Category Archives: Underrated

Underrated: Die: Fantasy Heartbreaker

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: JDie: Fantasy Heartbreaker.


Believe it or not, I’m not the biggest reader of Kieron Gillen‘s work. The author has some critically acclaimed works that frankly I’ve never gotten around to reading – not because I’m not a fan of his work, but largely because I never make a conscious effort to hunt out the author’s work. More often than not, I end up reading Gillen’s writing as it falls into comics I would naturally gravitate toward; case in point the subject of today’s column.

According to Goodreads Die: Fantasy Heartbreaker is “a pitch-black fantasy where a group of forty-something adults have to deal with the returning, unearthly horror they only just survived as teenage role-players.” Perhaps the easiest way to describe this is as a dark version of Jumanji as six D&D players disappear for two years as they start up a special kind of game. The story takes place almost thirty years later as they’re forced back to the fantasy world as the very characters they played as initially – only this time they have lives they want too return to.

The first volume of Die is heavily influenced by D&D and roleplaying games in general – but if you’re not a fan of that type of entertainment then have no fear because you don’t need to be intimately familiar with the ins and outs of character creation (though as with anything paying homage to something, knowledge of D&D character creation will likely give you a laugh or two when the players go through the same process, but again, it’s by no means essential). The comic is set up in that if you’ve ever played any type of game where you interact with non player characters (videogames, roleplaying games, choose your own adventure type books), and have wondered what happens in the world when you turn off the game, then you’ll find something to enjoy in the premise. That’s to say nothing of Gillen’s writing or Stephanie Hans art as she brings to life the fantasy world in Gillen’s imagination.

It feels odd to highlight the work of the man partly responsible for The Wicked + The Divine, but this is one of those books that I don’t see enough people talking about. Until I picked up the first volume at my comic shop (for all of $10!), I’m fairly sure it had been on the shelf for some time – at the very least I hadn’t heard anybody asking for it in the same way as other works by creators not published by the big two. Die is a dark book, and through this Gillen explores whether we’d truly be heroes in a world of no consequence, whether we would give way to our inhibitions and become the worst versions of ourselves or whether we could rise above.

The more I thought about the book the more I enjoyed the layers Gillen had woven into it; although they were only teenagers when they first entered the game, the six players spent two years in the fantasy world – and three decades later, they’re facing the consequences of actions they took, relationships they forged and the decisions made during those two years. Some of these people are still haunted by their time in the fantasy world, and how that’ll play out across the next two volumes is something I’m super excited to find out.

You should be able to find this at your LCS, or online, easily enough.


In the meantime, 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.

Underrated: Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics by Tom Scioli

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 Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics by Tom Scioli.


Biographies aren’t always the first thing you think  of when you think of graphic novels, and vice versa. But the thing is a graphic novel is a fantastic way to tell a person’s life story, or a portion there of, that isn’t often used as much as it could be. Graphic novel biographies are a wonderfully unique way of telling a story that you really can’t capture the same way with a prose book. By utilizing the graphic novel format, the creative team have the opportunity to bring the story to life with picture, or temper  the harshness of what the biography’s subject went through so that the reader can take more of the story in (seriously, imagine the first entry with realistic artwork). Or the artwork can tell give you a subtlety that’s missing in other mediums as you’re more readily able to spend time pouring over the images in front of you. Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that I think graphic novels are an underrated method of telling a biographical story.

Biographies told in the graphic novel format have been around for awhile, and I’ve found are often my preferred way to read story about a person’s life. Maus for example would be a much harder book to read in prose, and part of Spiegleman’s genius is in how he still conveys the horror of his father’s story with the art that’s never cute or adorable, but wouldn’t look out of place next to Andy Capp in your Sunday supplement (this isn’t a knock against the book – it remains one of my favourite graphic novels because of exactly this; the balance of the art to the horror is perfect and frequently left me questioning how I would be reacting if the art was realistic or had the story been told in prose with vivid descriptions).

