Category Archives: Underrated

Underrated: Captain Canuck: Aleph

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Captain Canuck: Aleph



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I picked this trade up recently, and finally got around to reading it today, and I remember wondering once I was done why I hadn’t heard about it before. Published by Chapterhouse Captain Canuck: Aleph collects the first six issues of Kalman Andrasofszky and Leonard Kirk‘s 2016 run on the character.

If you’re wondering who the character is, and what the series is about, then wonder no longer!

“Born of the True North and tested in the field of war, Tom Evans is Captain Canuck, Canada’s greatest superhero. After an encounter with an alien artifact granted him superhuman strength and speed, Captain Canuck joined the global crisis intervention agency Equilibrium to take on the greatest threats that the world has ever known.

Captain Canuck needs all his grit and strength to stand up to the machinations of the deadly Mr. Gold and his sinister minions, but his most serious challenge lies much closer to home. What dark family secrets will he discover at the mysterious Site: ALEPH?”

Although Captain Canuck has a rich history, originally debuting back in July 1975, you don’t need to be aware of any of it. Oh, it’s well worth looking up if you’re curious, but to enjoy Aleph it isn’t required reading. What you get with this book is a story about team work, family, and the steely determination of a man who looks like a superhero, and has all the characteristics of  superhero, but feels distinctly more human than superhuman. There are moments where other characters call out the traditional traits of a superhero that Captain Canuck exhibits, but only enough to make you wonder why a hero does what they do. And Canuck gives you his answer in this book; through his actions, not his words.

I paid $10 for this, and it was worth every penny.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Comics Not In Diamond’s Top 100 For May ’18

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Comics not in Diamond’s top 100 sellers for April.


This week we’re going to be looking at a list of comics that are all fantastic, but don’t get the attention that they deserve. Now I’m not even going to pretend to have a definitively exhaustive list of underrated comics here, because we’re hoping  that you decide to check at least one of these series out next time you’re looking for something new either online or at your LCS, and giving you a huge list to check out would be counter productive to that. Instead, you’ll find four to six comics that are worth your attention that failed to crack the top 100 in sales. The only hard stipulation for this week: not one of the comics made it into the top 400 for April’s comic sales, according to Comichron, which is why they’re Underrated.


Sword Of Ages #4 (IDW)
May Sales Rank/Units Sold: 326/3,816
Why You Should Read It: 
A five issue space fantasy miniseries that tells the story of a young woman wielding the titular sword as champion for her world. With four of five issues out already, I’d probably trade wait at this point in the game, but keep this on your mind if you can find the previous four issues at your LCS.

Quantum & Woody #6 (Valiant)
May Sales Rank/Units Sold: 267/5,390
Why You Should Read It: 
Eliot Rahal gives fans one of the best tie-in comics in recent memory – because it doesn’t rely on the event comic it ties in with (Harbinger Wars II) to tell a compelling story, focusing more on the relationship between Quantum and Woody. One of my favourite books of the year.

Pestilence: A Story Of Satan #1 (Aftershock)
May Sales Rank/Units Sold: 263/5,534
Why You Should Read It: The sequel to a miniseries that re-imagined the Black Plague of the 1300’s as a zombie outbreak, this series hints that Satan was responsible for the plague. Expect a violent reaction from the lead characters.

Black Hammer: Age Of Doom #2 (Dark Horse)
May Sales Rank/Units Sold: 159/11,690
Why You Should Read It: 
Because Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston have created a brand new superhero universe, that both looks and feels as if the story we’re seeing is only the tip of the iceberg. Plus, it’s freaking fantastic.

True Believers: Wolverine Vs Sabretooth #1 (Marvel)
May Sales Rank/Units Sold: 143/16,236
Why You Should Read It: 
Marvel’s True Believers line is a wonderful way to sample some classic stories for a low price point. You can’t argue with $1.


Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover more comics that aren’t cracking the top 100.

