Category Archives: Underrated

Underrated: I Was the Cat

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: I Was The Cat


I don’t know how I missed this book when it first came out, and after having a conversation with the owner of my LCS, it turns out she wasn’t entirely sure how she missed it either. I Was The Cat is an autobiographical tale about a cat who has, through his various lives, lived thousands of years through history trying (and failing) multiple times to take over the world.

Burma, the cat in question, can talk. And seems to be an incredibly wise and influential animal who wants the world to know his story. To that end he invites Allison Breaking to begin writing his memoirs so that he can reveal to the world just who he is… and that it’s totally normal that a can had been trying to take over the world across centuries, and failing every time because… well because he’s a bloody cat.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the story is how Paul Tobin structures so many different tales within Burma’s history, and never once explains how Burma can change his appearance with ease – it lends the character a mystical aspect that’s never really explored, and I think the story is strong for that because this book is what Burma wants to tell us, not a historical accounting of his accomplishments.

Yes, I am aware that Burma is fictional.

I Was The Cat is probably one of the most interesting comics/graphic novels I have read in some time; it’s an engaging and entirely light hearted affair with only a handful of gorier moments (in a story set across history, there’s a lot that’s alluded to, but only one real moment where you see an animal get injured, and it’s such an ordinary occurrence that you’re going to wonder what kind of person you are that it doesn’t really phase you.

Perhaps one of my favourite things about the book is how Tobin gently critiques our current society through the eyes of a cat. It’s amusing without being deeply hilarious, and yet just unsettling enough to make you really think when you close the final page. Burma is easily one of the most interesting feline characters in comics, and I’d love to read more, but at the same time, this is a complete story and it doesn’t need a sequel.

This came out in 2015 or so, and went far below my radar for several years. It’s 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.

Underrated: The Phantom

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 Phantom.


First appearing in newspapers on February 17, 1936, the Phantom was the first character to wear the skintight costume that has become emblematic of the superhero (inspired, it turns out, by stage productions of Robin Hood). He was also the first character to wear a mask with no visible pupils; the Phantom’s creator, Lee Falk, explained  that Ancient Greek busts inspired the idea of the not showing the Phantom’s pupils when he was wearing his mask, incorrectly believing that the statues had no pupils, when instead it was just that the paint had faded over the centuries. But Falk felt the pupil-less eyes gave the statues an inhuman, awe-inspiring appearance – ideal for the Ghost That Walks.

The Phantom has been in continuous publication since he debuted as a newspaper strip in 1936, with Lee Falk continuing to write the character until his death in 1999 (let that sink in for a moment. That’s sixty three years on the same character), although before he died, Falk dictated his final Phantom story to his wife from his death bed.

The essence of the Phantom is that he is an undying ghost destined to protect the fictional country of Bengala, located in Africa, from the evil Singh Brotherhood – originally a gang of pirates, though they manage to evolve with the times. The Phantom’s reputation as The Ghost That Walks comes from his longevity – Bengala has been protected by the Phantom since the early 1500’s, but it hasn’t always been the same man. Son takes over the mantle from father, over and over, giving the impression of immortality to his enemies (establishing the character as the first true legacy hero in comics).

The reason I’ve gone in to such detail about the character is because I have finally found the 1996 movie on DVD from Amazon. I say finally because I’ve been looking on and off for this movie for quite some time. It hasn’t been on any streaming service that I subscribe to, and it comes and goes from online stores – usually for more than I want to pay for a Blu-ray. In the end, I needed to bulk up an Amazon order for free shipping, and the DVD was $7* or so – well worth the price for the movie.

*(Before you ask, my wife has Amazon Prime, so I could have gotten free shipping, but for some reason the item I wanted, a low end drawing tablet, gave me a coupon and not her so in the end the DVD was closer to $2 – which is an absolute bargain).

