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Underrated: Becoming Superman

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:  Becoming Superman by J. Michael Strazinsky


I’m not usually one to read autobiographies, if I’m honest, which probably sounds like a contradiction to those of you who know how much I like reading about history – specifically the history of comic books – given that autobiographies will typically deal with history in some form or another. And so it was somewhat surprising to me that when I saw Becoming Superman show up at my local comic shop of all places I felt compelled to pick it up. Especially considering I didn’t consider myself a huge J. Michael Straczynski fan to begin with (more as I hadn’t read a lot of his comics as far as I was aware of than because I didn’t like what I read), and so I went into the book knowing relatively little about who he was.

The reason I’m focusing on that book this week, rather than the broader subject of comic book creator auto/biographies is purely that I haven’t read enough of them to have any kind of compelling point to make. Plus, I am sure part of me knows I can then milk the subject a bit further as needed.

Anyway, obviously this is a book that fans of Straczynski are more likely to pick up, but what about those of us who aren’t that into autobiographies or even that big a fan of the man himself?

As somebody who fits both those categories, I can honestly say this was a super compelling book (pun not intended). Straczynski doesn’t shy away from the harsh truths of his life or even the way his actions shaped them. It’s an often times unflinching look at his journey, and you can see how his childhood shaped the man he became, and how he has shaped that into his work. From the harsh reality of television, the highs and lows, JMS is a fantastic storyteller (which shouldn’t be surprising given the list of things the man has worked. Seriously, it reads like a geek’s Must Watch list – Babylon 5, He-Man… the man is nonstop. And yet he looks back upon his life with a wisdom and analytical mind that stops him from portraying the events with rose tinted glasses.

It’s as honest an autobiography as I’ve read, and certainly more than I expected.

Being a comics fan primarily, I came to this looking for insight on his comics, and boy was I not disappointed. His telling of the script writing for Amazing Spider-Man #36, the 9/11 tribute issue, is genuinely beautiful, and had me rushing out to find a copy for my collection (as well as reading it digitally because that all black cover is a nightmare with fingerprints).

I didn’t expect that this would be a book I’d ever cover here, but man oh man was it good. Becoming Superman is a book that checks a lot of boxes, and yet despite that I haven’t heard many folks talking about it, which is why I wanted to write about it today.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Inter-Company Crossovers

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:  Inter-Company Crossovers


I was reorganizing my bookshelf the other day and a couple of older graphic novels caught my eye, and set me to thinking about the amount of inter-company crossovers I’ve read over the years. Books like Team X/Team 7 from Marvel and Image, Batman/Punisher from DC and Marvel and even He-Man/Thundercats from…. well from DC (does it count in this list? I think so, because although DC owns both properties now, when this awesomeness exploded in the eighties, the thought of them crossing over was a dream in many a fan’s mind, and since this is a thing that I’m writing, I’m going to leave that option on the table for myself). The crossover I’m thinking of in this case is Marvel Verses DC and the Amalgam Universe series that came from it; I’m still far too obsessed with that book after twenty plus years since initially reading it.

Whether it’s because these crossovers seem to happen with less frequency these days (especially between Marvel and DC), they’ve flown under my radar as they’re released, or I just happen to be stumbling across a large number of the crossovers from yesteryear at the comic shop, I’ve been missing the inter-company crossovers that bring some of our favourite heroes together (and often some of the most unexpected combinations).

Again, I don’t know if it feels like there were more released in the 80’s and 90’s than there is today, or if it feels that way because we’ve already got those releases and there’s less from Marvel and DC together than there used to be.

It should probably come as no surprise if you listen to Those Two Geeks, but my favourite crossover is Marvel Vs DC, and the subsequent Amalgam universe. It is the most ambitious crossover on the list, and had fans vote on the outcomes of fights between the various heroes – sometimes the fans were bang on, and sometimes the result was clearly the result of a popularity contest and not of a reasonable outcome between two characters (I love Wolverine, but having him face off against Lobo wasn’t the best match up, and definitely not the right outcome between the two, but at the time I loved it). Other highlights include Superman vs Smart Hulk, Spider-Man vs Super Boy, Batman vs Captain America, Storm vs Wonder Woman and Thor vs Shazam. There was also a pretty cool series of trading cards that came from the crossover with other fights not shown in the comics, as well as two Amalgam trades collecting the mash up stories of Super Soldier (Superman and Captain America), Dark Claw (Wolverine/Batman) and others that came about as a result of the events in the four issue miniseries.

On a much smaller scale, Team X/Team 7 saw Wolverine, Maverick and Sabretooth in their spy days come across Image’s (well, Wildstorm’s) Team Seven. It was much more of an action spy story than a world saving capes and cowl style story, and despite having no idea who Team 7 were (even now I still don’t really know who they are beyond this miniseries, and a quick google has me wondering what the impetus was for this crossover because they don’t seem to have had a lasting impact, though I suppose things were different back then). This was one of those books I picked up because of the Marvel trio more than anything else, and it never inspired me to read more Team 7, but I recall enjoying the dynamic when I did read the book.

