Category Archives: Underrated

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

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: A list of underrated comics.


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 an 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 some comics and giving you a huge list to check out would be counter productive to that. Instead, you’ll find six comics that are worth your attention. You’ll notice that there’s only one comic from a publisher featured – this was done to try and spread the love around, because otherwise Valiant
would dominate the list below. Where possible, I’ve also avoided comics that have appeared on the last version of this list in past editions (because otherwise Voracious: Feeding Time  would top the list again).

Not one of the comics made it into the top 100 for January’s comic sales, which is why they’re Underrated.

All sales data comes from Comichron.


tomboy comic.jpg
Tomboy #10 (Action Lab: Danger Zone)*
January Sales Rank/Comics Sold: Unknown / Not Listed
Tomboy by M. Goodwin  is a brilliant mix of teenage angst, horror, with a little manga mixed in. Think Kick Ass, but with a teenage girl at the center of it all. Every issue has delivered and many have left my jaw agape. It’s an underrated series that’s on too few individual’s radar and it has never disappointed and only entertained. Easily one of the best small press comics out there right now.

Divinity III: Stalinverse #2 (Valiant)
January Sales Rank/Comics Sold: #215 / 7,848
There are few publishers who can do an event miniseries as well as Valiant can, and as a clear example just take a look at the excellent Divinity III; the latest in the saga of a group of cosmonauts granted godlike powers after a mission into deep space

Solo #4 (Marvel)
January Sales Rank/Comics Sold: #212 / 8,055
The funny thing about this series is that if you’ve heard about it, you probably think it sounds stupid. Honestly, it kind of is. But it’s stupid in a good way, with a pleasantly shallow story that never pretends to be more than it is. There are better comics on this list, but Solo is still well worth a look.

God Country #1 (Image)
January Sales Rank/Comics Sold: #161 / 14,322
I absolutely loved the last series (co-)written by Donny Cates, The Paybacks, so when I realized that he was behind this comic about a man suffering from Alzheimer’s disease godcountry_01-1who is cured when he lays his hands upon a magical sword with godlike abilities. Regardless of how it sounds, this is an incredibly well written tale that has more layers than a tiramisu, and the deeper you delve into those  layers the sweet the payoff – and the more rewarding the story.

New Super-Man #7 (DC)
January Sales Rank/Comics Sold: #136 / 18,959
I didn’t think I’d like this when I first started reading it, but there’s something incredibly interesting about watching Kong Keenan learn about being a hero – not mastering his new powers, but by moving away from his days of being a school yard bully and growing into a man worthy of the symbol on his chest. A coming of age story in many ways, this comic is every bit about living up to the expectations placed upon your shoulders as it is about the New Super-Man.


Obviously there are many more comics that should be on that list, so look for a future installment of Underrated to cover more comics that aren’t selling as well as they should be.

*I actually haven’t read this series, and this entry was contributed by Brett.

Advertisements

Underrated: Six Comic Book Movies

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: Six Comic Book Movies.


You’ve probably noticed that I’ve written an entire column about some movies, but I’m doing something a little different this week and we’re having a brief overview of six comic book movies, although we’re not ruling out revisiting some of these movies in a longer column down the road.

A few things before we start; firstly, these comic book movies may have been well received when released, but may never have garnered as much attention as they deserved. Secondly, some of these movies I’m probably viewing with the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia, and as I haven’t seen many of them in years be prepared for some potentially foolish claims. Thirdly, this isn’t a complete, or inclusive, list and it is completely subjective. Lastly, I am aware that at least two of these movies are borderline comic book movies, but this is my list and I’m including them anyway.

