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Review: Beasts Of Burden: Occupied Territory #1

Beasts Of Burden: Occupied Territory #1

The eight-time Eisner Award-winning comic book series blending fantasy and humor returns in a historical adventure blending Japanese and Western occult with Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory #1!

An elder member of the occult-battling pack of Wise Dogs recalls a harrowing mission–in U.S-occupied Japan after World War II, a mysterious curse creates an army of crawling, disembodied heads which threatens to overwhelm the region. Emrys and a team of canine companions attempt to solve the mystery, bringing them into conflict with shape-changing tanuki, evil oni, and a horde of vengeful demons. 

Beasts Of Burden is one of those series that I was introduced to via my LCS heavily promoting the Neighborhood Watch trade paperback, and the subsequent books. so it is, then, that Beasts Of Burden: Occupied Territory #1 is one of the few entries to the series that I’ve read in single issue form verses the collected edition. While this is a follow up to the previous miniseries, other than the first page or three you don’t need to have read that as Occupied Territory takes places during the Second World War in a flashback told by Emrys.

Written by Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer, with art by Benjamin Dewey and letters by Nate Piekos, the comic is absolutely beautiful. It reminds me of a painting in many ways and the style works incredibly well with the time period the comic is set in, with the art bringing to the fore the sense of dirt and grime and hopelessness you’d expect in a story that mixes World War Two and the occult. Being a flashback story, Emrys takes the time to frame his story for his audience, which has the added benefit of framing it for us, and especially for folks new to the series (which makes this a fairly good entry point to the world of Beasts Of Burden).

With this being the first issue, there’s a bit of a slow build to the inevitable occult madness, but Dorkin and Dyer set the pace of the comic really well – building slowly toward the following chapters where the shit (and probably blood) will surely hit the fan. Beasts Of Burden: Occupied Territory #1 is another fantastic entry into the series lore, and I cannot wait for the next issue.

Story: Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer Art Benjamin Dewey Letters: Nate Piekos
Story: 8.6 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Dark Horse provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyAmazonKindleZeus Comics

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

ENIAC #2

Wednesdays (and now Tuesdays) are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in

Each week our contributors choose what they can’t wait to read this week or just sounds interesting. In other words, this is what we’re looking forward to and think you should be taking a look at!

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this week.

Avengers #44 (Marvel) – “Enter the Phoenix” wraps up and leads into “Heroes Reborn”!

Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory #1 (Dark Horse) – An elder member of the occult-battling pack of Wise Dogs recalls a harrowing mission in U.S-occupied Japan after World War II. Yeah, we’re in for this.

Championess (Legendary Comics) – Based on the true story about female bare-knuckle boxers.

Batman #107 (DC Comics) – The series has really found its footing post-Future State and with the seeds being laid out for that fascist future, we want to see how it all plays out.

Crime and Punishment (Digital Manga Distribution) – We don’t know much about the publisher but the title and description caught our eyes. On the eve of the revolution a young student murders a pawnbroker but an innocent man is quickly arrested.

ENIAC #2 (Bad Idea) – The first issue about a computer gone mad was solid. We want to learn more.

Far Sector #11 (DC Comics/DC’s Young Animal) – The series is soon wrapping up and we want to see how it all comes together in this very socially relevant series.

Geiger #1 (Image Comics) – Geoff Johns and Gary Frank team again for this new series about the scavengers of a dying Earth post-nuclear war.

Green Lantern #1 (DC Comics) – We want to see what the future holds for this series as DC’s cosmic side of things attempts to get things in order.

The Impure #1 (Scout Comics) – Nero must stop his sister before she causes humanity’s downfall.

King in Black #5 (Marvel) – The event wraps up and looks like it’ll have some interesting ramifications on the Marvel Universe.

Magic #1 (BOOM! Studios) – Magic: The Gathering returns to comics!

Nocterra #2 (Image Comics) – The first issue of this world plunged in darkness was very entertaining and we want to see where it goes and how it uses the darkness to tell its story.

