Author Archives: Alex K Cossa

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Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 05/15/2021

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

Children of the Atom #3 (Marvel)– Vita Ayala, Paco Medina, and David Curiel take a break from the superhero fights and cameos in Children of the Atom #3 to help readers get to know the characters underneath the costume. They predominantly focus on Carmen aka Gimmick in this issue, and her struggles with finding value in what she does rather than who she is as a person. This extends from her cosplay tutorials and streams to helping her family with chores and childcare as well as her role on the team. Medina draws a lot of wistful glances between her and Buddy aka Cyclops-Lass and uses a fairly pedestrian escape from a spaceship to build that romantic tension between them. Carmen’s arc is definitely the best part of Children of the Atom #3, and I love the emotionally resonant way that Ayala writes her. However, Children of the Atom #3 also sets up the story’s villain and ties this into the very relatable event of using someone for what they can get you, or in this case Cole’s access to Krakoa. After a high-wire, yet uneven beginning, Children of the Atom is finding its footing even with the art shift from Bernard Chang to Paco Medina. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Joker #3 (DC)– Joker #3 is like a more psychologically compelling and less focused on shock value Killing Joke meets David Simon’s Homicide: A Year on the Killing Street and Anthony Bourdain’s oeuvre with just a dash of the Batgirls comic I wish was an ongoing. James Tynion, Guillem March, and Arif Prianto are firing on all cylinders as they show how deep Joker has gotten into Jim Gordon’s psyche. This is tempered with salt of the Earth narration of Gordon’s detective techniques and gift for conversation and empathy that turns totally chaotic by the last few pages with the book switching to yet another genre. March’s art is a little Neal Adams and Kelley Jones by way of Brian Bolland, but his ability to carry the main plot while Tynion focuses on character development is all him. They are doing special work in Joker, which has escalated from a focused character study to gonzo action by the end. And the Punchline backup from James Tynion, Sam Johns, and Mirka Andolfo is the best it’s ever been as Andolfo gets to draw a physical confrontation between Punchline and Orca and dig into the messed up mind of her old roommate Aiden. Poor Harper Row, and apologies to all you true crime fans out there! Overall: 9.0 Verdict: Buy

The Silver Coin #2 (Image)– This genre-bending, writer switching anthology turns its sights to the slasher genre with Kelly Thompson and Michael Walsh telling the story of a young girl who goes off to summer camp, gets bullied, and finds revenge with the help of the titular silver coin. The Silver Coin #2 is derivative of classic horror films, and it knows it with its retro VHS filter opener as Fiona watching a video nasty might actually come in handy in summer camp. Walsh hits all his paces as a storyteller from the sickly, wholesome palette he uses when Fiona arrives at camp to the various and sundry ways she gets her revenge. He and Thompson have a lot of fun turning the victim into the baddie, and The Silver Coin #2 is a very cathartic and nostalgic read in the end. Overall: 8.3 Verdict: Buy

X-Corp #1 (Marvel)– I didn’t hate X-Corp #1, and Tini Howard creates some good chemistry between board members Monet, Angel, Multiple Man, and Trinary, but this book’s initial public offering (I had to!) is a little tepid. Some of that comes from the Alberto Foche’s visuals, which are middle of the road Marvel house style with Sunny Gho adding some flourishes with the color palette. They definitely pale in comparison to David Aja’s bleeding edge cover and don’t fit the tone of a book about disrupting tech sectors, intense business negotiations, and yes, flashy gadgets and abilities. Howard’s script isn’t that bad, especially her dialogue, but the first issue’s climax breaks a rule of suspense as she treats readers (who have more knowledge) with the in-universe characters who have less. With Trinary “selling out” and going corporate, Monet suppressing her rage during constant meetings, Angel trying to be a good rich guy, and Multiple Man as the wild card, X-Corp has potential and fills a gap in the X-line. However, this issue is more like smelling something yummy at another diner’s table than having your own meal. Overall: 6.0 Verdict: Pass


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 114: Spider-Man: No Way Home Movie Speculation

Alex and Joe talk about the rumors of Andrew Garfield appearing in Spider-Man: No Way Home and his denial of such an appearance, and then make a point to largely stay on the topic of movie speculation.

