Roku faces her sharpest enemy ever, the Minister of Blades, in the epic final battle in Roku #4! Who lives? Who dies? Find out here!
If you’ve read the previous three issues of Roku then you’ll know roughly what to expect. While not a bad book, Roku #4 isn’t going to convince anybody to read the series. But, it does wrap the story up nicely.
Cullen Bunn has set up a confrontation between frenemies Roku and Ember-1 with a host of assassins over the fate of the human information depository/internet Marybeth. There’s time and space for both Roku and Ember-1 to shine in their own bloody way during the scrap. Whether it’s the strangely deadly hair of the titular character or Ember-1’s more traditional fighting skills, they each bring something different to the comic. It’s a confrontation brought to life by Ramon F. Bachs and colorist Stephane Paitreau.
The art is solid and, although it won’t make or break the book, it’s clean in the way you want action to be. You can follow every knife thrust, slash and cut with ease. There were moments where I had to look twice as my eyes made sense of the character’s actions from one panel to the next, but nothing game breaking.
At this point, nothing I can say about this comic is going to make you want to read the series. I’ve enjoyed every issue myself, but I’m not going to claim that it’s a book for everybody. Roku is an interesting antagonist for one of the publisher’s more well-known characters. This book hasn’t really done a lot to make this a must-read for any but the most dedicated of Valiant fans. Those looking to read an action story about a strong female lead with a little depth will enjoy it too. You don’t need any prior knowledge which makes this a great introduction, but less so other established characters.
When it comes down to brass tacks, Roku hasn’t been a groundbreaking series. It has been somewhat predictable and hasn’t done much beyond setting up Roku for the future. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it; the introduction of Ember-1, the Minister of Blades and Marybeth and their journey across Europe was a fun read. Is it essential reading? No; but skipping it will deprive you of a solid four issue story.
The second part of “Their Dark Designs” delivers an interesting chapter in Batman #87. While it builds upon the mystery of who is bankrolling this latest attack on Gotham, it’s the character interactions that stand out.
Written by James Tynion IV, the issue brings in new pieces of the puzzle, the Riddler and Penguin. Each are part of the game being played and both are also targets of the mysterious bad guy. Their interaction reveals who is and who isn’t behind the hiring of Deathstroke and his crew. And, it’s their interaction that sets the tone of the comic and focus.
Tynion continues to lay out the new status-quo for his vision of Batman. Without an Alfred to guide him, there’s a conscious effort to display what Bruce/Batman’s attitude is at this point. Whether it’s talking with Lucious, Catwoman, or Bullock, each scene gives us an idea of what we should expect and where Batman is at this point.
The issue also continues whatever the big picture plan is. Like a good heist story, the concept is already convoluted with being captured and needing to escape. There’s more to it but it’s best to not think about the details at this point. As more is revealed, hopefully the “why” of those details of this issue will make a bit more sense. For now, turn your brain off.
The art is where I’m most mixed on the issue. Guillem March both nails it and doesn’t. Details of characters feel lost at times lacking a crispness we’ve seen in other recent Batman artists. But, the layouts of the pages are inspired. There’s some very solid work delivering different perspectives that create an engaging flow of a read visually. Tomeu Morey‘s colors stand out as well, especially in the beginning. March delivers his vision for the Riddler and Penguin and each are more monstrous than we’ve seen recently. Morey’s color helps drive that home with a sickening palette for each. Riddler’s curved body mimicking a question mark is a nice touch and detail.
Batman #87 is a fine second chapter. There’s solid action and moments for characters but it feels like a chapter. The comic doesn’t have quite enough to stand on its own. It’s part of the puzzle and features too much of a mystery to totally praise. As part of the arc, it’ll be quite good but as a single issue, it lacks a little and doesn’t stand on its own.
