One of the best releases of the last decade of comics is Top Shelf‘s Marchtrilogy which details the life of Congressman John Lewis. Lewis was an instrumental individual in the Civil Rights movement. That successful graphic novel lead Top Shelf to partner with the Fellowship of Reconciliation to publish a new edition of the Martin Luther King and The Montgomery Story. The comic is an amazing piece of history that has been used to promote peaceful, non-violent protests around the world, being translated into numerous languages.
The 16-page comic is a wonderful summary of the Civil Rights movement taking individuals through the methods and thought process used to protest Montgomery’s policy that African Americans were to ride in the back of the bus. The narration is from an individual named “Jones” and his experience through the protest. After the story wraps up, there’s a step-by-step checklist that breaks down the exact methodology used and also how it’s been used throughout the world, in particular, to win India’s independence.
Top Shelf focused not just on reprinting the comic in modern standards, they used similar paper and coloring from the time that it originally was printed. This looks like a copy you might have held decades ago. A fantastic recreation of an important piece of comic and civil rights history.
Everyone should check this out, to learn about United States history, but also how comics have been used to create change and in political movements. Comics have been political since their formation over 100 years ago and have been a tool to fight for political change ever since.
While it’s difficult to get a print copy, there are a few options to at least read it digitally.
Story: Alfred Hassler, Benton Resnik Art: Sy Barry Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy
From what we’ve seen in Phonogram: The Singles Clubso far, Lloyd is more concerned with telling various phonomancers about his “plan” to show pop music’s dark, hypocritical subtext by combining new public domain melodies with “hyper-lewd post-spank-rock sex lyrics”. He’s more critic than an artist or even fan (Except for the Dexys Midnight Runners.) in those five issues. So it’s fitting that Phonogram: The Singles Club #6, Lloyd’s comic, is in zine form and takes place after the revelries are over in his bedroom where he writes about them in his grimoire, er, zine.
In the past, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson show that Lloyd is all about theory, not praxis as evidenced by his awkwardness around dancing and wanting to fanboy over David Kohl instead of having drinking and having a good time at the club. Now we get to see these events from his POV, and it shows that he definitely is all about analysis calling music “sublimated emotion” and his grimoire “sublimated thought”. Lloyd has all these ideas about music, bands, and even people, and he uses writing to basically exorcise them and get them out in the open from his thoughts on David Kohl’s mortality (Their chat was chat was apparently an “interview”) to an essay on why Dexys Midnight Runners means so much to him and finally a poem about Penny on the dance floor.
The Dexys essay really brings out that push and pull between fandom and criticism as Lloyd puts on their single “Plan B” to help him calm down after a very emotional car ride. McKelvie does a fantastic job of showing his pain on the first place as he wrinkles his eyes and puts his fist on the door before throwing a vase of flowers, a classic symbol of love and devotion. However, once Lloyd gets to his room he’s all business, putting on a record, and then pulling out his typewriter and getting to work on his grimoire. I can definitely connect to him finding comfort through putting his thoughts about a certain topic in order, and it’s something I have done myself after a tough breakup or a tough emotional bit. Like, I’m taking a break from that part of my brain and going to use the other one.
I get that kind of analytical vibe from Lloyd as he basically reports on events of Phonogram: The Singles Club usually mainly prose, but also collage and even a really fun comic to illustrate his “master plan”, which honestly works more effectively than the multiple times he told folks about it. It’s also interesting that the three people in the band look like stick figure versions of him, Penny, and Laura Heaven. And Lloyd totally still wants Penny to be the frontwoman as he does an extra little ritual before writing out her response to his plan as well as the aforementioned poem. Gillen captures Lloyd’s eloquence in describing how Penny dances to “Pull Shapes” with some killer lines like “My mocking words are turned to chalk and dust by her every step…” It’s the perfect verbal companion to the splash page at the end of The Singles Club #1, and it’s nice that Lloyd got to enjoy that moment too. In theory, never in practice although that will change by the end of this issue.
