Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Avengers #33

Avengers #33

“The Age of Khonshu” begins in Avengers #33 as Moon Knight takes on the Avengers. It’s a solid return of the series giving a fresh start after time off and providing a perfect jumping-on point. Avengers #33 is exactly that, a perfect spot to start reading the series. That’s for both lapsed readers and new readers. There is nothing you need to know coming into this comic.

The issue is very simple, Moon Knight whips some butt as he gathers power for something. We don’t know what and there’s not a whole lot of explanation. Writer Jason Aaron keeps the comic focused and repetitive in a way. Each Avenger is taken by surprise and shocked by Moon Knight’s actions. Rinse. Repeat. But, by doing so, Aaron also keeps the reader on the edge as we don’t know what’s going on. Isn’t Moon Knight a good guy?

There’s teases as to why he might be committing his actions. Is he suffering another mental breakdown? Is he trying to save the planet? All we know is he displays abilities he never has before. The concept of “moon” and Moon Knight’s tie to it feels like it’s expanded for the better. We’re also given a nice variety of Avengers he takes on showing that Moon Knight’s abilities and power has expanded in numerous ways. He’s not just good at combat but also magic.

Aaron also makes sure to deliver some tender moments like when Black Panther walks into the fire ceding control of the team to another. It’s a shocking moment as we the reader realize just how strong Moon Knight has gotten that even a King and someone of Black Panther’s ability is resigned to the fact he’ll likely lose.

Artist Javier Garrón delivers solid action throughout. Along with colorist Jason Keith and letterer Cory Petit the action feels like it evolves in a way throughout the comic as Moon Knight evolves. The opening sequence of Moon Knight vs. Iron Fist is fantastic with at times what feels like manga inspired flair but it also never goes over the top with it to the point the art doesn’t feel like the Avengers or Marvel.

The issue is a solid starting point. While there’s not a ton to the comic itself, it has numerous shocking moments as Moon Knight makes quick work of the Avengers for some goal. It’s an unexpected direction for the character and series and one that also feels welcome in many ways. Moon Knight has always played second tier with times of “indie cred” and it looks like now’s his time to be in the spotlight.

Story: Jason Aaron Art: Javier Garrón
Color: Jason Keith Letterer: Cory Petit
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Outer Darkness/Chew #2

Outer Darkness/Chew #2

There’s no comic on the stands right now that’s having as much fun with its characters than Outer Darkness/Chew #2. This short three-issue crossover story from the minds of John Layman, Afu Chan, and Rob Guillory has reached its halfway point and it made sure every little bit of story got ramped up to 11. Oh, and it doubled down its most metafictional aspects and, well, I think they created a new type of meta in the process.

OD/C #2 sees Tony Chu and John Colby from Chew questioning the means through which they were transported to the world of Outer Darkness to speak with an alien that only communicates through food. They immediately realize that the whole “time-traveling” mumbo jumbo they got as an explanation for their presence isn’t all that genuine. And then it all goes meta.

Layman, Chan, and Guillory take this opportunity to really play around with the idea of one fiction inside another fiction and how it can essentially blow up into an entirely fresh and new kind of world-building. Tony and John realize they were brought into the spaceship, The Charon, by way of some kind of projection that extracts them from their comic book world. And by comic I mean the actual, literal comic. They even mention, and pass judgment, on its creators, Layman and Guillory.

A lot of the issue’s comedy finds itself lodged in this dynamic, with Tony trying to understand what reality is, or if it’s even something that exists for him and his friends, knowing they’re all part of a story created by Layman and Guillory. This actually serves as a good introduction to Chew, as John Colby proceeds to explain the comic’s history along with a few key details here and there. It doesn’t spoil Chew, though. But it makes a good case for diving into the comic whether you’re new to it or not.

With the knowledge of this meta mess Tony and John find themselves in comes the worry of what’ll happen once their services are no longer needed. From here, the story takes on a whole new life and the Food-Talking Alien plot takes a backseat to the fight for the meta survival of the Chewverse.

As fun and outrageous as this is, the shift did take me by surprise, with speed bump or two along the way. The change drastically shifts the balance of the story towards the Chewverse, leaving Outer Darkness a little in, well, the dark. That side of the story feels a bit underdeveloped in this second issue, especially in terms of character development. It makes me wish this crossover were an issue or two longer so that the Outer Darkness crew got some more breathing room.

