Category Archives: Reviews

Movie Review: Wilson

A lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged man reunites with his estranged wife and meets his teenage daughter for the first time.

Based on the celebrated graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, Wilson stars Woody Harrelson in the title role and the end result is a bit mixed in quality. The first thing to understand about Wilson the character is that he’s generally unlikeable. He’s a middle age man that in many aspects is anachronistic and through every situation, he wanders into it’s clear he wonders what his legacy in the world is.

To understand the movie, you need to really understand the graphic novel it’s based off of. Wilson isn’t as much a narrative story as it is a series of short situations that have more in common with newspaper strips than a graphic story. There’s a big picture theme through it all and some work together to form a story, but this isn’t your traditional story. With those short strips (usually a page) the art style too changes mixing up the visuals as a caustic and grumpy tone remains constant.

So Harrelson in the title role has it tough. Even in the comic Wilson doesn’t have much of a personality beyond “dick.” He’s grumpy and gruff and seems to lack a filter saying what he’s thinking as if he’s just given up on societal niceties. So Harrelson is walking into a role where the character is unlikeable and he pulls that off. This is Wilson the comic character brought to life and doing anything beyond “straight guy” honest delivery of the material would betray the character. Adding a sparkle, a smile, a wink, diminishes the character who is none of those things.

Joining Harrelson is primarily Laura Dern as his ex-wife Pippi who’s recovered from what is told to us was a hellish period of her life with stories that aren’t recounted so much as hinted at by things like tattoos. That allows us the viewer to imagine the situations, which honestly is probably funnier than anything Clowes could come up with. Dern does exhausted and weary well and you can see her evolve in her demeanor and appearance as she grows up compared to Wilson’s devolution.

Also joining them is Isabella Amara who plays Claire, the daughter neither know who is the impetus by which the main story gets going. She’s pretty solid but is primarily the audience to Pippi and Wilson’s crazy. She’s not much more than a prop at times for Wilson’s mania or to act as a stand-in for the audience.

Cheryl Hines, Judy Greer, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Brett Gelman, all stand out during their scenes delivering entertaining performances and controlling the tone or setting it in some ways. Which is impressive since Harrelson is such a presence (for good and bad) in the film.

Directed by Craig Johnson with a screenplay by Clowes, Wilson is interesting in that it attempts to create a narrative but it comes off as a series of vignettes. That really stands out to me as the graphic novel was a series of vignettes. They attempted to create a story out of something that really wasn’t. Some of the funniest moments from the graphic novel is included by what Johnson misses is that interesting visual from the comics. Each story has a different visual and we saw in the comic adaptation American Splendor what and how mixing visuals can work. The film visually would have been stronger if it took some inspiration from that film mixing in different styles including animation with the live action.

The film itself isn’t bad in any way, but it also falls short from what I had hoped (expectations probably didn’t help). The movie feels like a mid-life crisis High Fidelity. Instead of figuring out the direction of one’s life, it’s more focused on what one’s legacy will be. The laughs are there but with such a dark tone it’s an uncomfortable one and with an audience, you could feel that exude from them. Calling this a “dark comedy” is an understatement.

There’s some narrative choices when it comes to the story, especially at the end. Some time frames shift and I left wondering why. If there’s a difference to it all and if so, what it was. Clowes feels like he’s saying something a little different with those choices, but I’m not sure if it’s meant to be different. Some of the message and themes shift a little due to this change.

There’s also issues with the women generally portrayed as all negative, but by the end it’s clear that Wilson corrupts everything he touches and the negativity is a natural and justified reaction.

Wilson is one of the most under the radar comic adaptations of 2017 and it’ll be one that should be debated as to the end result and if it’s better or worse than the original graphic novel. Like American Splendor, Wilson shows not all “comic movies” involve spandex, and some of the most thought-provoking don’t involve them at all.

Overall Rating: 7.65

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Review: Penny Dreadful TP

If you’re a fan of the amazing show Penny Dreadful on Showtime, you’ll love what Krysta Wilson-Cairns and Chris King have done with the story. She provides a bit of fun to story we all fell in love with. We get some old faces, some new ones and a nice bit of back (or side) story to give us a well-rounded tale. If you’re already familiar with the story, some things seem disjointed and out place but, it’s done in a way that’s no different than what fans of Wynonna Earp and The Walking Dead have come to expect, only this time it’s in reverse. If you take this as something independent of the show then, it’s a nice intro and, if you’re already a fan it’s just more gore and monster myths to fuel your love of the macabre in between seasons.

