Category Archives: Reviews

Manga Monday Review: Splatoon Vol. 1

The Turf Wars have started in Inkopolis, and the team that inks the most ground will be crowned the winner! Goggles and Team Blue are ranked lower than their competitors. But with some teamwork and a touch of creativity, they might just leave their mark on this tournament!

I’ve never played the game Splatoon and really my only knowledge of it was seeing some gameplay footage when Nintendo’s Switch was announced. I picked up that it’s a video game and one that’s big on competition, where teams face off against each other to do… something. And knowing so very little I was intrigued to dive into Splatoon Vol. 1 from Sankichi Hinodeya and published by VIZ Media.

The first volume focuses on Team Blue who have entered The Turf Wars and battle out against other teams to paint areas. It’s a straightforward story we’ve seen so many times before (I’m a fan of the dance competition version) but Hinodeya focuses on a mix of humor and teamwork to make what could easily be a bland tale into something interesting.

The manga feels like it has a clear audience in mind, a younger reader who might enjoy the lessons contained within. Teamwork is the name of the game and emphasized over and over after each battle. That seems to be what puts them over the top their higher ranked opponents. There’s also the lesson to try and not pay too much attention to rankings, just go out and do your best because you never know. It’s lessons one might expect in a kids cartoon or Sesame Street and it works.

The first volume works best for that younger set but also for those that are familiar with the game. The game, I would assume based on the story, relies heavily on colors and in a black and white manga, that’s a little odd to follow. Something feels like it’s missing. The action too is a little crazy to follow at times. There’s also the characters and their changing abilities that are left open to figure out… until you get to the end. Weirdly, a chapter that explains this world and game is at the end and after reading that section everything else makes a bit more sense. If that was earlier, I might have enjoyed the volume more.

Splatoon isn’t a bad manga at all and feels like it’s aimed at a certain audience, Splatoon fans. That’s not a bad thing, but for those who aren’t familiar with the game, it leaves you a little lost in the action. By the end though, I was a bit intrigued to find out more about the video game it’s based off of and see what I’ve been missing. While the manga wasn’t totally for me, it did present a fun world where teamwork is key and that sounds like a game I might want to play.

Story: Sankichi Hinodeya Art: Sankichi Hinodeya
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

VIZ Media provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Manga Monday Review: Golden Kamuy Vol. 1

In the early twentieth century, Russo-Japanese War veteran Saichi “Immortal” Sugimoto scratches out a meager existence during the postwar gold rush on the wild frontier of Hokkaido. When he stumbles across a map to a fortune in hidden Ainu gold, he sets off on a treacherous quest to find it. But Sugimoto is not the only interested party, and everyone who knows about the gold will kill to possess it! Faced with the harsh conditions of the northern wilderness, ruthless criminals and rogue Japanese soldiers, Sugimoto will need all his skills and luck—and the help of an Ainu girl named Asirpa—to survive.

Satoru Noda‘s Golden Kamuy Vol. 1 is a fantastic debut manga volume that fills in the backstory, provides depth to characters, and delivers a solid crime story. The concept of the story is simple, a soldier attempts to find a map to a treasure that involves convicts, crooked soldiers, and a young girl to help him along. And, all of that is set upon the backdrop of the Russo-Japanese war fallout. It’s a series that crosses a whole lot of genres and pulls them off quite well.

While the story has “heist” elements to it, this first volume mainly takes place in a forest giving it a survival aspect to it all. It defies expectations in many ways and it kept me on my toes by doing so.

What’s even more interesting is its two main characters, Sugimoto and Ainu, have a lot of depth coming out of the first volume. You get a great sense of who they are, what motivates them, and their general personality. You get a backstory to them as well. That’s a hell of a lot packed into one volume and by the end you get a sense you really get these two and their dynamic.

The art by Noda is fantastic as well. There’s so much detail to everything and the juxtaposition of the nature in which a lot of the first volume takes place and the fact material wealth is the driver is fascinating. There’s an ominous feeling throughout that industrialization is right around the corner and that the encroaching technology will destroy what we’re viewing. War comes home and brings advancement and destruction.

A fantastic first volume that’s a familiar genre matched with an era you don’t see too often. An absolute must get and a great read for manga fans and those new to it.

Story: Satoru Noda Art: Satoru Noda
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

VIZ Media provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Buck Danny Vol. 4 No-Fly Zone

Tom Cruise is one of those actors, where his movies always make san impression on you. Who could not forget his memorable turn in Tropic Thunder, playing a character, who looks nothing like him.  Then there is his turn as an uppity Public relations officer he played in Edge of Tomorrow, which some may say is the natural progression of the character he played in Top Gun. There is also the rebooted version of Ethan Hunt, in Mission impossible movies, something is really either hit or miss.