Story: James Tynion IV Art: Guillem March Color: Tomeu Morey Letters: Clayton Cowles Story: 7.5 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.25 Recommendation: Read
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Chaos strikes the Big Apple as The Visitor targets a group of revolutionary international scientists in The Visitor #2!
After having read two issues in the series I’m still not sure if the Visitor is the protagonist or antagonist. To be honest I’m really enjoying that side of the comic. Leaving the title character with an air of mystique regarding his motivations, and whether we want him stopped or not, is a refreshing change of pace. It also adds to the re-readability of the comic. Once you know what the Visitor is trying to do, what he’s trying to stop, it’ll add another layer to the comic’s story. A story that beings to reveal more layers in the back half of the second issue.
The Visitor #2 penned by Paul Levitz follows the titular character as he’s trying to eliminate something that the Japanese scientists he’s hunting are working on and the UN Security agent Dauber assigned to protect them. Levitz keeps things entirely believable when the scientists keep frustrating Dauber’s efforts to keep them safe by insisting on their secrecy as they all underestimate the Visitor.
I feel like Levitz has something to say here regarding our own assumptions of government agencies, the police or any other group of people who are supposed to protect us – but can only do so much when they only have half, or less, of the full picture. I could be wrong, of course, but it’s an interesting subtext within the comic that I’m enjoying.
It’s one more thing that’s got me wanting to come back to the comic next month.
Over the course of this book, from the first page to the last, MJ Kim‘s artwork is great. There’s controlled energy where there needs to be and a quiet stillness in certain parts. It’s often through Kim’s artwork that we get most of our insights on the Visitor’s character, several pages before Levitz starts to peel back the layers. Kim’s body language, the way the Visitor hangs his head or the shape of his hands will speak to you in ways you won’t necessarily expect until you read the following pages and you realize that nothing is quite as surprising because Kim’s geared you up for it. But the revelations are never spoiled because of the art, merely enhanced by it.
Whenever it comes to introducing a new character who shares the name of a much older one like the Visitor, there’s always the fine line to walk between homage and facsimile. Levitz has balanced the character on the knife’s edge. For those who have read and are familiar with the 90’s character then you’ll find a little bit of the old character still within the new, but there’s already more than enough here for the new Visitor to stand alone as his own person.
Of course, if you never read the original, then the above is a moot point, and all you need to worry about is that this is a cracking yarn from start to finish.
Story: Paul Levitz Art: MJ Kim Color: Diego Rodriguez Letterer: Simon Bowland Story: 8.9 Art: 9.1 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy
Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
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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 to Top Shelf partnering with the Fellowship of Reconciliation to publish new editions of 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 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 its been used throughout the world, in particular, to win India’s independence.
Top Shelf has focused on not just reprinting the comic in modern standards, they’ve 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.
The search for a meaningful connection is one that most people look for a whole lifetime. The people you meet throughout your daily lives may or may not make a difference to you. We often share this connection with our family members, and even friends, as that symbiosis is hard to come by. This connection is harder to find, when as the late great Aaliyah asked in her song “Are You That Somebody?”
As anyone who has ever been attracted to someone, the line between love and infatuation is blurry. No one can give you a definitive answer. There’s no time nor reason to who you are attracted to. Speaking from personal experience it’s never when you want it and it’s never who you saw yourself falling for. In Josh Eckert and James F. Wright’s spectacular Contact High, this search is explored through the prism of dystopian speculative fiction.
We are taken to a future where humans are not allowed to be touched by another human and touching of skin in the future is illegal and everyone has to wear Lifesuits. We meet Ziggurat, a man who suffered from a new disease called Skinsanity, a disease where the touch of skin, makes one insane. We also meet Summit, a patient at the same facility Ziggurat is, as he confesses of how a yearning to live outside of the suit is what he dreams of. Everything changes when Ziggurat, during a standard contamination scan, knocks out the two orderlies and fights his way to Level III, where he finds out that there’s more to the hospital than they are letting on.
