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Review: King in Black #5

King in Black #5

King in Black #5 is the big finale to Marvel’s latest event as Venom finally faces off with Knull. In what felt like a bit of a one-sided affair, Venom mops the town up with Knull. Possessing the Enigma Force makes Eddie Brock Knull’s equal. Even more so, he’s equipped with a weapon made of the Silver Surfer’s board and Mjolnir. It all ends with everything being hunky-dory for everyone, save Eddie, who now appears to be the new King In Black.

You know…I wanted to dislike this so much. There’s something about Donny Cates’ writing that is so enjoyable and yet, some of his work seriously feels like a child who gets to do whatever with his action figures…and I mean that in a positive way. King in Black did really feel like all the power was with Venom, leaving Knull pretty weak, but it all just works. It’s not perfect. I’m not sure how I feel about Venom more-or-less wielding Mjolnir but for what it’s worth, this was a really fun read, spotlighting a character I normally care very little for and leaving me with a newfound appreciation for Venom. I thought the dialogue is great. Knull is one of those pompous characters that has never known defeat so seeing someone like that get taken down is pretty much a guaranteed enjoyable moment.

On the artistic side, Ryan Stegman really put a lot into every page. I felt the layouts stood out to me in a really unique way and the colors really pop. And if I can bring attention to one thing that I like about his art, I feel that he does a good job of conveying emotion on a character’s face. Knull looked really fierce and sinister. Venom just looked awesome.

King in Black #5 was a total package of fun and excitement, coupled with some really cool art. I’m not huge on Marvel or DC events but my overall feeling is that this one ended up being fun while also bringing a lot of stuff that Cates has worked on at Marvel to a head. As far as Venom goes, King in Black serves as a good exclamation point on a really great run for the character. Not sure if it’s worth the cost of admission but I think you’d like what you would read.

Story: Donny Cates Art: Ryan Stegman
Ink: JP Mayer, Ryan Stegman Color: Frank Martin, Jason Keith Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Review: King in Black #5

King in Black #5

I’ve generally enjoyed the King in Black series and event. It’s big popcorn blockbuster ideas in five issues with a bunch of tie-ins. I was gung-ho about the tie-ins but as the months went on I slowly stopped reading them. And, my gut says, that might have been a bad idea. Going into King in Black #5, I feel like I missed something. The opening and much of the comic feels like I had to walk out of a movie to go to the concession stand and returned having missed key moments. Still, it’s a comic to sit back and just enjoy the over-the-top nature of it all.

Donny Cates delivers a finale that has been built up for years. Eddie Brock, back with Venom and now the Enigma Force, square off against Knull for the fate of everything. The issue is one giant drag out fight between the two that’s not really a contest. Much like their first meeting, this is a one-sided fight that echoes that opening battle. Cates doesn’t even make this close. It’s Eddie beating the living daylights into Knull and the darkness. And seriously, that’s about it.

Cates focuses on these two’s battle so much that the rest of the heroes are generally and afterthought. They stand around and get one moment to look cool. But, beyond that, they don’t really do much and are a non-factor. For as much as various characters have been key in the main event, let alone the various tie-ins, they’re pretty much window dressing for this final issue. It’s an odd choice that takes some of the epic out of the nature of the battle.

Ryan Stegman does deliver solid art. Along with JP Mayer on ink and Frank Martin and Jason Keith on color, the visuals feel like fantasy heavy metal as Venom delivers a beat down with his giant axe. The battle itself looks good and there’s a cathartic aspect to seeing Eddie deliver punch after punch. But, there’s also something missing as well. There’s that truly awe-inspiring epic moment that’s just not there. Beyond one page of “Avengers Assemble” the comic never really goes for the metal aspect it teases. It looks good but isn’t memorable.

Clayton Cowles’ lettering continues to deserve mention for the series. The lettering really helps deliver and nail down Knull. With “normal” lettering, the character wouldn’t work as well. It’s a small detail and nice touch that really emphasizes the character and how “evil” he is.

King in Black #5 is a fine finale. It wraps up the event well and there’s some cathartic aspects to it. But, for an event that was so good, it’s a bit of a letdown. The comic lacks that memorable moment and the one it delivers feels like we’ve seen before. It’s the end sequence for a summer popcorn film that attempts to be full of ideas and visuals but lacks depth.

