Tag Archives: Boom

Underrated: Brit: Old Soldiers

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: Brit: Old Soldier.


I’m going to assume you know who Robert Kirkman is, and what his two most well known properties are. But before he became known as the creator of The Walking Dead and Invincible, or even after, Kirkman created comics that haven’t garnered the same raving obsession as TWD. One of these is a comic about an indestructible octogenarian who has been the secret weapon of the US government for decades. Set in the same world as Invincible and Wolfman (though the latter is also an underrated book, and you likely haven’t had chance to read it). I’m talking about Brit: Old Soldier.

I picked up the trade from my LCS on a whim. It looked kinda cool, almost had an Old Man Logan vibe to the character, and I was curious about a guy who may or may not be immortal (whether Brit is or isn’t immortal, he’s certainly indestructible), and seeing how Kirkman handled the guy. Plus, this specific volume looked like it was a standalone story as I flipped through it quickly, which is always a good thing when you’re looking to pick up a trade paperback just for the sake of reading. I’ve since realized that Brit has also seen a continuation of the original miniseries, but that’s not what we’re talking about today.

No today, we’re talking about the first trade, a complete story in and of itself that stands alone as a violently humorous and at time darkly funny comic.

Brit: Old Soldier is a comic set in the same world as another of Kirkman’s creations, but you don’t need to be overly familiar with Invincible to enjoy the subject of today’s column. It’ll give you an additional layer to peel away, but the story doesn’t hinge on you knowing Everything.

Like I said, this is a standalone book. A complete story in and of itself.

Brit: Old Soldier is one of those comics that takes you entirely by surprise. You have reasonable expectations going in based on the creative team and the synopsis, but the end result proves to be a sum greater than its parts. There’s an oddly funny and heartwarming soul to this story that rears its head between the other blood drenched pages depicting Brit in action.

Interestingly, we see Brit use his ability in some unique ways; for despite being indestructible, he doesn’t have super strength (although he isn’t constrained by his muscles or bones tearing if he punches and lifts things). This leads to at least one fight where Brit emerges victorious using some rather unconventional tactics that wouldn’t work for most other comic book characters.

Brit is the subject of this weeks’ Underrated because when stacked next to The Walking Dead and Invincible it’s easy to overlook this book on the shelves of your LCS. If it’s even there. Do yourself a favour, the next time you’re looking for a popcorn action comic with heart, look for Brit.


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

Underrated: Warhammer: Crown Of Destruction

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: Warhammer: Crown Of Destruction.


It’s often easy to discount Games Workshop based comics as little more than a generic cash in with little appeal beyond those who already play Games Workshop games such as Warhammer. As you may have guessed by this collection featuring in Underrated, that’s not always the case. 

Although I found this in a thrift shop for $2, I was utterly captivated by it from start to finish. I tell you the price I paid more to give an indication of what I was willing to pay based on the cover and blurb on the back, not because I want to brag about my find. Any higher a price and I probably would have left it on the shelf – though seeing as how it was with the kids books I may have at least moved it to the adult section. 

As I may have indicated, I went into this book with pretty low expectations on the story (though oddly I would have been surprised if the art wasn’t at the very least “pretty damn good”). But given that this four issue collection was written by Kieron Gillen, I probably should have had higher expectations than I did. Yes, it’s the third book in the series, no that didn’t bother me any.

Gillen’s story about disgrace, honour and cowardice is pure escapist fantasy, but it is solid and more than enjoyable. I loved the artistic direction of the book. Dwayne Harris, while not to everybody’s taste, encapsulates the visual feel I expected from a gritty comic that had some very loud 2000AD  echoes.

A lot of the folks I talk to at my LCS generally discount these comics as not being worth reading; and while they may not always be the best things you’ll ever read, they’re far better than most (including myself) give them credit for. That’s why I think these stories are Underrated. Next time a Warhammer comic looks interesting to you, check it out. You may find yourself enjoying it more than expected.