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: God Country

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: God Country


God Country has one of the more interestingly unique concepts in comics; that of an Alzheimer’s patient who is cured when his hand touches a twelve foot sword, only to be drawn into the soap  opera like world of space gods that have more than a passing resemblance to the Greco-Roman pantheons. Written by Donny Cates, who also co-wrote The Paybacks with Eliot Rahal; that series looked at the other side of superheroing with a starkly funny focus on a group of knock off characters serving as superpowered repomen (and women) struggling to emerge from the crippling debt their equipment put them in. On the surface, God Country may have little in common with The Paybacks other than half of the writing team (and Geoff Shaw‘s art), that’s certainly true on a superficial thematic level, but at their core both series focus on something quite relatable: people and their struggles against every day adversity.

There is every chance that you probably recognize Cates’ name from his work on Venom, Thor and King In Black, and I’ll admit that it feels strange to write about something Donny Cates has written as being underrated, but this is a book that I don’t see people talk about as much as they should.

Emmet Quinlan’s family have been struggling with the horror of watching a loved one slip away whilst suffering from Alzheimer’s, and their struggles are haunting – if you’ve ever had to watch a loved one slip away while suffering this horrible disease as I have, then you’ll understand immediately how hard it can be. Donny Cates treats the subject with the respect it deserves without sugar coating the emotions that Emmet’s family face.

Of course, with this being a comic book called God Country, that’s not what the comic is about.

At least not in it’s entirety. You see Emmet finds a giant sentient sword that restores his mind in its entirety. While Emmet’s disease does form the backbone of his desire to keep his hand on the sword that returned his mind, it’s the conflict with the space gods who want the sword back that provides the more immediate physical threat.

If you enjoyed Jason Aaron’s run on Thor: God Of Thunder  then you’re going to find a lot to love here, from the heavily emotional sequences in the first issue to the more operatic space god scenes in subsequent comics, this is a powerful series – indeed, without Cates wry humour that appears every so often throughout the series, then this could easily become an almost too heavy story.

Ultimately though, this story is so much more than it seems on the surface.

God Country is that rare beast that uses a well thought out high concept science fiction or fantasy premise to tell the most human of stories. It is truly a work of art that had my eyes sweaty with respect – and that doesn’t happen very often when I read comics.


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

Review: Savage #4

Savage #4

Mad geniuses Max Bemis and Nate Stockman bring their first Savage adventure to a mayhem-filled finale in Savage #4.

It’s an all-out brawl to save our dimension from Project Bizaree’s evil quest to become one with the Faraway. And only Savage can save us. Or he’ll die trying.

After my uncertainty on how to take Savage #3, Savage #4 didn’t do anything to sway me. Max Bemis packs a lot of story into the comic and has done for the series as a whole, but in this issue, it’s more a quantity over quality. A lot happens in the comic, and consequently, there’s a frantic pace to the storytelling, and perhaps because of that things start to fray a little. As the series has progressed Bemis has leaned further into the absurdist comedy that was speckled into the first issue so that by the end of the fourth I’m not entirely sure what I’ve read.

The things I was excited about in the first issue, such as how Bemis was using Savage to talk about how humanity is still brutal to each other but in a more refined way, have given way to a B-movie about dinosaur snipers attacking London for reasons that seem to boil down to a mad scientist wanting to get to another dimension and needs Savage’s blood… I don’t honestly know. The lack of response from either G.A.T.E. or the government I assume is because of the speed of the attack, but it’s never really explained or brought up why London expects a teenager with a penchant for using bones as weapons to save the day. It was somewhere around this point that I realized I had gone from really enjoying the series to quietly waiting for it to be over.

That said, despite the story stumbling, Nathan Stockman, Triona Farrel and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou give you something very exciting to look at (and ultimately gave me a reason to keep reading). The artist, colourist and letterer come together to give life to Bemis words in the most unapologetically energetic way, embracing the chaos of the story admirably. Their work is worth the price of admission if you’ve already picked up the first three issues, as the trio continue to deliver.

Once again, I’m going to quote myself from the review of Savage #2, because it’s still true.

Nathan Stockman, Triona Farrell, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou round out the creative team for Savage #2 as artist, colorist, and letterer respectively. Otsmane-Elhaou’s work is noticeably good in this issue, which is a rare feat for a comics’ lettering to stand out in a positive way, with his liberal use of colored fonts and upper and lower case becoming more than just a method to convey Bemis’ words. This book is an example of lettering as its own art form, a comic to show those who claim that anybody can throw words onto a page, which although that is a true statement, the same is also true; anybody can write a story or draw a picture – but there’s a difference between my pictures and Nathan Stockman’s pictures). Stockman’s art is great; there’s a very punky feeling to the comic, at times evoking Pushead’s art style, but almost consistently embodying the rebellious nature of the title character.

