Category Archives: Reviews

Game Review: Pokemon Sun & Moon

pokemon-sun-moon-trailer-gameplayGame reviews aren’t something I’ve taken the opportunity to venture on with Graphic Policy, but I do consider myself a gamer in every sense of the word. In 2016 the Pokémon Franchise celebrated a remarkable 20 Twenty Year milestone, and I am happy that my first game review is an opportunity to chime in that celebration. Pokémon’s latest installment Sun & Moon is marked with sustained freshness, polished gameplay, and fresh mechanics, that have frequently changed the strategic dynamic. I.e. mega evolutions, z-crystal moves, regional variants.

With its rich lore, with intergenerational ties, and more recently multiversal implications/migration, the seventh generation brings a level of “meta” to the game that we haven’t seen since Generation 1’s glitch Pokémon Missingno. which unintentionally pierced the veil between fantasy and reality. With Pokémon Sun & Moon and the recent OR/AS  it is now canonically established that individual game versions and former generations are self-contained worlds/dimensions, which now experience intergenerational migration (both Pokémon and People) as of Generation VII. I noticed this when discovering the presence of a  version exclusive pokémon,(Restricted to my version) near a monument that seemingly allows travel to another “universe” Upon reflection this made sense as what is called the “Ultra Wormholes” in this game was explicitly referred to as a “Link Cable” in Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. It’s these little touches that really shows how layered the franchise has become and makes me appreciate it more, doubly so when such elements aren’t heavily announced and left for the player to discover.

Gen VII’s offering seem to me, to be as a truce between the so called “Gen Oners” and more recent fans to the franchise.The regional variants offer a fresh new take on many beloved gen one favourites. This was a welcome compromise with respect to not adding as many new creatures comparable to prior generations. All of this praise aside, there are some critiques that I have, but they are nitpicks at best and borne from my deep love for the game.

Critique 1 – The current game’s lack of a national pokedex. It has been a  growing fear of mine that the meta-quest of “Catching them all” has become a Sisyphean task and may be de-emphasized or pushed to the wayside entirely eventually. This fear was confirmed to some degree with the lack of a national dex, omitting the full pokedex listing of every pokémon in the series. Where this may come as some relief to some, to me it somewhat betrays the core goal and mantra of the series “gotta catch them all”

Critique 2 – “Too little water!” If ORAS committed the infamously parodied sin of Too Much Water (sorry IGN). I argue that the Alola Region commits the sin of too little of it. The choice to overhaul and remove the HM system is a double edge sword. On one hand It frees up your pokémon move repertoire choices, and eliminates the need for “HM slaves “but it also restricts your exploration. Having just experienced the immersive freedom of the Hoenn remakes where you can surf, dive and travel up waterfalls. Alola by contrast feels a bit limited. Especially so considering its beautiful environments and vistas that just beckon at you to be explored intimately.

All this said, Gen VII is still a strong offering to a franchise that is not going anywhere soon. The creature designs of the current generation are also a marked improvement from what we’ve seen in recent installments.  My personal favourites are the Rockruff and Stufful evolutionary lines . This is a good sign letting us know that the game creators are listening to the fans.

7 generations and 20 years strong  The sky is the limit for the franchise and it looks as though that is where it is indeed heading.  There have been rumours that we will see a third version of this generation titled “Pokemon Stars” as a launch title for the upcoming Nintendo Switch. (to be honest I think the title “Eclipse” would have made much more sense)  with all of the cosmic/interdimensional themes, that have been popping up in the franchise lately this makes sense.

Final Thoughts

I Really love the Lovecraftian designs of the Ultra Beasts

Game Freak really missed out on an opportunity and should have revealed Missingno as an Ultrabeast. It would have connected Gen VII organically to the events of Gen 1 in a way that fits with the current mythos magnificently.

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Review: Elektra #1

elektra__1Matt Owens starts off this reboot, or continuation, of the Elektra story by giving us an escapist vibe. Elektra is trying to sort herself out and figure out her next move, she chooses Las Vegas as the jump off point for her adventure/awakening. While there she goes after a woman beating rapist and sets herself up to possibly be used in a very dangerous game.

Owens provides a bit of girl power and sisterhood by having another woman, Elektra, come to the aid of a woman whose attack she catches on the tail end of her assault. Outside of a short bar scene, a bathroom scene and, her retaliation against the misogynistic scum bags running the casino, there isn’t much Elektra in this issue. I get that the first issue is supposed to set up the story but, the story seems to be more about the foul-mouthed bad guys than Elektra.

Juann Cabal serves up some pretty sleek artwork. It’s halfway between manga and old school Marvel. It’s sleek,y et dark and Archer-esque while being well linked and detailed. The fight scenes and the Elektra reveal are drawn extremely modern giving the readers a visual upgrade to add tone to the action.

