From Mat Groom and Erica D’Urso comes Inferno Girl Red, an all-new original graphic novel that combines high school super-heroic drama with the dynamic storytelling and world-building of Japanese tokusatsu superheroes, and the intrigue and relationship drama of British boarding school fiction. A Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund this all-new 100-page, hardcover superhero graphic novel by Groom, D’Urso, colorist Igor Monti, letterer Becca Carey, editor Kyle Higgins, and design group For The People, will run through May 5th, 2021.
We all need something to believe in. Especially Cássia Costa. An ancient cult and their army of demons have stolen Cássia’s home, Apex City. When a magical dragon bracelet rockets into her life and affixes itself to her arm, Cássia’s the only person equipped to stop the cult from offering the entire city to their dark lord. There’s just one catch…
The magical bracelet is powered by belief, and Cássia — an intensely pragmatic, rational girl – doesn’t have much to spare. She’ll have to find something to kindle her faith, though, and fast —because she has a secret legacy to live up to. Because her mother’s life is on the line. And because Apex City needs Inferno Girl Red.
In Inferno Girl Red, Cássia’s not shy– but bouncing around from city-to-city as her Mom bounced from job-to-job meant it was hard to make friends… and any friends she did make disappeared pretty quickly once they found out who Cássia’s mother was. So instead of socialising, she focused on learning– showing a particular aptitude for science. Now Cássia has a chance for a fresh start in Apex City. Her impressive test scores have earned her an invitation to the world-famous entrepreneur Doctor Janine Caro’s prestigious boarding school for promising young minds. There, Cássia starts to settle in. She starts to make friends. She starts to see a future for herself.
But when a magical bracelet blasts through a window while Cássia is studying late one night, everything changes. Cássia’s quickly drawn into a strange war that she previously only heard about from her mother…
The Inferno Girl Red Kickstarter campaign features the oversized, deluxe format hardcover (7 x 11 inches) with an exclusive, Kickstarter-only cover and Kickstarter-edition-exclusive concept art, as well as a RADIANT BLACK/ INFERNO GIRL RED team-up print by RADIANT BLACK artist Marcelo Costa and INFERNO GIRL RED artist Erica D’Urso and fourteen collectible INFERNO GIRL RED giclee art prints by Darko Lafuente, Doaly, Francesco Manna, Eduardo Ferigato, Dash O’Brien–Georgeson, Federico Sabbatini (with Martina Fari), Wil Sur, Kath Lobo, Serg Acūna, Eleonora Carlini, Tiffany Turrill, Nicola Scott, Nicole Goux, and Valeria Favoccia!
Radiant Black #1 was a decent debut. It delivered an interesting character in Nathan, a down on his luck writer. Nathan comes across what looks like a floating black hole that gives him mysterious powers. All of that was executed well but the comic never quite delivered excitement or wonder. Nathan was a bit too down on his luck and honestly a bit depressing. Radiant Black #2 is a lot of the same with a bit more as far as action but also a downer in some ways.
Kyle Higgins delivers a potential hero who’s grounded a bit too much. In Nathan, he’s created a character so many of us can relate to which is good and bad. The good is that he’s a character that reflects the problems of so many readers. The bad is, that kills the escapism. Nathan doesn’t embrace his powers. He’s a bit weirded out by it all and seems annoyed by it all. There’s a child-like quality to the superhero origin that’s missing. Higgins could be doing that on purpose but overall it makes a bit more of a grind when it comes to the series.
But, the comic is really well done.
Higgins’ storytelling is top notch and the progression of the issue is solid. There’s consistent pacing to it all that makes sense and gives a real-world aspect to it all. A tough conversation with a father over breakfast, the grind of a job you don’t want to do, having to do things you don’t want to so you can make money. These are things so many of us have experienced and Radiant Black #2 has it all there. In some ways, it’s the anti-superhero comic removing the fantastical elements from the formula.
Marcelo Costa‘s art continues to be beautiful. There’s a Ryan Ottley on Invincible aspect to it. That’s not bad at all as the look and style fits the comic really well. Costa’s art really stands out at delivering the emotion of the moment. The facial expressions tell so much of what characters are thinking and really help convey the moment and situation. Becca Carey handles the lettering and packs in a lot without it feeling overwhelming. Like Costa’s art, the lettering also adds the right emotional aspect to things.