Even this Tomb Raider/Witchblade book wasn’t terrible, but had I been a fan of either character before giving it a try, I’d likely have enjoyed the book a little more.

Shifting to modern times, the Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover was an absolute joy to read, as were the sequels. DC and IDW teamed up to create a story with characters that mesh together remarkably well – it’s a shame that this isn’t an ongoing series, because watching Damian Wayne interact with the turtles gives me more joy than it probably should.

There’s been a few Batman crossovers with Marvel heroes – Punisher and Daredevil spring to mind immediately – and while both are thoroughly enjoyable, there’s a standout moment where Batman asks Daredevil for a certain coloured object. It’s been a bit since I read the book, and so I can’t remember if that’s why Batman knows Daredevil is blind or he’s testing a theory – either way the art in those scenes always makes me smile just a little.

And I think that’s the whole point of those crossovers; as almost all of them are out of continuity (aside from within their own self contained stories), for me the main goal is to just hope they’re entertaining. It’s unlikely anything character changing will happen, but there’s a special joy to seeing Spider-Man crack jokes at a stonewalled Batman, or the X-Men coming into contact with the Teen Titans. Of course, these books aren’t always easy to find; it’s unlikely that they’ll ever be collected into a trade (there are exceptions to this such as the Batman/TMNT stories, and the Marvel vs DC and Amalgam trades), and even if they are, reprints aren’t likely for the older books.

But next time you’re in your LCS, see if you can find some of these gems. The books from the 90’s especially are often over looked when it comes to the company crossovers, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth reading.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 9/26

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

X of Swords: Creation #1 (Marvel)- Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard take simmering plotlines from their X-Men and Excalibur titles and turn them onto a full boil in the first installment of the X of Swords crossover. The extra length allows for both table setting and dynamic action from artist Pepe Larraz. Hickman and Howard are juggling a huge cast, but still have time for pivotal character moments especially where Apocalypse is concerned. Maybe, he’s not as much of a gamer as he thought he was in Excalibur. Apocalypse’s family connection to Arakko makes them a tad more interesting than generic cool looking baddies a la Black Order, and Howard and Hickman make a smart story decision by countering them with the Summers family. Finally, X of Swords: Creation #1 is a successful example of genre fusion with Hickman, Howard, and Larraz crafting a science fantasy epic that just happens to have fan-favorite mutants as the stars with relationships established over a year of Dawn of X. Overall: 9.0 Verdict: Buy

Autumnal #1 (Vault)– Autumnal #1 is excellent slow-burn, fish out of water horror from writer Daniel Kraus and artist Chris Shehan. Kat and Sybil are a mother and daughter who have been through some shit (Much of the first part of the comic is set in a principal’s office.), but they love each other deeply. In this comic, they ended up heading to idyllic New Hampshire from Chicago when Kat’s distant mother left her the house. Shehan and colorist Jason Wordie show both beauty and decay in this town while going for more realism in showing Kat and Sybil’s interactions. Kraus spends a lot of time establishing their relationship and personalities from Sybil’s IED and intelligence to Kat’s recovery from addiction and past as a musician before throwing them into the rural, ritual weirdness. I’ll follow these anti-Gilmore Girls duo into any nook, cranny, or autumn leaf in this series. Overall: 8.7 Verdict: Buy

Wicked Things #5 (BOOM!)– John Allison and Max Sarin find great balance between Lottie trying to solve an elaborate series of casino robberies and her friend Claire actually interacting with the premise of the series aka trying to find out who framed her. Sarin’s gift for hilarious gestures and body language in Giant Days still translates to Wicked Things with Lottie’s reactions and general swaggering when she beats her probation-mate/ex-con Bulldog in chess. In its five issues, Wicked Things has gone down a lot of tangents from cellphone scams to Lottie being the tea/coffee girl at the police station, but they are infinitely amusing. I’m sad to see this one conclude next issue. Overall: 8.2 Verdict: Buy

Brett

Dark Nights: Death Metal Speed Metal #1 (DC Comics) – An interesting comic that feels more a meta commentary to fans of Wally West than the story itself. There’s a lot of “righting the wrong” as Wally and Barry have it out as they’re on the run and it’s clear Wally is going to be a big part of whatever is to come but unless you’re really invested in the character(s) then the issue is a little… meh. As a chapter to the event, it’s fine and likely fills in gaps we won’t see elsewhere but it’s very much for the Wally West fans. Overall Rating: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Elana

Dracula Motherf*cker (Image) We need hyper lurid vivid horror comics. We need badass feminist takes on the Dracula story. We need this gorgeous new book from Alex de Campi and Erica Henderson. Henderson, who you know from Squirrel Girl but hopefully don’t only know from Squirrel Girl, has a style that Is incredibly versitle with cinemascope panels, visionary monsters and period perfect styling and fashion. And everyone knows de Campi is the queen of grindhouse comics with emotional bite that tell stories you haven’t seen before. Did I mention this comic largely takes place in 1974? Absolutely loved this book.


