Author Archives: Alex K Cossa

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Underrated: A.D. After Death

Time got away from me this week, so we’re rerunning an older column from yesteryear.

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: A.D. After Death


I found the hard cover trade of A.D. After Death used for a penny shy of $10 Canadian dollars a month or ago along with a couple other hard cover books that were being sold for a surprisingly good price (which I’m sure will show up in this column eventually). After finally getting a chance to read and finish the book, it wound up as the subject of today’s column.

If you want to read the series’ synopsis, it’s below. If you don’t… well, skip the next paragraph, I guess. Either way, you’ll find the core premise of the comic below.

What if we found a cure for death? Two of comics’ most acclaimed creators, Scott Snyder (Wytches, Batman, American Vampire) and Jeff Lemire (Descender, Plutona, Moon Knight, Sweet Tooth) unite to create an epic like no other, set in a future where a genetic cure for death has been found. Years after the discovery, one man starts to question everything, leading him on a mind-bending journey that will bring him face-to-face with his past and his own mortality.
A unique combination of comics, prose, and illustration, A.D. After Death is an oversized hardcover graphic novel written by Snyder and fully painted by Lemire.

What struck me most after A.D. After Death was that it’s more than a typical comic or graphic novel. While the hardcover I have collects the three oversized issues, the story itself is presented with a lot of Scott Snyder’s prose text set against Jeff Lemire’s haunting artwork in conjunction with more traditional comic panels. The book is really interestingly laid out because of this, and presents a fascinating visual journey from start to finish. It’s a hauntingly beautiful book, with a story that’s equally as haunting.

A.D. After Death isn’t the kind of story I’m used to reading from Scott Snyder, honestly, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the ambiguity of the story; told in both the present day and with flashbacks (via the prose text), you’re never quite sure what direction the story will take. I loved the ending, too, but won’t say why because it will reveal a touch too much.

What I will say, is that this may be a book that I won’t read again for some time, but the story itself will stay with me for a long time to come. In a story that can be so much to so many, we’re left asking ourselves who we really are; are you really the person you think you are, or are you just a product of what this world has made you?


Join us next week where there will doubtless be another movie, series, comic or comic related thing discussed that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Those Two Geeks Episode 147: Spider-Man: No Way Home – The Best Superhero Movie ever?

The two geeks chat in detail, but with no order or plan, about Spider-Man: No Way Home. There’s a short spoiler free review at the beginning, but then we really will spoil the movie if you haven’t seen it.

As always, Alex and Joe can be found on Twitter respectively @karcossa and @FirstRonin4 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: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

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: X-Men Origins: Wolverine.


This week on Underrated, I wanted to take a look at one of the most reviled movies in the X-Men Franchise, not because I’m going to convince you it’s secretly a great movie that has been unfairly shat on for nearly ten years, but because I want to highlight some of the things that it actually did right. Do they out weight the bad to redeem the movie? Personally, I think so. Although X-Men Origins: Wolverine will never be thought of as a shining example of the character in cinema, and nor should it be, it isn’t the catastrophic mess that we remember it being.

Before you start raging at me (and you’re more than welcome to do so on twitter @karcossa) ask yourself when was the last time you saw this movie? I watched it on the 21st of March this year with the intention of tearing it to pieces in an article, but I actually kind of enjoyed it, so I wrote this instead [note, this article was written on March 23rd, so the movie was quite fresh in my mind]. So before you fire up those angry fingers, give the movie a quick watch and remember I’m not claiming it’s great, just that it isn’t bad.

