Category Archives: Underrated

Underrated: Your Local Comics Shop

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:  Your Local Comics Shop


Given the current comics climate, with printers not printing and Diamond not distributing, I wanted to remind us all about one of the things that we’ve all taken for granted at some point or another, and that is the shop you buy your comics from.

I know that some of you prefer to order from DCBS or read digitally, and so don’t have a shop you frequent regularly, but when you want to pick up a board game, statue or toy collectible, then you may go to your LCS rather than Amazon. Ordinarily, at least. Right now, with so many non-essential businesses being closed, going online for our nerd needs is more tempting than ever. But here’s the thing; I know that you’re starving for something to read right now, but this is the time to support the local businesses in your town, city, state/province ahead of a giant company who’s CEO could afford to fund several reading or food programs in our schools.

When all the dust has settled after the Covid 19 pandemic, and it will, you’re going to want to go out and socialize and talk about comics with friends, or strangers, in person and not online. You’re going to want to go to your comic shop.

Right now, you can’t really do that, but there are some idea on how to support your local shop here.

Until you can go back to your LCS, or until you decide to start going to one, spend a minute and think about all small business owners and their employees. Right now they’re worried about lost wages, and potentially a lost business in the future. When this is over, go spend the money you didn’t spend there – if you can.


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

Underrated: Comics Not In Diamond’s Top 100 For February 2020

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: Comics not in Diamond’s top 100 sellers for February 2020


This week we’re going to be looking at a list of comics that are all pretty good, but don’t get the attention that they deserve. Now I’m not even going to pretend to have a definitively exhaustive list of underrated comics here, because we’re hoping  that you decide to check at least one of these series out next time you’re looking for something new either online or at your LCS, and giving you a huge list to check out would be counter productive to that. Instead, you’ll find four to six comics that are worth your attention that failed to crack the top 100 in sales. The only hard stipulation for this week: not one of the comics made it into the top 400 (yeah, I went for books that hardly any of you have read for whatever reason) for this month’s comic sales, according to Comichron, which is why they’re Underrated.


Cult Classic Creature Feature #5 (Vault)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 380/1,322
Why You Should Read It:  
I’m usually not drawn to horror comics, but I do tend to enjoy anything Eliot Rahal writes, so I wanted to check this out. Obviously, I’m going to recommend you start with the first issue (or just wait for the trade if you can’t find the individual comics), but this is a great series that (I’m told by friends who do enjoy horror comics) is a great send up to the genre.

Quantum & Woody #2 (Valiant)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 280/4,028
Why You Should Read It: 
Obviously I’m going to be biased toward this, but there’s a very British comics style to the series with the art; the lines, the sheer amount of things occurring on the page (which never once feels overwhelming). There’s a chaotic brilliance to this book – don’t miss this.

Rai #4 (Valiant)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 264/4,900
Why You Should Read It: 
Why yes, I did include this in last month’s version of this comic. And the month before. Because this is frankly the best book on this list (truth be told it was the best one I’d read all month. The series encourages you to ask questions about your place in the world, what it means to be human, when you should resort to violent recourse and how easy it can be to touch the lives of those around you. This comic does all of that whilst still giving you a freaking brilliant book.

Finger Guns #1 (Vault)
Rank/Units Sold: 199/8,418
Why You Should Read It:
What if when you shot a finger gun at somebody you were able to adjust their emotions? This comic throws that into the mix amidst a sense of abandonment and loneliness that we’re all probably familiar with these days.

Ascender #9 (Image)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 173/9,970
Why You Should Read It: 
If you haven’t started reading this, then you should. But rather than start with the first issue of Ascender, you really want to pick up the first volume of Descender. You’ll thank me later.

Bang #1 (Dark Horse)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 159/10,741
Why You Should Read It: 
Matt Kindt once again proves why he’s one of the best writers in the business. There’s a lot to say about this book, but holy moly is it ever wonderful. Go in blind, I did, and it’s worth every moment.

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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: 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: Power Rangers (the 2017 movie)

I’m about to get on a plane, and this is exactly the kind of movie I love watching while flying. For that reason, I wanted to rerun this column, and not because I forgot to prepare one in advance. Nope.


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: Power Rangers (the 2017 movie)



This has been an interesting year for me. 2018 marks the first time in decades where neither Marvel or DC comprise even a third of my pull-list, when I deliberately chose to read a space based science fiction book (which usually run totally against my tastes) and the first time since I was a nipper that I watched the Power Rangers.