Review: Savage #2

Savage #4 has some fantastic visual elements, but the story has shrugged off its early promise and leaves us with a whimper. A shame, because I was hoping we’d see more depth from the series after the first issue, but that never happened. If you haven’t read the series yet and are trade waiting, then go into it knowing that you’ll be reading a popcorn sci-fi B-movie story and you’ll probably find something to enjoy; if nothing else, the comic’s visuals are very consistent throughout and add a lot to the insanity of the story’s events.

This isn’t a terrible series, but it was one of Valliant’s rare misfires.

Story: Max Bemis Art: Nathan Stockman
Colours: Trionna Farrell Letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Story: 5.8 Art: 8.4 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read (for the art)

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXology – Kindle – TFAW

Hamilton: How The Musical Led Me To The Graphic History

Over the last few years, I’d heard about a musical called Hamilton. I’m sure at this point you have too. I knew it was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, that the music was contemporary hip hop, the cast was diverse and that it had something to do with American history, and that people were going batshit crazy about the thing. I had no idea why it was garnering such rabid fans, but I was convinced it wasn’t something I’d be into. I mean, this English metalhead who’s interest in American history has always been pretty much confined to the Wild West/Frontier times could see nothing about Hamilton that tickled my fancy. It was a story set about a hundred years before my interest began, and was about the life of the first treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton. At the time I couldn’t care less about the play.

And so I ignored it when my friend, a musical fan, would bring it up in conversation and suggest that my wife and I listen to the soundtrack. But still, we had no real interest in Alexander Hamilton and his role as a founding father of the United States, so despite repeated entreaties and recommendations to listen to the play, we never pressed play on the soundtrack.

And then the musical landed on Disney +, but we still ignored it.

However after a few months, and mostly spurred by lockdown boredom, my wife decided that we were going to find out what all the hype was about, and so one Sunday afternoon we pressed play and settled in for the show. Honestly, I wasn’t that taken with it. I didn’t hate it, but had no intention to ever watch it again. My wife, however decided to put it on again a few nights later. I sat on the couch with a book and half listened to the music. I’ll admit to enjoying the songs a little more the second time through, and so when my wife sheepishly asked if I minded if she watched it again on the weekend I had no complaints. I picked up my book again and settled in to listen to the music as I read. I glanced up early in the musical (during the first song, I think) and realized she had the subtitles on so she could catch more of the lyrics which turned out to be a game changer.

I didn’t read my book during this viewing, and was glued to the screen as I absorbed the words that bombarded my ears and eyes. The next time she put it on, I didn’t pick up my book (or my phone). I later asked her why she wanted to keep watching it, and she told me that it was partly to understand what was going on but also because the music caught her and so she wanted to watch it again to see whether she’d like it a bit more.

And she did (so did I).

At this point, so many months since we started down the rabbit hole, we’ll often play the soundtrack for background music or have the TV on with Hamilton playing in the background as we clean, read, craft or in my case work. Needless to say, we’re both big fans of the musical. Something that I never expected to happen.

Perhaps an unintended consequence of the musical, is that both my wife and I have become curious about the historical accuracies and story telling liberties within the musical. Over the last few months, I’ve read more about Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr (sir) and Eliza Schuyler Hamilton than I would have ever expected after my first viewing. My wife once spent an entire evening researching Angelica and Peggy after wondering who Angelica’s husband was. Suffice it to say, we’ve spent far more time learning about Hamilton’s place in the American Revolution than either of us would have ever expected.

I’ve come to realize that while the play is a work of genius (from the way the words balance and weave away from each other to the melodies that recur within the play to the choreography – there is so much to take in that there’s no wonder that people fall deeper and deeper into their Hamilton fandom); there’s a few liberties taken with the historical record.

The upside to the obsessive areas of the fandom is that many fans also tend to research the actual historical events and people that we see in the play – my wife and I aren’t unique in having done this.