  • phantom-movie-posterThe Phantom (1996)
    This is probably one of the only comic book movie on this list with an actual spandex bodysuit in it, and Billy Zane does admirably well in the roll. I haven’t seen this movie since the 90’s, but not for lack of trying – it is very tough to track down for a reasonable price. The Phantom is a hugely enjoyable movie, so long as you take it for what it is (Guardians of the Galaxy, it is not), you can’t fail to not enjoy it. But do yourself a favour and skip the two part mini series released in 2010.
  • Batman Forever (1995)
    Joel Shumacker ruined the Batman movie franchise with Batman and Robin, that’s no lie, but before he did that he madeBatman Forever. I still enjoy this flick to this day. It echoes the Adam West TV show of the 1960’s, updating the camp foolishness of that time into a slightly more modern and darker time, bridging the gap expertly between Tim Burton’s films and the TV show. The movie stars because of its villains; Tommy Lee Jones’ Two Face and Jim Carry’s excellent portrayal of the Riddler.  No, the film isn’t the best batman movie out there, but it isn’t as bad as Shumacker’s other offering.
  • Watchmen (2009)
    Watchmen did have some success, there’s no denying that. But the true brilliance of the movie lies with the version that has the animated Black Freighter edited in to the live action movie. Although it clocks in at around four hours long, this version trumps the theatrical version significantly. If you haven’t, and you have the time, give the full version a try.p8022770_p_v8_aa
  • Solomon Kane (2009)
    Originally character created by Robert E Howard (if that name doesn’t ring a bell, you may recognize another of Howard’s creations: Conan) Solomon Kane originally appeared in 1928 in pulp magazine Weird Tales, but has since then starred in several comics through the 70’s and 80’s, and three miniseries published by Dynamite in the last ten years or so. Solomon Kane is probably one of the best films on this list; starring James Purefoy, the film (intended as the first of a trilogy, but it does stand alone) is a dark action adventure that perfectly encapsulates the characters pulp roots.
  • Fantastic Four (2005)
    Say what you want about the new Fantastic Four movie (and people have, and loudly, voiced opinions – even myself), the first one wasn’t horrible. It was actually quite good, all things considered. The main downfall of the movie lies in the conflict throughout. I was happy just watching the F4 simply be themselves and felt that the Dr. Doom final conflict was shoehorned in to a comedy movie because the superhero movie need A Big Final Conflict. The movie would have been far stronger had they used Doom to set up the second movie; have the first movie be more about the the-crow-salvation-movie-postercharacters finding themselves and maybe foiling a more mundane threat to New York City. This isn’t a great movie, but it certainly isn’t as bad as the sequel.
  • The Crow: Salvation (2000)
    Sequels to the 1994 The Crow movie generally range from absolute tripe, to just a little bit above bad. The reason for this is that they all try to follow the same formula. Well, Salvation is no different, but something here clicks. As far as sequels to the original movie go this is the best of the bunch, but that’s ultimately not really saying much. Not the best Crow movie out there, but if you’re a fan of the first movie it’s worth a rent.

There we have it – six underrated comic book movies. Are there other comic book movies out there that are, for whatever reason, underrated and under-appreciated?

Absolutely.

Because of that, expect a sequel to this Underrated at some point in the future. In the meantime, if you do get a chance to look for Solomon Kane do it; it’s probably one of the easier movies to track down (with it being on Netflix) and is well worth your time.

Underrated: Valiant Entertainment

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 publisher Valiant Entertainment


This week I wanted to draw your attention to a publisher that I feel is one of the most underrated publishers around right now, Valiant. Although you may (or may not – no judgment here) remember Valiant from when the publisher launched in 1992, but because this was never intended to be a History Of Valiant piece suffice it to say the Valiant of the nineties isn’t the same as the Valiant of today (if you want to read more about the different iterations of the publisher over the years, you can head to the Wikipedia page). The Valiant that’s publishing some of the best comics in the industry today started publishing comics in 2012, launching X-O Manowar in May to be followed by another three series over the coming months.

Although I remember hearing about Valiant from the British magazine Comic Heroes, my LCS didn’t really have that many Valiant comics in every month; I was able to pick up a couple issues of Eternal Warrior: Days Of Steel, but it wasn’t until I started writing for Graphic Policy in 2015 that I fell in love with Valiant.

Why, you might ask?

Well, dear reader, I shall tell you! I’m going to give you some easily digestible bullet points in a little bit, but before I do that I wanted to reiterate that I am unabashedly a big fan of anything Valiant have put out since they relaunched. While there are a few series I have left to read, I can honestly say that I haven’t read a bad Valiant comic yet. Sure, there are some that don’t measure up to the others, but even those haven been better than at least one or two of the other comics I read in any given week.

Before I discovered Valiant, I was primarily a Marvel fan who enjoyed his comics with a side of Batman, although I found myself gradually reducing my pull list to comics that weren’t from the Big Two as I began to lose interest in superhero comics for various reasons that weren’t entirely limited to the cyclical nature of Marvel’s big event that changes nothing, but sets up the next big event that also changes nothing but has multiple needless tie-ins that I didn’t care about…  It was getting exhausting trying to keep up with every subsequent renumbering, crossover story or sales boosting initiative, and at the same time the quality of what I was reading had been steadily trending downward – a few comics aside – and I’d stopped reading them because I didn’t want to spend money on drivel.

