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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.

Review: Miles Morales: Spider-Man #2

Miles is getting closer to solving the mystery of the thievery ring plaguing Brooklyn, but the Rhino has complicated matters quite a lot. Rhino doesn’t usually have minions preferring to charge alone. What’s behind this change of methodology? Plus, meet a new antagonist who may just become Miles’ most dangerous foe!

Okay, permit me to give you a bit of context regarding where my head was at when opening this comic. I’d not had the best of days. To put it mildly (professionally – thankfully all my loved ones are okay). It was the kind of day where the absolute last thing I wanted to do was come home and write about comics. The last thing. Then I read this comic, and for ten minutes I lost myself; because of Miles Morales, I forgot what was bothering me. Because of the Rhino, my shoulders felt a lot lighter.

And suddenly, I wanted to write about comics. Specifically, Miles Morales: Spider-Man #2. Now I understand that not everybody will be in the same place as me when reading this comic, and I know that technically I should remain objective and logically look at the merits of this book, but that’s not going to happen. Whenever one reads a book or comic, listens to music or watches a movie then then one will have, on some scale, an emotional reaction. And I had one with this comic; I had fun while reading it. For the fifteen minutes it took me to read this, I had forgotten my troubles and I didn’t care about tomorrow. I was happy and lost within the pages of a comic book.

At this point, you’re probably wondering when I’ll start talking about the book itself. I appreciate your patience, dear reader, and will let you know that while the first issue was fun, this was amazing. Sensational, even. The first issue found Spider-Man battling the Rhino over a misunderstanding (and without giving too much away, it’s a pretty hilarious issue), but this issue took everything that worked and runs with it. Saladin Ahmed has such a wonderful grasp of the characters within this book that each page’s dialogue a vibrantly natural feeling. The pacing is spot on; relentless, exhausting. A day in the life of Miles Morales is not for the faint of heart. Although it makes an awesome comic.

But as good as the writing is, Javier Garron and David Curiel match every beat. Garron’s layouts, choreography and kinetic figures carry remarkable weight on the page (especially Rhino). Curiel adds the cherry on top of a pretty fantastic pie with his colouring. Artistically the book is solid. Very, very solid.

Objectively, this may not be the best Spider-Man comic you’ll ever read, but it was exactly the comic I needed to read today. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also very good, but the impact for me was immeasurable. Sometimes the right comic (or song or whatever) can lift you, and Miles Morales: Spider-Man #2 has done that for me. So thank you, Saladin Ahmed. Thank you Javier Garron. Thank you David Curiel. Thank you for being the bright spot in a day that was, up until the opening of this comic, pretty shitty.

Story: Saladin Ahmed Art: Javier Garron Colours: David Curiel
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Underrated: X-O Manowar: Birth

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

 


 

I’ve been a Valiant fan for nearly four years now, and while I have dabbled in the original comics (affectionately known as VH1 among the fanbase), it has primarily been the modern era, comics from 2012 to the present day (known as the VEI era), that has been my reading and collecting focus. But a couple of weeks ago, the owner of my LCS returned from visiting one of his other stores with a hardcover for me because he thought I’d be interested. That hardcover reprinted the first six issues of the original X-O Manowar run from 1992, the #o issue and an original story featuring the origin of one the early issues villains. This collection represents the earliest comics from Valiant I’ve yet read, and although I prefer the 2012 origin for X-O Manowar, I can understand why Valiant was able to hook fans in with the original X-O stories. I’m looking at this book today from the perspective of somebody who has read a lot, or even some, of the modern X-O Manowar comics before ever touching the original VH1 run, and asking whether that person would be interested in looking to the past.

If you’re at all familiar with Aric of Dacia, the X-O Manowar armour and his abduction and subsequent return to Earth then you’ll know the essence of the plot this book. The 2012 origin took a lot from these six or seven comics, and although some details were updated or modified, the the influence the original story still bears upon the modern is easy to see. Aside from Aric’s Hulk-like speech patterns that do, thankfully, begin to diminish as he learns English, the barbarian’s character still shows flashes of the man he will become when the publisher relaunched.

