Category Archives: Reviews

Super-Articulate: Marvel Legends M’Baku Wave

We’re living in Legendary times. That is, holy crap, the Marvel Legends just don’t stop. Even as I type, the Caliban wave is up for pre-order and the first Endgame assortment landed at Toys R US Canada. People that pre-ordered the Professor X and Deadpool Scooter Riders have been getting them, and they’re hitting outlets by the end of the month. And that doesn’t account for the Kingpin assortment or, the subject of today’s write-up, the M’Baku wave.

We’ll be looking at a complete M’Baku, but not a complete wave. I didn’t get the Klaue; I managed to get the BAF torso piece on eBay for $4.50 (plus shipping). I also saved on this wave by getting two of the figures from Walgreens via their $13.99 ML sale (that runs until the 30th, and the ML Mystique exclusive is available online for the sale price); I ordered another on Amazon for $4 less than the regular price, too. So I ended up with five of the six regular figures, plus M’Baku, and I saved at least $40 overall in the process.

A Tale of Two Panthers:

This wave boasts two takes on T’Challa, one leaning on his look from the beginning of the Black Panther film, and the other a charged-up Vibranium look that’s labelled for Infinity War. Alternate heads are included with the “vibranium” figure, and both figures come with the same unmasked T’Challa head. Both of these are solid work with a lot of detail worked into the sculpting, particularly in the lines you find on the torsos.

The downside is that a lot of fans might pass on these since they’re similar to other releases. In all honestly, I almost passed too. However, weighing the high costs of the BAF arms online versus the costs of the figure, I actually saved money by grabbing one at Walgreens, spending less that I would have to obtain one of the auctioned arms. Not to get all Bob Ross here, but how you complete your collection is up to you. I like to get lots of things, but I like to save when I can. That said, these are both fine representations of the character, and they would be particularly good for someone that doesn’t have a T’Challa yet.

Hail to the Previous King:

T’Chaka doesn’t have any accessories apart from the BAF piece, but damn, it’s a nice looking figure. The head sculpt and other pieces are definitely different than the other Panther figures. And the ceremonial garb is tremendously colored. It’s a striking figure and, despite the BP base, it doesn’t look quite like anything else in the line. I wish there would have been swappable heads (maybe the young and old T’Chakas), but it’s a damn nice looking character as it is.

Dora Milaje:

The Dora is the one I got on Amazon for just over $16. This is a terrific example of what Marvel Legends has been doing so well lately, and that’s creating extra pieces that allow you to transform figures or transition them into army-builders. The three heads here let you decide on the look of the Dora (the one that I used is clearly Ayo of “Move or you will be moved” fame). When you put this figure side by side with Okoye and Nakia, you can see that there are a lot of subtle differences (this article explains some of those notes, like the fact that Okoye’s gold elements are markings of rank). The included spear is different from Okoye’s; the rings, however, are the same. If you’re really into Black Panther and the Dora, this is a must have; I can actually see this one becoming rarer as people gobble up multiples for army-building. It looks great.

Erik Killmonger (Tactical):

No slight on the previous figures, but THIS is the Killmonger I wanted. The tribal mask is fantastic and the detail on Killmonger’s costume, belting, and holsters is incredible. The likeness to Michael B. Jordan is pretty top shelf, too. Amazingly, this was a $13.99 Walgreens grab, and I save two more bucks with a coupon. Ridiculous. It’s been remarked on that elements of the design were inspired by, or at least resemble, Vegeta from DBZ, so I tossed an old Bandai Vegeta in one shot to give you the look. This is easily one of my two favorites from the wave. I could see Hasbro taking parts of this (notably the legs) and repurposing them for other military-flavored figures down the road. Man, it’s solid.

M’Baku Build-A-Figure:

Damn, kids. Can we just take a minute to praise Winston Duke? The actors from Black Panther have been widely celebrated, and Duke has been frequently remarked upon as a fan-favorite, but it bears repeating. M’Baku (Man-Ape from the comics) could have been a seriously, seriously problematic character. But a combination of top-flight direction, script, and performance made him a memorable break-out. Duke radiated charisma and unexpected humor in the role; when he showed up in Avengers: Infinity War, the theatre where I was broke out into a small cheer. I have to say: in a short amount of screen time, Duke transformed M’Baku into a bigger and better character.

