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Review: Beta Ray Bill #5

Beta Ray Bill #5

Beta Ray Bill #5 is a fittingly primal conclusion to this heavy metal thunder cloud of a miniseries from writer/artist Daniel Warren Johnson, colorist Mike Spicer, and letterer Joe Sabino. This issue is all about the final showdown between Surtur and Bill for the fire demon’s sword Twilight, but each member of the small ensemble cast get a moment to shine before taking their final bow from Skurge getting a very big fun to Pip being heroic and resilient and Skuttlebutt doing her tech thing while also growing closer to Bill. This is kind of a romance, but there’s lots of punching.

And speaking of punching, Beta Ray Bill #5 reaches new heights with its action sequences as Johnson’s fight choreography and use of sound effects immersed me into the epic struggle between Bill and Surtur. Spicer lays down a kind of covering fire with his palette and helps the battle flow with a hellish palette and burst of flat colors any time a character has a big moment in the action. With a full-page splash of Surtur punching Bill into the stratosphere, the stakes are sky-high for our protagonist, and Daniel Warren Johnson doesn’t shy away from showing him struggle in the smaller panels of kicks and holds throughout the comic. He also wisely lays off the narration and lets the actions during the fight dictate the story’s momentum while occasionally cutting away to Bill’s friends ready to help him out with a last-minute save.

Beta Ray Bill #5 is definitely a comic about revenge and ultimately self-actualization (The final panel is a humanoid Bill looking in the mirror and seeing his horse form.), but found family is an ongoing thematic thread that gives the miniseries its heart. Bill picks up Pip and Skurge throughout his quest and has been with Skuttlebutt all along, and they are integral in his fight against Surtur. Pip risks his life firing away at Surtur while Bill lays wounded, and Johnson pours on the gritty facial expressions, shell casings, and later gore to show this is truly a moment of self-sacrifice. On the other hand, Skuttlebutt is the brains of the operation using the shockwaves of Bill and Surtur’s clash to power up the ship again and giving Skurge the chance to do what he does best: be a one man firing squad. Skurge gets a truly redemptive moment during the climax of Beta Ray Bill #5 that also allows Daniel Warren Johnson to draw a really gnarly and detailed gun. (Think banned Transformers toy!) He and Bill had a fun, bro-ish vibe in this comic, and nothing is better than beating the shit out of a 100 foot fire demon with your bro.

To some, the most controversial element of Beta Ray Bill is the very close to romantic relationship between Bill and his ship turned female robot, Skuttlebutt. With characters like Cortana and Brian Michael Bendis and Frank Cho’s sexy female Ultron, female A.I. have been a part of recent pop culture for better or cringe. Skuttlebutt falls more on the better side because she has an actual rapport with Bill during the action and flying scenes and loves him in both his humanoid and horse form. (Bill went on this quest to get a magic weapon that could help him return to his human form so he could be with Sif, initially.) This is a loud, explosive comic, but Daniel Warren Johnson chooses to end it on a quiet note of Bill and Skuttlebutt holding hands and watching his favorite movie, Hook. Skuttlebutt has seen Bill at his best and worst so maybe she really is the woman or A.I. for him. It’s a little weird, but Bill is an alien with cyborg parts doing his best to be human and Skuttlebutt is a ship/artificial intelligence doing her best to be human so it works.

Beta Ray Bill #5 is a glorious finale filled with wrestling holds, airbrush on the side of your van-worthy splashes, and some heart and friendship too as Bill’s quest comes to a satisfying close. Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer helped me fall in love with a character that I wasn’t super familiar with and also demonstrate how sound effects and the use of color can help turn a fight scene into a story. I look forward to their next project, Marvel or otherwise.

Story/Art: Daniel Warren Johnson
Colors: Mike Spicer Letters: Joe Sabino
Story: 9.0 Art: 10.0 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Seven Swords #2

A weary and jaded D’Artagnan is drawn into a final conflict with the wicked Cardinal Richelieu, whose ruthless quest for power has led him to the supernatural. But the Last Musketeer can’t defeat these infernal enemies alone.

Seven Swords #2 begins to bring to team together though drags things out a bit.

Story: Evan Daugherty
Art: Riccardo Latina
Color: Valentina Bianconi
Letterer: Dave Sharpe

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: Phantom on the Scan #4

A mysterious phenomenon gives a bunch of individuals psychic abilities. But, those with powers are now dying. A group of them get together in an attempt to figure out what’s going on before their time is up.

Phantom on the Scan #4 feels like a nice mix of sci-fi and horror as we see who can get to the mysterious Dr. Corvin first.

Story: Cullen Bunn
Art: Mark Torres
Letterer: Dave Sharpe

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: The Girls of Dimension 13 #4

Four girls move into a mysterious house rent free… the just have to protect our dimension from evil forces.

