Author Archives: Alex K Cossa

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Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 2/27/2021

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. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.


Logan

The Next Batman: Second Son #1 (DC)– Writer John Ridley and artists Tony Akins, Ryan Benjamin, and Mark Morales tell the story of Tim Fox’s pre-Next Batman days as he and the unseen tech guy Vol try to take out a Vietnamese human trafficker. This first issue is all action, or attempts at action, highlighting Tim’s inexperience as he gets lured into a trap and does some stupid stuff like throwing his melee weapon right at his opponent. You can definitely see the passion in Tim’s face and in Ridley’s dialogue and passion, but he’s not even close to Batman or Batwing yet. On the visual side, Benjamin’s layouts are simple, yet effective using 2 or 3 panels a page to show how deep the shit Tim is getting in. The final page is a weird angle/choice from him and Akins though, but it connects him to the context of Future State and the larger DC Universe. Second Son #1 is a pretty, straightforward riff on Batman Year One with an international setting and focus on hacking as well as hand to combat. It’s not spectacular, but it’s solid. Opening with an extended action sequence is always a good move. Overall: 7.5 Verdict: Read

Future State-Superman: House of El #1 (DC)– House of El #1 is a glimpse at a far-flung future where the descendants of Superman from various planets band together to defend Earth from the Red King and his minions. Philip Kennedy Johnson and Scott Godlewski craft a world where Superman and his fellow heroes are practically a myth and where hope is all but lost. Theand’r, who is Kryptonian and Tamaranean, even thinks Superman never existed, and that he was a story to inspire Kryptonian immigrants who found a home on Earth. Johnson throws a lot of interesting ideas that could sustain a mini, but he and Godlewski condense it down to one double-sized comic with plenty of action and an enemy that is a metaphor for white supremacism. Godlewski’s compositions during the fight scenes fill up the page as the remnants of the House of El fight Parademons, Black Racer, and multiple Doomsdays. He draws blockbuster superhero action and interpersonal moments equally well adding a level of vulnerability to these warriors. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #6 (Dark Horse)– Jeff Lemire and Toni Zonjic’s commentary on child sidekicks, violent vigilantes who were formerly child sidekicks, and 1990s Frank Miller art concludes in Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #6. Zoncic’s art is definitely the highlight of this final issue with a contrasting red and blue palette as Skeleton Boy struggles between choosing a life of violence with Skulldigger or something more stable with Officer Reyes and her partner. He also does some striking black and white work for the big emotional beats and also for Skulldigger’s kills. Storywise, Lemire creates a parallel between Skulldigger’s strained relationship with his mentor when he was the young sidekick Alley Cat, and his similar trauma bond with Skeleton Boy as he’ll probably end up getting Skeleton Boy hurt or killed. The actual ending of the issue seems like an anti-climax, but Lemire and Zonjic create a wonderfully redemptive moment for Matthew (Formerly known as Skeleton Boy) while lingering on a couple images of a lonely Skulldigger, whose vigilante crusade and vendetta against Grimjim (Think the Joker plus immortality.) will never end. Overall: 8.5 Verdict: Buy

Crossover #4 (Image)– Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw’s Ready Player One comic book edition continues in Crossover #4. Wisely, they’ve sidestepped their feeble attempts at real world relevance or commentary on the medium and gone for all out action in this issue with the standout being a Ben-Day dot filled double page spread featuring Madman, a yo-yo, and a nostalgic color palette from Dee Cuniffe. The lead characters Ellie, Ryan, and Ava are just ciphers taking the reader from Easter Egg to Easter Egg with Cates’ ominiscient narrator seeing more as a cover his ass situation than adding anything substantial to the series. As co-creators of the series, Cates and Shaws are well within their rights to make God Country a critical part of Crossover’s plot, but it really cheapens the resonance of a series that was their most emotionally honest work. Unless you’re a hunt the Easter Egg enthusiast, this one is worth skipping along with their prose and TV medium relatives, the aforementioned Ready Player One and Stranger Things Season One. Geoff Shaw and Dee Cuniffe’s visuals are very pretty though. Overall: 5.3 Verdict: Pass

Department of Truth #6 (Image)– James Tynion and guest artist Elsa Charretier peel the table behind the Department of Truth a little bit in a flashback story as a fresh off killing JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald learns about the conspiracies of 1000 AD. Compared to the series’ usual style, Charretier’s art has an earthiness that works for the medieval setting, and she even riffs on tapestry as the hag in the woods/Julia Augusta spins basically the origin story of the Illuminati featuring the Julian Calendar, monks, and fake Charlemagne. Tynion and Charretier explore the underlying theme and purpose of Department of Truth, which is to make sure a certain narrative is a dominant one and places it in the wider context of medieval European history. The Roman empire has fallen, Islam is on the rise, and the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox church are about to break apart so why not create the fiction of something that is neither an empire, holy, or Roman to hold things together. It will be interesting to see the ideas introduced in Department of Truth #6 echo down the road and see some of the recurring imagery and themes. It’s definitely my favorite issue of the series so far. Overall: 9.5 Verdict: Buy

