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Underrated: Dragonfly and Dragonfly Man

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: a prequel to The Wrong Earth, Dragonfly and Dragonfly Man


I initially stumbled over The Wrong Earth because the first issue of the second volume caught my eye. I enjoyed it, a lot, and decided to circle back and order the trade of the first volume. After loving that, I found the prequel book that details the parallel lives of the Dragonfly and Dragonfly Man.

So what is the book about? Well to tackle that, first we need to grasp the nature of Wrong Earth for those who either haven’t read it or missed my previous column on that story. So because I don’t see the need to rewrite the publisher’s blurb for Wrong Earth, I’ll paste it below.

“On dark, gritty Earth-Omega, masked vigilante Dragonfly punishes evil maniacs and evades corrupt authorities. On sun-splashed Earth-Alpha, costumed crook-catcher Dragonflyman upholds the letter of the law. Now they’re trapped on each other’s worlds, where even the good guys don’t share their values!”

If the idea of the Silver Age Batman or the Adam West Batman and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight switching places sounds awesome, to you, well, that’s because it is. But it’s also so much more than just that elevator pitch. But if you want to know more about why that book is awesome, check out the Underrated where I talk about that, because here we’re looking at Dragonfly and Dragonfly Man.

Written by Tom Peyer, featuring art by Peter Krause, Russ Braun, with finishes provded by Juan Castro and Leonard Kirk and colours provided by Andy Troy and Paul Little with Kelly Fitzpatrick. Rounding out the creative team is letterer Rob Steen, who’s contributions to the comic are often subtle until you catch the sound effects giving you a nostalgic Silver Age smile in Earth Alpha. The book is published by Ahoy, a publisher that I’ve become increasingly more aware of as I notice their logo on books I’ve been thoroughly enjoying.

This book essentially takes the same story and tells it twice; once with the Silver Age sensibilities of Earth Alpha, and once with the Modern Age darkness. Because they’re told concurrently, you get to see how the two versions of the same hero react to very similar situations – the dichotomy of the two worlds emphasizes the fish out of water scenario that Wrong Earth deals with, and yet you get to see just how similar the heroes are despite the differences in their respective worlds. The story, essentially, focuses on how Dragonfly and Dragonflyman deal with the threats of Tommygunner and Devil Man, and Peyer captures the spirit of their respective eras very well. I find myself increasingly drawn to the Silver Age shenanigans’ of Earth Alpha; I won’t lie, it’s stirring an urge to find more Silver Age Batman comics/stories to enjoy as the escapism is more refreshing than I’d have expected it to be.

I know that Peyer is currently writing the sequel to Wrong Earth, but I really want to explore more tales told in this fashion to expand upon the universe.

As with Wrong Earth, I’ve only really scratched the surface with this book, because a lot of it you’ll benefit from going in as blind as you can and spotting the similarities between Earth Alpha and Omega, and also the similarities between the two eras of Batman’s past. This series has fallen below far too many radars, and every person to whom I have shown the trade has been thoroughly engrossed and intrigued in the trades.

Seriously, this is well worth checking out.

With the potential richness in the Wrong Earth universe, and the quality of Peyer’s writing and the artistic team’s collaborations, I’ve definitely found one of those comics that I’ll be reading for a long time. You can read this book without having read Wrong Earth, and still find it just as enjoyable – perhaps if you do that you’ll end up with a lot more context in Wrong Earth and its sequels. Go find this underrated gem at your favourite retailer now.


Unless the comics industry ceases to exist this week, Underrated will return next week.

Underrated: Voracious: Appetite For 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: Voracious: Feeding Time.


Markisan Naso, Jason Muhr and Andrei Tabucaru have a new comic coming out in 2021, By The Horns. Because of the fact that these three have created one of my all time favourite series, I’m going to revisit the three volumes over the next couple of months. You can find the first column on Diners, Dinosaurs & Dives here, and the second on Feeding Time here.

Published by Action Lab, Voracious: Appetite for Destruction is written by Markisan Naso and drawn and lettered by Jason Muhr, with the co-creators being joined by colourist Andrei Tabucaru. The series can usually grab your attention with the shortest of descriptions: “time travelling chef makes dinosaur sandwiches.”

It sounds awesome, right? Well, that’s because it is. But there’s a lot more to the series, including dinosaur cops, giant monsters and a strangely relatable dilemma throughout the series.