The Girls of Dimension 13 #4 has its moments but overall feels like it drags about and rushes through its most interesting aspects.

Story: Graham Nolan
Art: Bret Blevins
Color: Gregory Wright
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual

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: Barbaric #2

Barbaric #2

When the first issue is so good, there’s no way the second can be as well, right? Barbaric #2 delivers the goods with a fantastic second issue full of action, laughs, and adds depth to its world. Barbaric is the story of Owen the Barbarian who is cursed to do what’s right. That at times can be difficult to figure out. So, he has Axe, a blood-thirsty… axe, to guide him as to what to do. Along comes Soren, a necromancer who Owen saves and then winds up teaming up with for a quest.

Written by Michael Moreci, Barbaric #2 has such brilliance to it that it’s hard to describe. On its surface, the comic and series as a whole is a classic fantasy quest. There’s a barbarian and a necromancer who must team up and defeat an even worse evil. It’s a concept we’ve seen so many times before. But, it’s the details that Moreci includes that makes the comic stand out.

While the setting might be a fantasy quest, the concept is more buddy-cop comedy. Owen and Soren don’t get along and mix in the sarcastic Axe, you have a duo (fine trio) that would fit into modern cop schtick. Then, there’s the subtle comments that take a rather progressive viewpoint and place them in a rather regressive world. But, even that’s done in a twisted way as Owen is forced into this role. He was a horrible human being and his curse is to do good. Guided by a blood-thirsty axe, this is a barbarian who’s struggling with his nature and inclination to do what he wants.

Barbaric #2 delivers some depth on these two, mainly focusing on Soren’s story. We find out about her powers and her history but the issue dances around Owen’s axe’s story as well. Even with all of that, the issue moves things along quite briskly putting the duo into the type of battle and dungeon crawling you’d expect from the genre.

Moreci’s fantastic story is helped by Nathan Gooden‘s art. With Addison Duke‘s color and Jim Campbell‘s lettering, the images and dialogue pops on the page. There’s such personality with each character. The art shows off such subtle aspects that are told through the body language and facial expressions of the characters. The story wouldn’t work with a more traditional fantasy style to the art. This is a case where the style really helps set and sell the tone of the series and story.

Barbaric #2 is another solid issue that continues a hell of a fun adventure. There’s something fantastic about this series in that it adds to a genre that has been around for decades while also acting as an homage and a bit of a send-up as well. There’s something for everyone here and in all of that, it’s able to keep readers on their toes. The first issue was fantastic and this follow-up is able to keep up with another amazing entry.

Story: Michael Moreci Art: Nathan Gooden
Color: Addison Duke Letterer: Jim Campbell
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Shadow Doctor #5

Shadow Doctor #5

Shadow Doctor has been an amazing series in its five-issue run. The history it dove into. The story it told. Both are so rich and the series provided a new perspective into our world and history. Shadow Doctor #5 wraps up this story of Nathaniel Calloway, the grandfather of the comic writer Peter Calloway. Nathaniel was a doctor in the 1930s who when he couldn’t get a loan to start a practice turned to his “friend” Al Capone to start one. In return, Capone would send his men to Calloway for injuries and to be treated. It’s a riveting true-life story that paints Capone in a new and interesting way and delivers a tense piece of history in its narrative.

Shadow Doctor #5 wraps up what is a gangster story from a different perspective. Beyond the expected bullets and blood, the series delivers a story about a man who is forced to do bad in order to do good. Nathan knows by healing Capone’s men he extends the war they are having with a rival gang. That results in more individuals getting hurt and dying. Nathan also knows if he doesn’t, Capone will not be happy and who knows what he’ll do. The series presents a man full of regrets but struggling with a moral quandary. Though he is doing bad, it has allowed him to open a clinic to help his neighborhood, one that is underserved.

Shadow Doctor #5 ups the tension even further as Nathan is approached with a demand from a rival gang. The issue cements that there’s few good choices left for him forcing his hand as to what to do next.

And, that might be the worst part of the issue! It abruptly ends leaving readers wanting more (not a bad thing). We know Nathan lives since he’s telling the story but it’s the next step that could become even more tension-filled. Here’s hoping we get another volume that tells more of the story.

The art by George Jeanty continues to impress. There’s a solid look to the series that screams its time period. With color by Juancho! and lettering by Charles Pritchett, the series feels like the time period it takes place in its design and details as well as the artwork style. There’s also a solid use of letting the reader really imagine the damage from Capone’s war and the bloody messes left on Nathan’s table. It’d easy for the art to use shock but instead it plays things in a conservative way.

Shadow Doctor #5 is a fantastic finale that leaves the reader wanting more. It’s a great use of the comic medium that highlights an interesting part of American history. It does it all in a gripping and engaging way. One of the best comic releases this year.

