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.
Man of Steel #1 (DC Comics) So here it is folks, BMB takes on Big Blue and its……. ok. Yeah just okay. I figured he’d start with something more world burning but all we get is more on the conspiracy to eliminate Krypton and introduced to a new female face in Malorie Moore who is the Metropolis Fire Chief. Ivan Reis does a great job on pencils as does Jason Fabok on fill ins but there isn’t a lot to work with here. Also where the hell is Lois and Jon?? I am not interested in a non family Superman at this point in my collecting career. I hope they pop up soon. I know Bendis can start out slow and build something magnificent, but I hope this doesn’t turn out to be some uninspired Jenga piece of work. Overall: 6 Recommendation: Read
Amazing Spider-Man #800 (Marvel Comics) If you read one Spidey story this year make this be it. It is not just a tagline, to not do it would be a miss. Dan “the man” Slott brings us to the crescendo here. Norman Osborn vs Peter Parker for all the marbles. Norman mixed with Carnage symbiote is more deadly than ever and way more ruthless. He goes right for the heart and threatens all of Peter’s nearest and closest. There are many good scenes in this one and everyone of the characters get facetime. There is a death in here that was beautifully written and very touching. Even though this character is gone. They get an amazing sendoff. There are many pencils all over this one, too many too name but not enough to complain. All I know is when ever I see Mark Bagley draw Spidey it makes my heart happy. This one had action, heart, and consequence. With great power comes great responsibility and everyone who touched this proves it. It was definitely make mine Marvel. I’m going to miss Dan Slott for sure. Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy
The Man Of Steel #1 (DC)** – So, this is it, huh? The “new era” of Superman begins with Brian Michael Bendis retconning some shit vis a vis the destruction of Krypton, there’s something about a rash of arson fires, and we don’t know where Lois and Jon are. The issue ends on flashback cliffhanger, never a smart idea since what’s happened has already happened, and Ivan Reis’ art is pretty generic, “New 52”-esque stuff. Bendis has a pretty solid immediate handle on how to write Superman, but beyond getting the overall tone right, there’s nothing much on offer here. Overall: 4. Recommendation: Pass
Grass Kings #15 (Boom! Studios)** – I was expecting a great finale to this series, and Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins definitely deliver with an extra-sized issue that wraps up the main mystery, sends off every character with an appropriately oblique coda, and even includes some last-second surprises that make for a truly memorable conclusion. Both creators put a lot of heart into this title, and I’m really going to miss it. Take a bow, gents, for a job very well done indeed. Overall: 9. Recommendation: Buy
Harrow County #31 (Dark Horse)** – From ultimate issues to penultimate ones, Cullen Bunn and Tyler Jenkins set the stage for what promises to be an epic wrap-up to Emmy’s story with an action-packed installment that ramps up the tension until we hit a cliffhanger that will leave you wondering how you can possibly wait 30 days to find out how everything ends. Crisply written, gorgeously illustrated, and atmospheric as hell, this has been a wild ride from the get-go, and I’ll be bummed out when it’s gone. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and this book has been a very good thing, indeed. Overall: 8.5. Recommendation: Buy
Abbott #5 (Boom! Studios)** – Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivela put their terrific little 1970s Detroit period-piece to bed, but never fear — there’s sure to be more. Yes, they spend a bit too much time setting up their inevitable sequel, but the main narrative wraps up nicely, the characters are all left in situations that are begging to be explored further, and the smart social commentary adds a tremendous amount of depth an nuance to the proceedings. I’m very much looking forward to what comes next. Overall: 8. Recommendation: Buy.
The Last Siege #1 (Image) A stormy night, a weather beaten stranger, a city at its darkest hour. Landry Q. Walker and Justin Greenwood craft a lean, gritty medieval fantasy tale in The Last Siege #1 and spend the initial issue showing how much a badass their main character, who should be played by Keanu Reeves in a film adaptation, is. Walker doesn’t overdo it on the dialogue and lets Greenwood put their protagonist through his paces showing the determination on his face and the leverage he creates as he outlasts the hordes of the power hungry Feist, who want to exploit the young ruler, Kathryn. Colorist Eric Jones adds to the grim atmosphere, and I’m really excited to learn more about our unnamed protagonist and his leadership/fighting/survival style. Overall: 9 Verdict: Buy
Hong Kong Phooey/Black Lightning Special #1 (DC) Bryan Edward Hill, Denys Cowan, and Bill Sienkiewicz serve up a jive talking, kung fu punching throwback spectacular in Hong Kong Phooey/Black Lightning. Sienkiewicz’s scratchy inks give the fights a loose, chaotic feel, and Hill creates a fantastic buddy chemistry between Phooey and Jefferson playing everything straight until the very end. The story has a bit of a moral backbone to it and explore the corrupting nature of power through the lens of a grindhouse kung fu flick. Jeff Parker and Scott Kolins’ Funky Phantom backup story is a funny, yet sobering bit of political satire as the Phantom makes jokes about Hamilton and is appalled by some “patriots'” take on the Second Amendment. Overall: 9.5 Verdict: Buy
Judge Dredd: Siege #1 (IDW) Mark Russell and Max Dunbar borrow a little bit from the excellent 2012 Dredd film by taking Judge Dredd off the streets of Mega City One and in an enclosed space: a block apartments that were created as affordable housing and were abandoned by the city. But whereas Dredd had a clean, minimalist plot, Russell thrives in the complexities of Mega City One’s society by having the inflexible Dredd team up with the gangs he thinks he’s going against versus the mutants who have taken over the apartments. Russell’s plot is an ever tightening noose as things go from bad to worst, and Dunbar’s art has some of the ultraviolence and darkly humorous background gigs of the original 2000 AD comic to break up the unrelenting action. Overall: 8.5 Verdict: Buy