Brett

Future State: Batman/Superman #2 (DC Comics) – The art shines a bit more than the story itself which just feels like a way to add more flavor to this new Gotham and the Magistrate. It has some great themes I’d love to see explored more but overall, it feels like the end of a filler arc that touches upon bigger things elsewhere. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Future State: Dark Detective #4 (DC Comics) – The issue makes me want more of this future Gotham and story direction. The first story features the showdown between Batman and the Magistrate’s leader and it’s a hell of a battle. The art is fantastic with some amazing spreads and awesome action. The second story featuring Jason Todd delivers some solid twists and turns leaving the reader with a lot of questions that’ll be answered in the future. This was the Future State I wanted and it left me begging for it to continue. Overall Rating: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #2 (DC Comics) – I really don’t know the Legion of Super-Heroes and this disconnect had me shrugging my shoulders with this one. This comic feels a bit more for the die-hards with knowledge. The art is solid with a very unique style so that was at least entertaining for me. Overall Rating: 6.5 Recomendation: Pass

Future State: Suicide Squad #2 (DC Comics) – The Suicide Squad portion of the comic is fanastic. The ending is something I didn’t see coming and it just feels like a solid mission for the team on another world. The art is really good delivering entertaining action with some subtle things here and there that really stand out. The Black Adam story is interesting but since I’m not into the whole magic aspect of the DC universe, it just didn’t quite pack the punch for me. The ending was also solid but the art stands out with some pages packed in with action and characters. You’ll need a bit to take it all in. Overall Rating: 7.75 Recommendation: Buy

Future State: Superman vs. Imperious Lex #2 (DC Comics) – Writer Mark Russell delivers the humor and satire I’d expect in a story where Lex Luthor rules over an entire planet. There’s some solid digs and concepts in here and it gave me a good laugh. Overall Rating: 7.75 Recommendation: Read

Generations Forged #1 (DC Comics) – There’s a lot of talent with this comic which really should have been released as individual chapters digitally. Seeing different heroes from different times together is fun and there’s a nice retro feel to it all, story and look wise. The comic also opens up the concept of the Linearverse which feels a bit odd and clunky with the current reset of the DC Universe and expansion of the Omniverse. Overall, great concept with an ok execution. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Batman: Black & White #3 (DC Comics) – I’m loving this anthology series and just want more of it. The stories and art is varied with John Ridley’s opening standing out. This is a fantastic buy and exactly what DC should be putting out more often. Overall Rating: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Black Widow #5 (Marvel) – The best series on Marvel’s shelf right now. This wraps up the initial arc delivering some unbelievable action and amazing art. There’s so much to take in and just nails everything I’d want in a Black Widow comic. This is the series I have to read with each release. Overall Rating: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Chasing the Dragon #1 (Heavy Metal) – An interesting fantasy series that mixes in a concept of addiction to dragon’s blood to it. The opening is a little choppy with some good ideas that I want to see where it goes. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Crossover #4 (Image Comics) – I’ve really been enjoying this series which dips between great concepts and nostalgia. This issue feels a bit heavy on the nostalgia end of things as the creators reference one of their own creations. It feels a bit like autofellatio. There’s some solid art though which really stands out. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games #3 (Marvel) – It’s M.O.D.O.K. versus Gwenpool a character I normally dislike. She works here in this over-the-top issue and series that features other organisms designed for killing. A silly, action-filled comic, that’ll leave you laughing. It’s delivered every issue with great jokes and solid art. It’s Looney Tunes type fun. Overall Rating: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Nailbiter Returns #10 (Image Comics) – The latest volume wraps up and it’s a hell of an ending. Though it’s a little choppy it feels very appropriate for a horror sequel. There’s also a bit I don’t want to spoil. For those that have followed this series, you’ll be happy with the finale. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Stray Dogs #1 (Image Comics) – A hell of a debut featuring a dog with memory problem that winds up in a new home. The art is amazing and the build-up to the comic is gasp-inducing and also heartbreaking at moments. This is a must-get and must-read. Just fantastic in every way. Overall Rating: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar #5 (Marvel) – The issue wraps up the miniseries with a showdown between Marneus and the Chaos forces. It brings things together in the two storylines and art is decent as usual. It ups the blood and guts a bit and overall is a satisfying though not exciting finale. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read


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 104: Musings on Live Action Offerings

Here’s the thing; the time between this being recorded and edited and writing this wasn’t an insignificant amount of time. Other than talking about Wandavision and the Snyder Cut of the Justice League movie, I’m not sure what else we talked about. C’est la vie.

As always, Alex and Joe can be found on twitter respectively @karcossa and @jcb_smark 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: Eternal Warrior: Sword of the Wild

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: Eternal Warrior: Sword of the Wild


It should be no secret to you that I am a huge fan of Valiant comics. I’ve also made no secret of my love for the Eternal Warrior. But a lot of that love stems from Book Of Death and Wrath of the Eternal Warrior, and not his first solo series offered since Valiant’s 2012 relaunch, the eponymously titled Eternal Warrior. I first read that series shortly after Book Of Death and didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to, and although I’ve heard mixed opinions on it since, I wanted to give the first four issues in the series another chance (you can find them collected as Sword Of The Wild, hence the full title of this week’s column, and what I’ll be referring to them as going forward).

