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Review: Alien #2

Alien #2

The comics for the “Alien universe” is now at Marvel kicking off a new era for the classic film franchise. The debut issue set up what we can expect from this new era, a little new but a lot of what’s expected. Alien #2 builds upon that with some interesting underlying details that make for a solid second issue.

Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, the second issue throws Gabriel Cruz into the thick of it. Gabe’s son has been pinned in the attack on the Epsilon Station and it’s not surprising that Gabe is being pulled back in by Weyland-Yutani due to that. The company has decided to blackmail Gabe to retrieve some of their science experiments from the station or the attack will be pinned on him. The result is a tense situation that evokes classic gathering of soldiers to take on the mysterious xenomorph.

Johnson does an excellent job at the build-up to this issue and through the issue. Gabe is presented as a rough father but the situation he’s placed in is one we can all understand. There’s a deeper motive to Gabe’s coming conflict beyond the usual “bug hunt”. This is a father attempting to protect the son with who he has an estranged relationship. There’s a deeper aspect to the comic this way and separates it from conflict just due to Weyland-Yutani’s business.

The blackmail adds a layer to the situation. There’s no way we should trust what was promised to Gabe and throughout the issue, I was looking to see if Gabe believes that as well. He’s presented as a veteran and smart in his actions, unlike his rather gung-ho companions, and he’s clearly thought out what he’s stepping into. It’s an interesting aspect seeing the veteran deal with “rookies”, a bit like Ripley in Aliens.

Johnson also understands some of the appeal of the films is the tension and suspense. He mixes the horror of the first film with that of the action of the second. There’s a progression in the issue as we await the reveal of xenomorphs. It’s something we know is coming, we just don’t know.

That tension is helped by Salvador Larroca‘s art. It’s nice and serves the second issue well. Joined by Guru-eFX on color and Clayton Cowles on lettering, there’s a nice aspect to the art and delivering the mix of action and tension you’d want. It’d be easy to go too far one way or another but there’s a balance her. There’s a sense of horror at the right moments and when the action really gets rolling Larroca’s art begins to really stand out.

Alien #2 is one that fans of the franchise will want to check out. It blends what works so well for the series taking the best of everything and mixing it together to expand the world and also celebrate it.

Story: Phillip Kennedy Johnson Art: Salvador Larroca
Color: Guru-eFX Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Review: Avengers: Curse of the Man-Thing #1

Avengers: Curse of the Man-Thing #1

Man-Thing isn’t a character I know a ton about. Usually the interactions are either as a secondary character there as a plot device or there’s a misunderstanding and a brief battle with heroes fighting him. “Curse of the Man-Thing” is a three-part miniseries that celebrates the character’s 50th anniversary kicking off with Avengers: Curse of the Man-Thing #1.

Written by Steve Orlando, the comic kicks off with unexpected characters in Hordeculture, a group of zealot botanists that were introduced in the rebooted X-Men line. The group has a goal of depopulation, though not total destruction, of humanity to better balance the world. And while they’re extreme, there’s always someone more extreme. Enter Harrower who wants to mix science and magic to make the world better, putting her in conflict with Hordeculture. Harrower has a plan, and that’s to use Man-Thing to bring about her vision for the world.

Orlando does some things really smart in this comic. While it could easily use Man-Thing as a prop, instead Orlando explores the character. We get to learn more about Man-Thing and the scientist that created him. We also learn about the project that lead to the creation as well. There’s also some twists that would be spoilers that does a decent dive into the character. I came out feeling like I had a solid understanding of the character.

Francesco Mobili‘s art is solid mixing the feel of a superhero comic and a horror comic as well. Weird organic towers and bugs flying around clash with the Avengers doing battle. It’s an interesting mix walking a balance between the two genres. Guru-eFX‘s colors deliver a more bright look to what could easily have been a darkened vibe and Clayton Cowles‘ lettering emphasizes the action and chaos. The art really captures the mix of genres. There’s a big budget disaster story sense about it all and its emphasis of showing the horror of those experiencing events enhances the popcorn enjoyment of it all.

Avengers: Curse of the Man-Thing #1 might seem like a lot of action and a disaster film on its surface. Orlando delivers more than that. There’s a real exploration of the character and some of the motivations behind it. There’s a tragedy that’s played out and it’ll be interesting to see how this all continues in the next two chapters.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Francesco Mobili
Color: Guru-eFX Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Review: Alien #1

Alien #1

In Alien #1, we meet Gabriel. He’s been in space for a very long time and was once captured by a brutal and violent xenomorph breed. While there’s no idea of how he escaped, he’s haunted by his dreams full of xenomorphs and his companions meeting their painful demises. He heads back home to an adult son that wants nothing to do with them, other than stealing what information he can to prepare for an assault of Weyland-Yutani, the corporation that sent his father to space. It doesn’t work out for the son as he’s now trapped in a lab full of the same creatures that are haunting his father’s every sleeping moment.