By the time I joined Graphic Policy I had begun to drift toward standalone series from smaller publishers, but I was still missing the interconnected superhero titles that drew me into comics in the first place so many years ago. And then I was introduced to the most exciting superhero universe I had seen in a decade. I’ll admit to being hesitant to calling the Valiant characters superheroes, because very few of them are superheroes in the typical sense, but thanks to Valiant’s characters I found my faith in superheroes, and by extension comics, again.

Here come those bullet points I promised you.

  • The Characters.
    As I mentioned, I’d hesitate to call these characters superheroes in the traditional sense; they’re incredibly nuanced characters considering they’ve only been around for at most five years (in some cases, even though the characters were introduced in FAITH_002_COVER-D_HETRICK2012 they may not have had continuous appearances since then).
    Characters such as the time displaced warrior Aric Of Dacia who is in control of one of the most powerful and advanced weapons in the galaxy in the X-O Manowar armour. Reading about his struggle to free himself and his people form the alien race who enslaved them only to return to Earth to find that hundreds of years had passed… the comics within the fifty issue run that I have read so far feature some of the most incredible stories I’ve seen in comoc form. But then the same can easily be said for the recently ended Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior series featuring an immortal in service to the Earth itself; Gilad Anni-Padda, the Eternal Warrior, who has lived thousands of years serving the Earth as protector to the long line of Geomancers. Despite Gilad being one of my favourite comic book characters, it’s Faith Herbert’s adventures I most look forward to reading every month. Although she’s a heavier person, her weight is rarely ever the focal point of the character; instead it’s her relentless optimism, and that she just loves being a superhero that makes reading her comics so great.  She is what Peter Parker would have been had he debuted within the last half decade.
  • The Sheer Number Of Jumping On Points
    Every preview email I’ve read, Valiant are quick to let you know whenever there’s a new jumping on point. Although more often than not that’s the first part of  a new arc, I’ve actually found that these jumping on points are quite accessible to new readers because the publisher frequently has some concise recap pages to give you the relevant information to help you enjoy the comic ahead. Not every comic is going to be an ideal jumping on point, but Valiant’s CEO Dinesh Shamdasani has said the company tries to ensure that as many as possible can be. For the most part, I think they succeed in doing so –  after all one of the first issues I read was X-O Manowar #38.
  • Their Event Stories
    4001_002_SECOND-PRINTING_COVER_CRAINValiant Event stories tend to focus around a single miniseries (usually four issues) with four standalone tie-in single issues. Although there are some who would hesitate to call this format an event as the story doesn’t always cross into the ongoing comics that are being published month to month, I’m a big proponent of the format. It allows you to choose how many comics you want to pick up in relation to the event; whether that’s just the main four issue miniseries or if you’re going to go all in and get them all.  Added to this, Valiant’s events have been received incredibly well critically over the last three years (the only one that struggled was 4001 A.D., and I think that had more to do with the fact it was a direct continuation of the story that had been building in Rai which resulted in having several pages of recap in the first issue of 4001 A.D.).

    Something that a lot of websites don’t seem to mention as often as we should is that a lot of Valiant’s miniseries have a sturdier cover that makes the comic feel much sturdier – I’m guilty of this, as I typically read the review copies rather than the print copies from my LCS in order to have the reviews ready every Wednesday.

  • Their Comics Are The Dogs Bollocks.
    I already mentioned how I haven’t read a bad Valiant comic, but what I didn’t say was how awesome their line is; nine weeks out of ten at least one of the three best comics I read that week would have been a Valiant book. Every week they have some of the best comics that I’ve read (and yes, I do read other comics), and they are pound for pound the best publisher of superhero comics in the market right now.
  • The Fans.
    This may seem like a cop out to say this, but Valiant’s fans are some of the most dedicated and passionate individuals you’re likely to find. They have created a genuine community of like minded individuals who are united in their love of the publishers comics. The Valiant Comic Fans Facebook group is a prime example of this, where recently one of the artists working of Faith, Joe Eisma, took the time to draw a free digital sketch for those who provided proof that they had, or would, be buying a copy of Faith #8 (you can see a selection of those sketches here).