Story: Donny Cates Art: Ryan Stegman
Ink: JP Mayer, Ryan Stegman Color: Frank Martin, Jason Keith Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.75 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Review: Batman #107

Batman #107

I’ve been down on the latest run of Batman. The first few arcs just felt like slivers of a story whose entire purpose was to just set something else up down the road. Neither really felt like a contained experience. Then came “Future State” with its vision of a neon fascist future Gotham. Batman has taken that depressing future and ran with it, giving us the seeds of what might come. Batman #107 really picks things up as Scarecrow’s new wave of terror begins and Batman must figure out what’s going on with the Unsanity Collective.

Written by James Tynion IV, Batman #107 balances a bunch of different plot points moving things along with Scarecrow’s plan as well as seeding what’s to come. Scarecrow, Jonathan Crane, we know plays a major role in the future to come. From villain to working with the Magistrate, it’s a switch we’re waiting to see fully explored. We get some of that here with Scarecrow and the founder of the Magistrate in cahoots. It’s an interesting concept that dances around the idea of corporate America manipulating the people for their own enrichment.

But, there’s also the Unsanity Collective, an organization imploring the people of Gotham to not fall into the fear. It too is an interesting plot. It feels a bit like those in denial of COVID-19 and proclaim that those who wear masks or stay home “live in fear”. There’s a nugget to what’s being claimed but the majority is also void of the reality as to where things stand. There is a danger and by ignoring it, the body count will surely rise.

We also know a major plotline involving Poison Ivy is coming. Harley Quinn gets a bit of time in the comic as hints are dropped and danced around as to what might come. There’s talk about the ground and a jungle, clearly hints towards whatever is coming with Ivy. The fact that Harley is the center of that makes it all a bit clearer and obvious.

The art by Jorge Jimenez is fantastic. Jimenez and colorist Tomeu Morey deliver steps towards the neon future that’s coming. The style is an incremental step towards the look of future Gotham as opposed to the Gotham of the past. The big difference is in the colors. Gone are dark and brooding colors and instead we get hints of bright colors and neon with bright pinks, blues, reds, and yellow. Clayton Cowles‘ lettering is also top-notch. There are pages that are very dialogue-heavy but it flows and most importantly, doesn’t overwhelm the art at all.

And there’s more. Ghost-Maker gets the spotlight in his own back-up story that’s also written by Tynion but with art by Ricardo Lopez. We get to learn more about the character such as his sexuality (it’s not hetero) and more about the myth around him. It’s an interesting story where we get to learn more about the character and see hints of his ability and style. Lopez is joined by Morey on colors and Cowles handles the lettering. The art style reminds me of Tradd Moore a bit. It works and works well. When the action really gets going it should be really great visuals. As a first chapter, the opening feels a bit like the 15 minutes before the credits roll of an action film.

Batman #107 is a solid comic that really feels like it moves the series forward. It balances the current story while setting up what’s to come. It doesn’t feel like it’s just focused on the future. More impressively, it takes the concepts that we know are coming and teases them out. It dances around what’s to come hinting at the future and doing so in a way that makes it all the more exciting.

Story: James Tynion IV Art: Jorge Jimenez, Ricardo Lopez
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Review: Avengers: Curse of the Man-Thing #1

Avengers: Curse of the Man-Thing #1

Man-Thing isn’t a character I know a ton about. Usually the interactions are either as a secondary character there as a plot device or there’s a misunderstanding and a brief battle with heroes fighting him. “Curse of the Man-Thing” is a three-part miniseries that celebrates the character’s 50th anniversary kicking off with Avengers: Curse of the Man-Thing #1.

Written by Steve Orlando, the comic kicks off with unexpected characters in Hordeculture, a group of zealot botanists that were introduced in the rebooted X-Men line. The group has a goal of depopulation, though not total destruction, of humanity to better balance the world. And while they’re extreme, there’s always someone more extreme. Enter Harrower who wants to mix science and magic to make the world better, putting her in conflict with Hordeculture. Harrower has a plan, and that’s to use Man-Thing to bring about her vision for the world.

Orlando does some things really smart in this comic. While it could easily use Man-Thing as a prop, instead Orlando explores the character. We get to learn more about Man-Thing and the scientist that created him. We also learn about the project that lead to the creation as well. There’s also some twists that would be spoilers that does a decent dive into the character. I came out feeling like I had a solid understanding of the character.

