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Review: X of Swords: Creation #1

X of Swords: Creation #1

X of Swords: Creation #1 kicks of the “first” major X event since the line’s revamp. Taking place across the various series and a few one-shots, the story focuses on Otherworld and a threat to Krakoa. The story dives deep into Excalibur lore and history, an interesting direction and choice for a first event. That X-history is weaved in with new deeper takes on characters. This is especially true of Apocalypse a character who has become a center of X-architect Jonathan Hickman’s X-vision.

For those who have read Excalibur’s past series, you might be a bit more excited for the event as it focuses on a threat for Otherworld and the Starlight Citadel, and Saturnyne. The story is a deep cut in some ways to past plot points and concepts that have felt shelved for years but have taken a prominent role in the current X-continuity. There’s so much more to discuss of this, along with news of the upcoming S.W.O.R.D. series, that points to a “mutant manifest destiny.” But, that’s only danced around in this event kick-off.

Instead, we get prophecies and an oncoming hoard with death and destruction. And in many ways, X of Swords: Creation #1 points to the current flaw in Hickman’s vision. With death no longer an obstacle for mutants, there’s little reason to not meet threats with overwhelming force. Any losses can be regenerated and brought back. You might as well send your heavy hitters every time and just subscribe to “shock and awe” to any and all threats. Instead, a small contingent is sent that we know will be overwhelmed feigning a true threat. But, writers Hickman and Tini Howard tease just enough mystery to make things interesting.

A gate must remain open between Krakoa and Otherworld for unknown reasons. The “sword” in the title is the traditional weapon but also points the the heavens with S.W.O.R.D., something we now know will expand mutantkind’s influence and reach. While the hoards march to Krakoa isn’t totally clear. There’s just enough to see what’s next in what amounts to a sword and sorcery/fantasy story meets X-Men plot. While it doesn’t quite excite, it also doesn’t fall flat.

The art by Pepe Larraz with color by Marte Gracia delivers. The design of characters have a nice horror meets Egyptian quality to them. They hearken to Apocalypse’s four horsemen quite well giving us a more traditional take on the Biblical concept. Scenes are packed with battle and action without being overwhelming and the colors add in a nice “death and destruction” quality about them all. The lettering by Clayton Cowles adds to the genre with a style that feels a bit more “fantasy” than other lettering styles and Tom Muller packs in a lot of information with reports and FAQs as been a signature aspect of “Hickman’s run.”

X of Swords: Creation #1 isn’t a bad start to an event. It does beg readers to explore more of the history touched upon, some of which is obscure for newer X-readers. The comic does do a job of catching readers up though. It explains what’s needed but there’s an emotional connection that’s not there. It also shows one of the major flaws with this X-direction, there’s little real threat when anyone can be resurrected and there’s little reason to not send overwhelming force against threats beyond showing restraint. It’s a start to something and what’s teased at the end indicates what comes after may be more interesting than what gets us there.

Story: Jonathan Hickman, Tini Howard Art: Pepe Larraz
Color: Marte Gracia Letterer: Clayton Cowles Design: Tom Muller
Story: 7.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Review: Reaver #11

REAVER #11

Reaver is an absolute treat for those looking for a very violent fantasy book. Reaver #11, part five of “The Grim After” takes a look back at Essen Breaker and how he and Bren became connected. For those not in the know, he’s a giant of a man who kills just about anything in his path. They call him the Devil’s Son.  In typical fashion, there’s strife and fighting and in the end, a whole lot of blood has been spilled. You do read Reaver, right?

Reaver is my favorite thing that Image Comics is putting out. Hard-edge fantasy with quite a few likeable characters to boot. I feel like this is definitely one of Justin Jordan’s best books that he’s done and he’s done quite a few great comics worth reading. Over the course of this storyline, and the entire series in general, I love what his “Hell’s Half-Dozen” as gone through. If there’s one critique to throw out about the writing, it’s that the usage of the F-word is so commonplace that for me, it makes the dialogue feel very unnatural.

For the most part, I have enjoyed Niko Henichon’s art but there were a few pages that seemed a bit rushed. That said, Niko has a style suited for a book like Reaver. There are some rather cool splash pages at the front of this that are a real treat, pages which highlight The Devil’s Son. Becky Cloonan’s covers continue to be eye-catching.