On the other end of the spectrum is Lloyd’s relationship with Laura Heaven. (And, no, we haven’t seen the last of it.) Gillen and McKelvie truly understand the tragedy of a missed emotional and intellectual connection with someone as Lloyd waxes poetic about he and Laura are on on the same page about his plan, but then she leaves the cab, and then he starts ripping up the zine page. They have a kind of chemistry, and it’s all dashed to pieces as Lloyd falls on the band surrounded by sigils with McKelvie giving him an aimless stare. Wilson keeps the color palette a neutral sepia because it’s a little bit of a flashback as Lloyd is thinking back to last night, but mostly, he’s not feeling super magical.
But the magic returns in the final four pages of Phonogram: The Singles Club #6 as Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson capture the euphoric feeling of listening to a song by a new band for the first time. (A band that you will probably fall in love with.) They kick it off with a tight, six-panel flashback of David Kohl basically nudging Lloyd to expand his horizons beyond Dexys and suggesting Los Campesinos!, who had just started during the events of this story, released two albums before the publication of The Singles Clubs, and are considered indie legends today. Instead of overanalyzing his personality, Kohl and Lloyd have a nice chat about music, and it leads to Lloyd going on MySpace (So much nostalgia!) and streaming “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives”.
What follows is a love story in motion as Lloyd dances all around his bedroom to the track, only moving to headphones when he gets a noise complaint, and his new grimoire is inspired by them. McKelvie shows the progression of his interest in the artist as he clicks on the song, starts moving his hands around and makes a comment about the lyrics, and then finally goes into full dance mode. In a single panel, Lloyd demonstrates more vigor and physical energy than in the previous five issues, and it’s redemptive for him as he’s genuinely a fan of good indie and pop music and not just a critic stuck in a niche, or worse, a rut. He had a rough night, but now he has some new tunes and a new lease on life and his grimoires/zines. As a comics critic, it’s the equivalent of stepping outside of your usual beat and creators and enjoying some new kind of work.
Phonogram: The Singles Club #6 is all about how a new artist and/or song can be quite refreshing, especially if you’re prone to overanalysis like poor Lloyd. (I was probably a little too hard on him last article.) Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson also craft a homage to fanzines and the power of putting passion into words and images like Lloyd does in this issue before burning it all down to be consumed by a new song. And the dancing at the end is really a nice transition to the final and arguably best issue of Phonogram The Singles Club even though Lloyd and Kid-with-Knife are polar opposites.
Welcome to another edition of Skeletons from my Stack. A review series wherein I finally get around to reading graphic novels that have been sitting on the “to-be-read” stack on my nightstand for far too long. Thanks to a three day holiday weekend, I finally had a chance to read Goddess Mode. This limited series, written by Zoë Quinn and drawn by Robbi Rodriguez, was on my radar well before the first issue hit stands. Unfortunately, with all the other comics I was reading, I couldn’t afford to buy it in single issues. At the time, and outside of my review projects, I read titles by DC Comics exclusively, and as excited as I was for this unique series, I had no choice but to wait for the trade paperback. Meanwhile, the pandemic occurred and shutdown comic book production and shipments. Once things started to open back up, there was still a lull between my comic book store reopening and Diamond resuming shipments. Making the most out of a bad situation, I was finally able to purchase a copy of the Goddess Mode trade paperback from my local comic book shop.
Goddess Mode takes place half in the real world and half in the completely digital world of Azoth. In the technological realm of Azoth, science meets magic as Oracles battle against Daemons. Oracles, people whose minds have been dragged into Azoth, possess abilities unique to themselves. In order to escape from Azoth, an Oracle must defeat a Daemon, the dark pieces of corrupt code that feed on human suffering. The trade paperback starts with two pages that present the background details I just described in a clever play on a FAQ web page. Unfortunately, this section may have been misplaced. The beginning of this comic not only has really slow pacing but has little to do with the info provided on the first two pages. Further, many of the pieces of information that are mentioned in the opening FAQ are then restated in the first dozen dialogue-heavy pages.