Francesco Mobili‘s art is solid mixing the feel of a superhero comic and a horror comic as well. Weird organic towers and bugs flying around clash with the Avengers doing battle. It’s an interesting mix walking a balance between the two genres. Guru-eFX‘s colors deliver a more bright look to what could easily have been a darkened vibe and Clayton Cowles‘ lettering emphasizes the action and chaos. The art really captures the mix of genres. There’s a big budget disaster story sense about it all and its emphasis of showing the horror of those experiencing events enhances the popcorn enjoyment of it all.

Avengers: Curse of the Man-Thing #1 might seem like a lot of action and a disaster film on its surface. Orlando delivers more than that. There’s a real exploration of the character and some of the motivations behind it. There’s a tragedy that’s played out and it’ll be interesting to see how this all continues in the next two chapters.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Francesco Mobili
Color: Guru-eFX Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Review: Batman/Catwoman #4

Batman/Catwoman #4

There’s a lot to like about Batman/Catwoman. The concept of exploring Batman and Catwoman through three eras has a lot of promise. Bringing Phantasm into DC continuity also has promise. But, the execution of the series has been frustrating at times and during others outright confusing. Batman/Catwoman #4 bounces around its storylines to the point I’ve forgotten what’s going on when. It also features one of the strangest moments of Catwoman just walking into Phantasm’s lair.

Tom King continues to try to explore Batman and Catwoman’s complicated relationship but delivers so little in the issue. There are some rough emotional moments like Batman realizing Catwoman has been holding information back. There’s also a solid moment where Catwoman lashes out for what is her mistake. But a plot involving their daughter and Catwoman and Phantasm just goes nowhere and delivers nothing. Any of these stories could have been solid on their own and fleshed out. But, as presented, Batman/Catwoman #4 continues a series that’s too choppy for its own good. It’s attempting to play with the various time periods and delivers little beyond frustrations as it’s presented.

Clay Mann‘s art is the draw. Along with Tomeu Morey‘s colors and lettering by Clayton Cowles, it’s the visuals that are the highlight. There’s a tension that’s delivered in the art that’s fantastic as Batman and Catwoman, Bruce and Selina, must balance their dual lives. There’s also a sexiness to it all that is used often but not overused per issue. The team also delivers a fantastic emphasis on key moments such as an older Selina confronting an older Penguin. A particular scene is delivered in a page when it could have been done off panel with characters looking on. The choice is an interesting one visually that changes the scene.

Batman/Catwoman #4 isn’t a bad comic. It’s just a frustrating one. It feels like two of the three plotlines don’t really go anywhere and at least one will have you asking what the point is. Any of the three stories would be solid on their own as a trilogy of comics. But, as presented, they’re chopped up too much never delivering enough to really satisfy.

Story: Tom King Art: Clay Mann
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Review: Strange Adventures #9

Strange Adventures #9

Most of the cards are on the table as the Justice League releases a statement and a part of their report on Adam Strange and his past actions. Strange Adventures #9 is what things have been leading up to in a rather blunt manner for some time now. It’s the “official” word as to what’s been pretty clear. Now, where do things go from here?

Writer Tom King as been building to this and in one issue delivers an interesting debate and the spin that comes out from it. It’s been pretty clear for some issues that Adam Strange and his allies committed horrible acts in their war against the Pykkt, a war that has come to Earth. The issue also gives us a pretty clear example of the horrors inflicted during the war including mass murder. But, how does it go over?

King also gives us an interesting reaction from the media and elsewhere as to the revelations about Adam Strange and his actions. It’s a washing over the horrors of war as if there is only one way to fight. It also echoes safety at all costs, a talking point we’ve heard many times in the 20 years we’ve been at war. We also see the frustration of those who worked on the attempting to find the truth. King doesn’t deliver an “all sides”, he instead shows us a reflection of our reality. This is something that has played out as crimes have been washed over in real life in our battles and elsewhere. As is said by one of the characters, “justice” isn’t enough in the public’s view.

Mitch Gerads and Evan Shaner continue to deliver solid art as they jump between the two time periods. You can feel the tension, drama, and horror oozing off of the pages. The frustration by Superman, Batman, and Mr. Terrific is clear. Adam Strange’s protesting his innocence delivers a punch, especially in what happens next. Clayton Cowles‘ lettering helps add the punch to the dialogue helping to emphasize each emotional beat.

Strange Adventures #9 is a reminder that even heroes can do horrible things and that reality is dirty. It shows us some of the horrible acts committed by Strange in his battle against the Pykkt. It also teases that there’s so much more to it all. Strange Adventures #9 shows that even just wars can be fought unjustly. There’s a debate left for the reader as to what lines can and should be crossed in battle. There’s still a lot to go in the series and where it takes us from here should be an emotional ride.