Louis De Martinis provides some pretty grim artwork to go along with the dark tales being told. The art is comparable to what would happen if David Mack decided to do nothing but pulp comics and it’s an interesting to look at. The whole comic is steeped in pale reds and darkness, which makes the bloody battles, feedings and, double crosses look like part of the scenery.  There’s also a lot of panels of pure action and gore, more action and gore than story panels. The whole graphic novel looks like really intense storyboards that mimic the tone of the TV series.

Penny Dreadful is well written, each issue contained within the novel builds on the momentum of the last and as a series, it works better in collected as a trade paperback than it did in single issues. The format of this trade is akin to binge-watching a show on Netflix and, it works well for this particular brand of story. This collection serves well to fill in a lot of the blanks that the show leaves us with in between seasons but, it also manages to become something new that will satiate the readers who will never watch the show. The issue focuses mostly on Mina and Vanessa, their families, their struggles with the darkness and their becoming.

Overall, this is a nice long, dark read for people who are into a little monster lore in their comic books. Fans of the slow burn and Tales From the Crypt type comics will fall in love with this classic structured and, based trade. There’s also kudos to be given for showing the parallels between the two women, their agency and the mirror image like goals, desires, and actions. Mina and Vanessa couldn’t be more different on the surface but, they’re both strong women and, watching them play cat and mouse using the people around them as pawns and knights without making them damsels in distress is a fresh take on an old trope.

Story: Krysta Wilson-Cairns and Chris King Art: Louis De Martinis
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.3 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

Titan Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review 

Review: Aliens: Defiance #8

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Keeping a baby xenomorph alive, even in a frozen state, contradicts all the survival instincts that Zula and Hollis have. But by studying the alien in cryostasis, Davis believes he can discover how to exterminate it and the rest of its forsaken, vile race permanently. Is he dooming the mission in the name of science?

With the ship in a state of distress, things become blurred in Aliens: Defiance #8. Writer Brian Wood keeps things intriguing mixing in constants with other things that keep you trying to figure out what is real and what isn’t. I’m curious to see what path Zula will choose to follow in upcoming issues.

The art by Stephen Thompson is solid and creates a believable atmosphere of dread. Even if some of it repeats itself as the issue continues it works to bolster the level of fear, as things begin to worsen.

Story: Brian Wood Art: Stephen Thompson
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy

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

Review: Dead Inside #1

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Murder behind bars!

The Jail Crimes Division of the Sheriff’s Office in Mariposa County investigates crimes committed inside county jails. With a limited number of suspects who can’t escape, these are usually easy cases to solve—but not this one. As Detective Linda Caruso gets closer to the heart of the case, she discovers uncomfortable truths about her friends, her job, and herself.

With Dead Inside, writer John Arcudi creates a complex murder mystery inside a prison. The concept sounds simple but Arcudi adds numerous layers to what is happening. And, that’s done with few characters so far. While this is just the first issue, the few main characters are well done and seem complex.

The art by Toni Fejzula has this almost visceral darkness to it. That’s enhanced by the large of amount of gore present and this is just the one issue. This series is clearly not made for the faint hearted.

If you’re a fan of police dramas, police procedurals, or noir crime comics, this is one that’s a must.

Story: John Arcudi Art: Toni Fejzula
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

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

The Walking Dead S7E15 Something They Need

walking-dead-5 photoA group of Alexandrians embarks on a journey; one member of the group must make a heartbreaking decision.

The Walking Dead‘ is setting up the next season which most assuredly is “All Out War” as Rick and his crew head to grab the gun cache we discovered exists in the isolated community of women from earlier in the season, Oceanside.

The episode is an interesting one as it shows where Rick’s head is right now and sets things up for what’s to come. While there’s some negotiations in an attempt to get the guns, there’s also a full out assault, though a non-lethal one, and it’s interesting where things go and who is willing to stand up and fight Negan and who’s not.

By the end of it all ends there’s some good stand up moments and you can see some of the characters breaking out at some point and going mainstream.

What’s great is some of the walkers we see at this point. The episode really takes advantage that Oceanside is ocean side and we see walkers ravaged by water and some of what you’d expect. It’s some amazing make-up and the detail is amazing. It puts the Pirates of the Carribean to shame.

But, it’s not all Oceanside.

Sasha is slowly slipping into madness in Negan’s custody where she still plots to kill him and Negan attempts to bring her on his side. Then Sasha attempts to bring Eugene to hers with a twist that’s really interesting and throws up the question as to where Eugene’s loyalty really is. We know it won’t end well with Sasha as the actress is heading to another series, it’s just a question as to how she’ll go.

