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Underrated: Animosity Volume One: The Wake

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: Animosity Volume One: The Wake.



animosity.jpgI’ve had this trade sat in my digital to-read pile for quite some time, and this week I finally got around to reading it. I could give you my take on the central premise, but it sounds so much better straight from the horses mouth (because I basically reworded this the first time I wrote the opening):

“One day, for no reason, the Animals woke up. They started thinking. They started talking. They started taking REVENGE. Collecting the first four issues of the best-selling series, plus the special one-shot issue ANIMOSITY: THE RISE. 

The world is plunged into chaos as the newly-intelligent Animals fight humanity, and simply fight each other, for their own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. In the midst of the turmoil is Jesse, an 11-year-old girl, and her dog, Sandor, who is devoted to her and her protection. One year after the incident, Jesse and Sandor begin a cross-country journey to find Jesse’s half-brother, Adam, who is living in San Francisco.”

To be honest I actually went into this series knowing only the bare minimum about it, so when the animals woke up I was actually taken aback by the entire thing. I know. The entire premise of the comic caught me off guard when it happened on the opening few pages of the story. It makes me laugh a little, too.

Centering around Jesse and her beloved dog Sandor’s relationship, and his overwhelming desire to protect her because she loves him. He’s one of the few animals not to hate humanity, and others who are still somewhat fond of humans are typically those who weren’t abused or mistreated in any way – and sadly, humans have done far too much of that in our time on this planet. Marguerrite Bennett‘s script is remarkable; she touches on the bigger impact of animals gaining sentience and the political and economical ramifications of this often in passing but with enough detail to answer some of the questions you’ll be having regarding food sources, population control… there’s a lot to set up in this trade, and for the most part the four issues of the main series collected here succeed in doing that.

There is a time jump that some may find jarring, but as with  any time jumps it will give us something to flash back to in subsequent trades and issues.

Artistically, Rafael De La Torre and Rob Schwager deliver. Their animals are able to convey the requisite emotions and atmospheric design needed to pull you from page to gorgeous page. Animosity‘s first volume is remarkably solid and enjoyable – and well worth checking out.

 


Join us next week where there will doubtless be another movie, series, comic or comic related thing discussed that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Undone By Blood: The shadow Of A Wanted Man

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:  Undone By Blood: Shadow Of A Wanted Man.


I actually passed on this when the first issue came out because I was running out of capacity to buy and read comics at the time, and I ended up getting something else instead (the truth is I probably have a short box of new comics yet to read, and close to the same in trades as well). I don’t remember what book I picked up instead of this one so I can’t honestly say whether I should have picked up the first issue of Undone By Blood: The Shadow of a Wanted Man or the other comic, but I am glad I was able to grab the trade from my comic shop ($17 USD well spent).

So what is the book about? Well, to borrow from the back of the book…

In the early 1970s, Ethel Grady Lane returns to her hometown of Sweetheart, Arizona with one thing on her mind: killing the man who murdered her family. But first, she’ll have to find him. As Ethel navigates the eccentric town and its inhabitants, she learns that the quaint veneer hides a brewing darkness. She has no choice but to descend into a ring of depravity and violence, with her only ally an Old West novel that follows famed gunslinger Solomon Eaton. As both stories unfold simultaneously, a love of fiction informs choices in reality, for better or worse.

It’s strange to say that I only picked this trade paperback up because I had a chance to talk to one of the writers, Zac Thompson about part of the inspiration behind it, Red Dead Redemption 2, which reminded me that this was a series I’d been interested in when it first came out but had fallen off my radar. I’m glad I had the chance to talk to Zac, because without that chat I’d likely have left it on the shelf awhile longer until something reminded me to check it out.

I’m a big fan of the dual narratives between Ethel and Solomon, even more so how how Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson alternate between prose pages and comic pages. The entire presentation of the trade paperback is brilliant; there’s a weathered aging effect applied to some of the interior pages (most obviously on the prose pages) that immerses you into the two time periods in subtle ways. As a western story, this is one of the best that I’ve read in any form, whether comic or book.

Undone By Blood: The Shadow Of A Wanted Man features some killer artwork by Sami Kivela, Jason Wordie and lettering by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou – the entire creative team are utterly brilliant. Now is an ideal time to pick this book up as the second volume is due to hit later this year.


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

UNDERRATED: THE MAN WHO F#&%ED UP TIME

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 Man Who F#&%ed Up Time.


Time travel comics are always interesting. How the writer plays with chronology in the story can make an otherwise A to B story take on an entirely new journey when you start to realize just how much small things can impact each other.