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

Underrated: Comics Not In Diamond’s Top 100 For December ’18

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Comics not in Diamond’s top 100 sellers for December


This week we’re going to be looking at a list of comics that are all pretty good, but don’t get the attention that they deserve. Now I’m not even going to pretend to have a definitively exhaustive list of underrated comics here, because we’re hoping  that you decide to check at least one of these series out next time you’re looking for something new either online or at your LCS, and giving you a huge list to check out would be counter productive to that. Instead, you’ll find four to six comics that are worth your attention that failed to crack the top 100 in sales. The only hard stipulation for this week: not one of the comics made it into the top 100 for July’s comic sales, according to Comichron, which is why they’re Underrated.


Grumble #1 (Albatross)
December Sales Rank/Units Sold: 304/2,547*
Why You Should Read It:
Think Constantine mixed with Howard the Duck. The first issue was good, but the next ones have been batter. At only around 2,500* (reported to Diamond) sales, this book has been criminally under read. 

*I had originally noticed this book in the rankings at #429 with 763 sales. It turns out that was a second, more expensive, version of this book, but since I had already set the top of the column up, I decided to break the descending format and leave Grumble at the top.

Canadian Vark #1 (Aardvark-Vanaheim)
December Sales Rank/Units Sold: 343/1,709
Why You Should Read It: 
 I may be slightly biased toward this book, living in Canada and all, but I thoroughly enjoyed my first introduction into Cerberus. I dare say that if you’re a Dave Sim fan then you’re going to enjoy this all-in-one comic. 

Mickey and Donald Christmas Parade (IDW)
December Sales Rank/Units Sold:320/2,146
Why You Should Read It:
It should come as no surprise to you by now that I harbour a (not so secret) love for Disney comics, and while the time has passed for this book, it’ll be a great pick up to read in December this year.

Black Badge #5 (Boom)
December Sales Rank/Units Sold: 265/3,814
Why You Should Read It: 
Boy scouts trained as assassins. That’s what sold me on the comic (and I think I started with the sixth issue before circling back), although finding out Matt Kindt wrote it would have had the same effect. As with any Matt Kindt book, there’s more layers to this than a tiramisu, and part of the excellence here is that you get to slowly unpack all of the details on multiple readings.

Ducktales #15 (IDW)
December Sales Rank/Units Sold: 244/4,880
Why You Should Read It:
Because it’s frigging Ducktales. Woohoo!

Witcher: Of Fire and Flame #1 (Dark Horse)
December Sales Rank/Units Sold: 227/5,510
Why You Should Read It:
I’ve become a big fan of The Witcher books over the past few months, and so getting to read a story in comic form for the first time was pretty cool.

.



Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover more comics that aren’t cracking the top 100.

Alex’s Best Comics of 2018

Now that 2018 is in the history books, it’s time to have a look back at some of the comics, movies and events that really stood out for me during the year. Remember that this is all based on what I’ve read, and if your favourite comic isn’t here, it may be because I may not have read it, not because I didn’t like it.

Now that 2018 is in the history books, it’s time to have a look back at some of the comics, movies and events that really stood out for me during the year. Remember that this is all based on what I’ve read, and if your favourite comic isn’t here, it may be because I may not have read it, not because I didn’t like it.

In a break from last year, we’re just looking at comics (ongoing or miniseries). Eight of them in fact, that for one reason or another rocked my socks off.

 Eight

Black Badge (Boom) The only reason that this book is number eight and not higher is because I’m trying to be cautious of Recency Bias – that phenomenon where the most recent thing you’ve read swiftly becomes the best thing you’ve read. Although this series is six issues deep, I only started reading after the end of 2018 (which puts this in a grey area anyway, but the majority of the issues out thus far were released in 2018, so I’m counting it). In short, the two things that sold me on this was the short blurb from Brett “boy scouts being trained as assassins” and the fact that Matt Kindt is the writer.

Seven

Grumble (Albatross Funny Books) Although only a relatively new series, Grumble has captured my imagination and numbers highly on my anticipation list each month. Whether it’s the talking pug, the urban magic or the brilliant visual and verbal humour I don’t know. But I do know I can’t get enough of it.