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 (**).

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 9/19

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

Iron Man #1 (Marvel)– Color me interested in an Iron Man comic for the first time since Matt Fraction left the title. Christopher Cantwell and Cafu craft a comic that is both vintage and forward-thinking with Tony Stark leaving the Stark Unlimited, selling his penthouse, moving to New York, and street racing and fighting Silver Age villains with Hellcat in tow. Cantwell cleverly uses social media as a snarky Greek chorus to dog all of Tony’s moves in this comic as he tries to be humble and reinvent himself, but ends up falling back on his old tricks. With the help of Hellcat’s snark and take no bullshit attitude, Cantwell pushes back on Tony’s privilege and usually way of doing things. We’ll see if he ends up breaking the mold with his run. Finally, Cafu’s visuals makes everything look sleek and old school like a classic car show and makes Alex Ross’ redesign/throwback design look gorgeous in action. Overall: 8.8 Verdict: Buy.

Overwatch-Tracer: London Calling #1 (Dark Horse)– I’ve played Overwatch once, but this digital comic from writer Mariko Tamaki and artists Babs Tarr, Heather Danforth, and Hunter Clark is more punk rock than video game with a simple, yet charming tale of human/robot conflict. With Overwatch disbanded, Tracer is getting restless stopping petty crime in England having noodles with her girlfriend. However, Tamaki lobs an obstacle in the forms of the Omnics, who are in conflict with humanity, but they both like old punk bands? Tarr’s art brings maximum cuteness for the smooching and finding common ground in tunes while Clark sets up her nicely for the zippy fast action scenes that are capture the speed of the multiplayer video game. But more cartooning. Tracer London Calling isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a charming licensed comic with top-notch visuals. Overall: 7.8 Verdict: Read

Excalibur #12 (Marvel)– Tini Howard does some big moves on the ol’ plot board, and Marcus To gets to draw better versions of characters envisioned by Rob Liefeld, namely, the Externals in this issue of Excalibur. Most of the focus is on Apocalypse and his coven and the sacrifices they make while Rogue and Gambit have to deal with the consequences. Betsy Braddock is also out here trying to prove that she is the real Captain Britain to Saturnyne, and yes, Excalibur #12 has a lot of plots. But mostly it’s nice to see Apocalypse go back to his own ways, albeit, in a more magical/paving the way for a big crossover event way. Overall: 7.5 Verdict: Read

Brett

Batman #99 (DC Comics) – The best issue of the “Joker War” so far as Batman finally assembles his crew to take things on. It’s a bit slow as far as action but it’s that key moment when Batman gets his head out of his ass building off last issues “get up Rock” moment. It’s a piece of the bigger puzzle but a vast improvement on an event that has been relatively underwhelming. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Hellions #4 (Marvel) – While it’s gotten away from the concept of restorative justice, this is still one of my favorite two X-books right now. The series has nailed a nice action/horror vibe to it but also underneath the action there’s some great concepts of society’s abuse of “criminals” and their being exploited. It’s surface might be more of the classic X-Men but it also has the heart of exploring real world issues underneath the kick-ass visuals and fun dialogue. Overall Rating: 8.45 Recommendation: Buy

Seven Secrets #2 (BOOM! Studios) -The second issue of the series is an interesting one as it kind of feels like a first issue. While the debut focused on Caspar’s parents, this issue now shifts things to Caspar. It’s a very different start of a comic and very unexpected as you’d expect the second issue to really pick up from the action of the first issue. The playing with that expectation makes this an intriguing series just for that but it’s a good story, interesting characters and world, and great art… all of that helps too. Overall Rating: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy

Slaughterhouse-Five (BOOM! Studios/Archaia) – I’m not much of a prose reader by Kurt Vonnegut is a writer who I have read multiple of his books and enjoyed them all. Sadly, it’s been over 20 years since I’ve done that… so I don’t remember this one at all beyond the war and time travel. How it compares to the classic book, I couldn’t say, but I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel adaptation which is full of the humor I remember and the interesting anti-war message. Add is some great visuals which adds to the laughs, it’s a solid read no matter how close they got to the original material. Overall Rating: 8.25 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 (**).

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 9/12

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.