“IF THEY WANT TO BE RELENTLESS, WE CAN BE DAUNTLESS”
The pace picks up soon after, though the book continues to be dialogue heavy. Quinn uses her wordy script to explore her characters. The amount of character development she manages, while still moving the plot forward and sprinkling in elements of mystery, is quite impressive. The Oracles were my favorite part of this mini-series. Unfortunately, by the end of the book, the Oracles don’t get the treatment they deserved. I found the climax to be very confusing. I re-read the last two issues twice, and I still can’t adequately explain the story’s true central conflict, the answer to the overarching mystery, or the Oracles’ true role in Azoth.
I love the contrast of colors between digital Azoth and the analog real world. The neon bright colors Rico Renzi uses for Azoth pop off the page. I also loved Robbi Rodriguez’s character designs. Every Oracle is unique and has their own distinct attitude that’s obvious just from the way they’re drawn. I got the best kind of cyberpunk Sailor Moon vibe (minus the matching school girl outfits) from the Oracles as I read through the book. Simon Bowland is due commemoration for his lettering skills. He not only has to fit a lot of dialogue into most panels, but has to do it across multiple fonts and formats. I do wish the action scenes were drawn a little clearer, specifically the Oracles using their special powers. Most of the fights wind up being talking heads and blurred bodies. When the Oracles use their powers, it’s not always obvious which one’s abilities are manifesting. Other times they use their powers in the background of a panel and the details become so small that it’s hard to tell what’s going on.
“WHEN LIFE IS DOING ITS DAMNDEST TO KILL YOU, EVERY DAY YOU SURVIVE IS A VICTORY.”
Goddess Mode’s story is entertaining but it struggles tonally. Quinn never really finds a balance between elements of mystery and action/adventure. The character development is great but the story itself winds up being confusing. The characters look great when they’re standing still but the visual quality and clarity declines when they’re drawn in motion. Luckily, the colors and lettering keep panels looking interesting even when it becomes hard to tell what’s going on. All in all, I’m glad I finally got around to reading this Skeleton from my Stack, but I don’t think I’d ever choose to read Goddess Mode a second time.
The Walking Dead returns in full color with extras! The Walking Dead Deluxe takes us back to the beginning with each issue now featuring full color. There’s also extras of what might have been with notes as part of “The Cutting Room Floor.”
What’s it like to revisit this modern classic? How does it change all these years later… and in color? Find out!
Story: Robert Kirkman Art: Tony Moore Color: Dave McCaig Letterer: Rus Wooton
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.
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site
Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.
These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.