Story: Peter Calloway Art: Georges Jeanty
Color: Juancho! Letterer: Charles Pritchett
Story: 8.75 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Made In Korea #3

Made in Korea #3

Made in Korea, a harrowing SF story and domestic drama, continues as Jeremy Holt and George Schall show Jesse continuing to fall in with a bad crowd at school and move apart from her loving parents. This is while her good-intentioned, yet socially inept “creator” tries to take her away from her family and return to where she was manufactured in South Korea. Made in Korea #3 is a solid middle issue and sets the table for some explosive developments and creates tension in key relationships in Jesse’s life.

Starting with an opening sequence where two of Jesse’s classmates blame the manufacturer of a BB gun instead of their own ineptitude for their lack of skill with it, Holt and Schall explore the connection between white male mediocrity and violence. Naive Jesse thinks that these guys are her friends, but they’re really just using her in a school shooting plot. Jeremy Holt nails these men’s ideology in a well-written monologue where one of them talks about being an outsider and persecuted by society. This draws a parallel to men who appropriate media, pop culture, and even history to justify their insecurities and hatred. As a women of color and artificial intelligence in a predominantly human society, Jesse faces real discrimination and is treated as an “other” by everyone from her parents, “creator, and even the teachers at her school who ask if she’s had any “technical difficulties” when she doesn’t show up for a few days.

Holt and George Schall do an excellent job of exploring racism through sci-fi metaphor and reality while also continuing to probe into the question of what it means to be human. These ideas come out through the strong storytelling of Schall’s art. They show the tension in Jesse’s family through a few powerful images like a slammed door, an angry face, or a car speeding into the night. The pink and red color palette can almost make you hear that asshole revving up his engine in the lane next to you even though it’s a one lane road, and the speed limit is 35. George Schall truly makes Jesse a conduit for the emotions of Made in Korea in bittersweet sequences like her genuinely having a good time with the bad kids from her school and howling like a wolf when her expression is usually neutral. It makes you even feel sadder that she’s being used by the folks around her.

As mentioned earlier, Made in Korea #3 falls squarely in the science fiction genre, but Holt and Schall also play with the superhero genre, especially in how a couple of the students from Jesse’s school treat her. Without mentioning the name of any popular characters, they reveal that she’s basically like Wolverine with unbreakable bones, great strength plus a knack for markmanship. However, these kids also strip the agency away from Jesse and basically play on her loneliness to use it for bad ends like robbing a military base and setting up a school shooting. Jeremy Holt strips away the “badass” from punching and shooting and focuses on the pain and loneliness as Jesse doesn’t want to hurt anyone. (It’s literally in her programming.) George Schall reinforces this by showing no joy when Jesse uses her abilities, and they even add some uncertainty in her facial expressions during the military base heist.

Jesse has great mental and physical skills, but of course, they’re exploited by humans for evil ends in Made in Korea #3 as some kids from her school prey on her loneliness and not fitting in to use her as a pawn in a school shooting. Jeremy Holt and George Schall have spent the previous two issues of Made in Korea crafting Jesse’s family dynamic and this five minutes in the future world, and this third issue starts to overturn it a little bit with the scientist that helped build her lacking the people skills to prevent a catastrophe from happening. The thread that continues to run through the series is that the people around Jesse continue to treat her as a “human in name only”, and this definitely seems like it will backfire in the back end of Made in Korea.

Story: Jeremy Holt, Eunjoo Han 
Art: George Schall, Eunjoo Han Letters: Adam Wollet
Story: 8.4 Art: 8.8 Overall: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Review: Amazing Fantasy #1

Amazing Fantasy #1

There’s a fine tradition of fantasy in comics going back decades. Amazing Fantasy is one of those series originally published by Marvel in the early 1960s. That run is mostly known for the launch of Spider-Man who would go on to become a billion-dollar franchise. The original series featured a who’s who of creators delivering quirky fantasy tales that featured twist endings. There have been attempts to revive the series in different ways but now we get a release in Amazing Fantasy #1 that feels like it blends those odd tales with modern superheroes.

Kaare Andrews handles both the writing and art duties for the issue and delivers a hell of a start. Three heroes from different eras are brought together to a strange world. Captain America from World War II, a young Black Widow from the Red Room, and an early Spider-Man are all transported to this fantasy world filled with tribes and monsters. It’s a simple concept, so far, and solid premise that mixes classic monster stories with modern superheroes.

Andrews delivers. Joined by Joe Sabino on lettering the comic feels like a mix of old and new with Andrews nailing down the speech patterns for each character and yet they still feel like they belong in this classic fantasy world. Andrews brings a mix of styles in the art that’s beyond impressive.