It had been nearly twenty years since I had seen this movie, and after the glut of big budget super hero films, and so I was curious as to whether it would hold up as more than a nostalgic diversion or whether it would still be a good film in its own right. Billy Zane’s performance is solid enough, though the script doesn’t give him much to do; Treat Williams commands the screen as a wonderfully camp comic book villain with just enough of a sinister bent to make you nervous; Kirsty Swanson and Catherine Zeta Jones are both able to play strong, if fairly one dimensional characters; and James Remar is James Remar – an actor who will never give a bad performance (you may see a bad movie with him in it, but it wasn’t bad because of him).

You might think that I’m going to start ragging on the movie, but I genuinely enjoyed it. It was exactly what I hoped it would be, and indeed remembered it as; a good movie that stuck to the core concepts of the Phantom (as I remembered them); the Phantom doesn’t shoot to kill, his horse and wolf are in the movie, the stunts and effects haven’t aged brilliantly, but they’re still not terrible (the only time that you really notice anything is anytime a vehicle crashes into a ball of flames; everything else is forgivable or still holds up).

Yes, it’s a kitschy movie, and the Phantom isn’t the one man wrecking machine that super heroes have become in movies today – which oddly keeps the flick pretty grounded – but it is a really fun film.

I am absolutely going to watch the movie again. And again.

If you’re curious about the Phantom in the comics, well although the character has been in continuous publication in newspaper strips from the 30’s, The Ghost Who Walks has also appeared in several comic books throughout the last few decades – the most recent of which was Dynamite Entertainment’s The Last Phantom, a fantastic 12 issue modern take on this legendary character that I highly recommend. You can find the issues collected under The Last Phantom: Ghost Walk and Jungle Rules


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

Underrated: the Batman: Arkham Knight comic prequel

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 Batman: Arkham Knight comic prequel.


If you’re a gamer and a comic fan, then there’s a really good chance that you’ve played the Arkham series of Batman games. Starting with Arkham Asylum, the sequel (and still my favourite of the bunch) Arkham City, to the finale Arkham Knight, the franchise also delivered Arkham Origins – though this prequel, released after Arkham City, was developed by a different studio and doesn’t compare as well to the other three despite still being a really good game. The games’ story is remarkably robust, and at the time caught a few people off guard with the quality and detail (remember, the first two were released before video game stories were up to the quality you see in God Of War or Red Dead Redemption 2), leaving many a comic fan with the first true experience of playing as the goddamn Batman.

Of course, being a comic based game series, there have been various tie-in series released over the years, which is where this column comes in, with a look at the prequel to Arkham Knight, the series finale.

Written by Peter Tomasi with art by an all star cast of creators such as Vikto bogdanovic, Art Thibert, Ig Guara and Julio Ferreira, this book is far better than your average movie or video game tie in. And yes, it did take me far longer than it should have to realize that this was the second volume, but that didn’t lesson my enjoyment of the story at all. If anything, the best way to really look at this book is as an Elseworlds tale (which ultimately it is, just under a different moniker. where you’re not going to know the full story unless you play the games as well.

This gives the Arkham universe a unique interactive element to them not found in either comics or videogames alone. There’s no harm in not reading this book if you’re a gamer, just as there’s no real reason not to give this a look if you’re a comics fan – though if you’re not familiar with the game’s story then you may have a slightly harder time, but no more so if you started reading a series at the beginning of a story and not at the first issue.

If you’ve been reading comics, especially superhero comics, for some time then you’re going to be used to starting a story without knowing everything that came before, and so if you pick this book up with that in mind then there’s something here that you’ll be able to enjoy.

This a solid story, and one that I’m glad I found on the shelf.

This isn’t one of the defining runs or stories in Batman’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.

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.

Underrated: X-Men: The Onslaught Saga

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 X-Men: The Onslaught Saga.


If I’m totally honest, my Golden Age of X-Men comics is from the mid 90’s to the early 2000’s. This wasn’t exactly when I first started reading the X-Men, that was around 98/99, but because I was largely reading UK reprints, I wasn’t reading the current comics – they were probably always a good two to five years behind what was being published and sold in comic shops depending on the story being presented in the magazine. The reprint magazine had space for three comics in it – this wouldn’t always be three concurrent issues, but was often an issue of Uncanny X-Men and X-Men that were published within the same month and an issue of Uncanny from the 60’s or 70’s). These reprint magazines are actually responsible for the weird dichotomy in my head of knowing the stories very well, but having no context for what issue they came from (yes, the reprint did tell you what comics they were reprinting, but it was much like a tpb; you don’t really notice unless you look in the fine print if the covers).