But when it comes to reading a graphic novel, even a near 200 page one, to learn about the rich history of a subject, then there is an obvious trade off with the amount of information you can fit into a graphic novel verses a text book – sometimes that matters, and others it doesn’t.

I’ve read a few biographies of Kirby over the years (Mark Evanier’s Kirby: King Of Comics is probably my favourite), but this is the first biography of Kirby I’ve read in the graphic form. Other than some minor details, Scioli doesn’t tell me anything that I wasn’t already at least partly aware of, though that’s not because he doesn’t have a well researched book (he really does), but rather because this isn’t the first Kirby biography I have ever read – Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics, published by Ten Speed Press, is a thoroughly engaging read, and Scioli’s dedication to the presentation of the book shines through early with a scene of young Kirby reading comics for one of the first times.

This is told from Kirby’s perspective, which does lead to him being portrayed in a very flattering light, but given the author’s well documented reverence for Kirby, I’m genuinely impressed that Scioli is somewhat restrained at the same time; he never crosses into a full worship of the comics legend (which is very easy to do given how much respect Kirby is due and how much he often gets outside of the comics community).

Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics is a really good book; it’s often overlooked in a lot of the circles I run in because it’s both a graphic novel and a biography – the combination of which never seems to excite people as much as a fictional graphic novel (or comic). It’s a shame, because this book is an ideal start to learning about Jack Kirby, and will propel you into reading the comics he so loved to create.


In the meantime, 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.

Underrated: Smaller Comic Conventions

As 2021 begins, I wanted to revisit a column from a few years ago. Hopefully this year will see the safe return of conventions, and if it does, let’s make sure we enjoy the smaller ones as well.

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: Smaller Comic Conventions


If you’re reading this then I have no doubt that you’ve heard of the cons that run across multiple days, but on the off chance I’m wrong take a few minutes to google San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con or C2E2 as an example of those multiday conventions. Now the three that I’ve mentioned are also well known for having a ton of industry reveals emerging from the various panels, as well as an imperial fuckton of guests and exhibitors all competing for your attention and money.

These major conventions are usually full of a great expansive mass of humanity pouring over comics and, let’s be frank, pop culture in all its lovely various forms that can be both exhilarating and incredibly overwhelming. They are a place for thousands of fans to gather and share a love of all things geek, but can often be tough to navigate, expensive and very crowded – and sometimes they may not be the best place for a person to experience their first con – which is where the smaller conventions can often be the unsung gems of the comics world (at least on paper) by allowing fans to get a feeling of what a con is like, albeit on a much smaller scale.

There’s something that should also be said for the conventions that have a specification, or are geared to one form of fandom over another; whether that’s comics, anime, gaming or Star Trek. These are also going to be far more accessible to those who want to avoid the crowds while still getting a con experience.

C2E2 Show Floor

For logistical reasons, I don’t make a point to travel to every con I can get to regardless of size, the smaller ones do have some advantages the larger ones don’t.

  • Firstly it’s unlikely you’ll be overwhelmed at the size of the convention. By their very nature these events aren’t geared toward an army of fans which means that you’ll be able to swing a cat if you so choose [editor’s note: Don’t swing a cat].
  • The admission is usually pretty affordable.
  • Because the cons are smaller, and usually in small to medium sized cities and towns, more often than not it is easier to find accommodation and parking near the venue itself.
  • You can see everything on offer (assuming you don’t arrive ten minutes before the doors close). Although there is always the chance that what’s on offer for you to buy isn’t great, you’ll never leave thinking that you missed the best buy of the con because you didn’t go down every aisle. That said, if there are any panels during the day, you may still want to plan at least a part of your day if you intend to attend said panels.
  • They can often have the feel of a craft fair about them as exhibitors who can’t afford to travel to larger events can show their products. I picked up an interesting modge podge display piece that had pages from an old comics pasted over a block of wood for a friend at a con last year (that I never took a photo of before giving it to them). Smaller conventions often have lower exhibitor fees, which means you’re more likely to see small scale creatives in attendance.
  • They’re often put together out of love and not always for a profit (this may not always be a good thing).

