Category Archives: Underrated

Underrated: Valiant’s Comics

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 comics from comic book publisher Valiant Entertainment


 

I’m not going to lie to you, folks. I haven’t had a lot of time (or desire, truth be told) to read comics over the last couple of weeks, so I was sat in front of my laptop on a Friday night (yup, the height of socialization, me) wondering what the bloody hell I could write about for this week’s Underrated knowing that I had less than twelve hours to get something halfway decent, maybe even entertaining, written for your enjoyment.

Well I got something written, but I’ll leave it to you to tell me if it’s enjoyable.

Inspiration struck when I noticed a certain email containing  review copies of a couple of pop up in my inbox and I realized that for the first time in a couple of weeks I was genuinely excited. The comics in question, rather obviously, came from Valiant. And that got me thinking about the series that Valiant have been publishing over the past year, and which you should be reading.

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  • X-O Manowar (2017) After the first series concluded after 50 issues, Valiant relaunched X-O Manorwar with a new creative team who took the character into the far reaches of space. Aric of Dacia is a time displaced Visigoth prince in command of arguably the most powerful weapon in the universe – the X-O Manowar armour. On the planet Gorin, Aric has found a peaceful existence that is disturbed when he’s conscripted into a war not his own. A war he wants to fight without the armour.

    The retired gunslinger style story is set against fantastic operatic visuals that leave you in no doubt as to the setting, and odds, of the war depicted in a series that has been getting better with each issue. You don’t need to have read the previous 50 issues (I  didn’t) to enjoy this story. Look for the collected editions at your LCS (X-O Manowar: Soldier is the first, and would make an excellent gift for your comic loving, uh, loved ones this season).

    Bloodshot Salvation 1

  • Bloodshot Salvation Bloodshot: a man who was subjected to untold tests from a shadowy organisation, whose blood is full of tiny little machines (called nanites) that give him various different powers (the one you’ll see most often is rapid healing), and was frequently brainwashed after each mission. Now, finally, he’s free, and he has a family. This series picks up after the at-times-phenomenal Bloodshot Reborn (which, again, isn’t required reading) and finds the former killing machine trying to protect his new family, as well as a tale set eight years into the future. The two stories have yet to intertwine, but they’re bound to at some point. Only four issues in, this series is far more grounded than X-O, and yet just as exciting to look at.

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  • Ninja-K The second issue is due to hit the shelves this week, which is perfect timing for those of you who want to dive into this stylish spy thriller that meshes Batman with James Bond. Once again, no prior knowledge is required when picking up the first issue. Personally, this is the reason I got all giddy over the week’s comics.

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  • Divinity/Eternity Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine have created a really interesting character in Abram Adams, the Russian Cosmonaut with the powers of a god. The Divinity trilogy has been released sporadically over the years, and is worth reading in its entirety (which is why I’m breaking my own rule), which will get you prepared for the latest sequel Eternity which is laced with a Kirby-esque space background of incredibly vivid colour.

 

Underrated: Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

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: Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace



Star_Wars_Phantom_Menace_poster.jpgReleased in 1999, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was written and directed by George Lucas, produced by Lucasfilm and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It is the first installment in the Star Wars prequel trilogy and stars Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Ahmed Best, Pernilla August, Brian Blessed, Ray Park, and Frank Oz. It  is also widely known for being a stonking pile of manure.

Released sixteen years after Return Of The JediThe Phantom Menace was set 32 years before Star Wars, and follows Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi as they protect Queen Amidala, in hopes of securing a peaceful end to a large-scale interplanetary trade dispute. Joined by Anakin Skywalker—a young slave with unusually strong natural powers of the Force—they simultaneously contend with the mysterious return of the Sith.

Now that you’ve read (basically) the first two paragraphs of the Wikipedia entry, allow me to tell you why this movie is underrated.

Look, I’m not claiming it’s good, just that it isn’t (quite) as bad as you think it is. And it does have good moments. If I can’t convince you, maybe I’ll make you laugh…?

Anyway.