The first trade introduced the concept of time travel and dinosaur hunting, the second volume introduced us to dinosaur cops and an entirely new world as we learn that our hero wasn’t time travelling but hopping dimensions. The third brings everything together as we add a giant flying monster into the mix as the story hurtles to a remarkable conclusion.

Again, it sounds like it shouldn’t work as a story progression, but the comic never feels as though it’s out of hand; Markisan Naso has an excellent grasp on pacing and weaving the tale through some genuinely heart warming and wrenching scenes that continuously serve to keep the more science fiction aspects of the story feeling as though they’re perfectly natural occurrences.

Whereas the last trade effectively established the time travelling dimension hopping chef Nate as the villain in the story, Naso never quite lets you dislike the character; his action were and remain entirely sympathetic, and his desire to do the right thing even as he acknowledges his mistakes echoes across the page. Of course, the right thing in this case is stopping a significantly enlarged dinosaur as it rampages through Nate’s hometown of Black Fossil, a small desert town with a single cop who just happens to hold a massive dislike for our hero. Familial ties are a massive part of the entire story, but especially volume three as the shit hits the fan in ever increasing ways you see certain characters’ bonds deepen as they try not to fall apart.

I’ve yet to mention the artwork; Jason Muhr and Andrei Tabucaru step up their game from the last volume, and there are some great silent panels as Naso literally lets the pictures tell a thousand words in conversation and character development. Although the high octane scenes are brilliant, it’s the subtle moments when the art shines brightest; the gradual fading of Gus’ memories, the pastel infused flashbacks and those previously mentioned silent conversations help elevate this volume into must read territory.

Voracious is one of the few series where I own both the floppy issues and the trades as, like I said in the last two columns:

“I put my money where my mouth is because Voracious is a wonderful breath of fresh air in an industry that has been choking on relaunches and rehashes; the five issues that make up Feeding Time are some of the highest scored comics that I have reviewed for Graphic Policy.

If you’re tired of reading about superheroes fighting each other and you want a story to take you across the emotional spectrum without the use of glowing rings then you need look no further. While the comic is about a time traveling, dinosaur hunting chef, it’s also a powerful look into what makes us who we are and how. It’s a story about mistakes and loss, and most importantly coping with those things.

If you want more Voracious, then you can check out the episode of GP Radio where we talked all about the dinosaur sandwiches with both Markisan Naso and Jason Muhr. The new book, by the same team, will be launching February 28th.


Unless the comics industry ceases to exist this week, Underrated will return next week.

Underrated: The Wrong Earth

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: The Wrong Earth


I initially stumbled over The Wrong Earth because the first issue of the second volume caught my eye. I enjoyed it, a lot, and decided to circle back and order the trade of the first volume.

What’s the book about? Well because I don’t see the need to rewrite the publisher’s blurb for the trade, I’ll paste it below.

“On dark, gritty Earth-Omega, masked vigilante Dragonfly punishes evil maniacs and evades corrupt authorities. On sun-splashed Earth-Alpha, costumed crook-catcher Dragonflyman upholds the letter of the law. Now they’re trapped on each other’s worlds, where even the good guys don’t share their values!”

If the idea of the Silver Age Batman or the Adam West Batman and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight switching places sounds awesome, to you, well, that’s because it is. But it’s also so much more than just that elevator pitch.

Written by Tom Peyer, featuring art by Jamal Igle, with inks and colours provided by Juan Castro and Andy Troy respectively. Rounding out the creative team is letterer Rob Steen, who’s contributions to the comic are often subtle until you catch the sound effects giving you a nostalgic smile. Wrong Earth is the six issue miniseries that launched publisher Ahoy Comics, who some of you may recognise from comics such as Captain Ginger, Second Coming and Penultiman – but we’re not looking at those today. No, this column is about a book that hooked me from the premise, and then surprised me with just how well executed everything was.

A lot of superhero stories that can be seen to take inspiration from others (in the case, Batman), often struggle to tell a compelling story and also stand apart as anything other than a lesser imitation when all is said and done. Wrong Earth leans into the familiarity of the Silver Age with gleeful abandon; Peyer adds a little more realism to the era without sacrificing any of its fun – but he certainly calls out the foolishness of it all as you see the gritty Dragonfly loses his mind at how innocent the world of Earth: Alpha. Conversely, the reader is commiserating with Dragonfly Man as he realizes that Earth: Omega’s world is a living nightmare – and yet you can’t help but laugh as his Silver Age tricks inexplicably work in the modern era. There’s nothing quite like the sense of familiarity as he explains how he escaped a death trap with his cunning, logic, and a little bit of comics magic.