Radiant Black #2 isn’t bad at all. Unfortunately, Nathan is a bit of a depressing character. We see a bit of him coming out of that towards the end of the issue and hopefully that’s part of what Higgins is going for. The comic is really well done, it’s just a bit of a downer missing that escapist joy the spandex and flight brings. And maybe that’s part of the point of it all.
As seen in TheLego Batman Movie, the Arkham video games, and the Batman comics of the 1990s and early 2000s, Batman’s strength is in the world and characters that he creates access to. Whether that’s his allies, villains, nooks and crannies of Gotham, or even police officers that he either works with or against, these personalities and settings are why I continue to return to the Batman side of the DC Universe. The creators of Batman: Urban Legends #1 understand this and flesh out different Batman-adjacent characters and even sometimes explore their relationship to the Dark Knight while also telling action, romance, and crime stories.
First up in this Gotham-themed anthology is the beginning of a six part Batman and Red Hood serial where Batman and his former protege-turned-killer vigilante (He’s switched to rubber bullets for the moment.) investigate a source of a hallucinatory street drug tackily called Cheerdrops. Writer Chip Zdarsky has a firm grasp on Jason Todd’s voice, including the darkness inside his soul and his hunger for justice, especially for Gotham’s beleaguered working class. Artists Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira and colorist Adriano Lucas nail the grit of the city with explosive linework and jagged layouts to go with a color palette that has had all the light sucked out of it. However, Excalibur’s MarcusTo does the art in the flashbacks, which features brighter colors as well as simpler, cleaner lines with a more traditional superhero feel even though one of the scenes is set during “Under the Red Hood” when Jason Todd came back from the dead and started killing criminals.
“Batman and Red Hood” is also a study in contrasts in how two very different crime fighters deal with the same crisis. Batman is the World’s Greatest Detective and is super methodical with Barrows and Ferreria drawing him looking at the chemical makeup of Cheerdrops CSI-style, and his All-Star Superman-esque moment with a jumper is less feel-good and more evidence collection. On the other hand, Jason fights crime with his guts and heart and even admits in a wry line from Zdarsky that he’s not a great detective as he struggles to find a Cheerdrop stash house. However, he does find a boy named Tyler, and of course, Jason is great with kids and even lets him wear part of his mask while he looks for his dad in a dodgy part of Gotham. Zdarsky, Barrows, and Ferreira create something truly heartwarming between Jason Todd and Tyler.
There’s a throughline between this and the flashbacks where Batman (Portrayed as more of an action figure than man by To) struggles being a father figure to Jason, and Alfred does the job perfectly because he sees him as a human being and not an obstacle in his war on crime. Chip Zdarsky writes Alfred Pennyworth as the perfect parent to the Bat-family, who isn’t afraid to tell Batman that he’s full of shit and chooses compassion over a closed fist. And speaking of Batman, I love how Zdarsky doesn’t give him an inner monologue and depicts him more as a force of nature than a gun toting, broken man like Jason Todd, who agonizes over every decision and whose interaction with Tyler bring back memories of his mom who died of a drug overdose. Also, he’s not afraid to go a little dark, and Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira jagged layouts and emotional poses are along for the ride.
The second story in Batman: Urban Legends #1 is an eight page Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy one-off from writer Stephanie Phillips, artist Laura Braga, and colorist Ivan Plascencia. Plascencia is this story’s secret weapon that shows the happy, hilarious times of Harley and Ivy’s first dates and the bleak current times for Harley as she has moved back to Gotham in her solo title and as a recurring character in Batman. Braga’s art is expressive and high energy for both the good times (Harley and Ivy smooching and snapping selfies) and bad times (A sudden bolt of lightning shattering their pictures), and she is a good fit for a story that isn’t centered around a heist or fight against a superhero, but a relationship. She and Phillips tap into the depth of feelings that Harley has for Ivy, and through some handy plant symbolism, they create hope for the relationship that has become very popular for fans in the past decade. “Harley and Ivy” is a nice, nearly slice of life oasis in the midst of the three other stories, which have more moving parts.