  • The Opening Sequence
    Honestly, you give me a movie with Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting their way through history based on this opening credit montage and I will throw my money at you. This is a prime example of a movie blowing it’s load too early, if you’ll pardon the expression. We get one of the best opening sequences in the franchise before one of the worst movies. No wonder it got flattened by fans.
  • Liev Schreiber And Hugh Jackman
    Say what you want about the script, plot choices, and pointless cameos, but I will not hear a bad word said about either Schreiber or Jackman’s performances in this movie. It remains a great tragedy that we only got one movie with Liev Schreiber playing Sabretooth opposite Hugh Jackman, and that it was this one. Having watched the movie recently, the two men are almost able to save the movie with their acting chops alone – without them it wouldn’t be worth watching past the title sequence.
  • Most Action Sequences
    Strangely enough, the action sequences in the movie are actually pretty good; Logan and Creed fighting in the bar is awesome, and even the final battle is pretty entertaining (despite the character mutilation of Deadpool). The only downside to the sequence where Team X attacks a compound is that the individual use of the soldier’s abilities makes little sense as a tactical strike, but as a showcase of the individual powers at play it’s pretty good. As is the helicopter fight – right up until the cliched walking away from the explosion end point.
  • The One Liners
    X-Men Origins: Wolverine isn’t a comedy, but there’s quite a few one liners that will at the very least elicit a chuckle from you. Plus, you can also laugh at the so-bad-it’s-good moments.
  • Wolverine Uses All His Powers
    Funnily enough, one of the things this movie gets right is how many other abilities Logan has. At different points in the movie you see him use his enhanced senses of smell, vision and hearing to locate Creed, Zero and Kayla. You don’t see him using his other powers as often as you do his healing and claws (for obvious reasons, I’m sure).

Yes, the movie has its problems, especially with how it fits (or used to fit depending on who you’re talking to) into the X-Men movie franchise, or how it treats certain characters, but if you look at it as a standalone movie that just happens to feature Wolverine… it’s actually not that bad; truth be told, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and that’s why it’s the subject of this week’s Underrated.

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 12/25/2021

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

Nightwing #87 (DC)– Nightwing #87 is a true two-for-one deal. It’s an adorable story of Nightwing and Batgirl rescuing their dog, Bitewing and also shows the uniqueness and power of the comics medium. Basically, Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo, and Adriano Lucas have structured Nightwing #87 as one continuous image that can still be followed as a series of double page spreads. It’s both an easy-to-follow chase story and full of details that will have you poring over each well-constructed page. Lucas’ colors help with the passage of time while Redondo’s rich art brings Bludhaven to life and shows an average day in the city while the action is going on. I love how Bruno Redondo uses ghosting to show Nightwing and Batgirl’s speed, agility, and fluid fighting style. Nightwing #87 is easily the best issue in Taylor and Redondo’s run so far and is worth checking out for fans of the character (and cute dogs) as well as for folks who want to see how innovative the comics medium can be. Overall: 10 Verdict: Buy

Brett

X-Men: The Trial of Magneto #5 (Marvel) – Wrapping up the series, we get the full scope of what was done and why. It’s the crazy machinations that have been a staple of the recent X-Men reboot and feels like a story whose entire goal is to put in that final piece of the puzzle, all the mutants who couldn’t return until now. The issue opens up more possibilities but again takes away any loss for those who remain and puts Scarlet Witch on the side of good again when it comes to mutants. The miniseries has emphasized my issues with the current X run in that it takes out any real threat of loss with resurrection so easy and now applies to pretty much the entire X-history. We know comic characters don’t stay dead but the X-line has taken it to the extreme. The finale also again emphasizes that this utopia is anything but full of corruption that emphasizes the end justifying the means. Still, the art is really good and those who follow the line will want to pick up the miniseries to see the ever-changing status-quo. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read.

Venom #3 (Marvel) – There’s been some really interesting things going on when it comes to symbiotes and politicians in this series. There’s a lot of talk about them being sleeper agents out among the people but also an arms race involving them. This is definitely a solid direction for the series that’s very intriguing and sucks you in on the conspiracy. Add in some pretty solid art and it’s been an engaging ride and this issue is where the puzzle starts to make a bit more sense. Overall Rating: 8.0 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 146: An Off the Cuff Chat About stuff

The two geeks chat a little about Hawkeye, and then also about some other general stuff. This was actually recorded after Episode 147, but as that is a solid spoiler fueled nerd out over Spider-Man: No Way Home, we wanted to give folks another week before we spoiled stuff. It is the season, after all, right?