It shouldn’t work, but it does. It REALLY does.

When it comes to The Wrong Earth, I think I’ve found one of my favourite new stories. It is equal parts the charm of the Silver Age and the gritty sensibilities of modern comics, and yet it works in delivering one of the most entertaining stories from start to finish in this volume. In addition, there’s also five back up stories within the trade that enhance and build out the mythology of (the) Dragonfly/man’s world, which are all utterly fantastic.

I’ve only really scratched the surface with this book, because a lot of it you’ll benefit from going in as blind as you can – it’s fun, really fun, and an engrossing read that swooped below far too many radars. Go find this underrated gem at your favourite retailer now.


Unless the comics industry ceases to exist this week, Underrated will return next week.

All Time Comics Returns in May with Shaky Kane

All Time Comics returns in July with Crime Destroyer: True Til Death, a 48-page one-shot. by Jason T. Miles, Josh Simmons, and Shaky Kane.

Towering above lawbreakers, citizens and all other superheroes, CRIME DESTROYER rights every wrong perpetrated against humanity — past, present and future — dispensing justice with four fists held high and ten fingers on the trigger. With a body composed of wrath, gristle and unfiltered power, and a cunning mind that cuts through the sewage of a world gone wrong, Crime Destroyer is mankind at our most supreme potential… but not above dirtying his hands with the blood of the guilty.

Crime Destroyer: True Til Death is a full color, brutally entertaining detonation of righteous violence in a fractured mirror of today’s fallen society. Written by Jason T. Miles and Josh Simmons, with art by Shaky Kane, it’s the latest n’ greatest chapter in the ongoing saga of the all-time vigilante megaman. It comes to shelves May 5, 2021.

Crime Destroyer: True Til Death

Underrated: Comic Book Video Games

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: Comic book videogames.


It’s been a long time since I wrote any kind of list for this column, and after finishing up my first playthrough of Spider-Man: Miles Morales yesterday (and my subsequent return to the original PS4 Spider-Man‘s DLC), I wanted to take a trip down memory lane with some games that aren’t as fondly remembered as perhaps they should be amongst the greats like the aforementioned Spider-Man games and Batman: Arkham Asylum/City/Knight. Games that were fun, but may not have been as critically acclaimed or rated as high as others released around the same time; often, super hero games are either overlooked as cheap movie cash-ins (for good reason, honestly), or they’re overlooked in favour of games that have generated more of a buzz. It wasn’t really until the Arkham games cam about that superhero based videogames really gathered any traction; the combat system from that game has inspired countless others over the years – and for good reason.

So, here’s a few gems from yesteryear that are worth circling back to if you’re looking for a bout of nostalgia fueled superhero action.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (PS3/Xbox 360)
A videogame adaptation that was far better than the movie, this game was a blast to play from start to finish. It’s certainly not the best action game around, but it is one of the best superhero movie tie-in games around, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun watching Wolverine getting sliced to pieces and then watching as his healing factor starts to kick back in and rebuild his flesh over his skeleton. Despite it being a very linear game, there’s a hell of a lot to enjoy even today (I’m not holding out hope for a sequel or remake any time soon, but I am very fond of the game even now).

X2: Wolverines Revenge (PS2/Xbox/Gamecube)
If you’re sensing a theme here, it’s probably not accidental. This game was, technically, a tie in to the second X-Men film, but it was also a compelling stealth adventure where the use of Wolverine’s powers were implemented in cel-shaded awesomeness. Fun, though maybe not the greatest game, it’s one that still holds fond memories for me.

Ultimate Spider-Man (PS2/Xbox/Gamecube)
The second time we got to play as Spider-Man in an open world. Visually, the game holds up fairly well because of the cel-shaded comic style art, though the gameplay may feel a touch dated to those who have become accustomed to the PS4 offerings. The story picks up after the Venom arc from the Ultimate universe’s version of the comics, and so we get to play as both Spider-Man and Venom across Manhattan and Queens (which may have been the last time we saw Queens in the games).

Spawn: In The Demon’s Hand (Dreamcast)
Think Dynasty Warriors meets Spawn. It’s fun, especially with friends, but don’t expect a super deep experience.

Batman Begins (PS2/Xbox/Gamecube)
Look, being completely honest, this isn’t as good as the Arkham games; not even close. But that’s not to say this is a terrible game – it’s just not the best, either. I enjoyed the game, enjoyed the terror mechanics where you’d have to hide from enemies and gradually terrify them into submission (you’ll see this in the Arkham games, but with a much more subtle excitation). Worth a play if you’re curious, but I wouldn’t rush for it.