The third story in this comic is a 10 page “Outsiders” feature by Brandon Thomas, Max Dunbar, and Luis Guerrero starring Black Lightning, Katana, and an interesting take on Metamorpho. Thomas turns in kind of a mystery plot with the story starting with Black Lightning and an unseen Metamorpho in a Japanese prison before cutting to a bonkers, two page spread of a speedboat chase. Unlike the previous two stories in Batman: Urban Legends #1, Thomas and Dunbar go for a action over character focus, and honestly, I’m here for it. Dunbar uses arrows from their pursuers to act as eye-lines to follow the high speed chase, and he and Thomas have a clever moment or two up their sleeve, especially in regards to Metamorpho’s first appearance. The story isn’t particularly deep, but it has the vibe of a James Bond cold open with superpowers as Guerrero really makes Black Lightning’s abilities sizzle. Finally, Brandon Thomas’ plotting really kept me engaged with thinking about why characters were acting a certain way, and the the mini mystery box structure has me intrigued for the upcoming issue.
Grifter is a character I didn’t really know a lot about except for some random comics like the New 52 Team 7 and JLA/WildCATs, but Matthew Rosenberg, Ryan Benjamin, and Antonio Fabela have made this anti-hero/rapscallion and his various pratfalls quite lovable and hilarious Batman: Urban Legends #1’s final story. Grifter is like that guy who bluffs at poker, but never has a good hand. And until maybe the penultimate page of the comic, he’s either screwing up or making a joke about it beginning with his mad rush towards supervillain fire during his Team 6 days with a lot of characters with familiar names from Wildstorm comics. (I’m not an expert on these characters, and you don’t have to be to enjoy the story.) Grifter uses his sense of humor to detract from his mediocre performance as Lucius Fox’s bodyguard or to avoid getting his ass kicked by Batman, but he also has a mystery side that is revealed when he has a “date” at one of Penguin’s bars. The mystery starts to really unfold towards the end of the comic, but Rosenberg hints at every time, he talks on a headset with what I assume is his older brother.
The comedy in “Grifter” isn’t just limited to Matthew Rosenberg’s delightfully smartass dialogue. It shows up a lot in Ryan Benjamin’s visuals, which range from G.I. Joe or Authority homages (When the superheroes clean up Team 6’s mess.) in the flashback to pure slapstick. For example, Grifter spills a drink at a party Lucius Fox is meeting a client at and spills a drink on a woman. In this situation, Benjamin doesn’t just show a simple facial expression, but throws in some growlixes and makes you know that she’s furious that the soaking wet guy in Converse and blue jeans is even in the same room with her. This playfulness extends to the fight between Batman and Grifter, which starts as a serious throwdown and ends up in a total cat and mouse situation with Grifter finally getting enough self-awareness to call it quits. However, their paths will cross, and you can tell that Batman understands he’s a wildcard with his connections to Lucius Fox, the criminal underworld, and probably those Wildstorm guys. All in all, Matthew Rosenberg, Ryan Benjamin, and Antonio Fabela turn in a hilarious action-comedy set in DC’s weirdest and (sometimes) dourest city and also slowly unveil what seems to be a master plan to merge the worlds of Wildstorm and Gotham.
Batman: Urban Legends #1 is an absolute win for the anthology format that DC Comics has been trying out with all of the four stories in the comic being entertaining and shedding light on a unique cast of characters. The longer stories that bookend the comic are especially noteworthy thanks to Chip Zdarsky’s pitch-perfect handle on the fascinating character of Jason Todd in “Batman and Red Hood” and Matthew Rosenberg and Ryan Benjamin’s skill with verbal and visual humor in “Grifter”.
Story: Chip Zdarsky, Stephanie Phillips, Brandon Thomas, Matthew Rosenberg Art: Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Marcus To, Laura Braga, Max Dunbar, Ryan Benjamin Colors: Adriano Lucas, Ivan Plascencia, Luis Guerrero, Antonio Fabela Letters: Becca Carey, Deron Bennett, Steve Wands, Saida Temofonte Story: 8.0 Art: 8.6 Overall: 8.3 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
The lead story in Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #2 deals with the actual end of the DC Universe, and it’s brilliant, poetic work from writers Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad and artist Jen Bartel. We get to see the final battle between Superman and Darkseid, and it’s epic as hell. However, it’s not the center of the narrative, which is Wonder Woman traveling the universe looking for signs of life and hope and trying to avoid the Undoing. Except for the ending and little glimmers, this whole issue is Diana staring into the abyss and trying to find purpose in a world that doesn’t need saving anymore and is truly in its death throes.