Underrated: Age Of Apocalypse

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Age Of Apocalypse. And no, not the movie.



aoa.jpgThe year was 199-something, and Charles Xavier had been murdered by his son, Legion, who had attempted to go back in time to kill Magneto before he became a villain. When he was still Xavier’s friend. That obviously didn’t turn out so well. In this reality Apocalypse attacked ten years before he did in the “main” Marvel Universe and conquered North America, although he is opposed by various mutant groups, he ultimately succeeds in instituting his Survival Of The Fittest mantra within his realm.

For four months Age Of Apocalypse took over the regular X-Men books, replacing the likes of Uncanny X-Men with Astonishing X-Men, Wolverine with Weapon X and so on across the board. I won’t list all of the series substitutions because you can find that on Wikipedia, and I’m lazy. No, today I’m not talking about the story told in a comic, but rather the way the story was presented to us, the readers. You see too often these days a major event spanning 6-10 issues in an entirely separate miniseries that will vaguely tie in to the ongoing series. No, instead Age Of Apocalypse replace the current ongoing series for four-ish months, only for those to pick back up again at the conclusion of the story.

In a rather shorter Underrated than normal (maybe? I don’t track the length as much as I should), I wanted to talk about this method of delivering an event story. What was essentially a collection of miniseries that each told a piece of the story replacing the comics you would be buying anyway is, to my mind, a genius idea. In theory, you have those buying the monthly comics already picking up the event as a continuation of the series they read and collect as well those who are curious about the event diving in and, hopefully, sticking around after it ends.

Obviously the opposite is equally true; the temporary cessation of the X-Books would have allowed those to ignore Age Of Apocalypse only to resume when the X-Books returned with their regular numbering (Wolverine #91*  would have been released in February, with Wolverine #92* appearing in July – *exact numbering may be different). This is something that I’ll be looking into in the future and exploring further outside of this column. In the meantime, I still maintain that the idea of stopping the monthly series is, at the very least on paper, an underrated idea.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: What If? and Elseworlds Stories

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: What If? and Elseworlds Stories



I had been trying to think of a subject for this week’s column all week, but nothing came to mind. In an effort to clear my mind, and accept I may miss the deadline, I started reading my “I bought this for a $1, or less, so I’ll read it one day” pile, and grabbed What If? #54What if.. Death’s Head Had Lived? Although I wasn’t overly familiar with the original story, the synopsis provided by the Watcher at the beginning was enough to understand and appreciate the differences that would follow. A trend that while it may not follow within every issue of the series, it was consistent within the three that I had read prior to sitting behind the keyboard.

Although there have been some What If? comics released since the series ended in 1998, for the most part these have been sporadic releases all either tied in to a Major Event (What If: Infinity, Age Of Ultron and Avengers Vs X-Men) or have been small enough in number to be collected into a trade (What If: Why Not, What If: Event Horizon and What If: Mirror Mirror). Fun diversions, but the first two volumes seemed to contain a more cohesive single issue story that was just plain fun rather than the more modern takes.

These alternate universe stories allow writers and artists to play with the characters within the story without any fear of repercussions from a passionate fan base who may not like a certain direction a character has been taken in. More often, however, we get a story that we simply couldn’t get in the normal continuity for obvious reasons – unless Batman travels back in time, he’s never going to face Jack the Ripper. But in DC’s Elseworlds line that’s not a problem at all. Some of these tales are far and away more interesting stories than we’d otherwise get had they been forced into the regular ongoing series.

Next time you’re in your LCS, or surfing your digital retailer, check out either the What If? or Elseworlds stories.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Comic Book TV Shows That Don’t Suck (Anymore)

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Comic Book TV Shows That Don’t Suck (Anymore)



Do you remember when [insert comic book TV show here] debuted, and how excited you were to start watching it? Do you then remember the moment when your excitement waned and you realized that somewhere alone the line that [insert comic book TV show here] either never was all that good, or  had begun the descent into suckage?

Well, here’s a few shows where that descent was reversed, for better or for worse. The only caveat is that is all personal opinion, and some shows still suck. Obviously this is not going to be an fully comprehensive list, because I haven’t watch every comic book show available, but merely a selection of those I have.