If you’re of a certain age, or your parents are, then you would have been beyond excited to see this movie when it hit the theaters in 1999. I remember watching the lines on the local news back in England being in awe that anybody would care about a movie that much, but nearly twenty years later I can begin understand the level of excitement people would feel surrounding the return of such a beloved franchise – indeed, as I type this I am already planning to line up for the latest Star Wars flick, The Last Jedi, two hours before the screen doors open. But that’s after having two good movies released in the last two years, so can you imagine the excite fans of the franchise would have had in the weeks and months (hell, years) leading up to May 19th, 1999 when the movie finally opened for the masses. It would have been incredible! In the years before the widespread usage of the Internet (in comparison to what we see now), there were conversations in schools, at the water cooler and frankly anywhere fans would gather. The excitement was palpable wherever nerds and fans gathered. It’s hard to overstate how much hype was in the air surrounding the first Star Wars movie in sixteen years.

And then the movie was released.

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If you’ve never seen this movie, then you should check it out. It’s a great send up of nerd culture circa 1998 with a touching heart. Rumour has it the movie is based on real events – whether that’s true or not I’m unsure.

Look, without beating around the bush, it’s safe to say that it didn’t live up to expectations. At all. The movie is widely regarded as the worst live action entry into the saga, and rightly so, and fans have often said that the movie is best left forgotten in the deep recesses of history. Which is a touch harsh, but I understand where they’re coming from. But here’s the thing; despite the movie’s obvious flaws, I still feel like it gets the short end of the stick quite a bit.

Why? Well let me break out the bullet points…

  • Firstly, it was the first Star Wars movie in a generation, and as such it was the first time that many of us were able to sit in a chair and experience that title sequence – next time you see a Star Wars movie in the theatre and those titles start to roll with that music… you tell me that isn’t an incredible moment. Almost makes what came after those titles worth watching.
  •  Secondly, you can’t tell me you weren’t grinning from ear to ear with the extensive lightsaber duels. Everything is better with lightsabers.
  •  Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, there were people for whom this was the first Star Wars movie they’d experienced and as such it served, for those folks at least, as a gateway into the franchise.
  •  How many of you who did see, and loath, this movie in the cinema rushed out to see Episode II – Attack Of The Clones opening night because it couldn’t have been as band as this one, right? It wasn’t, was it? If nothing else, that the first movie was the worst in the new trilogy should be seen as a bright spot.
  • Dual lightsaber! Darth Maul’s dual blades were the first time we had seen a break from the standard style lightsaber from the original trilogy, which opened up a breadth of on-screen options for the iconic weapon going forward.darth maul.jpeg

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was always doomed to fail. No movie with as much hype as this one will ever meet expectations. But eighteen years on, while the movie may not hold up visually any more with the advances in digital technology, and Jar Jar Binks is still an annoying fuckwit, I came to realize that the movie isn’t as bad as you would think. Aside from Jar Jar, and a little too much time spent on the pod racing subplot, the movie isn’t bad. Could it have been better? Absolutely – I won’t argue that. But it wasn’t as  bad as you’ve heard, certainly not as bad as its reputation would have you believe.



Next week we’ll return to a more comic themed Underrated. Until next time!

Underrated: Green Valley

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: Green Valley



Published by Image, Green Valley was written by Max Landis and features art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, inks by Cliff Rathburn and colours by Jean Francois Beaulieu. The wonderful hardcover collection in my hands collects nine issues and will set you back $29.99 (I paid for this out of my own pocket, and happily so, even though I probably had access to the single issue review copies).

So what’s the story about?

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The knights of Kelodia are the finest in the land, but they’ve never faced a POWER like the one that resides in the Green Valley. Now they’re about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime—to stop a wizard and slay his dragons—but there’s no such thing as magic or dragons…is there? 

You may have noticed by reading this column that I tend to enjoy stories set in and around medieval times, even though I don’t tend to read that many comics set in that era (or at least I didn’t until this year). So when my LCS suggested I pick this up (it was on the counter and the owner told me I’d like it) I did so without question because sometimes I don’t want to read superhero comics.

