Category Archives: Reviews

Review: White Ash Chapter 3

White Ash #3

There is nothing like the disquiet those who are grieving have to deal with shortly after a death. The gritty details of who the person was eventually come out. Some of which is very nice and some is not so nice. Those details rarely make a difference as to what residual imprints they make on the people closest to them. You don’t really understand the gap those individuals leave until you really need them and it all comes to realization, that they are no longer with you.

It is always interesting to see how these people you know your whole life, have been affected by people differently from you. I remember when I lost my mother, the outpouring of love from people I never knew, made me know how many lives she touched.  The time we have on this earth is fleeting and the time we have with loved ones even shorter. The older you get the sooner you realize that though the days are long, the years are short. In the third chapter of the excellent White Ash, tragedy has struck the town, leaving everyone in shock and not knowing how to move forward.

We are taken back in time to 1918, a lifetime ago, an in the midst of a slaughter, where we find out how Lillian’s mother died in the first place and exactly why her father’s overprotection came to be. Aleck wakes up after Lillian’s father stabbed him, as her father looks to recompense for his grave mistake, by giving Aleck, the serum his father needs to survive. As his conversation with his father becomes the last, he ever will have, one that not only affects Aleck but the community of dwarves. By issue’s end, Aleck leaves White Ash, but it seems that trouble is headed for the town.

Overall, it’s an excellent issue that gives readers what all of us love about the book as it is mysterious, action packed, and well developed. The story by Charlie Stickney is smart and fun. The art by Conor Hughes and Fin Cramb is beautiful. Altogether, an excellent chapter that though it ends in tragedy, shows that this creative team knows how to write a story that is as complex as its characters.

Story: Charlie Stickney Art: Conor Hughes and Fin Cramb
Story: 9.6 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy 

Review: Doomsday Clock #8

Things are spiraling out of control in the latest issue of Doomsday Clock with an issue that feels like it has skipped a bit from the previous one. Doomsday Clock #8 is by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, Brad Anderson, Rob Leigh, and Amie Brockway-Metcalf.

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

Amazon/comiXology/Kindle
TFAW

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies 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

Review: Spellbound Vol. 1

Each city has character. Most people seem to write about my hometown New York City. Los Angeles is also popular because of its steeped history and indelible character. The truth is every city ,town, and county has its own story and holds its own secrets. It makes you wonder what lies in those hidden streets, and dark corridors. Is it anything like Neil Gaiman’s masterwork, Neverwhere? In one of their first entries into the comics anthology world, the Boston Comics Roundtable has put Spellbound Volume One, a mystical exploration of Boston.

In “Wizards of the MBTA,” we meet a team of magicians who take care of fantastical nuisance but are on the city’s payroll. In “Snapper,” one man’s first day at work becomes the strangest in his life. In “The Secret,” one woman feels a need to escape and wishes away from her troubles, only to find her wishes come true in a not so subtle manner. In “Marcel On Ice,” a teacher and a student share funny conversation and a walk together. “Whereto Find Faeries in Boston,” explores the most common haunts where you find faerie kind congregating. In “Urban Fantasy,” one dishwashing liquid gets to dream about her best life.

Overall, the graphic novel is a diverse collection of stories that reflects the many shades and shapes that the city possesses. The stories by the creators are funny, enigmatic, and accessible. The art is both alluring and vivid. Altogether, it’s an excellent set that will have readers wanting to peak around their city for those mystical clues that makes their places magical.

Story: L.J. Baptiste, J.L. Bell, W.B. Clem, PatrickFlaherty, Mehitabel Glenhaber, Levon Gyulkhasyan, Paul Hanna, Youngjin Hur,Patrick Jordan, Anthony Lathrop, Dan Mazur, Greg Moutafis, John Quirk, Roho,Catalina Rufin, and Adam Tutkus
Art: L.J. Baptiste, J.L. Bell, W.B. Clem, Patrick Flaherty, Mehitabel Glenhaber, Levon Gyulkhasyan, Paul Hanna, Youngjin Hur, Patrick Jordan, Anthony Lathrop, Dan Mazur, Greg Moutafis, John Quirk, Roho, Catalina Rufin,
and Adam Tutkus
Edited by: Olivia Li, Heide Solbrig, Ben Doane,
and Jamie Koh
Story: 10 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Mini Reviews: Die, Namor, Border Town, Shazam! and More!

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.