And if your favourite show isn’t here? Maybe it never sucked enough…

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Arrow Now somewhere in its eighth season, Arrow started out with significant promise before slowly trending downwards. Hitting a low point around the third season, Arrow struggled throughout the following year and a half before finally pulling itself away from the poor man’s imitation of Batman we’d  been seeing as the show moved away from the League of Assassin’s and toward a direction you’d never expect to see Batman or Bruce Wayne take as Oliver Queen ran for Mayor of Star City. Now, although the show still has its problems, Arrow is on a decidedly upward trend and no longer deserves the poor reputation it so justly earned a few years ago.

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Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Ironically, few people enjoyed this show right from the get go – my wife effectively gave up on this right around the tie in for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which was around when the series started to pic up in its quality. Since then, barring a few hiccups (most notably Season 4), the show has been remarkably solid with the fifth season standing out as the best one that has been produced in the last five years.

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Gotham Unlike the other two shows mentioned in this week’s column, Gotham is a show I actually dropped half way through the first season. It turns out that for a long time that was the right decision. But recently those who have bravely stuck with the show for various reasons have been rumbling that, maybe, it’s something that should make its way back into my television viewing schedule. While I haven’t  made the plunge on it yet, primarily due to time constraints, I have every intention of reading the highlights online before starting with the most recent season. I’ll let you know how that ends up.


 

That’s pretty much it for this week, so join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Starlight

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Starlight.



starlight_cover 1.jpgConceived by Hollywood darling Mark Millar (with art by Goran Parlov), Starlight was a six issue miniseries that was released beginning in March of 2014 and ending in October 2014. Telling the story of the superbly named Duke McQueen, an Air Force pilot who went to space and saved the alien planet of Tantalus from tyranny forty years ago, before returning home and raising a family instead of staying to rule the planet. His exploits, sadly, were written off as the ravings of a attention seeker, and Duke became a joke to all but his sweetheart.

Now, with his wife dead, his family not giving him the time of day, and people still treating him as a joke, a spaceship arrives to take the old man on one last grand adventure to save the planet Tantalus once again.

One of the less Mark Millar-y comics that have come from his keyboard in the last half decade, this mini series had none of the hyper violence seen in things such as Kick-Ass, Wanted and Kingsman. Surprisingly Starlight is a sentimental yarn about a former hero redeeming himself in his own eyes and saving the planet from a tyrannical despot once again.

Starlight is a pleasure to read. Although criticism can be levelled at the sudden change as Duke McQueen goes from couch-bound crank to crack aimed space hero over the course of only a couple of issues, for me that misses the spirit of the book. Think not of Starlight in terms of the modern, more realism based stories we’ve become accustomed to, and instead fall back into the nostalgia of the classic stories of yesteryear as Millar embraces the straight forward nature of the story – almost against type, as McQueen battles against an antagonist who doesn’t measure up to the rich and deep characterization of the hero; Kingfisher is a perfectly adequate villain, but make no mistake, Starlight is a redemptive story for Duke McQueen.

Perhaps in seeing McQueen struggle against overwhelming odds, himself, and the reputation he had been given, we can find hope and inspiration in our own lives. Not quite the lesson I expected to take from a Mark Millar book.

 

I had forgotten how much I loved Starlight until I saw a tweet mentioning the series a few days ago that inspired me to dig the comics out and reread them.  It’s a love that I genuinely believe you’ll share when you give the series a chance – it’s an underrated gem that you wouldn’t typically expect to come from Mark Millar.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Comics Not In Diamond’s Top 100 For April ’18

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Comics not in Diamond’s top 100 sellers for April.


This week we’re going to be looking at a list of comics that are all fantastic, but don’t get the attention that they deserve. Now I’m not even going to pretend to have a definitively exhaustive list of underrated comics here, because we’re hoping  that you decide to check at least one of these series out next time you’re looking for something new either online or at your LCS, and giving you a huge list to check out would be counter productive to that. Instead, you’ll find four to six comics that are worth your attention that failed to crack the top 100 in sales. The only hard stipulation for this week: not one of the comics made it into the top 400 for April’s comic sales, according to Comichron, which is why they’re Underrated.