The final part of the episode involves Maggie and Gregory. Gregory is a snake and the episode goes back and forth between his attempting to take out Maggie and not. Will he snap and turn her and Rick in? That’s part of the tension of the episode and Gregory is one that’ll get is comeuppance at some point. But, things are revealed about Gregory that’s key like he’s never killed a walker before. You can see Maggie slowly standing up and taking over the leadership role at Hilltop and this episode is another piece in that puzzle.

Then there’s the end of the episode where… well I’ll leave that one to viewing.

The episode is all about the build-up to the season finale which is the next episode and then the eventual war that’s about to break out between Rick and Negan. This is the set up with the pieces of the puzzle coming together. This is slightly different than how it shakes out in the comics so as a reader, I’m fascinated to see where it goes and what changes. You can feel the tension building to what I’m sure will be a cathartic explosion.

Not the best episode, but there’s more than enough action and lots of interesting interactions that’ll keep fans pleased.

Overall rating: 7.85

Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 3/25

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.


Alex

batman beyond 6Batman Beyond #6 (DC) Can Batman afford to have a personal life? That question is asked in this issue, and the dual stories are interwoven brilliantly.  Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Black Hammer #7 (Dark Horse) At one point, I really enjoyed the slow build up of Black Hammer but it’s beginning to feel as though the slow build up is building to nothing. I’m not giving up on the series yet, but I’m getting close. Overall: 7 Recommendation: Read if you’ve come this far.

Hulk #4 (Marvel) The fourth issue in, and we still haven’t seen the Hulk yet. Personally, I love the tension that’s just beneath the surface of an enjoyable tale about a lawyer, and watching the build up toward the inevitable explosion is fantastic. I haven’t enjoyed a Hulk comic so much in years. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Iron Fist #1 (Marvel) I picked this up entirely because I didn’t mind the Netflix series,  and I wanted to read some Iron Fist. Is it the best Iron Fist I could have read? I hope not. I’m sure there are better stories out there with Danny Rand in them – but if you want something new, then this iisn’t bad; it’s worth a read at the very least. Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Read

The Unworthy Thor #5 (Marvel) Well this was nothing if not anticlimactic. At least we got some more Thori, but not enough to justify purchasing an issue that doesn’t offer much. Although there may be reason for the collectors and speculators to pick this up… but I doubt it. Overall: 5 Recommendation: Pass

 

Joe

IRON_FIST__1Iron Fist #1 (Marvel) – If you are looking for a classic, fun Kung-Fu movie comic book, then that is exactly what this series is. In this first issue, Danny finds himself fighting and beating a ton of people before a real challenger takes him on in a bar. It feels like an over the top cliché eighties action movie, and where the book leaves us could be interesting. I am not sure what identity this run is going for, but the first issue was a decent start. I do feel at this point, an Asian Iron Fist would be a refreshing and welcoming perspective. We’ve had a ton of Danny stories, and while I’m not for pushing the old characters out across the board, I welcome something a little more authentic for this title. Overall: 6 Recommendation: Read

Patrick

Stray Bullets #22 (Image/El Capitan)**  Not going to spoil anything, just gonna say that this motel room is getting crowded and not everyone who’s in it is conscious or in their own clothes. From the second-last page: “SO!… We will have some fun now, eh? You should wear protection.” Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Batman/TMNT Adventures #5 (IDW/DC)** The absolute highlight of this is the perfect two-page opening sequence to Batman: TAS featuring Michelangelo in a Batman costume made of garbage bags. Matthew K. Manning and Jon Sommariva could do a Michelangelo & Robin TMNTBatman_05_cvrRIongoing in this universe and I and my 5-year-old son would be happy as clams. Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Curse Words #3 (Image)  Has this already run out of steam? There was, like, one good idea in this issue: Wizord, having lost his magic, attempts to drown his sorrows. Margaret, his magic koala, takes him to a screening of Titanic, which shows W. that there is magic in mundane New York City. But it’s all so snarky and smug. Stop this world, I wanna get off. Overall: 6 (Ryan Browne’s art is boss) Recommendation: Skip

Descender #20 (Image) Some people just don’t know when to leave tragedy alone, as Jeff Lemire brings Driller back after sending him off last issue in a genuinely touching manner. What is it with Canadians and refusing tragedy? I still hate John Byrne for bringing back Jean Grey. Anyhow. I maintain that Descender, like many Jeff Lemire comics, works best when it focuses on character moments and loses itself in its own plot – which is fairly paint-by-numbers. But oh, man, that Dustin Nguyen art. Overall: 6 Recommendation: Skip

Ryan C

Iron Fist #1 (Marvel)** Ed Brisson and Mike Perkins do their best stylistic imitation of Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s “Before Watchmen : Rorschach” with this issue, there’s just one problem — “Before Watchmen : Rorschach” was a lousy comic. Insubstantial, breezy, and ultimately dull reading, this feels like a three- or four-page opening scene spread out to fill the whole comic. Overall: 3 Recommendation: Pass.