Which brings us to the BAF. I was disappointed in the first BP go-round that M’Baku wasn’t in the wave. I was not surprised at all to find that he was the BAF this time. And Hasbro did it up right. One of my other favorites in this group, the figure nails the likeness and some of the intricacies of the costume. I’ve written before that the designers are paying more attention to hair and fur elements in costumes, and that’s evident here. They also made the right call on the height; M’Baku’s at least a head taller than the “vibranium” Panther. The staff accessory was the most appropriate choice, too. This is really, really fine work.

A word on Klaue:

I like Andy Serkis. But the figure didn’t do a lot for me. I may yet pick up a loose one on eBay someday, but it wasn’t a thing that I felt like I HAD to have. And that’s okay. I lucked out with a cheap torso pick-up, and this gives me the opportunity to invoke Ross again: get what YOU want.

Overall, this probably won’t turn out to be my favorite assortment of the year. But it’s a really good effort and I feel like it expands the universe of figures and my collection environment. That’s obviously a big positive.

Review: Gretel #1

Gretel #1

There is something about broken-hearted superheroes which keep fans coming back for more. Take for instance, the newest program on DC Universe, Doom Patrol. The show is made up of protagonists with very complicated backstories, all of them heart wrenching. It’s the reason people have watched the Showtime show Ray Donovan. They love difficult people they can identify with. It’s even true with music videos as anyone who has seen Alicia Keys’ Dreaming With a Broken Heart, can see in its few minutes, a story of a hero who cannot love.

As human beings often offer empathy through art, each of these stories offer something indelible to their audiences.  What tethers the last Avengers movie together so well is how attached we were to each character who became part of Thanos’ act to diminish existence of half of its population.  Many of us who know the story and anyone who has seen the trailer know this is what drives the remaining heroes forward. In the debut issue of Zenescope‘s new seriesGretel, we get one such protagonist whose powers are put to the test by revisiting some painful history.

Gretel #1 introduces us to a new corner of Zenescope’s Grimm Universe and serves as a solid introduction to the character. It’s a twist on the classic tale following Gretel, who must deal with the tragic events involving her brother and a maniacal witch. She is now cursed with a life that’ll span centuries.

She now also has the gift of premonition which has shown her the end of the world.

Overall, an exceptional debut issue that tells a very different take on a well-known character. The story by Ben Meares is action packed, scary, and solid. The art by Allan Otero and Ceci De La Cruz is vivid and elegant. Altogether, a pulse pounding introduction that shows writers everywhere how to write a great backstory.

Story: Ben Meares Art: Allan Otero and Ceci De La Cruz
Story: 10 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

Zenescope provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Incursion #2

Incursion #2

There is only one world left to conquer…

Entire planets have suffered and died at the cold, close-fisted hands of the alien Imperatrix Virago – and now her gruesome sights are set on our world. As Earth’s chosen protector, the Geomancer named Tama fights for her life, while the Eternal Warrior goes on the ultimate mission through the perilous realm of the Deadside to find the secret to saving her…and the entire planet in the process.

This is an exciting time for Valiant. The long anticipated The Life and Death of Toyo Harada is due to hit shelves any day now, Livewire is beginning to pick up steam, and The Forgotten Queen is looking to be a sleeper hit. But it’s Incursion that has this reviewer most excited; chiefly because it features Gilad Anni-Padda, the Eternal Warrior (though I can’t deny LADOTH isn’t high on my list, either).

Conveniently enough, Incursion is what we’re talking about today, and, spoiler alert, it’s pretty freaking great.

Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel  wasted no time in establishing the threat and setting the tone for the story in the first issue, and they keep the plot rolling here at a steady pace. Picking up almost immediately after the conclusion of the first issue, we follow Gilad as he seeks aid for Tama’s condition. The ensuing scenes show a subtly touchy (and touching) Gilad as he fusses over the young Geomancer, with his advanced years and experience showing through in an interesting, yet almost throwaway line about the sound of dry leaves over flagstones. Which brings me to an aspect of the comic that could easily be over looked; the dialogue between Gilad and Doctor Mirage. It’s incredibly well written, with each character clearly owning their own voice, culminating in an almost terrifying question for the Valiant universe (though the answer, one can argue, can be gleaned from The Valiant).

The reason the dialogue can be over looked so easily is because Doug Braithwaite and Diego Rodriguez are working with an almost symbiotic relationship – there are fine details from Braithwaite that Rodriguez highlights that seem almost too subtle to be intentional. The furrow in Gilad’s brow when he’s leaning over Tama, the concern in Doctor Mirage’s eyes… and the gradual scrapes and tears to Gilad’s clothing. Subtle details that add more to the story than you’d expect.

