Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for.
These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.
Black Hammer #11 (Dark Horse)** – Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston deliver a sparse but hearbreaking/warming tale of Barbalien’s tortured past and Golden Gail’s tortured present, and while this issue lacks the shocking “big reveals” the last few have, it’s nevertheless a very poignant story, beautifully illustrated. Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy
Rebels: These Free And Independent States #5 (Dark Horse)** – Brian Wood and Andrea Mutti wrap up the story of John Abbott in a way that’s so satisfactory, it’s a veritable comic book storytelling clinic. A happy ending never felt so good — and it looks just as good as it reads. Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy
Secret Empire #7 (Marvel)** – Hmmmm, so Miles Morales’ prophetic “vision” finally comes true, a major character is killed off (for now, you know it won’t last), and Sam Wison re-emerges as Captain America. By all respects, this should be a “big” issue, but it sure doesn’t feel like one. That’s no fault of Andrea Sorrentino and Rod Reis, both of whom do a solid job on art, but damn, is Nick Spencer’s script flat and inherently anti-climactic. Get this thing over with already, please. Overall: 3.5 Recommendation: Pass
‘Namwolf #4 (Albatross)** – A solid, if unspectacular, conclusion to Fabian Rangle Jr. and Logan Foerber’s infectiously likable absurdist four-parter ties up all loose ends with relative ease while leaving things open to a potential sequel, should sales warrant it. Fun, colorful, goofy and gory stuff that’s thoroughly predictable, but no less enjoyable for that fact. Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Buy
Captain Canuck Season 3 #1 (Chapterhouse) – So Captain Canuck has retired for reasons and returned to a reserve in central Manitoba to be a hero on a micro-local scale. Very interesting and welcome for writer Kalman Andrasofszky to point out the horrible conditions on many Canadian Native reserves, and for suggesting that Tom would be in the running for band leader. More of this, please! But on the other hand, we then have some kind of alien “incursion” or something that’s tearing up Toronto for reasons? I get that you’ve got to do your plot, but I’m more convinced than ever that plot is mostly boring and no substitute for characters being active agents in their own stories. The only choices Andrasofszky leaves Canuck are to resist (unconvincingly) or to accept the mission – but not until after a few first-we-fight-then-we-team-up pages with Northguard. Leonard Kirk’s art is great as usual. Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read
Freelance #4 (Chapterhouse) – So Lance’s past is supposed to be all mysterious and stuff? Yeah, okay, I’ll go with that. Here we get another riff on the old “you were born to rule the humans” trope: superior man-god from a lost civilization/dimension who has fallen in love with humanity, or, in this case, the twist is that Lance is in love with one man in particular. Which is nice to see in a mainstream-type comic, of course. But I’d like to see this series be a bit more freewheeling and really deliver on its premise of globetrotting adventure. Vaneda Vireak & Cindy Leong’s art still looks rushed to me and I wonder if they consider that a bug or a feature. Overall: 7 Recommendation: Read
Fantomah #1 (Chapterhouse) – When you decide to serve up a new version of a Fletcher Hanks character, I expect off-the-rails crazy. SPOILER ALERT: This is not, not one iota, crazy. So what are Ray Fawkes and Soo Lee serving up? It looks like an L.A.-based revenge tragedy, with none of the Mystery Woman of the Jungle stuff. Rather, it looks like we’re going to get a take on La Muerte because L.A. and skull-face woman. Or – as next issue is “The Weeping Woman” – is it La Llorona? Some kind of mishmash of the two? In any case, it falls between the cracks for me – there’s not enough going on either externally or, in the case of its main character Paz Gallegos, internally, to be a really effective revenge tragedy. And Soo Lee’s art depicts L.A. as curiously quiet and empty, with figure work that is neither slick enough to be really mainstream nor rough enough to be really alternative. Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Read
The Pitiful Human-Lizard #14 (Chapterhouse)** – Now this is how it’s done. If you haven’t read #13, go back and get it – the entire thing happens on a streetcar heading home, and our hero is asleep for like, half of it. Amazing. In this issue, we are with Lady Accident, a telekinetic teacher, battling the evil that is Toronto Twittersphere star Eaton Peepers (nice!) – who is trying to keep his henchman Bodyrocks in the fold, though Johnny is looking for redemption. Mayhem ensues. Pitiful Human-Lizard is the best thing coming out of Chapterhouse, and it’s entirely the work of writer/artist Jason Loo, who brings humanity and good humour to the streets of Toronto. Get on this streetcar, people: it’s a delight, like the best old Spider-Man stories. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy
Time & Vine #1 (IDW)** – Full disclosure, Thomas F. Zahler and I were high school pen pals, like, through the actual mail, sending each other comics stuff. We lost track of each other while he was at the Kubert School and I was abandoning comics for theatre. I was still not back into comics while Love and Capes was coming out (but I’ll fix that soon enough), but I was curious to see what my old pen pal was up to lately. Time & Vine has a really fun premise: time-travelling wine cellar. Basically: there’s a winery in upstate New York where, if you drink from one of Jack Cadell’s special bottles, you go back to the year of its vintage – but always in the winery. His latest companion is teacher Megan Howe, who is dealing with her mother’s recent onset of Alzheimer’s. Zahler’s premise is sweet, the dialogue is sharp, and the characters are charming in a kind of PBS drama kind of way. I would have liked the art to be less cartoony as a result, but your mileage may vary. Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: check it out.
Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!
Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).