Foolkiller #5 (Marvel)** Max Bemis and Dalibor Talajic wrap up their quickly-cancelled series with a final chapter that ties up all loose ends in a surprisingly satisfactory manner, especially given how quickly the axe fell on this book. In fact, it seems like a fairly natural, if less than awe-inspiring, conclusion. Still, I was sorry to see one-time Foolkiller Kurt rebels free and independent states 1.jpgGerhardt — nah, that would be telling. Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Read

Ringside #9 (Image)** Joe Keatinge and Nick Barber’s infrequent-at-best wrestling series returns with an issue that feels very much like an afterthought to its creators and advances its main storylines very little. Internal logical gaps (such as two would-be henchmen being interviewed and the head honcho asking when they’d get around to finally hiring a second one? Then firing the first on the spot?) stand out like sore thumbs in Keatinge’s script, and Barber’s art continues its downward spiral, becoming looser and sloppier with each issue. If the people making this book don’t care any more, why should we? Overall: 1 Recommendation: Pass

Rebels: These Free And Independent States #1 (Dark Horse)** Great to see Brian Wood and Andrea Mutti return to their Revolutionary War series with this five-parter that shines a spotlight on the family of original protagonist Seth Abbott, particularly his precocious, maritime-obsessed son, who sure is advanced for a ten-year-old, and by issue’s end has already landed his dream job — or has he? We’re used to strong writing and striking art in “Rebels,” and this is arguably the most well-executed installment yet. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Shean

Iron Fist #1 (Marvel) Growing up I loved martial arts movies, and so did the creators of this book. The story has hints of Bloodsport and Enter the Dragon, but in a more modern world. We find Danny Rand in search of a fight worthy of his talents going from country to Magdelenav4-01_cvrAcountry. He issue’s end, Danny finds himself on a boat to a mysterious island. Overall: 9:4
Recommendation: Buy

Anno Dracula #1 (Titan) The Brilliant 1992 original novel spawns this pedestrian take on a dystopian horror past. I loved the original book, hoping this rekindle the same zest I had when I read it in high school. As all things from our youth, it invokes, the story feels of Syfy’s Van Helsing instead. Overall: 8:4 Recommendation: Borrow

Magdalena #1 (Top Cow) As an old Image Comics fan, I remember this character from the Darkness comic book, as they talked conspiracy theories before Dan Brown did. In this first issue,a lot has happened since those days, as this character is no longer affiliated with the Vatican, she is mortally wounded and has to find her spiritual heir, who has her own struggles. Altogether, a nice reintroduction to the character.Overall: 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 (**).

Review: Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories

As most writers and creators have throughout time, usually leave a part of themselves within their stories. Anyone who has read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, can see through andromorphic personifications, how he subtly examines his love of fiction. Anyone who has read Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, can see how he blended his love of outsiders, the occult and dystopia, into an awesome tale of saving the world. Then there is Kieron Gillen and Jamie McElvie’s brilliant yet highly underrated Phonogram, which combines occult elements with slice of life.

There is also my personal favorite, Hip Hop Family Tree, where Ed Piskor’s love for the genre and the culture seeps through every page and illustration. Then there are the books Gene Luen Yang, such as American Born Chinese, which tells of growing up as both American and Chinese. One of his most recent books, Boxers, and Saints, is not as personal as it speaks about the Boxer Rebellion, but many of his musings find their way into the book regardless.  The one book that I was a Kickstarter backer to, Shmuck, by the brilliant and gone too soon, Seth Kushner, showed just how much of a light he was in this world, through his sometimes-subversive humor and humanity.

As all these books spoke to me, so does the creative illuminations that MariNaomi brings with her seminal work, Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories, which provides many of her meditations on life, through real world interactions. There are more than a few standouts in this collection of individual stories, such as “Dragon’s Breath”, where she speaks of her grandfather, who she saw in one light, but never knew the complete truth about him, until years later after his passing. Then there is “The Quits”, where speaks of the attraction to smoking that many of us whose parents smoked, remembered thinking it was cool, as she eventually falls victim to the same addiction, until someone close, meets a fatal consequence because of it. The last standout that I will mention which really grabbed my attention, was “The Song in My head”, which starts as a funny meeting of kindred spirits but ends in a beautiful yet melancholic dedication to a one close friend.