Nottingham #2 (Mad Cave Studios) – This new take on Robin Hood was fantastic in its debut and we’re expecting more quality.

Project Patron #1 (AfterShock) – Years ago a hero battled a beast as Earth’s protector. What the world doesn’t know is he died that day and was replaced.

The Rise #1 (Heavy Metal) – A prequel to the horror franchise Night of the Living Dead!

Sam & His Talking Gun #2 (Scout Comics) – It’s John Wick… but with a talking gun.

The Silver Coin #1 (Image Comics) – A new horror anthology with each issue telling a story in a shared supernatural world.

Suicide Squad #2 (DC Comics) – The first issue was pure action and fun plus the bodies already began to pile up. We’re excited to see what happens next as the jailbreak of Talon continues.

Tankers #1 (Bad Idea) – A time travel story about oil execs and dinosaurs.

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 04/03/2021

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.


Brett

Witchblood #1 (Vault Comics) – I can see why a lot of people are enjoying this one but it doesn’t quite click for me. I like the concepts and where things are going but overall the story feels a bit choppy and too random of a setup. The art too is a little all over. While relatively solid, there’s some panels here and there where it feels like the detail drops. It’s a fun comic and definitely worth checking out but for me there’s a roughness around it I had issues getting over. Overall rating: 7.75 Recommendation: Read

The Other History of the DC Universe #3 (DC Comics/DC Black Label) – Not quite as good as the first two issues. This issue focuses on Katana and tells more of a story about her as opposed to a reflection on the DC Universe she witnesses. There’s some commentary but this is a very different focus, more about loss of family and the family found through superheroes. There’s some solid commentary though and the reminder that Soultaker isn’t special and Katana is more about how she presents herself is an interesting take. The art continues to amaze with its retro look and fantastic layouts. A good read though very different focus. Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Beta Ray Bill #1 (Marvel) – A fantastic debut about a character who has always been second tier. That’s part of the point of it as there’s a sadness about the character who has always been in the shadow of others. The art too is solid emphasizing his unique look. Can’t wait to see where this goes. Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy

Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land #2 (Dark Horse) – The series has been fun pulp adventure. There’s not too much to really go into, it’s a classic sort of style with dinosaurs and magic on a mysterious island. It’s a throwback to things like The Shadow, Flash Gordon, and Tarzan, those comics where it was over the top situations and threats. Overall: 7.25 Recommendation: Read

Silk #1 (Marvel) – Silk is a character I don’t know a ton about. I’ve read her adventures here and there and have enjoyed it so far. This debut feels a bit like Spider-Man from a different perspective but it still works well. Good art an intriguing use of Silk being a reporter, it’s a good setup for what’s to come. Overall: 7.95 Recommendation: Read

Logan

X-Men #19 (Marvel)– After last issue’s Darwin, Synch, and X-23 return to Vault setup, Jonathan Hickman and Mahmud Asrar deliver all payoff in X-Men #19. They get to indulge in grotesque visions of post-humanity while telling a story of survival and love as the team’s knowledge of the species that will eventually replace mutants and humans grows. Hickman’s data page do a good job of creating the plot skeleton while he gets to dig deep into the relationship between Darwin, Synch, and Wolverine. There are hugs, kisses, tears, and pain, and after not even knowing who the character was until Hickman’s X-Men run, I truly care about Synch and cared about his survival. This two part storyline is an excellent sci-fi survival story, fleshes out some fantastic side characters (Although Wolverine has carried her own title in recent years.), and best of all, sets up a true foe for the Krakoans as the X-Men don’t defeat the Children of the Vault, but barely escape with their lives. Overall: 8.7 Verdict: Buy