I’m aware that the smaller cons have a drastically different flavour than the larger cons  and while that flavour may or may not be to your liking, I’ve noticed that there really aren’t as many folks talking about the smaller cons in general verses the industry giant ones (granted for obvious reasons), and I wanted to express some love for the single day conventions that we don’t always talk about after we attend – myself included – but are often the surprise hits of our summer convention season.


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: Incognito

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: Incognito


My local comic shop recently got the hardcover edition of Incognito in, and it last all of ten minutes on the table where it was in line for pricing as I picked it up and read what amounted to half the first issue before scooping it up before it ever actually made it to the shelf.

Written by Ed Brubaker, with art by Sean Phillips and colours by Val Staples, the hardcover collects both Incognito and the sequel Incognito: Bad Influences within its 360-odd pages as well an essay, a series cover gallery and some interesting process pieces. If you’ve read any of Brubaker and Phillips other work together, such as Criminal, Fatale or Kill Or Be Killed, then you probably have an idea what you’re in for. If you don’t… well, let’s just say you’re in for a very compelling story that you’ll probably want to read multiple times.

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 you were an ex-super villain hiding out in Witness Protection… but all you could think about were the days when the rules didn’t apply to you? Could you be a humdrum office clerk after being the best at years of leaving destruction in your wake? And what if you couldn’t stand it? What would you do then? 

This story is steeped in the pulp fiction of the 30’s and 40’s, stories that undeniably inspired the superhero fiction of today. Brubaker takes those early influences and fills out a world that has descended from them; there’s a very clear path in Incognito back to characters like the Shadow and the Spider (or rather Brubaker’s version thereof), and it gives the reader the sense that we’re barely scratching the surface with the characters and history revealed through the course of the hardcover’s 360-odd pages.

I was immediately taken in by the story as we learned more about Zack Overkill and how he went from a heavy hitting super villain to a lowly file clerk barely noticed by his coworkers. We see flashes of his mandated psychiatric appointments, the oh-so-real struggles he’s facing in a life that he’s not accustomed too. If you remove the super powered aspect from the opening part of the story, you can see a man struggling with his mental health amidst an unfulfilling life of boredom and depression. Is it any wonder that he eventually turns to drugs in order to find an escape?

Zach Overkill is an oddly likable guy despite never hiding (at least from us) what kind of man he used to be; whether this story is about his trying to find redemption, or a larger tale about whether a leopard can truly change its spots is one of the best parts about this book. Brubaker asks you not whether you can change for the better after making a horrible series of life choices, but whether others can accept your change. Whether they truly believe it, or if once they’ve labelled you a villain then that’s how they will always see you.

I should have expected good stuff from this book, but I wasn’t quite prepared with just how good it would be.

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.

Underrated: Daredevil: No Devils, Only God

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 Daredevil: No Devils, Only God


Daredevil is one of those characters that I’ve heard a lot about, but haven’t really delved into his history and stories on a consistent manner – the one miniseries I own is Daredevil: End Of Days, which is good, but probably not a solid indication as to what to expect when starting to get into the character. Indeed, most of my exposure to Daredevil probably comes from the Netflix TV show rather than the comics, and so I didn’t delve into this run for quite some time – it wasn’t until a couple of friends effectively forced me to read it that I finally did (and if you listen to Those Two Geeks, you’ll know Joe has been insisting I read this for awhile).

As I said, the Daredevil I’m most familiar with is the one from Netflix, and so for me this was a perfect starting point. No, I had no idea what came before – and it didn’t really matter – but the series, written by Chip Zdarsky, seems to be geared toward those more familiar with the live action series rather than with a deep knowledge of the character. Again, I could be wrong, and maybe the comics had been more closely aligned to what I’m familiar with before the first issue of Zdarsky’s run.

