Tag Archives: ariana maher

Review: S.W.O.R.D. #2

S.W.O.R.D. #2

S.W.O.R.D. began with a solid issue introducing us to this new aspect to the world of the X-Men. We were left with some intriguing questions and a direction I really wanted to dive in to. But, the second issue pivots. It’s distracted a bit by the events of King in Black playing out through numerous titles in the Marvel Universe. S.W.O.R.D. #2 had to do it in some ways but like so many new series that dive into an event, it feels a bit like a distraction. It’s a sidequest to the main event we want to see.

Al Ewing does his best with the situation by having the issue somewhat organically slide into it all. They’re on a mission, cut off from Earth. With no communication, a team needs to be assembled to help their fellow X-Men and see what’s going on.

The concept makes sense and it works. But, it feels a bit jarring as the Knull’s “victory” has just happened, there’s no lead up to it as if this group has been doing little to stop Knull and help up to this point.

But, Ewing focuses on the characters and their personalities to make the comic interesting. Like some other X-series involved with X of Swords, S.W.O.R.D. #2 keeps the focus on the characters and their being dumped into the situation. This isn’t a situation first sort of comic where characters are forced into the story.

But Ewing is even smarter focusing on just a few members of the cast. Clearly some of the personalities who will play a big role going forward. Wiz-Kid, Frenzy, and Abigail Brand get their moments but it’s Cortez, Random, and Mentallo that stand out. Mentallo and Cortez especially are the highlights of the comic as one plays a big role in Brand’s plan and the other schemes in classic ways. Those three characters should make long time X fans happy as the comic dances around their personalities hinting at the chaos they all will likely cause.

Valerio Schiti‘s art is top notch. Marte Gracia joins on color and Ariana Maher on lettering and together, the trio delivers a visually entertaining comic. Ewing delivers a script that has great moments but the art is the exclamation point that really makes it pop. Body language and face reactions are key in nailing the tone which feels more comedic than anything else. There’s a light and entertaining tone to the art instead of the dire situation you’d expect concerning what’s going on.

S.W.O.R.D. #2 feels a bit like a distraction from the main show but the team makes it work. Along with strong visuals, the story overall helps build what’s coming by focusing on a few characters who clearly will shake things up in upcoming issues. They make the best with what they’ve got and overall, it doesn’t completely derail the series too much. While I’d have liked to see it continue with the seeds laid by the first issue, S.W.O.R.D. #2 does a solid job of laying even more for machinations yet to come.

Story: Al Ewing Art: Valerio Schiti
Color: Marte Gracia Letterer: Ariana Maher Design: Tom Muller
Story: 8.15 Art: 8.15 Overall: 8.15 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus Comics

Review: SWORD #1

SWORD #1

In SWORD #1, writer Al Ewing, artist Valerio Schiti, and colorist Marte Gracia add a little hazy cosmic jive to the X-Books. Let’s just say that the Krakoan space program is a lot more than sending probes or even astronauts to Mars. Ewing has some fun and uses Magneto (On loan from Jonathan Hickman and X-Men.) as a POV character with Abigail Brand taking him around the Peak Station, introducing him to the cast of the book, and then giving him and the readers just enough info about their “mission” to bring both mutantkind and inhabitants of the solar system into the future. It very much has a tone of checking in, but Ewing’s dialogue is sharp and entertaining even if you don’t know your Acolytes from Alpha Flight.

If the X-line (and the Marvel Universe as a whole) is a toy box, then Ewing and Schiti are kind kids, who add cool new action figures into the box, polish up old ones from the 1980s and 1990s, and then come up with imaginative games for them. (Even if you don’t know all the rules yet.) SWORD #1’s plot, or hook, doesn’t kick into the last third of the comic, but the first two-thirds are really enjoyable and chock-full with intriguing character interactions as Ewing introduces the sprawling cast of the book. Even if he’s not a traditional, “relatable” viewpoint character, Magneto does create a reaction out of everyone he encounters from sparring over SWORD’s actual relationship to Krakoa to geeking out over Wiz-Kid and “the Six”, who are the main mission of Peak. Then, there’s his interactions with SWORD protagonist/team leader, Abigail Brand, who challenges a man that is used to being either despised, revered, or fawned over. With her past experiences working with organizations like SHIELD, Alpha Flight, and even the X-Men, she has a different perspective on running a team and its role compared to what Magneto wants.