One of the first things I noticed was that the hardcover itself just feels utterly wonderful in your hands.  The above image is of the hardcover, with the comic art inset slightly into the gold and green cover of the book itself in an effect that really doesn’t translate as well in the image as it does in person, but it does give you a hint about the nature of the story, which aside from the cover and text on the back I entered utterly blindly – and I fell in love.

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Green Valley is the kind of book that you will want to read in a single sitting – it grabs you right from the start as you’re introduced to the legendary Knights of Kelodia (all four of them) as they face down a barbarian horde in a brilliant sequence that’s full of dry humour, a genuine feeling camaraderie from the knights  and tense knightly masculinity all wrapped up in some beautiful visuals that are some of the nicest pure-comic pages I’ve seen in quite some time. Were I reviewing this here, I’d be giving this at least 9’s across the board and telling you to buy this without question – the story and art genuinely took me by surprise and had me forget that I really should be doing a bunch of other stuff for the hour or so I sat enraptured in this story.green valley interior.jpg

Without spoiling anything, it’s tough to explain why I loved this story, but that won’t stop me from trying. Green Valley is a very intelligently written book, with dialogue that is, at times, so sharp you could loose a finger. There are moments that span the gamut of human emotion for the characters, and will have you laughing out loud and pumping your fist as the story goes on – just as you’ll feel gut-punched at certain other moment. Max Landis has written one hell of a story that deserves a very special place on your shelf.

Now excuse me while I go reread it (no, I’m not saying that for effect – I’m actually going to reread it now).


 

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: Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice Ultimate Edition

With Justice League having just been released, I felt it was an ideal time to rerun this older post. This has nothing to do with me going on vacation without preparing a column in advance. Nope.



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: Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice Ultimate Edition.


 

Batman v Superman Dawn of JusticeLet’s not beat around the bush here: the theatrical cut of Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice wasn’t the greatest superhero movie of last year and while it wasn’t the worst comic book movie of the year, it was perhaps one of the most disappointing – for me at least. I had expected so much from the movie, because it was fucking Batman and Superman on the big screen together. And… well we got an average movie. There were parts that were great (Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot), and parts that were pretty good (Henry Cavil), and… some less than savoury parts. I left the theatre feeling quite unsure of how I felt; did the good outweigh the bad, or did it balance it out? What didn’t click for me? Could the movie had been better?

Shortly after seeing the movie I found out that there would be an R rated extended cut of the film released for home media, and I wondered whether that would do anything to set the film right.

As it turns out, it did.

Almost every problem I had with the pacing, plot and direction of the movie was made better by the extended cut. I still wasn’t happy that the entire movie had effectively been told in short form in the trailers, but there wasn’t much I could do about that other than not watching the trailer in the first palace. Since that wasn’t an option…

Look, I get that Warner Brothers probably had concerns about audiences sitting for an extended period of time… I mean the near two and a half hour run time of the theatrical cut was the longest movie in recent memory, and understandably Warner’s were concerned about audiences attention spans. It’s not like we’d ever sit patiently during Lord Of The Rings, or binge watch five hours of Daredevil in one sitting. That’s just not who we are. And to think we’d rather have  a great long movie longer than a slightly shorter average one would never cross their minds. 

It’s okay, though.

Whether it’s thanks to the success of Deadpool, or the critical slamming early on, or both, the Extended cut of the movie is a much better story in every way. The plot holes that resulted from the opening sequence are fixed because of the additional footage showing the soldiers using flame throwers to incinerate bodies to mimic Superman’s heat vision, if you wrote the movie off based on the theatrical cut then you’re missing one of the better superhero movies of last year.

Yeah, I said it.

The Extended edition is a better move than Civil War is, but because the real version of the film was never released in theaters, the movie as a whole got quite an unfair reputation – albeit fairly earned based on the expectations people had for this supposed juggernaut of a film, and what was initially delivered. If you’ve only seen the theatrical cut of the movie, then give the Extended edition a shot. The additional scenes add significantly to the overall experience, delivering a much better experience than anything you’d have expected from the theatrical experience.