Also, as much as I love Afu Chan’s art, I wish Guillory’s art also featured more in the issue, and the crossover as a whole. I hope the creative team takes advantage of the different visual styles in both series to mess around with the art in the upcoming final issue.

I did appreciate the scope of the fan service and easter eggs found in the comic. Fans of Guillory’s newest work, for instance, will have a thing or two connecting it to the stories found here and Afu Chan seems to be sneaking in pop culture references in the monster designs (with one in particular reminding me of a famous clown who was seen in theaters not too long ago). This is what I meant by world-building earlier. Each page brings something with it that connects it to the different series, and they can only go bigger. I’m thinking the next issue will double down on this.

I can honestly say I have absolutely no idea what issue #3 of OD/C is going to bring, and this makes me very happy. Despite Outer Darkness being left out a bit in this part of the story, what Layman, Chan, and Guillory have achieved here is gleefully unique and well worth the price of admission. If you buy one comic this week, make sure it’s this one.

Story: John Layman Art: Afu Chan and Rob Guillory,
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0

Recommendation: Buy and then read all of Chew

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Review: Churchill: A Graphic Biography

Ever wanted to learn about Winston Churchill? Churchill: A Graphic Biography walks you through the basics of what you want to know and is a good place to start to learn about this major historical figure.

Text: Vincent Delmas
Translated by: Ivanka Hahnenberger
Historical Consultant: Francois Kersaudy
Story-Board: Christophe Regnault
Design: Alessio Camardella
Art: Alessia Nocera

Get your copy now! To find a comic shop near you, visit http://www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

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Review: Disaster, Inc. #1

Disaster Inc #1

A story about tourism when we can’t go anywhere is a weird sort of escapism. A story about tourism to disaster areas feels appropriate. Disaster, Inc. #1 kicks off an interesting concept of a series.

At its heart, the story is about a rather shady individual running a tourism company that takes those willing to pay into dangerous zones they’re not supposed to go. In this case, the series begins with Fukushima, Japan which was impacted by a nuclear meltdown after a tidal wave.

But, of course that’s not all there is.

Writer Joe Harris gives us a touch of the supernatural kicking off the issue with two researchers who meet an untimely demise. Why and how? Well, that’s the mystery we’re going to figure out, it’s just the tourists have no idea that’s what lays ahead for them.

Harris also delivers a cast that’s generally unlikeable. Beyond the abused assistant Abby, all the tourists and the two other individuals running the tourism operation all come off as people I want to see catch radiation poisoning. And that makes the series really intriguing. Imagine a slasher horror film where you want to see everyone die. There’s something oddly satisfying in that.

The art by Sebastian Piriz with lettering by Carlos M. Mangual is solid. The characters all have personality oozing from how they’re depicted. What Harris doesn’t hint at for personalities through the dialogue, we get the rest of the story through clothing and body language. There’s also some beautiful moments full of unease oozing with unforeseen dread.

Disaster, Inc. #1 kicks off a really intriguing new series from a solid creative team. The concept feels fresh and different. It also feels rather timely considering all of the chaos we’re surrounded by. It’s a different sort of series delivering a little entertaining horror to the real world.

Story: Joe Harris Artist: Sebastian Piriz
Color: Sebastian Piriz Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Rogue Planet #1

Rogue Planet #1

Rogue Planet #1 kicks off an intriguing series blending science fiction and horror for a result that’ll leave you muttering “wtf.” The story follows a salvage crew who follow a signal to a “rogue planet,” one that doesn’t orbit a star but instead floats endlessly through space.

Written by Cullen Bunn, the comic feels rather familiar and for those into deep space science fiction, the comic is a bit been there. Bunn, though, delivers small details and that horror aspect that make this debut stand out. That’s part of the strength of the comic. What feels familiar eventually shifts and leaves you scratching your head. What the salvage crew runs across are the things of horror. While there’s hints as to what we’re looking at, and when you think about it, it all comes together, but each on their own is something new.

And that new really works. Bunn is a master of horror and its use in this sci-fi setting feels fresh. What is presented to feels like something new, at least to me. The visuals are unique.

That uniqueness comes through the art of Andy MacDonald with color by Nick Filardi and lettering by Crank!. It’s hard to describe what’s seen without spoiling the comic. There’s just a level of disgust within that you’ll love or hate. It’s not designs for the squeamish. There’s also lots of small details in the sci-fi aspects. The early part of the comic, some of this world is told through small details added. What we see the crew wearing, or have implanted, helps expand what we’re introduced to.