Future State: Dark Detective #1 (DC)– Bruce Wayne/Batman is presumed dead and broke as hell in the excellent lead story by Mariko Tamaki, Dan Mora, and Bellaire. They channel all kinds of fun influences, including Dark Knight Returns, the Snyder/Capullo run (Especially in Mora’s art style and the new costume), Batman Beyond, and even Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. However, “Dark Detective” is really about a man whose vigilante activity basically led to an authoritarian regime. During the scenes where Bruce isn’t fighting wannabe mutant gang muggers, Bellaire uses a garish color palette that definitely makes it feel like he is a fish out of water with the bright lights exposing his sadness and brokenness. But the reason I enjoyed this comic the most is the laser sight focus Tamaki and Mora give to Bruce’s character with every narrative caption, glance at cheese fries when he can only afford a cup of coffee, or missed punch telling the tale of a defeated man, who might just have a chance at a comeback. Because he’s Batman. Matthew Rosenberg, Carmine Di Giandomenico, and Antonio Fabela’s Grifter backup has a little less introspection and little more action. Cole Cash goes from cheating at cards to on the run from the Peacemakers and runs into Luke Fox, who he ends up teaming up with to finally get out of Gotham. Di Giandomenico’s fight choreography is impeccable as he uses playing card shaped panels to show Grifter in the middle of a bar fighter and uses wider, more explosive panels when he and Fox bust out of a paddy wagon. Rosenberg’s script has a real “if fun is outlawed, then only outlaws will have fun, and Fox and Grifter’s banter is a nice relief from the incredibly stressful situations they find themselves in. Overall: 9.0 Verdict: Buy
Future State: Justice League #1 (DC)– Joshua Williamson, Robson Rocha, Henriques, and Romulo Fajardo tell an old school style Justice League story with a fresh cast of characters. Williamson is smart and keeps the cast small with new versions of Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, and Batman plus Arthur and Mera’s daughter, Andy Curry aka Aquawoman. This allows for everyone sans GL (Who is the highly competent Jo Mullein from Far Sector) and Batman to build a bond even though the league’s new charter forbids fraternization. Williamson really follows the throughline of the sins of the last generation being visited on the current, both in his choice of villain and in key, cryptic flashbacks. This can also be seen in Rocha and Henrique’s art, which is like Howard Porter’s work on JLA, but with less chaotic layouts and anatomy. Ram V and Marcio Takara’s Justice League Dark is offbeat, but still epic with Zatanna, Detective Chimp (Who shares a body with Etrigan), Ragman, John Constantine, and some surprise guests holding out against the totalitarian rule of Merlin. There’s plenty of mystery (Etrigan won’t fight Merlin’s forces), action, and humor with a touch of foreboding symbolism even though V is in fun team-up mode compared to his work on, say, Swamp Thing. I really enjoy the medieval dystopian vibes that Takara’s art brings to the book as well as the characters riffing and bouncing off each other while the stakes rise. Overall: 8.4 Verdict: Buy
Commanders in Crisis #4 (Image)– Steve Orlando and Davide Tinto trot out a big, multiversal plot twist and have fun with the sympathetic villain tropes in Commanders in Crisis #4. The Crisis Command has found the killer of empathy and tries to figure out his motives and plans in the next 24 hours. Tinto’s art is clean and pleasing, and he excels at both the big action scenes and talking heads. This issue does have a big superhero fight, but Orlando and Tinto basically show how it’s all for nothing as the team learns something new and mysterious about one of their members. Commanders in Crisis #4 has some interesting reveals and cool worldbuilding to wrap up the first arc and digs an even deeper hole for the Crisis Command. The issue and the series so far definitely seem the like the first chapter in a complex epic. Overall: 7.9 Verdict: Buy
Autumnal #4 (Vault)– Daniel Kraus and Chris Shehan fill Autumnal #4 with revelations and potential answers of why this too perfect, leaf raking addicted suburban town is so real. When Kat’s research at the local library is curtailed, she ends up at the trailer park of Carol, an old elementary school classmate who is a heroin addict and badly disfigured after the 1996 roller rink fire Kat was looking into. Carol begins by giving just the bare details of the event, but breaks into a total flashback of a woman named Clemence, who lived in the woods and whose child with the mayor’s son was killed by him so things would be “normal”. Shehan’s art is scratchier and more horrific in these flashbacks to go with Jason Wordie’s intense color palette that is the opposite of how what he usually does for the town. The horror in Autumnal comes from a town not willing to deal with its own trauma and simmering in it while shunning folks who care about the truth like Carol and Kat. This theme is laid out by Kat’s tattoo remover, who she is getting a bit close to. Autumnal #4 adds more depth and backstory to the series plus some macabe visuals from Shehan and Wordie. Overall: 8.6 Verdict: Buy