It’s not super plot relevant, but there’s a richness to his relationship with the former Acolyte Frenzy, who is the ambassador, on board and is introduced by sparring with the Kree/Skrull Alliance envoy, Paibak. There’s a real physicality to Valerio Schiti’s layouts in this scene as he cuts from Magneto and Brand verbally sparring to Frenzy laying out Paibak on the training floor. This is followed by some aggressive eye contact and a very charged interaction as Krakoa’s ill-treatment of Scarlet Witch (See Empyre: X-Men) has led to them making enemies with the Kree/Skull Alliance because she is their emperor’s mother-in-law. Ewing effortlessly weaves in the results of a story that I unfortunately haven’t read to create more conflict in his current story and show that SWORD might have some more conventional threats to deal with in addition to their “uni/multiversal far-retrieval circuit” work.

Speaking of this circuit, Al Ewing uses some very Hickman-esque charts in SWORD #1 to lay out the mechanism of how it works via a strategic combination of mutant powers that reminded me a lot of the complementary combo super-attacks in Marvel Ultimate, but on steroids. SWORD #1 is also a natural outgrowth of the resurrection protocols and very beautiful to see in action although I’m sure that there were be consequences. (That Dr. Doom epigram at the end doesn’t bode well and gave me serious Secret Wars vibes.) Schiti, Gracia, and letterer Ariana Maher, who lays the text directly on the page/art work together on some gorgeous, light-filled spreads that evoke the feeling of something great, cosmic, and unknown even if I can’t exactly get my finger on what the team is doing. It’s a study in harmony just like the balance Magneto created by moving the

While Valerio Schiti excels at drawing cosmic landscapes (For example, the opening double page establishing shot of the Peak station moving away from Earth), his character acting is more middle of the road leaving Ewing to pick up the slack with his dialogue. Even though his art is in that Marvel house style, middle ground between cartoon-y and photorealistic, Schiti takes his facial expressions up to 11, and it’s hard to mine any subtler emotions and even sarcasm from his work. (I think that Magneto is just humoring his old Brotherhood short timer/member, Peepers, but it’s hard to really tell from art.) Again, Ewing is there to save the day with his perceptive dialogue and a smart writing move, which is revealing character’s personalities by how they basically react to a living legend. In this case, it’s Magneto. For example, Fabian Cortez totally sucks up to him, which shows he’s a go-with-the-flow sycophant while Wiz-Kid gives him insight into how he uses his powers to interface with technology showing that he has actual potential.

SWORD #1 is an interesting addition to the X-line of the books with its “spacer” (As Abigail Brand calls herself in contrast with “earthers” like Magneto.) perspective on both Krakoa and the Marvel Universe. Al Ewing and Valerio Schiti are in full spinoff pilot episode with Magneto playing the role of familiar character from the previous show giving readers insights into the cast of the book as well as the mysteries and conflicts they face. There are a few pitfalls on the visual side and more questions than answers (This isn’t bad at all), but it’s nice to have an outsider/literal big picture perspective on the world of Krakoa from Abigail Brand and her team in SWORD.

Story: Al Ewing Art: Valerio Schiti
Colors: Marte Gracia Letters: Ariana Maher
Story: 8.5 Art: 7.8 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus Comics

DC Reveals New Details and Cover for Zatanna: The Jewel of Gravesend

There’s more to the mobsters, mystics, and mermaids at the last stop on the D/F/Q trains: Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue.

Zatanna’s not your typical New Yorker. She walks her giant rabbit on a leather leash down the boardwalk, lives in a colossal architectural wonder known as the Golden Elephant, had her first kiss in the Haunted Hell Gate ride–and wouldn’t have it any other way.

But the time for having fun in Luna Park comes to an end when a mystic’s quest for a powerful jewel unravels everything Zatanna thought she knew about herself and her beloved neighborhood. Mysteries and magic surround her as she reveals the truth about her family’s legacy, and confronts the illusion that has been cast over her entire life. 

From the bewitching mind behind The Casquette Girls, Alys Arden, and with enchanting artwork by Jacquelin de Leon, comes the story of a girl stuck in the middle of a magical rivalry and forced to choose between love, family, and magic without hurting anyone…or worse.

Zatanna: The Jewel of Gravesend by Arden, De Leon, with lettering by Ariana Maher is out from DC Comics on April 13, 2021.

Zatanna: The Jewel of Gravesend

Review: Maestro #2

Maestro #2

Maestro #2 is an interesting second issue. It’s quite literally a cross-country journey as the Hulk explores what’s left of the United States and ponders the destruction at humanity’s hands. As a stand-alone issue, it’s an interesting read though not all that exciting. As part of the greater story, it’s much more and nice entry into the bigger picture.

Writer Peter David delivers a Hulk who recognizes the destruction before him and feels sad about it. This isn’t the raging Hulk who seeks death himself or rages against those that won’t let him find peace. This is one that’s more philosophical in nature and reflecting on his life and what’s before him.