Over the years, I’ve slowly been picking up and working on completing a run of X-Men comics from issues 100-500, though my focus for years was around 250-400, but because I’ve been largely focused on Uncanny X-Men, I don’t have a lot of the issues that form the giant crossover – if I even have all the Uncanny issues (look, I was often going by cover art and price when picking books up, not sequential numbering, so I have holes everywhere in my collection), so for a story that I really want to read I’ve been picking up collected editions just to be able to read or reread them. There’s collecting for the joy of the hunt and collecting to (re)read the stories – sometimes those things are one and the same, and sometimes they’re not, because I have no intention of risking damaging the early Uncanny issues I own, I’ve also been looking for collected editions of The Dark Phoenix Saga and so on.

Despite having several issues of Uncanny X-Men that comprise the Onslaught Saga, there was a lot I didn’t have, and won’t be getting any time soon, so when I saw this trade for sale at my comic shop I decided to pick it up so I could scratch the itch I had to read it in its entirety.

The Onslaught Saga was a story that came was featured in the reprint magazines just as I had started to read them, and so I ended up missing most of what took place in the story (everything, honestly, other than the aftermath), and so consequently a lot of it was relatively new to me. Sometimes the journey is as important as the conclusion (especially given how two decades later most of the characters in the story are still around).

The basic plot of the story focuses around Xavier losing control after the events of Fatal Attractions (you don’t need to worry about having read that – I still haven’t, though it is in my To-Be-Read pile), and the combined efforts of New York’s heroes to put a stop to his rampage. It’s pure 90’s awesomeness – there’s more destruction that you can shake a stick at, but the story never pulls away from the core focus of the intimate struggle that the heroes face when dealing with an evil Xavier.

The version I read was the X-Men: Milestones trade (pictured above), and it told a very comprehensive story. There was at least one issue missing, but it was tangentially related (Wolverine #105 was a story about Wolverine helping rescue civilians during the battle), so I assume there could be other tie-ins skipped that don’t further the plot, which keeps the tale on point. Which is good because it’s a big trade, clocking in at over 200 pages (closer to 300, I’d guess without counting/checking). It’s easily the best way to read the story, unless you already have the single issues in your collection.

Which I don’t – yet. Oddly, despite my love of the X-Men from the 90’s, I’ve got a lot of holes to fill, which should be pretty easy given how many are in the back issue bins. After all, 90’s comics aren’t all bad, there’s just a huge number of them in longboxes across the country because so many were printed to satisfy a demand that disappeared almost over night. So that just makes them worth less than the comics from the 70’s and 80’s, but it doesn’t mean they’re not any good.

X-Men: The Onslaught Saga eventually leads into Operation: Zero Tolerance, another story I’m also fond of from that era of X-books, and likely subject of another column at some point in the future, as it holds up fairly well to this day.


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

Underrated: Green Valley

Did you read this book yet? Allow us to remind you why you should with a rerun of a column from last year.


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: Green Valley


Published by Image, Green Valley was written by Max Landis and features art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, inks by Cliff Rathburn and colours by Jean Francois Beaulieu. The wonderful hardcover collection in my hands collects nine issues and will set you back $29.99 (I paid for this out of my own pocket, and happily so, even though I probably had access to the single issue review copies).

So what’s the story about?

GreenValleyHC.jpg

The knights of Kelodia are the finest in the land, but they’ve never faced a POWER like the one that resides in the Green Valley. Now they’re about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime—to stop a wizard and slay his dragons—but there’s no such thing as magic or dragons…is there? 

You may have noticed by reading this column that I tend to enjoy stories set in and around medieval times, even though I don’t tend to read that many comics set in that era (or at least I didn’t until this year). So when my LCS suggested I pick this up (it was on the counter and the owner told me I’d like it) I did so without question because sometimes I don’t want to read superhero comics.