 Six

Ninja-K (Valiant) The easiest way to describe this series is as a blending of James Bond and Batman with a liberal dose of ninja flavouring (which should be obvious by the title). Christos Gage’s run on this series delved into the back story of MI6’s Ninja Programme and exposed the manipulation and programming the agents (Ninjas A through J) had been subject too; often in the most subtle of ways, all to keep them as more effective weapons. Ninja-K, or Ninjak, gets thrown through the emotional gamut, and it’s fascinating reading.

 Five

The Immortal Hulk  (Marvel) I’m not generally a horror fan, nor do I regularly read Hulk comics with any real regularity, but there’s something about this series that struck a chord with me. This is how Hulk should be handled. As a monster barely constrained, ever deadly and with a massive presence.

 Four

X-O Manowar  (Valiant) A series that was really good in 2017, but swiftly became the best thing I was reading. Even with Valiant’s stumble with Harbinger Wars II didn’t affect the series despite the character featuring heavily in the story, and the series returned with a pair of arcs that went from strength to strength as Matt Kindt redefined what it means to be a hero and a superhuman (emphasis on human).

 Three

Old Man Logan (Marvel)  Old Man Logan was never going to live forever, especially not with the younger Wolverine returning at some point in the next year or so. We’ve known for awhile that there wouldn’t be much chance Marvel would keep both around (aside from an interesting interaction or two, I’m hoping there was a lesson learned from bringing the Original Six X-Men to the future), which has meant that the battles Old Man Logan has found himself in have been genuinely tense – a rarity these days in comic books.

 Two

The Highest House (IDW) Were it not for the fact that my top pick also had my favourite issue of the year, then The Highest House would have been much more likely to peak. A book about slavery, and how one’s circumstances don’t have to stay one’s circumstances, this is a hauntingly beautiful book that doesn’t shy away from the darker side of the high middle ages. The collected edition is one of those books that I’ll recommend to people over and over as an example of what comics are capable of, and will in time, I believe, be held in (almost) as high esteem as Maus and Watchmen.

 One

Quantum And Woody (Valiant) When Daniel Kibblesmith was writing this book it was good, but when Eliot Rahal took over with issue 6 it was like the lights had come on. His take on the brothers was funny without ever feeling forced; I have never read a better take on Quantum and Woody. Plus, this series had my absolute favourite issue of the year. Which was also the final one. The series was continually, and consistently, of a high quality in every aspect every issue, but it’s the third that was the high point with a superb interview sequence interspersed with one of the greatest two page spreads of the year, only to culminate in perhaps the most emotional scene in any comic as one character talks to another about  his fears that due to the altered timeline he may forget his wife ever existed. Without the context of the preceding issues, one would expect that the emotional impact of the scene would be lost. I assure you, it isn’t. 

Review: Deep State #5

deepstate005For those that thought that the first story arc was a one hit wonder, they might find some satisfaction in that critique throughout much of this issue.  The series is after all stuck with the association to the X-Files ven if it likes it or not, and the first story arc could be said to be simply a minor change of the format which made the television series so successful.  Those that choose to write off this series do so at the risk of missing something pretty spectacular though, and that is as much the case here with the beginning of the second story arc as it was during the first four issue.

The plot follows a basic enough story, that of a gun that can shoot but the bullets also travel through time.  Thus an assassin can pull the trigger and walk away without ever having to worry about being discovered.  Much of this issue follows the action of this assassin and the duo of investigators as they try to get tto the bottom of what seems like a fairly routine case.  In fact as it is presented here the story at times almost feels like a one shot of a semi-paranormal concept which seems like it will be wrapped up quickly.  It is actually that feeling that there is only the surface story that makes this story all the more compelling with the plot twist at the end.  It is like Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald in a sense, but with a twist that would make conspiracy theorists drool.