The back of the trade dressing (apparently) reads;

Soldier. Guardian. Warrior. Legend. Across ten millennia and a thousand battlefields, Gilad Anni-Padda has traversed the darkest, most mysterious corners of history. But the horror and bloodshed of constant warfare has finally taken its toll on the man myth calls the Eternal Warrior…and he has abdicated his duties as the Fist and the Steel of Earth for a quiet life of seclusion. But when a blood vendetta from the distant past suddenly reappears in the modern day, he must decide if he will return to the ways of war…for the child who betrayed him thousands of years ago…

Before rereading Sword of the Wild I realised that I had to look at the book as its own entity, removed from the larger continuity of the Valiant universe as a whole. This realisation came because for me Sword of the Wild doesn’t tie in to the portrayal of the Eternal Warrior we were given in Unity, and subsequently Book Of Death and Wrath of the Eternal Warrior (although the latter two came after Sword of the Wild) nor the general continuity Valiant had built at the time. Once I had taken that mentality with the book,  I sat down, opened the front cover and got started… and was immediately transported to what felt like a reimagination of the 90’s era Eternal Warrior.

I say this because although the book doesn’t lot in as well with the Valiant continuity as other books and series have done, it’s still a really enjoyable read. More so than I initially expected. When you look at this book as a standlone story about an immortal warrior finally having enough of the world’s shit and just wants to live the rest of his long days in peace (or at least a portion of them), and remove any preconcieved notions of how it could or should fit into the other stories featuring Gilad Anni-Padda, then you’ll find that there’s a really compelling four issue arc here.

Just on that maybe lines up better with the pre-relaunch Valiant comics than the Valiant Entertainment era.

I really enjoyed this book – far more than I expected to. So why is it today’s subject? Because I hear very few people talk about this volume with the enthusiasm the character deserves because it doesn’t fit the larger Valiant continuity as well as it could. But as a standalone story? It’s pretty good – that’s why the book is Underrated.


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

Review: By The Horns #1

By the Horns #1

Full disclosure: I am so bloody excited to have read By the Horns #1. The creative team (writer Markisan Naso, artist Jason Muhr, and colorist Andrei Tabacaru) are one of the most underrated teams I’ve ever come across – their first story, Voracious has been firmly lodged as one of my favorite comic stories since the first volume wrapped (there’s three, and each one is better than the last). Needless to say, when the first issue of By the Horns #1 arrived in my inbox far earlier than I expected, I jumped on that like an Englishman jumping for tea.

Elodie hates unicorns. For nearly a year, she’s been hell-bent on tracking down and killing all the elusive horned creatures responsible for trampling her husband, Shintaro. Now, exiled from her farming village of Wayfarer for selfishly neglecting her duties, Elodie and her half wolf/half deer steed, Sajen, search the continent of Solothus for clues to the whereabouts of unicorns.

When Elodie discovers that four ancient wind wizards are abducting unicorns and other mystical creatures so they can extract their magic, she means to go through them at any cost to exact her revenge. But she’ll need to rely on an increasingly reluctant Sajen, a floating-eyeball guide named Evelyn, and two unicorn prisoners – Zoso and Rigby – who grant her the ability to rip off their horns and combine them to form wizard-slaying weapons. Will she use their gifts to save the captured unicorns, or destroy them all?

By the Horns #1 opens with a figure standing over a unicorn, bloody axe in hand with their head out of frame. It’s a scene-setting image, and you know what you’re in for, but Naso’s words over the image hit me in a way I wasn’t expecting. Normally when I stop reading a comic, it’s not because I need to take a moment to collect myself. By The Horns #1 is not a normal comic.

Khemmis, the name of the village that our lead character is from, is a brilliant nod to one of the most played metal bands on my Spotify (coincidentally, Naso cohosts a podcast about heavy metal, and has recommended Khemmis’ Desolation album – which I highly encourage you to check out). If I’m honest, I reread the book a second time trying to find other references and nods hidden within the comic, and while I caught a few, there are probably others that I missed, but that’s the joy of Naso’s work; this shit’s like an onion – the more you peel away at things the more you’ll find below the layers.

The story weaves between emotional turmoil and a deep sense that something is missing. To be clear, there’s nothing missing in the comic, but rather than the character Elodie is missing a part of who she is after the loss of her partner. Naso doesn’t force feed you this revelation, but rather shows you through the dialogue, and the pacing of Elodie’s conversation with the village elder. It’s a powerful scene, made even more impactful because of the visuals; Muhr and Tabacaru are like poetry in motion in By The Horns #1. This has got to be one of the most beautiful books you’ll see, and a lot of the credit should go to the way Tabacaru brings Muhr’s art to life.

Muhr is good, make no mistake, but Tabacaru’s work is astounding. The warmth and emotional desolation in his colours are breath taking when taken as a whole with Muhr’s facial expressions and Naso’s dialogue.

I remember first reading about this series, though I don’t know where that was (likely social media), and after Voracious I knew I’d be all in. What I didn’t expect was to be shown such an emotional depth in the debut issue; it’s hard for me to reconcile that the creative team hasn’t been working together for far longer than they have been because the synchronicity on display is utterly breathtaking.

By The Horns #1 is another blinder of a comic by Naso, Muhr, and Tabacaru. Get to your shop and make sure to grab a copy.