Of course, everything he does, is not exactly a hit, and it depends on how you perceived the movie, like Vanilla Sky, which I personally can’t get through every time I have tried. There is his most recent star turn in American Made, about a real-life pilot hired by the CIA to fly drugs. It was probably one of his better movies in years and since it was based on a true story, it makes you wonder how often did something like this happen. This is exactly what is pondered in Buck Danny: No-Fly Zone, as Buck ventures into Nicaragua.

In this adventure, Buck, Sonny and Tumb are reassigned to Nicaragua, to train the country’s Air Force pilots in flying their newly acquired F/A-18s. As with most of these books, the Colonel, has an undercover operation going on at the same time, as the government believes that the country is the source of illegal drugs. As training gets underway, they soon find out they are near a no-fly zone, which proves to confirm their suspicions. By book’s end, there is a bigger plot afoot and the Nicaraguan military finds themselves at odds.

Overall, an interesting beginning to an interesting arc, that proves Francis Bergese is at home with conspiracy thrillers. The story by Bergese is fun and suspense driven. The art by Bergese is gorgeous. Altogether, a bold take on the some well-traveled road that Narcos recently ventured into.

Story: Francis Bergese Art: Francis Bergese
Story: 9.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Fun

Who doesn’t love a distraction, you, as a reader, may be reading this as a distraction to your everyday life. We, as reviewers, read these books and write our reviews based on these books, as a labor love and as a distraction, at times, to our everyday life. Before smart devices, became commonplace, there were gaming systems and, before that, there were board games. I had grandparents old enough to remember, before all those things, there were card games, marbles and probably, the most universal, to this day, crossword puzzles.

I remember the first time, I saw a crossword puzzle, I was 5 years old, and my grandfather, was reading the New York Post, and on the other side, of the page he was holding, was this black and white grid. I was instantly intrigued, by how it looked and then when I found what it was, I was even more intrigued by the questions. As I got older, and wanted to find about how it all started, that truly was an enigma. Thankfully, Paolo Bacilieri laid out the history of crossword puzzles, through mystery investigation in FUN.

In the opening pages, we are taken to the streets of New York City, where a young immigrant, Arthur Wynne, where he works for the New York World, the premiere newspaper at the time. He needed something different to keep up with the competitors, and this was the genesis of the crossword puzzle. As complicated as the story is, and the many hands who have shaped it to what it is now, as our protagonists Pippo, a novelist and Zeno, a Disney comics writer, discover who these people are and the stories of how they came to work on the crossword puzzle, coupled with the mysterious appearance of Mafalda, a shadowy figure, following the two men, as they chart the history. By book’s end, the connection Mafalda has to Pippo is the key to everything, as Zeno is the last man standing as their journey ends.

Overall, an enthralling odyssey that the reader will be glad to jump down the rabbit hole for. The story by Bacilieri is engaging, funny, genuine, and entertaining. The art by Bacilieri is gorgeous. Altogether, a careful examination of an exuberant medium of entertainment which will make you wonder what each of these geniuses are thinking as you finish your own crossword puzzle.

Story: Paolo Bacilieri Art: Paolo Bacilieri
Story: 10 Art: 9.6 Overall: 9.8 Recommendation: Buy

Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 1/6

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.

 


Logan

AMERICA #11 CoverAmerica #11 (Marvel)– Writer Gabby Rivera is really starting to hit her stride on this book as America Chavez balances life at college and finding info about her home planet. Artist Stacey Lee nails the warmth of the relationship between America and her abuela as well as some fierce portal punching action. My favorite bits involve the college campus where Prodigy exhibits some character growth and speaks out against the surveillance state. Rivera’s writing has finally caught up with America’s always strong art, which is sad in light of its impending cancellation. Overall: 8.8 Verdict: Buy

Justice League #37 (DC)– The Justice League battles one of their biggest fans while trying to clear their extralegal activities on an international in another clever issue from writer Priest and artist Philippe Briones. The issue is non-stop action with narration telling the Fan’s origin, and Priest also uses the story to address racist superhero fans, who don’t like anyone other than straight white males fighting crime. Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz take center stage and basically rip to shreds the idea that only the original (He’s not.) Green Lantern Hal Jordan should have the title. But to keep things interesting, Priest pokes some holes in the morality of the JL’s actions. Briones’ art (Especially poses and anatomy.) and Gabe Eltaeb’s colors are a little too much mid-90s Wildstorm for my taste, but it doesn’t hinder the momentum another excellent chapter of Priest’s run on Justice League. Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Ryan C

Batman #39 (DC)** – They almost had me with this one. Joelle Jones’ art is superb, and Tom King’s story has a simple and nifty premise for teaming Batman and Wonder SM_Cv39_dsWoman up. Everything’s going along swimmingly, really, until the last-page cliffhanger, and then — come on, DC. You don’t wanna go there. You really don’t. Did you learn nothing from the Superman/Wonder Woman “romantic” debacle?  Overall: 5 Recommendation: Pass

Superman #39 (DC)** – Barry Kitson’s art on this issue is really just sort of “meh,” but Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason deliver what is probably the most charming and un-ironically sentimental Superman story in just about forever. Everything you love about super-heroes but never get to see anymore is packed into this slim, quickly-read little comic. Magical enough to melt even this hardened cynic’s heart. Buy Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Assassinistas #2 (IDW/Black Crown)** – This ain’t deep, but it sure is fun. Tini Howard has cooked up some compelling, if not exactly complex, characters, they move through absurd situation with ease, and Gilbert Hernandez’s art is — well, Gilbert Hernandez’s art. Which means, of course, pretty much perfect. This isn’t a book that’s up to “Love & Rockets” quality by any means, but it’s not really even trying to match that standard. It’s comfortable simply being the enjoyable, kinda stupid, throwaway yarn that it is. I’ll take it. Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Buy

Jimmy’s Bastards #6 (Aftershock)** – More trademark sick-and-wrong fun from Garth Ennis and Russ Braun as our James Bond stand-in cracks when he finally realizes he’s had literally hundreds of illegitimate kids and that some of his “girlfriends” over the years were actually — uhhhmmm — yeah, anyway, the less said the better. You’d lose your marbles, too, trust me. Depraved shit, even by this creative team’s standards — and yes, I mean that as a compliment. Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Buy

 

Christopher

Dept H #22 (Dark Horse) The survival of humanity depends on who manages to get to the surface. Revealing that Mia’s father had the cure in locked away in the same room he was killed in. Bringing in an important point, was he saving for humanity, or was he protecting it from humanity? Overall: 8.5 

Patrick

Mage: The Hero Denied #5 (Image)**: This is getting a little frustrating. On the one hand, Kevin’s little family life is pretty charming. On the other hand, five issues in, he hasn’t goten around to addressing the real problems in his world. He’s foreverwaiting for people to show up, whether they’re gods, monsters, good guys or bad guys. He sings his wife Magda’s praises for being heroic, yet isn’t doing any of the really heavy lifting. For a hero who’s supposed to be the Pendragon, Kevin isn’t assuming the role of the next phase of that journey and becoming a king. Matt Wagner’s art is lovely, his writing of domestic scenes is pitch-perfect, but the story doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere. Overall: 7. Recommendation: Read

Mage: The Hero Defined (book 2, vol 3) (Image)**: This trade collects #1-8 of the second part of Matt Wagner’s trilogy. There is a lot of fun to be found here – especially for me when the story moves to my hometown of Montreal (where, indeed, there is a giant illuminated cross on top of the small mountain in the centre of the city.) We meet a fun cast of mythical characters – speedy trickster Joe Phat, herculean Kirby Hero, bumbling mage Wally Ut. The action moves along fairly sprightly, the dialogue is nice, and I enjoyed the creative use of its setting. What’s missing is the sense of “why”: why is Montreal the nexus for all this mythical badness? What is Kevin fighting for? Why is the universe suddenly creating all of these vessels and warriors? The work stays firmly – and lightly – on the surface, grazing its themes but never truly digging in and getting to an emotional or visceral core. Fun, playful, yes – but at the same time Mage aspires to be a more meaningful and serious work that, for me, never manages to really challenge and transform its hero. Overall: 7. Recommendation: Read

Kill or Be Killed #15 (Image)** – Brubaker, Phillips & Breitweiser kick off the next arc by taking us to group therapy in the institution where Dylan is trying to get away from his family demon. So we’re really getting into the question of whether this is an actual demon from the spirit world or madness. As always, Dylan’s girlfriend Kira is trying to do the right thing the wrong way, erring on the side of normalcy and not helping in the least. Dylan spends the issue trying to talk about the demon and being shut down time and again, and the pills aren’t helping either. Then, when he finally does share in group… well, let’s just say that, contrary to what he says, Dylan is not taking back control of his life. Excellent. Overall: 8.5 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 (**).