Whilst waiting for my wife to wake up on Christmas morning (because she’s happy to sleep in to a normal time, whereas I am a man-child who wakes up at 6am without an alarm one day of the year only) I was flicking through Netflix and came across the 2017 Power Rangers movie. Remembering it not doing so well critically or commercially, I decided to press play so I could enjoy a bad movie alone (hey, sometimes bad movies are awesome).

This wasn’t a bad movie.

Oh, it was cheesy, with moments of camp and a villain that was desperately trying (and partially succeeding) to exude evil with every step, but it wasn’t bad. Power Rangers was exactly what I expected and hoped it would be, given the source material filtered through twenty five years or more of nostalgia. In short, it was bloody awesome.

I understand people’s frustrations with it taking nearly and hour and a half before we first see the Power Rangers in their suits (or armour, as the outfits are in the movie), and that the pacing seems a touch slow until it suddenly isn’t. But for me, having not watched anything Power Rangers since I was about nine or ten years old, it allowed me to get reacquainted with characters I had long forgotten. The movie is brilliant, and for my money, is perfectly self aware. In a world with Thor: Ragnorak, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man: Homecoming, Power Rangers is never going to stand out as a truly great superhero movie. And that’s honestly a shame, because the movie is a lot of fun.

The martial arts action is well choreographed, the giant robot fights are also fun (but far too short), but what had me nearly cheering out loud was when the theme song came on. It was a brilliantly self aware homage to the original series, the longtime franchise fans who returned to watch the movie, and people like myself who haven’t heard that song in decades.

Frankly, it was glorious. Which is why, dear reader, I wanted to talk about it today. Power Rangers  is exactly the kind of movie that Underrated is about; one that was largely laughed off or over shadowed by a bigger release. This flick is on Netflix (Canada) now – do yourselves a favour and go check it out.


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

Underrated: The Witcher Omnibus

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 Witcher Omnibus.


I often wonder how to start a column when the focus is an adaptation of other media – especially when the other media is an adaptation of something else. Such as it is with Dark Horse’s The Witcher Omnibus. The book collects four five issue miniseries mostly written by Paul Tobin, with two being based on the books and two seemingly based on the video games that were also based on the books judging by Geralt’s armour and the appearance of certain characters in the final story.

As someone who has grown to love the The Witcher over the last 18 months, getting a chance to experience the stories in a different format was an exciting opportunity. I loved the books, and thoroughly enjoyed The Witcher III: Wild Hunt on PlayStation 4. The eight episodes of the Netflix adaptation wasn’t even close to being enough for me, and I can’t wait to experience more when the second season hits. For some reason, despite being a comic guy, I had never actually read the comics until my parents sent me the omnibus for my birthday (it hasn’t happened yet – I just have no patience when it comes to opening gifts for my birthday), and I read the 200 odd pages in two sittings interrupted only by an exhausted sleep.

The book was a fantastic read, and I really enjoyed seeing how the a short story from one of the first two books translated to comic book form (I’d be more specific which book it was from, but I read them back to back and often get which short stories are in which book mixed up), just as it was fun to see a story set after the events of one of the game’s endings. Thankfully, it was the ending I had gotten when playing through, so it could be confusing if you only went through the game once and got a different outcome.

That’s honestly the only downside I can think of to the omnibus. That you may need to know pieces from the other adaptations to enjoy one of the stories within (even though the game isn’t specifically referenced so the story won’t spoil your enjoyment of Wild Hunt), but if you’re somebody like me who has gone all in of Andrej Sapkowski’s creation then you’ll not notice it. Or if you’re willing to accept that certain things have happened that don’t impact the story then you’ll still be able to enjoy the final story.

All in all, it’s a minor complaint.

The art is varied within the omnibus, with the first two tales taking on a more Hellboy-esque look and feel which suits the world of Geralt just fine, and the latter two taking inspiration from the imagery gamers are more familiar with. Either way, I had absolutely no complaints with how the book looked, how it read nor how Tobin and the rest of the creative team handled Geralt of Rivia.