Story: Markisan Naso Art/Lettering: Jason Muhr Colors: Andrei Tabacaru
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Scout Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: Zeus ComicsScout Comics

Review: Bloodshot #11

Bloodshot #11

With the second chapter of The Last Shot, Bloodshot #11 we’re reintroduced to Rampage as Bloodshot and his team try to shut down another nefarious plot from Project Rising Spirit (I didn’t paste that from the preview text, because it was really brief, and I wanted to use the word nefarious).

When it comes to the content and feel of this issue, and indeed the arc itself, I’d be willing to put money on the fact that One Last Shot was originally set to come out a lot closer to the release of the 2020 Bloodshot movie, as the arc feels in some ways as a pseudo sequel to the Vin Diesel movie told through the eyes of the Valiant comic universe. But with the delays caused by Covid 19 and the effective shutdown of the comics industry for a few months (not to mention Valiant’s still-reduced publishing schedule), things haven’t worked out that way.

Writer Tim Seeley takes what worked from the movie (the interplay between Bloodshot, Wiggins and KT) and weaves it into the comics landscape, bringing elements of Lemire’s run in with references back to specific issues. Honestly, it’s refreshing to see that Seeley is taking this approach – one of Valiant’s strengths has always been its universe’s connected continuity, and while at times that can wane a little, Seeley with Bloodshot has found a balance that allows his unique voice to shine without erasing what came before.

There’s a lot of hacking in Bloodshot #11 in one form or another, and that kinda suits a comic about a superhero running on machines, but it also gives Bloodshot and his team a guerilla warfare feel as they take on a much larger and arguably more powerful opponent in Project Rising Spirit (who are almost comically evil at this point).

Pedro Andreo‘s art in the opening pages is really good. Seeley updates us on where Rampage has been since we last saw him, and Andreo’s art helps those few pages deliver a lot more information via visual cues than you’d expect from three pages (this was another book where I had thought that the comic was finished at the mid point – Seeley isn’t afraid to pack the book with content). Bloodshot #11 showcases Andreo’s story telling versatility and willingness to play with the traditional panels and borders, though his tendency to have characters break the confines of the panel is used well for the most part, the cohesion is lost a little toward the end of the comic as the backgrounds tend to be less detailed in what I think is an effort increase the pace of the story – I understand the choice, but the speed increase did leave me a touch lost (though I freely admit this could also be because I got distracted watching hockey while reading the comic for a few minutes).

Seeley abd Andreo are joined by colorist Andrew Dalhouse, and letterer Dave Sharpe, who add some visual flair to the comic; Dalhouse keeps to a colour palette that emphasizes the shadowy conflicts within the book, and Sharpe adds some panache to the panels with the sound effects popping from the page (I often find that letters get the short end of the stick far too often – when they do their job well you don’t notice because it’s seamless, but you can notice when they don’t do their job well).

Bloodshot #11, the penultimate chapter in the current arc before the series goes on hiatus, is another enjoyable book that gives fans what they’ve come to expect from Seeley’s run with the character; a fun, fast paced story that never quite gives you time to breathe (until it does). Honestly, this isn’t my favorite Bloodshot story, but I’m still really enjoying it all the same.

Story: Tim Seeley Art: Pedro Andreo
Color: Andrew Dalhouse Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Story: 8.3 Art: 8.7 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.


Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus ComicsTFAW

Review: Savage #1

Savage #1

Teenage heartthrob. Feral social icon. Dinosaur hunter? Raised on an uncharted island full of prehistoric dangers, Kevin Sauvage has a taste of home when a mutant dino threat invades England! He’s back in Savage #1.

One of the first things I noticed about Savage #1, and it’s an easily overlooked detail honestly, was the layout of the opening page by Travis Escarfullery, the Director of Design & Production for Valiant. The recap/introduction page is designed to look like a social media feed but it was the legal jargon included as a part of the page design rather than as a lined-off segment underneath the comic’s introduction. It was subtle, and probably not something that a lot of people will notice, but it’s an immersive touch right from the get go that shows how Kevin Sauvage’s life has changed since we saw him land in London four years ago. As you’d expect, less time has passed for Kevin than for us, but in the intervening weeks and months, he’s become a media darling because of his experiences.

Savage #1, written by Max Bemis, has a different feel to it than the original miniseries – which is to be expected given the character is no longer on the time-displaced island he grew up on – as we see Kevin attempt to adjust to his new situation. Although there’s the obvious fish-out-of-water scenario here, Bemis avoids the initial introduction by skipping ahead which I think works in the story’s favour as the character’s first steps on the adjustment from Savage to Kevin Sauvage isn’t the specific focus of the comic, allowing Bemis to instead focus on the character’s new sense of isolation and discomfort as he navigates the civilized world. It’s a lot like the Tarzan books after he returns from the jungle rather than as he returns; never comfortable with civilization, but somewhat used to it.

Nathan Stockman‘s art is a far cry from the style of Lewis Larosa and Clayton Henry, the artists who worked on the original miniseries, but no less enjoyable. While his inks are heavier, his style is well suited to the confines of London rather than the freedom of the island – whether intentional or not. The violence and energy in the opening pages is stunted as we switch to London, but Stockman keeps it interesting by playing with his layouts until the island is seen again (this may sound like a bad thing given my choice of words, but I’m actually impressed how mundane the city scenes feel after the opening pages without ever feeling boring). Savage #1 is a book that’s grown on me from my first reading in black and white several months ago, and part of that is how Trionna Farrell brings the book to life with the colouring.