In what both works and doesn’t, David uses Hulk’s travels to allow us to see more of what’s left. We’re shown the various survivors and what has sprung up, each different from the last. A few bring hope while others bring future conflict. What’s nice is we get a better lay of the land. But, each segment is just that, a quick segment. There’s little exploration of each settlement which hurts the story. It feels choppy and a bit short in depth and worldbuilding. Its’ been years since I read the original Future Imperfect so there’s probably more there but as is, nothing is explored enough.

Maestro #2 reads more like a guidebook to a world as opposed to a full fledge story. Not enough time is spent with each interesting group. And without that, it’s hard to care what happens. There’s a disconnect between the comic’s presentation and making you invested in what might happen to them. It’s a bit cold in some ways. Where moments could deliver hope, they feel a bit disconnected and a bit mechanical. It’s more roleplaying sourcebook without the in-depth information than story.

Some of the issues with the story is the art by Germán Peralta. While none of it is bad, there’s also a lack of detail at the time to add to the story. A discussion about wanting to add nutrients to a soil could have done with more details of the crops telling the story of the struggle of farming. An animal dead in the woods due to radiation isn’t mutated or emaciated enough to really impact. The motions are there without the detail, like the plot itself.

The issue also kicks off the first part of “Relics,” a back-up story with art by Dale Keown and color by Jason Keith. This is a bit more interesting. In just a few pages more is told about the world and also delivers some emotional heft. The short story is itself a quick rollercoaster ride full of hope and then crashing down showing how much society has not evolved after almost destroying itself. It’s the highlight of the issue and the only reason I’m not suggesting to skip it.

Maestro #2 isn’t a bad issue but it also feels like it doesn’t do the world and Hulk’s journey justice. It’s quick hits to give us a tour of “the players” in a single issue. While that can work as part of the bigger picture, it also doesn’t deliver enough interesting aspects or depths to really excite. As a collection though, it’d be fine as you can quickly move on to the next chapter. Sadly, for all of the excitement the first issue delivered, the second lacks the same punch.

Story: Peter David Art: Germán Peralta, Dale Keown
Color: Jason Keith Letterer: Ariana Maher
Story: 6.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 6.75 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus Comics

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Gets a Third Volume

Jump back into the fray with series III of Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins, from the New York Times bestselling team of Matthew MercerJody Houser, Olivia Samson, MSASSYK, and Ariana Maher!

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Series III picks up with Vox Machina enjoying some R&R in Westruun’s lap of luxury. But that costs coin, which has a bad habit of running out. So to keep themselves in the black they agree to join an underground fighting ring. But before they can bash their way to cash, their attention is snagged by the case of a missing child.

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Series III #1 (of six) will be in comic shops on December 9, 2020.

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Series III #1 (of six)

Review: Maestro #1

Maestro #1

I remember many years ago when Maestro debuted and getting those issues. It was an interesting take on the Hulk. At the time he was a character I didn’t really care for. The Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect gave us a “possible future” story when those felt rare and special. All these years later we get Maestro #1, the origin of the brutal future version of the Hulk. When it was announced I immediately wondered if this was a story we really needed. After reading the first issue, I want more. There’s so much there and I and fully expect spin-offs in the “Old Man” sort of way.

Created by ‎Peter David‎ and ‎George Pérez and debuting in 1992, Maestro was a future version of the Hulk coming from a world where the heroes have been wiped out. It’s been almost 30 years so the original story is a fading memory but the debut was huge as this was a brutal version of the Hulk unlike anything seen at that time. Mixed with the popular trope of “alternative futures” the character was a hit. Over the years, the Hulk and Bruce Banner have evolved as characters adding depth to a level that didn’t exist back in the early 90s.

David returns to write one of the characters and runs he’s known for with Maestro #1. He delivers an emotional opening of shock and loss. While it falls into a bit of a trope-ish space and the plot is one we’ve seen before, the result when layered on to the Hulk works and works really well.

It’s hard to really dive into the first issue and why it works without really spoiling it. It’s a rabbit hole of a story that gets more and more intriguing as the layers are lifted and we learn more of what is happening and what happened. Where the issue gets interesting is in the current run of the Hulk and his outlook on life and death. He’s currently a destroyer of worlds and that evolution to the Maestro and where that begins gets complicated with that. But, at its heart, the story is about loss and family and where a person goes when they lose everything. We’re left with the question as to how the Maestro is born but we get to see the first steps.