I could easily keep writing about Valiant’s comics and characters, and why you should be reading them, but this is already longer than I expected it to be, so I’m going to cut it short here. There’s a good chance we’ll revisit this in the near future, but until that happens, if you’re wondering where you should start, Humble Bundle has a wide selection of some of Valiant’s comics and trades available over the next ten or so days here if you’re so inclined to find out just why the publisher is Underrated.

Underrated: Daredevil (Yes, The Movie. No, I’m Not Joking)

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: Daredevil (Yes, the Ben Affleck movie).


 

With Daredevil being one of the more vilified Marvel movies (aside from last week’s Underrated subject), and seeing as how we’re going to be getting a new season of a Netflix TV show featuring the Man Without Fear at some point this year, I wanted to take a look at the Ben Affleck Daredevil movie. We’ve all heard how the movie’s bloody terrible, that your time would be better spent plucking your nose a hair at a time, but is it really as bad as you remember it being?

I say remember it being, because I bet none of you have actually watched it in years (I hadn’t until I decided to write this and felt I needed to refresh myself on the movie before I tried to claim it in’t as bad as you think) Before you start yelling at me for writing a column about why the worst reviewed Fantastic Four movie doesn’t entirely suck, I’m not saying the movie is the best thing since sliced bread. It’s not. But it is unfairly shit on by so many of us, and that’s the whole point of Underrated.

As with any of the previous Underrated columns featuring comic book movies that have been reviled by fans and critics for so long, there is going to be context to this column. Daredevil may not be as good as the Netflix series featuring the same character, but it’s not as bad as you’ve heard – once you let go of any preconceived notions of what a Daredevil movie should be.

When I first heard that Ben Affleck had been cast as Batman, I cringed. But then I remembered his turn as Daredevil in this movie and I realized that he was unfairly shit on; he was actually pretty good, and turned in a solid performance despite the script he was given. He wasn’t the only person who stood out for me, either; Colin Farrell as Bullseye and the late Michael Clark Duncan as The Kingpin were fantastic; neither man ever really given the credit they deserve.

 

So why is the movie so reviled? Well, much like Affleck’s more recent superhero out, Batman V. Superman I think it was down to the expectations people had that the movie failed to deliver on, rather than it being actually terrible. Daredevil was far from a bad movie – yes, there were scenes that people could do without (I didn’t mind the playground fight scene, but I wouldn’t miss it if it was removed), and some of the effects are quite obviously dated now – but once you look past the surface issues like that and go into the movie with some reasonable expectations, i.e. that the movie isn’t as good as the Netflix series, then you’ll be able to find something to enjoy.

 

Give it a try if you can find the film – then you’ll see why it’s an Underrated superhero film.

Underrated: Beasts Of Burden: Animal Rites

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 Dark Horse Comics’ hardcover collection Beasts Of Burden: Animal Rites.


 

beasts of burden animal rites.jpgI’m willing to bet that a lot of you have never heard of this set of stories. Until recently, I hadn’t either.

A few months ago, the proprietor of my Local Comic Shop told me that I should read a hardcover graphic novel called Beasts Of Burden. It was still shrink wrapped, so I had no idea what is was about other than it featured talking cats and dogs, and that it was apparently right up my alley.  It took me almost two weeks before I finally caved and plonked down the $25 for the comic, an another week before I removed the shrink wrapped outer cover.

Upon cracking the cover and reading the small print (I like knowing what issues have been collected…) I found out that Beasts Of Burden Animal Rites collects eight stories from the series first appearance in the Dark Horse Book Of Hauntings released in 2003 to the first four issue miniseries from 2009, and tells the story of the pets of a sleepy neighbourhood called Burden Hill, and the adventures they get up to while their owners are asleep or at work. Beasts Of Burden: Animal Rites may look like it’s geared toward a younger audience based on the colourful artwork adorning the pages of the trade, but there’s a distinctly mature feel underpinning the comic as the characters deal with subjects that may surprise you.

There’s more than 150 pages of story in the graphic novel (there may be upwards on 170, but the trade is upstairs and I’m not so I can’t verify the story to bonus materials ratio so I guessed conservatively), and I read them all in a single sitting.