Overall I found this issue interesting as a story but, not as an Elektra comic. The title character appears on less than half of the pages which I haven’t seen happen in any other comic book. Getting past the lack of Elektra, I can say that the story was realistic to a degree and gave us a nice little cameo in the end. Elektra’s retreat is ruined by having to be the bad ass ninja assassin that she provides a nice parallel to the abused bartender part of the story.

There’s a lot of trapped women going on and, not only does Elektra use the male abusers communication method of violence against them but, she turns it up a notch. We get a woman as an avenging angel with her own goals and agenda. I’m curious how it will turn out when she’s put in the inevitable situation of being used by men as an object of violence. I’m hoping that they keep up with the girl power vibe that Elektra embodies and don’t cop out, create a type of comic book torture porn or, remove her agency like she was removed from most of the pages.

As a stand alone issue this is a good kick off point for a story and worth having a look at. Unfortunately, I would have liked to have seen more Elektra.

Story: Matt Owens Art: Juann Cabal
Story: 7.8 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review

Review: The Wicked Righteous #1

wicked righteous 1 cover.PNGIt’s been two years since a biological attack decimated the world’s population. Lucas Goodspeed and his brothers have spent that time preparing to escape the dangers of San Diego, CA. When a beautiful girl named JC is abducted their plans appear to be in jeopardy. The Brothers must now choose how far they’re willing to go to save a life… even if it means endangering one of their own.

When it comes to post-apocalyptic stories, there’s usually one of two things that has caused the apocalypse – war or disease. In the case of The Wicked Righteous it’s a disease that we don’t really know a whole lot about just yet, other than for as-yet-unexplained reasons it didn’t infect everyone. Terry Mayo uses the opening of the comic to establish the world of The Wicked Righteous as the mystery disease is already rampant infecting some and ignoring others; although we don’t find out how or why, the cause of the plague doesn’t really matter at this point because that’s not the focus of the story.

The comic itself is an almost by the numbers take on establishing a story in the post-apocalyptic landscape, although contrary to what you may be thinking, that’s not actually a bad thing as you’re able to focus more on the characters than the setting of the story. It’s always the characters, and their relationships, that make any good post-apocalyptic tale, and The Wicked Righteous has the potential for us to explore some very interesting angles of character development – and that’s why the formulaic backdrop upon which the story is set works so well.

At the end of the day, this is a very solid first issue and is well worth your time if you’re looking for a fresh take on a familiar setting.

 Story: Terry Mayo Art: Lucas Romero Colours: Christopher Hall
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Graphic Policy was provided with a FREE copy for review

Review: Upgrade Soul: The Complete Collection

screenshot2016-09-26at3-15-56pmThe world has always been obsessed with the “fountain of youth”, and as technology improves one can only believe it is a matter of time before we can stop or eve reverse it. Popular culture and science fiction have explored it in various incarnations. One of the most interesting versions of this, was the recent “Age of Adaline”, which speaks off the struggles of getting old without your body showing the visible ravages of time. Then there is the reverse version of fountain of youth, like in “Big”, where he gets to find out how it is to be older while still possessing the mind and spirit of an adolescent. One of my personal favorites is the Black Mirror episode of “San Junipero”, which technically doesn’t age them, but lets the main characters live a younger version of themselves.

The movies I remember from my youth are the “Cocoon” movies, which dealt with senior citizens being rejuvenated by aliens. Not since those movies, have senior citizens and their adventures with the fountain of youth not so much been revisited since then. That is until I had the good fortune about finding out about Upgrade Soul, which just so happened to have won the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity at the Long Beach Comic Expo. The description alone was more than worth the look:

UPGRADE SOUL is the story of an elderly couple who become the guinea pigs of a visionary procedure that aims to revivify them by filtering toxins from their bodies on a molecular level. When the procedure experiences a fatal complication, the couple is faced with severely disfigured, though intellectually superior duplicates of themselves. Soon, it becomes clear that only one version of each individual can survive, and the psychological battle for dominance begins.” From the first panel, the story immerses you into the world of Molly and Hank.

When they are told about this experiential procedure, they are more than hopeful for the positive gains it would bring such as living up to 200 years and really didn’t consider the possible negative residual effects. The story flips between before the procedure and after the procedure, as to follow a non-linear way of telling the story but even more compelling. As we meet the other couple who have gone through the procedure, the reader gets challenged with traditional beauty standards, what their idea of it is and what they consider inner beauty. By the end of the book, our main characters’ intellect and senses get heightened and much like “Lucy “and “Limitless”, they have truly become better versions of themselves.

This book, much like one of my favorite movies, and maybe because they remind me of family members makes you fall in love with the characters, just like “Bubba Hotep.” The sequential art feels like portraits at times and really makes the reader feel at home. The story is smart and more immersive than most fountain of youth stories, it gives you feels at the most unexpected moments. Overall, a powerhouse book that feeds the mind as much as it rejuvenates the spirit.