There’s a lot of 2D games that I didn’t include on the list – games from the Sega Genesis era that were mainly action beat ’em ups – that are all fantastic (though admittedly harder than expected), but what I’d have to say would fall around the same thing: “a solid game that has a lot of vintage nostalgia value, but doesn’t hold up as well as you’d expect – which is the case for a lot of vintage games in many ways. The mechanics of yesteryear take some getting used to, but once you do there’s a lot to love.”


Unless the comics industry ceases to exist this week, Underrated will return next week.

Underrated: Voracious: Feeding Time

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: Voracious: Feeding Time.


Markisan Naso, Jason Muhr and Andrei Tabucaru have a new comic coming out in 2021, By The Horns. Because of the fact that these three have created one of my all time favourite series, I’m going to revisit the three volumes over the next couple of months. You can find the first column on Diners, Dinosaurs & Dives here.

Published by Action Lab, Voracious: Feeding Time is written by Markisan Naso and drawn and lettered by Jason Muhr, with the co-creators being joined by colourist Andrei Tabucaru. The first volume can usually grab your attention with the shortest of descriptions: “time travelling chef makes dinosaur sandwiches.”

It sounds awesome, right? Well, that’s because it is. But it’s also so much more than just that elevator pitch. The second volume is better than the first, but it also takes a left turn when the dinosaur cops Owen and Gus are introduced. You see while Nate may have been travelling back in time to hunt dinosaurs, our assumption was always that they’d be wiped out by an asteroid so no biggie, right? Only Nate hadn’t just been bouncing back in time, but rather into an alternate dimension/timeline where dinosaurs would evolve into intelligent beings.

As you can imagine, hunting the dinosaurs that would eventually evolve is having a disastrous effect on the future of that world as people disappear and are forgotten as their ancestors are turned into burgers and steaks.

It’s a stunning reversal in the story when you realize that Nate, the sympathetic lead of the first volume is also an accidentally diabolical villain in this volume. Or he would be if Naso wasn’t able to continue weaving a tale where you want Gus and Owen to stop the man responsible for Gus’ wife’s disappearance but you also want to make sure that Nate’s business doesn’t go under.

Voracious: Feeding Time has one of my favourite comics within it (issue three) – the entire volume is brilliant, but it certainly peaks around the third issue with the combination of art and writing reaching a height that Voracious hadn’t yet seen. This was the issue when I realized the creative team were destined to write some fantastic comics together. Voracious: Feeding Time is an absolute joy to explore as we witness the series transition from the first volume’s fun to a deep treatise about memory and the importance of cherishing those in your life.

Voracious is one of the few series where I own both the floppy issues and the trades as, like I said in the last column:

“I put my money where my mouth is because Voracious is a wonderful breath of fresh air in an industry that has been choking on relaunches and rehashes; the five issues that make up Feeding Time are some of the highest scored comics that I have reviewed for Graphic Policy.

If you’re tired of reading about superheroes fighting each other and you want a story to take you across the emotional spectrum without the use of glowing rings then you need look no further. While the comic is about a time traveling, dinosaur hunting chef, it’s also a powerful look into what makes us who we are and how. It’s a story about mistakes and loss, and most importantly coping with those things.

If you want more Voracious, then you can check out the episode of GP Radio where we talked all about the dinosaur sandwiches with both Markisan Naso and Jason Muhr. The new book, by the same team, will be launching February 28th.


Unless the comics industry ceases to exist this week, Underrated will return next week.

Underrated: Voracious: Diners, Dinosaurs & Dives

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: Voracious: Diners, Dinosaurs & Dives.


Markisan Naso, Jason Muhr and Andrei Tabucaru have a new comic coming out in 2021, By The Horns. Because of the fact that these three have created one of my all time favourite series, I’m going to revisit the three volumes over the next couple of months starting with the one that kicked it all off: Diners, Dinosaurs & Dives.

This is an older column from 2017, but seeing as how I stand by what I wrote then, I’m rerunning it.

This week I wanted to take a look at a series that I think epitomizes what this column is about: a great comic book series or story that too few people have read. Published by Action Lab, Voracious is written by Markisan Naso and drawn by Jason Muhr, with the co-creators being joined by colourist Andrei Tabucaru, and can usually grab your attention with the shortest of descriptions: “time travelling chef makes dinosaur sandwiches.”

It sounds awesome, right? Well, that’s because it is.