Beta Ray Bill #1 (Marvel)– Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer’s Beta Ray Bill #1 is heavy metal thunder with a soft, vulnerable heart. Johnson leans into Beta Ray Bill traditionally playing second fiddle to Thor in the book. The All-Father steals his victory in battle, gets the praise from the Asgardians, and is responsible for destruction of Stormbreaker and more importantly his inability to revert to his humanoid form. Beta Ray Bill #1 is full of epic spreads of monsters, machinery, blood, and thunder, but Johnson also includes moments of sadness like when Bill’s hookup with Sif goes badly or all of the flashbacks in the issue. Even though it’s initially connected to the continuity of Donny Cates’ Thor and King in Black, Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer bring a big, damn indie sensibility to the house of ideas with hand lettering, a gonzo color palette, and set up a journey that will hopefully be filled with more monsters and epic moments. Overall: 8.4 Verdict: Buy

Witchblood #1 (Vault)– I definitely liked the aesthetic and visual look of Matthew Erman, Lisa Sterle, and Gab Contreras’ Witchblood #1 than its actual content. Erman’s writing is the book’s weak point as he inconsistently flirts with a non-linear narrative, ends the first quite abruptly, and his dialogue is cutesy for the sake of cutesiness. Witchblood is bursting with ideas and settings like diners in irradiated Texas town, vampire gangs named after Kate Bush songs, and witches on motorcycles, but it’s really a case of throwing things at the wall and hoping they stick. However, Sterle’s visuals singlehandedly save Witchblood from being in the “Pass” category with her high energy layouts, inset panels, and facial expressions really showing the no holds barred nature of this Western-meets-urban fantasy. Overall: 7.4 Verdict: Read


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Avengers: Curse of the Man-Thing #1

Wednesdays (and now Tuesdays) are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in

Each week our contributors choose what they can’t wait to read this week or just sounds interesting. In other words, this is what we’re looking forward to and think you should be taking a look at!

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this week.

Avengers: Curse of the Man-Thing #1 (Marvel) – Writer Steve Orlando takes Man-Thing through a journey in this mini-series celebrating the character.

Beta Ray Bill #1 (Marvel) – Can Beta Ray Bill finally get the spotlight he deserves?

Crossover #5 (Image Comics) – The series has gone back and forth across line of being a bit too self-referential and inside jokes but it’s a hell of a concept and it’s interesting to see what else the team folds in.

Nuclear Family #2 (AfterShock) – The first issue was intriguing and left us in the middle of a bombed-out American town. What is going on!?

The Other History of the DC Universe #3 (DC Comics) – The series has been impressive at how honest it’s been with each issue. This one takes on Katana during the 80s!

Power Rangers Unlimited: Heir to Darkness #1 (BOOM! Studios) – The popular villain Astronema gets the spotlight as her origin is revealed.

Shadecraft #1 (Image Comics) – Zadie Lu is convinced that the shadows are trying to kill her and something weird is going on in her small town.

Silk #1 (Marvel) – A character that always deserved to be a bigger deal than she was, we’ll see if this miniseries is finally the one to put her over the top and cement A-status.

Two Moons #2 (Image Comics) – This horror series set during the Civil War had a solid debut and we want to see where it goes from there.

Witchblood #1 (Vault Comics) – A modern story of a witch cruising the Southwest as a gang of biker vampires wants the source of her coven’s power.

Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land #2 (Dark Horse) – The first issue had a fun pulp sense about it and we’re hoping for more of that.

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 03/21/2021

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.


Logan

Barbalien: Red Planet #5 (Dark Horse)– Jeff Lemire, Tate Brombal, Gabriel Walta, and Jordie Bellaire really stick the landing in Barbalien: Red Planet #5. They cleverly use a nine panel grid and cross-cutting to show the parallels between Miguel fighting for queer rights and the government to do something about the AIDS crisis on Earth, and Barbalien fighting for his life on Mars. Barbalien Red Planet #5 is a true paean to queer rage as Lemire, Brombal, Walta, and Bellaire show that the riot is the language of the unheard while Barbalien finally gets to cut loose in word and deed on Mars turning his chains into a weapon. While wrapping up Barbalien/Mark Markz/Luke’s struggle with identity as well as Miguel’s activist arc, Barbalien Red Planet #5 also acts as a huge recontextualization of the superhero and sword and planetgenres taking the latent queer subtext of these stories and making them text. Barbalien Red Planet is easily my favorite of the Black Hammer spinoffs, and it functions on many levels as an emotionally honest character study, genre exercise, and an homage to Black and Latinx activists who fought for LGBTQ rights during a really scary time period. It’s also basically “No Cops at Pride” the comic. I definitely plan on revisiting Barbalien Red Planet many times in the years to come. Overall: 10 Verdict: Buy