As always, Alex and Joe can be found on Twitter respectively @karcossa and @FirstRonin4 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: Vengeance Of The Moon Knight: Shock And Awe

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

This week: the multi-part crossover event Vengeance Of The Moon Knight: Shock And Awe.


I was actually going to write about a totally different book for today’s column, but when I was recording a podcast yesterday, I spend the best part of an hour and a half playing with a Moon Knight figure from Marvel Legends, which then led me to checking what Moon Knight books I owned. Not many, if I’m honest. My options were either this, the sequel or Midnight Son because I don’t have the Warren Ellis run in trade and I was too lazy to dig through my comic boxes to find it (even if I know exactly where it is).

This is the same image on the trade’s cover, and
I didn’t realize it wasn’t until it was already uploaded…

So, Vengeance Of The Moon Knight: Shock And Awe was the book that I ended up grabbing.

I remember really enjoying it the first time I read the series, ten or eleven issues set right at the end of the Dark Reign era of Marvel Comics which found Norman Osborn as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the “official” Avengers being made up of a group of villains in disguise (Bullseye as Hawkeye, Mac Gargan’s Venom as Spider-Man, Daken as Wolverine and a few others I can’t remember off the top of my head). This sits in the background of this story, with Moon Knight’s antics being set to a backdrop of billboards and advertisements for the villains heroes. The real conflict in the book comes, as with so many great stories featuring Moon Knight, from whether he can control his dissociative identity disorder or if his bloodlust will rear it’s ugly head once again.

The book opens with Jake Lockley in control as Moon Knight, gently letting his comrades and friends know that Marc Spector is gone. Moon Knight’s reputation for excessive violence in his vigilante activities is played to great effect in this book – both by the supporting characters being surprised that there’s no blood on his white costume, and be his constant refusal to maim and kill, which adds to his internal struggle as the primary antagonist shows up in the book.

You don’t need to have read a lot of Moon Knight comics in the past to enjoy this book, nor its subtle dig at Batman’s willingness to use excessive force when facing off against multiple criminals, because this is a self contained story about a man looking for redemption on the biggest stage possible for his previous actions.

This isn’t one of the defining runs in Moon Knight’s history, but it is a lot of fun – and that’s why it’s a great candidate for today’s Underrated column. Check it out if you ever get a chance.


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

Review: The Harbinger #3

The Harbinger #3

In The Harbinger #3, a daring rescue mission unravels the mystery of Peter Stanchek’s past… and paves the way for the powerful psiot’s future.

As he comes to terms with losing all of his memories, Peter Stanchek chooses to fight back, not just for himself but all of Psiot City who has been oppressed by a legal force known as The Warning. Wearing a brand-new mask and wielding a revelatory new understanding of his own powerful potentials, Peter takes on the mantle of The Harbinger to pave the way for the future of all psiots. But will he start something so dangerous even he can’t stop? 

We finally get to see Peter Stanchek suiting up as the Harbinger in this issue. While we’ve seen the costume on covers to the series already, I appreciate that the character didn’t immediately don the new mask in the first issue as we’ve been able to witness the mind-wiped Stanchek come to an understanding of why he should be wearing a mask; because people don’t trust Peter Stanchek. That admission helps to bring the redemption arc to it’s first check point as writers Colin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing use The Harbinger #3 as a way to introduce the Harbinger both to the audience and in some ways to the character himself.

The narration bubbles help propel the characterization forward, Stanchek talking his way through the events to somebody (thus far into the series, my guess has been a therapist) as the action plays out on the page. Robbie Rodriguez and Rico Renzi (artist and colourist respectively) have created a visual style for this comic that I find is best described as an organized chaos. There is a lot to process with this book, and there are pages where this can be overstimulating – a deliberate choice, because when I found my eyes losing what I was looking at it was when Stanchek’s powers were being used in ways I’d never thought of. There’s a scene earlier in the comic where Peter takes in a lot of information, and the artistic team are able to really emphasize just how much information he is sifting through because he’d rather not revert to old ways.