Elana

Die #1 (Image Comics)* – Easily a best new series of 2018. This is a power team of two of my favorite creators: Stephanie Hans and Kieron Gillen. Gillen knows his table-top Role Playing Games, his magical world building, his teen comics, his team comics, his emotionally vulnerable men and women and casts that are diverse racially, sexually and in social class. He’s doing all of that here and it shines. Stephanie Hans creates luminous paintings. Her faces are sensitive and unmistakable. Her character designs are exciting in both the real world and fantasy world the story takes place. These are two of the best talents in comics today doing what they do best. I couldn’t be more excited. Overall 10 Recommendation: Buy! (PS: Our latest episode of Graphic Policy Radio is an interview with Gillen and Hans.)

Jon

Die #1 (Image Comics)* – Kieron Gillen’s latest offering is built on a very simple premise: what might have happened to the kids from the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon when they returned from their adventures in a magical land? The result is the most sublime merger of comics and gaming to hit the page and that’s saying quite a bit given all the great books that have built on the tropes of both mediums over the last few years. Gillen never misses a beat, introducing us to a group of characters we want to know more about. Though not for everyone, Stephanie Hans artwork is a great complement to it, equal parts menacing and fantastic. I got to the end and I want another issue now. Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Shean

Namor: The Best Defense #1 (Marvel)* – In what could be worst timing, we get Marvel’s own underwater superhero. As this could have been a great story, but never has the similarities been more apparent than on this one shot, as it comes off as straight up plagiarism.As this version is not formidable in anyway and is a much more neutered iteration of the character. I would say to read it simpl as an origin story, otherwise, nothing new here at all. Story: 4 Art: 6 Overall: 5 Recommendation: Read

Star Wars: Qui-Gon Jinn #1 (Marvel)* – In what definitely feels a companion story , we find Qui Gon Jinn at unease with the force. As him and a much younger Obi-Wan, find themselves rescuing a princess in the middle of a civil war. As Qui-Gon’s instincts leads him to a place where his Visions becomes amplified. By issue’s end, we see Qui-Gon is the first Jedi to foresee the wrath headed their way by way of the Sith. Story: 9 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Killmonger #1 (Marvel)* – In probably the best debut issue of an origin story I have read in a minute, we definitely get a masterclass in character study. As we find Erik as he is about to graduate MIT , his first instinct is to satisfy his blood lust for Klawe. He gets interrupted by Kingpin’s henchmen, King, Rook and Knight. by issue’s end, he begrudgingly joins this motley crew, even if it is just a stepping stone. Story :10 Art:10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Immortal Hulk: Best Defense #1 (Marvel)* – We find Bruce Banner looking for what happened to Doctor Strange. As the book unfolds like a sleepy town mystery, one which Captivates the reader from the onset. He soon finds more quandaries than he initially expected. By issue’s end, Bruce and Hulk must find a way forward and the road into gets more treacherous. Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Ryan C

Martian Manhunter #1 (DC Comics)** – I went in to this one with zero preconceptions and was absolutely blown away. Riley Rossmo’s art is a joy to behold, as usual, all inventive page layouts and ultra-expressive characters and chaotic action scenes, but Steve Orlando, well — he’s pretty up-and-down, isn’t he? Fortunately, he’s “up” here in a big way, re-envisioning J’Onn J’Onzz as a dirty cop from Mars trying to atone for past sins as a clean cop here on Earth. Oh, and there’s a Martian sex scene in here that you’ve gotta see to believe. Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Shazam! #1 (DC Comics)** – I suppose I should have known better, but — anyway, this is unmitigated crap. Geoff Johns’ updating of the Marvel family is obvious and unimaginative, Dale Eaglesham’s art is way too ’90s Image for a project like this — and nothing much really happens in the book, either, it’s pretty much all stage-setting. I enjoyed Mayo “Sen” Naito’s art on the backup strip, but that’s about all I can say for this poorly-considered work. Doc Shaner, Chris Samnee, Steve Rude — I’d love to see a “Shazam!” comic from one of them, but the approach DC is taking here is fundamentally flawed from the outset. Overall: 2 Recommendation: Pass