It’s the end of “The Grim After” but what comes after should be another epic story for Reaver. If you are looking for an adult fantasy story, I feel there’s none better. To me, Reaver is a total breath of fresh air and comes off wholly original. If you want something different in the genre that’s high quality, then it’s definitely Reaver that you are after.

Story: Justin Jordan Art: Niko Henrichon
Letterer: Clayton Cowles Editor: John Moisan Cover Artist: Becky Cloonan
Story: 8.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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It’s the Bat and the Cat in Batman/Catwoman #1 in December

After lots of anticipation, DC has announced that Batman/Catwoman #1 arrives December 1 from Tom King, Clay Mann, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles.

The series is told across three separate timelines and continues King’s story from his run on Batman.

Gotham City. Today. Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle have rekindled their long-running, on-again, off-again relationship. Believing all obstacles are removed from their path, they once again begin operating as a duo in their secret lives: Batman and Catwoman working together to fight crime.

There’s the past, when The Bat and The Cat first fell in love. Did they meet on the street? Or was it on a boat? Rooftops, ramparts and gargoyles, and over 80 years of fans that have read their comics, are their only witnesses.

There’s the distant future, where after a long and happy marriage Bruce Wayne has passed away. Selina Kyle decides to settle an old score without having to worry about the Batman objecting. Catwoman is serving a very cold dish: Revenge.

The series is also the hotly wanted debut of Andrea Beaumont, a.k.a. Phantasm to the DC Universe. Beaumont’s return questions how each character operates in their costume and personal lives and threatens Bruce and Selina’s future.

But what about the Joker? He robber Batman and Catwoman of their wedding. Any change in the Dark Night’s life will be result in more chaos from the Clown Prince of Crime.

Batman/Catwoman, by Tom King, Clay Mann, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles, edited by Jamie S. Rich and Brittany Holzherr, will launch a 12-issue run on December 1, 2020, with a cover by Mann and Morey and a variant cover by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair with a main cover by Travis Charest. New issues will ship monthly with a skip month planned for a Batman/Catwoman Special in June 2021, and the series will carry DC’s Black Label content descriptor, indicating content appropriate for readers ages 17+.

Preview: Batman #98

Batman #98

Joker War” has been an interesting ride so far. Running through Batman and other related titles, the event has had the Joker steal Bruce Wayne’s fortune, toys, and company turning it all against Batman. Batman #98 is part four of the event and like previous chapters, it’s a bit stretched out and while good, doesn’t excite or deliver anything new.

Writer James Tynion IV delivers that moment we’ve seen so many times before in films, television, and other stories. Batman is tripping, attempting to get the Joker Toxin out of his system. He has his moment of reflection and discussion with his dead mentor. It’s his Rocky talking to Mickey moment and there’s even a close “dammit Rock” thrown in there. While Batman is out of it, Punchline and Harley Quinn battle things out in Ivy’s hiding space giving them another chance to square off.

Batman #98 is a fine part of the overall arc but on its own, it’s something we’ve seen over and over. All it’s missing is a montage with proper music while Batman gets back into a healthy status.

What makes Batman #98 not a total loss is the art by Jorge Jimenez. The art features an interesting juxtaposition between Batman’s trippy visuals versus the battle between Harley and Punchline. While one is the standard page layouts with your standard boxes, the other is a kinetic battle. Jimenez has the fight break the page with odd shapes and a nice mix of panel sizes. Jimenez is helped by the color of Tomeu Morey and the lettering of Clayton Cowles. The action scenes pop from the page and when Batman eventually clears his head, literally pops.

But Jimenez and the team make sure to give Bruce’s struggle its moments too. The emotion delivered in panels by Bruce and Alfred really sell the scenes. The delivery takes a rather trope-ish cliche and gives us something more visually interesting. It’s the emotional catharsis we’ve been waiting for and expecting since Tynion took over his run.

“Joker War” as a whole hasn’t been as exciting as one would hope. The event falls upon concepts we’ve seen so many times before. It’s an entertaining read though more in a summer popcorn way. It feels like it’s a setup for what’s coming next for Bruce as he will deal with the fallout from the event. Much like the previous arc, “Joker War” doesn’t feel so much as a story unto itself as opposed to the setup of what comes next, more focused on the next arc instead of itself. Much like Batman #98, the event as a whole feels like the pivot to what comes next.