In the first issue, Jen Bartel demonstrated that she could operate on an epic scale in both linework and color palette, and this extends to Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #2. Her punches have true power and weight behind them, the lasso finds the truth in the last few characters it entangles, and the contrast between light and shadow in her color palette is operatic, especially in Wonder Woman’s final moments as well as Superman and Darkseid’s. There’s a kind of glow in her trail as she flies across the void of space, past the ruins of the Daily Planet or Brainiac’s ship, that is in direct opposition of the black tendrils of the Undoing. Cloonan and Conrad don’t go deep into The Undoing’s backstory, but they’re the inevitability personified and wipe out the whole Legion of Superheroes in a single page that establishes their universe ending threat level. They’re like “The End” on the last page of a story, and the final pages of Immortal Wonder Woman #2 definitely take on a metafictional quality and set up yet another myth cycle.
Cloonan, Conrad, and Bartel definitely use the lead story of Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #2 to deal with weighty philosophical issues, like the purpose (or purposelessness) of life and the effects of revenge, especially when Spectre comes into the picture. The whole Ragnarok/Twilight of the Gods vibe carries through from the previous issue, but with the Undoing, not Darkseid, being responsible for the end of the universe. In the big picture, he’s just a god, not an unknowable cosmic force. These themes and ideas as well as the general scale of Jen Bartel’s visuals truly makes this story feel like it’s a kind of modern mythology instead of using gods from various pantheons as window dressing, comic relief, or public domain action figures.
However, Becky Cloonan, Michael Conrad, and Jen Bartel don’t forget what makes these myths and legends endure, and that is these heroes’ flaws and recognizable emotions. (For example, young queer people are making Tik Toks about Achilles and Patroclus just like Alexander the Great was writing fan fiction about them two millennia ago.) Bartel does a wonderful job showing Wonder Woman’s emotions throughout the story with many close-ups of her crying, and those tears floating in space to make these panels even more tragic. She also differentiates sad tears like when she witnesses Superman’s death from happy ones like when she finds the Spectre, the last living being. However, Wonder Woman isn’t all sadness in Immortal Wonder Woman #2. There’s a lot of anger too, especially in her last fight, against the Undoing as Cloonan and Conrad’s narration reveal her last thoughts about how she’s a contradictory figure: a warrior, yet peaceful. This ties into the conclusion of the two part storyline, which is quite satisfying, primal, and touches on the nature of immortality in a very cosmological way.
Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #2’s second story, “Nubia”, definitely plays second fiddle to the lead story with writer L.L. McKinney continuing to cram a six issue miniseries’ amount of lore and exposition in six issues. However, she and artists Alitha Martinez and Mark Morales and colorist Emilio Lopez do show Nubia being a hero and kicking ass against the likes of Grail and Circe, who Grail has summoned to get the last artifact: Nubia’s tiara. This artifact is magical, and Grail is more into science so she needs an assist from a sorceress of her own. However, little does she know, that this crown is imbued with magic from the Yoruba goddess, Oshun, and it only strengthens Nubia. But, of course, there is a price, and Nubia still owns Aunt Nancy a favor. McKinney definitely leaves plenty of plot threads and potential supporting players and goddesses on the table for future stories.
But for most of the pages of “Nubia”, McKinney, Martinez, and Morales focus on the task at hand: a battle royale between Nubia, Grail, and Circe. Grail and Circe definitely underestimate their opponent so it’s quite vindicated when she breaks free from their control in an iconic full page image, and then throws, kicks, and punches them in a double page spread. Instead of going the stiff pinup route, Martinez and Morales use the spread to showcase Nubia’s speed and strength using borderless panels for her battle with Grail and the bordered panels for her fight against Circe. The choreography is gorgeous in this sequence as McKinney, Martinez, Morales, and Lopez are all on the same page and cut to the best moves. For example, Nubia ducks under a magic blast from Circe and switches opponents to throw Grail with her super strength before delivering a gut punch to the sorceress. Alitha Martinez’s layout choices give a real flow to the action while Mark Morales accentuates details like Nubia’s shoulder muscles when she hurls Circe into the sky, and Emilio Lopez uses bright primary colors during intense moments like when Circe and Grail struggle to take Nubia’s crown off.