Once again the creative team proves that they have what it takes to use what seems like an exhausted concept, excpet that they manage to breathe new life into it.  There are a few shortcuts taken here for the movement of the plot, and the discovery of the powers of the gun is one which could have been expanded on, but in the end the story doesn’t need it.  Instead it relies on some complacency before the shock value of the ending.  It reminds the reader once again not to underestimate the twists and turns of this series and that each issue is carefully plotted for what is to come next.

Story: Justin Jordan  Art: Ariela Kristantina
Story: 8.8  Art: 8.8 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy

Boom Studios provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review.

 

Review: Suicide Risk #23

sr23covIt would seem as though the creative team behind this series heard the phrase “go big or go home” and thought to themselves that they can do better than that.  At the previous set of circumstances from the last issue, Terza is dead and dissected, the other heroes are on the verge of death and there are four Earth sized planets on a trajectory with Earth that will result in the death of billions.  It would seem that across the board that the heroes are outnumbered and against impossible odds, but that is equally the setting for a great story to be told.

There are a lot of good parts to this issue and not really any bad ones.  The way in which Leo deals with the threat of Minus-i is inventive, even by the otherworldly application of superhero powers and his might be the most comprehensive death in comic book history.  So too is it pretty notable what is done with Terza’s remains, as she is dead but, as a being of ultimate power, that might not stop her.  What this issue really comes down to though is the destruction of the Earth and the heroes that are scrambling to do something about it.  Some developments occur which might not exactly make things better either as perhaps it is not only Earth that is threatened any more.

This series which has been notable for its ability to surprise and to lead into interesting tangents does the same here.  This issue might in fact be the best so far in the entire series, a series which is notable for many issues which could have been called “the best so far”.  Really the only problem with this issue is that it read so quickly because it was so engaging.  The pacing of the storytelling was excellent, and the characterizations were excellent, and the series continued to surprise, even after having done so many times before.

Story: Mike Carey  Art: Elena Casagrande
Story: 9.5  Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

 BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Burning Fields #3

burningfields003covSo far this series has kept its hand fairly close, only revealing bits and pieces as the plot needed, but this third issue finally lays down a deeper framework for the direction which this series will be taking.  Up until this point this murder-mystery involving a serial killer could have gone in a few different directions, with even a purely supernatural terror not being ruled out.  This is no longer the case as the story unfolds to explain a probable link to the murders.  As one of the characters explains, it is something which would be easily described as a cult, even if its rituals are far more elaborate and ingrained.

While this potentially sets up the antagonist of the series as a misguided cult-like follower, there are a lot of other things going on.  For the first time Dana is forced to face Decker, even though it is across a crowd, yet it reveals the complexities of her character.  Her past is tied to Decker in a way which she could not escape and although she wants to find he is targeting oil field workers, she also craves some resolution to the demons that haunt her.

This series had taken a new look at the War in Iraq and through its new perspective revisited some of the underlying problems involved with the conflict, some of which are wounds which are not yet closed in the national psyche.  This series deserves credit for not tiptoeing around the facts and instead dives straight into them, providing a sense of reality even when the world around them is populated with something more fantastical.  This is a well written series, and is more difficult to read than most series, but only because the setting and concept are so divisive in terms of ethics and power.

Story: Michael Moreci & Tim Daniel Art: Colin Lorimer
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review.  

Review: Cluster #2

cluster002The prison planet is often an overlooked setting for science fiction adventures.  Although well established within the genre as a place to launch some heroics, it is one which arguably has never had a standout or famous story told within its confines.  Somewhat surprisingly therefore there are at the moment two separate titles set on prison planets, both Cluster and Bitch Planet.  Invariably the two will be compared to one another with a similar story line of female protagonists being sent to a serve a sentence which they maybe did not deserve, except by the rules of a broken future society.  While Bitch Planet looked to make a point in terms of its stance on feminism, Cluster seemed to be making a similar statement as well, which made comparing the two all the easier.  With the second issue of Cluster though, it is evident that the comparisons between the two should stop, save for the surface details.