Detective Comics #1034 (DC)– Mariko Tamaki, Dan Mora, and Jordie Bellaire explore the storytelling potential of Batman being (relatively) broke in Detective Comics #1034, which true to its title is a murder mystery set in the world of the upper crust of Gotham. There’s a satirical edge and a dash of humor and mischief to Tamaki’s writing with the comic’s inciting incident being an attack on Gotham’s very style over substance mayor Nakano. He’s portrayed as being utterly incompetent in everything from getting a power point to work to protecting his wealthy donors. Mora and Bellaire nail the chaos of the very on the nose Party Crashers’ fight against Batman with speed lines, jagged panels, and punches and kicks that explode off the page. However, Mora also excels at the quiet scenes as Bruce gets to know his (first ever) neighbors that also introduces the players in this murder mystery. You can tell each person’s opinion of Bruce from their facial expressions alone. In the backup story, Joshua Williamson and “Big” Gleb Melnikov wrap up their Damian Wayne serial and set the stage for his shonen tournament ongoing series. Melnikov has a real gift for using body weight, lighting, and layouts to make a fight exciting and suspenseful so it should be a fun book, and these backups in Batman and Detective Comics have introduced the premise while throwing in some new wrinkles in Damian’s life. Overall: 8.6 Verdict: Buy

Harley Quinn #1 (DC)– The new Harley Quinn series is a bit of mixed bag and definitely feels like an ancillary book to Batman instead of being its own wacky, independent thing in previous volumes. That being said, Riley Rossmo’s anarchic, cartoon-y art style is perfect for Harley and her hijinks, and he makes jumping from fire escape to fire escape look entertaining. Ivan Plascencia’s colors pair well with his line art bringing a Sour Patch Kid on acid palette to drab, gritty Gotham City. Harley Quinn #1’s weakness lies in Stephanie Phillips’ writing where she ends up focusing on Batman a little too much and makes him drive Harley’s action and the scope of the book instead of its actual protagonist. She does write good one-liners, and the first arc villain she introduces on the last couple pages is the perfect foil for Dr. Quinzel. I’m surprised no one else has used this character as an antagonist for Harley in the past. Overall: 7.4 Verdict: Read

Stray Dogs #2 (Image)– Stray Dogs is the equivalent of a pop song with bright sound, but dark lyrics. Tony Fleecs, Trish Forstner, Tone Rodriguez, and Brad Simpson deliver a haunting story to go with the high concept premise of a serial killer story told from the POV of his victim’s dogs. Forstner’s art for the different dogs is adorable, yet heart-breaking when she and colorist Simpson revisit the protagonist Sophie’s trauma as her owner was strangled in front of her. This issue goes deeper into the dogs’ owner’s twisted psyche and also shows that he treats animals as terribly as humans. Stray Dogs is like a twisted Disney cartoon, but with heart and suspense not juvenile edginess. Overall: 9.1 Verdict: Buy

Cable #9 (Marvel)– Cable #9 deals with the whole “missing the old man Cable” criticism that’s been levied at it from the beginning of the series head on. Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto put their protagonist through the wringer as he can’t find Stryfe despite help from a parade of guest stars like Wolverine, Magik, and all of the Summerses except Alex and Vulcan. Cable #9 has its humorous moments like Cable calling Wolverine Patch even though he’s blown his cover, but Noto’s facial expressions dig into the rage and responsibility that Cable feels with letting his clone run around and kidnap mutant children. Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto turn a labyrinthine 1990s character into a solid character motivation for Cable, and to top things off, the comic has a cool ending that definitely breaks the Krakoan rules. Overall: 8.3 Verdict: Buy