While Miranda does take some liberties for the most part he gets the essence of the history right (regarding some of the inaccuracies: Angelica was married before she met Hamilton in real life but after in the play; Hamilton met Aaron Burr in 1773 rather than in 1776; there’s more, but if I try and list them then I’ll probably miss one or two and ultimately that’s not the point of this paragraph). But Hamilton, as with so many other movies based on history, was never going to be a one hundred percent historically accurate retelling (it does have to entertain the audience after all) – but it’s close enough so that when you inevitably do decide to do a bit of research you won’t notice any glaring inconsistencies. Given how well the music falls into place the small details he took creative liberty with are more than forgiven in my eyes.

All this is to say that after picking up a few books on Alexander Hamilton, my wife found me a graphic history of the man titled, funnily enough, Alexander Hamilton written by Jonathan Hennessey with art by Justin Greenwood. The reset of the credits includes inking and background assists by Matt Harding, colors by Brad Simpson, and letters by Patrick Brosseau.

I bet up until this point you were wondering what relevance Hamilton the musical had with this website, eh?

The book isn’t a graphic novel or comic in the typical sense, which I found interesting. The majority of the book is told in narration bubbles with the odd supplemental dialogue/speech bubble, which is at odds with modern comics’ tendency to focus on dialogue or internal monologues. The speech bubbles that are in the book tend to be more of an extension What Alexander Hamilton does do is convey the details of the founding father’s life in a very informative and conversational way, and never shies away from depicting Hamilton the man as a less than perfect man. Hennessey puts forward that while Hamilton was a great man, he wasn’t necessarily a good man. He made mistakes, he made decisions that allowed people to take advantage of others, and he was arrogant almost to a fault.

Hennessey’s book gives a lot of context to Miranda’s play, giving more context to lines such as “and the evidence suggests you engaged in speculation.” Speculation was the process of buying the war bonds given to ex soldiers at a pittance hoping the government would pay full value for the pieces of paper that were effectively worthless to the ex-soldiers. With this context, and Hamilton’s position as treasury secretary, it’s much easier to understand why the accusation would be so damning had Hamilton been engaging in the practice. Context such as this would have been hard to include in the play itself, but this is why the book is such a valuable tool – that it’s also easy to read with nice artwork is an added bonus.

Since Hamilton debuted on Disney +, I’ve mentioned to people that I’ve watched it and listened to the soundtrack quite a bit. What they don’t expect is just how much I’ve listened to the soundtrack or watched the movie. I don’t have an exact figure because Disney + doesn’t track it, nor does the old iPod I use in the car and because I’ll use an Alexa device and also Spotify on my phone, I’ve no way to track the exact number of times the songs have played. If I had to guess, I’d wager it’d be close to 500 times between the show and the sound track. Which is crazy when you think about it. Utterly insane.

And yet, I know I’ll watch and listen to it again (probably today).

But I also know that I’ll be going back to that graphic history again because although there’s a lot of truth in the play, I think it’s important to be able to tell where the storytelling takes over – and Alexander Hamilton is a fantastically informative piece of work that taught me new things about the man and his role in shaping America today.

It’s also a really good book, and I’m a sucker for a comic book teaching me history. .

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 05/09/2021

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

Batman #108 (DC)– My enjoyment of James Tynion, Jorge Jimenez, and Tomeu Morey’s Batman continues to rise post-Future State, and issue 108 is no exception. In this comic, Batman is placed between the forces of surveillance capitalism and anti-capitalism all augmented with cyberpunk style technology and a candy color palette. The anti-capitalist side is represented by flashy new character Miracle Molly, who sees beneath Matches Malone’s facade, and offers a critique of Batman even though they’ll probably fight down the road. Tynion’s other plot thread is basically Blue Lives Matter with cybernetics, and Jimenez draws the hell out of some robots. The Ghost-Maker backup from Tynion and Ricardo Lopez-Ortiz is delightful as he fights laser tigers, a manga themed assassin named Kid Kawaii, and the mysterious Madame Midas. Pure sugar rush comics. Overall: 9.0 Verdict: Buy

Hellions #11 (Marvel)– Zeb Wells and Stephen Segovia take old X-baddies and use them in a creative way in Hellions #11. Thanks to Mastermind, the Hellions are in their worst nightmares with psychic Kwannon and John Greycrow trying to hardest to fight out of it while Arcade blackmails Sinister (Who’s missing a few teeth) to make clones for him. It ends up being a little more complicated than that with Segovia and colorist David Curiel getting to draw some intense psychic duels between Kwannon and Mastermind, and Wells continues to give Sinister the funniest lines. Even though he puts on a good show for the Quiet Council, Sinister is still irredeemable, and part of the enjoyment of Hellions is watching the extents he goes to cover his crimes against genetics while hoping for the Hellions to eventually expose him. It’s like Breaking Bad, but with capes, clones, and psychic ninjas. Overall: 8.4 Verdict: Buy