So welcome to the second part of my read through of Zdarsky’s Daredevil. I’m told it’s excellent as far as Daredevil comics go, and while I can’t speak to that, I can say that I didn’t want to stop reading after the final issue in this volume to write this column.

No Devils Only Gods, drawn by Lalit Kumar Sharma (issues 6-9) and Jorge Fornes (issue 10) and coloured by Jay Leostan (issues 6-9) and Jordie Bellaire (issue 10), picks up where Know Fear left off with Matt Murdock having hung up the mask and focusing on his normal life. The snyopsis for the arc, taken from Comixology, reads “the Man Without Fear is missing! Daredevil has disappeared from Hell’s Kitchen — and in his absence, the real devils are starting to come out to play. Detective Cole North may think he’s stopped Daredevil, but there are bigger problems coming his way! Meanwhile, Matt Murdock has emerged from his recent ordeals a changed man — but has he changed for better or worse? As he faces up to the choices he has made, Matt grapples with who he is and who he wants to be. Can he truly live a life without the suit?”

Zdarsky uses this arc to explore what happens after a hero hangs up the mask. What happens when he still has the drive to do the right thing, but doesn’t want to be the vigilante he once was? We see Matt Murdock questioning his faith quite a lot over the course of this arc, and as in life, he never gets an answer. Rather, he has to look for and interpret the signs he sees around him to find the answer he seeks, much as I imagine you would do in your daily life if you were going through the same crises of faith (as an atheist, this was an interesting part of the story to read, because while I couldn’t relate on a spiritual level, it did resonate to me on a mental health scale as I’ve had some skirmishes with depression over the last couple of years).

It’s the internal conflict and struggle that really elevates this chapter in Zdarsky’s run, because there’s very little Daredevil appearances in costume, and I think the arc is stronger for that. There’s no clear cut ending to this arc, either, with Zdarsk’s writing leaving you in a moment where you’re not sure if the chapter is over or if you should be picking up the next issue – it’s a very fitting ending for a story that doesn’t offer any black and white answers.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got the next volume of this underrated gem to check out. Whether Zdarsky’s run on Daredevil will be held in the same esteem as Bendis, Nocenti and Miller, well only time will tell. But I bloody love it.


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

Underrated: Voracious: Diners, Dinosaurs & Dives

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


Markisan Naso, Jason Muhr and Andrei Tabucaru have a new comic coming out in 2021, By The Horns. Because of the fact that these three have created one of my all time favourite series, I’m going to revisit the three volumes over the next couple of months starting with the one that kicked it all off: Diners, Dinosaurs & Dives.

This is an older column from 2017, but seeing as how I stand by what I wrote then, I’m rerunning it.

This week I wanted to take a look at a series that I think epitomizes what this column is about: a great comic book series or story that too few people have read. Published by Action Lab, Voracious is written by Markisan Naso and drawn by Jason Muhr, with the co-creators being joined by colourist Andrei Tabucaru, and can usually grab your attention with the shortest of descriptions: “time travelling chef makes dinosaur sandwiches.”

It sounds awesome, right? Well, that’s because it is.

In an ideal world, that’s really all you would need to rush out and buy the two trade paper back collections (Diners, Dinosaurs & Dives and Feeding Time), but it can be tough to buy two trades wholly on those words – I get that. I really do. Look, it’s no secret that Voracious is one of my favourite series to come out in the last couple of years (you can find the reviews for most of the comics in the two miniseries under this search),  and it’s one of the few that I’ll buy in floppy form after reading the review copies – and it’s the only one that I also buy the TPBs as well.