Excalibur #19 (Marvel)– This whole Psylocke/Captain Britain/Betsy Braddock body swap/energy arc is really starting to drag on in Excalibur #19. Tini Howard and Marcus To have made the book seem like more of a Captain Britain or Psylocke solo title than an ensemble piece with the actual members of Excalibur watching from the sideline. The omniverse and different aspects of Captain Britain are interesting, if very nationalistic, but Howard and To have abandoned it to tell an overlong body swap story. There’s a new bad guy in the end, but it’s a case of too little too late. Hopefully, this series can move onto better things. However, Erick Arciniega colors are gorgeous especially when Betsy’s violet emanation is streaking through Otherworld. Overall: 5.0 Verdict: Pass

Carnage: Black, White, and Blood #1 (Marvel)– Carnage joins the black and white/spot color anthology with decent results. The first story is Bonnie and Clyde with Carnage and Shriek that takes a trippy detour into ancient Rome. Tini Howard’s script is imaginative, and Ken Lashley and Juan Fernandez’s depiction of the battle between Carnage and Shriek and Cloak and Dagger is quite elemental. However, Lashley’s rubbery 1990s art style doesn’t really fit with the monochromatic, and the splashes of red don’t fit the story like the other two. Benjamin Percy and Sara Pichelli definitely understood the assignment in the second story, which is a Western about a sheriff who is corrupted by the Carnage symbiote. Mattia Iacono uses the red to symbolize his corruption, and Pichelli’s art for the gun fight is visceral in all the right ways. Plus it’s a clever use for the character as the hunter becomes the hunted. Carnage #1 wraps up with its best story as Al Ewing and John McCrea do an ultraviolent “choose your own adventure” story, but with Carnage. It’s like a mini, more gore-splattered version of Ewing’s You Are Deadpool, and McCrea’s experience doing black and white, satirical comics in 2000 AD comes in handy in this story. I definitely wanna go back and try to get the “good” ending if any such thing exists. Overall: 8.4 Verdict: Buy


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Apex Legends Expands to Comics with Overtime

Writer Jesse Stern is joined by artist Neil Edwards, inker Keith Champagne, and letterer Nate Piekos for the new comic series from the award-winning battle royale videogame Apex Legends in Apex Legends: Overtime beginning June 2, 2021.

Apex Legends is a squad-based battle royale experience where players select from one of 16 Legends – each with their own unique abilities and playstyles – and the last team standing wins. In the comic series, the Legends find themselves pulled together to rescue the city from Mad Scientists, brutal assassins, and the sudden and sinister grip of The Syndicate, a corrupt cabal attempting to “fix” arena outcomes in their favor. Will the Legends hold up to their celebrity status and be the heroes Solace needs?

Apex Legends: Overtime #1 (of four) arrives June 2, 2021, and is available for pre-order.

Apex Legends: Overtime #1

Dark Horse Welcomes New Faces to Editorial Staff and Promotes Current Members

Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse Comics has announced the promotion of four outstanding members of its editorial staff! Ian Tucker, Jenny Blenk, Judy Khuu, and Rae Boyadjis all have been promoted. Sanjay Dharawat and Rose Weitz have both been hired as Assistant Editors.

Ian Tucker has been promoted to Senior Books Editor. Ian Tucker entered the publishing industry in 2010 after turning a career in print technology into a position in the Dark Horse Comics digital art department. In 2012, he transferred to the editorial department. Seeing the importance of the then burgeoning art book program, he stepped into the role of almost exclusively editing art books. Among the projects Ian has overseen to fruition are The Art of God of WarThe World of Cyberpunk 2077The Art of Rick and Morty, and Final Fantasy Ultimania Archive Volumes 1-3. In 2018, Ian fulfilled a lifelong dream when he had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Hamill for The Art of DreamWorks Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia. Ian would like to assure everyone that Mr. Hamill is indeed the best.