In an ideal world, that’s really all you would need to rush out and buy the two trade paper back collections (Diners, Dinosaurs & Dives and Feeding Time), but it can be tough to buy two trades wholly on those words – I get that. I really do. Look, it’s no secret that Voracious is one of my favourite series to come out in the last couple of years (you can find the reviews for most of the comics in the two miniseries under this search),  and it’s one of the few that I’ll buy in floppy form after reading the review copies – and it’s the only one that I also buy the TPBs as well.

You see, I put my money where my mouth is because Voracious is a wonderful breath of fresh air in an industry that has been choking on relaunches and rehashes; the five issues that make up Feeding Time are some of the highest scored comics that I have reviewed for Graphic Policy. Voracious does have an awesome elevator pitch, but that’s not what draws me into the series (though it certainly helped).

After only nine comics (technically ten, but the first issue was a double sized comic) Markisan Naso has become one of Those writers who has earned my complete and utter trust; I will probably buy anything that he puts out from this point on. Aside from having an excellent music taste, Naso has an ability to give a unique voice to his characters that when combined with Jason Muhr’s artistic ability allows you to understand all you need to know about a character within a page or two at most. Yes, there are deeper layers to the people you’re watching navigate their lives on the page, and they’re expertly revealed as the series progresses in a way that you’re never really subjected to an-out-of-left-field moment that takes you out of the story because of a character’s actions because of how well developed they are; you won’t be shocked at the actions of the people in the comic because it all seems so in character for them once you understand their motivations.

As with any well written story featuring time travel you hope the visuals measure up to the intricacies of the story, and oh boy do they ever.Voracious_02-8

Jason Muhr is a brilliant visual story teller; there are so many brilliant double page spreads where his talents shine, and yet some of my favourite moments are the ones where Muhr focuses in on the emotions playing across the face of the character he is drawing; obviously I want to avoid significant spoilers so I’m not showing you as many pages from later issues, which is a disservice to both you and Muhr because as the series progressed he really found his groove.

If you’re tired of reading about superheroes fighting each other and you want a story to take you across the emotional spectrum without the use of glowing rings then you need look no further. While the comic is about a time traveling, dinosaur hunting chef, it’s also a powerful look into what makes us who we are and how. It’s a story about mistakes and loss, and most importantly coping with those things.

Voracious is the best comic you’ve never read, so change that. I haven’t heard a singe person I’ve made read the book complain in anyway. This story is what comics are all about; a masterpiece of visual story telling that couldn’t be told any other way even half as effectively as it is in comic form.

Now, excuse me while I go and read both trades again.

If you want more Voracious, then you can check out the episode of GP Radio where we talked all about the dinosaur sandwiches with both Markisan Naso and Jason Muhr.


Unless the comics industry ceases to exist this week, Underrated will return next week.

In “Bliss” #1, Redemption Is A Hard Sale

Bliss #1 title cover

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD! IF YOU DO NOT LIKE SPOILERS, GO ELSEWHERE!

CONTENT WARNING: There is a lot of discussion of some heavy topics in this review, including suicide, mass murder, and abuse. You’ve been warned.

After being disowned by their families, Benton O’Hara and his pregnant wife Mable move to Feral City. The metropolis lives up to its name with rampant crime and corruption. The last place you would dream of raising a child, and yet the young couple make it work. That is until their son, Perry, falls ill. Unable to pay the exorbitant medical bill, Benton turns to working for three reptilian humanoids who control Feral City. They make him into a hitman, easing him of the guilt with a drug called Bliss that wipes away unpleasant memories. Years later, Benton’s crimes have caught up with him. The families of his victims want retribution, but Perry, now a young man, is desperately trying to change their mind. Lethe, Goddess of Oblivion, is coming, and only Benton can stop her.  

Okay, full disclosure, I was very excited that Sean and Caitlin were collabing again. Their last book, Coyotes (which is also from Image) is one of my favorite series of all time. It criss-crossed feminism, lycanthrope mythos, and body horror in a glorious grindhouse story full of action and gothic art. It’s like a hybrid of From Dusk ‘Til Dawn and Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  So, I have to admit a little bit of fanboy bias on my part, but I’m still a professional critic. Out of respect for Sean and Caitlin, I’m going to be completely honest about their new baby, both the pros and cons. So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on Bliss #1.

The first thing that drew me straight into Bliss #1 is the cover. I mean, look at it. That’s how you make a freaking comic book! More specifically, I love how everything is composed. Benton O’Hara dead center in the foreground, his eyes full of woe, back to the reader except for his head turned toward them. It’s almost kind of sensual in a way. I can easily see our boy here modeling for an Irish Spring ad.  