The first time I read Savage #1, while I enjoyed it, it was far from a comic I was looking forward to going back to – but having done so (twice now), Bemis’ story is growing on me and I have a genuine appreciation for how Stockman and Farrell are working together – over the course of three readings, I’ve found myself upping the final score by a solid point and change. Savage #1 may not be the best comic you’ll read, but there’s something glorious about a man fighting dinosaurs with a little knife that just has me grinning from ear to ear. It’s a bloody comic at times, and I love it.

Story: Max Bemis Art: Nathan Stockman
Colours: Trionna Farrell Letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.4 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXology – Kindle – Zeus Comics – TFAW

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 2/20/2021

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. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.


Logan

Future State: The Next Batman #4 (DC)– John Ridley, Nick Derington, and Laura Braga’s four part “Next Batman” serial concludes as one of the killers that Tim is trying to bring to justice turns on him. This cliffhanger is quickly resolved, and we’re onto a chase scene with a suburban instead of a Batmobile. Derington and Braga continue to be nimble with the action scenes picking interesting moments to focus on like the brake slam before the Peackeeper’s motorcycles come and using grids for hand to hand combat. Theme-wise, Ridley shows Fox’s struggles as Batman, especially with the no-killing rule, and that he has no friends among the GCPD before wrapping everything up with a strained, yet slightly tender family moment. Seeing a Batman who has a living family that thinks he’s a loser is an interesting dynamic, and I look forward to seeing more of it in the upcoming Tim Fox digital series“Batgirls” concludes with a glorious prison break story that also sets up the status quo in Future State Gotham going forward. Writer Vita Ayala uses time stamp captions based on the time of the prison riot started by Stephanie Brown to create tension and also show what’s going on in Cassandra Cain’s hacking/rescue mission. Aneke varies her layouts using double page spreads for the big prison brawl featuring Stephanie and various supervillains and using precise, diagram-style ones for Cass’ break in. And then she and Ayala spring the big emotional moment: a big reunion with Barbara Gordon aka Oracle that changes the tone of the whole story for good and shows that heroism can still exist even in a fascist state as they also show that the paradigm of hero/villain has changed in this new setting. “Batgirls” has excellent action, but Vita Ayala and Aneke especially nail the little reunion moments at the end between Steph and Cass and Oracle and a slightly too pragmatic Nightwing. They are a true dynamic duo and really understand the Bat-family’s relationship even in a dark, crappy futurePaula Sevenbergen, Emanuela Luppacino, and Wade von Grawbadger’s tonally all over the place “Gotham Sirens” wraps up with a mix of darkness and girl’s night out antics. This is a comic where a tech billionaire but the the consciousness of a dying teenage girl into his sex-bot and also one where the eggplant emoji is used to describe Bruce Wayne. Luppacino’s art captures the sparkling personalities of Selina, Poison Ivy, and Dee as well as the mayhem of the Peacemakers, but the story doesn’t know if it wants to be a fun romp or a serious story about consent, cyber ethics, and what it means to be human. It’s definitely the weak link of the bunch even though it has some fun ideas like Poison Ivy opening a speakeasy and talking about how she turns to cause instead of people because she’s afraid to get vulnerable. Sevenbergen definitely has a good handle on her character, but she makes the underdeveloped, plot device, borderline trauma porn original character Dee the focus of the story, which makes it less effective. Overall: 8.1 Verdict: Buy

Snow Angels #1 (Comixology Originals)– Jeff Lemire and Jock combine their storytelling sensibilities to tell the story of a dad and his two daughters, Milliken and Mae Mae, who live in a post-apocalyptic frozen wasteland called the Trench. This is a world where clouds cover the sky, children learn how to ice skate before walking, and folks cower in fear before the mysterious Snowman. Jock uses a lot of negative space to show the sheer bleakness of the landscape using pencil and ink to make wind, ice, and snow cover everything. During more tense scenes, like the hunting of a wolf, he adds reds and blacks to create tension and shifts to a more radiant palette when the dad gives Milliken a birthday present: a relic of the “before times”. He and Lemire have the task of establishing a world and a family dynamic, and they do that by having everything center around a coming of age hunt/road trip. It’s refreshing to see sibling squabbles still happening in the midst of the apocalypse, and Lemire’s skill combining interpersonal relationships in genre setting is a perfect fit for this comic. Throw in an air of mystery and a refreshing subversion of traditional gender roles in a society that is definitely in patriarchal, hunter gatherer mode, and Snow Angels #1 is a solid start to a series that fits in with my current icy, living-in-a-pandemic reality. Overall: 8.7 Verdict: Buy