The story picks up from the last issue, except with some added intrigue.  It is revealed that Samara is more valuable to her captors than she first thought.  As the daughter of a politician that is opposed to the space prison, she is being used as a political tool more so than as a soldier.  The only problem is that she is still missing after the accident in the previous issue.  As her group struggles to find its way back, a search party is sent out to rescue her, although it is not even entirely clear if rescue is the desired goal.  As she continues her journey over the planet’s harsh surface she discovers that there is more to what is being told to her than she assumed.

This issue builds where it needed to, and develops some extra plot elements to add some deeper meaning to the plot.  While it is deserving of some recognition for its story and characters, the overall effect is less than stellar.  It is still a readable story, but is far from a standout in terms of the science fiction genre that is available on the market at the moment.

Story: Ed Brisson Art: Damian Couceiro
Story: 7.9 Art: 7.9 Overall: 7.9 Recommendation: Read

Boom! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review.

 

Review: Halogen #1

halogen001aAt its heart there is maybe no better fit of a genre to a medium than science fiction to comics.  While comics has essentially every genre of fiction, science fiction fits best because science provides only so many answers, and it is to the dreamers to fill in the rest.  In the vast expanses of outer space, or in stories based in the future, there is no better medium to capture the essence of these stories.  Certainly movies and video games are good, but high and long production costs mean that only so many can be produced, and while books are good as well they lack the impressive visual element.  Science fiction stories thus have an advantage when it comes to this medium, but they are equally at a disadvantage.  They equally have to keep on top of the science, and they also have to be pretty imaginative to put out anything new compare to what has come before.

This series aims to be fairly ambitious.  It focuses on a futuristic space station which doubles as a large city. It is somewhat self-contained and floats in the middle of nowhere.  Instead of taking the Star Trek like image of the future where everyone works together, it instead regards humans as still just a greedy, willing to work within industrial espionage even when their entire living conditions is locked to the fate of their neighbors.  The main character Rell specializes in computer espionage but also knows a thing or two about holograms.  At the periphery of this story is the discovery of the corps of an ancient space god that still has devoted followers.

The problem with this series is that it does not really try anything new.  The mixture of all the elements together takes a smart approach to telling its own story, but it never hits anything deeper than the surface of the characters interacting.  As opposed to some series where characters jump out and beg to be paid to attention to, the characters here just aren’t as dynamic.  That is not to say that this is a bad series, it is quite readable (even if the formatting of the text bubbles is a bit sloppy at times), but it is also not gripping nor is it much different from thousands of other space stories.  The potential is there for something better, and hopefully the creative team manages to harness is in the coming issues.

Story:  Josh Tierney Art: Afu Chan
Story: 7.7 Art: 7.7 Overall: 7.7 Recommendation: Read

Boom Studios and Archaia provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review.

We Talk Deep State with Ariela Kristantina

We had the opportunity to have a chat with the talented artist Ariela Kristantina from Boom! Studios about her new project Deep State.  Although fairly new on the comic scene (having previously worked on some Marvel titles) she has already developed her own distinctive style.  We talked conspiracy theories with her and got to find out what she knows about JFK.

Graphic Policy:  This is an all-new series with brand-new characters.  What choices did you make when designing them?

ari003Ariela Kristantina:  For any all-new series, I try to stick to the writer’s descriptions about the characters,environment and mood. If I have any suggestion, I will share it with the writer, and on this case, with the editors as well. The first time I read the script, I am very leery because I’m afraid I can’t stay away from Mulder and Scully designs. Thankfully, Eric Harburn and Justin were very helpful and gave me the right direction.

I personally want the female character to look and “spark” sassiness to support her dialogues. Moreover, I know John Harrow is the main character but Branch needs to come out, at the very least, almost as strong. For John Harrow, because I usually draw male characters one third of his age, if not younger, it’s kinda new for me. I reckon that he should be a tad “forgettable”, in a good way, because you don’t want an agent whose main job is to cover things up, leaves such a deep impression. However, at the same time, John Harrow needs to be memorable enough to the readers. It’s more complicated than I thought when I first doing some sketches of him.

