilities with her powers diminished whilst simultaneously through the use of interspersed flashbacks they flesh out the other focal point of the comic.

Raul Allen, Patricia Martin and Scott Koblish bring an easily identifiable colour scheme; there’s a slight difference in colour hue between the flashbacks and the present that enables you to easily differentiate between the two periods. The artistic team are on top form once again, remaining deliciously consistent in the quality as they veer from super detailed backgrounds to panels with a blank background that highlights the action within.

Livewire #3 is another strong comic in a series that’s focusing on one of Valiant’s, indeed all of comics, more complex characters; we’re three issues in now and I still don’t know whether I’d consider Livewire a hero or villain. It’s this ambiguity and Ayala’s ability to stay in the moral murkiness that’s such a strong point for this series, and why this book is firmly lodged on my pull list.

Story: Vita Ayala
Art: Raul Allen, Patricia Martin and Scott Koblish
Letters: Saida Temofonte
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.9 Overall: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Winter Soldier #3

Winter Soldier #4

A face from the past returns at a pivotal time in RJ’s deprogramming. But is his return too good to be true? Or is Bucky just being paranoid? What lengths is he willing to go to keep RJ safe? An issue filled with shocking choices.

Usually when one starts a comic series at issue #3, you can pick things up pretty easily. That’s still the case here, but with the added caveat that this is third of five issues (which I wasn’t aware of until I started reading). Needless to say, I haven’t read the first two issues.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the comic.

A lot of what I needed to know was given to me from the recap page, and the rest through a wordy therapy session or two in the opening to the comic. It had the effect of bringing me up to speed without needlessly overburdening those who had read the other two issues with too much exposition.

The issue itself has a lot more emotional and psychological weight than physical threat level (though there is an interesting sequence in the comic, but more on that later) as Kyle Higgins digs into the damaged psyche of the Winter Soldier. Redemption stories have always been some of my favourite, and Higgins peels back a layer or two to make some revelations into Bucky’s mind; it’s nothing overly ground breaking or original, but it is teased out slowly and done very well (there’s a chance that it’s a much better reveal if you’ve read the first two issues).

The plot of the comic isn’t overly complex, and ties right into Bucky’s desire to give folks a new life after escaping from or moving on from a life of crime; it’s a concept that I really enjoy and hope that it’s expanded upon after this series (that it comes from Kyle Higgins doesn’t surprise me – his Image series C.O.W.L. also had a great central concept).

Rod Reis has an almost whimsical style in this issue; the art feels light, but easy to follow. There is a brilliant double page spread, although the effect was lost a little in the review copy I imagine it’ll be fantastic in print, and an action sequence that follows that’s also visually very impressive. You’ll be looking at those pages for sometime as you absorb the details.

Starting a five issue miniseries in the middle is never ideal, but with Winter Soldier #3 it is more than doable. This is a really fun and enjoyable comic with some not so subtle questions about the nature of redemption.

Story: Kyle Higgins Art: Rod Reis Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.4 Art: 8.3 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy (but maybe start with #1)

Review: Dead Man Logan #4

Dead Man Logan #4

Dead Man Logan is one of the more oddly exciting comics in Marvel’s roster right now. Especially for fans of the original Mark Millar and Steve McNiven story Old Man Logan that was first printed in Wolverine vol. 3 #66-72. It’s a story that is widely held as being a Wolverine Must Read, and so it was perhaps inevitable the character would return in some way. But after nearly 60 issues, and with Young Man Logan returning (in the aptly titled Return Of Wolverine) Old Man Logan is (probably) going to die (for a few years, at least).

With Dead Man Logan again focusing on Logan’s desire to make sure that what happened in his past wouldn’t occur again, we’ve already seen Old Man Logan almost single-handedly go through the Avengers (albeit under the illusion the Avenger’s were villains… which should remind you of something). In a fun and interesting play on the mirroring of the original tale, we’ve also seen Mysterio seem to flip sides; Ed Brisson is adding more layers to this series with every issue – not only does this comic carry a legitimate weight and gravitas to the story, but it’s also an incredibly fun read. There is a great balance between the somberness of Logan’s condition being explained and Hawkeye making coffee (it sounds simple, but just wait till you read that).

Mike Henderson and Nolan Woodard are a solid artistic combination, and their style is one that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with. The characters feel unique, their emotions are clearly (and often hilariously) displayed on their faces, which leads to some brilliant visual moments.

Dead Man Logan #4 is a great read, and while the series has an epic feel to its scope and potential, there are a lot of great nods and touches that leave the comic a very accessible feeling. It’s odd, really, that the two sides of the story blend so well, but I’m not going to complain. This is a solid comic, and one well worth picking up (it’s also one of the best Wolverine series I’ve read in a long time). I can’t wait to read the next issue.

Story: Ed Brisson Artist: Mike Henderson 
Color Artist: Nolan Woodard Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
 Story: 8.9 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 2/2

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.


Shean

Killmonger #4(Marvel)- In the penultimate issue, we see what’s left of the team reunited but not is all what it seems. As Erik tries to convince King to come to Wakanda, he finds a hesitant mentor. Meanwhile, Knight has her own plans and betrays them all, leaving Erik, King and his wife, Celia for death. By issue’s end, Erik gets his calling from Mother Bast, as gets focused more than ever and pursues a path to revenge. Overall: 9.8 Recommendation: Buy

Conan The Barbarian #3 (Marvel)– In this particular issue, we find out just how tough a young Conan is. As we find a 17 year old Cimmerian who is sentenced to hanging but was strong enough to withstand the gallows and kill anyone who stood in his way. As he gets recaptured and become a true believer in the most unexpected way. By issue’s end, luck was on his side until now and what lies ahead isn’t pretty. Overall: 9
Recommendation: Buy

Old Man Quill #1 (Marvel)– We find quite a melancholy tale in this different tale of this sometimes intergalactic jokester. As we find him as the Emperor of Spartax and attacking a foe who outsmarts him. His world is turned upside down, as we find him years later, broken and a king without a kingdom or a Fam. This until his old crew, The Guardians Of the Galaxy finds him for one last job, one that leads him to the Wastelands where Doom is King. Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

Gunhawks #1(Marvel)– In an excellent Western comic, you get a tale of an Invincible lawman, whose days are numbered, as an old foe shows up. The art in this book is breathtaking as it feels like early Frank Quitely. The story definitely feels like a classic William W. Johnstone tale. By issue’s end, a story that will definitely make you pop culture in your favorite John Wayne Western. Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

Star Wars Age of Republic: Anakin Skywalker #1(Marvel)- I will keep this one sweet and short. This book had a ton of promise on premise alone, what we get is an earnest story that falls through. Overall: 6 Recommendation: Borrow

Ryan C

Red Sonja #1 (Dynamite)** – Mark Russell can do no wrong, it seems, but as it turns out, swords-and-sandals is something he does extremely right, indeed. A simple, well-structured script sets the stage thoroughly and completely for new and old readers alike, the characterization is spot-on, and Mirko Colak’s art is absolutely perfect for this sort of genre yarn. Everything you love about comics in one tidy package. Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

The Girl In The Bay #1 (Dark Horse/Berger Books)** – The consistently-undervalued J.M. DeMatteis turns in one of his best scripts in years in this hippie-flavored existential murder mystery loaded with strong dialogue, great characters, and his trademark eastern mysticism, while newcomer Corin Howell’s art is rich, detailed, and very near fundamentally flawless. A couple of uncharacteristic and frankly embarrassing editorial “misses” take readers out of the book for the briefest of moments, and you’d certainly expect better in that regard from Karen Berger, but apart from that, this is very nearly perfect comic book storytelling. Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

 Female Furies #1 (DC)** – The Fourth World as feminist metaphor? Believe it, as writer Cecil Castellucci and Perez-influenced artist Adriana Melo re-purpose Jack Kirby’s greatest opus as a battle for gender equality with Granny Goodness in the role of sci-fi suffragette. Equal parts darkly humorous and frankly disturbing, this is none-too-subtle stuff, but quite affecting and very well-realized. I’m already thinking six issues of this may not be enough. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

The Green Lantern #4 (DC)** – Grant Morrison continues to be his new, decidedly-less-ambitious iteration of himself, but he nails sci-fi gunslinger tropes with a fair amount of precision and Liam Sharp’s art just gets better with every issue, here his inventive page layouts complementing the script rather than drawing attention away from it. The real star of the show, though, continues to be Steve Oliff, who is showing once again why he’s still the best colorist in the business. Overall: 8 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 (**).

Those Two Geeks Episode Thirty Four: Comics, Football and Comics

On the docket this week: Absolutely no plans. Where does the episode go? I honestly have no idea. There’s something about Wolverine, though. A new segment called Logan’s Run… but one that’s swiftly derailed. There’s also Superbowl talk, and something about Batman.

As always, the Alex and Joe can be found on twitter respectively @karcossa and @jc_hesh if you feel the need to tell them they’re wrong individually, or @those2geeks if you want to yell at them together on twitter, or by email at ItsThose2Geeks@gmail.com.

Underrated: Super Heroes Saving Regular People

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: Super Heroes Saving Regular People


I recently picked up the X-Men graphic novel With Great Power that also features (you guessed it) Spider-Man, and collects X-Men #7-11 (the 2011 volume). Within the first dozen or so pages were three really short mini-stories, perhaps a page or two each, in which three member of the X-Men intervene in some comparatively simple situations where they save a person falling from a bridge, stop a robbery and solve a hostage situation. Angel, Colossus and Wolverine are shown individually as the prevent the negative results of the aforementioned situations, and I honestly enjoyed the opening pages far more than the rest of the story.

I think that’s because I love watching heroes that may not often be in street level situations react to them. Superman stopping a bank robbery isn’t shown as much in comics as the occurrences of Spider-Man doing the same; heroes that are frequently seen stopping world ending threats aren’t often seen stopping the corner store from being robbed. So when these moments happen in comics, I get stupidly excited (it’s also why I’m drawn toward heroes that don’t tend to be overly powerful, either).

Characters who are often seen as, or are, gods (Superman, Thor or the Hulk) being seen helping, or having an impact upon the common man often serves as a reminder of why the world sees them as heroes. Sure, Thor can go and save one of the other realms, but the postmen and women doing their regular jobs will never know about it. So it’s those rare moments that we get when we see a hero stepping out of their regularly scheduled programming to stop a robbery that are what I wanted to highlight today in a truncated column.

Saving the world, galaxy or universe stories are great, but sometimes I want to be reminded of the fact the Superman could casually save my life as I plummet to my impending doom as a result of the cable snapping when I wash a skyscraper’s windows. I want to think that Colossus will stop a taxi because someone’s ankle is caught in a drain. In short, I want to be reminded that superheroes will actually save regular people in between stopping Darksied and Apocalypse.

That’s why I think these stories are Underrated.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

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