I’ve said before, but usually comics that can be a bit too chaotic aren’t usually my cup of tea, but The Harbinger has been the exception to that as for me, the art style makes total sense given the nature of the title character’s powers. Or maybe I’m just more open to different art styles now than I used to be; certainly a possibility, but ultimately the end result is that I’m really digging the visuals in this book.

Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou uses some interesting speech bubble styles in the comic, which serves as a moment of calm amidst the chaos as the bubbles pull you eyes to the text itself, giving you a chance to actually read the words. It’s not often you notice the lettering in a positive way given that the art form is often designed to not be noticed, but Otsmane-Elhaou is a master of his craft, and balances the book perfectly.

Valiant have hit three for three with The Harbinger #3, and whether Peter Stanchek’s new direction is here to stay or not is to be determined, but I’m loving the ride.

Story: Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing Art: Robbie Rodriguez
Colours: Rico Renzi Letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Story: 8.9 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus Comics

Lysa Hawkins Prepares us for the Deadside War as Shadowman Returns in January

Shadowman #5 Cover A Jon Davis-Hunt
Cover A Jon Davis-Hunt

Shadowman returned in 2021 with a four issue arc that brought the character back in a buzzed about series. On January 19th, the series next arc kicks off with Shadowman #5, the start of the “Deadside War“. The new arc is a jumping on point written by Cullen Bunn, with art by Pedro Andrea, color by Jordie Bellaire, and lettering by Clayton Cowles.

But, the story goes beyond the pages of Shadowman as 2022 also sees the Valiant: Fight for Deadside tabletop game coming to Kickstarter!

We got to talk to senior editor Lysa Hawkins about the series return and what we can expect for the tabletop game tie-in.

Graphic Policy: Shadowman #5 kicks off the “Deadside War”; is there going to be any effect of this felt in other Valiant titles? If so, how much coordination needs to go into something like that?

Lysa Hawkins: While the “Deadside War” takes place within the pages of Shadowman that doesn’t mean that you won’t see how it affects the various heroes of the Valiant Universe.

GP: Can you tell us if we’ll see other Valiant heroes showing up within the pages of Shadowman during the Deadside War?

LH: See previous response… :) Yes! Yes! Yes!

GP: We see Shadowman take a different approach to the burgeoning war by attempting to broker a peace; where did that idea come from?

LH: Clearly from the brilliant mind of Cullen Bunn… Jack is doing some soul searching and tries something new. You know what they say about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Shadowman may not win…but he’s not crazy!

Shadowman #5 Cover B (Horror Movie Homage Variant) Jonathan Marks Barravecchia
Cover B (Horror Movie Homage Variant) Jonathan Marks Barravecchia

GP: What coordination is going on between the comic and the tabletop game Valiant: Fight for Deadside? Are the two connected?

LH: We are in contact regarding the game storylines and character depictions. From what I’ve seen, it looks amazing!

GP: Not to disparage Jordie Bellaire’s work, but are there any plans on releasing a few pages of the uncoloured art as a bonus feature in the comic or trade?

LH: Nothing can disparage Jordie…She rocks too hard, but yes, I believe the first previews you’ll see of Shadowman #5 will be Pedro’s pencils and inks…and boy are they good!

GP: Shadowman #5 is a jumping on point for the series and continues the series. How hard is it to balance that?

LH: That can be tricky, but not with someone like Cullen at the helm. While Shadowman #5 does continue the story Cullen started in the first arc. You don’t need to have read that arc to pick up issue #5 and start fresh. Hopefully, in the case of the new reader, you’d want to go back and pick up the first arc, but you won’t need to. 

GP: The comic has had a fantastic reception. Does that add any pressure for the new arc?

LH: Yes! But in the best of ways. Cullen’s spinning a great horror tale, Pedro’s art is on fire it’s so hot. I’m super excited to see it come out and see if that fantastic reception doesn’t just grow. I’m so thankful to our fans!