Underrated: Comics Not In Diamond’s Top 100 For October

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 Diamonds top 100 sellers for October.


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. You’ll notice that there’s only one comic from a publisher featured – this was done to try and spread the love around, rather than focus exclusively on one publisher.

Where possible, I’ve also avoided comics that have appeared on the last version of this list, but the only hard stipulation for this week: not one of the comics made it into the top 100 for October’s comic sales, according to Comichron, which is why they’re Underrated.dark ark 2.jpg

TMNT-Universe-15_Cover-A_richDark Ark #2 (Aftershock)
October Sales Rank/Comics Sold: 215 /8,001
What if Noah’s ark wasn’t the only giant boat that was built to keep species alive? What if there was another? Predictably, this series deals with the darker side;  an ark built to save vampires, dragons and such. It’s as interesting as it sounds, and should be garnering more attention than it currently is.

TMNT Universe #15 (IDW)
October Sales Rank/Comics Sold: 202 /8,656
A companion to the main series, this has been a solid series for some time. While I can’t tell you to read this instead of the main series, if you want more of the Turtles in your reading pile, you can’t go wrong.

Bloodshot Salvation #2 (Valiant)
BSS_003_COVER-A_ROCAFORTOctober Sales Rank/Comics Sold: 174 /10,789
To say that everything Jeff Lemire touches is golden would (probably) be a little bit of an exaggeration, but seeing as how I’ve enjoyed everything he’s written in the last year or two… I also don’t feel the statement is too much of an exaggeration. His ability to humanize the killing machine Bloodshot is incredible, and the twin stories set in Now and Soon timelines are effortlessly balanced. This visually stunning series is another example of why Valiant are one of the best publishers around.

descender25_Digital-1.pngDescender #25 (Image)
October Sales Rank/Comics Sold: 133 /16,873
You may remember a few weeks ago I wrote about the first trade in this series. You can basically say the same things here… so I’ll just link to that post instead.


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: 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank

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: 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank


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All images will be taken from the first issue preview pages to help alleviate the spoiler hammer.


At some point  in the last two years you’ve probably heard somebody talking about the comic 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank. The first of the five issues in the series was released April 2016, but due to a series of delays the fifth issue only hit the physical and digital shelves in September 2017, which unfortunately left some readers less than enthused about the story – not because the quality was lacking, but because the inconsistent release schedule caused momentum and interest in the series to wane.

Personally, after the second delay I had almost forgotten to keep checking for the next issue, so it came as quite a welcome surprise to notice the trade. Finally, I could read the entire story in one sitting (or several but at least I had the full story in hand).4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK 4

But first, before we talk about 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank, what’s the story about?

Well the book’s synopsis reads: “A fun(ish) crime caper about children! Eleven-year-old Paige and her weirdo friends have a problem: a gang of ex-cons need her dad’s help on a heist… the problem is those ex-cons are morons. If Paige wants to keep her dad out of trouble, she’s going to have to pull off the heist herself. Like Wes Anderson remaking Reservoir Dogs, 4KWIABis a very dark & moderately humorous story about friendship, growing up, D & D, puking, skinheads, grand larceny, and family.

Before we get to talking a little about the story, when you open the trade and see the comic’s credits you’ll notice that they’re done in alphabetical order; art and design by Tyler Boss, Flatting by Clare Dezutti, Lettering by Thomas Mauer, Wallpaper by Courtney Menard and written by Matthew Rosenberg. Rosenberg was a guest on Graphic Policy Radio last year where he said that he felt it important that each artist who contributes to a comic is recognized (I could  be wrong in the exact wording, but I believe the essence of the quote is there), and it was on that episode of the radio show that I first heard the term “flatter.” I hadn’t really come across it before, and consequently had no knowledge of what a flatter did. Thankfully, the ever reliable Wikipedia was there to help;

flatter is a colouring specialist within the comic book industry that prepares the inked or sketched comic book page for the colorist with digital art software such as Adobe Photoshop. The specialist does so by selecting the objects on the page and filling them in with a solid color called a “flat”, so that the “flats” can be used by the colorist by way of the “magic wand” tool. In this way, the colorist may select each object during the rendering process-to the exclusion of the other objects on the page-so that the object’s base color may be changed, or to render the colors.”