One of my favourite time travel stories is the twelve issue series from Valiant Ivar, Timewalker, released a half decade or so ago. One of the strengths of that story is how time travel is played relatively straight – Ivar’s journey is linear even if it doesn’t happen in linear time.

Similar things can also be said about The Man Who F#&%ed Up Time, only as you’ve probably guessed from the title there’s a lot more humour in this book, and as such a lot of what happens is genuinely funny as the proverbial shit starts really hitting the fan. The book, written by John Layman with art by Karl Mostert and colours by Dee Cunniffe, was published by Aftershock in 2020. I picked up the collected edition second hand from my comic shop this week solely to read for this column and then intended to trade it back, though after finishing the book I’ve shelved it away because it’s the kind of story I know I’ll want to read again.

I’m not going to tell you too much about the plot beyond what is on the blurb on the back:

Sean Bennett is just your everyday, ordinary lab worker in a high-tech lab with a prototype time machine. And, yeah, he’s got the same temptations any of us would have about going back in time, just a bit, to correct mistakes of the past and right old wrongs. So, when he meets a version of himself from the future who encourages him to do just that, Sean takes the temporal plunge. Only…can you guess what happens next? Did you read the book title? Yup. All of TIME is f#%&ed up now, and it’s up to Sean to correct it – or else!

www.aftershockcomics.com

The writing in the book is top notch, but it’s the vibrant and enthusiastic art that really sells the story; Mostert and Cunniffe bring their A game with The Man Who F#&%ed Up Time.

This book is a lot of fun, and will make an excellent diversion on a lazy day sat with your feet up. Plus, who doesn’t like a bit of time travelling goodness?


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

Review: Seven Swords #1

A weary and jaded D’Artagnan is drawn into a final conflict with the wicked Cardinal Richelieu, whose ruthless quest for power has led him to the supernatural. But the Last Musketeer can’t defeat these infernal enemies alone.

Seven Swords #1 delivers a classic swashbuckling tale full of action.

Story: Evan Daughert
Art: Riccardo Latina
Color: Valentina Bianconi
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Backmatter design: Charles Pritchett

Get your copy now! To find a comic shop near you, visit http://www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

comiXology
Kindle
Zeus Comics
TFAW


AfterShock provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
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Review: Seven Swords #1

Seven Swords #1

A weary and jaded D’Artagnan is drawn into a final conflict with the wicked Cardinal Richelieu, whose ruthless quest for power has led him to the supernatural. But the Last Musketeer can’t defeat these infernal enemies alone. Seven Swords #1 kicks off a swashbuckling adventure.

To save the world, he’ll need to join forces with seven iconic swashbuckling heroes: Don Juan, Captain Blood, Cyrano de Bergerac, to name a few.  SEVEN SWORDS, who must overcome their host of differences and work together if they have any hope of thwarting Richelieu’s diabolical plans. 

Seven Swords #1, published by Aftershock, picks up five years after almost all the Musketeers were killed, and finds D’Artagnan chasing down his arch-nemesis Cardinal Richaeu. The sequence showcases Riccardo Latina‘s artwork and pulls you into the comic. There’s a double-page spread around the seventh page that I spent a long time looking at; it shows the last Musketeer running along the outside of a church, but Latina pulls off one of the classic sequences of a character in multiple positions moving across the page really well. In fact, I kept reading the comic specifically because Latina and colorist Valentina Bianconi are an exciting pair.

It’s not that Evan Daughtry‘s script is bad, but after reading the previews, it feels like the comic does nothing other than show us how awesome D’Artagnan is and shows brief flashes of the other characters who will eventually be brought together. It’s not often a story treads water in the first issue, but that’s sort of how this issue feels as there’s not a lot to advance the plot beyond what you already know will happen (and ultimately hasn’t after the first issue).

It does feel at one point that Daughtry tries to sabotage the story with a reveal about certain action scene a few pages after it happens that’s supposed to add to the mystique of a character but instead ends up coming across as more of an afterthought than anything else (which for me lessened said sequence a little).

And yet despite my misgivings about the plot, Seven Swords #1 is a competent comic that has me curious enough to come back for the next issue – hopefully, there’ll be a little more time spent getting to the meat of the story, because that looks to have a lot of promise.

Story: Evan Daughtry Art: Riccardo Latina
Colors: Valentina Bianconi Letters: Dave Sharpe
Story: 6.5 Art: 8.6 Overall: 7.1 Recommendation: Read

Aftershock provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus ComicsTFAW

Review: Shadow Doctor #1

Shadow Doctor #1

Years in the making, Shadow Doctor #1 kicks off the true story of writer Peter Calloway’s grandfather, Nathaniel Calloway, a Black man who graduated from medical school in the early 1930’s. Unable to get work at any Chicago hospitals because he was Black, and unable to secure a loan from a bank to start his own practice because he was Black, he turned to another source of money in Prohibition-era Chicago: the Mafia, run by none other than Al Capone.

