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.
These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.
Spider-Men II #1 (Marvel) When the first Spider-Men came out I was reading a lot of Spider-Man comics, but I have since dropped off from the series (a couple years ago, actually). Still, I wanted to see whether we’d finally find out who the Marvel 616 version of Miles Morales is, so I picked this issue up – and I’m glad I did. This comic was entertaining, enjoyable, and almost without any real substance. I loved it in the way you like a movie you can turn your brain off and not have to think too hard. Overall: 7.75 Recommendation: Read
X-Men Blue #7 (Marvel) You know sometimes you read a comic, kinda enjoy it, but then you kinda don’t because you don’t give a shit about the event it’s tying into? That’s exactly how I felt about this comic. Overall: 7 Recommendation: Read
Dark Days: The Casting #1 (DC) I was really impressed with the the first part of this storyline, so naturally I was a bit let down with this one just being more of the same plot advancements that could have been put into the first issue. The artwork is still solid and there are a nice couple of bits but DC really just stretched this for another 4.99. I would get it for the art but story wise nothing that wasn’t really covered in the first part.
Dept H #16 (Dark Horse) Writer and Artist: Matt Kindt Dark Horse Mia’s early life and her relationship with her father. How she learned more about him through interviews and journals than by spending time with him. Along with revealing how Roger and Mia’s father met in the process. Which does leave one to wonder given how complicated Mia’s relationship with her seems, why is she so intent on catching the killer. Is it to get justice, or to thank them for freeing her from her father’s shadow? Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy
Grass Kings #5 (Boom! Studios)** – The shit begins to hit the fan in the fifth issue of Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins’ family drama set in a breakaway, “off-the-grid” community, and while it’s certainly exciting and visually interesting, a poorly-timed composite flashback/present-day “mash-up” scenario at the end that features actions that don’t quite line up with each other dulls the impact somewhat and places this installment just a notch below the previous four. Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Read
Briggs Land: Lone Wolves #2 (Dark Horse)** – Speaking of “off-the-grid,” the second issue of the second arc in Brian Wood and Mack Chater’s long-form series sees the walls begin to close in around the separatist Briggs clan as a de facto hostage situation turns into a lot more than anyone bargained for once the feds get involved. Chater’s art is a bit more generic in its appearance this time out, but it’s still more than solid, as is Wood’s pacy, dynamic script. Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Buy
World Reader #4 (Aftershock)** – Jeff Loveness’ script gets out of the way and lets Juan Doe’s amazing, borderline-psychedelic art do the bulk of the storytelling in this issue, as we finally meet a “psychic survivor” of sorts from the genocidal intergalactic force that’s been wiping out all life on one planet after another. The book takes all of about five minutes to read, but it’s worth going back and looking at time and time again to fully absorb the gorgeous images. Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Buy
The Divided States Of Hysteria #2 (Image)** – Howard Chaykin’s been getting more publicity than at any point since the early days of “American Flagg!” with this one, and while most of it has been understandably negative (that sickening, since-pulled cover was the very definition of “not a good idea”), it’s also beginning to look like both “camps” in the controversy surrounding this series are wrong. There was no gang-rape of a transgender woman last issue — in fact, she killed everybody trying to abuse her before they could — while at the same time, the right-wingers who were bitching about the cover to the first issue, which featured a Muslim woman in a red-white-and-blue burqa, were eager to defend the aforementioned no-longer-forthcoming cover to issue four, which featured a lynched Pakistani man with his balls cut off.
So, ya know, these fuckheads are pretty much as racist as we always knew they were.
In any case, at the end of the day, it seems that Chaykin played both sides like a fiddle in a move that would make “B-movie” huckster William Castle proud. This time out we finally get to see the ties that bind our disgraced former CIA operative and the various serial/spree killers together, as Chaykin sets up his ultra-violent, non-super-powered “Suicide Squad” premise more fully. The art is noisy, cluttered, and ugly — as it’s supposed to be — but all my fellow leftists who walked away from this comic after last month (assuming they ever read it at all) are missing out on a pointed critique of the privatized, for-profit prison system, the mercenary-for-hire industry exemplified by the likes of Erik Prince’s notorious Blackwater, and the racism and Islamophobia that Trump rode all the way to the White House. This book’s politics are worn openly and proudly on its sleeve, and I have to admit I get a chuckle imagining all the “alt-righters” who have flocked to Chaykin in recent days and weeks having their blood pressure raised when they actually sit down to read his story. There’s some sort of method to all this madness, and while it hasn’t revealed itself fully yet, it’s fascinating to watch it all unfold. And Ken Bruzenak is just plain killing it and earning every dime (and then some) with his awesomely garish lettering and effects.