Marauders #20 (Marvel)– This issue is all about how great Storm is with various Marauders telling stories of cool or touching things she has done while also guessing how many knives she’s had. Storm’s leaving the team so Gerry Duggan and Stefano Caselli give her a fitting send-off set in a variety of locales as we see her reform Hate-Monger by kicking his ass, rescue a powerful young mutant in India and be used as bluffing tool. Of course, we get to see her close friendship with Kate Pryde, and how Storm helped her get through the crisis of possibly not being a mutant. Caselli does comedy as well as action in this book with a hilarious montage of Storm pulling knives out from various parts of her costume as well as a great panel of Lockheed driving the ship while the team and its allies feast. Wisely, Storm’s exploits and character is the focus of Marauders #20, but Duggan sets up a little bit of intrigue for the upcoming Hellfire Gala that could reshape this team’s role for better or worse. Overall: 8.6 Verdict: Buy

Die #16 (Image)– After the fantasy geopolitics of the previous arc, Die is back in quest and cosmic horror mode as Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans have the party traveling to the center of the world. Gillen portrays everyone at their worst: drinking and struggling and hoping it’s all going to be over. Hans gets to tap in her range as an artist going from big sea journey landscapes to intimate conversations between Sol and Ash (The “baddies” of the party) and finally turning into pure horror mode towards the end. With the comic about to reach its end, it’s nice to see Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans focusing of the main cast and interrogating why characters like Sol found escape in fantasy and roleplaying worlds. Plus there’s a real doozy of twist at the end. Overall: 8.2 Verdict: Buy

The Good Asian #1 (Image)– Pornsak Pichetshote, Alexandre Tefenkgi, and Lee Loughridge use the noir genre to explore racism against Asian-Americans, respectability politics, and the effect of policing in society through the character of Edison Hark. Hark is a Hawaii police detective who is transferred to San Francisco’s Chinatown where there are rumblings that the Tong gangs have returned, and the Chinese maid of a prominent wealthy businessman has gone missing. Pichetshote and Tefenkgi deftly balance a whodunnit, crime thriller, and use flashbacks to flesh out Edison’s character drawing parallels between him and an older Irish-American cop as breaking the racial glass ceiling. Loughridge’s flat colors are a treat exploding for sequences of racialized violence, fading out for flashbacks, or turning pink when Edison thinks about one of his vices: white women. Featuring wonderful compositions from Alexandre Tefenkgi and punchy dialogue from Pornsak Pichetsote, The Good Asian #1 is a solid crime comic that also sheds light on the anti-Asian racism that is baked into the core of the United States. Overall: 8.9 Verdict: Buy

Brett

Nocterra #3 (Image Comics) – A really good third issue that balances showing and telling. We get to see more of Val’s history with her parents and learn more of what it means to turn into a Shade. There’s also a lot of action as Bill is in the pursuit of Val and her group with hints as to history there. What really stands out are the colors that pop from the page and really emphasize the darkness of the world. Overall Rating: 8.3 Recommendation: Buy

Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point #2 (DC Comics) – I was down on the first issue. It felt like it was geared too much towards fans of the video game. The second issue is an improvement as Batman must figure out what’s going on if he hopes he can escape. It takes us through his process as he has 22 minutes before the game resets and he starts all over. It’s a really interesting concept and as a puzzle for him to solve, it’s great. It also could be a trap by anyone and not so much Fortnite focused. The art is pretty good with small details being added with each reset to tell a bit of what has happened. This has me much more interested in what’s to come after being generally turned off from the debut issue. Overall Rating: 7.95 Recommendation: Buy

Crime Syndicate #3 (DC Comics) – Such a great concept just squandered. The art is dodgy and story choppy at times. There’s a lot of potential in the series and concept but it never really focuses on the right things. This is one where some a lack of details hurts it. Overall Rating: 6.0 Recommendation: Pass

Green Lantern #2 (DC Comics) – The first issue was good but this issue is where things really take off. The first one had me generally willing to come back. This issue I’m all in. It has a shocking ending as the Guardians restructure the Green Lantern Corps with their inclusion to the new cosmic structure being set up. Now I can’t wait to see what’s next. Overall Rating: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