Story: Ezra Claytan Daniels Art: Ezra Claytan Daniels
Story: 10 Art:10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Cryptocracy #6

cryptocracy-6The Mars family base is under attack, besieged by Hum and his army of deadly cryptids. To save his people in this epic battle, Grahame must step forward as a leader, putting everything he cares about on the line to salvage the broken remains of the cryptocracy.

Things hit a stalemate in Cryptocracy #6 as the epic battle ends, with casualties on both sides. Yet something tells me this is far from the end of this series overall and that writer Van Jensen has more to come. The ending is a clear indication that more is to come, as questions still remain unanswered. Hopefully, the wait won’t be long for more issues.

The art by Pete Woods brings the brutality of battle to the forefront. The issue brings a cornucopia of cryptids on both sides, as they wage war on each other. While the explosive firefights are well done, the ending scene is a curious sight. It manages to tell one main thing, more is to come.

Story: Van Jensen Art: Pete Woods
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Dark Horse Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Evil Ernie: Godeater #4

eegod-04-cov-a-parillo

Hell has gone to hell with the arrival of the Godeater, and Ernie has one last chance to stop it before it’s too late: he has to bring Heaven down to the pits! Justin Jordan, fan-favorite writer of The Strange Case of Luther Strode, continues his mind-blowing Chaos Comics epic! Meanwhile, in Chapter Four of our “Last Ditch Bitch” back-up story: How do you save death metal rocker Liv Halvorsen from the goddess Mistress Hel? Special guest star Chastity wrestles with the dilemma… while fighting tooth and nail against the Dead Onez!

The gods of old realize they must unite if they wish to survive the Godeater. The alliance is uneasy and Ernie is caught in the center of it. He’s forced to lead the army of the undead against the Godeater using the power of Hel. It seems like writers Justin Jordan and Keith Davidsen have saved the best for last with only one issue remaining.

Like the previous issues, the art is by Colton Worley and Cezar Razek is stunning and almost sublime. I will admit the Norman Rockwell influenced cover is a nice touch for this fan favorite Chaos comics creation. It feels like a blanket hiding the dark tale that lurks within its pages.

Story: Justin Jordan, Keith Davidsen Art: Colton Worley, Cezar Razek
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Dynamite Entertainment provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Retro Review: Wolverine: Doombringer

wolverine_doombringer_vol_1_1In November of 1997, Wolverine: Doombringer was released. A one shot graphic novel written by Doug Moench with Michel Dutkiewicz providing the pencils, and Jimmy Palmiotti on inks. The team are joined by colourists Mark McNabb, Dennis Calero and Atomic Paintbrush. 

Clocking in at 48 pages, the comic is set during the period of time after Mariko Yashida canceled her wedding to Logan in order to atone for the sins of her father and her final appearance in Wolverine #57, a comic published five years before the publication date of Doombringer. The story itself starts a millennium ago with one group of mystics trying to end the world by summoning the Doombringer, and another group trying to prevent them by freezing time using an intricately detailed piece of magic.

Fast forward a thousand years and the conflict between the two opposing mystic groups has been relegated to myth when one of those impacted by the spell is awoken and goes to seek aid from the modern descendants of his clan. Events transpire, and eventually, Wolverine gets involved.

Once that happens we get a pretty standard late 90’s Wolverine tale that won’t set your world on fire, but is the equivalent to a PG-13 popcorn action movie; an enjoyable, if unspectacular, comic that has all the action you’d expect with very little damage to Wolverine beyond his torn costume.

While I still enjoyed the comic, at the end of the day it wasn’t as good as I remembered – and that’s a bigger disappointment for me than anything else.

Story: Doug Moench Pencils: Michael Dutkiewicz Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti
Colours: Mark McNabb, Dennis Calero and Atomic Paintbrush
Story: 6.75 Art: 7 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read 

Review: Spirit Wars #1

spirit-wars-1Comics have a way of reaching people when other forms of storytelling cannot. I have mentioned before in previous reviews of how my father got me into reading comics and how I have used the medium to get my daughters to read as well. This seems true for most people, not only here in America, but all around the world. As comics fans, all around the globe fell in love with DC and Marvel, they also were inspired by them.

In the 70s, Marvel reached out in Great Britain, first as reprints of some of their ongoing titles and then with original titles like Captain Britain Weekly and Knights of Pendragon. The other direction Marvel reached was north of the border, with the much-touted Alpha Flight. DC, on the other hand, the closest they ever came to is Earth One’s version of Batman and Robin and Justice League Europe being based in London, but their line, Vertigo, had a deeper run with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and The Invincibles. The one thing both companies have not done, is to reach out to the rest of the world despite this fact, the rest of the globe still has embraced the ethos of the superhero.