The book will set you back between roughly $25-30 depending which side of the Canadian border you’re on, and it was worth each and every penny for me. If you’re curious about who Geralt is beyond the events in the Netflix show and you haven’t read the books yet, then this is a great introduction. The nature of his long life and many adventures lend themselves well to short pointed stories within a five issue miniseries, which is what makes this book stand out so well; there isn’t an epic story told over hundred of pages, but rather a selection of Geralt’s contracts, his adventures and his stories. So toss a coin to you witcher comic shop and grab this book. You won’t be disappointed


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

Underrated: Comics Not In Diamond’s Top 100 For January 2020

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: Comics not in Diamond’s top 100 sellers for January 2020


This week we’re going to be looking at a list of comics that are all pretty good, but don’t get the attention that they deserve. Now I’m not even going to pretend to have a definitively exhaustive list of underrated comics here, because we’re hoping  that you decide to check at least one of these series out next time you’re looking for something new either online or at your LCS, and giving you a huge list to check out would be counter productive to that. Instead, you’ll find four to six comics that are worth your attention that failed to crack the top 100 in sales. The only hard stipulation for this week: not one of the comics made it into the top 400 (yeah, I went for books that hardly any of you have read for whatever reason) for this month’s comic sales, according to Comichron, which is why they’re Underrated.


Uncle Scrooge #53 (IDW)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 338/2,926
Why You Should Read It:  
I will never apologize for enjoying Disney comics. They’re often aimed at kids, but I’ve rarely ever not enjoyed the vibrant four colour pages. Will they ever make my Top Ten Year End lists? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean they’re still not a genuine pleasure to read (I refuse to call them a guilty pleasure).

Rai #3 (Valiant)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 275/5,080
Why You Should Read It: 
There’s something magical about a story that helps you to ask questions about your place in the world, what it means to be human, when you should resort to violent recourse and how easy it can be to touch the lives of those around you. This comic does all of that.

Quantum & Woody #1 (Valiant)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 203/8,958
Why You Should Read It: 
Obviously I’m going to be biased toward this, but there’s a very British comics style to the first issue of the new series. For me, that’s a major plus, but if it’s not a selling point for you, there’s actually a complete story in this comic from start to finish. And I loved it.

Folklords #3 (Boom)
Rank/Units Sold: 189/9,769
Why You Should Read It: 
Thankfully, more people read the third issue than the second, but this is still a criminally underrated comic. It is a book that rewards close attention; far from predictable, this is another Matt Kindt story that you’re going to wish you read.

The Last God #4 (DC/Black Label)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 159/11,967
Why You Should Read It: 
A comic with two stories being told concurrently – the present and the past, with only 30 years in the difference. The book examines what happens when the legends you believe aren’t entirely true, whilst also dealing with how we came to believe in those same legends. Plus, violence, corruption and a lost innocence and naivety.

Once and Future #6 (Boom)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 144/13,548
Why You Should Read It: 
Reimagining King Arthur as something other than the hero we’ve all come to know and love growing up is an interesting wrench to throw into the mix, but then when you add in the modern elements to the tale whilst centering on a main character who has no idea what’s happening… it’s fantastic stuff. Truly brilliant.

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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: 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: Imperium

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 comic book Imperium


When Valiant Entertainment relaunched in 2012, one of the four books that the publisher started with was Harbinger. Arguably one of Valiant’s signature books, the original series launched in the 90’s with the publisher’s first incarnation. I have never read the 90’s series in full, but have dabbled in an issue here or there (specifically the two that contained chapters of the multi-book crossover Unity). I have, however, read the entirety of the modern Harbinger run, and own a smattering of individual comics and the three deluxe hardcovers containing the story; Harbinger Deluxe Edition One, Harbinger  Deluxe Edition  Two and Harbinger Wars 
Deluxe Edition. Until very recently, I had not read Imperium. While I have had access to the review copies for years, I had long decided that I would rather read the story in print form so I was waiting to pick up the deluxe hard cover edition of Imperium from my LCS. A couple weeks ago, I finally ordered it.

It cost me $65 before taxes and it was worth every penny.

There are easy comparisons to make between the Harbinger story and that of the X-Men, between Toyo Harada and Magneto; an incredibly powerful man who wants peace at any cost. The truth is when I was reading the book there are obvious similarities to the X-Books. Especially now that the X-Men have their own nation state, which is where Imperium finds Toyo Harada and his Foundation.

Joshua Dysart pulls the sixteen issue story in from various places in the Valiant universe, touching upon characters that will be familiar if you have read the previous Harbinger run that I spoke about (again) last week. If you haven’t read those books it shouldn’t be a big deal – the story is told in a way that it can be read alone, but you’ll miss out on some context here and there (and a great build up) if you skip what came before.