Jenny Blenk has been promoted to Associate Editor. With a BA in English Literature from Western Washington University, and an MA from Portland State University in English Literature and a Comics Studies Certificate, Jenny joined Dark Horse as an intern in the spring of 2017 and was subsequently hired as an Assistant Editor in February of 2018. Projects Jenny has assisted in bringing to life include the line of Critical Role books, the Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra lines, and the ever-expanding books from Mike Mignola’s Hellboy Universe. In addition to assisting on these incredibly important books, Jenny will continue to grow her own line up of books including the fine art collection Sacred Decay: The Art of Lauren Marx.

Judy Khuu has been promoted to Associate Editor. Judy first joined the Dark Horse team in 2015 as Mike Richardson’s Executive Assistant, then made the transition to the editorial department in 2018 and has proved to be an invaluable member ever since. While continuing to assist on high level properties such as OverwatchPlants vs. Zombies, and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Judy has taken over editing responsibilities for The Witcher and Cyberpunk 2077 and will begin to expand her own line of titles.

Rae Boyadjis has been promoted to Berger Books Associate Editor. A graduate from Sarah Lawrence College in 2012, Rae joined Dark Horse as Karen Berger’s assistant on the prestigious Berger Books imprint in 2018. Since working on the Berger Books line, they have been integrally involved on titles such as Invisible KingdomShe Could FlyRuby Falls, and Post York. Rae is also a professional aerialist in New York City where they are the resident aerial advisor for Speakeasy Dollhouse Productions.

Sanjay Dharawat has been hired as an Assistant Editor. Sanjay is a graduate of both the University of Rochester where he holds a BA in History and of Portland State University where he holds an MA in Book Publishing. Originally hired as an intern back in 2018, Sanjay now joins the Dark Horse Editorial department full-time. In his role, he will be assisting Ian Tucker on his line of art books, Shantel LaRocque on her line of licensed titles, and with Brett Israel on his ever-growing line of creator-owned properties like the recently announced mini-series, The Worst Dudes. Sanjay likes to travel and has spent a month-long trip backpacking around Australia.

Rose Weitz has been hired as an Assistant Editor. Rose is a recent graduate from Portland State University where she received a BA in English and a Comics Studies Certificate. Rose came to Dark Horse through the Portland State University Comics Studies Intern Program where she worked closely with the editorial staff during the winter of 2019. She now joins us full time where she will be assisting on a wide variety of projects. Rose currently lives under a rock with her cat who goes by the inspired name, Gaston.

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 03/21/2021

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.


Logan

Orphan and the Five Beasts #1 (Dark Horse)– Orphan and the Five Beasts is James Stokoe’s martial arts epic as Orphan Mo must avenge her master who was ripped off by five “beasts” that used his techniques for evil, like stealing, murder, and animal abuse. There’s a lot of setup and narration in this initial issue, but Stokoe brings his eye for detail as well as some expressive lettering that is almost like another character in the comic. Also, after the backstory of the Beasts is told, he cuts loose with entrails flying, overly vein-y bandit kings, and of course, gorgeous fight scenes. Orphan and the Five Beasts showcases a very talented artist putting his own spin on a fun genre and should only get better as Orphan Mo encounters the various beasts. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Catwoman #29 (DC)– After a couple months off for Future State, Ram V, Fernando Blanco, and the always spectacular Jordie Bellaire hit the ground running with plenty of close quarters action, a little bit of drama, and some big time guest appearances. V continues to build up Catwoman as the guardian of Gotham’s, shall we say, less sociopathic villains while Blanco continues to draw her exuding total swagger to go with his intense close quarter fight scenes. This issue isn’t a stone cold classic like some of the previous ones and Father Valley’s Biblical assassin shtick is starting to wear then, but Ram V starts to thread the needle between Catwoman being a good crime comic and a good Bat-family comic in Catwoman #29. Selina’s an anti-hero and a crime boss, and it’s fun to see the way she acts in each role. Overall: 7.6 Verdict: Read