Those Two Geeks Episode 145: Not Talking About Spider-Man: No Way Home

The two geeks don’t chat in any detail about Spider-Man: No Way Home (no, really – Alex has seen it but refuses to give anything but an impression about it), and the first few episodes of Hawkeye before the recording abruptly ended due to technical difficulties.

As always, Alex and Joe can be found on Twitter respectively @karcossa and @FirstRonin4 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: The Amazing Spider-Man

I drastically overslept today, so rather than the planned column, we’re revisitng one from 2017 when I went to bat for one of the more maligned Spider-Man movies.


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


Today I wanted to talk about the first reboot of the Spider-Man movie franchise from waaaaaaaay back in 2012. After the Sam Raimi trilogy which, lets be honest, didn’t exactly end on a high note, Sony would eventually decide to relaunch the Spider-Man movie franchise, and it’s the result of that reboot that I wanted to talk about today.

If you’re surprised that this is the movie we’re focusing on today, then you may have missed that the Marvel Studios/Sony collaboration Spider-Man Homecoming is in theaters  (and the MCU!) now; and you may also have been unaware of the amount of people who are now complaining about this movie (or maybe that’s just the people I hang out with?) – or you may have never really enjoyed this movie. But regardless of where you sit, I’ve always really enjoyed this movie, and feel that it’s stronger than a lot of people give it credit.

Why? To the bullet points!

The chemistry between the leads
One of the strongest aspects of the Amazing franchise is the relationship between Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. Their interactions on screen approach poetry in some scenes, and without a doubt these two actors elevate the film beyond what a typical pair of romantic leads can do.

 Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man
Garfield may have been to cool to genuinely pull off a nerdy Peter Parker, but his Spider-Man was top notch; his boundless energy and fast mouth was unlike anything we had seen before in live action, and Garfield pulled it off spectacularly. This was a Spider-Man whose failures were a palpable weight on his spandex clad shoulders, and in the quiet moments throughout the movie you can genuinely sense that through Garfield’s body language.

 The webswinging
The effects team did a wonderful job guiding Spider-Man’s journey through the skies in what is, for my money, the most realistic depiction of a man flying through the air on super strong glue to date.

 The costume
I’m kidding. I wasn’t exactly fond of this movie’s Spider-Man look. The orange lenses weren’t my thing, and the way the red came down the legs weren’t my favourite.

 The lack of the actual words “With great power there must also come great responsibility”
I know this is probably a contentious point to make, but loved that Peter learned this lesson throughout the film without having the quote used just for the audience who feel they must hear those words in the movie. It was far more powerful for Peter to learn it through his actions and reactions than have the lesson spelled out in what could have been an awkward and stilted scene. Plus, it lent a much heavier weight to Uncle Ben’s voice message at the end.

There are quite a few aspects of The Amazing Spider-Man that I thoroughly enjoyed, more than I should probably talk about in this article, but I’m aware that this isn’t a flawless movie – it’s not even the best Spider-Man movie- that honour is reserved for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. Yes, The Amazing Spider-Man  did have its issues; the Lizard wasn’t the most compelling villain, and his design was somewhat weak, but he isn’t the weakest in any of the Spider-Man movies (Topher Grace a Venom will hold that title for quite some time). His rationale is still just understandable enough when you break it down for yourself, but you do need to be aware of his misguided, yet deeply hidden altruistic thought process. And only a few years removed from Spider-Man 3, did we really need to see Uncle Ben die again? Not really.

I’m aware that it had it’s problems, but I don’t care; I love it anyway. For years, this was one of my favourite Spider-Man films, until we got the two Tom Holland flicks. I’ll always enjoy this movie, but it won’t be the first Spider-Man movie I reach for.


There we have it. Are there other comic book related stuff out there that is, for whatever reason, underrated and under-appreciated?

Absolutely.

Because of that, Underrated will return to highlight more comic book related stuff  that either gets ignored despite it’s high quality, or maybe isn’t quite as bad as we tend to think it is. In the meantime, though, if you do get a chance check out the characters in thisUnderrated, then you may need to hunt through the back issue bins for some, but others do have some stories collected in trades.

Until next time!

Almost American
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