Barbalien: Red Planet #4 (Dark Horse)– Tate Brombal, Jeff Lemire, and Gabriel Walta look into the background of Luke/Barbalien’s lover, Miguel using grids and minimal captions to trace the life of this Puerto Rican activist, who has AIDS and lost his boyfriend to the virus. It gives context to his passion and creates distance between them when Luke tries to “come out” as Barbalien, which he eventually just does in a full page spread that comes after 17 pages of build-up. Also, Brombal goes after the Catholic Church in this issue and shows the homophobia and hatefulness of many Christian organizations (Especially at that time), and how they contributed to the stigma towards AIDS and HIV and hindered finding a cure or treatment for these diseases. With the conflict building between the predominantly Black and Latinx queer community of Spiral City and their police department, the serial killer plotline featuring Boaz isn’t as compelling even though it’s interesting that he probably gets away with his crimes because he’s disguised as a police officer. Barbalien: Red Planet #4 features a big moment in Barbalien’s life and also shows him struggling with his various identities: Martian, superhero, cop, and gay man. There is emotion and a darkness to Walta and Joride Bellaire’s visuals that is only broken up by the growing scope of the conflict as this mini goes into its final issue. Overall: 8.8 Verdict: Buy

Hollow Heart #1 (Vault)– Paul Allor and Paul Tucker turn in a pretty good slow burn queer romance between a cyborg El and his mechanic Mateo. Allor’s philosophical, at times tangential narration fleshes out the profound empathy that Mateo shows to people, and why he wants to set El free from the base that he’s at and would rather die than spend another day there. Tucker’s art is hit or miss for me with the opening pages being a little unclear to follow, and Allor’s dialogue setting up the context that El is running away. However, I love his color choices, especially the pink for El’s face, and the mood lighting at the bar where Mateo tries to build a rapport with a coworker and at an apartment where he tries to empathize with a hook up, but really only cares for El. Hollow Heart is definitely centered around their relationship, and Tucker builds it with glances between them while Allor adds precise dialogue to build their romance like El immediately starting to speak when Mateo says he respects him. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Once and Future #16 (BOOM!)– Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain return to the Brexit-y, Grail myth trappings of the early issues of Once and Future in this action-packed middle chapter. With Bridgette and Duncan holed up and stuck between the proverbial fire and frying pan (Lancelot and a dragon), the walls between myth and the real world are dangerously thin. There is just as much political conniving and maneuvering as gun and sword play in Once and Future #16, and Mora and Bonvillain are game for either kind of scene going for big reaction shots and even bigger bursts of colors any time Lancelot or Merlin do their thing. By the time the final page rolls around, our main cast seems to be totally screwed, and Dan Mora has fun on a “redesign” of a previous antagonist that we thought was a protagonist. Once and Future continues to be one of Gillen’s more setpiece and plot driven comics, but issue 16 shows that this book still has a bit of a bite with its comment on British nationalism, government bureaucracies, and the ability to twist stories to one’s end. (See what white supremacists have done with Thor’s hammer and Odin’s symbols.) Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Second Coming: Only Begotten Son #2 (Ahoy!)– Mark Russell and artists Richard Pace, Leonard Kirk, and Andy Troy satirize the commercialization of Christianity by evangelicals, prosperity preachers, televangelists etc in Second Coming: Only Begotten Son #2. On a hunt for more disciples, Jesus rolls up up to Bible Safari that instantly brought flashbacks of places like the Creation Museum, Ark Experience, and even church fairs/events as these ancient writings lose context and meaning to make a buck. Pace channels his inner Sienkiewicz and uses a scratchy style for the waves of people at Bible Safari and nails the depersonalization of 21st century life and being a statistic in a mega church. However, Second Coming #2 isn’t all satire and irony, but Russell throws in a touching B-plot that becomes an A-plot as Jesus just *connects* with a man attempting suicide on a bridge aka the polar opposite of the televangelist company he called earlier. I like this book when it’s being sharp, but I love it when it’s being sweet and humanist. (In the nice chaplain at my university sense, not the Bill Maher one.) Overall: 9.2 Verdict: Buy

Cable #8 (Marvel)– With the exception of some gorgeous art and colors from Phil Noto and witty banter from Cable and Domino via Gerry Duggan’s dialogue, Cable #8 is really a confusing mess of clones, time travelers, timelines, and Stryfes. Annoyingly enough, it starts like Armageddon with Domino narrating and comparing her powers to asteroids hitting each other. There’s some charm to the Tokyo setting as Domino and Cable enjoy gyoza at a Space-Knight themed eatery, and Noto’s fight choreography is sharp and fun on an aesthetic level. However, there’s no deeper level or reason to care about these characters beyond the “pew pew” of it all as Cable fights copies of himself and has a crisis about his place on the timeline. Maybe, if I read more X-comics from the 1990s, I would get it. Domino’s charisma, and Phil Noto’s portrayal of her powers keep this one from being a total stinker, but it’s still a pass from me. Overall: 5.6 Verdict: Pass

Marauders #18 (Marvel)– Gerry Duggan, Matteo Lolli, and Stefano Casselli show Krakoan foreign policy in action in Marauders #18 as the team buys up property and opens a free clinic in Madripoor to fight back the gentrification of the Homines Verendi. Iceman, Bishop, and Pyro take center stage with some key guest appearances from Professor X, Magneto, and (!!) Proteus, who shows that this clinic is named after his mother Moira MacTaggart. (This is a bit of a tie-in to Powers of X, and I’m curious to see how it’s explored down the road.) However, the real action in Marauders #18 comes from a new take on the Reavers, who are humans that have been maimed by characters like Iceman and Gorgon and are fitted with upgrades to take their revenge. The Reavers combined with the Marauders not being so stealthy puts pressure on the team and shows some consequences to Krakoa’s well-intentioned saber rattling. After the Shaw storyline, Duggan and steady artists Lolli and Casselli are really on a role combining political allegory and superhero team-up action in Marauders. However, Bishop joking about “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” was in very poor taste even if it is one panel in the midst of many. Overall: 8.6 Verdict: Bu