One of the first things I noticed was that the hardcover itself just feels utterly wonderful in your hands.  The above image is of the hardcover, with the comic art inset slightly into the gold and green cover of the book itself in an effect that really doesn’t translate as well in the image as it does in person, but it does give you a hint about the nature of the story, which aside from the cover and text on the back I entered utterly blindly – and I fell in love.

green valley interior 2.jpg
green valley interior.jpg

Green Valley is the kind of book that you will want to read in a single sitting – it grabs you right from the start as you’re introduced to the legendary Knights of Kelodia (all four of them) as they face down a barbarian horde in a brilliant sequence that’s full of dry humour, a genuine feeling camaraderie from the knights  and tense knightly masculinity all wrapped up in some beautiful visuals that are some of the nicest pure-comic pages I’ve seen in quite some time. Were I reviewing this here, I’d be giving this at least 9’s across the board and telling you to buy this without question – the story and art genuinely took me by surprise and had me forget that I really should be doing a bunch of other stuff for the hour or so I sat enraptured in this story.

Without spoiling anything, it’s tough to explain why I loved this story, but that won’t stop me from trying. Green Valley is a very intelligently written book, with dialogue that is, at times, so sharp you could loose a finger. There are moments that span the gamut of human emotion for the characters, and will have you laughing out loud and pumping your fist as the story goes on – just as you’ll feel gut-punched at certain other moment. Max Landis has written one hell of a story that deserves a very special place on your shelf.

Now excuse me while I go reread it (no, I’m not saying that for effect – I’m actually going to reread it now).


Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover more comics that aren’t cracking the top 100.

Underrated: Black Hammer: Secret Origins

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: Black Hammer: Secret Origins


A lot has been said about Black Hammer, Jeff Lemire’s homage to the classic hero comics of yesteryear, and much of that praise can be found on the back of this very collection. Scott Snyder, Charles Soule, Cullen Bunn, Dan Jurgens and more are all effusive in their praise for a comic that Mark Millar called “the most brilliant comic I’ve read in years.”

I would agree with everything said on the back of the book, honestly. Jeff Lemire is one of the dozen or so writers whose work I will read without caring what it is because I know the quality of writing will always be very high (of course there are some things that just don’t do it for me, but not because they’re bad – but because it’s not entirely my cup of tea). Black Hammer is one of those things that is both really good (better, honestly, than I expected), and entirely my thing.

In short, it’s one of the best things that I have ever read from Jeff Lemire.

So what exactly is the book about? I’ll use the blurb from the back of the book to explain:

Wiped out of their superhero universe by a multiversal crisis, the forgotten heroes of Spiral City now live as a dysfunctional family on a mysterious farm in a small town from which they have no escape.

If it sounds intriguing, well you’ll be happy to know that’s only the very tip of the iceberg. The premise is good, and promises an interesting look at what life looks like after (forced) retirement, but it’s the way that the characters come to life on the page that’s truly gripping. Some have accepted their new lot in life, and are even making the best of what cards they’ve been dealt as they adjust to life after superheroics.

And some, well, some have never given up trying to get home.

The way that Lemire frames the opening parts of Black Hammer (as I write this I have the following three volumes on my read pile, but I’m just looking at volume one today) is that escape is hopeless, and anything other than acceptance is foolishness. But if that were you, would you accept what you’ve been given or do your damnedest to get back to the home you knew, even if it may not be as peaceful as where you are?

The answer, ultimately, would depend on a couple key differences; whether you were at least content with the new life you had or if it was driving you to insanity. Within the pages of Black Hammer, there are characters nearing their breaking point (or in some cases may have already gone beyond the breaking point), and it’s fascinating watching them all struggle to navigate the normal that they now find themselves in.

Black Hammer has spoken to my love of modern takes on distinctly Golden Age heroes. With a Justice League like group of characters locked in mysterious pocket dimension where they’re forced to live normal lives on a farm, we get to explore what happens to a hero on a forced retirement. Not everybody I know is a fan of where this comic is going, and how it’s been getting there, but every issue has been a win for me – which is another reason this appears in this issue of Underrated. But the tinges of something lingering just beneath the surface give a genuine sense of unease to the comic. Black Hammer is very much a slow burn, but it’s going to be incandescent when we get the pay off at the end…


Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover more comics that aren’t cracking the top 100.