Watching Harada build his nation state free of scarcity while fighting the countries that are trying to stop him over the course of sixteen issues is fascinating. We watch him take some extraordinary measures to ensure that he is left alone, and we wonder whether the man is truly as philanthropic and good as his ideal seems or is he as self serving as he sometimes appears?

Although the book is told from Harada’s perspective Dysart never quite leaves you confident that you should be rooting exclusively for him. Should he be stopped? Or does his means justify the ends?

What makes this such a great story is that Dysart has balanced the antagonists so well that nobody seems to be explicitly evil aside from a certain corporation out exclusively for profit, which illustrates the nobility behind Harada’s ideal while underscoring the capitalist nature of our society. There are so many different aspects to this story; the concept of artificial intelligence becoming sentient, does anybody ever truly have free will, the balance of sacrifice for progression of the greater good. What devils do you have to make a deal with?

When it comes to everybody else in this book you have to wonder whether you should root for anyone.

Joshua Dysart’s writing will educate you, encouraging you to think and develop yourself all while delivering one of the greatest stories in comics. That sentence was as true for Harbinger as it is for Imperium. He has a unique ability to distill a greater political and ideological idea down into a story that will never overwhelm a reader but also leaves you thinking about the nature of the politics involved long after the cover has been closed.

Whether this story is one told from the villain’s perspective as he tries to achieve his goals having convinced his followers they are doing the right thing or if it is story about a hero who faces insurmountable odds as he tries to make the world a better place will differ on how you read the book.

And that, for me, makes it an utter masterpiece.

This series is the subject of today’s Underrated because I had long ehard how brilliant the story was from others who have read the book so I ended up reading the full run in almost a single sitting. And I realized that I seldom hear people talk about Valiant’s Harbinger comics, or Toyo Harada. I hope that changes.

Underrated: Harbinger

I was going to write about Imperium this week, but I haven’t finished the hardcover book I picked up Wednesday from my LCS. So instead of rushing a column on a book that deserves a lot more attention than I’d have time to give it, I decided to rerun a column about the series preceeding Imperium.


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 comic book publisher Harbinger


When Valiant Entertainment relaunched in 2012, one of the four books that the publisher started with was Harbinger. Arguably one of Valiant’s signature books, the original series launched in the 90’s with the publisher’s first incarnation. I have never read the 90’s series in full, but have dabbled in an issue here or there (specifically the two that contained chapters of the multi-book crossover Unity). I have, however, read the entirety of the modern Harbinger run, and own a smattering of individual comics and the three deluxe hardcovers containing the story; Harbinger Deluxe Edition One, Harbinger  Deluxe Edition  Two and Harbinger Wars 
Deluxe Edition. The latter also contains four issues of Bloodshot that tie into the Harbinger Wars miniseries – also four issues. The series is also collected in trade paperback as well (though I have no idea how many volumes). I realize I’m rambling at this point, so I’ll get back on to the subject at hand.

It would be easy to compare Harbinger to the various X-Men comics Marvel has released through the years; both feature teenagers with powers originating from a a genetic difference (although Valiant’s psiots need to be activated through risky painful procedures or times of extreme stress whereas Marvel’s mutants just need to hit puberty), and both have a villain character who is more complicated than you would initially expect. While the comparison is justified, it also does a disservice to the Harbinger comics to write them off as another publisher’s X-Men imitation.

Especially because Joshua Dysart’s run on the series (which also include Imperium, which I have inexplicably not finished yet) deals with some really interesting concepts that you don’t often find elsewhere. It’s for this reason that I hold his run as some of the very best team based comics that been published in the last ten years (honestly, I’d also go so far as to say that I’ve ever read).

The characters are wonderfully deep and complex, some are flawed and broken, searching for a redemption that may never come; others are desperately trying to make the world a better place no matter the cost; one wants to destroy a shadowy organization that may or may not have more worldly influence than they should regardless of the cost; and one wants to be a bonafide superhero in a world in which right and wrong and good and evil are not always on the same side. The series, at its most simple description, can be boiled down to two incredibly power psiots, Peter Stanchek and Toyo Harada having a disagreement, and at the outset you know who fills the typical hero/villain positions, but after a few issues you’ll begin to question who you should root for.

Should you root for anyone?