They sound like a pretty important part of the comic industry, eh?

That’s a subject for another day, however, as today we’re looking at 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank in it’s totality.4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK 10

Perhaps best likened to somebody throwing the Goonies, a supernatural-less Stranger Things and Reservoir Dogs into a blender and then poured it out over a nice crust of fantastic and baked for several minutes. Served with a side of wry humour and a glass of childhood innocence that may have started to sour a little, if you had started 4 Kids when it first came out but, like me, you’d let the series fall off your radar then you’ll be pleased to know that with the release of the trade you won’t need to put the story down.

I didn’t (well, not intentionally – I did fall asleep while reading but that’s because it was 3 am and I’d been awake more than twenty hours and thus should not be taken as an indication of quality).

4 Kids is one of those stories that really couldn’t work as well in any other medium; this is a story that exemplifies what it means to be a comic book. In an age of endless crossovers and reboots it is beyond refreshing to read a complete story that will take you along by the scruff of the neck as the characters end up going further and further down a rabbit hole – not only do the elements of humour in the comic play off the visuals, but they allow the deeper messages of the story to permeate your brain. Before you know it you’ve noticed that this story is so much more than just four kids walking into a bank (keep an eye out for some great narration bubbles there, too) – this is a story about family, societal debt and the folly of youth.

Rosenberg’s script is witty, the pacing of the story beats are utterly perfect; his writing so sharp I nearly lost a finger. When it comes to Boss’, his art may not be your cup of tea at first, but his command of the page and the characters upon that page couldn’t be better suited to this script. If this was a review rather than an entreaty to pick the trade up (I have despite having  a review copy) then I would be giving this top marks across the board. 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank is a comic you must read.


That’s all for this week folks. Join us next week when we talk about something else that falls under the Underrated banner in the comic book world.

Underrated: Lake Of Fire

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: Lake Of Fire



It is 1220 AD, and the gears of the Albigensian Crusade grind on. When an alien spacecraft infested with a horde of bloodthirsty predators crash-lands in the remote wilderness of the French Pyrenees, a small band of crusaders and a Cathar heretic are all that stand between God’s Kingdom and Hell on Earth.Lakeof-Fire-vol.1.jpg

When the owner of my LCS not so subtly recommended this to me by putting it in my pull box, I figured that she’s never steered me wrong yet, so why not give it a go? A few hours ago I opened the cover to the five issue collection, unsure of what I’d be getting beyond the notion that it was essentially aliens verses knights, and I didn’t stop reading until the story was done.

I devoured the entire tpb in one sitting and immediately wondered why I hadn’t read about this somewhere before. Why had nobody told me about this before the owner of my LCS told me to read it?

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Published by Image, Lake Of Fire was written, coloured and lettered by Nathan Fairbairn with art by Matt Smith (no, not the guy who played Doctor Who), the comic does have a fairly straight forward knights verses aliens feel to it – not that that is a bad thing as it allows the characters, action and art to really pop.

Yes, there are the fairly standard typical characters within the story, but while Fairbairn does tread familiar ground with the characters, the major players all feel as though they have a weight about them. You have the grizzled old warrior, the naive young knights and the dark priest all present and accounted for, and yes they are popular fantasy archetypes, but they’re well written archetypes which goes a long way in my book. I’d rather a well written archetype than a shallow character for the sake of originality.

That being said, rather than having the characters face off against a supernatural threat Fairbairn instead pits them against a horde of alien predators. I’ve always been partial to seeing how our ancestors would fair against an extraterrestrial threat, and the collected edition of Lake Of Fire scratches that itch remarkably well.