Batman #60 (DC Comics)** – Probably the best issue in quite some time, as Tom King’s Penguin/Bane storyline finally gels into something teeming with both suspense and menace, and the alternating art of Jorge Fornes and Mikel Janin accentuates the drama inherent in different scenes in fundamentally opposite, but equally appealing, styles. Oh, and that cliffhanger — holy shit! Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Border Town #4 (DC Comics/Vertigo)** – Yeah, okay, this issue is “guilty” of burying its storyline beneath its polemic, especially in the clumsy “info-dump” writer Eric M. Esquivel resorts to in his stage-setting for a Joe Arapaio stand-in character, but it’s still fun and engaging stuff with compelling characters, smart “world-building,” plenty of humor, and superb Ramon Villalobos art. Esquivel is a bit too “tell, don’t show” as a writer too frequently, but it’s not an ever-present feature at this point like it was in issue one. Yeah, this isn’t as good a #3, which remains the best installment to date, but it’s still pretty damn good and well worth four bucks. Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Buy

Mr. H

Shazam! #1 (DC Comics)* – I cannot express how excited I was for this one. Geoff Johns and Gary Franks take on the big red cheese was so refreshing. The way they flipped Billy Batson from aw shucks to street smart wiseass with a heart of gold. That along with Gary Franks gorgeous art made a spectacular combination. Well I’m happy to say this story picks up where that left off. Billy has gone from house outcast to leader of the pack and the whole Marvel Family is just a joy to see in action. Now sure not a lot happens this issue but that is not to say it isn’t a lot of fun. Seeing the group discuss their superhero team name was a gas the art by Dale Eaglesham was a great successor to Gary Frank. The colors were vibrant and just whole lot of fun. The cliffhanger with a return of a long thought dead character sets up some serious intrigue and I am definitely back next month. Fun, laughs, and a sprinkle of action. This was everything monthy comics should be. Overall: great feel and continuity and good to see a monthly from Captain Marvel again. Overall: 8.9 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 (**).

Movie Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Image result for into the spider verse

Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman  serve up one of the more unique visual feasts of the holiday film season with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which is the first big animated superhero theatrical film since 1993’s Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. More importantly, it is the big screen debut of Miles Morales, the Afro-Latino teenager who succeeded Peter Parker as Spider-Man in Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli’s (Who is credited as an animator on the film.) 2011 Ultimate Comics Spider-Man series and is still Spider-Man in the mainstream Marvel Universe. The film chronicles Miles’ (voiced by Shameik Moore) origin story as Spider-Man as he teams up with Spider-People from other dimensions, including Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) to fight crime lord the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), who has gone from threatening just Hell’s Kitchen to all of the multiverse.

Beginning with a flashing Ben-Day dot take on the traditional Sony/Columbia/Marvel opening credit sequences, Into the Spider-Verse‘s animation style and color palette take center stage. The film’s presentation is an intoxicating blend of 3D animation, pop art, some photorealism (Like in the classroom scenes.), traditional animation, and of course, classic comic book storytelling motifs like sound effects and text boxes. The animators make what would be rote sequences in other films, like interdimensional portals or web slinging, imaginative like using stop motion animation to show when another dimension has crossed over into the main one. In a way, Into the Spider-Verse does remind me of  the great stop motion animation work done by Aardman (Wallace and Gromit) or Laika (Coraline), but with a slick big city sheen that matches the glossy sound quality of the music in Miles’ headphones in the first scene of the movie.

However, writers Rothman and Phil Lord (Co-director of The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street) don’t just rest on the laurels of the engrossing animation style, kick-ass action sequences featuring an inventive riff on a classic Spider-Man villain, and scene stealing voice work from Nicolas Cage’s Spider-Man Noir and Mulaney’s Spider-Ham. They take their time establishing a world where the tropes of Spider-Man and superheroes are well-understood and give Miles himself a compelling heroic journey. 

But it’s not all superhero stuff for Miles. Rothman and Lord spend some time in the film exploring his other interests, like street art and music, and his complicated relationship with his school, Brooklyn Visions and family. Miles would rather stay with his friends and community at Brooklyn Middle instead of going to a charter school, and so he sneaks out and fails quizzes on purpose. He feels a bit awkward at Visions, and this connects with his growing pains as Spider-Man.

And every scene he spends with his dad NYPD officer Jefferson Davis (Brian Tyree Henry), mother Rio (Luna Lauren Velez), and uncle Aaron Davis (Mahershala Ali) is to be cherished. Ali and Shameik Moore have an easy chemistry in a pivotal early scene where Uncle Aaron shows Miles the ropes of transforming his emotions into street art. He is a real rock for Miles as he struggles with school, his new powers, and growing up, and Miles is truly at ease around him.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a lot of things. A superhero origin story, a coming of age tale with an unlikely mentor figure, a crazy crossover, and a rare case of visual experimentation in a big studio animated film. (Those Rico Renzi pinks when Spider-Gwen first showed up rocked my world.) Persichetti, Ramsey, Rothman, and Lord also use the film to show the universality of Spider-Man, and that anyone of any race or gender could be under the mask as long as they help the helpless, take responsibility for their actions, persevere in the toughest situations, and maybe make a joke or two.