Story: James Tynion IV Art: Jorge Jimenez
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: Doctor Tomorrow #5

Doctor Tomorrow #5

After a universe-spanning journey, Doctor Tomorrow must face his greatest foe yet: himself in Doctor Tomorrow #5! Will the combined forces of the Valiant Universe be enough to avert total annihilation After the epic conclusion, will there be a tomorrow?

I still don’t really know what day it is anymore, and as such, I have been falling way behind in my comics reading. Other than the Valiant books, which I will typically review here, I’m lucky if I remember to read the books I pick up. Y’see because I work Wednesdays at my LCS, I’m getting my books regularly… I’m just not reading them. Perhaps because of this, I was taken entirely by surprise when I found the advance review copy of Doctor Tomorrow #5 in my inbox.

The concluding chapter to the series has the Bart Simms we saw in the first issue return from the future after twenty years (and a lot of training) to confront the man who “killed” him when he was a kid; an alternate future version of himself called Doctor Tomorrow – believe it or not this actually makes a lot of sense if you’ve read the first four books, and it’s easy enough to tell the different because of the difference in costuming and the burnt face of Doctor Tomorrow.

But with the comic serving as the finale, and after we saw a classic montage in the form of Doctor Tomorrow #4, the final confrontation between Bart Simms and Doctor Tomorrow is as much a story about confronting your own demons as it is saving the world. As such, there are a lot of scenes within the book that feel oddly truncated; Alejandro Arbona has a lot interesting scenes within the book that need to be there, but the transitions felt a little forced. It’s not that Doctor Tomorrow #5 needed to be issues five and six, but maybe had Arbona been given another six pages or so the book would have a better flow to it. As it is, you get the meat of the story, but it feels like you’re missing some of the peas and carrots – you know those parts of a roast that you don’t look forward to but miss nonetheless if they’re not there?

That’s how the final chapter left me feeling. I wouldn’t cut anything from the book (other than the ads to give Arbona more space), but there’s just something missing from the initial read through to take you from one moment to the next. A shame, because a lot of what you get is really good; Bart vs Doctor Tomorrow is less a classic hero/villain smack down than you would expect, and more of a cerebral confrontation on Bart’s side. It serves to highlight the difference between the two men, and works well as a backdrop to the following scenes with Bart questioning who he is and who he will be now that he’s aged twenty years in thirty seconds.

Artist Jim Towe is joined again by colourist Diego Rodriguez, and the pair remain consistent for the finale. There’s a distinct style to the book that evokes a certain nostalgic feel for those of us of an age to have been glued to the television on Saturday mornings as kids, and it lends the book a youthful exuberance that carries the stories energy from the first to the final page. There were moments where it was harder to tell what was occurring on the page, but that had more to do with the review copy water mark than anything the artists had consciously done.

Doctor Tomorrow #5 brings this story to a close whilst also establishing a baseline for future stories with these characters – something that most miniseries from Valiant have been doing over the last year or two. On it’s own merits, though, the series was an interesting take on the traditional superhero/sidekick dynamic, and will be one that Valiant should mark firmly in the Win column. It may not have been as action packed as Bloodshot or as deep as Rai, but Doctor Tomorrow is just plain fun, and you really can’t go wrong with a good comic that’s entertaining.

Story: Alejandro Arbona Art: Jim Towe
Colors: Diego Rodriguez Letters: Clayton Cowles

Story: 8.3 Art: 8.2 Overall: 8.3 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Preview: Doctor Tomorrow #5 (of 5)

DOCTOR TOMORROW #5 (of 5)

Written by ALEJANDRO ARBONA
Art by JIM TOWE
Colors by KELLY FITZPATRICK
Letters by CLAYTON COWLES 
Cover A by CLAYTON HENRY, ULISES ARREOLA
Cover B by KANO
Preorder Cover by CARY NORD
On sale AUGUST 26th | 32 pages, full color | $3.99 US | T+

  • After a universe-spanning journey, Doctor Tomorrow must face his greatest foe yet: himself!
  • Will the combined forces of the Valiant Universe be enough to avert total annihilation?
  • After the epic conclusion, will there be a tomorrow?
DOCTOR TOMORROW #5 (of 5)

Advance Review: Doctor Tomorrow #5

Doctor Tomorrow #5

Previously in Doctor Tomorrow, we met Bart Simms – many versions of Bart Simms, in fact. The youngest one meets an adult one who is locked in battle with foe capable of global destruction in Hadrian. Only in typical comic book fashion, we learn that Hadrian is another Bart Simms, who ends up blasting his younger version into an alternate future where his childhood best friend gives him years of training.