Dysart’s story is a wondrous thing. In giving us a gripping and emotional tale about people who just happen to be caught up in events, people who are just reacting – and not always well – to the stimuli around them, some of whom are super powered, he also leaves us questioning the traditional role of the hero and villain. Much like Magneto and Professor X were allegories for Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 60’s, Stanchek and Harada represent the world we live in today; shades of grey where ethically and morally questionable decisions are made by the people we’re supposed to hold in high esteem. Dysart uses these characters to remind us that beneath the power, the people we follow are just as flawed as the next person. Stanchek, with his position as a hero within the book, has made some pretty fucking awful decisions – ones where forgiveness shouldn’t be given lightly – but then is Harada any better?

We’re only scratching the surface here (and honestly, only the first trade or so if you’re going the non-deluxe route), and Dysart doesn’t let up throughout the run. His writing will educate you, encouraging you to think and develop yourself all while delivering one of the greatest stories in comics.

I don’t mean to discount the artistic contributions to the book, and it may seem that I have, but Harbinger, like almost every Valiant book, features some consistently brilliant artwork by artists, colourists and letterers that will have you asking why you hadn’t heard of them before (since the series wrapped, some have gone on to become more familiar to comic fans in general). I remember reading the comics for the first time and being in awe of what I was seeing; Harbinger remains one of the only series which I have framed on my wall simply because the interlocking covers to issues 7-10 by Mico Suayan are so damn pretty.

The art more than balances the story, which is an impressive feat.

This series is the subject of today’s Underrated because I had forgotten how amazing it was until I sat down and read the full run in almost a single sitting. And I realized that I seldom hear people talk about Valiant’s Harbinger comics, or Toyo Harada. With one of the most complex and interesting characters in the medium getting a six issue miniseries this year, I hope that changes.

Do yourselves a favour, add The Life and Death of Toyo Harada to your pull list now. Preorder the series because, and I say this after having read the first issue already, it’s going to be amazing.


As an addendum to this column, I’d like to say that The Life and Death of Toyo Harada was every bit as good as I hoped. Yes, I am aware that reading the end before the middle isn’t always ideal, but c’est la vie.

Underrated: Comics Not In Diamond’s Top 100 For December ’19

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: Comics not in Diamond’s top 100 sellers for December 2019


This week we’re going to be looking at a list of comics that are all pretty good, but don’t get the attention that they deserve. Now I’m not even going to pretend to have a definitively exhaustive list of underrated comics here, because we’re hoping  that you decide to check at least one of these series out next time you’re looking for something new either online or at your LCS, and giving you a huge list to check out would be counter productive to that. Instead, you’ll find four to six comics that are worth your attention that failed to crack the top 100 in sales. The only hard stipulation for this week: not one of the comics made it into the top 400 (yeah, I went for books that hardly any of you have read for whatever reason) for this month’s comic sales, according to Comichron, which is why they’re Underrated.


Ether: Disappearance of Violet Bell #4 (Dark Horse)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 338/2,700
Why You Should Read It:  
I will never apologize for raving about Matt Kindt. The third volume of Ether, a story about a modern scientist in a fantasy world, has Boone Dias solving a magical mystery using science. It is a magical combination – poor pun intended.

Rai #2 (Valiant)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 267/5,823
Why You Should Read It: 
There’s something magical about a story that helps you to ask questions about your place in the world, what it means to be human, when you should resort to violent recourse and how easy it can be to touch the lives of those around you. This comic does all of that.

Middlewest #13 (Image)
Rank/Units Sold: 209/8,488
Why You Should Read It: 
A young adventurer, a carnival of magicians a destructive tornado and some utterly fantastic artwork. This isn’t your typical coming of age story, and that’s only one of the things that makes it special.

The Last God #2 (DC/Black Label)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 144/12,858
Why You Should Read It: 
A comic with two stories being told concurrently – the present and the past, with only 30 years in the difference. The book examines what happens when the legends you believe aren’t entirely true, whilst also dealing with how we came to believe in those same legends. Plus, violence, corruption and a lost innocence and naivety.

Folklords #2 (Boom)
Rank/Units Sold: 186/9,613
Why You Should Read It: 
A comic that rewards close attention; far from predictable, this is another Matt Kindt story that you’re going to wish you read.

Once and Future #5 (Boom)
Sales Rank/Units Sold: 133/14,330
Why You Should Read It: 
Reimagining King Arthur as something other than the hero we’ve all come to know and love growing up is an interesting wrench to throw into the mix, but then when you add in the modern elements to the tale whilst centering on a main character who has no idea what’s happening… it’s fantastic stuff. Truly brilliant.

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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.

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