Joe Hesh

Amazing Spider-Man #48 (Marvel) It doesn’t matter how many issues or how many volumes, one thing remains: Peter Parker is still Peter Parker. That means Peter Parker is Spider-Man. This issue dealt with Peter frontline and all his tremendous guilt and weight he carries with him. He is in constant battle between his wants and his morals. He wants to make the right choice always but the right choice is never easy. His conundrum? Does he let his old foe The Sin Eater who has returned from the dead with a holy crusade using new powers to clear sins away, cleanse Peter’s greatest enemy: The Green Goblin aka Iron Patriot aka Director of SWORD aka The Red Goblin aka Norman Osborn, or does he save Norman from this fate? Issues like this make me love Spider-Man so much. He really is the worlds most altruistic hero. No matter how much pain you put him through or what you take from him, he is always unwaivering in his principles. Peter leans on his web friends for some internal guidance and it is here the issue shines. Miles, Gwen, Spider-Woman all take a stab at the Parker psyche and we get some very cool and fun moments. If you’re a long time reader you have a good idea on what Peter’s choice is and thats where the fun begins leading us right into the big 850th issue next. Art chores were done by the amazing Mark Bagley and the scribe was Nick Spencer who is finally making Spidey something worth reading again. All the while here I’m waiting for something Goblin to come. Next issue should be a blast. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Batman: Three Jokers #1 (DC) We’ve waited so long for this one and wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. It did not disappoint. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work with three possible Jokers and what not. I thought some multiverse shenanigans or such but after reading this, I think not. The story plays out brilliantly pacing all kinds of lush character developments at the same time as a jog down memory lane. The Joker has always been so fascinating as there is so many interpretations of him. I’ve always been a fan of Grant Morrisons metamorphosis portrayal where he amps up to meet whatever Batman is putting out at the time. In other words the better Batman is, the worse Joker becomes. However after reading this and a very different direction my thoughts might change. I know we are only on issue one but this could be the story of the year for me. An all around gorgeous presentation. Speaking of which, the art. The freaking art man. It’s breathtaking.  I know Jason Fabok might have started as a Jim Lee clone but to me, he has surpassed Lee. The line work, the difference of character design, the bombastic large fight scenes, it is really too impressive to quantify. Now Geoff Johns the man who has brought us the best and worst DC has to offer (I.E. Green Lantern and Infinite Crisis) he crushes it this time. Right out the gate, grand slam on first pitch. I don’t know where he is going with this yet, but I cannot wait. Not only does he handle the mystery well but he gives Jason and Barbara some of the best character work they’ve had in years. I loved it. So if you weren’t planning to read this book, you better change that. Canon or no canon this is an amazing story. Don’t sleep on it, lest a stray crowbar wake you to your senses. Score: 9.8 Reccomendation: Buy

Logan

Vampire the Masquerade #2 (Vault)- In Tim Seeley and Devmalya Pramanik’s A-story, most of the big plot points are dashed out via exposition, but the real draw is the relationship between Cecilia and her vampire “childe” (She was sired and left for dead actually) Ali. They demonstrate that the life of a vampire in this world is full of moral dilemmas and bureaucracy in contrast with the pure survival instincts of the Anarchs in Tini Howard, Blake Howard, and Nathan Gooden’s backup story. Pramanik’s art and Addison Duke’s soul-searing color really get into Ali’s head as she makes her first kill while Seeley’s dry, clinical dialogue for Cecilia nicely unwraps the moral implications of her action. Vampire Masquerade is definitely a slow burner, but Cecilia and Ali are a great duo to build this story around. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Aggretsuko #6 (Oni Press)– The first volume of Aggretsuko wraps up with a competition-driven story from Black Mage’s Daniel Barnes and DJ Kirkland with the employees at Retsuko’s office competing for 1 day of PTO in various sports. Kirkland’s video game and manga influences come to the forefront especially in a couple climactic events straight out of Slam Dunk or Mario Kart. He does this all while staying on-model and pumping up the energy and emotion. Barnes’ script is creative and full of trash talk, and he throws in some fun moments featuring the fan-favorite relationship between Retsuko and Haida making it integral to the main story. Aggretsuko #6 is an enjoyable supplement to the Netflix anime series and kind of is a vision of the show if it was a 22 episode American-style sitcom instead of a tightly focused 10 episode one. Overall: 8.6 Verdict: Buy

Marauders #12 (Marvel)– After all the shit she’s gone through, Marauders #12 is a pure celebration of Kitty Pryde, her friendships and relationships with various X-Men, her revenge, and also her finally coming out as bisexual via smooching a tattoo artis tafter decades of speculation and subtext. Writer Gerry Duggan takes a beat in his “Kill Shaw” plot to have Kitty enjoy life with Lockheed permanently snuggled up on her neck, and artist Matteo Lolli’s old school art style that reminded me of Paul Smith or Howard Chaykin is perfect for this kind of character-driven story. They deal with the implications of the resurrection process while also showing Kitty’s comfort with certain characters like Magik, Storm, and Nightcrawler and discomfort with being the belle of the ball when all she wants to get is knuckle tats and vengeance. Marauders #12 re-establishes Kitty Pryde as the lead and heart of this series, and I’m rejuvenated and ready to see her take down Sebastian Shaw. Overall: 8.7 Verdict: Buy