Brett

Batman/Catwoman #3 (DC Comics) – An improved issue for me. The narrative is a bit clearer as to the timelines and there’s a hell of a lot of tension throughout the issue. The art is solid though there seems to be a bit of a focus on Catwoman’s ass throughout. A much better issue than the first two and I’m finally interested in seeing where the series goes. Overall Rating: 7.95 Recommendation: Read

Future State: Catwoman #2 (DC Comics) – DC has been running on full cylinders with Batman’s corner of Future State. In this series we see how a captured Bruce/Batman was freed and talks of the Resistance against the Magistrate. It’s a sliver of the bigger picture and works so well building the world. These two issues deliver solid action with Catwoman on a mission to steal from a train and it works so well. The art is top notch showing off the action and creating a fantastic flow that’s befitting a train heist. DC has nailed this pocket universe and every series and issue involved has been a piece of the puzzle creating a hell of a picture. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Future State: Nightwing #2 (DC Comics) – A nice action comic that’s a bit more than one long fight sequence. There’s some interesting bits about technology and the use of media to wage wars and battles. Again, as a piece of the larger story about a Future Gotham, it’s a great piece of the puzzle. There’s some fantastic moments that really hit a solid beat with the art just nailing the action. Overall Rating: 7.75 Recommendation: Read

Future State: Shazam! #2 (DC Comics) – I really like the concept of the comic’s two issues. But, it takes a bit too long before things come together. The ending also is a bit shrug unless you really know the character, which I don’t. The art is solid though I’d like to have seen a little bit more torture in Shazam over what’s going on. A not bad issue that’s so close to being great. Overall Rating: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Future State: Superman: Worlds of War #2 (DC Comics) – The main Superman story has a nice poetic aspect to it with some fantastic art. There’s a Spartacus/World War Hulk vibe about it but the comic makes a fantastic case for Superman’s position and what he’s up to and why. The trio of other stories are a bit mixed. Featuring Mister Miracle, Midnighter, and a new Black Racer, each story has some good and bad about it. They all feel setups for things to come though never giving a complete feel to them. They feel like preludes to something else instead of self-contained stories which feels odd for a self-contained event like this. Still, each is entertaining. The issue as a whole is pretty solid and does a decent job of crafting a “world” revolving around Superman. Overall Rating: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #2 (IDW Publishing) – The issue is fantastic like the debut. There’s a lot of history laid out here as we get a better sense of the world and what happened to the Turtles. There’s a hell of a lot of tragedy to it that matches the action. This is a must for TMNT fans and those that love stories like The Dark Knight. Overall Rating: 8.5 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 103: Hunting Unicorns (AGAIN) in By the Horns with Markisan Naso and Jason Muhr

Alex and Joe are joined by the author and artist of the upcoming Scout Comics release By The Horns, Markisan Naso and Jason Muhr. They may be familiar to you if you’ve ever heard us rave about his debut series Voracious. By The Horns reunites the Voracious team in a new fantasy setting that follows a new heroine as she hunts down the unicorns the trampled the love of her life.

For more on By The Horns check out the links below:
Facebook: @ByTheHornsComic
Instagram: @ByTheHornsComic
Twitter: @BYTHEHORNScomic

You can reach Markisan at the following:
Twitter: @darthsan
Instagram: @darthmarkisan

You can find Jason below:
Twitter: @JasonMuhr
Instagram: @JasonMuhr

As always, Alex and Joe can be found on twitter respectively @karcossa and @jcb_smark 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: Voracious: Appetite For 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: Voracious: Feeding Time.


Markisan Naso, Jason Muhr and Andrei Tabucaru have a new comic coming out in 2021, By The Horns. Because of the fact that these three have created one of my all time favourite series, I’m going to revisit the three volumes over the next couple of months. You can find the first column on Diners, Dinosaurs & Dives here, and the second on Feeding Time here.

Published by Action Lab, Voracious: Appetite for Destruction is written by Markisan Naso and drawn and lettered by Jason Muhr, with the co-creators being joined by colourist Andrei Tabucaru. The series can usually grab your attention with the shortest of descriptions: “time travelling chef makes dinosaur sandwiches.”

It sounds awesome, right? Well, that’s because it is. But there’s a lot more to the series, including dinosaur cops, giant monsters and a strangely relatable dilemma throughout the series.

The first trade introduced the concept of time travel and dinosaur hunting, the second volume introduced us to dinosaur cops and an entirely new world as we learn that our hero wasn’t time travelling but hopping dimensions. The third brings everything together as we add a giant flying monster into the mix as the story hurtles to a remarkable conclusion.