Up until this point, I’ve only been talking about the first nine pages of the comic; there’s a lot of comic here to dissect, a lot of comic to absorb – you certainly get a good bang for your buck here. The rest of the comic remains at a consistently high quality level, although there are moments of pure brilliance sprinkled throughout – whether it is from the art, the dialogue or the plot as a whole, this comic offers something very special.

If you wondered, you don’t need to be a Valiant fan to enjoy this story (of course, it helps). You can read this easily as a standalone story because the creative team are able to easily impart the depth of Gilad and Tama’s relationship and the weight it bears. The stakes in the comic are world-endingly high, but because the central pillar of the story is the relationship between Geomancer and the Eternal Warrior, the one against many nature of the story doesn’t seem out of place or conceited. It feels just right.

Incursion #2 is, once again a great comic. The series is on pace to end up as one of my very favorite Valiant stories – and certainly one of Valiant’s very best.

Story: Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel
 Pencils: Doug Braithwaite 
Colours: Diego Rodriguez
Letters: Marshal Dillon 
Story: 9.3 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Wolverine: Infinity Watch #2

Wolverine: Infinity Watch #2

Wolverine is the best there is at what he does. But how is he at protecting the universe from cosmic disaster? Would you guess better or worse than Loki, the admitted god of lies? We’re about to find out.

I wasn’t much of a fan for the debut issue of Wolverine: Infinity Watch. Wolverine: Infinity Watch #2 is an improvement but it still feels a bit off in its story and execution.

Written by Gerry Duggan, Wolverine and Loki are on a mission and that’s focused on keeping a convict infused with an Infinity Stone alive. It’s a chase comic with police after him as well as a Chitauri warlord (and others who want the stone). There’s fights. There’s some action. But, overall, it’s kind of lacking. Without a clear plan the comic feels rather motionless in a way. It’s almost feels like Wolverine and Loki don’t even know what they’re really doing and maybe that’s part of the point, making it up as they go.

The art by Andy MacDonald with color by Jordie Bellaire and lettering by Cory Petit is again ok but nothing too exciting. The comic feels a bit like a secondary mini-series to an event in the look. It’s serviceable but doesn’t stand out as anything particularly special. The standout as far as art is when Wolverine’s height is used for some comedy. Though at other times Wolverine being short isn’t as apparent. That sort of inconsistency doesn’t help.

The comic is ok and as part of the greater story of the Infinity Stones it will wind up be interesting but on its own, the comic is so deep in continuity plus the execution feels so stretched out without focus, the execution is a bit boring. Lay out the goal, give us an enemy, tell us what might happen, give us something to dread and cheer for. As is, there’s little excitement.

Story: Gerry Duggan Art: Andy MacDonald
Color: Jordie Bellaire Letterer: Cory Petit
Story: 5.5 Art: 6.75 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Uncanny X-Men #14

Uncanny X-Men #14

Cyclops and Wolverine have drawn together a new team of X-Men from the ashes of “X-Men Disassembled,” and now they turn their eyes to setting their agenda. Cyclops has a list…a list of things the X-Men have to take care of…if it’s the last thing they ever do.

Writer Matthew Rosenberg continues his excellent run on Uncanny X-Men delivering an issue, and series, that blends so much of what has worked in the past and forging something new at the same time.

Uncanny X-Men #14 has the team going on the offensive but also thinking bigger as Cyclops continues to put together his new vision of this new iteration of X-Men. That includes the return of a classic character to cut a deal as well as their focus on dealing with Hope and the Mutant Liberation Front. There’s also some solid action as the team continues their quest to eliminate threats.

But, what surprises me about this comic is how it shows how much Cyclops has changed. He’s a blend between the more optimistic version of himself and the more militaristic version of himself. He wants to take action but also not burn everything down while doing some pretty questionable things. We see more what his X-Men team is doing with prisoners and it’s… different.

The art by Salvador Larroca with color by Guru-eFX and lettering by Joe Caramagna is solid as always. The style just exudes the desperation and balance of hope that the comic is able to juggle. There’s something that just clicks for it all and the X-Men haven’t looked this good in quite some time.

The team has been killing it with recent issues and this is an example of that. The X-Men are back to desperation and feel like they’re fighting an uphill battle, like they should. They’re no longer over powered to the point they have a mutant for every solution and now have a vision as to where they should be going with clear goals and something of a plan. This is the beginning of something that feels great and after a long time with some detours, the X-Men are back to greatness.

Story: Matthew Rosenberg Art: Salvador Larroca
Color: Guru-eFX Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 8.15 Art: 8.15 Overall: 8.15 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: X-O Manowar #25

X-O Manowar #25

Bounty hunted!