 

God Complex #5 (Image)
May Sales Rank/Units Sold: 270/4,719
Why You Should Read It: 
A science fiction themed reinvention of mythology? What’s not to love when it is packaged this well.

Bloodshot: Salvation #8 (Valiant)
May Sales Rank/Units Sold: 202/8,171
Why You Should Read It: 
Valiant have some amazing series out right now, and this is one of the best. Jeff Lemire weaves a brutal tale of a man trying to move away from his violent past, but has no faith he’s good for anything but violence… Bloodshot Salvation is also one of the best looking books on the racks right now – each page could easily be framed and displayed proudly within your house.

Thanos #18 (Marvel)
May Sales Rank/Units Sold: 192/9,014
Why You Should Read It: Because you’ve seen Avengers Infinity War and want more Thanos in your life. Plus Don Cates is a remarkable voice and one you should pay attention too.

Sex Criminals #23 (Image)
May Sales Rank/Units Sold: 192/9,014
Why You Should Read It: 
As a late comer to this series, I can honestly tell you that it is a brilliantly hilarious, starkly emotional and remarkably ingenious series.

Shadowman #2 (Valiant)
May Sales Rank/Units Sold: 165/11,738
Why You Should Read It: 
Because it’s awesome. SM2018_002_COVER-A_ZONJIC


Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover more comics that aren’t cracking the top 100.

Underrated: Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior.



wotewThis week saw the release of a deluxe hardcover edition collecting the entire 14 issue run of Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior along with Eternal Warrior: Awakening #1. Fifteen comics presented in an over-sized hardcover along with 20 odd pages of bonus extras that add a lot for  those interested in the process of the creation of the series, all for $49.99. And yes, I did buy this myself (and happily so).

Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior didn’t start out as a series that wowed me. The first four issues seemed to struggle with pacing and the art style, especially given the series billing as a follow-up to the explosively exciting Book Of Death miniseries that (spoiler) ended in the Eternal Warrior’s death. It’s that death, and those that follow, that form the crux of the series, but without the first four issues you don’t realize the toll taken on the Eternal Warrior with each death and resurrection cycle. The issues that I felt struggled with pacing quickly became some of the most important ground-setting in modern comics – a lesson that I took to heart, and quickly so.

It would also be fair to say that the art team of Raul Allen and Patricia Martin were not immediately to my taste. In furtherance to that, it would also be fair to say that my taste quickly changed as the series progressed and the elegance and artistic genius of the husband and wife team gave me a new appreciation of the majesty of sequential art.  There are other artists who contribute to the series, all with a fantastic level of talent; it’s these contributions that give the series the honour of being one of the most visually stunning and diverse pieces of sequential art published by Valiant.

Robert Venditti has written some incredible comics in his time, but one of the finest examples of his work comes in the fourteen issue run of Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior. Taking you on a journey through history,  across continents and beyond death, Venditti weaves an incredibly deep tale that reveals a different layer upon each subsequent reading.

It’s also violent as all hell in places, which should satisfy the need we have for a bit of blood and conflict in our comics.

Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior is a fantastic series, and I envy those of you who get to read the entire thing in one sitting; the deluxe hardcover is worth picking up for that series alone, which is why I haven’t mentioned Eternal Warrior: Awakening at any point in this week’s column because that’s the cherry on top of the fantastic main course. Mixed metaphors aside, Awakening is another really good comic, and serves as another nice bonus for those who buy the collection.

I’ll  make no secret of my abject love for this series, indeed the fact I own both the individual issues and the deluxe hardcover when I also have access to the review copies should hopefully speak volumes to that love. It’s a love that I genuinely believe you’ll share when you give the series a chance – it’s an underrated gem.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: The Comic Book History Of Comics: Birth Of A Medium

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: The Comic Book History Of Comics: Birth Of A Medium.