Comics are never, and should never, be full of superheroes. Sure, there’s great superhero stories out there – and I love my share of superhero comics – but comics have so much more to offer than that. Case in point, Shadow Doctor #1 published by Aftershock Comics, written by Peter Calloway featuring art by Georges Jeanty, colours by Mark Chirallo and letters by Charles Pritchett. The story itself is based on the true story of Calloway’s grandfather, a black doctor unable to work in 1930’s Chicago because of his skin colour – let that sink in for a moment, because in an age where we’re crying out for doctors (at least in my neck of the woods) having one unable to work because of their skin colour should be unfathomable – but we’re not really that far removed from this reality. It was only ninety years ago that Doctor Nathaniel Calloway was unable to find work – a lifetime, yes, but we all know that the 30’s wasn’t when things changed.

And so it’s against this backdrop of the Great Depression in prohibition era Chicago that a man who wants to use what he’s gone to school for to earn a living – something that is probably far too real for many of us.

Calloway the author tells his grandfather’s story with an unfiltered honesty; despite there clearly being a love and respect for his grandfather, the writer doesn’t shy away from the choices that Nathanial Calloway made – although we only see the tip of the iceberg in the first issue, and by not doing so he creates a bond of truth with the reader in that his grandfather’s story is very believable (how much is truth and how much is fiction is something I wonder based solely on the “based on a true story” disclaimer at the beginning of the comic – I’m inclined to believe that some of the more minor details are fictionalized such as conversations, but that the essence of the comic is true).

Shadow Doctor #1 has an artistic presentation that somehow gives off a 30’s vibe whilst also looking almost like a water colour painting. The art style is absolutely perfect for the comic’s story. It looks like an old timey comic without feeling dated because Jeanty’s layouts and his panel structure juxtapose the art with a youthful energy; the combination of the old and fresh is far from jarring and pulls you right into the story’s time period better than any constant reference in the text ever could.

In another case of picking up a comic based solely on the title, I went from having no idea what to expect to finding what I’m sure is going to become a story I can’t wait to read for the third time in a few months. Shadow Doctor #1 is a really good book in every way; the art, the story… everything about the comic is remarkably engaging, and I’m excited to learn more about Nat Calloway. Aftershock have included four additional pages about the titular doctor, allowing you to get to know the man he was, even if just a little. It’s a brilliant addition to a comic that’s well worth your time.

If you’re still on the fence about this book, then I wanted to end with this line from the writer taken from the preview text “On the one hand, his story represents the promise of America. On the other hand, it shows the worst of it.”

Story: Peter Calloway Art: Georges Jeanty
Colorist: Mark Chirallo Letterer: Charles Pritchett
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Aftershock provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus Comics

AfterShock Media Announces a Partnership with Alibi

AfterShock Media

AfterShock Media – the newly-formed company comprised of top independent comic publisher AfterShock Comics and leading distribution company Rive Gauche – and literary management company Alibi have announced a strategic alliance, uniting Alibi’s roster of writing talent with AfterShock Comics’ diverse and expansive IP library. The joint venture will also focus on nurturing new, AfterShock Comic talent who will have the opportunity to be represented by Alibi. As part of this strategic alliance, Alibi Entertainment, founded and headed by top literary talent manager Jake Wagner, will provide AfterShock with a wide roster of top-caliber writers for its current and future properties.

Among the many benefits of this alliance is the ability to quickly match IP to suitably talented writers – a key advantage that buyers in the market are seeking. Similarly, a comics creator coming to AfterShock Comics with a project in mind will have access to a wealth of writers to swiftly bring their project to life in TV and film. As a publisher with a demonstrated commitment to discovering new voices in the comics space, AfterShock will also work with Alibi to identify up and coming talent to mentor and manage.

Alibi

Review: Join the Future #1

Join the Future #1

Aftershock Comics has been producing stories with a kind of metaphorical vision not unlike the one seen in 2000AD comics. The publisher has taken to pushing series that focus on large scale concepts, on changes and shifts that threaten to alter status quos and established orders (think Harlem Heroesor Judge Dredd). Join the Future #1 is one such comic as it contemplates and worries about a future where technology becomes even more imperialistic in scope and thirsts for utopia under the false pretenses of progress. That the comic goes about this concept in the guise of a Western makes it a series that demands attention.