Rogue Planet #1 is a solid blend of sci-fi and horror and while many aspects are familiar, the overall package is a great read for fans of either genre.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Andy MacDonald
Color: Nick Filardi Letterer: Crank!
Story: 7.25 Art: 7.25 Overall: 7.25 Recommendation: Read

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Review: Basquiat

Basquiat

When one thinks of genius, often it’s associated with the great minds like Aristotle and Socrates. Most often we reserve this title to people who have changed thought in the literal sense. Few seem to use it for art. Mozart was a genius. His music has transcended time and space. It still affects people the same way as when his pieces were first played. You can even look at Leonardo Da Vinci’s murals, and be in awe for hours at how majestic his pieces were.

One such artist whose pieces are still talked about is the wunderkind, Jean-Michel Basquiat. A man whose brilliance as a street artist was more than enough for the mainstream art world to take notice and whose art inspired a new generation of artists. As for his story, outside of a biopic starring a then unknown Jeffrey Wright, whose life was marred by vultures at every corner, looking to take a bite of his light. In Paolo Parisi’s Basquiat, we get a more concise telling of his life and ultimately, his demise.

The graphic novel opens with Mr. Gerard Basquiat, Jean-Michel’s father’s door being knocked on by the NYPD who is there to ask him to identify Jean-Michel’s body, as he has just overdosed on drugs. His father, Gerard’s first memories is not when Jean-Michel was a newborn, but when his marriage fell apart, and when he got to really know his children, especially Jean-Michel. We see that he was an avid artist from a young age, often drawing, everything, from novels to comic books, to people. An accident when he was a child, truly expanded his mind, as a doctor gave him a copy of Gray’s Anatomy. It was a book that showed him endless possibilities.

The graphic novel takes his through the highs and lows of Basquit’s life. From his running away to his first television appearance and his eventual discovery by the world that lead to his fame. There’s also an exploration of the disparity between how black artists and white artists are seen by the world at large leading to race trumping aesthetic.

With the highs, there’s the lows as well such as his contentious relationship with Andy Warhol and the eventual consumption of drugs and heavy partying that would take his life.

Overall, an engrossing chronicle of one of the world’s most celebrated artists, one gone too soon. The story by Paolo Parisi is heartbreaking, epic and intense. The art by Parisi is very much in the spirit of its subject, giving the reader a surreal kaleidoscopic vision. Altogether, a biography of an artist whose story has not been given justice until now with Parisi’s deft hands and vision.

Story: Paolo Parisi Art: Paolo Parisi
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy


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Review: Dead Day #1

Dead Day #1

Dead Day #1 is not what I expected going in to the comic. The concept is that there’s now a random day where the dead return from sundown to sun up. They may want to visit family or they may want to seek revenge. Some celebrate this is a miracle and others the zombie apocalypse.

Writer Ryan Parrott has done a fascinating thing with this concept and series and by the time you reach the end of the first issue, it’s not what you expected at all. The story revolves around a family. The wife, Melissa, wants to celebrate, clearly interested in seeing someone. The husband, Daniel, wants to avoid the event like the plague. The daughter is a bit scared of what’s going on and the son, wants to flirt with a girl who’s part of a cult celebrating Dead Day.

While all of that might seem simple enough, where Parrott takes it all is rather interesting. Daniel’s role is that of a jealous husband in some ways and where he’s coming from is understandable. But, where Melissa’s journey goes, it throws you for a loop. Is it just the individual returning that Daniel has issues with? Is it something more in his wife’s past? Things aren’t so simple.

There’s also a solid exploration of this event and what it means on a global scale. The celebration by some, the conspiracy theories, the hatred of it by others, the fear overall, it’s all there and touched upon in various ways. There’s a lot to explore and Parrott delivers it all in an intelligent way fleshing out and creating a realized world and situation.

The art by Evgeniy Bornyakov with colors by JUANCHO! and lettering by Charles Pritchett is fantastic. There’s a tension in the art as idyllic as it is. There’s something there that feels ominous. When we do get to see the dead, that too is done intelligently with a lot being hinted at and hidden under masks and nothing too over the top to distract.

Dead Day #1 is a hell of a debut. The team has put together a comic that introduces you to so much in one issue and really sets things up in an exciting way. There’s back matter material too that fleshes out this holiday and event even more that makes it feel fully realized. This is a hell of a start and from the first issue it feels like Dead Day is something to celebrate.