You see, I put my money where my mouth is because Voracious is a wonderful breath of fresh air in an industry that has been choking on relaunches and rehashes; the five issues that make up Feeding Time are some of the highest scored comics that I have reviewed for Graphic Policy. Voracious does have an awesome elevator pitch, but that’s not what draws me into the series (though it certainly helped).

After only nine comics (technically ten, but the first issue was a double sized comic) Markisan Naso has become one of Those writers who has earned my complete and utter trust; I will probably buy anything that he puts out from this point on. Aside from having an excellent music taste, Naso has an ability to give a unique voice to his characters that when combined with Jason Muhr’s artistic ability allows you to understand all you need to know about a character within a page or two at most. Yes, there are deeper layers to the people you’re watching navigate their lives on the page, and they’re expertly revealed as the series progresses in a way that you’re never really subjected to an-out-of-left-field moment that takes you out of the story because of a character’s actions because of how well developed they are; you won’t be shocked at the actions of the people in the comic because it all seems so in character for them once you understand their motivations.

As with any well written story featuring time travel you hope the visuals measure up to the intricacies of the story, and oh boy do they ever.Voracious_02-8

Jason Muhr is a brilliant visual story teller; there are so many brilliant double page spreads where his talents shine, and yet some of my favourite moments are the ones where Muhr focuses in on the emotions playing across the face of the character he is drawing; obviously I want to avoid significant spoilers so I’m not showing you as many pages from later issues, which is a disservice to both you and Muhr because as the series progressed he really found his groove.

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

Voracious is the best comic you’ve never read, so change that. I haven’t heard a singe person I’ve made read the book complain in anyway. This story is what comics are all about; a masterpiece of visual story telling that couldn’t be told any other way even half as effectively as it is in comic form.

Now, excuse me while I go and read both trades again.

If you want more Voracious, then you can check out the episode of GP Radio where we talked all about the dinosaur sandwiches with both Markisan Naso and Jason Muhr.


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

Underrated: Union Jack

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: Union Jack


UnionJack199801

It should come as no secret that sometimes, I am not the smartest tool in the shed. I somehow missed seeing any information or buzz about Marvel’s Union #1 comic that was just released in the first week of December (2020 if you’re reading this in a different year), so I had no idea that it featured one of my absolute favourite comic book characters. Union Jack.

Despite only having read a handful of the character’s adventures, he came to me at a very formative time in my fandom, and has held a place in my top ten characters ever since.

Union Jack is one of the first British superheroes that I found on the shelves of my Local Comic Shop. I had read of few others before fining him at the end of 1999. King Cobra and Spring Heeled Jack from the pages of Hotspur come to mind, but Union Jack was the first British hero I had been exposed to since my renewed love of comics a year or two before, when I’d picked up a Wolverine re-print. At the time I hadn’t heard of Captain Britain and though I was well aware of Captain America, I never had a whole lot of interest in him. The third man to call himself Union Jack, Joey Chapman, was the first Flag-Clad superhero that I really paid attention to and I’d say that a main reason for that was the front cover and how Union Jack was leaping off a building to face a potential legion of the Walking Dead, alone!

The 1999 mini series captivated me.

The first appearance of Union Jack is a comic I’m hunting down.
The first appearance of Union Jack; a comic I’m hunting down.

Maybe because at the time I was a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, and the premise of a superhero fighting vampires was something that I never expected to see. Now bear in mind that at the time I wasn’t all that aware of, or interested in, anything beyond Marvel Comics and even within Marvel I was pretty much an X-Men only kind of person, so the idea of vampires in comics being fought by a guy in spandex wasn’t ever anything I had even contemplated. But once I had seen that cover?

Oh man.

Union Jack has been one of my favourite characters ever since. I do all I can to pick up comics that I know he’s in, and there are several back issues that I’m tracking down that feature him in them that I would love to add to my collection.

Whether it is Union Jack’s working class back ground, his refusal to ever give up, or simply his nationality, I find that he’s a character I am able to identify with more than any other; he’s just a bloke from Blighty who loves the country he fights for, and will do anything for the people of Britain.