Then there is the title raised just slightly above his head. Big ups to Caitlin for creating such a bold and striking letter design. Also, there’s a myriad of interesting details around Benton. The lake of black liquid he’s submerged in (which I assume is Bliss); the red orbs floating around him that, honestly, are unsettling given human heads are in them. As for the background, well I honestly don’t know what’s happening there. It looks like a huge dust cloud, so I’m guessing something’s either crumbling or exploding. 

Looking at this cover overall, I get strong feelings of both sorrow and Armageddon. It’s like the cover is warning me that a cataclysm is coming. Don’t know why I feel that, except maybe the fact the main antagonist is the goddess of oblivion. Whatever the case, this cover does an excellent job of wowing me into reading the book. A-freaking-plus! 

The issue opens up to a scene of Benton, old and looking like Yosemite Sam, belly-flopping  into a large body of black liquid. It’s more than likely a suicide. Did I mention those content warnings? Anyway, I can’t praise this page enough. I love how the four white-bordered panels in the center create the illusion of movement in an otherwise static landscape. I also love the choice of a mauvish color palette. It’s calming yet strangely sinister, like beneath the placidity is a dark undercurrent. Makes sense for a suicide attempt. Everything in the scene ties back to Perry’s narrative captions, too. He feels relief knowing he’s an insignificant speck in the universe. However, Perry and his dad are anything but insignificant to the citizens of Feral City. 

The next scene is a two-page spread that gives us a panoramic view of a courtroom that looks like it’s built inside of a cathedral. Up in the balconies and down in the pews are people crowded together, and I have to give more applause to Caitlin here. She drew every individual in this large crowd distinctively instead of making them all featureless cut-outs. There’s yet another brilliant color palette, as well. The yellow is so garish and bright that it captures the intensity of the scene. Perry is all alone, glared down by countless accusing eyes. He’s the only one arguing for his father’s life. Everyone else wants his head on a stake. 

Bliss #1 image A

This is what I love about Caitlin Yarsky’s art. It always invokes a mood and emotional response. I think that’s largely because of her art; it’s Gothic, literally by the definition in arts and literature. You can see European Gothic in the elaborate ornamentation of architecture and intricate, sharply-shaped panel layouts.  You can also see Southern Gothic in her characters. They’re drawn with a heightened plainness: bulgy eyes, disproportionate limbs, and facial expressions so over the top they cross into caricature. It reminds me a bit of Flannery O’Connor’s cartooning.

Illustration

 Even more impressive is that the characters aren’t ugly. These plain, lumpy people integrate with the beautiful architecture around them. Caitlin Yarsky’s art is a contradiction. That’s not a negative. Her style is such a fluid infusion of both European and Southern gothic that it creates worlds and characters that are both gorgeous and dark, enticing and foreboding. Even when she draws monsters, you can’t help but gaze in awe of them. 

Each page of Bliss #1 is executed flawlessly, aesthetically intoxicating while allowing the story to flow free of choppiness. Caitlin is the foundation of this book, essential and irreplaceable. If this series doesn’t recognize her to the industry as one of the great up-and-comers, we’ll be worse off for it.  

So, the art’s fantastic. Whoop Whoop! What about Sean Lewis’s writing? Well, that’s where things get uneven. As a playwright, Sean naturally uses dialogue for characterization. How characters speak to one another tells you the type of people they are, more so than exposition. A good example is Perry in the courtroom scene. He admits to being nervous, his body language only further confirming this fact. However, the love and loyalty he feels toward his father gives Perry the strength to try. That would be commendable if not for the kind of man Benton is, but we’ll get into that later.  

Sean’s dialogue, unique as it is, wouldn’t work without Caitlin’s character designs. Each person she draws is distinct, both in looks and body language. The best character is the one where you can recognize by name, voice, and looks all at once. I never confused a character for another, never forgot a single face. Considering how many comics I read, that’s a feat! 

With that said, there are some characters not as well-defined. Some are intentionally so. From reading Bliss #1, all I know about the three reptilian humanoids is that they run Feral City, serve Lethe, and want Benton to take care of “problem” people. After each job, they give him Bliss to wipe away the memories. I assume so the guilt doesn’t cause Benton to resist. I don’t know how they control Feral City, why they target certain people, or exactly how Bliss conveniently only gets rid of the memories they need gone.  Their ambiguity works though because it makes them scarier and powerful. It keeps the reader on their tones of just exactly what the trio is capable of. Also, it builds up anticipation for the next issues. 