Story: Tom King Art: Mitch Gerads, Evan Shaner Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.35 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.3 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Win an Art Commission from Shadowman Artist Jon Davis-Hunt

Ahead of Shadowman #1‘s release (on sale April 28th), Valiant Entertainment is excited to give fans the opportunity to win an original art commission by series artist Jon Davis-Hunt!

The bone-chilling artist is filling the pages of Shadowman with horror and supernatural thrills, and now he will create a single character commission (11×17, pencils) for one very lucky and randomly selected fan.

The giveaway is now accepting entries and will close on Wednesday, March 31st at 11:59pm EST. The winner will receive an email reply to their entry no later than 5pm EST on April 1st. Entering is easy. See below for details.

Send an email to shadowman@valiantentertainment.com with the following information…

Email Subject Line: Art Contest

Include the following in the body of the email…

First & Last Name:
Shipping Address:
Single Character Art Request:

No purchase is necessary to enter and the single character art request does not need to be a Valiant character (though it would be pretty cool if it was). The randomly selected winner will be mailed their commission within four months of being selected. Only one entry per person, entries without all of the information filled out will not be valid.

Written by master of horror Cullen Bunn, Shadowman #1 will arrive in comic shops on April 28th, 2021, featuring colors by Jordie Bellaire, letters by Clayton Cowles, and covers by Jon Davis-HuntRod ReisDave JohnsonTony Moore, and Jeff Dekal. The pre-order deadline is April 5th, 2021.

Shadowman #1 artwork by Jon Davis-Hunt

Early Review: Shadowman #1

Shadowman #1

It’s been a few years since we’ve had a Shadowman book and we probably would have had this one last year if the pandemic had not changed the publishing approach for Valiant. With Shadowman #1, Valiant has Cullen Bunn, who is no stranger to their universe, having written the very excellent Punk Mambo mini-series from a few years back and also Roku. Valiant has stated that this book will be more of a horror book than a superhero title. It sounds just like the kind of book I like from Bunn.

Shadowman #1 opens by establishing who Shadowman is. He fights the evil of the Deadside, which is sort of a halfway point of the afterlife. Something big and bad has broken through to our world and in good fashion, is defeated and sent back to where it has come from. From there, we get more action as a fancy party is to play host for a more gruesome event for Shadowman.

In the past, Valiant’s first issues would always hook me on a book. Lately, it’s not as easy, as I have disliked a few books here and there. One of those was Roku, which was also written by Bunn. My hopes going into Shadowman was it would harkon back to a feeling I used to get with their books and I can say that this was a first issue that did not disappoint. I liked that it did read as a single issue story. And going off the second part of the book, it definitely felt like something from the realm of horror. While I wasn’t blown away by the dialogue, much of the story is pushed along by Shadowman’s inner dialogue, which is nicely done. Add in that it’s a good jumping-on spot for the character, and it feels like this could be one of the better books to come out of 2021.

Jon Davis-Hunt brings the art and his Shadowman just looks so awesome. Seriously, the way he looks in his suit/costume is fantastic. He manages to draw lots of disgusting things throughout the first issue. All I can say is I hope he’s on Shadowman for a long time because he’s definitely got a really detailed style and with colorist Jordie Bellaire on this book with him, it could be one of the best-looking Shadowman books we’ve gotten. I thought the lettering by Cowles was a nice cherry on top of everything else with Shadowman.

I think Shadowman #1 is just what the Valiant fan base needs. Maybe they don’t love books like Savage and maybe X-O Manowar left them a bit grumpy but I feel this feels like a natural progression of who Shadowman is. The writing is there and the art is there. And if nothing else, it left me feeling like a publisher could draw me in hard with a really good first issue.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colors: Jordie Bellaire Letters: Clayton Cowles
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Review: Alien #1

Alien #1

In Alien #1, we meet Gabriel. He’s been in space for a very long time and was once captured by a brutal and violent xenomorph breed. While there’s no idea of how he escaped, he’s haunted by his dreams full of xenomorphs and his companions meeting their painful demises. He heads back home to an adult son that wants nothing to do with them, other than stealing what information he can to prepare for an assault of Weyland-Yutani, the corporation that sent his father to space. It doesn’t work out for the son as he’s now trapped in a lab full of the same creatures that are haunting his father’s every sleeping moment.