Matt Smith‘s art couldn’t be better suited to the past-meets-future story; the action sequences are easy to follow and once the comic reaches the midpoint the atmospheric art really amps up the threatening feel of the story itself in a case where Fairbairn’s colouring melds so well with Smith’s line art that it’s hard to believe that two people were involved in creating the visuals for the story.lakeoffire-01_cvrb.jpg

It may seem as if I’m being a little harsh on the story for being relatively straight forward, and that’s not my intent. Lake Of Fire is a fairly easy tale to follow from start to finish, but there are a more layers to the characters than you’d initially expect from the story – such as the relationships between some of the characters – and there’s an underlying theme about acceptance and tolerance in a time when neither of these were encouraged or widely practiced.

As far as recommendations from my LCS go, this is one of the more surprising ones; I didn’t expect much more out of this story than to be able to just pop my feet up with a cup of tea and just relax with a half the story before moving on to something else. Instead I ended up finishing the entire trade in one go and immediately start writing this column. Lake Of Fire is a really enjoyable story that surpasses a lot of the comics currently on the racks – and it’s also entirely self contained.

There are a lot of reasons why I wanted to spotlight the comic this week, but chief among them is that I haven’t heard anything about it anywhere – and that’s why it’s Underrated.


That’s all for this week folks. Join us next week when we talk about something else that falls under the Underrated banner in the comic book world.

Underrated: Descender Volume One: Tin Stars

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: Descender Volume One: Tin Stars

 

 

Descender_01-1.pngI picked up the first volume of Descender the other day because of a recommendation from the owner, and seeing as how she’s never really steered me wrong before and that it was written by Jeff Lemire I figured I’d give it a try. So what’s the series about?

The synopsis reads;

“Young Robot boy TIM-21 and his companions struggle to stay alive in a universe where all androids have been outlawed and bounty hunters lurk on every planet. Written by award-winning creator, Jeff Lemire, Descender is a rip-roaring and heart-felt cosmic odyssey. Lemire pits humanity against machine, and world against world, to create a sprawling epic. Created by Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth, Trillium) and Dustin Nguyen’s (Little Gotham) critically acclaimed, bestselling new science fiction series!”

I won’t lie to you, friends, if it hadn’t been my my LCS’ recommendation I would never have read the first volume in this series – and that would have been quite a shame. Y’see even though I frequently say  that science fiction stories aren’t usually my cup of tea, the  more I seem to read the more I seem to enjoy, so either I’m lying or I never really read any good science fiction before form that opinion – either way that’s not the point right now.DESCENDER_1_Letts_17.0.jpg

Upon opening the first six issue volume of Descender – which you can find for $10 at your LCS – you’ll find an art style that won’t appeal to everyone right away (if you’ve read Little Gotham you’ll know what I mean), but allow yourself a couple of pages and you’ll begin to notice that the art style works incredibly well with the story. Indeed the art and the story mirror each other in that just as you notice that there’s a lot more to Dustin Nguyen‘s art than you’ll initially pick up on in those first few pages, you’ll also begin to realize that Lemire’s plot goes a lot deeper than you’d first expect.

Like all good fantasy and science fiction stories, Descender  (or at least the first volume) will have you thinking about the world around you, and how you react to it, without explicitly telling you what Lemire was thinking about when he was writing the series, lending the work a timeless quality.

Honestly, I’m shocked that I don’t hear more people talking about this series; I’d say it’s one of the best things that Jeff Lemire has written but when the man is as prolific as he is with top notch comics, you’ll forgive me for not giving in to full blown hyperbole. What the first volume  of Descender is, however, is simply fantastic.


That’s all for this week folks. Join us next week when we talk about something else that falls under the Underrated banner in the comic book world.

Underrated: Single Day Conventions

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: Single Day Conventions.


If you’re reading this then I have no doubt that you’ve heard of the cons that run across multiple days, but on the off chance I’m wrong take a few minutes to google San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con or C2E2 as an example of those multiday conventions. Now the three that I’ve mentioned are also well known for having a ton of industry reveals emerging from the various panels, as well as an imperial fuckton of guests and exhibitors all competing for your attention and money.