Each character originates from a different era and with each introduction Andrews delivers a different style creating a comic that features four very distinct looks from the same creator. It’s impressive, really impressive and something that’ll hook readers. Add in the art is just beautiful, combined with entertaining writing this is a debut that’s beyond a winner.

Amazing Fantasy #1 is absolutely fantastic. The art is great. The story is entertaining and fun. It sets up a story that honors the pulp roots it comes from. This is a comic to pick up, relax, and just enjoy these summer months.

Story: Kaare Andrews Art: Kaare Andrews Letterer: Joe Sabino
Story: 9.0 Art: 10 Overall: 9.25 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Icon & Rocket: Season One #1

Icon & Rocket: Season One #1

Last month, Milestone returned with Static and now we get to see the line and world expand with Icon & Rocket: Season One #1. The series launches the classic hero and sidekick team-up and delivers a debut that’s a bit classic in its delivery with an updated setting.

The series takes us from the tragic trip that saw the alien known as Arnus crash on Earth. Taking on a human guise, he was raised among humans but over the years he decided his adopted home was beyond saving. Instead, he kept his gifts to himself living an isolated life. Enter Raquel Ervin, a bright young woman, who fell into the wrong crowd and crossed paths with Arnus, now going by Augustus Freeman. Thus setting up the duo known as Rocket and Icon.

Written by Reginald Hudlin, Icon & Rocket: Season One #1 is an entertaining start. The debut has some classical elements to it feeling like a mix of classic Superman and Batman in varying ways. But, it also looks to challenge the superhero genre. Augustus is an individual with immense power and chooses not to use it. He sees the negativity in his actions that removing one problem will create a vacuum for another to fill. It’s an interesting approach to the “why don’t superheroes solve xyz problem?”.

I haven’t read previously released comics featuring the duo so coming in fresh to the series, it feels engaging to me. While it’s a generally slow beginning (showing modern decompression in its storytelling), it also builds to its finale delivering a glimmer of hope. It’s interesting in that way as we see subtle shifts from a cold, negative, start to a slightly classic finale that shines a beacon of light.

The art is solid. Doug Braithwaite‘s pencils deliver a lot of detail that begs the reader to linger on pages to get the great story. Joined by Scott Hanna and Andrew Currie on ink, Brad Anderson on color, and lettering by Andworld Design, the comic looks fantastic. It delivers a somewhat dour mood without being depressing. The look and style has a darkness before the light aspect about it. The comic could easily have featured a much more over the top and violent opening but the art captures the scared nature of its assailants and downplays the actions in some ways. These aren’t hardened criminals but petty thieves who stumble and make a horrible mistake. The art captures the emotional journey of its initial focus.

Icon & Rocket: Season One #1 is a solid debut for me. Without knowing a lot about the series, it’s a start that has me wanting to come back to read more. There’s a retro feel in some ways but also a touch of modern comics. It’s another success for Milestone which is finally back and delivering the quality we’ve been waiting for.

Story: Reginald Hudlin Art: Doug Braithwaite
Ink: Scott Hanna, Andrew Currie Color: Brad Anderson Letterer: Andworld Design
Story: 8.25 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Shadowman #4

Shadowman #4

Shadowman #4 finds Jack Boniface in London, England to track down another villain of the week. The way in which writer Cullen Bunn has been telling standalone stories every issue linked by an over arching theme has been a strong feature of the series so far, and I’m loving how the story is coming together.

Before we get to that though I’ve got to mention, once again, how much I love the recap page as told by Samedi. It adds a brilliant flavour to the book and lets you know to look out for the odd dry line here and there which turn out to be far funnier than one would necessarily expect from a horror book. Well, at least far funnier than I would expect, at any rate. Shadowman has been one of the incredibly rare comics that has me reading this page even though I know what happened before, because I enjoy the way it’s retold.

I also love the relationship between Shadowman and Samedi within the comic, too. It’s easily one of the highlights for me every issue.

The comic, written by Bunn, with art by Jon Davis-Hunt and colors by Jordie Bellaire, is by far and wide the best thing Valiant has published in a while, but it’s also among the very best of comics that are coming out right now. For my money (and despite getting review copies, I’m still buying this) Shadowman tops everything being published right now – the only asterisk is Scout Comic’s By The Horns, which is also simply incredible. It’s hard for me to overstate how much I love this book, and even harder to stay away from too much hyperbolic wording.

The combination of Davis-Hunt and Bellaire balance Bunn’s writing with a beautifully vibrant and often grotesque imagery. The art isn’t of the photo-realistic variety, but I wouldn’t change it for a moment – this is how I see Shadowman man now, and I hope we continue to see this creative team together on the character long after the story is concluded.

Shadowman is simply amazing in every way. There’s not much else to be said.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colors: Jordie Bellaire Letters: Clayton Cowles
Story: 9.7 Art: 9.7 Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy

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