Up until the owner of my LCS recommended the collected edition to me, I had never seen any talk about the series anywhere before, which is a genuine shame because Beasts Of Burden: Animal Rites is a fantastic experience. Jill Thompson’s art won three Eisner awards, and it’s easy to see why she received the wins (the collected edition was also nominated for Best Anthology in 2007). Below is a sample from one of the early pages in the collected edition that will give you a feel of how good the artwork is.

bobar.jpg

You may notice the Orphan casually licking himself in the bottom left panel; it’s one of the numerous examples of the audience being reminded that these characters may be talking animals, but that they’re not just humans in animal form. Evan Dorkin infuses such personality into these domesticated little fluff bags with his writing, that by the time we get to experience the comic the resultant final product is frankly just phenomenal.

This collection is about as far from my typical comic book reading as you can get – the majority of my weekly reading is made up of spandex and capes – but there’s something refreshing about reading a collection of almost completely standalone stories featuring the same characters. There is some bleed over, and previous events do impact subsequent issues, but for the most part you could have happily read any issue of the series when initially released without reading the previous. This style gives the collection a really rewarding feeling as you go through it; you’ll notice subtleties to the art and writing that may not impact the stories hugely, but certainly add to the enjoyment of those who pick up on them.

Thematically, the stories touch on some very relatable topics, from acceptance, companionship and the need to help others, to the more supernatural side of things. Following the journey of these characters is incredibly rewarding, and at times touching, especially for those of us who have a pet at home (ironically enough my cat is sleeping on my lap as I write this). If you prefer a more typical-to-comics superhero style story, there is still something here for you; the Burden Hill gang feel very much like a classic super team where almost everyone gets along.

There’s genuinely something here for all walks of comic fandom to enjoy.

Beasts Of Burden: Animal Rites can be found for between $20-25 at your local comic store, depending on where you are (I’m in Canada and the hardcover cost me $25ish – your LCS may have discounted graphic novels).

So why did I want to spend an entire Underrated talking about Beasts Of Burden: Animal Rites? Because it’s one of the best collected editions that you’ve probably never heard of.  I do not exaggerate when I say this was one of the best hardcover collections I’ve read, and held, in my hands in a long time – both because of the content and the presentation.

And that, my friends, makes it criminally Underrated.

Underrated: Ghost Rider (The Movie)

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: Ghost Rider



 

reyesGR.PNG

Robbie Reyes in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Marvel’s Agents. Of S.H.I.E.L.D. recently brought Robbie Reyes to our screens as the latest Ghost Rider in the first half of the current season. It was easily one of the highlights of the fall 2016 television schedule for me, and with the show returning this week to our screens without Reyes (as far as I know – as of this writing I haven’t seen the mid-season premier yet), I felt it was time to rewatch Ghost Rider.

I did it for you, folks.

So you may be wondering why I wanted to focus on another critically panned movie, and while part of it is because I never hated the flick when I saw it in the theater the first (and only) time I watched it, despite the panning it received from fans and critics alike.  We’ve all heard how the movie’s bloody terrible, that your time would be better spent watching paint dry, but is Ghost Rider really as bad as you remember it being?

Once you get past the fact this Ghost Rider movie is about a man possessed by a demon with a flaming skull, that just happens to share several surface similarities to a Marvel comic book, then the movie isn’t bad. It’s not great. Before you start yelling at me for writing a column about why the worst reviewed Fantastic Four movie doesn’t entirely suck, I’m not saying the movie is the best thing since sliced bread. It’s not. But it is unfairly shit on by so many of us, and that’s the whole point of Underrated.

moviegrLook, I’m not going to sit here and claim this is a fantastic movie, because it’s not. But if you go in with either an open mind or expectations that are lower than the Marianas Trench, then you’ll find something to enjoy. Nicolas Cage isn’t on top form here but he’s clearly enjoying the role, and treats the B-movie script with the respect it deserves when we see him on screen. It’s not one of his best movies, but I’ve seldom seen him give as entertaining a performance as he does in this movie, even if his characterization may not be on point given what fans of the character expect (even with my admittedly limited knowledge of Ghost Rider comics, it didn’t seem to jive too well).

But the thing is, despite the movies flaws (the wasted conclusion for Carter Slade’s story is a prime example) it’s a good turn-your-brain-off movie. 

Ghost Rider plays like a modern day interpretation of a 50’s Western comic set this century on the screen. Not necessarily a Western movie mind you, but because I don’t recall many Western movies being as silly as Ghost Rider, but comics? I don’t hear many people taking Western comics set in the 50’s seriously at all (that’s not to say they were overly silly, however, just that I don’t hear of many people thinking of them that way). Once you forget this is a movie about the Marvel Comics character Ghost Rider, this isn’t that bad.