Doctor Tomorrow #5 picks up with our younger version of Bart all grown up and ready to fight the battle he has trained for in the future. But for those who followed this series, there was a lot more going on than just your typical battle. Bart’s home life was in shambles due to his mother’s passing and it had placed a strain between him and his father, who in this issue is quite shocked that his son is all grown up and that he missed those years of his life.

I thought the Doctor Tomorrow #5 creative team delivered an exciting finale to Doctor Tomorrow. Series writer Alejandro Arbona and artist Jim Towe are a team that I hope will be back to further the adventures of Bart in another series. Kelly Fitzpatrick‘s colors flowed well with Towe’s pencils. It helped give this series a bright look. Jim Towe’s pencils felt like they had a bit of a unique look to them that was pleasant to look at. I thought the effort put in to create the dialogue between Bart and his father was a pretty good moment and a spot that could have easily been passed over as a loose thread.  If I had to nitpick, it would be that there were a few times that the dialogue felt a bit too cliché during the big fight.

I’ve really enjoyed Doctor Tomorrow and for a few reasons. For one, it brought your regular superhero fisticuffs to the Valiant Universe, a place not necessarily brimming with heroes and villains. It was old school. It was the young hero, ready to face down his foe who was, in essence, himself. It gives Valiant a book with a huge all-ages feel that isn’t burdened by being only written for kids. Doctor Tomorrow brought out all the big Valiant characters but they really were only used as background spectators to Bart’s battle against his own Hadrian. While I never know how much anything Valiant does goes to bring in new fans, I think the regular fan of the publisher will enjoy Doctor Tomorrow very much.

Story: Alejandro Arbona Art: Jim Towe
Color: Kelly Fitzpatrick Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Read

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Preview: Harley Quinn Black + White + Red Chapter Nine

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red Chapter Nine

Written by Joe Quinones
Pencils Joe Quinones
Inks Joe Quinones
Lettering Clayton Cowles
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“Indiana Quinn!”
Harley Quinn finds herself kicked to the curb when she botches Poison Ivy’s best-laid plans to acquire a treasure of myth and legend! Determined to prove her worth, Harley sets off to capture the prize for them both, but not before drawing in Batman and Batgirl in a thrilling and dangerous adventure across the globe!

Harley Quinn Black + White + Red Chapter Nine

Review: Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red Chapter Nine

HARLEY QUINN: BLACK + WHITE + RED CHAPTER NINE

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red has been an interesting digital series. Each chapter has allowed a new creative team to show what they can do with Harley Quinn. While every chapter in the digital anthology has been different, nine chapters in, many of them share themes, plots, or small details. One thing that has been a thread through so many is Harley’s relationship with Ivy. Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red Chapter Nine takes that common aspect of the character mixed with Indiana Jones in a vibe that’s very much Batman: The Animated Series.

Indiana Quinn” is by Joe Quinones who handles story and art duties with Clayton Cowles on lettering. The story has Harley messing up Ivy’s latest heist. Ivy wants to steal a document that’ll lead her to the Fountain of Youth. Unfortunately, Harley complicates that in many ways leading to some tension between the two and Harley wanting to make up for it.

What’s interesting about the chapter is Quinones channeling Batman: The Animated Series in the pacing and the overall feel of the comic. The chapter’s look would fit well in that world though Quinones’ style is a bit different. Quinones’ style is simple in some ways like the heralded animated series. But, the layout on each page is very complex with some pages featuring a layering of images that create virtual panels though none exist. The layouts too break from the normal four and three-panel grids playing with size and positioning. That helps create a flow and pacing of the comic that feels quick but entertaining. That entertainment is helped by the innocence of Harley who just wants to help but acts as a stumbling block for Ivy in numerous ways.

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red Chapter Nine is a fun entry in the DC Digital First anthology. While not the strongest released it’s still a fun read that’s well worth the 99 cents. What stands out is how it evokes Harley’s origin in Batman: The Animated Series while still doing its own thing. It’s an example of what the anthology series seems to be about. It allows creators to deliver their own spin and honor an iconic character.

Story: Joe Quinones Art: Joe Quinones
Ink: Joe Quinones Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.5 Art: 8.4 Overall: 7.65 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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