Case and point, the emergence of Vortex Comics, from Nigeria, who have a series of titles, which not only embraced the superhero genre but also embraced other genres while not alienating its core audience, by including characters who look like them. In the debut issue of Spirit Wars, we are introduced to Bolaji, whose secret superhero identity is Strike Guard, but has since lost his powers until a friend who has long passed has brought him back to life, by permission of Death himself. The bargain his friend made was to kill as many angels as Death would require, a penance that would literally bring about reverberations in Heaven and Hell. By the end of the first issue, one thing is certain, war is coming.

Overall, a very strong first issue which not only delivers but introduces the reader to a world that is part Game of Thrones and part Clash Of The Titans with shadows of Infinity Gauntlet. The story by Mamode Ogbewele and Somto Ajuluchuckwu, is immersive and enlightening, while its pace can seem breakneck at times, it still is entertaining. The art by Somto Akah, Jimmy King, and Toyin Ajetunmobi, is simply beautiful, as the vibrant tones and colors accentuate the characters and backgrounds, while the way they use sepia tones, are the best I have ever seen. Altogether, an excellent debut, that leaves the reader hungry for more, which this nine issue series aims to do.

Story: Mamode Ogbewele and Somto Ajuluchuckwu
Art: Somto Akah, Jimmy King and Toyin Ajetunmobi
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Harbinger Renegade #4

hr_004_variant_cheungFaith Herbert, the heart and soul of the Harbinger Renegades, has been captured! Now, Peter Stanchek, Kris Hathaway, and John Torkelson must put their powers to practice and rescue their beloved ally from a radicalized group of psiots bent on fraying the fabric of society. But as the rechristened Renegades make their move, their newfound rivals strike first by making Peter an offer he can’t refuse. As the clock ticks closer to tragedy, will the omega-level harbinger make a do-or-die decision to save his friends… or himself?

I’ve read three Valiant comics this week; this, Divinity III #3, and an advanced review copy of X-O Manowar #1. While I really quite enjoyed Harbinger Renegade #4, I did feel that it was the weakest of the three offerings from the publisher – although when that can be said about a comic this good, that’s more a statement of admiration for Valiant’s comics and the high standard they set for themselves.

Harbinger Renegade #4 concludes the first story arc that ends up feeling more like a new introduction to the Renegades (Peter, Torque, Faith and Kris) and their new companions than it does the epic return that many, myself included, were hoping for.

That being said, I understand why Rafer Roberts has framed the first arc as he did, as there would have been some readers new to the franchise that would have otherwise been lost (the same thing that happened to yours truly when picking up Imperium), and in order for any series to thrive you need to attract new readers. The first arc was successfully accessible to new readers, easing them into the characters while still providing long time fans something to enjoy.

Overall, this was a solidly entertaining book that left me wanting more. I can’t ask for more than that in a comic.

Story: Rafer Roberts  Penciler: Darick Robertson 
Inker: Richard Clark Colourist: Brian Reber
Story: 8.5 Art: 8 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

TV Review: Riverdale S1E5 Chater Five: Heart of Darkness

riverdaleThe Blossom family’s preparations for Jason’s funeral include a secret agenda; an opportunity to work with a music mentor derails Archie’s attempt to refocus on football; Veronica befriends Cheryl; Hermoine seeks Fred’s help.

Riverdale goes deep into the rabbit hole as the mystery over who killed Jason is the bulk of the episode and things get into some weird gothic horror territory through it all.

The funeral for Jason is still to happen with a goal of possibly finding out who murdered him, but Cheryl also brings herself into the center of it all with a display that’s not unexpected. The show keeps hinting at something more than brother and sister between the two, but I’m still not sure the show is willing to go there. But, there’s revelations that the connection between the Coopers and the Blossoms is deeper and more complicated than originally thought.

And that focus on this episode really is interesting because the investigation driven by Betty and Jughead feels like Veronica Mars or the Hardy Boys, or Nancy Drew, as opposed to Archie. But, even with that genre mash-up, the series has a heavy dose of teenage drama. That is what the show is at its heart, a soap opera featuring Archie Comics’ teens.

Archie must decide where his heart is, with football or music? And what’s up with Archie’s father and Veronica’s mother? There’s a battle for football captain, just a nice smattering of soap opera schmaltz.

The episode veers more towards the mystery of it all with an aesthetic at times that feels like a horror film, but even with that, it doesn’t lose focus or heart as to what it is at its core. Riverdale has done an excellent job of mixing a murder mystery with teenage drama and it all works in a guilty entertainment sort of way. Defying my expectations Riverdale has become my favorite comic adaptation currently on tv.

Overall Rating: 9.05

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