Man-Bat #4 (DC Comics) – This series has been really solid. Kirk and Francine are under the control of Scarecrow and the dual narrative they’re experiencing is some great stuff. The art really nails down what’s happening and brings a bit of sadness to it all. Just a fantastic issue and overall this is a series I want to see more of. Overall Rating: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

Suicide Squad #3 (DC Comics) – We’re getting a crossover with Teen Titans Academy as the Squad needs to get Bolt. The series has been a pleasure to read with the dysfunction on full display. The personalities of the team is really what stands out as they squabble, be smart-asses, or just want to run for their lives. The series has no problem delivering a body count and have this Squad screw up. It’s a fun series where the bad guys are really… bad at what they do. 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 113: Talking Comic Book History With James Caudill

Alex and Joe talk with history teacher James Caudill about comic book history, and the books we’re currently reading. You can find James @teachcaudill on Twitter, and his writing at Comics The Gathering.

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: Jack Staff: Soldiers

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:  Jack Staff: Soldiers


I find I have an affinity to superheroes wearing the Union Jack, probably because one of the first comics I picked up was Marvel’s Union Jack, the three issue miniseries from the late 90’s where the titular character faced off against a legion of vampires, becoming one of my favourite characters in the process.

Since then I’ve always been drawn to heroes wearing the British flag, and so when I did a bit of research on other flag wearing heroes for a very early edition of this column, I came across Jack Staff. Britain’s Greatest Superhero was conceived from a Paul Grist script that was rejected as a Union Jack concept, and found new life as Jack Staff. Written and drawn by Grist, with Phil Elliott providing the colours, Soldiers is the second volume published by Image comics, and collects the first five issues of the Image comic series (the first volume contained the pre-Image stuff).

The story within the book takes place concurrently in two time periods over the course of twenty years – quite how Jack Staff doesn’t seem to age isn’t exactly explained, but then it doesn’t need to be. Grist has written the comics in an anthology-like style as multiple characters are used for focal points with each of the smaller stories telling a smaller piece of the whole. As a graphic novel, this works wonderfully.

Because the events of the story are contained to Castletown, there’s never a world ending threat to contend with, and so the threat level seems more credible given the smaller scale of the book’s events (and given Jack Staff’s ambiguous power set, not quite knowing what he can do is half the fun of watching the shit hit the fan).

Jack Staff: Soldiers is a lot of fun. There’s an old school feel to the heroics in this story, with Grist hinting that the characters are part of a much larger whole as this book scratches the surface of Jack Staff’s world. Despite being listed as the second volume, it’s an excellent point for folks to jump on board, and if you’re anything like me then you’ll be hunting out the other three volumes that Image have published.


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

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 05/02/2021

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

Robin #1 (DC)– Joshua Williamson and “Big” Gleb Melnikov team up to kick off Damian Wayne’s new solo series as he fights to be a part of the League of Lazarus aka Mortal Kombat (Not vs.) DC Universe edition. Because it’s a tournament arc, there’s a couple expertly choreographed fights from Melnikov, but we also get to see his flaws, arrogance, and how much he misses Alfred and how much the Bat-family cares for him. Williamson and Gleb Melnikov create a new character who cuts through his bullshit and is a real challenge for him, and I’m excited to see more of them going forward. It’s been ages since a proper Robin solo title, and this one is the perfect fusion of Bat-family and shonen manga. (Melnikov even creates an in-universe manga.) Overall: 8.6 Verdict: Buy

Cable #10 (Marvel)– Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto continue to build up the return of old man Cable to help fight Stryfe storyline, but that plot mainly stays on the backburner for some father/son bonding between Kid Cable and Cyclops. The Arrakii mutants have been causing trouble in a London pub, and they break it up in a showcase of cool powers, tender love, and loathing of one’s past self. The Stryfe plotline has gotten a little elongated and timey wimey for its own good (See the one scene with old Cable), but I enjoyed the tension between what Cyclops wants for his son and what Kid Cable wants for basically his future. Overall: 7.4 Verdict: Read