Brett

Dryfoot #1 (Mad Cave Studios) – The debut issue is interesting and fun about a bunch of kids who decide to rob a drug dealer in 1980s Miami. It’d be a bit more interesting if 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank hadn’t already tackled a similar idea and done it with a far better debut. Still, a nice diversion from other things out there. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Empyre: Aftermath Avengers #1 (Marvel) – The wedding celebration has a lot of solid moments and drama. But, the comic feels like it could have been a few pages in an expanded final issue. Its really goal is to set up the next major story arc and never quite feels completely satisfying for some reason. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Empyre: Fallout Fantastic Four #1 (Marvel) – The issue is very cute and potentially sets up a lot for the Fantastic Four. Out of the two Empyre follow up issues, this is the one to really pay attention to. It really feels like much more of an ending than the Avengers version. Overall Rating: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Marauders #12 (Marvel) – The art isn’t for me and I don’t get the tension at all. You know who killed Kate… so? It’d be one thing if it was a mystery but much like the whole concept of resurrection, the real drama is no longer there. Overall Rating: 5.0 Recommendation: Pass

Rise of Ultraman (Marvel) – I don’t know the classic property at all so was excited to dive into the series. The first issue is fun and a nice build into the world. It also feels a little generic though. An entertaining comic and one I want to read the second issue but it’s not one I’m super excited about anymore. Overall Rating: 7.75 Recommendation: Read

Transformers: Galaxies #9 (IDW Publishing) – The series wraps up its latest arc delivering a nice morality tale. The focus is on self-determination and free will, a concept a bit deeper than robots than change into things. As usual the comic is more than meets the eye. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Read

Vampire: The Masquerade #2 (Vault Comics) – The comic series continues to impress though might be a bit more enjoyable for those who really know the world. The exploration of choice when it comes to vampirism is an interesting one and there’s a bit of a Training Day vibe about the issue. This is a series to keep an eye on. Overall Rating: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

Web of Venom: Wraith #1 (Marvel) – There’s a solid western vibe about the issue. It also dives into Wraith’s history a bit which is nice for those who don’t know the character like myself. Still, it’s really a comic to just warn Eddie Brock that Knull is coming and set up King in Black. A must-read? No. But, an entertaining one. Overall Rating: 7.75 Recommendation: Read

X-Factor #3 (Marvel) – The series continues to be a hell of a lot of fun and the return of Shatterstar has so much potential. This is an X comic that’s just full of winks, nods, and laughs and quickly rising to be the best of that corner of the Marvel Universe. 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 (**).

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 9/5

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

Strange Adventures #5 (DC Comics) – The series is Tom King’s latest exploring his time in a war zone and like a good mystery and political thriller each chapter is a piece of the puzzle. The issue is another solid entry into the overall dance he’s crafting though it’s hard to measure the overall quality until the full picture is clear. While the issue is good I really want to see where this all goes. Overall Rating: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

Black Widow #1 (Marvel) – The latest volume for the character meant to capitalize on the film. There’s a few things I look forward to with each volume, solid action and solid espionage. This delivers both in an first issue that feels like the opening of a Bond film just before the credits roll. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Alien: The Original Screenplay #2 (Dark Horse) – I’ve never read the original screenplay for the beloved film so seeing it adapted for comics makes me beyond happy. I love the franchise and it’s always interesting to see how things might have been. So far, it feels like a solid different take on a familiar story with everything that made the original great. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Grendel Kentucky #1 (AWA Studios) – A new take on the classic story of Grendel. It’s an ok start with a lot of good ideas and teases but doesn’t quite have the hook I was hoping for. It’s too many cliches and characters that have potential but you never quite connect with them. This one might be read better as a whole than individual issues. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

We Only Find Them When They’re Dead #1 (BOOM! Studios) – Space Moby Dick? This new series is big on concepts involving dead space gods being mined for materials and the search for one that’s alive. The art is what really pops here with some amazing visuals. The character too stand out giving us a group that has some great interactions and chemistry. A fun and interesting sci-fi debut. Overall Rating: 8.0 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 (**).

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 8/29

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

40 Seconds #1 (comiXology Originals) – An interesting debut about a group of explorers setting off using gate technology sent by aliens. It’s very Stargate in the concept. There’s a lot teased out but the “meat” to make it stand out is never quite delivered. Not a bad start but it needs to show off a little more before it really stands out. So far, it’s a bit too familiar. Overall Rating: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Hellions #3 (Marvel) – It’s quickly becoming my favorite of Marvel’s X-relaunch. While the series is getting away from the promise of exploring the concept of justice, it is delivering action and surprising humor with a tone that’s straight horror. Overall Rating: 8.35 Recommendation: Buy

Mega Man: Fully Charged #1 (BOOM! Studios) – I don’t know the animated show but very familiar with the original video games and loved the previous comics. This was a surprising debut for me as it’s much more adult than expected. A good mystery and really interesting premise of a debut, it’s a lot more political than expected. Just a solid series start. Overall Rating: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Nailbiter Returns #4 (Image Comics) – I’m a sucker for this series which is just over the top slasher horror. While this volume shifts things a bit to feel a bit more “Scream” in tone, there’s something fun and off the wall about it that just makes it fun. We’re starting to get a better idea as to what’s up with all of the Buckaroo Butchers being back but the big picture mystery is still there. Solid characters and great art combine for one of my favorite reads each month. Overall Rating: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #3 (Marvel) – Not quite as good as the previous volume, the series still does a solid job of mixing Indiana Jones and Star Wars. The issue delivers a lot of twists and turns and double-crosses keeping readers on their toes. Overall Rating: 7.75 Recommendation: Read