Although, these characters are highly powered, the fight has a personal feel to it culminating in Nubia reinforcing the fact that she’s Wonder Woman, an Amazon warrior, and you can’t take important artifacts from her. L.L. McKinney gives Nubia some great one-liners to show that she’s becoming more confident as a hero and coming into her own as a “Guardian”. The flashback with the different gods might be a little text-heavy, but seeing Nubia break free from a villain who is literally staring her down and saying “Submit” is well worth it. But she doesn’t get a chance to celebrate in the epilogue of this story, and Martinez and Morales draw her with tense body language while setting up another potential arc down the road. I’ve really grown to enjoy Nubia’s courage and determination as well Alitha Martinez’s fight choreography, and I would definitely like to see more stories with this creative team. Having a Nubia limited or ongoing series would also give L.L. McKinney an opportunity to pace out some of her worldbuilding elements as well as her protagonist’s connection to Yoruba mythology and Akan folklore plus the magical/superheroic side of Atlanta in the DC Universe.
Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #2 wraps up with two very different takes on the iconic DC Comics superhero. Becky Cloonan, Michael Conrad, and Jen Bartel tell an archetypal self-contained story of life and death, hope and despair, and finding purpose when there’s nothing to live for starring Diana Prince. Plus it really captures the range of emotions one would feel before the inevitable end of the universe. In the second story, L.L. McKinney, Alitha Martinez, Mark Morales, and Emilio Lopez cram in lore, exposition, multiple villains, and one kick-ass fight scene to lay the foundation for future stories featuring Nubia. It’s like a two-hour pilot screaming for a series order whereas the lead story is a beautiful elegy with career-best interior art from Jen Bartel, who masterfully depicts both the cosmic and human.
Story: Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad, L.L. McKinneyArt: Jen Bartel, Alitha Martinez with Mark Morales Colors: Jen Bartel, Emilio LopezLetterer: Pat Brosseau, Becca Carey Story: 7.5 Art: 8.8 Overall: 8.1 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Nathan Burnett is down of his luck. He’s not making money as a writer and is forced to move back with his parents. While out at night drinking with his friend, a weird black ball of energy bonds with him, causing him to transform into a mysterious being of incredible power.
I feel like ever since Invincible wrapped up, I’ve kinda been jonesing for a good Image Comics superhero book. Did I find it with Radiant Black? My magic 8-ball answer would answer that as, “as I see it, yes.” Again, it’s your run-of-the-mill way of getting powers but it had things about it I liked. The hero that’s down on his luck, right outta the “Peter Parker School of Life” works well for me. I love a flawed hero, one who doesn’t have the easiest route to where he is. It always feels a bit more like I understand where they come from. And while the origin might be ordinary, Kyle Higgins delivers good dialogue for a small cast, making it easy to jump into it. It could have used a bit more action but it is what it is.
Remember that Invincible talk from earlier? I felt like Marcelo Costa had a bit of a Ryan Ottley vibe to his art. I love the look of this book. The art is detailed but not stiff. Also, I love the design of Radiant Black. It’s a bit simple but striking.
Overall, it’s a good-but-not-great first issue but I think it’s enough to get me excited for the next issue and I feel like I can see the potential of Radiant Black. Not all origins need to be great. What’s more important is what happens after you get your powers. Radiant Black also gave us a look at the other side of the coin, so to speak, with the emergence of a foe who popped up at the end of this issue. Image has a history of superhero books and while they’ve done a colossal job of expanding from that. It’s awesome to see a book like Radiant Black usher back the Image Comics age of heroes.
It’s always interesting to read a superhero comic not published by the “big two”. They have such a foothold in the genre, it’s hard to not compare what else is released to them. There’s been some success from indie and small press publishers but generally, few have come close to matching the classic formula. Radiant Black #1 kicks off a new superhero adventure and the result is… ok.