Underrated: Tokyo Ghost: The Atomic Garden

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:  Tokyo Ghost: The Atomic Garden.


I had never heard of Tokyo Ghost: The Atomic Garden. until I saw the cover of the trade at my LCS, which doesn’t really mean much other than sometimes I miss things. Something about the cover caught my attention as I was putting it on the shelf. There was something about a motorcycle rider stuck full of arrows that made me stop and wonder what the hell I was putting on the shelf, so I flipped the book and read a synopsis that was just curious enough to be immediately interesting, saw Rick Remender’s name and immediately purchased the book.

It never made it to the shelf.

The synopsis that helped to hook me in: The Isles of Los Angeles 2089: Humanity is addicted to technology, a population of unemployed leisure seekers blissfully distracted from toxic contamination, who borrow, steal, and kill to buy their next digital fix. Getting a virtual buzz is the only thing left to live for. It’s the biggest industry, the only industry, the drug everyone needs, and gangsters run it all. And who do these gangsters turn to when they need their rule enforced? Constables Led Dent and Debbie Decay. This duo is about to be given a job that will force them out of the familiar squalor of Los Angeles to take down the last tech-less country on Earth: The Garden Nation of Tokyo. You can check out the first issue on Image’s website from this link if you’re curious.

The promise of a story that deals with the dangers of technology wasn’t lost on the person who works with technology every damn day across two jobs and sees the impact of it on another as digital comics are an always present conversation piece at the shop (usually in how they don’t compare, but then that’s to be expected given the people in the conversation are literally buying physical comics at the time).

Remender takes our current obsession with technology to an extreme with Tokyo Ghost, imagining a world that reminds me of the dystopian future of the Matrix with the worst of a Hollywood drug den spread across LA. If Snake Plisken was here, he’d be trying to escape. Through the haze and horror of a tech addicted world, Remender focuses on a Constable, Led Dent, and his tech-free partner Debbie Decay. We see Debbie try to break Led’s all encompassing tech addiction by forcing him to detox… it’s an oddly uncomfortable story that’s all the more powerful by the striking nature of the addiction.

Look, I know you’re reading this on your phone, tablet, laptop or whatever. But this is a book that’ll remind you to go outside in an oddly non-preachy way. It doesn’t hurt that the art is perfectly suited to do what it needs to do; whether in the hell of LA or the relative paradise of Japan… this is a book that you really should be reading.

That the story is good is a byproduct of it’s message – and that’s one we probably all need to listen to (he says as he goes back to surfing the interwebs, where, incidentally, I discovered this is volume one of two, so maybe technology isn’t all bad…).


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

Underrated: Star Wars The Last Flight Of The Harbinger

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:  Star Wars: The Last Flight Of The Harbinger


A few weeks ago, I wrote about Star Wars comics in general. I said then that I’m the biggest Star Wars fan in the world, and even though I did enjoy (all) of the live action movies to some extent, I’d never really read many of the comics.

Despite being a big comics fan, and a relatively new Star Wars fan, I never once thought about reading the comics that were going to reintroduce us to the world and build upon what was known from the movies. It just never occurred to me. Star Wars was something I watched not something I read.

That changed this year when I found a rather significant haul of Star Wars trade paper backs for a remarkably decent price, but that’s not news for regular readers of this column. One of the books I had picked up was a trade collecting the several issues from Jason Arron’s Star Wars series (issues #20-25). The story takes place some time after the events of A New Hope but before The Empire Strike Back. Most of the book focuses on our favourite rebels steals a Star Destroyer to break a blockade while confronting an elite squad of Stormtroopers called SCAR Squad, with a single issue looking at an older Obi-Wan Kenobi fighting off a bounty hunter on Tatooine during his secret guardianship of Luke (who’s around ten or so here).