Altogether, a collection of short stories which are simple, irreverent, complicated, and soulful all at the same time. The stories by MariNaomi, are a myriad of memories from her life, which are just short enough to digest but long enough to affect you. The illustrations are always easy on the eyes, as she blends a simplistic cartoon style with a complex palette. Overall, an excellent collection, which will have the reader yearning for more.

Story: MariNaomi Art: MariNaomi
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Ether #2

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Boone Dias believes that there’s a scientific explanation for everything—even the impossible murder of the Blaze, protector of the magical realm known as the Ether. But as he gets closer to solving the mystery, he’s realizing just how much he doesn’t understand about the Ether. And the more time he spends in another dimension, the more his life on Earth falls apart.

Writer Matt Kindt manages to make the world of Ether even stranger in the second issue. Thankfully, this issue delves a little more into the make character Boone Dias’ backstory. Based off of what is shown, I imagine there is much more to be revealed. Kindt delivers and reveals just enough to keep me intrigued to find out more in the next issue.

Like the previous issue, the artwork by David Rubin is colorful and psychedelic. Everything artwise works together as this issue introduces us to and showcases another place in the Ether, Cockaigne. That location change is a massive shift from the cityscape seen in the first issue. Rubin ties everything together with a solid small black and white flashback.

A solid issue that mixes magic and science into an exciting world that begs for more.

Story: Matt Kindt Art: David Rubin
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.75 Overall: Recommendation: Buy

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

Review: Black Hammer #6

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Madame Dragonfly has been harboring dark secrets for hundreds of years, keeping them locked up in the mysterious Cabin of Horrors. Now that her cabin is trapped on Black Hammer Farm, the only secrets she can collect are the broken hearts of small-town folk. But the arrival of a new visitor to the farm will change everything.

Strange things are plentiful in Black Hammer #6 written by Jeff Lemire. Some of those strange things are simple, while others are melancholic. That mix makes this issue an intriguing read. The focus of the issue is on the mysterious Madame Dragonfly and her past. Lemire delivers a surprise at the end that makes me want to know what happens next and excited to read more of the series.

The art by Dean Ormston is much darker than previous issues. That darker tone works well for the issue given the dark and tragic nature of Madame Dragonfly’s tale. Despite the dark tone, there are a few bright spots in Ormston’s art as well.

Story: Jeff Lemire Art: Dean Ormston
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

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

Review: Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys – The Big Lie #1

Writer Anthony Del Col brings noir style pulp comic book to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys – The Big Lie. The comic starts off “The Big Lie” story arc in a police station where the Hardy Boys are being interrogated separately about the murder of their father after his dismissal from the police force and arrest for corruption. There’s something to be said about a good dose of nostalgia and a decent throwback murder mystery calling you back to your childhood and teen years and, that’s just what this comic book provides. There’s nothing fancy and not a wow moment in sight, just a well written and by the numbers mystery but, that’s nit a bad thing. The Big Lie seems to have a few cards up its sleeve and a couple of surprises in store that might just take the old school fan on a nice jog through memory lane.

Artist Werther Dell’Edera keeps his art simple and 1930’s old school in this issue, lots of dots and pop art inspired frames. The faces are simple , art is crude but, in an old school way. The lines are deliberate, the shadows are intense and the lack of detail gives fans of the old books a sense of nostalgia. The color palette is muted and basic keeping the focus on the story itself and not the art , somehow this frenetic style adds a bit of chaos into the mix and keeps the easer a bit off balance because of its simplicity and unwillingness to give off any clues outside of what the writer shares with us. You know from the shadows that this is a dark story but, the art itself keeps you in the dark.

This isn’t a comic that you’d pick up if you weren’t into Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys before coming across it, unless you’re into pulp comics and/or mystery comics but, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a read. This issue lays solid groundwork for what could be an interesting arc that’s right in line with the source material. It’s a murder mystery , through and through and fans of that style and genre who just want a good dark read will be checking this out in droves. The writing is solid and the story seems pretty planned out, if you can adjust your eyes for the art, if you’re the type that’s into more stylized art work, then you’re in for a surprise treat.

It’s not an extraordinary comic book but, it serves its purpose and does what it’s supposed to do. It’s entertaining and interesting enough to make you want to see what happens next. Truth be told, not everything needs to be fast paced and in your face, sometimes just being different and well written is enough to warrant some praise.

Story: Anthony Del Col Art : Werther Dell’Edera
Story: 8.6 Art: 8.2 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Read

Dynamite Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review 

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