Zac Kaplan and Piotr Kowalski approach Join the Future as a kind of frontier story where humanity has separated into high-tech megacities that are entirely dependent on technology and Midwestern rural communities that renounce technology altogether, living like farmers and depending on nature’s own bounty to survive. It’s a play on extremes. Tech life vs. organic life.

Owning up to the comic’s title, the story takes it time to show us just how these megacities (maybe a wink to Judge Dredd fans out there) send out representatives—or salesmen, more like—to convince people to sell their lands and integrate into their tech utopias. The idea is that rural life is insufficient when megacities have developed cures for cancer and have unlocked the secrets to limitless food supplies.

In that regard, Join the Future reminded me quite a bit of Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, where the poor live in a state of extreme poverty on Earth while the privileged social classes live in a space habitat complete with advanced med-bays that cure all kinds of diseases and illnesses. This reflection on two entirely opposite ways of life is as effective here as it was on Elysium (although Kaplan and Kowalski’s comic has a better sense of narrative).

The use of Western archetypes on a visual level elevates the narrative wonderfully as it makes the differences between the megacities and the rural communities stand out in glaring detail. Kowalski does a great job of landing an old-school take on both the cowboy aesthetics of the Midwest and the classic sci-fi look and feel of the cities. The worldbuilding is familiar but dense, doing a lot of the heavy lifting as Kaplan builds up to an eventual clash between tech followers and cowboy traditionalists.

On the book’s approach to character development, we get just enough to establish a conflict that feels like a slow burn towards a long fight against the tech utopias. We follow Clementine Libbey, daughter of the town’s Mayor and big sister to Owen Libbey. Clementine carries herself like a character that will be forced into a leadership role yet to be revealed, a voice that she’ll have no choice but to use in upcoming issues.

There’s a strong YA feel behind Clementine, akin to characters seen in books such as The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, but she’s also more mature. We get a sense our heroine will dip her toes in both the pro-tech and anti-tech worlds for some time before revealing all of her cards. I’m not entirely sure Kaplan and Kowalski want to paint Clementine as a country hero in its entirety.

On the book’s colors, Brad Simpson does an outstanding job of keeping Kowalski’s old-school Western/sci-fi approach in line with the traditions it uses as inspiration. The megacity setting is bright and crisp, looking like a brand new car straight out of the factory (which says a lot about the city’s identity). Simpson captures every building, every drone, and every surface perfectly and coats it with that high-tech shine. Conversely, the Midwestern setting offers an interesting contrast in colors, with more muted tones that make the town of Franklin and its surroundings seem past their prime. It serves the story quite well.

Join the Future is a comic in no rush to reveal all its cards. In its first issue, we get a compelling situation with several moving parts that are sure to result in some very interesting looks at what the future will be and whether it’s in our best interest to join it.

Join the Future #1 has a March 4, 2020 release date.

Script: Zack Kaplan, Art: Piotr Kowalski, Colors: Brad Simpson
Story: 10.0 Art: 10.0 Overall: 10.0 Recommendation: Buy

Aftershock provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Godkillers #1

Godkillers #1

I wasn’t expecting to read Godkillers #1 until the preview text caught my eye. The concept sounded interesting so I decided to give it a read.

Abdul Alhazred is an Arab-American folklore professor turned soldier whose fear of death stems from uncertainty about the existence of an afterlife. He joins The Godkillers, a special forces unit tasked with fighting insurgents who use mythological creatures as weapons of mass destruction. Now that he knows the supernatural exists, he’ll have to decide which is worse—death or the nightmarish monsters he thought were mere legends.

Now in all honesty Godkillers #1 wasn’t a book I enjoyed all that much. Th that’s largely because I’m not exactly a fan of the setting. But, I understand why the story has to be framed the way it is. I wanted to like this book, and some aspects I genuinely enjoyed, but it’s just not a comic for me. It’s not a comic I’d typically pick up or review. I am trying to keep that in mind as I write this review.

Because I want to be as fair to the book as I can be, I’m going to break with a typical review style and just give you a set of bullet points.

Pros

  • The art is gritty, dark and moody when it needs to be. It never quite lets you get comfortable, which fits the story’s style very well.
  • Abdul Alhazred feels like a fully fleshed-out character who we’re only seeing glimpses of. His narration bubbles really flesh out his thoughts on the world. The gradual reveal of his motivations makes me want to learn more about the character. His lack of understanding of the events coincides nicely with the lack of information given in the book itself. You really feel like you’re in this with him.