Overall, a great story which shows how important the human connection is. The story by James F. Wright is smart and compelling. The art by Josh Eckert is gorgeous. Altogether, a story that packs the action into a fable which shows that to find out the truth, sometimes you have to risk it all.
Story: James F. Wright Art: Josh Eckhart Story: 9.7 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.8 Recommendation: Buy
Bruce Willis is one of those actors whose presence onscreen is one of reassurance. He’s now known mostly for his tough-guy roles but that not has always been the case. As was shown in The Movies That Made Us, when he madeDie Hard, most test screen audiences laughed at his very presence, because they remember him as the guy from the television show, Moonlighting. He would go on to make movies that straddled the line between tough-guy and comic relief, but most of his fans love his action movies.
Even Sylvester Stallone saw his bankability to put Willis in one of his Expendables movies before their offscreen tiff. One of my favorite movies by him was a period drama called Last Man Standing where he played a rogue gunman in the middle of a turf war. His character, no matter what he did, got pulled in deeper before he had no choice but to pick sides. In the second issue of Cage, our protagonist finds a bird in a hand, and looks to live up to the title of Hero for Hire.
We find Luke in a conversation with a dirty cop that knows about the case he just took and the implications that would occur if he gets close to the truth, giving him fair warning before trouble is headed his way. A warning that Luke doesn’t take heed, but looks to make money from. Soon Luke plots The Italian Mob, against the gang that controls Harlem, to the dirty cops that run the neighborhood, with none the wiser. By the issue’s end, a miscalculation by Luke leads to a vital witness being fatally shot which changes his plans completely.
Overall, an engaging issue that plays out like some of the best crime noir thrillers of yesteryear. The story by Brian Azzarello is electrifying. The art by the creative team is gorgeous. Altogether, an issue in this story that ramps up the action.
Story: Brian Azzarello Art: Richard Corben, Wes Abbott, and Jose Villarubia Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy
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.
These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.
Batman #86 (DC) It is always darkest before the dawn. After the up and down fest that was Tom King’s historic Batman run we get a much welcomed change of pace here. James Tynion IV does not waste any time getting Bruce into costume again. This is a good thing because Tony Daniel draws such a great Batman. I am loving the Bruce and Lucius dynamic ala The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight rises movies. Bruce is still very much touched by his grief over losing Alfred and is not on all cylinders yet (something I can very much relate to having lost my father last year) I like how Deathstroke knows this and chooses to strike when Bruce is off his game. In addition to drawing an awesome Batman, Daniel draws one hell of a Slade and I always enjoy these two at each other more and more. Seeing the other side characters was cool but just fodder. We get new bat vehicle and gadgets and lots of cool toys this issue and Lucius is very much the Q to Bruce’s James and I want much more of it. So only a first outting but Tynion studied under the tutelage of Scott Snyder and if he keeps this up we are in good hands for short term. For the love of God though, no more fucking BANE. Let that character languish for a long while. I’d like to see what Slades bigger plan is. We all know he has one. Score: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy
Excalibur #5 (Marvel)– Excalibur #5 is an up and down comic for me. I love how Tini Howard writes Rogue so powerfully and Southern and Marcus To’s clean linework when she is trapped in Otherworld. However, the majority of the comic is a mess of explosions, crystals, magic, and Apocalypse being more of an overt villain. There is definitely something primal cooking in Howard’s overarching story, but at this point, I don’t know if I’m interested in as she and To switch characters perspectives and juggle plots each issue. Basically, Excalibur #5 has some entertaining moments (And it’s nice to see Rogue play an active role in the proceedings.), but doesn’t work together as a coherent unit of story. Overall: 5.8 Verdict: Pass