Review: I, Parrot

I recently watched a movie, starring Renee Zellweger, called My One and Only. It was about George Hamilton ‘s mother and how she moved on from his father with George and his brother in tow. What started out as a woman being jilted by love and loss became a story of redemption and owning one’s self worth. She was before her time, finding courage where none exists.

That type of personal strength can still be found, as the recent spotlight of the #MeToo movement, showed the world, that abuse of power will no longer be tolerated. Which is why the hollow cries of these people in power, are always shrouded in doubt of the accuser and its only purpose is self-preservation ad should never be excused. There are stories like this all the time, some not as severe, but unjust wrongs nonetheless. Deb Olin Unferth and Elizabeth Haidle’s I, Parrot echoed these same injustices.

In the opening pages, we meet Daphne, a woman down on her luck, and everything has not gone her way. She has lost custody of her son, her landlord is crazy, and she is working a dead-end job. She soon enlists the help of some unlikely allies including her one true love, Laker and a house full of exotic pigeons. By book’s end, Daphne, her son, Laker and even the pigeons find out the meaning of freedom.

Overall, an engaging book, that starts out as “lovable loser” story but becomes one of self-discovery. The story by Unferth is beautiful, funny and engrossing. The art by Haidle is alluring. Altogether, a book which shows that not only animals are in cages but all of us, find freedom the same way.

Story: Deb Olin Unferth Art: Elizabeth Haidle
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Legend of the Mantamaji Book Two

No matter where you are in the world, each place has its own mythology. Each culture has stories that makes up the base of its own beliefs, that makes where they are from, almost supernatural. In Japan, much of their mythology is tied to centuries of Shogun rule, the Shinto religion and immortalization of the Samurai. In North Africa, the Berbers, were known for their belief in Maraboutism, where they prayed to their dead ancestors, who they believed they drew strength from.

In Scandinavia, the Sami shamanists believed in in Animals spirits, the most prominent being the Bear Cult.in Australia, the Aborigines, believed in Dream Time, a mythic topography of the continent. Comics have delved in their own mythology, but very few, feel visceral. In Book Two of The Legend of the Mantamaji the reader gets a mythology that feels very prescient with a new set of characters that gives our heroes someone to contend with.

We catch up with Elijah, as he confronts Commander Cotton, leader of Hope’s Temple, who he believes is Sibach, the ancient evil, that Elijah had been called for. As Elijah looks for clues, Cotton, calls on the Four Horsemen, four superpowered beings, that can bring hell on earth. They end up wreaking havoc across New York and Elijah finds some unexpected help from the Sanctuants, an ancient female order, who are looked at as equals to the Mantamaji. By book’s end, a betrayal leaves our hero winning the battle but ultimately defeated.

Overall, an excellent book that improves on the arc of the first book, as this makes the consequences substantial. The story by Eric Dean Stanton action packed and complex. The art by Brandon Palas is beautiful and vivid. Altogether, this sequel is the punch in the mouth the reader was not expecting.

Story: Eric Dean Stanton Art: Brandon Palas
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Flashback Friday Review: Batman #500

There’s a couple of comic events that stick out from my childhood. The death of Superman is the big one along with the hype and media circus surrounding it. The other is Batman’s back being broken by the hands of Bane, a character that felt like an unstoppable force, much like Doomsday.

With a copy as part of my Comic of the Month Club, I thought it’d be interesting to go back and see how well this comic stood up almost twenty-five years later (the comic came out in October 1993).

Batman #500 was the culmination of the “Knightfall” storyline that featured Jean-Paul Valley really stepping into the role of Batman and making it unique along with his confrontation with Bane.

The story itself is interesting in just how it’s told. I don’t remember it being the style of the time, but could have bee, but writer Doug Moench uses the captions in an almost third person sort of way. There’s a prose aspect to it all that’s interesting and going back, feels rather stilted. Better suited for a prose novel, the caption text at times has a poetic feel about it all and falls too often in the telling not showing side of things. Oh how times have changed when it comes to comic narratives. I can’t see anyone today doing a similar thing.

The story itself has a lot packed in. There’s two confrontations with Bane. There’s the development of the new Batman costume. There’s issues with the GCPD and how they’re handling Batman. And there’s the relationship between Valley, Tim Drake, and the snubbing of Nightwing as Batman. A lot is touched upon and there’s varying depth in how much is focused on each. The battles with Bane lack a certain brutality about them. The interactions with Valley and Drake lack emotional impact. It’s the interaction between Drake and Grayson as they discuss the new Batman that really stands out as having some depth to it.