And that’s why this movie is Underrated

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

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: A list of underrated comics.


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 an definitively exhaustive list of underrated comics here, because we’re hoping  that you decide to check at least one of thee series out next time you’re looking for some comics and giving you a huge list to check out would be counter productive to that. Instead, you’ll find six comics that are worth your attention. You’ll notice that there’s only one comic from each publisher – this was done to try and spread the love around, because otherwise Valiant Voracious_TPB_Cover_Vol1would dominate the list below. Not one of the comics made it into the top 100 for December’s comic sales, which is why they’re Underrated.

All sales data comes from Comichron.


Voracious: Feeding Time
(Action Lab)
December Sales Rank/Comics Sold: Not listed/Unknown
It should come as no surprise to you that I am a fan of Markisan Naso and Jason Muhr’s creation,Voracious, and it’s sequel Voracious: Feeding Time. The writer and artist/letterer and joined by colourist Andrei Tabucaru, and the trio have produced one of the most consistently excellent comics on the racks. With a story that is on the surface built to be a comedy – that of a time travelling dinosaur hunting chef – but packs more of an emotional punch than you’d expect in such a comic. A truly compelling series that reinvigorated my love for comics, if you want to get hadrianswall_01-1caught up the first trade of Voracious is available now, and the second issue of Feeding Time just hit the shelves. This is easily one of my favourite comics from any publisher right now; if you’re looking for an original concept executed beautifully then you need look no further. Simply an amazing series.

Hadrian’s Wall (Image)
December Sales Rank/Comics Sold: 257/5,265
The creative team  behind C.O.W.L. reunite to tell a fantastic murder mystery set in space. It’s a gripping tale that isn’t without it’s faults, but in comparison to where Kyle Higgins is taking this story they’re easy to over look. Sci fi isn’t usually my cup of tea, but this is one of the comics that I’ve become a big fan of. Don’t miss this.


faith_007_cover-c_tanFaith 
(Valiant)
December Sales Rank/Comics Sold: 221/7,375
If Stan Lee were to have created Spider-Man in this century, then he’d probably have come up with a character like Faith Herbert. The high flying superhero has been a favourite of mine since I read the first miniseries Hollywood and Vine early last year, and the current ongoing – still written by Jody Houser – has been fantastic. Although the artist tends to change with each story arc, there is a visual consistency to the comic because of Marguerite Sauvage’s fantasy sequences that act to blend the differing styles of the artists across the issues. Faith is a series that almost every comic fan will find something to love, whether it’s the character’s unrelenting optimism or her love of being a superhero (come on, you can’t tell me you wouldn’t love to fly), there’s something here for those looking for an escape.

4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK4 Kids Walk Into A Bank (Black Mask)
December Sales Rank/Comics Sold: 198/8,675
You’d be forgiven for overlooking this comic, as there was a bit of a delay between the second and third issues being released. For the nearly nine thousand people who did pick up this comic, you would have found one of the most effortlessly charming stories about four kids about to rob a bank. Both the writing is the artwork is fantastic;I can’t recommend this enough to you. Whether you pick it up in trade form when it inevitably is released, or track down the three issues currently on the racks, be prepared to find a comic that you’ll fall head over heals in love with.

midnapo_cv4Midnighter and Apollo (DC)
December Sales Rank/Comics Sold: 180/10,773
If you’re surprised to see a DC book on this list, don’t be. Midnighter has struggled to light up the sales charts as he should be with his previous series. This miniseries has Midnigher literally going to Hell to save the man he loves in one of the mot brutal sequences I have read in a long time, coupled with some fantastic dialogue between Apollo and his captor. Although I assume things will work out eventually, it’s been a hell of a ride (pun intended) so far, and with only two issues remaining in the miniseries I’m really excited to see how Steve Orlando brings this home.