I can sympathize with those who were offended by that cover that was probably never going to come out anyway (although I do have to wonder what these outraged individuals would make of the work of Johnny Ryan, S. Clay Wilson, Mike Diana, and even Crumb — seriously, people, read some undergrounds, it’ll broaden your horizons!), but there’s a “sweet spot” that’s being hit here for what few left-leaning readers of this comic remain : this is confrontational, in-your-face, unflinching stuff that effectively rebukes every single politically conservative position it takes aim at. In vintage Chaykin style, he’s managed to piss off all his allies and fleece all his true foes. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say that I admire that by any means, but his willingness to stand alone takes some guts, that’s for sure. Overall: 8. Recommendation: Buy.
The Defenders #3 ( Marvel) – We catch up with the gang shortly after an attempt by Diamondback to kill Luke Cage, whose confrontation was disturbed by Punisher. They slowly look for answers on the Punisher’s motivation while Diamondback questions Black Cat’s reason for saving Luke.They soon catch up with the Punisher, who gets close but are stopped by the Defenders. By issues end, Iron Fist gets into a fight with Diamondback and finds a supreme opponent. Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy
Black Panther and the Crew #4 (Marvel) – In this issue, we get a flashback and a catch up for readers. In the flashback, the OG Crew, deals with some unsavory characters in Mississippi, as they say struggle with having Northern sensibilities in Jim Crow South. In the present day story, Luke Cage and Misty Knight look for answers about the mysterious corporation who runs Americops and where their true interests lie. By issue’s end, both generations of the Crew meet, and what could happen next probably will be the game changer. Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy
Kill or Be Killed #10 (Image)** – Following hard on last issue’s massive cock-up, we find out from Ed Brubaker in one simple phrase how Dylan keeps getting away with murder: “They were too busy trying to be super-cops.” What’s fascinating to me about this series is how the noose keeps getting slowly tighter even as the actions of the cast of characters get looser, and good intentions are continually translated into really bad ideas. Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser give us a rainy, grey cemetery of an issue on the art right until the explosion of hellfire-framed-in-white on the last page. Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy
Cinema Purgatorio #11 (Avatar)** – Moore & O’Neill give us a movie musical version of the Black Dahlia murder (and very few comics writers do musical comics as well as Alan Moore). I could go for more of this, as I start to wonder what if Fox had made musicals of its films noir (as, despite the “My Fair Dahlia” title, this is not MGM). In “Code Pru”, we get a good look at the boss, who is even more monstrous than any of Pru’s patients. There’s a mystery brewing as to the circumstances and purposes of Pru’s job, but she seems to be too pissed off at her situation to see it… And over in cinema 3 of this multiplex, “Modded” goes shopping, but Fringe is more chosen than choosing. And just what is chainsaw rhythm reggae action? “… the daemonatrix lingo is more about exciting nouns than actual descriptive content.” But I’ll take exciting nouns over boring adverbs any day. (As usual, I skipped “A More Perfect Union” – if these guys would give me a straight history of the Civil War, I’d be interested – and “The Vast”, which is about boring adverbs in comics form). Overall: 7 Recommendation: Read
Mage: The Hero Denied #0 (Image)** – Matt Wagner returns to the adventures of Kevin Matchstick for one last series. This is a fun preview (featuring oh-so-90’s skateboarding warrior “The Steeze” – who Matchstick winkingly refers to as “youngblood” before sending him home). I have a weakness for heroes who can just do what they do without a lot of posing and wasted energy (must be my own middle age showing), and if Kevin does have better things to do with his time than fight stone-ogres, I’m very curious to know what they are. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy
Kaijumax Season 3 #1 (Oni Press)** – Zander Cannon continues to amaze with a heartfelt, humorous, horrible monster story that starts with a cabin in the woods, takes what appears to be a long detour through the story of a poor, put-upon giant goat, gets lost near a mysterious lake in Minnesota and then – oh my Goj – comes together and sets up the rest of the story in a great twist. Get on this. Overall: 9.5 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 (**).