I’m a big fan of Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s work on Last God so I was pulled into reading Marvel’s big launch of Alien. That said, the second Alien movie is the last time I liked the Xenomorphs so it’s not the easiest sell for me. Aside from Warren Ellis’ butcher job on the Stormwatch characters, I’ve probably never read another Aliens-themed comic.

The problem with that is that I’m not sure this is the book that’s going to get me to want to read more of this world. The character work on this first issue leaves me wanting a bit more. Gabriel and the various Bishop cyborgs have some personality but everyone else is written as if they are just pages away from an untimely demise. Maybe I’m hoping for more out of this property but I’m definitely wanting something more out of my reading experience. Overall, I think the story is okay. In fact, I’d say the opening scene of this helps establish what Gabriel’s ordeal is fairly well. Sadly, I’m hoping Jr. gets his in a most brutal fashion. The reader isn’t given much reason to like him.

To be truthful, I wish for less photo-realism here and do not like the art. Salvador Larroca’s photo-referenced art just doesn’t do it for me and makes Aliens look rather bland. I know it’s not really Larroca’s fault. He was on Star Wars for quite a while and there’s an expectation that the SW characters look a lot like what you see them as in the movies. People would want the Bishops to look like Lance Henriksen and he does illustrate with a good amount of detail on the aliens but his characters just look so stiff and weird. I recognize the skill to work on a book like this but it’s just not pleasurable to me.

Maybe what I want out of this is too much or maybe the Alien comics just aren’t for me. That said, this is a $4.99 comic book and I don’t feel like the cost is worth it. Alien #1 is a fairly average story with average art. The world won’t end if you don’t get it.

Story: Phillip Kennedy Johnson Art: Salvador Larroca
Color: Guru-eFX Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 6.0 Art: 5.0 Overall: 5.5

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Early Review: Shadowman #1

Shadowman #1

Jack Boniface is Shadowman, a powerful protector who keeps humanity safe from the demons that claw at the fabric of our reality. In Shadowman #1, the forces of darkness are awakening and they are hungry for life. Will Shadowman be able to save us all, or will the darkness devour the world as we know it?

I initially read this book in preparation for an interview a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been thinking about it pretty consistently ever since.

If I had written this review then, you’d have seen me raving about the comic, saying things like how amazing it was. I would have said that Jon Davis-Hunt‘s artwork is everything I didn’t know I needed in a Shadowman comic, just as Cullen Bunn‘s writing is everything I had hoped it would be and more. It may have sounded hyperbolic, but it would have at least started out with honest intentions.

Eventually, I’d have gone on to say how one of my favourite aspects of the comic was in how it told an almost complete story that made me question who the real monster was (and honestly, I’m still not entirely sure). Bunn’s story is, appropriately enough, steeped in the grey shades of morality. There’s no real clear cut villain in the comic, though there’s a lot of people you wouldn’t be upset to see at the wrong end of Shadowman’s fists, and so watching the title character navigate his way through the events of the comic with compassion and humanity only reinforces what you’re seeing on the page as being tragic.

Davis-Hunt’s artwork is brilliant on its own, but his heavy inks are given spectacular life by Jordie Bellaire‘s use of colour, who contributes an underrated and unstated character to the pages; the judicious use of deep blues and greys in the slower scenes juxtapose with the reds used during the more frantic set pieces to a wonderous effect. I didn’t notice how much Bellaire’s contributions to the comic influenced my speed of reading.

The fact of the matter is, had I written this review when I first read it, I’d have been gushing about the book. I’d have pointed out that Shadowman was always a character I struggled to get into because I’ve never been as drawn to the mystical side of things (it’s why I could relate to Ninjak so much during the Rapture miniseries), and yet I really love his story. It’s an odd dichotomy where I like the idea of Shadowman, but haven’t yet found a story that defines the character for me. The more I think about this comic, and the more I read it, I’m beginning to think that this has the potential of becoming THE Shadowman comic for me.

Of course, I didn’t write the review immediately after reading it the first time, and have allowed the book to sit in my mind for weeks as I reread the pdf every couple of days to work out whether a horror book (something that I usually don’t find myself as drawn to) really is one of my Must Read books to have come out this year.

The answer is an unequivocal yes. Shadowman #1 is an absolute fucking triumph of a comic. It was absolutely worth the wait.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colours: Jordie Bellaire Letters: Clayton Cowles
Story: 9.7 Art: 9.7 Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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