Long ago, Aric of Dacia left the life he knew on Earth behind to start afresh in a distant galaxy… Now the mistakes of his past have come home to roost, causing untold devastation on the planet Aric first called home! Clad in the X-O Manowar armor he once renounced, the former Emperor of Gorin has a choice to make: Does he take on this band of intergalactic warriors alone, or does he trust the mysterious woman warrior in black who’s come to his aid?

If you read the last issue then you’ll know who the mysterious woman alluded to above is, but if for some inexplicable reason you haven’t (yet) done so after following the series so far then expect a spoiler or two going forward.

Matt Kindt‘s reintroduction of Schon reflects upon the opening arc of the series where Aric sought peace and refuge on an alien planet, forgoing the violent life he had lived until that point – only instead of avoiding war and searching for peace, Schon came to Earth looking for a fight, and embracing the battle that came. It is a brilliant way to circle back to the beginning of the series, bringing Aric’s story full circle.

Tomas Giorello is an utterly phenomenal artist, and he once again shows why with this issue. Regarding last issue, I wrote that “each and every page is packed with more detail, emotion and life than some comics have in their entirety,” and the same is equally as true with X-O Manowar #25. I’m running out of superlatives to use to describe the visual impact of this series, which is a good problem to have at this juncture.

X-O Manowar has been one of the most consistent series in terms of quality over the past two years, and has understandably garnered some pretty high expectations issue after issue – expectations that the series has met (and often exceeded) with each and every issue. The series may be coming to a close with XO Manowar #26, but Kindt’s story will be among one of my favourite runs for a long time to come (unless of course something happens in the final issue to change all of that, which is entirely possible – though unlikely at this point).

Story: Matt Kindt Art: Tomas Giorello
Colourist: Diego Rodriguez Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Story: 9 Art: 10 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review. I purchased the comic anyway.

Review: Dark Red #1

Dark Red #1

Charles “Chip” Ipswich isn’t one of those coastal elites with a liberal arts degree and a job at a social media start-up who knows where all the best brunch places are…

No, Chip is one of the “forgotten men.” He lives in a rural area in the middle of the country where Jesus still has a place at the dinner table and where factories send jobs to Calcutta.

Chip is also a vampire.

Stuck working the last shift at a gas station, Chip is lonely and bored…and then his dull, bleak life is turned upside down when SHE comes to town.

The concept of a vampire story set in MAGA country to me sounds interesting and the potential for interesting commentary. Unfortunately, beyond a few bigoted characters Dark Red #1 doesn’t deliver much that’s new or interesting.

Written by Tim Seeley, Dark Red #1 introduces us to Chip and lets us know we’re in a “deep red” area by the locals who lament about the Democrats shutting down the refinery and how the Mexicans took their jobs. Rightwing bingo also gets a square when large cities are described as “not real America.” Seeley could be going somewhere with it, and I hope he does, but the first issue as presented comes off as a vampire story set in Republican country and that’s it.

There’s some interesting aspects such as how Chip gets his blood but the comic falls into tropes of vampires battling vampires to a point you can almost see where it goes. When there’s opportunity to explore the exploitation of individuals who live in this area, or how reality has been warped for them, or how they’re forgotten, the comic doesn’t do much at all to deliver on what makes it stand out. There’s some dancing around some of that but the comic never commits to it falling back on a typical vampire story.

The art by Corin Howell with lettering by Marshall Dillon is really good with some interesting character designs and ideas presented. There’s even times the art looks like Sean Gordon Murphy’s with the combination of character design and use of inking. But then there’s other times the style looks like Ryan Ottley but without his comedic flair.

There’s a lot of potential here and I want to read more and see where it goes. The comic could be amazing diving into the current zeitgeist and exploring a snapshot of the current American socio-political situation. As is, we just have a vampire story set in a place we don’t normally see in comics.

Story: Tim Seeley Art: Corin Howell Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.25 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

AfterShock provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Grumble #5

Eddie and Tala have narrowly escaped the forces of good and evil, but now they face the ultimate danger: each other!

Grumble #3 is what far too few comics are lately; fun. And funny, without ever coming off as forced; nor is it the main focus of the comic as Grumble is naturally funny whilst telling a really enjoyable story.” I quote that paragraph because aside from updating the issue number, the same can be said quite perfectly about Grumble #5. Rafer Roberts and Mike Norton have created a comic that is remarkably entertaining and funny without sacrificing the strength of the story.

That probably sounds familiar, right? It should. It’s the opening from my last review of Grumble #4, and the same is just as true now as it was. Roberts and Norton are nothing if not consistent, which is great news for fans of this series.