One of the fanboy highlights from Captain America: the First Avenger for me was when I realised that the first Union Jack, James Montgomery Falsworth, appeared without costume as part of the Howling Commando’s (played by J.J. Field). It wasn’t the cameo that was so exciting for me, but what it could mean for Union Jack in the future of the MCU. By establishing the first Union Jack had an association with Captain America, it opens the door for the current Union Jack to appear in either Agents of SHIELD, Captain America: Civil War, a future Netflix series, or even one of the Avengers movies coming up in the next five years.

Now, I think that Union Jack appearing as Britain’s flag wearing hero would make more sense than Captain Britain appearing in the MCU. Union Jack has been more closely associated with Captain America, than Captain Britain generally has been (Joey Chapman’s first appearance wearing the flag was in Captain America Vol 1 #253), and with the admittedly small amount of screen time Falsworth has already received, sliding the working mans hero into the MCU would be easier than the more aristocratic Captain Britain. Now obviously I’m a bit biased here, I think we all know that, but Union Jack would make an excellent supporting character to a Captain America, or an Avengers movie.

Whether Marvel Studios know this as well, only time will tell.

“My dad once told me “If you care about something you’ll try your hardest and that’s all you can do. So it doesn’t matter if you succeed or fail.”. Nice bloke, dad.” – Union Jack – Amazing Spider-Man: Ends of the Earth


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

Underrated: Batman: Blink

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: Batman: Blink


When you think of great Batman comics, stories like Hush, The Long Halloween and Court of Owls come to mind fairly quickly for most of us, and depending on what the person giving you recommendations has read you may also see The Dark Knight Returns, War Games, Knightfall, Bruce Wayne; Murderer and No Man’s Land pop up at various points in the conversation, too. All of which are fantastic choices and well worth reading – indeed, all of those tend to be pretty high on my own recommendation list when talking to customers at the comic shop. But what happens when you’ve read all the main stuff? Well, that’s where something like Batman: Blink comes into play.

This trade collects two stories, Blink and Don’t Blink about a blind man who can see through the eyes of anyone he touches. The first story has him helping Batman track down a killer, and the second explores what happens when the government finds out he can do these things.

Originally presented in Legends of the Dark Knight 156-158 and 164-167, the story is set during the early days of Batman’s career – there’s no specific year, but judging by the framing device of the story being read from Batman’s journal and the Dark Knight’s confidence and lack of technology I’d put it within the second or third year (at latest) which means that we’re seeing a Batman stripped of a lot of what we’re used to seeing of late. There’s a lot more detective work in this story, with writer Dwayne McDuffie allowing the process to be shown on panel rather than as a one off comment or so.

This is Batman as he was before he became the caricature of himself where he could easily defeat Galactus with enough prep time (yeah, I know, different universe, but I’m making a point with extremes), where he’s more a man than a god. You see him get hit by chairs, make mistakes and still push through regardless. This Batman is fallible, and the stakes seem higher because of it in a way that Batman verses a giant monster doesn’t; it’s the human touch, the smaller scale of the threat and the consequences of failure. Plus, the way McDuffie frames the story through Batman’s journal also allows the perspective of an older Batman critiquing his earlier self which adds in both a sense of foreboding and the odd wryly funny line. I also want to highlight the choices of letterer Kurt Hathaway here because the font choice he went with is brilliant; one can easily read the cursive handwriting whilst understanding exactly what it is you’re seeing. Cursive can be tough to penetrate for some folks at times (and I am one of them despite my own writing being hard to read), and when there’s no impediment to the story because of the narration and stylistic choice then you can’t help but become immersed in the narrative.

