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.
X-Force #14 (Marvel)– X of Swords has completely veered down the weird game show route in Benjamin Percy, Gerry Duggan, and Joshua Cassara’s X-Force #14, and mostly, I’m here for it. Although, at this point, it’s a bit repetitive and annoying that all the contests are rigged in Arakko’s favor, and I hope there’s actual plot development in this week’s other issues. However, I enjoy X-Force #14 on a pure entertainment level thanks to the occasional laugh-out-loud gag from Percy, Duggan, and Cassara like the reveal of what Pogg-Ur-Pogg really is, Gorgon’s reaction to “sexy” rock sirens, and the data page where Mojo and Major Domo take notes on the tournament. Finally, in the midst of the sheer randomness, there is some characterization of Storm, who proves she just needs a knife to take down Death, and Wolverine whose guilt and sense of nobility dooms him what are basically sociopath test contests. Overall: 7.5 Verdict: Read
Hellions #6 (Marvel)– This is technically an X of Swords tie-in, but the Otherworld reality TV show only plays a comedic role in the latest installment of the Zeb Wells and Carmen Carnero’s Hellions aka the sneaky-best X-Book. Carnero excels at showing how worn down the team is after traveling through Otherworld and finally arriving in Arakko where Sinister basically meets his soulmate, who’s like him, but more body horror and less disaster bisexual. This triggers betrayal/survival of the fittest mode as the Hellions start dropping like flies. In Sinister, Zeb Wells has crafted a character who is totally evil, but also gets the best lines. Watching he dismantle his old team is a dark adrenaline rush although Carnero’s facial expressions wring emotion out of every kill and takedown except for that bastard Empath, who gets a truly poetic fate. The expendability and D-list nature of all these characters (Except for Havok) gives Wells and Carnero a true freedom to destroy their lives, and the stakes are even a little higher with the whole resurrection protocols issue/X of Swords going on in the background. Overall: 8.9 Verdict: Buy
Cable #6 (Marvel)– Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto set the stage for the final duel of X of the Swords in Cable #6. Sinister reading Kitty Pryde during an opening sequence set at the Quiet Council aside, this issue definitely has more pathos than comedy. Noto’s art is gorgeous and captures the quiet tragedy like Cable knowing that the odds of Krakoa winning the tournament is insurmountable, and he shows the light go out in his eyes as he suffers not a physical death, but a death of spirit. Although this issue is mainly focused on winding down the tournament, Duggan does spend a little time showing that bond he has with Cyclops and Jean Grey before his telepathy is shut out. Finally, he and Phil Noto do the impossible and turn an edgelord, Mark Millar-created villain aka Gorgon into a noble hero in a Kurosawa-esque one against many battle featuring blood, sad reaction shots from the fellow Krakoans, and layouts that look like katanas and sword strokes. Krakoa goes chambara, and I’m really excited for the final duel in next week’s issue of X of Swords. Overall: 8.7 Verdict: Buy
Barbalien: Red Planet #1 (Dark Horse) Tate Brombal, Jeff Lemire, Gabriel Walta, and Jordie Bellaire craft a deeply personal superhero tale about Barbalien, who has been persecuted for being an alien as well as being gay. The central action happens around a 1986 AIDS protest where Barbalien saves a young protestor who falls off a flagpole trying to hoist a rainbow flag and immediately arrests him in his civilian identity. Brombal knows when to let Walta’s art do the talking and shows the sadness and tension that Barbalien feels as he wants to safe and “blend in” in Earth, but he also wants to find love (or sex) and just be his true self. Except for the red sands of Mars, Bellaire keeps her palette muted until she goes full disco when Barbalien finds his first gay bar with Brombal’s dialogue coding it as illegal activity. It’s always amazing to me my that my queer elders withstood such hardships to be with the folks they love and to continue to fight even when the Republican-led government wouldn’t do shit about the AIDS crisis. Barbalien: Red Planet pays homage to them while also acting as a soul-searing exploration of my favorite Black Hammer universe superhero. Overall: 9.2 Verdict: Buy