Ultramega #1 (Image/Skybound)– Ultramega is a bleak, horror-tinged take on the sentai genre from writer/artist James Harren and colorist Dave Stewart. The first issue follows a “Warrior” named Jason, who ends up being terrible at his job because he didn’t kill his wife and unborn child with his Ultramega abilities even though they did have the Kaiju virus. There are literally big consequences to this in this 60 page first issue filled with blood and guts, kaijus cool powers, and moments of regret. Harren nails the scale of these fights, both in the moment, and in their effects on the average people cutting away to show the destruction of battle. He also spends some time doing some social commentary-via-basically Astro Boy on how automation has led to unemployment or taking riskier employment like Jason being an Ultramega and never getting to see his wife and son while being “on call”. Harren’s commentary gets muddled in the last third of the comic as he takes aim at not just automation and the surveillance state, but also collectivism. However, the sentai genre is all about extraordinary individuals fighting monsters, and Ultramega chronicles their failure in all their gory detail with the highlight of the book definitely being the large scale battles drawn by Harren and Stewart. Overall: 8.3 Verdict: Buy

SWORD #4 (Marvel)SWORD #4 is straight up competency porn with Abigail Brand, Wiz-Kid, Frenzy, and Manifold with an assist from Mentallo and the Five orchestrating a resistance to Knull and Knullified Cable before the symbiote threat spreads even more. The cast continues to sprawl, but Al Ewing and Valerio Schiti give each SWORD team member a couple moments in the (at times literal) sun with Manifold demonstrating that his power goes beyond teleportation, Wiz-Kid’s ingenuity and penchant for melodrama paying off in a fire fight, and Magneto and Brand showing they’ll protect mutantdom and Earth, respectively, no matter the cost. Marte Gracia adds a summer event sheen with his color palette with the fight between Knullified Cable and Manifold being particularly gorgeous. SWORD is a book that handle ethical debates and killer setpieces with skill and ease, and with its varied cast of characters, it brings new perspectives to the current Krakoan status quo. Overall: 8.5 Verdict: Buy

X-Force #18 (Marvel)– X-Force #18 is the slightly more creepy, but slightly less impactful sequel to last month’s Quentin Quire-centric issue. The opening scene sets the tone of the comic with artist Garry Brown channeling Swamp Thing as “veg” whisperer Black Tom Cassidy is consumed by a psychic nightmare, which is the recording baddie for this issue and preys on different X-Force members during times of contentment. Evil psychic forces are a dime a dozen, but Benjamin Percy and Brown smartly tie it to specific character traits with Quentin Quire deep down still being a little shit and Beast’s knowledge of Krakoa’s secrets making him the most vulnerable target. Finally, there’s Sage, who has been drinking more to keep the relentless spread of information in her brain now, but she’s starting to have gaps in her calculations. Percy uses both the on-panel interactions and data pages to show these vulnerabilities and that she’s more than just some kind of plot resolver/info giver. The team definitely feels exposed and vulnerable after this issue. Overall: 7.8 Verdict: Buy

Brett

Catwoman #29 (DC Comics) – I’ve generally enjoyed the new team and direction for Catwoman and this first issue of Infinite Frontier keeps the momentum rolling. The issue features a new villain, a possible ally, and a reveal that’ll probably anger a certain group of fans. The art is solid as well delivering some good action and sexiness without going over the top. This is a good spot to start and hints at an intriguing first arc. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Eternals #3 (Marvel) – I’ve generally enjoyed the series with an intriguing set of characters and re-introduction mixed with beautiful art. Three issues in and the series feels like it’s dragging a bit as more characters are introduced and more mysteries dropped. It’s a slice of the big picture but it needs to pick up the pace or risks decompressing things a bit too much. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #1 (Marvel) – I don’t know a ton about the character but he’s about to get the spotlight in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first issue is a good introduction to the character delivering an ass but one you want to follow and see what happens. And that ending… that was… interesting. Overall Rating: 7.85 Recommendation: Read