Story: Ryan Parrott Art: Evgeniy Bornyakov 
Color: JUANCHO! Letterer: Charles Pritchett
Story: 9.0 Art: 8.75 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Star Wars Doctor Aphra #1

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #1

The new volume of Star Wars: Doctor Aphra (Which received a surprise digital release on Star Wars Day) combines the worlds of space adventure and academia into one entertaining package. The elevator pitch for Doctor Aphra is that she is Indiana Jones in space, but a queer woman of color. She also has a more dubious moral compass than Dr. Jones and is one of the best additions to the Star Wars canon since Marvel took over their comics license.

Alyssa Wong, Marika Cresta, and Rachelle Rosenberg do right by Aphra and focus on the archaeological side of her character as she teams up with a pair of female archaeologists to find the Rings of Vaale, which have great power, are cursed, and may not even exist. There’s an also an undercurrent of the conflict between intellectual curiosity and unbridled wealth in the comic’s antagonist, Tagge, a spoiled rich kid that thinks he can buy anything or anyone even an ex-tenured archaeology professor. But Doctor Aphra #1 isn’t all serious stuff. There’s also a healthy dose of gun play and intrigue to make the comic an even more enjoyable experience.

I haven’t read a Doctor Aphra comic since Kieron Gillen, her co-creator, left her solo title, but an action-packed cold open drew me into the story before the title page. Seeing Aphra in a snowtrooper disguise pulling double-crosses at Echo Base during the conclusion of the Battle of Hoth is pure fun and grounds the narrative in a time where the Empire thinks it has the Rebel Alliance on the ropes. Visually, Cresta and Rosenberg contribute smooth artwork to go with Wong’s quips, and it’s easy to follow every blaster bolt or sniper shot as well as surprise AT-AT’s. (It’s Hoth, what do you expect.)

In a bigger storytelling picture, Alyssa Wong and Marika Cresta resist the temptation to decompress and pad out scenes in Doctor Aphra #1. They provide the “great hits” of an action sequence, focusing on the coolest or most impactful moment like spending a single panel on Aphra and her crew’s flight from Hoth (Complete with speed lines.) after they spot the aforementioned AT-AT’s.

This economy of narrative extends to the quieter scenes too with Aphra, her former colleague Eustacia Okka, and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed grad student/fangirl Detta Yao laying out their character motivations and agreeing to team up to go after the Rings of Vaale in a single page. Aphra wants money, Eustacia wants her faculty position back, and Detta wants to write her dissertation and also has a kind of true believer connection to the Rings. Marika Cresta’s art is really what sells this pivotal page as she portrays Aphra as a pragmatist and poker player maneuvering to the side while she draws Detta with more open body language.

Alyssa Wong has done an excellent job crafting a core for these characters to build on throughout the series. This goes along with their distinct quirks like Aphra’s flexible approach to morality, Detta’s idealistic approach to the field of archaeology and academia in general, and Eustacia having a “TA” droid, which is this comic’s best joke. They are characters that I can really root for to accomplish their career goals and find the Rings, which will make their inevitable betrayal or moral compromise that much more painful. (This is usually the end result of running with Aphra; that or bumping into a certain Sith apprentice.)

Doctor Aphra #1 has all the hallmarks of a good Star Wars Expanded Universe story as it uses this rich world to tell an adventure story bursting with fun art from Marika Cresta and Rachelle Rosenberg and characters that are easy to connect to. Alyssa Wong also touches on deeper themes like faith and doubt and the connection between money and the academy. Fingers crossed that we see what an Outer Rim university tenure board review is like.

Story: Alyssa Wong Art: Marika Cresta
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg Letters: Joe Caramagna
Story: 8.2 Art: 7.8 Overall: 8.0  Recommendation: Buy


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Review: Basketful of Heads #7

Basketful of Heads #7

Basketful of Heads deserves to be mentioned along the same lines as Meir Zarchi’s I Spit On Your Grave and Park Chan-wook’s Lady Vengeance, movies that flip the idea of revenge on its head. These films create characters that match male violence with a unique female resolve to return it in kind, and then some. Joe Hill and Leomacs’ story about a girl with a magical axe and the means to use it on corrupt and evil men does precisely that while also adding a thing or two to make the violence on display say more than it’s usually allowed to.