There’s also a bonus story with R2D2 that’s of the fun but easily forgettable type that you’d usually find in a Sunday paper.

The Obi-Wan story fleshes out Luke’s uncle, and opens a door for an eventual live action story set around this period by showing that Obi-Wan doesn’t need to be fighting a galactic threat to be a hero – there are plenty of more intimate battles he can fight whilst staying within close proximity to the Skywalkers.

But the meat of the story, and the part that lends the book its title, focuses on the Rebel’s capture of a Star Destroyer, first by dedicating an issue to explaining who SCAR Squad is, and then by showing the action unfold. That we get a look at what the Rebel’s did off camera during the intervening years adds another layer to the original movies, and it really does serve to give you the sense that the Rebellion versus the Empire wasn’t limited to a few battles, but was a much larger galactic conflict by a band of guerrilla fighters. With the The Last Flight Of The Harbinger taking place mainly over a day (at most) and flashbacks, Aaron shows without any other context, that this really is a protracted war and not a series of minor conflicts with some lovable characters.

I read this as a standalone book without realizing when I purchased the trade that it was volume four in Aaron’s collected Star Wars run, and it didn’t hamper my enjoyment at all. Perhaps because these are characters that are so embedded without the public consciousness coupled with the fact that the story is entirely self contained (with only one or two references to previous events) meant that I didn’t need to know what had gone on before to enjoy the book in hand. Which ultimately is a hallmark of the Skywalker Saga; with so many years in between some of the movies, you rely on the legendary yellow scroll and a general sense of who is who to get by more often than you don’t.

Or maybe I’ve grown to care less and less about What Went Before if the story is good.

Star Wars comics may not be for everyone, but if you’re a comic reader (and I assume you are if you’re reading this), and a Star Wars fan and you haven’t read these stories, then you owe it to yourself to check out the books being published by Marvel. If you have read them, then I shall gladly listen to the “I told you so” if you want to follow it up with “now read this…”


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

Underrated: Thrud the Barbarian

This column is a rerun from late 2018. Enjoy!

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:  Thrud the Barbarian


Another week, and yet another case of “Alex bought something for Underrated without knowing anything about it beforehand,” or it would be had Alex not received Carl Critchlow‘s Thrud the Barbarian  a few years  ago from the now defunct Comic Bento. Published by Titan Comics, the trade paperback collects the original Thrud the Barbarian five issue miniseries, as well as a couple of single page shorts from White Dwarf magazine, and was originally published in 2013. If you missed this when it first came out, don’t be surprised – I’m not sure it was ever released on a large scale outside Britain.

Thrud the Barbarian is what I’d consider a quintessentially British comic; it blends in equal parts the violence , chaos and destruction that one would expect from a Conan parody with the silliness and tongue in cheek humour that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Monty Python skit. But with a lot more smashed heads and limbs flying free of bodies. The Titan Comics collection consists of five stories that can be read independently of each other (seven if you’re counting the bonus strips), or in one go – which is what I did when rereading it recently.

Honestly, I reread it because I was reorganizing my bookcase and saw the cover again and wanted something fun, easy and not too deep or involved to read. Thrud was certainly that, and I loved every irreverent thought, every stunningly painted cover, and the computer coloured artwork. It was exactly the kind of book that I needed to read after a busy week, a book that I am glad I own, and one I am even happier that I noticed on the shelf.

Thrud2

As a fan of heroic fantasy books, I loved Critchlow’s send up of the genre; the visualization and sight gags and some brilliant punchlines across all the stories in in the collection. I loved every aspect of this book; the sound effects, the dumb-as-a-post hero just wants his beer and the cartoon-like hyper violence that ties it all together in such a lovely package.

Without a doubt this is one of my favourite books I’ve ever written about for this column, even if I did forget I owned it for a little while.

And yet, had it not been for the Bento box, I would never have heard of this book. Which is easily one of the best aspects of the online blind box subscription thingies – the introduction to new and exciting books and comics you otherwise would never have been exposed to. Consequently, this is a book I don’t see getting the love it deserves – that’s why the book is Underrated.


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

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