Overall Rating: 9 out of 10

Review: Slum Wolf

Slum Wolf

For anyone who has ever been to Japan, there’s something both magical and mysterious about the wonderful country. When I was first temporarily assigned to the USS Obrien in Naval Station Yokuska, it very much felt like I was living in a storybook. At first, I felt the emptiness of being a stranger in a strange land. That is where the magic of being in Japan practically whisks you away. The land, its inhabitants, and the places along the way, makes the whole country so beautiful and amazing experience. I also became very much enamored with its history. It’s complicated, storied, and epic, making the nation’s story so compelling.

What the world knows about Japan usually lies in what mass media portrays. Many of the movies that are imported from Japan usually are focused on the Yakuza and fall into over the top action. Then there’s anime which both tug at the heat and leaves viewers in awe. Rarely, other than Grave Of The Fireflies does the Western world get a glimpse of what happened after World War II . One such creator, Tadao Tsuge, made it his mission to portray the Japan he lived in and one of his first collections to be printed here in the United States, Slum Wolf, gives the Western world a peak into the mind and view of this master storyteller.

In “Sentimental Melody,” two old friends reminisce of friends lost and times they rather forget. In “Sounds,” one man gets haunted by what he believes he hears but it’s what he isn’t paying attention to which causes him concern. In “Legend Of The Wolf,” one retired hitman looks back at his life and mistakes a stranger for a work colleague. In the lasts tory that I will highlight, “The Death Of Ryokichi Aogishi,” a student pontificates on his life within the grand design which leads him to some murky roads.

Overall, the graphic novel is a sprawling collection that traverses genres and audiences to tell a complete story of Japan and its impact on the world. The stories by Tsuge are smart, relatable, funny, and sometimes tense. The art by Tsude is at times only serviceable, but at other times, magnificent. Altogether, the father of alternative manga delivers his best work and brings his own style to the art form.

Story: Tadao Tsuge Art: Tadao Tsuge Translator: Ryan Holmberg
Story : 9.7 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Martian Manhunter #1

No matter what you know about J’onn J’onnz, you’re not prepared for this! Martian Manhunter #1 is a reinvention of the Manhunter from Mars in this twisted, unexpected series from writer Steve Orlando, artist Riley Rossmo, colorist Ivan Plascencia, and letterer Deron Bennett.

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

Amazon/comiXology/Kindle
TFAW

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies 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

Review: Campaigners #1

Campaigners #1

Media is everywhere these days making privacy to be an actual difficult thing to find. Everything people say and do can be transmitted to someone across the world without you knowing. This is what makes privacy and intimacy such interchangeable words in the current state of mass media and how technology pushes that envelope. This nowhere more evident than in how and where people keep up on current events heading to social platforms for the latest news.

Long gone are the days when people turn to television and newspapers as their primary source. It hasn’t become anachronistic as of yet but it is closer to being relics with each day. Even smartphones have dozens of apps which feed people all over the globe with what they consider relevant news.  As transparent the world is, less people possess freedom of thought as everything we do becomes increasingly calculated and manipulated. In the debut issue of Campaigners, we deep dive into how one person deals when one mistake becomes known worldwide.

We meet Kyrda Franks, a precarious high schooler who is trying to help her friend not break the dress code. Of course, this brings ridicule from the high school jocks, as some things never change, but also brings notice from the school administration. As Kyrda and her friend, Bee leave school, they are approached by the local news anchor, looking to make a story of what happened, as Kyrda inadvertently lets her political leanings,which catches the attention of the President and the general public. By issue’s end, Bee gets unfairly besieged because of what Kyrda says leaving those who know her to become unintended targets.

Overall, the comic is an interesting premise which more than sparks in this debut issue. The story by Brendan Hykes is funny, relevant, and tense. The art by MJ Barros and Sean Rinehart is elegant and vivid. Altogether, it’s an excellent story that speaks to who we have become and how we must fight about intolerance everywhere.

Story: Brendan Hykes Art: MJ Barros and Sean Rinehart
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: The Green Lantern #2

This new direction for the Green Lanterns continues to take things back to basics in a way with a focus on the police aspect of the characters and a few scenes that are straight cop tropes.