However, there’s also Mabel, Benton’s wife and Perry’s mother. So far, she’s just a passive character, even the beautiful dance scene between her and Benton does more to characterize him. Bliss is obviously a father-son story, but I still can’t help feeling that Mabel is underwhelming, especially after Coyotes offered a superb cast of women and girls equal to the few male characters that appeared. I still think the O’Hara family are great characters. I hope Mabel gets to develop more in later issues. 

Another mixed bag is the world building. Feral City is introduced during Mabel and Benton’s backstory. We don’t see the full city, but are treated to a section of it. Both Caitlin and Sean establish the setting as a whole from this single splash page. Just look at the architecture with all its grit and decay. Combine that with the narrative caps personifying Feral City as a place that spies on you as much as the predators that live in it. 

Bliss #1 image B

We get to further learn just how messed up this place is in the next scene. As Benton walks by hospital rooms, we see. a woman slashed by her partner for trivial reasons, a man drained of his blood on the mere assumption of a crime, and a torturer waiting for his victim to heal so he can further torture him. Jesus in a Buick! This place makes Sin City look like 100-Acre Wood! 

That’s as much as we get to know about the world though. While I admire keeping the reptilian humanoids cryptic, I still feel like not enough was established about the world. I don’t even know how Lethe fits into all this. She’s not even mentioned by name. I only know she’s involved because of the solicitations. For a series compared to American Gods, I was hoping for just a little more of an established mythology. Coyotes #1 did so flawlessly, or at least from what I remember. I suppose it’s a matter of subjectivity.   

Bliss #1 image C

Speaking of subjectivity, it’s time to get serious. The main themes of Bliss are Forgiveness and Redemption. In spite of everything his father did, Perry’s trying to convince everyone to spare him. If they don’t, Lethe will destroy Feral City, and possibly the whole world too. It’s a very interesting twist. It’s also one that’s going to divide readers. 

Issue #1 focuses on Perry’s perspective, and he paints his father in a sympathetic light. He recalls memories of Benton’s love for his family, like when he fought off a mugger to bring Perry oranges while sick in the hospital. He then danced with Mabel to comfort her after getting an exorbitant medical bill. As much as I criticized this scene, I can’t deny how beautiful it is.

Bliss has also been compared to Breaking Bad, and I can definitely see similarities between both Walter White and Benton O’Hara. The thing is Walter White gets steadily less sympathetic during the show’s run. It’s hard to justify his actions when the bodies start mounting up. It stops mattering that he only wanted to provide for his family. By the end, most of everyone, including the audience, has turned on him.  

We already know Benton’s crimes. His downfall has already happened. That’s driven home when we see the faces of all his victims’ loved ones. Their grief and anger is painfully clear. It can’t be blamed on brainwashing. Benton chose to be a killer. Bliss merely wiped away any guilt he might have felt, which he eventually does as evidenced by his suicide attempt. 

Bliss #1 image D

Perry’s perspective cannot erase his father’s crimes. In fact, the focus on one side of the story makes him suspicious at best, and manipulative at worst. Perry does have a reason beyond self-interest. If Benton isn’t forgiven, Lethe is going to annihilate Feral City, probably the rest of the world included. You would think “Forgive my dad or an ancient deity will burn us all to a crisp” is a good trump card to play, but Perry doesn’t. This whole song and dance in the courtroom makes no sense.

Now, I know Sean Lewis. He’s a writer that plays the long game. All the unanswered questions are purposefully left in the air, both to build anticipation for subsequent issues and give time for readers to reflect. He’s a writer that wants to encourage critical thinking as much as entertain. That’s what I love about all his comics. I’m not one of those readers that demands to know everything right away. Hell, I despise that kind of thinking. I’m definitely thinking a lot about Bliss #1, which is why I have concerns.  

Forgiveness and Redemption are clearly themes Sean is tackling here. It even came up in Coyotes, which took the latter half of the series into a wildly new direction from your typical revenge tale. Setting up these themes around a horrendous individual is a daring risk, one that could have a big payoff if done well. On the flip side, it’s potentially a disaster if the bad guy is unjustifiably let off the hook. So far, I’m not really convinced Benton deserves forgiveness because I can’t find justification yet, and I’m concerned the Lethe angle could be a manipulative plot device if nuance isn’t applied. 