X-Factor #2 (Marvel) – The other X-relaunch that’s fighting for the top spot of my favorite right now. The comic is just a hell of a lot of fun as the team head to the Mojoverse to investigate a murder. The concepts are fantastic and it’s a great update to Mojo’s world. The character interactions are what really stand out as every team member shines and are full of personality. Everyone has their moments and deliver laughs in their own way. Overall Rating: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Chu #2 (Image Comics) – I always enjoyed the original Chew series and this prequel has me wanting to go back and re-read it to see how much of that is rose-colored glasses. This new series has lots of humor but also is a bit more sophomoric than what I remember from the previous series. There’s kinetic energy to it all but some jokes are cringeworthy with a bit too much of a focus on bodily functions. Maybe I outgrew the series in between them? This has been an odd first two issues to read. Like an old friend that you don’t quite get along with as you used to after a long time apart. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Logan

Amethyst #5 (DC/Wonder Comics)– Amy Reeder drops the big reveal in Amethyst #5 as Amy and her friends travel to the realm of Diamonds, who are responsible for keeping law and order in Gemworld. And Amy’s parents have definitely been found lacking. Reeder is definitely in flashback city mode in this issue as she and colorist Marissa Louise clearly delineate Amy’s parents’ moral failing and the real reason they’re “frozen” in a crystal and keep it interesting by using actual gems as layouts. Coupled with how Reeder shows how Amy and her friends react to everything, it’s more engaging than it has any business being. The lore of Gemworld is dense in a meant to sell toys 80s cartoon way, but it’s rendered less annoying by the universality of discovering that your parents aren’t angels and have done some fucked up things. Even if said fucked up things involve elemental MacGuffin thingies. To wrap things up, Amy Reeder’s art continues to be the main draw of Amethyst, and this series could have used more room to breathe plotwise instead of cramming all the big reveals into one issue. Overall: 7.5 Verdict: Read

The Question: Deaths of Vic Sage #4 (DC/Black Label)– Jeff Lemire, Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Chris Sotomayor stick the landing perfectly in The Question #4 even tying together the multiple timelines. The books acts as both a tribute to Dennis O’Neil’s iconic work with the character, who turned him from an avatar of Objectivism to a more nuanced figure, and as ripped from the headlines work of almost-moral-philosophy about the pervasiveness of evil. (The opening comic could just as well take place in 2020 Louisville, Kentucky as fictional Hub City.) Basically, even if Donald Trump loses the election (Or suffers a similar fate as the antagonist of this miniseries.), white supremacism, racism, and oppression will continue to fester. Lemire and Cowan interrogate the futility of black and white thinking whether that’s big electoral politics, or on a genre-specific level, the slugfest that ends the majority of superhero comics. Big double page spreads filled with grids of ass-kicking or splashes of explosions come across as holding actions as Question’s mentor Tot acts as the voice of reason along the way. The Question #4 is a worthy conclusion for a series that had soul-searing visuals from Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Chris Sotomayor to go with dark night of the soul writing from Jeff Lemire. Overall: 10 Verdict: Buy

Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1 (Marvel)– When Mark Waid isn’t infusing his dialogue with pure boomer energy via his unfunny references to memes and transformation of Reed Richards into stretchy, technobabble spouting Homer Simpson, Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1 is a decent, throwback FF comic. Neal Adams and inker Mark Farmer draw crowd scenes and fight scenes with plenty of power and energy and vivid facial expressions. This book has a high concept hook and arrives at it in a visually memorable way. Waid and Adams are truly in summer blockbuster mode in FF: Antithesis with no fewer than three apocalypses being averted. The stakes are high, but have these two veteran creators blown their wad early? I guess we’ll find out down the road. Overall: 7.0 Verdict: Read

Mega Man: Fully Charged #1 (BOOM!)– I’m not super familiar with the Mega Man franchise beyond the music of the Protomen and Mega Man Battle Network for the Game Boy Advance. However, I quite liked this comic book continuation of a recent Mega Man anime. There’s a beauty, motion, and expressiveness in Stefano Simeone’s art where he makes characters like Dr. Light, Skull Man, and Mega Man, of course, his own and really drives home the father/son story that AJ Marchisello and Marcus Rinehart were trying to tell. Igor Monti’s colors had a bleak, dystopian feel to the comic except when Mega Man is doing his thing during one of the several exciting action sequences. For the most part, Mega Man #1 isn’t really lore-driven and centers around the relationship between Mega Man, Dr. Light, and his sister Suna as well as the human/robot war. It’s worth a look if you like sci-fi dystopia or robot stories. Overall: 8.0 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 (**).

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 8/8

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.