New Mutants #5 (Marvel)– Jonathan Hickman and Rod Reis are back with the “old school” New Mutants in space on a mission that’s, well, complicated by Shi’ar politics. This issue balances space and superpowered action with humor, characterization, and a dash of political intrigue. Hickman gives each New Mutant something to do whether it’s Chamber and Mondo sharing a toast to pacifism while their teammates fight the shit out of some Shi’ar Death Commandos, or Magik showing off her leadership (and flirting) skills with the Death Commando boarding party. Reis has been my favorite artist on the Dawn of X books, and he’s back with more expressive faces, lush colors, and Heavy Metal-inspired spaceships and stations meets Bob McLeod’s classic character designs. He’s also an economic storyteller. For example, one panel with a flatline tells more about Magik’s ruthless and combat abilities than five pages of protracted action. I didn’t mind the Ed Brisson/check with some underutilized mutants from Grant Morrison’s New X-Men interlude, but New Mutants #5 returns this book to elite status. A must read for anyone who likes their mutants in space and flirtatious. Overall: 8 Verdict: Buy
X-Force #5 (Marvel)– Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara’s X-Force #5 brings the gory and gruesome black ops action while also considering of the implications of these battles on the team and their antagonists. With Wolverine mostly out of commission, Domino takes center stage in the fight against Xeno, the organization that blew up a Krakoa gate and assassinated Charles Xavier. Percy and Cassara drive home the effects of the torture Xeno unleashed on her, and she returns it on kind. Percy also takes a moment to humanize a member of the team they’re fighting against, but not too much as he pivots to Beast undermining the utopian world of Krakoa through very human things like mental and physical torture and off the books operatives. X-Force is a book about the secret sins that nations commit to preserve themselves and shows this through words as well as sometimes revolting, sometimes stylish action. Overall: 8.4 Verdict: Buy
Tank Girl Full Color Classics #3.1 (Titan)– The numbering is weird, but Tank Girl Full Color Classics #3.1 presents some absolutely bonkers Tank Girl, Jet Girl, and Sub Girl stories from the early 1990s by creators Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett with some stories drawn by artists Glyn Dillon and Philip Bond. Hewlett’s character design is fantastic, but he’s a great storyteller too as evidenced in the first story where he homages different film genres when Tank Girl and Booga take on every bounty hunter in Australia. His panels are crammed full of fun litle details and background jokes while Martin’s dialogue is easygoing and filled to the brim with double entendres. One thing I liked about this comic is that it also focused on Tank Girl’s supporting cast like a story where her kangaroo boyfriend Booga’s dad is a yeti, or a MAD-meets-Behind the Music parody of Morrissey and The Smiths that Sub Girl narrates. (Dillon draws a hilarious Morrissey Fat Elvis caricature.) Along with the original strips, this comic is packed full with photos of the creators and pinups from Hewlett, Bond, and Dillon and provides a window into the creativity of British comics and Deadline in the early 1990s. Overall: 8 Verdict: Buy
SFSX #5 (Image)– Jen Hickman joins SFSX as both artist and colorist, and they and Tina Horn tell an exciting heist story as Avory and her crew of sex workers from Dirty Mind try to break out her husband George from the Party’s reeducation camp. This comic is a bullet in the head of purity culture as Horn and Hickman systematically dismantle kink shaming. (Chasten Buttigieg would be appalled ;) ) Hickman’s character acting is amazing, and they add some clever touches like having characters’ knowledge of rope bondage and harnesses get them through vents and air ducts like some kind of BDSM John McClane. Add one incredibly (and actually) monstrous bad guy that has an emotional connection to the main characters, and SFSX #5 is another great chapter in this series. Overall: 8.6 Verdict: Buy
Steeple #5 (Dark Horse)– Billie finds her inner darkness in the conclusion of John Allison and Sarah Stern’s miniseries. Allison sets the tone hilariously by Billie finding Satan a bit buff and attractive and hanging up a John Wick poster in the rectory. This issue is compelling because it’s centered around the relationship between Billie and Maggie as they basically swap places/religions. A heart to heart at a coffee shop reveals that Maggie is a good person with a sensitive conscience who joined the Church of Satan so that she could forget about her activism and thirst for justice through hedonism. And Billie just wants to be “bad”. Allison goes the ending with a big character change route while leaving the door ajar for more stories in the Steeple world. His art continues to be a delightful treat as he makes possessed vacuum cleaners and the extinction of the water vole hilarious. Overall: 8.5 Verdict: Buy
Rising Sun#1 (IDW)– In a feudal tale of Ninjas fighting monsters, we get this comic book serialization of the popular video game, as someone who has never played the game, I felt lost for a good part of the issue, something that should never happen to any comic book reader. Hopefully, a second issue will do more to give more back story. Overall: 6 Recommendation: Borrow
Black Widow Prelude #1 (Marvel)– An adequate primer, nothing more, nothing less. Overall: 6.7 Recommendation: Borrow
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 (**).