Again, it sounds like it shouldn’t work as a story progression, but the comic never feels as though it’s out of hand; Markisan Naso has an excellent grasp on pacing and weaving the tale through some genuinely heart warming and wrenching scenes that continuously serve to keep the more science fiction aspects of the story feeling as though they’re perfectly natural occurrences.

Whereas the last trade effectively established the time travelling dimension hopping chef Nate as the villain in the story, Naso never quite lets you dislike the character; his action were and remain entirely sympathetic, and his desire to do the right thing even as he acknowledges his mistakes echoes across the page. Of course, the right thing in this case is stopping a significantly enlarged dinosaur as it rampages through Nate’s hometown of Black Fossil, a small desert town with a single cop who just happens to hold a massive dislike for our hero. Familial ties are a massive part of the entire story, but especially volume three as the shit hits the fan in ever increasing ways you see certain characters’ bonds deepen as they try not to fall apart.

I’ve yet to mention the artwork; Jason Muhr and Andrei Tabucaru step up their game from the last volume, and there are some great silent panels as Naso literally lets the pictures tell a thousand words in conversation and character development. Although the high octane scenes are brilliant, it’s the subtle moments when the art shines brightest; the gradual fading of Gus’ memories, the pastel infused flashbacks and those previously mentioned silent conversations help elevate this volume into must read territory.

Voracious is one of the few series where I own both the floppy issues and the trades as, like I said in the last two columns:

“I put my money where my mouth is because Voracious is a wonderful breath of fresh air in an industry that has been choking on relaunches and rehashes; the five issues that make up Feeding Time are some of the highest scored comics that I have reviewed for Graphic Policy.

If you’re tired of reading about superheroes fighting each other and you want a story to take you across the emotional spectrum without the use of glowing rings then you need look no further. While the comic is about a time traveling, dinosaur hunting chef, it’s also a powerful look into what makes us who we are and how. It’s a story about mistakes and loss, and most importantly coping with those things.

If you want more Voracious, then you can check out the episode of GP Radio where we talked all about the dinosaur sandwiches with both Markisan Naso and Jason Muhr. The new book, by the same team, will be launching February 28th.


Unless the comics industry ceases to exist this week, Underrated will return next week.

Review: Shadow Doctor #1

Shadow Doctor #1

Years in the making, Shadow Doctor #1 kicks off the true story of writer Peter Calloway’s grandfather, Nathaniel Calloway, a Black man who graduated from medical school in the early 1930’s. Unable to get work at any Chicago hospitals because he was Black, and unable to secure a loan from a bank to start his own practice because he was Black, he turned to another source of money in Prohibition-era Chicago: the Mafia, run by none other than Al Capone.

Comics are never, and should never, be full of superheroes. Sure, there’s great superhero stories out there – and I love my share of superhero comics – but comics have so much more to offer than that. Case in point, Shadow Doctor #1 published by Aftershock Comics, written by Peter Calloway featuring art by Georges Jeanty, colours by Mark Chirallo and letters by Charles Pritchett. The story itself is based on the true story of Calloway’s grandfather, a black doctor unable to work in 1930’s Chicago because of his skin colour – let that sink in for a moment, because in an age where we’re crying out for doctors (at least in my neck of the woods) having one unable to work because of their skin colour should be unfathomable – but we’re not really that far removed from this reality. It was only ninety years ago that Doctor Nathaniel Calloway was unable to find work – a lifetime, yes, but we all know that the 30’s wasn’t when things changed.

And so it’s against this backdrop of the Great Depression in prohibition era Chicago that a man who wants to use what he’s gone to school for to earn a living – something that is probably far too real for many of us.

Calloway the author tells his grandfather’s story with an unfiltered honesty; despite there clearly being a love and respect for his grandfather, the writer doesn’t shy away from the choices that Nathanial Calloway made – although we only see the tip of the iceberg in the first issue, and by not doing so he creates a bond of truth with the reader in that his grandfather’s story is very believable (how much is truth and how much is fiction is something I wonder based solely on the “based on a true story” disclaimer at the beginning of the comic – I’m inclined to believe that some of the more minor details are fictionalized such as conversations, but that the essence of the comic is true).

Shadow Doctor #1 has an artistic presentation that somehow gives off a 30’s vibe whilst also looking almost like a water colour painting. The art style is absolutely perfect for the comic’s story. It looks like an old timey comic without feeling dated because Jeanty’s layouts and his panel structure juxtapose the art with a youthful energy; the combination of the old and fresh is far from jarring and pulls you right into the story’s time period better than any constant reference in the text ever could.

In another case of picking up a comic based solely on the title, I went from having no idea what to expect to finding what I’m sure is going to become a story I can’t wait to read for the third time in a few months. Shadow Doctor #1 is a really good book in every way; the art, the story… everything about the comic is remarkably engaging, and I’m excited to learn more about Nat Calloway. Aftershock have included four additional pages about the titular doctor, allowing you to get to know the man he was, even if just a little. It’s a brilliant addition to a comic that’s well worth your time.

If you’re still on the fence about this book, then I wanted to end with this line from the writer taken from the preview text “On the one hand, his story represents the promise of America. On the other hand, it shows the worst of it.”

Story: Peter Calloway Art: Georges Jeanty
Colorist: Mark Chirallo Letterer: Charles Pritchett
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Aftershock provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus Comics

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