Joe Hesh

Batman #96 (DC Comics)** Wow. I knew Tynion was planning something good, but I didn’t think it would be THIS good. This is shaping up to be the Joker story for the ages. He has really got to Batman this time and he’s not F$%&@*%g around. Not only is he using all of Bruce’s tech and toys, the psychological warfare is leveled up so severe I don’t want it to stop. This needs to be the last battle between these two at least for a long long while (or until Three Jokers) I really dug the effects of Bruce on the toxin seeing his version of a perfect Gotham and the Mr. Freeze children were just so cool! (Yeah it’s an ice pun, sue me) The story keeps escalating at a frenetic pace which is what these events should do. Also that last closing scene. WOW. Chills for that. The art by Jorge Jimenez is so dynamic and ever improving I feel a bit of Greg Capullo in the visuals. That can only be a good thing. I’m loving this team. Loving this book. It shouldn’t be a shock what the verdict is. Overall: 9.6 Verdict: Buy

Brett

Vampire: The Masquerade #1 (Vault Comics) – An interesting adaptation of the classic roleplaying game. It gets the setting of the world down but is to focused on clans and in-game terminology. For fans of the property, it should be interesting but for new readers, it might be a bit difficult to get in to. Overall Rating: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Dark Nights: Death Metal Legends of the Dark Knights #1 (DC Comics) – There’s some really solid stories in this anthology. For those that aren’t really tied into the main event and just having fun, they work really well riffing on the concept. The one story that’s really tied into the main event, it feels like maybe it’s info should have been in the main event somehow. Still, there’s a lot in here that fans not paying attention to Dark Nights will enjoy and make it worth the price of admission. Bat baby! Overall Rating: 7.95 Recommendation: Buy

Far Sector #7 (DC’s Young Animal) – One of the best series DC is putting out right now. Though this issue might not have the socio-political aspects of the previous six issues, it’s much deeper than its cyberpunk/jacked into the net story might seem. It throws out some really interesting concepts and deepens this interesting world even more. Overall Rating: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Strange Adventures #4 (DC Black Label) – This series has been an interesting one shifting its focus from Adam Strange to the man investigating him, Mr. Terrific. His investigations take him to Rann where it’s pretty clear things aren’t what Strange is claiming and there’s a whole conspiracy going on. Hopefully, that conspiracy really pays off beyond “good PR.” Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Logan

Young Justice #17 (DC/Wonder Comics)**– Young Justice #17 is an aftermath after a huge battle/Brian Michael Bendis hangout issue. (But co-written by David Walker and drawn by Scott Godlewski.) With the exception of Teen Lantern and John Stewart, this comic slows down the pace a little bit and lets the members of Young Justice spend some time with their mentors in the Justice League while also showing their world from the POV of Yolanda Chan, the daughter of a food truck owner outside the Hall of Justice. Godlewski gets some good acting and facial expressions out of his artwork while using a lot of double spreads to show how superheroes bond like Wonder Girl and Wonder Woman lifting a truck together and talking about leadership, and Impulse and The Flash having a chat about living in the moment in super speed. The issue has the heartwarming effect of getting a genuine compliment from a mentor and adds a dimension of heart to the knock ’em, sock ’em, mediocre storyline in Action Comics with the JL, Young Justice, and Legion of Doom. These are characters I definitely want to spend more time with even if the overarching plot grinds to a halt in Young Justice #17, and it sometimes seems like Bendis and Walker are doing Action Comics damage control. Overall: 7.6 Verdict: Read

Giant-Size X-Men: Fantomex #1 (Marvel)– Rod Reis channels Bill Sienkiewicz (Think New Mutants/Elektra Assassin era) and turns in career best work in Giant-Size X-Men: Fantomex #1, which is basically just Fantomex pulling misdirections on hapless “superteams” ranging from Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos to the Hellfire Club and, of course, Grant Morrison-era New X-Men. This is basically Jonathan Hickman’s biggest acknowledgement to that run yet as he and Reis build an arc for Fantomex showing how he’s changed over the decades with Reis’ art shifting to match his personality from more abstract collage to his usual pencils-to-colors style. Beneath the flashiness, Hickman and Reis pop under the hood to explore a man whose entire life is a fiction. (The Commandos’ jokes about which flavor of Western European he is are priceless.) It’s the best Giant-Size issue since the silent Emma/Jean one and is a flawless marriage of visuals and character study. Maybe, Hickman is at his finest when riffing off Grant Morrison… Overall: 8.8 Verdict: Buy

Bad Mother #1 (AWA)– With a different artist, Bad Mother #1 could be a middling vigilante exploitation story with a house wife lead. However, Mike Deodato is the artist and combined with Christa Faust’s writing, the book is like a Lifetime movie with a little more violence and “fucks” thrown in. Deodato’s work is stiff and lifeless like the suburb the protagonist lives in, and his usual bag of tricks, such as inset panels muddle his storytelling even more. Plotwise, Faust blows her big reveal pretty early on, and her characters easily come across like caricatures. I’m a total ACAB guy and think that most cops totally mishandle any kind of domestic violence/sexual assault situation, but even I felt bad for how poorly the police were written in Bad Mother #1. Overall: 4.0 Verdict: Pass