Netflix has become one of those big business machines which produce dozens of television shows and movies at a breakneck pace. It has brought the rise of similar streaming services which have years to go before it can catch up to what Neflix has accomplished. It gave creators freedom in ways that other networks are only beginning to understand and emulate. One of the shows that broke ground and evoked nostalgia for many was Baz Luhrman’s The Get Down.
The show revolved around bunch of teens that through music and the trappings of their neighborhood rose above what was expected of them and realized their dreams. The show gave those of us who grew up in that era a romanticized vision of the birth of Hip Hop. Despite its short tenure, it brought light to the fact that even today stories like these were few and far between. In the epic debut issue of Tephlon Funk, we meet a cast of characters whose grit, much like the characters in The Get Down, give readers heroes to root for.
We’re taken to Queensbridge, New York, where we meet Inez Jozlyn, a downtrodden 14-year-old whose neighborhood has gotten the best of her and her direction in life. We also meet the neighborhood crime lord, Kefflow, who Inez would like to work for since she saw all the money her friend Nassim was making. Everything changes when she meets Gabriel Ainsley, who stops Inez before she makes the same mistake as Nassim. His reasons are more personal than honorable. By issue’s end, we meet Cameron Phoenix, an ambitious young cop whose motivation for stopping Kefflow is personal for other reasons, one which she hopes to infiltrate with an undercover police operation
Overall, an interesting premise that more than delivers on several fronts. The story by Stephane Metayer is electrifying and storied. The art by David Tako and Nicholas Safe is gorgeous and iridescent. Altogether, it’s a new world the reader will be more than happy to get to know.
Story: Stephane Metayer Art: David Tako and Nicholas Safe Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy
In our world, the taking of human life is incomparable. To commit the act is a crime for a reason. It’s borne of ill will most of the time. Sometimes it’s accidental, and at times involuntarily. Then there are times when the person absolutely has no choice because of circumstance.
When you have no choice it may be as well be a matter of life or death. It’s either you or the other person. Being in the military, I’ve seen this scenario play out too many times where you may have a moment of being utterly frozen or your training kicks in. It’s rare when we have to reckon with these split-second decisions. When we do, it is usually hell to pay. In Green Lantern Mosaic#15, Jon has this very dilemma in front of him, with the guidance of Ch’p.
We find Jon trying to get his bearings, when old Timer shows up, to carry him to his own personal hell known as Xanshi. He literally confronts those he has killed throughout his life. Each person is more difficult to deal with, and he has to even confront his Grandpa Roy. These confrontations cause him to self reflect, making him question why he has sustained the Mosaic world as log ash e has. By issue’s end, his most devastating reckoning just so happens to be his wife, Katma, leaving him, unfettered.
Overall, one of the best issues of the series, leaving fans to see how human Jon is as he deals with past foes. The story by Gerard Jones is commanding and vast. The art by the creative team is remarkable. Altogether, an issue which reinforces why the fanfare fro this book remains almost thirty years later
Story: Gerard Jones Art: Albert De Guzman, Luke McDonnell, Steve Mattson, and Robert Campanella Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy