Category Archives: 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.

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: 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: 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: 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.

Underrated: Halls Of The Turnip King

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:  Halls Of The Turnip King.


I picked up Halls Of The Turnip King, published by Pegamoose Press yesterday from my LCS. It was written, drawn and hand lettered by Brenda Hickey. Originally released as a very limited series with a small print run, Halls Of The Turnip King also adds a thirteen page epilogue to the story, and I thoroughly enjoyed every page.

The plot is actually pretty simple; an elf prince goes to the dwarf kingdom to forge an alliance because the king believes a war is coming. But the prince would rather be playing video games than playing politics and doesn’t really have any idea what he’s doing. But where the plot is fairly straight forward it allows Hickey to really go to two with the humour in the book. If you like visual gags, the honouring, mickey-taking and subverting of fantasy tropes then this is going to be a book you’ll want to get your hands on.

Hickey also has some really fantastic examples of lettering and playing with the panel layouts and sound effects. One of these moments has a sound effect tapping a character on the shoulder to get his attention. I love the way that Hickey is able to work these often subtle moments into the graphic novel. It honestly wasn’t until I started writing this column that I realized just how much I enjoyed the way Hickey has drawn and lettered the comic. There’s an energy here that makes the comic feel almost Monty Python-eqsue at times, but it always feels like a complete and cohesive vision from Hickey.

There’s also a good lesson in the comic, too, but if I tell you what it is then it’ll probably give away too much of the story. The plot is fairly basic on paper, and that’s actually one of the comic’s strengths.

Hickey shows that you don’t need to have a Lord Of The Rings or Game Of Thrones/A Song of Ice And Fire style epic to tell a good story. Sometimes, a story about trying to forge an unlikely alliance can turn out to be exactly what you want to read on a Saturday morning (yes, I am writing this half an hour before publication). I read this book in one sitting, and I enjoyed each and every page of the book. Art, humour, the lettering (which is an underrated side of comics in and of itself) are utterly fantastic.

If this was a review of the book, I’d probably be looking at giving it upwards of an eight or a nine (I say this because there aren’t that many reviews of the book from what a quick google search found). But, because this isn’t a review, what I will say is that this is an Underrated gem and was worth every penny of the $30 it cost me.


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

Underrated: Wolverine: Not Dead Yet

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: Wolverine: Not Dead Yet


With a new Wolverine series have started last month, I wanted to take a look back at one of the very first Wolverine story arcs I read that wasn’t reprinted from older comics. I didn’t know it at the time, but Not Dead Yet was written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Lenil Francis Yu. When I first read this story, I wasn’t as concerned with knowing who had written it because I didn’t follow creators at the time, only the characters. Only Wolverine and the X-Men.

Originally published in Wolverine v. 2 #119-122 back in the late 90’s, the story was both my first introduction to American comic books and how they were laid out with the advertisements, the page sizes, the recap pages and the preview page with Stan’s Bulletin Box. It really was a transformative experience in how I experienced my comic books at the time as I went from the UK reprint magazines to the real thing. They were unlike anything I could get my hands on at the time; the reprint mags contained three issues, were slightly smaller, and had only minimal personality to them that wasn’t in the original comics. The other comics I was reading at the time were all weekly anthology magazines too – there wasn’t a dedicated 30 odd pages to a single comic and all the little extras that go with it. Looking back on those single issues now, I feel that we’ve lost something along the way as technology has progressed and the need for previews in comics has decreased – but that could just be the nostalgia talking.

This is quite possibly one of my favourite Wolverine stories that I’ve ever read. It’s certainly the one I will always point readers to if given half a chance. The story takes place during the time Wolverine had no adamantium in his body, it is told both in the present and the past by use of flashbacks that serves to emphasize the relationship between the ol’ Canuckle head and a Scottish assassin called McLeish who eventually sets his sights on our favourite mutant. Wolverine is being hunted by one of the best, a man who has planned for years to be able to take down the nearly unkillable Canadian mutant with adamantium bones, but what he doesn’t know is that Wolverine’s bones are no longer coated with the metal, and Logan is suddenly much more vulnerable than he used to be.  I keep coming back to this story every few years, and I have mentioned it several times on my blog, too.  It’s available in trade paperback format, and I highly suggest you pick it up.

I mentioned earlier how I didn’t realize who the creative team was when I read this story more than twenty years ago. In all honestly, it was for another 40 issues of Wolverine when Frank Tieri and Sean Chen started writing the book. So it was years later that I finally realized that Warren Ellis wrote the book, and I remember being somewhat surprised. I’d read and enjoyed a lot of his stuff over the years, but never realised that one of my favourite stories was penned by him.

Wolverine: Not Dead Yet has a timelessness to it that’s only betrayed by the amount of payphones and the style of cars and the odd fashion choice if you’ve a keen eye for those things. This is a tale that focuses less on Wolverine being a superhero and instead takes him back to the shadowy underworld of his past in a much more grounded setting. There’s no spandex in sight, and consequently the story has more of an immediacy to it. This was a time when Wolverine would frequently get his fightin’ togs on when he had a chance, and in Not Dead Yet he doesn’t have that chance.