Heavy #4 (Vault)– Max Bemis, Eryk Donovan, and Cris Peter combine multiverse rending action with a character defining moment for Bill as he and Slim band together to take down multiple iterations of Moore, a rogue agent of The Wait.(Think Purgatory, but more bureaucracy) Donovan and Peter bring the over the top violence and candy colors, but soften things sometimes like when Bill thinks back to his wife, who was more spiritual than him when he was alive. The entire issue is hinged around a moral choice, and it’s heartening to see Bill make the best of two terrible options as Bemis’ script skewers the idea of a hero. Of course, it doesn’t end well, and Heavy #4 turns back to dark comedy with its new status quo. Action, raunchy comedy, out of the box artwork, and yes, even a nice touch of moral philosophy, Heavy really has it all. Overall: 8.8 Verdict: Buy
Marauders #17 (Marvel)- With Sebastian Shaw conveniently out of the way, Marauders #17 sluggishly tries to pick up a new plotline. Gerry Duggan juggles lots of things in this issue from Emma Frost planning a party/potential assassination of Shinobi Shaw and Kate rewarding the Lowtown mutants for nursing Lockheed to health and learning more about the gentrification in Madripoor. There’s also the ritual combat between Callisto and Storm, which has the strongest emotional resonance, as Storm sees it as her last debt owed to Krakoa before she can fly free. (Basically, she kills Callisto to restore Callisto’s full powers.) Matteo Lolli’s art can be quite striking at times like any time Storm and Callisto interact, or Kate Pryde threatening wealthy people. However, this title is really still finding its footing post “Kill Shaw” and X of Swords. Overall: 7.0 Verdict: Read
SWORD #2 (Marvel)– This is a “King in Black” tie-in, but it’s also an Al Ewing comic, and he and Valerio Schiti do an excellent job of showing how this rag tag, yet perfectly matched ability-wise team works under pressure. D-list villains like Mentallo and Fabian Cortez play key roles in Abigail Brand’s plan to secure Krakoa from Knull and enact “Protocol V”, which we get to see in action this issue. The data pages add more context to Brand’s plan and shows that she’s competent, definitely a pragmatist, and more than a little amoral. Ewing’s skill writing an ensemble cast stands out in this book as each SWORD member or key guest star gets their chance to shine. Wiz Kid shrugging off Grendel dragons like they’re flies on his windshield is quite funny and epic thanks to Schiti and Marte Gracia’s full page spread. Schiti really knows when to go to wide screen, or cut to a good closeup like when Cortez is trying to curry favor with Magneto to have more influence on the Quiet Council. SWORD #2 is a master class in how to do team comics and is a tie-in that enhances the King in Black event, shows how it really affects Krakoa, and above all, is an opportunity for Brand to show her mettle. Overall: 9.0 Verdict: Buy
King in Black: Thunderbolts #1 (Marvel)– This is basically Marvel Suicide Squad, but with Kingpin instead of Waller. However, it’s a fun time, and Kingpin’s reasoning for choosing the name Thunderbolts is very on-point. Matthew Rosenberg and Juan Ferreyra create a high level of tension as Taskmaster, Star, Ampere, Snakehead, Rhino, Batroc, and Mr. Fear travel Knull-ridden New York looking for Fisk’s mysterious contact. Most characters get to prove their competence like Taskmaster beheading a symbiote in silhouette, but there is definitely a feeling of being overmatched and escaping by the skin of one’s teeth throughout this comic. Add in fun banter from Rosenberg, a great final page reveal, Ferrerya having a ball showing unmasked Mr. Fear and Taskmaster in a Goth-meets-nu metal New York City, and you’ve got a nice popcorn read. Villain protagonists in limited series are always a good time. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy
Future State: Robin Eternal (DC Comics) – An intriguing concept that has some interesting aspects but it takes a bit too long to get to the point and action. It’s a heist comic, get to the heist. Instead, there’s a bit too much of Robin connecting with other characters that play a role but there’s just too much talking, not enough over the top sequences. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read
Future State: Superman/Wonder Woman #1 (DC Comics) – The comic fleshes out Wonder Woman’s world a lot more than her own comic and there’s some solid back and forth between her and Superman but there’s a spark that’s missing. An evil sun springs out some solid details as to the impact on Earth but it feels a bit like a filler arc than something that’s really special. Overall Rating: 6.75 Recommendation: Read
Future State: Teen Titans #1 (DC Comics) – I really want to know what happened here after getting through the issue. A tragedy happened that lead to the death of a lot of heroes and there’s some battles still being fought. But, it’s that ending that’ll have you wanting answers. Some great art helps put this well over the top as to a solid issue and direction. Overall Rating: 8.45 Recommendation: Buy
Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!
Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).
Yen Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site
Ten Speed Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site
To quote David Bowie: “Fame, it’s mine, it’s mine, it’s just his line to bind your time, it drives you to crime.” Although that quote probably has the song now stuck in your head, it also nicely sums up the plot to The Forevers. The first volume of this series from Black Mask Studios has been collected into a trade paperback, available now wherever comic books are sold. The quest for fame and the drive to stay famous are the two main themes of this series by writer Curt Pires. In The Forevers, a group of friends take part in a magic ritual that imbues them with mystic power. Power they then use to achieve their dreams of fame and lead glamorous lives. Ten years later, when one of them dies, the rest realize that her share of the power has been split between the rest of the group. Now one of them is killing off the others in an attempt to claim all the power for themself. It’s up to the others to figure out who the killer is before he succeeds in picking them all off.
In my opinion, crime thrillers and fantasy elements don’t mix that well. Often, I feel like either the mystery itself would be no match for the magic at play; or that the mystery could take place anywhere, thus making the fantasy world irrelevant. Neither of these is the case for The Forevers. Writer Curt Pires strikes an encapsulating balance between the elements of mystery and fantasy. The world Pires has created is an accurate mirror of our world and the magic is believable. He grounds the story with emotions and desires to which all readers can relate. Then he uses those emotions and desires as the blocks on which he builds the mystery and suspense throughout the story.
Pires employs an interesting storytelling technique throughout the book. Panels on one half of the page are dedicated to one character’s perspective while the panels on the other half are from a different character’s point of view. This storytelling device allows Pires to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, which keeps the story flowing at a fast pace. It also establishes connections and contrast between the various characters, making their development even more interesting.
The Forevers has some of the most realistic artwork I’ve seen in a long time. Eric Scott Pfeiffer’s illustrations look like he used real people as models. I wouldn’t be surprised if the main characters in this series are based on his real-life friends. Thanks to his art, reading the first volume of this series is almost like watching a television show. That’s how clear and real the characters look on the page. Pfeiffer’s color choices further add to the reality contained within his artwork. Using shades of color alone, he distinguishes background from foreground without having to use dark, bold outlines around the objects and characters he draws. This makes the focus of each panel abundantly clear and instantly draws the reader’s eye to the subject of that panel. Also, keep your eyes peeled for cameos by Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Plant. Their likenesses expertly captured by Pfeiffer’s pen.
To quote Bowie one last time, “Fame, what you get is no tomorrow.” The Forevers is a very well-crafted mystery with just the right mix of fantasy elements. The story remains exciting throughout while examining the implications behind the quest for fame and the ramifications of achieving that status. The artwork is phenomenal. There need to be more books on the shelf that are drawn like this one. I enjoy “house style” as much as the next fan, but there’s something truly engaging about the realistic nature of the art in this series. If you missed this five-issue series when it was released, now’s your chance to check out this fantastic story.
Story: Curt Pires Art: Eric Scott Pfeiffer Letterer: Colin Bell Story: 9.0 Art: 10 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy
Black Mask Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site
It’s election day and individuals have decided to attack each other for unknown reasons. Was it an attack by a foreign country? Was it something else? Red Atlantis #3 gives us more information as to what’s going as well as teases the main villain.
AfterShock provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site