Orphans and the Five Beasts #1 (Dark Horse) – James Stokoe’s kung-fu epic is beautiful to look at but it’s a lot of style without much that’s new. The story is familiar though some details do stand out. Overall, it’s a comic that’s definitely more flash than substance. But, it’s a lot of fun. Overall Rating: 7.5 Recommendation: Read


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology Continues at Dark Horse Comics

Bestselling and award-winning author Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology adaptation continues at Dark Horse Comics from Eisner-winning comics legend P. Craig Russell, along with artists Matt Horak, Mark Buckingham, Gabriel Walta, Sandy Jarrell, and colorist Lovern Kindzierski in Norse Mythology II. Be sure to check out the variant covers for each issue by David Mack.

Explore the origins of poetry—good and bad—in this tale of malicious dwarfs, suspicious giants, and the wise god Kvasir, whose eventual fate leads to the creation of a powerful mead that many will fight and die for.

Norse Mythology II #1 (of six) will be in comic shops on June 16, 2021.

Free Comic Book Day 2021 Gold Sponsor Comic Books Revealed

The Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) Committee has selected the twelve Gold Sponsor comic book titles for the comic book industry’s most anticipated annual event: Free Comic Book Day. FCBD will once again be a single-day event, scheduled to take place Saturday, August 14 at local comic shops. The event, which traditionally takes place on the first Saturday in May, will be celebrated in August in 2021 in the hopes that much of the uncertainty and disruption related to COVID-19 will have passed.

The titles were curated by over twenty comic shop retailers who make up the FCBD Selection Committee. This year’s comic book lineup features something for everyone: from superheroes, to movies and video games, to beloved franchises, and all-ages favorites. The Gold Sponsor titles come from the industry’s top publishers, including Marvel Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, Image Comics, Archie Comics, BOOM! Studios, Macmillan/First Second Books, Penguin Workshop, AfterShock Comics, Titan Comics, TOKYOPOP, and VIZ Media.

The full line-up of this year’s comic books will be released tomorrow, March 17, when thirty-nine additional FCBD Silver Sponsor titles are announced. A complete listing of all fifty-one FCBD titles can also be found in the April issue of Diamond Comic Distributors’ PREVIEWS catalog, on sale at comic book shops on March 24.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2021: GOLD COMICS

AfterShock Comics | WE LIVE: THE LAST DAYS

WE LIVE: THE LAST DAYS

Archie Comics | ARCHIE: PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE FUN!

ARCHIE: PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE FUN!

BOOM! Studios | ENTER THE HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER

ENTER THE HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER

Dark Horse Comics | CRITICAL ROLE & THE WITCHER

CRITICAL ROLE & THE WITCHER

IDW Publishing | STAR WARS: THE HIGH REPUBLIC ADVENTURES

STAR WARS: THE HIGH REPUBLIC ADVENTURES

Image Comics | LADY MECHANIKA

LADY MECHANIKA

Macmillan/ First Second Books| INVESTIGATORS: ANTS IN OUR P.A.N.T.S. SNEAK PEEK!

INVESTIGATORS: ANTS IN OUR P.A.N.T.S. SNEAK PEEK!

Marvel Comics | HULK/ VENOM #1

Penguin Workshop | WHO SPARKED THE MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT?

WHO SPARKED THE MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT?

Titan Comics| BLADE RUNNER ONE-SHOT

BLADE RUNNER ONE-SHOT

TOKYOPOP | ASSASSIN’S CREED: VALHALLA & DYNASTY

ASSASSIN’S CREED: VALHALLA & DYNASTY

VIZ Media | ZOM 100: BUCKET LIST OF THE DEAD/ DEMON SLAYER: KIMETSU NO YAIBA

ZOM 100: BUCKET LIST OF THE DEAD/ DEMON SLAYER: KIMETSU NO YAIBA
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