This seven-issue series, largely inspired by the aforementioned films plus a healthy dose of EC Horror comics, sets its aims on a cast of evil men that try to keep lead character June Branch from rescuing her boyfriend—a police officer named Liam that threatened to expose the corruption behind Brody Island’s own police force.

Issue #7 brings things to an already expected final showdown with the biggest and baddest cop of the bunch, but it does so with an unexpected twist. I won’t spoil it here, but Hill and Leomacs wade through lesser known waters to look at different kinds of evil and just how well they work in tandem even when they’re not directly related. Just how severely the men who succumb to these evils should be punished is a question that is answered as clear as an axe to the neck. It makes you think on what’s tolerable and what shouldn’t be.

That the final confrontation has echoes of Cape Fear in it and how it plays out also adds to the overarching sense of discovering new roads towards retribution that deal with the bad things we’ve yet tired of facing.

As has been the case throughout the entire run, Leomac’s art and Dave Stewart’s colors continue to bring out every ounce of 70s horror the story taps into to the forefront without letting those same elements overpower the narrative. There’s a sense of impending blood-letting that is carried by the colors that crescendos to the point of complete synchronicity with the unraveling of the story.

Letterer Deron Bennett continues to take advantage of every opportunity to give the SFX and the text a life of its own. Bennett does an amazing job of giving everything a very rhythmic and animated quality, with sounds bleeding into the background and speech bubbles threatening to burst with the violence behind some of its lines. Basketful of Heads had a team that understood the story and what it needed to shine.

If the first six issues didn’t make it clear enough, Hill’s script set out to make the story’s message crystal clear in its conclusion: bad men make the world a horrible place, and they’re good at it. The talking heads of evil men hound June almost constantly and each new male character that emerges into the story is always just shy of having a sign over his head reading “bad man about to get chopped.”

Much like the EC Horror comics of old, the message is spelled out without an ounce of subtlety in the process. While it’s an interesting message to keep exploring (being that it’s timeless, unfortunately), I did feel it tried way too hard to make sure everyone got it. It’s classically moralist—a true ‘good vs. evil’ story that’s comforting to have around when grey areas get too muddy—but by the final pages I was getting a bit impatient with it as I had got it from the first issue onward.

Fortunately, this doesn’t interfere with the enjoyment of Basketful of Heads. The final moments do a great job of bringing everything full circle and the twists and turns in this final issue do bring new things to the table in terms of who also deserves the axe but doesn’t always get it. It’s worthy of discussion and it invites a controversial opinion or two. I guess that’s the thing about stories with axes. No matter the cut, they always leave a bloody mess behind.

Story: Joe Hill Art: Leomacs
Color: Dave Stewart Letterer: Deron Bennett
Story: 9.0 Art: 10 Overall: Buy and read it to your axe

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Review: Playboy #1

Playboy #1

Viggo Mortensen is one of those actors whose ability to blend into films is what makes him so magnetic. In each of his films, he brings both a strength and tenderness to the role. Like most pop culture fans, I initially found out about him in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. His portrayal of Aragorn in that film was of a reluctant hero, one that people can see in  Kit Harington’s portrayal of Jon Snow in Game Of Thrones.

It this exact archetype which he brings something so personal too, that this wasn’t the only film which he has done this. His most recent work in The Green Book which gave him such gravitas, you can’t help but admire. This can also be seen in History Of Violence, where the character’s true nature comes out in more than one instance. In the debut issue of Playboy, we find a protagonist much like the ones played by Mortensen, whose true nature only requires some gesturing

We meet Leroy Armstrong, a headstrong soldier, who is caught up in a firefight and is pinned down, being one of the only men left in his platoon, and because of his actions get kicked out of the Marines. Fast forward to the present day, where he live snow in a city called Vegas, as he enjoys civilian life, making a living as a Gigolo. He has a woman, a house, and even a roommate, his best friend, Kitchen and a dog, needless to say, his adjustment has been pretty smooth so far. By issue’s end, Leroy gets some unknown unwanted company, in the form of some men dressed in black suits and sunglasses, looking to take his head.

Overall, Playboy #1 is an interesting debut issue that introduces an intriguing protagonist. The story by Johnny O’Bryant and Corey Mikell is entertaining. The art by Mikhail Sebastian is gorgeous. Altogether, an excellent introduction to this world and these characters.

Story: Johnny O’Bryant and Corey Mikell Art: Mikhail Sebastian
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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