Writer Kyle Higgins brings something personal to the world of Radiant Black. The debut issue introduces us to Nathan, a failed writer deep in debt who is forced to move back in with his parents. Back in his home town, he stumbles upon a mysterious object during a night of drinking that covers him in a powerful suit.
Radiant Black #1 is a bit mix in the end. While it shows a lot of potential, the comic doesn’t quite have the magic, excitement, or hook to really create that memorable origin. It’s not bad at all but it also doesn’t excite. Higgins delivers us a relatable character in Nathan but also a depressing lead to start.
Nathan has failed as a writer and is tens of thousands of dollars in debt. It’s something many can relate to but it’s a reminder that we can relate to that. It removes that escapist quality delivering a sad, depressing lead. The “discovery” moment of Nathan’s new powers also doesn’t have that spark. It happens and then he gets into an argument with his friend along for the journey. There’s never any point of excitement or glee from Nathan, he’s the hero you want to punch for being a sourpuss.
And that’s possibly part of the point of it all. Higgins states in his letters page this is a personal character to him. It’s possible in Nathan and Radiant Black #1 he delivers a character that’s more “him” than anything he’s written yet. But, that more grounded take on the hero has implications on the escapist nature of the superhero genre.
The art by Marcelo Costa is solid. Joined by letterer Becca Carey, the comic and characters have a great design to it all. Despite the rather depressing nature of Nathan, the comic itself never drags down. The colors pop on the page and when big moments arrive, they stand out visually due to the comic delivering more of a “slice of life” up to that point. The comic has a look and style that reminds me a bit of Invincible, another superhero comic published by Image and Skybound. Overall, it looks good but like the story itself, never quite has memorable visuals.
Radiant Black #1 is an ok debut. Hopefully, it’s the start of something greater but on its own, it never quite stands out. While it features solid writing, relatable characters, and really nice art, it also never quite stands out with bigger than life moments or characters. It’s muted in a way and hopefully, it gets past that as the series progresses.
Some Future State stories have dealt with dark, dystopian futures, but the lead story in Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #1 takes it a step further with Diana, the remaining Amazons, and an aging Superman fighting to defend Swamp Thing, the Green, and basically the symbol of life on Earth from both Darkseid and the Anti-Life Equation. Writers Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad and spectacular artist Jen Bartel tell a story about fighting a war with love to the bitter end as Diana doesn’t want to fight for the dying Earth and instead start somewhere fresh with Swamp Thing and her sisters, but is overridden by the warlike Amazons as well as Darkseid popping in for one last chance to conquer Earth.
Cloonan and Conrad’s writing in Immortal Wonder Woman #1 can be described as truly poetic and matches the emotion-tinged visual from Bartel. The opening sequence has Diana interacting with a hologram of Batman and meditating on their relationship as part of DC’s Trinity’s with Batman telling her that she’s a true symbol of hope to rally around. However, Diana is also a realist about what’s going as she wistfully sees a star blink out of existence, and the story cuts to Apokolips where Darkseid realizes the end aka the Anti-Life Equation is near and abandons his empire, son Orion, and follower Big Barda and immediately heads to Earth. Bartel does a great job of contrasting the Amazons’ perspective of Earth with its reality using an almost beach vacation color palette for when the Amazons decide to defend the planet from an unknown threat to using a dark and rusty one for when Darkseid flies through space to the “husk”.
Jen Bartel is known for beautiful character design and capturing deep emotion out of her figures, but she can also draw one hell of a fight scene when Diana and Darkseid finally throw down with again Superman having one heroic moment and then getting flattened. She channels her inner Jack Kirby with colorful explosions and speed lines every time Darkseid lands a blow, or Diana kicks the Apokoliptian tyrant or gets a grip on him with her lasso. Bartel also uses interesting (or heartbreaking) panel shapes like when she lays one out that looks just like Darkseid’s Omega sanction and ends in a stark, panel of skulls on a stark background. On a more macro-level, Cloonan and Conrad keep the objective of the battle high, yet simple, Diana, the Amazons, and Superman have to protect Swamp Thing from Darkseid and the Anti-Life Equation for a chance at filling Earth (or maybe a new planet) with life again. The stakes of this comic are literally life and death.