The Green Lantern #2 features writing from Grant Morrison, art by Liam Sharp, color by Steve Oliff, and lettering by Tom Orzerchowski.

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

Amazon/comiXology/Kindle
TFAW

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies 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

Review: Die #1

Die #1 is a strange beast. It’s part love letter to the fantasy genre, and it’s part puking revulsion and wanting to move on with your life. Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans’ story begins in 1991 when a teenager Sol decides to run a custom fantasy RPG for his and his friend Ash’s 16th birthday and invites Ash’s sister cyberpunk obsessed Angela and their friends Chuck, Isabelle, and Matt to play. Sol makes a big deal of how the RPG isn’t your run of the mill Dungeon and Dragons clone with the interesting gameplay mechanism of having a character roll a certain “die” depending on their personality. However, once the dice are rolled, scary unseen things happen to the party, Sol goes missing and is presumed dead, and the story jumps to the characters in their forties.

Gillen writing middle aged characters is quite a treat, and Hans’ art is both immersive and tragic. She shows some amazing depths as a cartoonist that I noticed most not in the rain swept vistas or introduction to the RPG turned real life fantasy world, but in the not so pretty faces of characters like Chuck. Up to this point in her career, Hans has drawn badass lesbian angel bounty hunters, problematic white girls dressing up like Japanese deities, Norse trickster gods, and the Father of Lies himself in Vertigo’s Lucifer, but Die #1 shows that she gets ordinary people too while still displaying amazing command of light and atmosphere. Every time a die is thrown, the page is vivisected into points of light, and the barrier between our world and the fantasy one is non-existent. People talking in shadow filled rooms is nice, but Die really reaches another gear when Hans gets to draw panel after panel of fantasy environment and put the main characters into their in-game “costumes”.

However, she doesn’t skimp on the kids in a room talking shit about a game part either, and Gillen definitely takes his time in Die #1 establishing the ensemble of characters and the mystery of the Grandmaster and this RPG world before a big time final page cliffhanger. From his work on well-crafted series like WicDiv and Journey into Mystery, he knows that giving away too much about the world and the underpinnings could lead to disinterest so Gillen leaves out much of the world-building minutia and spends time on the interactions between the main cast of characters and using the game to fill it out like Sol’s pretentious girlfriend Isabelle, who creates a way too cool for school character and chides him for not reading the Mervyn Peake novel she lent him.

Thankfully, knowledge of table top RPG and high or portal fantasy (Think Chronicles of Narnia) ephemera aren’t required for Die #1, which has a simple and accessible core centered around childhood friends who have grown apart and are trying to reconnect after experiencing a tragedy at a young age. It’s like Stand By Me 20 Years Later, but more DnD, or Stranger Things if the main young male cast plus Eleven experienced the events of the show, but no one else did. But, unlike this slowly improving TV show, Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans aren’t really beholden to any kind of nostalgia except for the long lasting kind of the first time you dip into an epic fantasy series, roll a D20 during your first DnD campaign, or wander around an open world fantasy RPG.

Die #1 is a book where you kind of geek out about the formerly drably dressed kids/40-somethings in full epic mode with swords, cool hair, and jewelry and then realize that they’re only in this world because they were transported by an object with the blood of their long lost friend. Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Han don’t treat the fantasy elements of Die like an adventure, but more like a mystery or something freakier. What happened to them at Ash and Sol’s 16th birthday is something so traumatic that they haven’t spoken about it in decades, and it shows even though we only get the slightest of details about what went on towards the end of the comic.

Stephanie Hans shows these unspoken moments through silent panels of people walking, rain falling, and keeps her color palette low before going a little dream world for the die throwing sequences and bright for the scenes in the fantasy world. The group of friends might exchange friendly small talk when they meet up to discuss Sol and the bloody D20, but there is a strain to their relationship that is revealed through Kieron Gillen’s caption boxes and the shadows in Hans’ art. It’s the awkwardness of meeting with people who once meant a great deal to you, but not for some time combined with the dredging of old trauma.

I’m here for Stephanie Hans’ fantasy world construction in Die and Kieron Gillen’s tempering of the joy of fantasy with the horror of loss. Die #1 makes a smart choice by presenting character dynamics in the foreground and cool, scary fantasy world-building in the background. But Hans’ memorable visuals is what will stick with me the most. Never has the casual roll of dice had so much power.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Stephanie Hans Letters: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

« Older Entries