Blackwood #1 (Dark Horse)– What if freshman orientation other than being awkward as hell featured Lovecraftian nightmares too? That’s the premise of Blackwood #1 from writer Evan Dorkin and artists Veronica and Andy Fish. Fish is known for her stylish characters in Archie and Spider-Woman, but Blackwood really proves her horror chops as Blackwood features tentacles, monsters, and lots of icky fluids. In the early going, Dorkin makes all the characters hate each other and only creates a grudging, not even camaraderie through the strange phenomena they see. It’s nice to see a college/school story where everyone isn’t BFFs from day one. Overall: 7.7 Verdict: Read
Conceptual Heist #1 (self-published)** – In three words: sci-fi art heist. Hooked yet? Writer Jay D’Ici and artist Matt G. Gagnon have been putting this out as strips online for a couple of years now in black and white and blue, and now (thanks to Kickstarter) they’ve collected the first cycle into a full-color comic. Briefly: Jemma is a cool-as-cucumber-in-gin-and-tonic thief looking to steal art from the rich, specifically Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist”. Now that the entire plot is out of the way, let’s talk about how much fun this is. First, Jay D’Ici is clearly having a ball putting all of these sci-fi security toys into the cat-and-mouse game, and Jemma is a main character in classic sympathetic cat burglar style. No baggage to drag us down, this is all about action and style. And what style! Matt G. Gagnon brings a 1920’s flapper vibe that is a perfect visual language to talk about the hyper-rich. His characters’ acting and body language is great, and the sci-fi setting never gets in the way of the action, it’s just the nano-particle-charged air they breathe. This is as good as anything being published by Black Mask, and that’s high praise coming from me. Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: buy – or at least follow them here: https://www.facebook.com/conceptualheist/
Love And Rockets #5 (Fantagraphics)** – On the Jaime side, “I This How You See Me?” concludes (and provides the title to) Maggie & Hopey’s Hoppers punk rock reunion. Having spent nearly 30 years with these two (I’m a latecomer, I know), I’d like to single out Jaime’s writing here – going back and forth between 1980 and now, it’s a treat to watch how both of these women have both changed and not changed since their teens, how the world has both toughened and softened them, how their relationships to other lovers and significant others have both given them anchors and dragged them out to sea. And Ape Sex is playing in the supermarket. Over to Gilbert, and Rosy-not-Rosie, wandering through Fritz’s massive, empty house, watching the massive, empty sky or looking at the massive portraits of Fritz’s massive (censored) or lying in a massive, empty bed, or standing in a massive, empty soundstage. Gilbert is an expert at depicting this kind of loneliness, a void that no amount of B science fiction can fill. In their alien and arid Hollywood, only the passage of time and the turning of pages can change the hearts of Gilbert’s characters these days. Overall: 8 Recommendation: buy
Blackwood #1 (Dark Horse)** – Evan Dorkin and Veronica & Andy Fish bring us their magickal school story, in this case the clearly cursed and haunted Blackwood College. Nothing earth-shattering here, unfortunately – it seems that all you can do with this trope is either embrace it or destroy it, and I have enough class prejudice against private schools that I’m firmly on the side of “destroy” and was hoping for the same from Dorkin. It’s certainly well-done, and for my money best when it focuses on the archness of main character Wren. Veronica Fish’s art is clear and lovely, just cartoony enough to let us in, but not enough to be a commentary on the Lovecraftian proceedings – which, I suppose, is my real complaint. It’s a very professional and competently done take, neither hot nor cold nor just right. Overall: 7 Recommendation: skip.
Kill Or Be Killed #19 (Image)** – In this penultimate issue, detective Lily Sharpe makes her way through a blizzard to Bellevue to ask Dylan a question. What she gets – once Dylan realizes that the case is actually closed – is a full confession. And then the power goes out and the Russians show up. Brubaker, Phillips, and Breitweiser bring the usual excellence, and I have to single out Phillips’ depiction of Lily here – her expressions, somewhere between hangdog and guard dog, are absolutely priceless, and when she gets swept up in way more action than she had ever bargained for, the way she just bites her lip and slogs her way through is great. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: buy.
Stray Bullets #35 (Image/El Capitàn)** – Well, didn’t Vic Kretchmeyer just sneak up and steal the story. Sweating out withdrawal in a bad science fiction movie in his head and dragging Rose through that swamp, trying to ignore what the flowers are telling him while trying to protect the inside of his skull from Annie and the outside of Rose’s skull from Kretch, running off into the night through the parking lot of the Space Lodge motel with tinfoil hats… Another great issue from David Lapham. Could this story really be closing in on 1000 pages? Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: buy
Lazarus #28 (Image)** – From the letters page, Greg Rucka: “… the only response I can offer is the one that Michael [Lark] has said time and again – when we started Lazarus we were writing science fiction; now we’re writing a documentary.” Jonah Carlyle escaped the war and started a little life and a little family in a remote Danish fishing village, but now the war closes in on him in the most heartbreaking way possible. Rucka and Lark give us a place that is cold and grey and totally alive, a place that is centuries in the past and years in the future, where the Russians invade your screens with porn as a vector for propaganda delivery and suddenly everything around you is… well, is the year X+67. Next up: Fracture. Overall: 9 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 (**).