I think the reason I’m worried is everything happening in real life right now. If you don’t know, a number of professionals in the comics industry have been outed as sexual predators. This isn’t the first time. It’s been an ongoing problem. Some perpetrators have been reprimanded, but usually only if they become too much of a PR problem. Two camps have come out of this discourse. Those who want justice but also healing and reform, and then those that want no second chances. 

I mostly agree with the former, but I can also see where the latter are coming from. Forgiveness means nothing if perpetrators don’t really change, not if all they’re given is a slap on the wrist. Hell, many times they don’t even get that. I was told once that forgiveness isn’t for the perpetrator, it’s also for the victim, a means to let go and be free of all the hurt. It’s a nice thought. Too bad that same person hurt me worse than anyone else ever has. They weaponized their own advice to get away with it. Since they show no remorse, I don’t feel compelled to forgive them. 

That doesn’t mean forgiveness is impossible, nor that it can’t heal both parties. However, it is a complicated issue, there are no easy answers, and no one case is the same. Also, personally speaking, there are crimes that are just unforgivable. Some villains just deserve to burn, end of story. 

With everything said, I applaud both Sean and Caitlin for tackling these themes. It frustrates me and I question its moral implications, and that’s a good thing. I’m so tired of stories that are unchallenging, that only want to assure an audience’s moral certainty. I want to fight with a story, argue with it, have it dissect me, and vice versa. For that alone, I recommend Bliss #1 on top of Caitlin’s amazing artwork. Whether or not the story succeeds depends on how it unfolds. At least for now, I’m compelled to keep reading. 

Story: Sean Lewis Art: Caitlin Yarsky
Story: 7.5 Art: 10 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


 Purchase: comiXology KindleZeus Comics

Spawn #301 Todd McFarlane and Greg Capullo Covers Revealed

Image Comics is pleased to reveal more covers for the upcoming record-breaking, history-making Spawn #301 issue by Todd McFarlane, President at Image Comics and creator of Spawn.

This record-breaking Spawn #301 hits stores on Wednesday, October 2.

  • SPAWN #301 CVR A MCFARLANE – JUL190084
  • SPAWN #301 CVR B CAPULLO – JUL190085
  • SPAWN #301 CVR C VIRGIN CAPULLO – JUL190086
  • SPAWN #301 CVR D ALEXANDER – JUL190087
  • SPAWN #301 CVR E CRAIN – JUL190088
  • SPAWN #301 CVR F OPENA – JUL190089
  • SPAWN #301 CVR G VIRGIN MATTINA – JUL190090
  • SPAWN #301 CVR H PARODY MCFARLANE – JUL190091
  • SPAWN #301 CVR I B&W MCFARLANE – JUL190092
  • SPAWN #301 CVR J 25 COPY INCV VIRGIN MCFARLANE – JUL190093
  • SPAWN #301 CVR K ROSS – JUL198671
  • SPAWN #301 CVR L VIRGIN ROSS – JUL198672
  • SPAWN #301 CVR M SIENKIEWICZ – JUL198673
  • SPAWN #301 CVR N VIRGIN SIENKIEWICZ – JUL198674
  • SPAWN #301 CVR O CAMPBELL – JUL198675
  • SPAWN #301 CVR P VIRGIN CAMPBELL – JUL198676
  • SPAWN #301 CVR Q BLANK SKETCH CVR – JUL198708

Momentum and frenzied buzz surrounding the classic antihero series continues to build leading into the record-breaking Spawn #301 when Spawn becomes the longest running creator-owned comic in the world.

Erik Larsen Shares His DC/Image Crossover Art

Word of a possible crossover between DC Comics and Image Comics broke earlier this year. While the project looks dead, Erik Larsen shared art he was doing for his part of the event.

Larsen shared the pencils to an image featuring a Fawcett inspired Captain Marvel and his own Savage Dragon. The two styles in characters stand out making this a company crossover comic fans are worse off for not seeing.

Larsen in a comment says the juxtaposition inn style and characters is on purpose as he’d “prefer contrasting characters to similar ones.”

While the event was sure to sell issues, probably dominate the top ten, and spur too many news articles to count, according to Larsen it was a combination of issues between the two publishers that ended the project.

As Larsen comments in his post:

DC soon found that there weren’t enough willing parties that could get the job done in their timeframe. There were folks at Image who thought it would help DC more than it would Image (since DC would be publishing it) and folks were talked out of participating. The only Image founder onboard was me. Others were creators from the second wave.

The project leaking to a rumor site didn’t help matters sucking the wind out of the room.

Erik Larsen Captain Marvel Savage Dragon
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