The first story in Immortal Wonder Woman #1 is a Ragnarok for the DC Universe courtesy of Becky Cloonan, Michael Conrad, and Jen Bartel, who makes everyone look epic, pretty, and/or war worn while nailing the look and color palette of utter cosmic darkness too. It’s the last of the old gods battling the embodiment of utter evil with only a small chance for rebirth in the form of Swamp Thing, who is given a frail form and halting speech patterns. It’s also a masterclass in pacing with Cloonan and Conrad getting to the emotional breaking point before hitting that “To Be Continued” with literal tears streaming in the last panel that Bartel draws.
The second story in Immortal Woman #1 is written by LL McKinney with art from Alitha Martinez, Mark Morales, and Emilio Lopez, is set earlier in the Future State timeline, and features Nubia, an Amazon who has taken up the mantle of Wonder Woman while an off-panel Diana is queen of Themiscyra. Like the lead story, its plot has a world-ending conflict as Grail, the daughter of Darkseid, is stealing parts of an artifact connected to various gods that if put together could rip a hole in time and space. Most of this is explained in many expository text boxes by McKinney, who seems to be trying to fit a 4-6 issue miniseries in two issues.
A feeling of being overstuffed aside, “Nubia” is not without its charms. Martinez and Morales are veteran storytellers, who excel at everything from an exciting bout of close quarters combat between Grail and Nubia with a poster-worthy splash of the protagonist saying, “I am Wonder Woman” to capturing Nubia’s pained facial expressions when Aunt Nancy asks her for a favor in return for helping her solve the mystery behind these artifact thefts. Speaking of Aunt Nancy, McKinney’s background writing YA urban fantasy comes in handy with some of the little world-building touches like having her run a night club called the Ebony Web with a spider on the door and with a (quite handsome) minotaur bouncer. With her punnish name, knowledge of almost everything, and propensity for single malt whisky, Aunt Nancy has a lot of personality and would be an intriguing permanent edition to Nubia’s supporting cast, or the Wonder Woman side of the DC Universe as it’s good to see a god from West African folklore pop up. Also, I think this might be the first time that the wonderful city of Atlanta has popped up in a DC comic that I’ve read.
However, Nubia’s heroism and Aunt Nancy’s charisma don’t completely make up for a story that is mostly telling and not showing with L.L. McKinney basically undercutting the two page vision that Alitha Martinez and Mark Morales draw earlier in the story by explaining it all in a wall of text. On more of a new reader front, she also doesn’t really introduce Grail except that’s she strong (By defeating Nubia in combat.), generically evil, and wants the artifacts. If I hadn’t (unfortunately) read Geoff Johns’ Justice League run, I wouldn’t know that she was Darkseid’s daughter and basically the Anti-Life version of Wonder Woman. I mean, this is the comic book equivalent of a two episode mini Big Bad arc on a CW show so we don’t need a super deep villain, but including this context could deepen the threat against Nubia and reality. I really wanted to like the Nubia story and look forward to McKinney’s graphic novel take on the character, but it was disappointed and definitely felt like a first published comic.
Overall, Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #1 has one strong, epic story and another story with potential that it doesn’t fully live up to that also shows the difficulty of transitioning from prose fiction to comics. However, this book is definitely worth picking up for Jen Bartel’s career best take on the final battle between good and evil in the DC Universe with punches that make galaxies trembles and facial expressions that will make you tear up while Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad write a Diana, who is trying to cling onto hope in an utterly no-win situation.
Story: Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad, L.L. McKinney Art: Jen Bartel, Alitha Martinez with Mark Morales Colors: Jen Bartel, Emilio Lopez Letterer: Pat Brosseau, Becca Carey Story: 8.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Bestselling writer Kyle Higgins and superstar artist Marcelo Costa team up for Radiant Black. This all new, ongoing superhero series is set to launch from Image Comics in February 2021.
In the announcement, Higgins said:
This is the comic book I’ve been waiting my whole life to make—being able to build this with Marcelo Costa, Becca Carey, and Michael Busuttil is a dream come true. Radiant Black is both a love letter to the superhero stories I love as well as a statement on what I think superheroes can be for a whole new generation.
Radiant Black #1 introduces Nathan Burnett who has just turned thirty. Things aren’t great: He’s working (and failing) at two jobs, his credit card debt is piling up, and his only move… is moving back home with his parents.