Cons

  • Without having read the preview text I probably wouldn’t have known what the hell was going on in the comic.
  • The art made it a little difficult at times to decipher what was going on on the page. The caveat here is that for some reason the review PDF didn’t scroll as well as others which also played a part in my difficulty in reading the book.
  • There’s a lot of vagueness as to the events of the book, which is mostly a good thing until you realize that without the preview text you’d have been totally lost.

Conclusion
Godkillers #1 really wasn’t my cup of tea. At the same time, I know that just because it didn’t resonate with me doesn’t mean it’s a bad comic. The opposite is also true sometimes, as well. It just means it didn’t strike a chord. I can still appreciate the art, and the idea behind the story without being unfairly harsh to the comic. Objectively, there isn’t anything bad about the book as far as I can tell, and I hope that if you read it then you’re going to enjoy it more than I did. I won’t be scoring the story because I don’t think I can do it objectively or fairly.

If nothing else, I think you need to read this book.

Story: Mark Sable Artist: Maan House
Colorist: Hernan Cabrera Letterer: Thomas Mauer

Story: (N/A) Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Read

Aftershock provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Advance Review: Join the Future #1

Join the Future #1

Aftershock Comics has been producing stories with a kind of metaphorical vision not unlike the one seen in 2000AD comics. The publisher has taken to pushing series that focus on large scale concepts, on changes and shifts that threaten to alter status quos and established orders (think Harlem Heroesor Judge Dredd). Join the Future #1 is one such comic as it contemplates and worries about a future where technology becomes even more imperialistic in scope and thirsts for utopia under the false pretenses of progress. That the comic goes about this concept in the guise of a Western makes it a series that demands attention.

Zac Kaplan and Piotr Kowalski approach Join the Future as a kind of frontier story where humanity has separated into high-tech megacities that are entirely dependent on technology and Midwestern rural communities that renounce technology altogether, living like farmers and depending on nature’s own bounty to survive. It’s a play on extremes. Tech life vs. organic life.

Owning up to the comic’s title, the story takes it time to show us just how these megacities (maybe a wink to Judge Dredd fans out there) send out representatives—or salesmen, more like—to convince people to sell their lands and integrate into their tech utopias. The idea is that rural life is insufficient when megacities have developed cures for cancer and have unlocked the secrets to limitless food supplies.

In that regard, Join the Future reminded me quite a bit of Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, where the poor live in a state of extreme poverty on Earth while the privileged social classes live in a space habitat complete with advanced med-bays that cure all kinds of diseases and illnesses. This reflection on two entirely opposite ways of life is as effective here as it was on Elysium (although Kaplan and Kowalski’s comic has a better sense of narrative).

The use of Western archetypes on a visual level elevates the narrative wonderfully as it makes the differences between the megacities and the rural communities stand out in glaring detail. Kowalski does a great job of landing an old-school take on both the cowboy aesthetics of the Midwest and the classic sci-fi look and feel of the cities. The worldbuilding is familiar but dense, doing a lot of the heavy lifting as Kaplan builds up to an eventual clash between tech followers and cowboy traditionalists.

On the book’s approach to character development, we get just enough to establish a conflict that feels like a slow burn towards a long fight against the tech utopias. We follow Clementine Libbey, daughter of the town’s Mayor and big sister to Owen Libbey. Clementine carries herself like a character that will be forced into a leadership role yet to be revealed, a voice that she’ll have no choice but to use in upcoming issues.

There’s a strong YA feel behind Clementine, akin to characters seen in books such as The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, but she’s also more mature. We get a sense our heroine will dip her toes in both the pro-tech and anti-tech worlds for some time before revealing all of her cards. I’m not entirely sure Kaplan and Kowalski want to paint Clementine as a country hero in its entirety.

On the book’s colors, Brad Simpson does an outstanding job of keeping Kowalski’s old-school Western/sci-fi approach in line with the traditions it uses as inspiration. The megacity setting is bright and crisp, looking like a brand new car straight out of the factory (which says a lot about the city’s identity). Simpson captures every building, every drone, and every surface perfectly and coats it with that high-tech shine. Conversely, the Midwestern setting offers an interesting contrast in colors, with more muted tones that make the town of Franklin and its surroundings seem past their prime. It serves the story quite well.

Join the Future is a comic in no rush to reveal all its cards. In its first issue, we get a compelling situation with several moving parts that are sure to result in some very interesting looks at what the future will be and whether it’s in our best interest to join it.

Join the Future #1 has a March 4, 2020 release date.

Script: Zack Kaplan, Art: Piotr Kowalski, Colors: Brad Simpson
Story: 10.0 Art: 10.0 Overall: 10.0 Recommendation: Buy

Aftershock provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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