The issue has some layers in a Matrix-like way. Dale Keown handles the art in the opening with Jason Keith on color. Germán Peralta handles the art from there with Jesus Aburtov on color. The transition from one artist to the other works and works really well. It’s used in a way as the story shifts and the two styles are close enough it’s not jarring going from one to the other. While a lot of the history is explained, there’s still a lot left for readers to pick up on visually. The characters, the background, everything tells a bit of the mystery. It fantastic to see Keown back on the Hulk and the art pops taking us into the opening spiral.

Maestro #1 is a comic where I cringed at first. I didn’t think it was a story we needed to know, the mystery worked. But, after reading the issue, it’s a solid opening that has a lot of potential as to where it takes us and goes. While much of it is familiar it’s a perfect start and base to see the further evolution of the Hulk as a character.

Story: Peter David Art: Germán Peralta, Dale Keown
Color: Jesus Aburtov, Jason Keith Letterer: Ariana Maher
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus Comics

Review: Empyre: Captain America #2

Empyre: Captain America #2
Empyre: Captain America #2

Phillip Kennedy Johnson gave his Captain America Empyre tie-in one of the toughest parts of any global conflict to deal with: American military policy. Ol’ Cap had his hands full in issue one trying to convince high ranking officers of providing support to the other countries of the world also fighting the Cotati. America refused, even when told they could inspire international allyship. Empyre: Captain America #2 is an exploration of that decision’s consequences.

Illustrated by Ariel Olivetti, Empyre: Captain America #2 continues to keep the bar high as a tie-in comic. It’s a great example of what these types of comics should be: short incursions into the event that can result in some fun worldbuilding mechanics. To use a music metaphor, good tie-in books can be rip-roaring guitar solos to the hit song that is the event. Johnson and Olivetti’s Empyre book is precisely that.

What makes this comic an essential read within the larger event is that its discussion on the politics of war on Earth feel epic and high stakes. Should Captain America fail at bringing together the international community to fight the Cotati as a singular force, Earth will have its hands full with an enemy that will never fall to the efforts of an individual country.

Captain America makes this point throughout. He speaks to soldiers and world leaders on the dangers of putting too much weight on heroics and not enough on the soldiers and people that are involved in every aspect of war. In one particular instance, Captain America tells a story about a Nazi ambush during World War II that incapacitated him and forced his fellow brothers in arms to take lead and salvage what they could out of the situation. Half of those soldiers died so that Captain America could live.

Empyre: Captain America #2

These types of stories help explain the comic’s focus on military action and how it can be used for good. It also falls in line with Empyre’s main story, where we see the idea of heroism clashing with the idea of practicality. Should heroes put their lives on the line when a less dangerous approach exists? What does this say about war? What should we be asking of soldiers when faced with the extreme realities of combat?

Olivetti’s art does an amazing job of showing the Cotati as a lethal invading force that is undoubtedly alien but also eerily similar to Earth’s vegetation. If the story were about our own vegetation rising up and trying to eradicate humanity, it would still work. The Cotati can infect humans with living seeds that turn them into Cotati themselves. For these sequences, Olivetti takes a very gruesome body horror approach that adds to the lethality of the invaders.

Empyre: Captain America #2 is an impressive exploration of the Cotati invasion and its forays into military policy basically hold up a mirror to America’s Army and how it could be doing more than it usually does.

Story: Phillip Kennedy Johnson Art: Ariel Olivetti
Color: Rachelle Rosenberg Letterer: Ariana Maher
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0
Recommendation: It’s Captain America. Why wouldn’t you buy it?

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Gets a Library Edition from Dark Horse

Experience the stories of the adventuring party known as Vox Machina before the smash-hit show Critical Role started! Writers Matt Mercer, Matthew Colville, and Jody Houser, along with artist Olivia Samson, colorists Chris Northrop and MSASSYK, and letterer Ariana Maher bring to life Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Library Edition – Series I and II Collection.

 What do a flirtatious bard, a clueless barbarian, a naïve druid, a pair of stealthy twins, a holy cleric, and a vengeful gunslinger all have in common? They’re not sure either, but one day they’ll become the heroes known as Vox Machina! Follow the main characters from the smash-hit series Critical Role as they team up for the first time, facing cults and curses in the revelation of their origins and the path that will lead them to glory…eventually.

Fans of the celebrated series Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins won’t want to miss this stunning, oversized hardcover collection!

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Library Edition – Series I and II Collection collects Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Vol 1 and Vol 2. It will be in comic shops on November 11, 2020 and in bookstores on November 24, 2020. It is available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at your local comic shop. This 320-page oversized library edition will retail for $39.99.

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Library Edition - Series I and II Collection
« Older Entries