These major conventions are usually full of a great expansive mass of humanity pouring over comics and, let’s be frank, pop culture in all its lovely various forms that can be both exhilarating and incredibly overwhelming. They are a place for thousands of fans to gather and share a love of all things geek, but can often be tough to navigate, expensive and very crowded – and sometimes they may not be the best place for a person to experience their first con – which is where the smaller single day conventions can often be the unsung gems of the comics world (at least on paper) by allowing fans to get a feeling of what a con is like, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Although I don’t make a point to travel to every con I can get to regardless of size, the smaller ones do have some advantages the larger ones don’t.

  • Firstly it’s highly unlikely you’ll be overwhelmed at the size of the convention. By their very nature these events aren’t geared toward an army of fans which means that you’ll be able to swing a cat if you so choose [editor’s note: Don’t swing a cat].
  • The admission is usually pretty cheap.
  • Because the cons are smaller, and usually in small to medium sized cities and towns, more often than not it is easier to find parking spaces near the venue itself.
  • You can see everything on offer (if you have the time). Although there is always the chance that what’s on offer for you to buy isn’t great, even then you’ll never leave thinking that you missed the best buy of the con because you didn’t go down every aisle.
  • They can often have the feel of a craft fair about them as exhibitors who can’t afford to travel to larger events can show their products. I picked up an interesting modge podge display piece that had pages from an old comics pasted over a block of wood for a friend at a con last year (that I never took a photo of).
  • They’re often put together out of love and not always for a profit.

I’m aware that the smaller cons have a drastically different flavour than the larger cons  and while that flavour may or may not be to your liking, I’ve noticed that there really aren’t as many folks talking about the smaller cons in general verses the industry giant ones (granted for obvious reasons), and I wanted to express some love for the single day conventions that we don’t always talk about after we attend – myself included.


That’s all for this week folks. Join us next week when we talk about something else that falls under the Underrated banner in the comic book world.

Underrated: Comics Not In Diamond’s Top 100 For September

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 Diamonds top 100 sellers for September.


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. You’ll notice that there’s only one comic from a publisher featured – this was done to try and spread the love around, rather than focus exclusively on one publisher.

Where possible, I’ve also avoided comics that have appeared on the last version of this list, but the only hard stipulation for this week: not one of the comics made it into the top 100 for September’s comic sales, according to Comichron, which is why they’re Underrated.

pestilence 4 coverPestilence #4 (Aftershock)
September Sales Rank/Comics Sold: 270 /5,112
What if the Black Death wasn’t the bubonic plague? What if something else was responsible for the mass death of almost a third of Europe in the 1300’s wasn’t a disease, but zombies? Imagine a zombie outbreak where the fastest method of land transportation was a horse, and there weren’t any guns. Frank Tieri’s story is brutal and brilliant and perfect for those who like a bit of sword play with their zombies.

Duck Tales #1 (IDW)
September Sales Rank/Comics Sold: 178 /10,958
Sometimes all you want in a comic is for it to be a trip down nostalgia avenue whilst having a good laugh, and that’s exactly what this is. If, like me, you loved the cartoon in the 90’s, then you’ll enjoy reading this.

XO2017_010_PRE-ORDER-GUEDESX-O Manowar #7 (Valiant)
September Sales Rank/Comics Sold: 168 /11,777
Set in the far reaches of space this gorgeously illustrated series about a reluctant warrior brought into a war that was never his, while struggling to discover if he is more than the sentient armour he wears. I’ve said it numerous times that this is one of  my favourite series currently on the racks, and if you want to check it out then despite the character’s rich history the first issue (or trade) is a great jumping on point.

New Super-Man #14 (DC)
September Sales Rank/Comics Sold: 164 /12,431
The brilliance of this series is that while you need familiarity with the bare bones of Superman’s mythology, the comic has taken on a life of it’s own with the Chinese versions of the Justice League being so much more than the cheap knock-offs that you would expect. New Super-Man is so much more than the Superman-lite story you’d expect, and with Super-Man starting out as an arrogant braggart and bully before gradually becoming the hero whose name he shares, the comic is as rewarding as it is enjoyable.


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.

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