As the series go on, artists get steadier and more comfortable with the characters. That’s what I feel now after I wrapped up issue #2 and now I am half way through issue #3.

ari001GP:  The series has a lot of different elements coming together from different conspiracy theories. Is it hard to switch between normal Earth scenes into scenes with a strong science-fiction influence?

AK:  Not really. I am trying to do it as seamlessly as possible and since I ink my own pencils, it’s easier to push, create, or explore new way of inking for specific scenes. Ben Wilsonham, the colorist, helps a lot to fill in the mood.

GP:  The design of the aliens in this series fit in perfectly with the story.  Did you have to research a lot about aliens, or did you come up with a new design?

AK:  Haha, to be honest, I didn’t really do a lot of research because of two reasons.  First, Justin has a gift for describing something really well without being too restrictive. I can fill in the “gaps” easily and more often than not, I get what he wants. Second, the other reason is because I enjoy watching most horror and sci-fi alien-infested-related movies. However, I AM trying my best to come up with a new design that FITS the story which is the most important of all.

GP:  The artwork has an organic feel to it, and by the end of the first issue, it seemed to be a perfect fit for the story.  How involved were you with Justin in the storytelling?

ari002AK:  This is actually the funny, or fun, part of the whole deal. This is our first time working together but I feel like the chemistry in this team is very strong. When I first heard from Eric, the editor, that Justin might have a story for me, I almost flipped out because I am a big fan. I did the sample pages BOOM! asked me to do and both Eric and Justin liked how I handled the art.

For each script, after the editors greenlight the initial layout, I will move onto the outlines. Justin will see my outlines –more like the pencils stage. From there, if he or the editors have more revisions and or changes, I will adjust the inks accordingly. Like I mentioned earlier, Justin isn’t very restrictive and he’s very open to my suggestions if I come up with different, sometimes, weird layout. However, I try to stick with the script most of the time mostly because everytime I read Justin’s scripts, I can easily “picture” an episode from a TV series playing in my head. Why change something that is appealing to you to begin with? Unless the storytelling is really impossible to follow which very rarely happens, I want the readers to see how epic the storytelling is that Justin builds.

GP:  The series looks like it is going to be focusing a lot on science fiction.  Is this a genre that you feel comfortable in?  And are there other genres that you would like to have a chance at drawing?

AK:  When I first started years ago in my country, I drew in “Japanese comic style” in various genre: romantic comedy, surreal, adventure, and action. Then I shifted to superhero for the last 3 years but I never really want to draw only ONE thing. This is actually the first time I am involved with a sci-fi series. It turns out, I quite enjoy it. The genre is never a bother to me as long as I enjoy the story and the working environment.

Other genres I would like to explore more is maybe slice-of-life with a touch of surrealistic mood to it; something like “The Grand Budapest Hotel” –not really comedic but it’s clearly a fun movie.

GP:  What goes through your mind when the writer tells you that you have to draw a sex scene as happens at the end of the first issue?

AK:  Hahaha, I honestly didn’t see it as a sex scene –at least, it’s not blatant intercourse. The “note” regarding that page is a pretty clear one: no naked body part should be seen on the page. I second that anytime of the day because none is needed, not for that page at least. Don’t get me wrong, I am comfortable with drawing naked body parts (go see my Instagram feeds) as long as the story needs it to motivate the characters involved to take further actions. If I see a sex scene can be taken out or can be drawn more subtly or elegantly without harming the story, I would mostly ask the writer/editor about the why we need to show breasts and or ass in the first place.

GP:  Are there any conspiracy theories that you find particularly intriguing?

AK:  Another fun fact is that I am a foreigner –I am not from the United States. Any conspiracy theories I have ever heard or known are theories being mentioned in American TV shows, novels, or Hollywood movies. I watched the JFK movie when I was way too young to understand but now I think The JFK Assassination is one of conspiracy theories I find intriguing. Others are The Knight Templars and, of course, the moon landing haha. Glad Justin cleared the latter for me.

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