When it comes to classic Wolverine stories, Not Dead Yet is seldom counted on the list, and one could ask if I would hold it in such high esteem had I not read it at such a formative time in my life. The answer is an easy yes; I read a lot of stories around that time, but none have stayed with me the same way Not Dead Yet has. The story still holds up to this day, and is honestly one of the most common places I’ll start with when going through the back issues of Wolverine in my comic boxes. That‘s why I wanted to focus on this as an Underrated gem this week.


That’s all we have for this week, folks. Come back next time  when there’s something else Underrated to talk about.

Underrated: Black Beetle: No Way Out

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 Beetle: No Way Out


Another week, and yet another case of “Alex bought something for Underrated without knowing anything about it beforehand.” This week we’re looking at the first volume of Francisco Francavilla‘s Black Beetle: No Way Outanother book that I found at a thrift store for an absolute bargain price. Actually, bargain is understating things. I paid $1 for this book (technically $1.25, but at but 4 get 1 free it works out to a dollar). Which is an absolute steal of a deal for a hardcover trade.

Black Beetle: No Way Out is published by  Dark Horse, written and drawn by Francavilla, and takes the form of a modern reinterpretation of the old pulp novels of the 30’s and 40’s, with all the semi futuristic-steampunk technology and sleek lines that includes.

This throwback feeling permeates the entire graphic novel, genuinely allowing it to read as a pulp novel from a bygone era – but one with the tonal sensitivities of today. It’s within this area that Francavilla tells the story of a vigilante who is equal parts the Shadow, the Spider and the Black Bat – and though comparisons to Batman will be made, the only similarity there is that Batman is more prevalent in the cultural awareness of our medium than the other three characters previously mentioned. I’m not saying the comparisons are unfair, but that the similarities are more in line with the characters Batman took inspiration from rather than Bruce Wayne himself.

The story, then, that is told within No Way Out is very reflective of those pulp novels, especially the original covers that are used as story breaks between the individual issues. Francavilla’s artistic approach is very evocative of the art styles of the time – simple colours, thick lines and a sense of foreboding. With Francavilla handling both the writing and the art duties in the book, we’re given a tour-de-force of a creative offering as he delivers an incredible experience.

And that, ultimately, is why I loved this book so much. It’s an incredibly fun pulp story, a classic hero romp with a hero who in’t shy about using his guns. Of course that does leave a little room for folks to be concerned about a lack of substance in the plot, but I think for the most part that is a concern that can be put aside by the artistic offering.

This is a book that’s absolutely worth a read.

Yes, I only paid $1 for it, and yes, I only bought it because it was in a thrit store, but I am so glad that I did. Black Beetle: No Way Out is easily the best thing I have read all week – including the four other books I picked up – and I am frankly astounded that I had never read this before. I’m equally as astounded that I’d never even heard of the book before.  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.

Underrated: Battlepug Volume One

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: Battlepug: Volume One


Disclaimer: Somehow I managed to delete, and save the deletion, of almost the entire text of this column. It is currently about ten minutes before it’s due to go live… 

After a visit to the thrift store the other day I found the first volume of Mike Norton‘s BattlepugJoining Norton for the comic is colourist Allen Passalaqu and letter Chris Crank. The story itself is a blend between homage and parody to Conan and He-Man in a world where sword and sorcery is the name of the game in a world where giant cuddly and innocent looking (mostly) animals represent a rather unconventionally large threat. With the first volume taking on a story-within-a-story set up, the framing is of a fairly stereotypical fantasy woman telling a bed time story to her two talking pugs. 

It’s the story within, that bed time story, that holds the origin of the Battlepug as a lone survivor of a village grows to become the Conan figure in all his brutal glory. The book, a slightly oversized hardcover that cost me $6, is presented almost like a children’s book – and because this isn’t a book for kids, that only adds to the brilliance of its presentation. Battlepug is one of those rare stories that is able to both poke fun at and show respect to its genre while exposing the tropes and criticisms that audiences level at classical fantasy. And it does all this with utter seriousness as a giant pug slurps and snorts through the pages.

Although there is a very cohesive and well told story here, there are also brilliant little moments every few pages; jokes in dialogue and imagery, nods of the head to other things the reader should be all too aware of, and things that may not necessarily be on their radar (I’m sure I missed a lot, honestly). There’s a much deeper story for you to unpack upon the second or third reading, and it never gets old. Or it hasn’t for me.

Norton’s story is utterly fantastic. It’s funny, it’s remarkably well written, and it deserves so much more than the hastily rewritten column that it is getting. It is beyond an Underrated gem, and it’s one that I have every intention of revisiting very soon, and in more detail, when I find the second volume.


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.

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