 

choc.jpgThere are numerous books on the history of comics, some of which sit partially read on my shelf, but there are very few comics or graphic novels about the history of comics. Enter Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey’s Comic Book History Of Comics. It is exactly what it says; a history of comics told in comic book form. But it’s more than just a history of comics, it also attempts to show the evolution of art into the sequential art we know today as comics; to show the differentiation from cartoons to comics. Originally published by IDW as a six issue miniseries, I picked up the collected edition a few months ago

and only finally read it this week.

Frankly, I was astounded that it had taken me this long to read it, and  little surprised that fewer people were talking about the project. After all, what better way to tell the early history of comics than in comic form? It almost makes you wonder why it hasn’t been done before.

The Comic Book History Of Comics: Birth Of A Medium packs a LOT of information into its 150 odd pages, but it isn’t a definitive history. How could it be with only 150 some pages of sequential art? But it is a fantastic introduction to some of the medium’s more architectural sons and, to a lesser extent daughters (but that’s an issue  with the book and the industry itself – Van Lente and Dunlavey do include sections entitled The Comic Book Herstory… but one gets the sense that these are far less prominent than perhaps they should be). That being said, this is a fun way to learn about the history of comics if you’re unfamiliar, and even if you think you have a good handle on things, I’d put money on Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey having unearthed something that you were previously unfamiliar with.

There’s a ton of information packed within these pages, but never once does the delivery feel stagnant or anything less than thoroughly entertaining. There are visual puns amidst the art, examples of Dunlavey literally showing you what Van Lente is talking about in terms of panel usage, and some wonderful caricatures of historical figures. I paid $24 for this book (I’m in Canada), and it was worth every penny and then some. Ultimately, this is a brilliant addition to my bookshelf, and one I will revisit more often than not.

I can wait to get the next volume.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Ether Vol. 1: Death Of The Last Golden Blaze

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Ether Vol. 1: Death Of The Last Golden Blaze.



ether vol 1.jpgSomehow Ether slipped through my radar back when the first issue was released in November of 2016. It wasn’t until the comic shop I frequent had a copy of the trade paperback on the counter that I noticed it. I asked the clerk what the book was about, and he spent a good twenty minutes selling me on it. He could have saved himself nineteen minutes a forty odd seconds with the words “Matt Kindt wrote it.”

It’s usually a safe bet that anything written by Matt Kindt (and Jeff Lemire, honestly) I am going to try. So what’s Ether about?

Taken from Dark Horse’s website, the blurb for issue one reads: “A science-minded adventurer gets mixed up in the mysteries of a fantasy world in this charming new adventure from an award-winning creative team. Boone Dias is an interdimensional explorer, a scientist from Earth who has stumbled into great responsibility. He’s got an explanation for everything, so of course the Ether’s magical residents turn to him to solve their toughest crimes. But maybe keeping the real and the abstract separate is too big a job for just one man.”

If that sounds cool, well, that’s because it is. Using modern science to explain magic provides a wonderful story idea, but it is the human story beneath the fantastical exterior that will pull you in. Boone Dias is a man who has devoted his life and professional career to the magical place known as Ether, but his scientific background gives him an almost godlike reputation among the less scientifically inclined denizens of the Ether. The driving factor of the plot in the first volume is a murder mystery within the Ether that only Boone seems capable of solving – despite the fantastical elements of the world, there’s a relatablility to the detective work and the process that’s followed. This gives the book a wonderful dichotomy that is further enhanced by David Rubin’s near psychedelic mindfucking attack on your eyes.

Ether is the rare book that exemplifies the comic book medium. It is a murder mystery story, a genre that could, and has been told in a multitude of mediums,  and adds a special dash of comic book magic that makes this ideally suited to the sequential art style of story telling.

There’s a reason Matt Kindt got nominated for an Eisner this year. It wasn’t for this book, but you can get a great feeling for his talent with Ether. It doesn’t hurt that David Rubin is also fantastic.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

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