New Mutants #17 (Marvel)– Vita Ayala continues to keep lots of plates spinning plot-wise and explores the nooks and crannies of Krakoa while Rod Reis brings the kick-ass, and in Otherworld’s case trippy visuals in New Mutants #17. Ayala is the master of the check-in as they resolve Mirage and Karma’s journey to Otherworld and see what some of the younger mutants are experimenting with, have Anole talk about not being able to pass as human, and have Wolfsbane confide in Shadow King. (Uh oh) The data pages act as a kind of verbal check-in. Reis goes all out with different textures, palettes, layouts, and even plays with perspective to show the danger, adventure, and magic of Otherworld, and although this storyline seems to have wrapped, I would like to see more of his take on it. New Mutants has a pretty big cast, but Ayala always take time to showcase individuals’ perspectives on the mutant experience and what Krakoa is like, which is why I keep reading it. Overall: 7.9 Verdict: Buy

Destiny, NY #2 (Black Mask Studios)– Destiny, NY #2 is like an emotionally mature and queer as hell continuation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a New York setting from Pat Shand and Manuel Preitano. Preitano brings clean, beautiful lines to his present day art and grey scale fuzziness as our protagonist Logan tells her current fling, Lilith, about how mundane saving the world was. And, of course, Lilith is the ultimate evil in the universe, and there are wheels in motion to take her down. However, what makes Destiny, NY a good read is how attuned Shand and Manuel Preitano are to their characters’ emotions with an extended sequence of Logan being told by her ex that she has narcissistic personality disorder that turns into a giant argument and makes you really feel for this book’s protagonist. Destiny, NY #2 has the right blend of slice of life, supernatural intrigue, and relatable and charismatic characters, and I definitely look forward to future issues at Pat Shand and Preitano are only scratching the surface of this complex, urban fantasy world. Overall: 8.8 Verdict: Buy

Shadowman #1 (Valiant)– Shadowman #1 boasts gruesome, eye-catching art from Jon Davis-Hunt, and that alone makes it worth checking out as he, writer Cullen Bunn, and colorist Jordie Bellaire go deep into a world where the barrier between our world and the supernatural is quite thin. This comic introduces Jack Boniface and his loa-derived powers in an exciting way as he teams up with his frenemy Baron Samedi to investigate an Eyes Wide Shut death cult. Bunn takes a heavy touch with the narration, but he and Davis-Hunt use this first issue to show Shadowman in action rather than going blow by blow about his lore and backstory. They also use the Deadside as a source of monthly monsters and create a little bit of intrigue for upcoming issues while Shadowman banishes blood eating locusts from our plane of existence. As seen on his work on Clean Room, Jon Davis-Hunt is a gifted storyteller who isn’t afraid to gaze into the abyss of human depravity, and these talents make him well-suited for Shadowman #1, which is one of the best looking superhero books of 2021. Hopefully, less of the issue will be covered by frankly repetitive text boxes. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Witchblood #2 (Vault)– Witchblood #2 is a big improvement from its previous issue, but I don’t think I’m in love with this fantasy Western as much as the rest of the comics Internet seems to be. I do enjoy Matthew Erman’s southern fried dialogue, Gab Contreras’ candy color palette, and Lisa Sterle’s general aesthetic for the series. It has a sense of humor featuring vampires who have feelings about country music and get into crystals, but I feel like all the reasons I should care about plot developments are happening off panel. Witchblood is a cute, sassy comic, but it hasn’t found its footing yet. Overall: 7.4 Verdict: Read

Brett

Teen TItans Academy (DC Comics) – There’s some solid twists and turns in the issue, especially the ending. The series is doing a good job of introducing the students while building a mystery. There’s some drama, and it’s evenly split between the students and teachers. This feels like a nice successor to classic X-Men stories. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Black Widow #2 (Marvel) – Fantastic visuals and action-packed story. After a hell of an opening story arc, this issue kicks off the next one and is able to keep up with the high bar and high expectations. There’s a solid setup of a villain for Black Widow to take on but it’s the visuals and fun attitude that really pop in this issue. A great starting point and those already reading will be more than happy. Overall Rating: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Shadowman #1 (Valiant) – The debut issue is fantastic with a solid mix of horror and action and some great visuals. I actually felt bad about a demon! The series is a solid introduction to the character and I think universal praise from the GP team says it all. Overall Rating: 9.0 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 112: Marvel Legends Spider-Man Fantasy Wave

Alex and Joe talk about their fantasy Marvel Legends Spider-Man wave, followed up by a bit on Falcon And The Winter Soldier and Spider-Man: No Way Home.

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.

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