The story as a whole holds up better in the mind than it does revisiting it.

Art duties are held by Jim Aparo, Terry Austin, and Mike Manley, who split the issue into two parts. The different artists is not noticeable and when it comes to that, things flow nicely. The style too hasn’t had issues aging. It’s absolutely of a different time with a bit more static visuals but generally if you just updated it a bit, the art would hold up today. The one thing, like the story itself, I never get the feeling Bane is physically imposing compared to Batman. It’s a big difference than what is presented today by many artists where he’s a giant brute.

Some times it’s best to let your positive memories linger and not revisit the past. This is an example of that with a comic that doesn’t hold up over the years. The narrative itself is a very different style compared to today and the concept of the new Batman’s confrontation is a better set up than the actual meeting. Like a summer blockbuster, the visuals feel better than the narrative with a lack of depth or exploration of what’s set up.

Story: Doug Moench Art: Jim Aparo, Terry Austin, Mike Manley
Story: 6.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 6.75 Recommendation: Pass

Review: Ice Cream Man #1

Chocolate, vanilla, existential horror, drug addiction, musical fantasy…there’s a flavor for everyone’s misery.

Ice Cream Man is a genre-defying comic book series featuring disparate “one-shot” tales of sorrow, wonder, and redemption. Each installment features its own cast of strange characters, dealing with their own special sundae of suffering. And on the periphery of all of them, like the twinkly music of his colorful truck, is the Ice Cream Man-a weaver of stories, a purveyor of sweet treats. Friend. Foe. God. Demon. The man who, with a snap of his fingers-lickety split!-can change the course of your life forever.

The concept of Ice Cream Man sounded interesting in the lead up to the first issue. A series of one-shot comics tied together through a character with Twilight Zone like twists. Ice Cream Man #1 lives up to its concept but the execution for this first issue leaves a bit to be desired.

Parents are missing and it’s up to two detectives to figure out why. There’s a deadly spider and… a werewolf?! It’s all very weird and there’s a lot thrown at there that never quite pays off. Writer W. Maxwell Prince never really ties things together well into a coherent narrative and what’s presented is predictable, none of it too interesting or exciting. I expected a Tales From the Crypt meets Twilight Zone but instead we get a watered down horror story with concepts that never pay off and scares that never are conjured.

There seems to be a bit about a werewolf and while there’s a reveal, it’s just kind of left out there. The spider story would be more interesting if presented a bit different. Two detectives are introduced but by the end of the comic we’re not given enough to care about what happens to either. The ideas are great, it’s just how things are presented that falls short. It’s possible with more issues some of what I had troubles with will be diminished but the first issue shouldn’t have to rely on future issues like this. There’s entire plot points that are thrown out there and left hanging which creates frustration and leaves readers scratching their head.

The art by Martin Morazzo and Chris O’Halloran create a sweeter world than the story would have you believe. While the art is decent it never quite clicks to either be so over the top saccharine that it adds to the disturbing horror or create that off sense that leaves us with unease.

Twists that are predictable, concepts that aren’t explored, and characters not given enough development that we should care. Ice Cream Man #1 is a better idea than comic. With some slight tweaks, this would easily be a great horror series, but as is, the comic falls short in story and scares.

Story: W. Maxwell Prince Art: Martin Morazzo, Chris O’Halloran
Story: 6.0 Art: 6.75 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Pass

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

TV Review: Arrow S6E10 Divided

Oliver discovers one of Cayden’s secrets; he decides to team up with an unlikely ally to defeat him; Dinah spends time with Vince.

Arrow returns after its break and the team is fractured. Can Oliver go it with just Felicity and Diggle? And what about the rest of the former Team Arrow members?

Cayden is still going after Ollie and it turns out he’s recruited a hell of a lot of individuals to make his plan happen. There’s lots of attacks on Oliver and his attempts to attack back, which doesn’t go well.

But, through all of those distractions the episode is really a lesson that Oliver can’t achieve his goals with a small team and has to try to get back everyone he either booted or quit. Can he put away his pride and do what’s needed?

The episode is solid in that it doesn’t play out how you’d expect. There’s moments where the episode absolutely surprises and the fact it doesn’t go the way I thought is a good thing. The episode as a whole though lags a bit. There’s a lot here that just feels very extraneous and a leaner more streamlined episode would have helped things a lot. It feels like an hour show with about 15 minutes of important things.

It’s been a bit since the last episode and this return isn’t quite there to get me excited for the rest of the season. The series feels like a lot of its steam has been taken out of it and things are stumbling along.

Overall rating: 7.05

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