Black Hammer (Dark Horse)
December Sales Rank/Comics Sold: 170/12,352
bkhmr-5-variant-fc-fnl-600x911Jeff Lemire is an incredibly prolific writer,and while I may not always like everything he comes out with, Black Hammer has spoken to my love of modern takes on distinctly Golden Age heroes. With a Justice League like group of characters locked in mysterious pocket dimension where they’re forced to live normal lives on a farm, we get to explore what happens to a hero on a forced retirement. Not everybody I know is a fan of where this comic is going, and how it’s been getting there, but every issue has been a win for me – which is another reason this appears in this issue of Underrated. But the tinges of something lingering just beneath the surface give a genuine sense of unease to the comic. Black Hammer is very much a slow burn, but it’s going to be incandescent when we get the pay off at the end.


 

Obviously there are many more comics that should be on that list, so look for a future installment of Underrated to cover more comics that aren’t selling as well as they should be.

Underrated: Fantastic Four (2015)

Before you start yelling at me for writing a column about why the worst reviewed Fantastic Four movie doesn’t entirely suck, I’m not saying the movie is the best thing since sliced bread. It’s not. But it is unfairly shit on by so many of us, and that’s the whole point of Underrated. 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.

fantastic four featured

This week I wanted to talk about the much derided Fantastic Four movie from 2015. Or Fant4stic, as the stylized logo goes, which is how I’ll be referring to the movie from here on out. The flick was directed by Josh Trank and starred Micheal B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, Miles Teller as Reed Richards, Kate Mara as Sue Storm, Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm and Tobey Kebbel as Victor Von Doom. The relatively unknown director Josh Trank had previously directed the cult hit Chronicle and one other movie that I’ve never seen before being handed the reigns to Marvel’s first family, but based on Chronicle there was hope that Fant4stic would be on par, with, or better than, the other superhero flicks of the year.

Obviously that wasn’t the case. But was the movie really as bad as we think it was?

Sure it was certainly disappointing when it came out, almost entirely failing to meet the vast expectations heaped upon on it – of course, I’m being facetious, because almost from the get go it seemed this movie was doomed to fail. From the way people turned their nose up when talking about the rumours swirling about choices made around Doom’s origin, at one point he was supposed to be a Russian hacker called Victor Von Domashev; the reprehensible reaction to the casting choice of Micheal B. Jordan as the Human Torch (yes, there were some who were more worried about the lack of perceived blood relation between the Storm siblings rather than the colour of their skin, but the sense that many – myself included – got was that the outcry was a bit more racially tinged); and the dreaded Studio Involvement toward the end of the filming and editing process.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard of the strife between the director and the studio (if you haven’t there’s a good account of it here), but when Trank tweeted his frank tweet about Fant4stic you could hear geekdom cry “I knew it! It’s so bad even the director hates it!” And Tobey Kebbel seemed to agree with Trank in an interview given last year, saying that “the honest truth is [Trank] did cut a great film that you’ll never see.That is a shame. A much darker version, and you’ll never see it.”

tranktweet

Kebbel goes on to say that much of the footage of Doom in the movie isn’t him, due to the amount of the film that was reshot “I played Doom in three points: Walking down a corridor, killing the doctor and getting into the time machine, and lying on the bench. They were the only times I played Doom. Everything else was some other guy, on some other day… doing some other thing. I was infuriated that he was allowed to limp like that!”

With all the vitriol surrounding the movie prior to it’s release there was realistically no hope for the movie (indeed it barely made enough money to cover the budget, let alone the marketing costs), and many people took a rather large shit on the movie because they felt that they had the right to do so – whether they’d actually watched the movie or not.

Almost a year after the movie came out, I sat down and watched it on Netflix for the first time. And you know what? It wasn’t anywhere near as terrible as I expected it to be.

Fantastic Four The ThingNow I did go in with some pretty low expectations but, dare I say it, I actually enjoyed the movie; even though it seemed to do everything possible to prevent that from happening. Yes, there are moments that seem contrived only to move the plot from point A to B in the most straight forward manner, and there is a sense that there are two visions on display here due to the reshoots, but this isn’t as bad a movie as you’d expect based on the hatred and criticism that Fant4stic received upon it’s release.

While some of the acting is questionable, the performances of Jordan and Teller (and Bell’s vocal performance) are pretty solid. While we’ll never get to see the original version of the movie, the one we did get does have a visual punch that’s better than you’d think. As a slow burning action movie, this isn’t too bad.

Was this a great Fantastic Four movie? Hell no.. but it’s not as bad as you’d think, and if you look at it as a movie very loosely based on the Fantastic Four rather than an actual Fantastic Four movie, then it’s actually watchable.

That’s why it’s Underrated.