Once and Future #13 (BOOM!)– The third arc of Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain’s Once and Future kicks off with straight horror as magpies start pecking at Bridgette. It’s a portent of things to come. Also, Gillen goes back to the white supremacists raising Arthur plot thread, which is super relevant to the times we live in and also shows Duncan’s vulnerabilities to non-monster things. It’s sweet when he protects his badass grandma too. Mora and Bonvillain get to draw plenty of big action and fights all lead up to a very, well, relevant to 2020 page. (Not in that way; think A24, not Covid-19.) And as a cherry on top, he and Gillen also start to integrate Rose as a main cast member and explore her and Duncan’s relationship while starting another epic story. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy
Die #15 (Image)– Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans’ Die #15 is a big damn battle with Hans nailing the gorgeous and dark use of magic with her color palettes and layouts as Matt dual wields the literal Grief of his father’s passing against Ash and Isabelle. This issue dips both into Die’s tabletop and fantasy roots with plenty of references to Tolkien and his tropes as well as RPG theory that translates into action. The ending has a very penultimate arc before the one last ride feel, and the ensemble cast (Including Sol) all get a moment to shine with their unique abilities and personalities as the stakes go beyond a multi-faction fantasy battle into more of a thread of reality one. Overall: 8.2 Verdict: Buy
Commanders in Crisis #2 (Image)– Steve Orlando and Davide Tinto slow down a little bit and flesh out Commanders in Crisis’ ensemble cast of alternate earth presidents-turned-superheroes in the series’ second issue before advancing the plot in the last few pages. It’s really enjoyable to learn what makes these hopeful, empathy-driven folks click. These scenarios range from Prizefighter only having a casual relationship with ersatz-genderbent Lois Lane to Seer using her quantum abilities to help check on, and Sawbones struggling with how he’s perceived by the folks on this Earth. (Doing an emergency tracheotomy while dressed like a 90s antihero is a little scary from an outside POV.) Even if this issue deals with more “crises” than a “Crisis”, Tinto’s art is still larger than life with big facial expressions and grids for small movements or intimate conversations while throwing up bigger panels when the Crisis Command uses their abilities. With their ability to weave together ideas and actions, metaphors and personalities, Steve Orlando and Davide Tinto continue to lay the groundwork for what a modern superhero comic could be in Commanders in Crisis #2. Overall: 8.9 Verdict: Buy
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night #1 (Behemoth) – An interesting start to a vampire story set in Iran. I wish it felt more like a comic set in Iran but beyond some little details here and there it so far feels like it could be set anywhere. But, the comic is written more like a poem than a traditional comic narrative and the build is really nice to the end. It’s a really interesting start and hopefully further issues deliver something a little more unique befitting its location and country it’s set in. But, it’s more than enough to get me to want to come back and check out the second issue. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read
Children of the Grave #1 (Scout Comics) – The concept of the comic feels familiar and the key will be where it goes after the first issue. A small town is provided for by an unseen force. One villager suspects there’s something else going on and seeks to find out the truth. There’s a great amount of tension and there’s a slight Dark City vibe to it all but that ending has me hoping, and thinking, I’m wrong in the direction it’s going in. This feels like sci-fi/horror and it’s a hell of a start and build-up that had me saying wtf at the end and looking forward to reading the second issue. Overall Rating: 8.35 Recommendation: Buy
Stillwater #3 (Image/Skybound) – We learn more about the rules of the town of Stillwater in a tense comic that makes you want to escape the town yourself. Fantastic characters and pacing brings things together for a mystery about a town where you can’t age and you can’t die. There’s still a lot of questions I have in what feels like slip-ups to the rules but there’s some solid small details that really build the world, things I’d have never thought of. Overall Rating: 8.5 Recommendation: 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 (**).