But when Nathan discovers and unlocks the ethereal, cosmic RADIANT, he’s given the power to radically change his fortunes!
There’s just one problem: The powers don’t belong to him. And the COSMIC BEINGS who created them want them back… by any means necessary.
Radiant Black #1 will be available at comic book shops on Wednesday, February 10:
Cover A by Michael Cho – DEC200009
Cover B by Eduardo Ferigato & Costa – DEC200010
Cover C Blank cover – DEC200011
Cover D (1:10 incentive) by Costa – DEC200012
Cover E (1:25 incentive) by David Finch, Jimmy Reyes & Costa – DEC200013
Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red has been an excellent example of where digital comics, and especially digital firsts, are going when it comes to comic publishers. An anthology series from DC Comics, each week has seen a new stand-alone chapter from a different creative team. They have varied in tone with both the story and the art. The DC Digital First series has shown off the creativity of comics and how much the teams bring to it. Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red Chapter Fourteen, “Fixer-Upper” is the latest chapter and an interesting one in many ways.
Written by Jordie Bellaire, Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red Chapter Fourteen has Harley Quinn following the Joker’s clues to an ending that’s unknown. Through her puzzle quest, she reflects upon her relationship. Unfortunately, the abusive relationship between Harley and the Joker has been a plot point all too often explored in this anthology series. But, that doesn’t mean the comic is bad in any way.
Instead, Bellaire gives us a really self-reflection. Harley goes through Joker’s motions exploring her relationship and history with him. Not only does she contemplate her position, she also reflects on why the Joker is drawn to her. This creates a very interesting read and by the comic’s end, a place of empowerment. The comic feels like a “journey” for Harley in the physical and emotional sense. We get her logic as she explores the whys of her dance with an abusive other. It’s all presented in an almost puzzle form as Harley unlocks what’s ahead of her in numerous ways.
Greg Smallwood handles the art duty with Becca Carey on lettering. There’s a horror aspect to the comic as she explores a rundown house and its surrounding areas. It’s also a rather fitting setting, a metaphor of her experiences with the abusive Joker. What’s also interesting is the focus on Harley. This isn’t a comic full of crazy action sequences. Instead we get tight panels with clear focusing on how the art reflects the narrative. A close-up of Harley’s face adds to her contemplation. The highlighting of a deranged letter reflecting on the Joker’s thoughts about his on-again off-again significant other. A dropped letter begins the process of Harley moving on with her life. Each panel is deliberate and thought out in its presentation.
Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red Chapter Fourteen is an interesting entry in the anthology series. While the exploration of Harley’s relationship with the Joker is a little tiring, the details of this take stand out. It’s a digital comics that feels like every aspect has been really thought about in how it ties into and tells the story and Harley’s journey. It’s the type of story where you’d debate the details in English class. While it doesn’t tread new ground it’s also a solidly executed story.
Bettie Page is back and better than ever, with a new alternate history twist making her a true Hollywood star in the making – and suspect to a murder!
Writer Karla Pacheco brings her kickass skill and sensibilities to another iconic babe, building up a new yarn for Bettie that’s part pulp noir, part pin-up, stylized yet realistic. She’s joined by Italian artist Vincenzo Federici, who’s drawn the “Dark Angel” before. Rounding out the team are colorist Rebecca Nalty and letterer Becca Carey.
In this series, Bettie has moved from New York to Hollywood sometime around 1954. She’s transitioned into more minor acting working, with theater success and bit parts in B-movies. Though she’s still challenged navigating the sticky swamp of producers, perps, pumps, and pushers who call La La Land home and want a piece of the pie – and Bettie. The question is – does Bettie Page find trouble, or does trouble find her? Signing on for a supporting role in a “tastefully sensual” fantasy film set on an idyllic tropical island, she’s wrapped up in a new environment and colorful cast of characters. Until someone is murdered and a massive storm hits!
For such an iconic woman, a crop of all-star artists are contributing covers! Junggeun Yoon leads the pack, joined by Kano and of course the legendary Joseph Michael Linsner. Riki Le Cotey marks a first with a cosplay cover. The real-life Bettie herself is featured on two photo cover variants, one nice and one naughty. Plus a slick homage to Frank Miller from Stephen Mooney.