As you cans see above, the art has a very moody feel to it, with the colours trending toward the blues, greys and other muted hues for the majority of the book – which only serves to make the brightness that much more striking. The story was penciled by Val Semeiks with inks by Dan Green and colours by James Sinclair, and despite the first issue in the book being published almost twenty years ago, the art still has that fresh and vibrant feel. Yes, there’s a sense of classic comics art to the pages, but given the flashback nature of the story, it works in a very meta way as your own sense of “back in the day” creeps into your perspective when reading this trade.

Granted that might just be my old man eyes and memories, and younger readers may not have the same experience (not kids, but folks who haven’t been reading comics since the 90’s; y’all likely won’t have the same perspective, and that’s okay – it’s not a deal breaker for this story).

The main reason I bring up this trade is because until I saw it on the shelf for the price of a single issue, I’d never heard about the story. While it won’t make it into my Must Read section of Batman recommendations, it’s going to be closer to the top of the “oh, this ones really good, too” section. It’s an underrated story, and one that can be easily overlooked when on a shelf among the other great Batman stories.


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

Underrated: A Once Crowded Sky

This week we’re revisiting a previous entry in the series with Tom King’s A Once Crowded Sky.


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 Once Crowded Sky


It’s no secret how much I love comics. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

While most pretty much all of the comics I read can, to varying degrees, be placed on the superhero side of things, sometimes I’ll pick up the odd non-superhero comic.  I’m a big fan of the modern comic book re-imaginings of the early pulp heroes such as The Black Bat, The Spider, and The Phantom, although one could argue their closeness to the superhero genre renders the example moot, so let me be blunt; the point I am poorly trying to make is that I love superhero stories (of all varieties) in my comics more than any other type of story. 

Amazingly enough, I also read books.

If you look at my book shelf you’ll see a lot of fantasy, sword and sorcery, and historical fiction. There isn’t much set within the last one hundred years or so that I tend to pick up and read. I can think of, maybe, twenty books (or series) that I’ve read in the last fifteen years or so that are set within the last century, and only a handful of them were based around superheroes. One was an average Wolverine tale I read on Kindle, one is the hugely enjoyable Dresden Files series and another was A Once Crowded Sky by some dude named Tom King, which  is the subject of today’s column.

Although the story wasn’t quite mind blowing, it was remarkably well told, and had some incredible ideas within its pages. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the book is actually the way it is told. In a book with multiple point of view characters, each character’s point of view is laid out like a comic book; the book is set up like a text version of a collected comic book tie-in event across multiple issues. It’s a brilliant way to tie in the obvious influence and homage to the four colour medium, as is the occasional comic book page within the book itself.

A Once Crowded Sky is a relative anomaly for me; it’s a superhero story that I read, and enjoyed, that wasn’t in a comic book. Now, my sample size of superhero books is obviously incredibly small compared with that of superhero comics, but the thing I must stress here is it isn’t that I’ve had no access to superhero books, it’s that I simply have no desire to read about superheroes in any other medium that isn’t a comic book, and I have no idea why.

Maybe it’s because up until A Once Crowded Sky every superhero book I’ve looked as has been hard to justify the price tag. I found A Once Crowded Sky for $3 on a table of reduced hardcover books at a chain book store – it’s easily worth four times that amount, but would I have looked at it for more than $3? Seeing as how it took me two days to decide to pick the book up even for about the price of a comic, well, then probably not. Maybe I don’t like superhero books because they lack the visual nature of comics, which probably does have something to do with it, but I’m more then happy reading the Dresden Files novels and graphic novels, but then the Dresden Files and superheroes occupy two different genres. Maybe, and most likely, it’s because there simply hasn’t been much buzz about any superhero books.

So what’s A Once Crowded Sky about, and why should you read it?

“The superheroes of Arcadia City fight a wonderful war and play a wonderful game, forever saving yet another day. However, after sacrificing both their powers and Ultimate, the greatest hero of them all, to defeat the latest apocalypse, these comic book characters are transformed from the marvelous into the mundane.