The Vine are replaced with the Spider-Aliens, although aside from the name there is little that distinguishes them from the first few comics in the 2012 run. Where as the Vine become one of the more interesting and complex plot points in the VEI stories, the Spider-Aliens show little of the same qualities at this point (yes, there are signs that there is more to the Vine within the first three issues of the VEI run), but then that really just makes it easier to enjoy the battle carnage as Aric tears his way through the soldiers and corporate representatives of the Spider-Aliens.

Although you can enjoy the book without any prior knowledge, for a Valiant fan of the old or new school (or both) this beautifully presented book is a must read. And most of us will seek the story out if we can, but for those not entrenched in Valiant lore, this standalone story here represents an Underrated gem from comics history.


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

Preview: Fence Vol. 2 SC

Fence Vol. 2 SC

Publisher: BOOM! Box, an imprint of BOOM! Studios
Writer:  C.S. Pacat
Artist: Johanna the Mad
Colorist: Joana Lafuente
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Cover Artist: Johanna the Mad
Price: $14.99

Tryouts are well underway at King’s Row for a spot on the prestigious fencing team, and scrappy fencer Nicholas isn’t sure he’s going to make the grade in the face of nearly impossible odds, and his seemingly unstoppable roommate, the surly, sullen Seiji Katayama.

It’ll take more than sheer determination to overcome a challenge this big!

Collects issues #5-8

Fence Vol. 2 SC

Review: Man Without Fear #1

Man Without Fear #1

Daredevil is gone, but Hell’s Kitchen is still a place of heroes and villains. Foggy Nelson (issue #1), the Defenders (issue #2), the many loves of Matt Murdock (issue #3), the Kingpin (issue #4) and a mysterious Guardian Devil (issue #5) will all learn what it means to live in a world without a Daredevil. And without a Daredevil to protect it, has hell come for his city? Who is The Man Without Fear?!

Daredevil is beaten and broken, laying in a coma. The abuse from over the years and his latest battle have taken its toll leaving his future in doubt. What impact does that have on the area he protected? What does it mean to his friends? Man Without Fear #1 begins to explore this with a focus on Matt Murdock’s best friend, Foggy Nelson.

Writer Jed MacKay delivers a solid first issue that has Foggy reflecting on his friendship and history with Matt and Daredevil while at the same time having Matt explore his life. Within his coma he’s battling his demons, literally and figuratively.

It’s nothing new and groundbreaking in framing or storytelling but it’s a touching issue. Its focus and emphasis on the friendship, and heartache that has come with it, is a solid beginning to the series. It also leaves open some questions as to whether it really will be Matt returning to his previous role as Daredevil.

The art by Danilo S. Beyruth with color by Andres Mossa and lettering by Clayton Cowles is interesting. Beyruth’s art style doesn’t stand out as something I remember from elsewhere but here its haunting touches make the story stand out. It’s a good mix of art to the tone of the story. There’s some nice touches here and there emphasizing the nightmarish experience Matt is having while in a coma and there’s a good focus on Daredevil’s history even if it’s just in the background.

While there’s nothing particularly wrong with Man Without Fear #1, the first issue feels like it might benefit from reading the entire series in trade form at once. This is one for the hardcore Daredevil fans right now but might be a solid read once it’s all wrapped up.

Story: Jed MacKay Art: Danilo S. Beyruth
Color: Andres Mossa Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a Free copy for review

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We can not guarantee anything but your name in the writing credits (perfect for someone building a portfolio), but we will work with you to help you cover and write about the things you’re interested in.

Graphic Policy will open up its ability to obtain review copies, press passes and more for those who regularly post to the site. Your posts belong to you and you are free to post them here and other sites as well!

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Underrated: Power Rangers (the 2017 movie)

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.

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