The Dreaming: Waking Hours #1 (DC/Black Label)– Featuring a queer, blue haired nightmare named Ruin cut loose in the waking world, a English Lit PhD student named Lindy, and the Shakespeare authorship hour, G. Willow Wilson, Nick Robles, and Mat Lopes’ The Dreaming: Waking Hours #1 is really my cup of tea. Robles’ art is gorgeous and filled with humanity; you can see the sadness in Lindy’s eyes when her dissertation advisor says she has nothing original to add to Shakespeare scholarship, and on the flipside, he can do horror and fear when Ruin switches places with Lindy in the Dreaming. (Lopes adds the deepest blues to this sequence.) The Dreaming: Waking Hours #1 gives each character an introduction and makes them three-dimensional before dropping a Sandman-connected plot hook. But Wilson and Robles aren’t weighed down by lore and use the expansive canvas of The Dreaming to tell a love story of an angel and a nightmare while digging into why we love certain authors and works of art. It’s also beautifully laid out, colored, and has funny bits too. (See the interactions with Shakespeare and his “writer’s room”.) Overall: 9.0 Verdict: Buy. I purchased a copy from Comixology.


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 (**).

Those Two Geeks Episode Seventy Two: Old News And Rumors

Alex and Joe intend to talk about the oddly still relevant news regarding Michael Keaton playing Batman again and how the X-Men could enter the MCU. There is an award cut around 43 minutes with a bit of sound because the recording suddenly stopped. Yay technology.

As always, Alex and Joe can be found on twitter respectively @karcossa and @jcb_smark if you feel the need to tell them they’re wrong individually, or @those2geeks if you want to yell at them together on twitter, or by email at ItsThose2Geeks@gmail.com.

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 5/30

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.


Joe Hesh

Batman: The Adventures Continue #3 (DC Digital) After a good first two issues that took me down memory lane, this one was more like an overstayed welcome. Sure I love Robin and Deathstroke as characters but this was incredibly bland. Three quarters of the issue take place inside a museum where Robin and Slade are waiting to foil Firefly’s latest heist. We all know that Slade is playing Robin to get to Bruce but it is an incredibly dull journey getting there this time. The only highlight of the issue is when Bruce is bringing down Mad Hatter and his Wonderland Gang and he thinking to himself how Tim would have enjoyed it and he’s actually missing his quips. That was a nice touch. Ty Templeton does great visuals here and it could have leapt off the animation cells themselves but the writing from Alan Burnett and Paul Dini (I can’t believe I’m writing this) really fails to connect here. Hoping next issue this picks up the pace major. It is a limited series and we’ve got so much to get to. Just get to Jason Todd and Asrael already! I digress. Score: 6.5

Venom #25 (Marvel Comics) These days anything writer Donny Cates touches turns to gold right? Welllll, and anything my childhood artist Mark Bagley turns out is amazing right? Welllll, not quite. Now mind you the whole Venom run and Venom Island has been awesome thus far but this issue just fell flat. You would think with no new comics for two months and a big return could do no wrong. For me though it just wasn’t it. First off the whole issue is told via flashback which is a device I am not very fond of. Especially as the conclusion to a huge epic! However it’s not all bad. We have great art by Bagley but the script just wasn’t energetic enough. Venom vs Carnage final bow on the island. It was cool and all I just wanted more. I do like Eddie’s involvement with the Avengers though. Plus we are warned about the coming of Knull which should be some good shit. Score: 7.6

Logan

Youth #3 (Comixology Originals) Youth #3 is kind of a messy comic opening up with an extended conversation from a redshirt security guard about how he hates pregnant women and the effects of Five Guys on his digestive system. Ok, Curt Pires, we understand you think you’re like Quentin Tarantino. However, once he and artists Alex Diotto and Dee Cunniffe focus on the effects of having superpowers on the cast and especially the relationship between Franklin and River, the book gets good again. Pires and Diotto show these teens don’t give a shit about superheroes, but use their abilities to get money and party, consequences be damned. I especially like the cut-up panels and day glo colors that Diotto and Cunniffe bring to the club sequence, which starts fun and turns grotesque. I wish I knew more about these characters other than general anger and horniness, but Youth #3 is a marked improvement over the previous issue if not a great issue just yet. Overall: 7.6 Verdict: Read

Marauders #10 (Marvel) Forge’s anti-mutant tech has fallen into the hands of the Russians, and it’s up to the Marauders to stop them in this action-packed, nearly standalone story from Gerry Duggan, Stefano Caselli, and Edgar Delgado. Casselli’s art isn’t flashy, but it’s easy to follow especially during the big action sequence. Emma Frost gets to use both her womanly intuition and psychic abilities in a dramatic scene that comes across at revenge for what happens to Kate Pryde. Because of these actions, Krakoa isn’t afraid to do some more overt action instead of just relying on X-Force. And there’s also developments on that front with Duggan including two of the saddest diagram pages yet: a couple of last emails between Kate and Nightcrawler. Overall: 8.3 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 (**).

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