After too many battles won and too many friends lost, The Soldier of Freedom was fine letting all that glory go. But when a new threat blasts through his city, Soldier, as ever, accepts his duty and reenlists in this next war. Without his once amazing abilities, he’s forced to seek the help of the one man who walked away, the sole hero who refused to make the sacrifice–PenUltimate, the sidekick of Ultimate, who through his own rejection of the game has become the most powerful man in the world, the only one left who might still, once again, save the day.”

Tom King’s debut novel has some lofty ideas, and some great presentation ideas that more than out weigh the at times overly wordy moments as King at times loses himself in backstory and internal monologues. There are flashes of his later brilliance in this 2012 novel, and it’s fascinating to see how he’s grown as a writer since this book. Despite having some rather interesting names for his characters (no, that’s not food – that’s my tongue in my cheek), it’s not hard to identify where their inspiration came from. Soldier of Fortune and Captain America do bear more than a slight similarity, after all.

But by using his own versions of these characters we’re all so familiar with, King is able to tell the story he wants without worrying about the guiding hand of either of the big two publishers impacting his story.

What we’re left with at the end of the day is a solid, and very enjoyable superhero novel written by a man who would go on to write some utterly fantastic comics. This book isn’t on that level, but it’s still well worth checking out should you come across it.

Someday, hopefully soon, superhero books will have their own section in the book store and when they do, that’s where you’ll find me.


Join us next week when we explore another Underrated aspect that may be at best tangentially related to comics!

Underrated: Daredevil: Know Fear

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 Daredevil: Know Fear


Daredevil is one of those characters that I’ve heard a lot about, but haven’t really delved into his history and stories on a consistent manner – the one miniseries I own is Daredevil: End Of Days, which is good, but probably not a solid indication as to what to expect when starting to get into the character. Indeed, most of my exposure to Daredevil probably comes from the Netflix TV show rather than the comics, and so I didn’t delve into this run for quite some time – it wasn’t until a couple of friends effectively forced me to read it that I finally did (and if you listen to Those Two Geeks, you’ll know Joe has been insisting I read this for awhile).

As I said, the Daredevil I’m most familiar with is the one from Netflix, and so for me this was a perfect starting point. No, I had no idea what came before – and it didn’t really matter – but the series, written by Chip Zdarsky, seems to be geared toward those more familiar with the live action series rather than with a deep knowledge of the character. Again, I could be wrong, and maybe the comics had been more closely aligned to what I’m familiar with before the first issue of Zdarsky’s run.

Know Fear, drawn by Marco Checcheto and coloured by Sunny Gho, finds Matt Murdock at one of the (many) low points in his life as he tries to get back into the hero game again after a near death experience. The first issue leads off with Daredevil struggling against three robbers, and sets up one of the driving plot points of the story as one of the robbers dies at the hospital – but how? And who could want to frame Daredevil for murder?

Zdarsky uses this run to take a look at the career of a hero as they bounce back from a traumatic accident, and through that lens we can see our own struggles to get back to where we want to be after suffering a setback or two. Of course, most of us don’t put on red tights and run around rooftops, but that’s neither here nor there when you look at the spiritual and emotional turmoil that Matt Murdock is going through – and that’s where Zdarsky’s able to relate the character to the audience so well. We’ve all struggled to pick ourselves back up, and we’ve all tried to do the best that we can in the face of overwhelming odds…

There’s a couple of key reasons why I wanted to highlight this volume today; the first is that it’s a very accessible volume for new readers coming from the Netflix show, like myself. Secondly, it’s a really introspective dive into a character that left me feeling as if I’d been reading Daredevil for years. Thirdly, it’s got a grim, dark sense to it that’s oddly beautiful in its way as Daredevil struggles to find himself amidst the chaos of his new life.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got the next volume of this underrated gem to check out. Whether Zdarsky’s run on Daredevil will be held in the same esteem as Bendis, Nocenti and Miller, well only time will tell. But I bloody love it.


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

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