This issue sees us taking a bit of a look back at the events leading up to the first issue as we learn a little about Tala and her back story – and the revelation in this issue will hit you harder than a freight train. I’m not going to tell you want it is, but you will go back and reread the previous four issues in an entirely new light.

I’m not going to lie to you friends, there’s really not a lot I can talk about here without revealing too much of the comic itself; Roberts does reveal a little more about the world at large, hinting toward a conflict in the recent past and revealing more about the force driving Tala in the series that until now we really haven’t seen or read much of (unless… well, maybe we have and I didn’t notice it initially). Grumble #5 will change your perceptions on the series, and while we now have a bit more light shed on the tale’s direction, we’ve also got a lot of questions that need answers.

No, I won’t ask them here. Spoilers, and all.

I’ve praised the series before, and rightly so, but this issue is a huge payoff for those having read the previous ones. It’s a brilliant comic because of how Roberts and Norton build upon everything in the series so far and present a fully formed story that we’re only now beginning to figure out.

I need the sixth issue now.

Story: Rafer Roberts Art: Mike Norton
 Colours: Marissa Louise Letters: Crank 
Story: 9.4 Art: 8.9 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

Albatross Funnybooks provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Criminal #3

Criminal #3

Jacob’s weekend taking care of his old mentor takes a turn for the worse.

I hate throwing the word “perfection” around a lot but Criminal #3 is damn near perfection. Writer Ed Brubaker, artist Sean Phillips, and colorist Jacob Phillips have put together an issue that’s pulp crime but also beyond touching. This isn’t your typical story about a robbery, it’s about an industry that’ll abuse you, spit you out, and bring out the worst.

The second part of “The Longest Weekend,” the story follows Jacob and his former boss Hal Crane, two comic industry vets and different points in their careers. This issue, like the last, feels like a blend of fact and fiction as it continues to explore the dark side of the comic business. In some ways exaggerated, in other ways not, it winds up being a tragic story with an ending that’ll get you to gasp in a way. It’s tragic. It’s sad. It’s entertaining. It’s one of the best comics out this week.

The art, as usual, is amazing. The style is perfect for this type of story and this trio of creators create a blend of story and art that is unparalleled in this industry. Each character tells a story on their own with something as simple as their body language and stance. The use of color is key here too as it not only clues us in to the past or present but also helps set the mood even more so than the dialogue at times.

The issue is amazing blending fact and fiction to deliver a comic that entertains but will also leave you pondering the truth of it all. Criminal is three issues in and one of the best comics on the market (again). It’s not too late to dive in as this is a comic that should be on everyone’s pull list.

Story: Ed Brubaker Art: Sean Phillips Color: Jacob Phillips
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Jesusfreak

Jesusfreak

The year is 26 C.E. A young Nazarean carpenter is having some trouble adjusting to the violent world around him-and finding his place within it. He knows he’s different, but he doesn’t know why. Not yet, anyway.

Take some kung-fu, mix in a little 70s exploitation films, stir some of the Bible, and you get Jesusfreak, a gonzo take on Jesus Christ.

The comic is a mix of over the top insanity and sort of “grounded” Biblical tale that mixes into a comic that feels like it’s not quite sure what it wants to be.

Writer Joe Casey and artist Benjamin Marra go back and forth between a story that’s a spin on the Biblical story we know and something else. That something else is a kung-fu infused action/adventure featuring giant lizard people and a style that’s a bit 70s exploitation. It never quite commits one way or another and without doing so never quite gels in a way that makes sense. Aspects seem to come out of nowhere and never quite explained like there’s pages missing to the story.

Marra’s art, with color by Brad Simpson and lettering by Rus Wooton is good. The art style really helps deliver that retro feel to it all. There’s some odd art here and there (one panel has Jesus’ finger looking like they’re broken as he performs kung-fu) but there’s a charm to it all that makes it entertaining. One also can’t overlook the fact that Jesus isn’t white and those depicted are of a darker complexion as they should be.

There’s a lot of potential here but the comic never quite commits as to what it wants to be. It’s entertaining in a pulp/grindhouse sort of way but at times it feels like it wants to be serious and other times it wants to be something like a John Carpenter film. With a bit more focus, the story would be amazing and a lot of fun. As is, it feels like it’s unsure as to what it wants to be much like the Jesus it depicts.

Story: Joe Casey Art: Benjamin Marra
Color: Brad Simpson Letterer: Rus Wooton Design: Sonia Harris
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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