I’m a big fan of Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s work on Last God so I was pulled into reading Marvel’s big launch of Alien. That said, the second Alien movie is the last time I liked the Xenomorphs so it’s not the easiest sell for me. Aside from Warren Ellis’ butcher job on the Stormwatch characters, I’ve probably never read another Aliens-themed comic.

The problem with that is that I’m not sure this is the book that’s going to get me to want to read more of this world. The character work on this first issue leaves me wanting a bit more. Gabriel and the various Bishop cyborgs have some personality but everyone else is written as if they are just pages away from an untimely demise. Maybe I’m hoping for more out of this property but I’m definitely wanting something more out of my reading experience. Overall, I think the story is okay. In fact, I’d say the opening scene of this helps establish what Gabriel’s ordeal is fairly well. Sadly, I’m hoping Jr. gets his in a most brutal fashion. The reader isn’t given much reason to like him.

To be truthful, I wish for less photo-realism here and do not like the art. Salvador Larroca’s photo-referenced art just doesn’t do it for me and makes Aliens look rather bland. I know it’s not really Larroca’s fault. He was on Star Wars for quite a while and there’s an expectation that the SW characters look a lot like what you see them as in the movies. People would want the Bishops to look like Lance Henriksen and he does illustrate with a good amount of detail on the aliens but his characters just look so stiff and weird. I recognize the skill to work on a book like this but it’s just not pleasurable to me.

Maybe what I want out of this is too much or maybe the Alien comics just aren’t for me. That said, this is a $4.99 comic book and I don’t feel like the cost is worth it. Alien #1 is a fairly average story with average art. The world won’t end if you don’t get it.

Story: Phillip Kennedy Johnson Art: Salvador Larroca
Color: Guru-eFX Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 6.0 Art: 5.0 Overall: 5.5

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Review: Alien #1

Alien #1

I’ve been a fan of the Alien franchise since I saw the first film so many years ago. The series has morphed into so many different directions with each film and comic series taking on their own personality. Despite so many stories already created, there are also so many more concepts to explore and expand upon. Alien #1 marks the franchise’s debut at Marvel. The publisher has shown they’re able to both honor what has come before and expanded upon the past. They’ve done this with their Star Wars comics. This debut hints we’re going to get exactly that as well with this franchise too.

Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Alien #1 takes place in the year 2200, 21 years after the events of Aliens. The story focuses on Gabriel Cruz who’s about to retire and attempt to reconnect with the family still living. While specifics aren’t given so far, it’s clear Cruz has seen some nightmares and suffered personal loss to the xenomorphs. While a lot of it is pretty standard stuff, Johnson teases a few things that will leave fans and readers wondering “what the hell is that!?”.

It’s a solid issue full of build up and leading to the moment we’re really looking for, the xenomorphs getting loose. How Johnson gets there is interesting diving a bit more into the world of Weyland-Yutani and the evil they represent as a corporation. It’s an unexpected direction and gives readers something different than the traditional “bug hunt” I was expecting. There’s a willingness to expand upon things even with this first issue signaling to readers that this isn’t just going to be a retread of concepts with new characters and a new location but it will also build upon the world.

The art by Salvador Larroca is good. The characters look pretty solid though there’s a few panels here and there where the facial expressions don’t really match what you’d expect. Bishop, played in the films by Lance Hendrickson, looks close to the actor and is recognizable. There’s also a nice futuristic feel to the world without it being distracting. The color by Guru-eFX also gives us a “dark” and “foreboding” color palette without the comic feeling down and morose. Clayton Cowles does a solid job of lettering as there are some scenes with a lot of dialogue that flow nicely. There’s some good thought put into the imagery and dialogue in how the two would flow. That’s really evident in a particular scene with Cruz talking to his son where the dialogue runs down the middle of the page adding an element in the discussion between the two.

Alien #1 is a solid start to Marvel’s era with the franchise. It delivers a story that’s familiar in ways but also charts a new course for the property. There’s a willingness to add a little depth here and there without completely going in a different direction. The debut is perfect for long-time fans of the property as well as those new and want a good sci-fi action story with a bit of horror thrown in.

Story: Phillip Kennedy Johnson Art: Salvador Larroca
Color: Guru-eFX Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.15 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.1 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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A Cinematic Horror Makes its Marvel Debut. Watch the Alien #1 Trailer

ALIEN is coming! Marvel’s first venture into the iconic—and terrifying—world of the ALIEN franchise arrives next month. This exploration of never-before-seen corners of the Alien universe will entertain both longtime fans and newcomers to the legendary horror/science-fiction saga as writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson, artist Salvador Larroca, and colorist GURU-eFX tell an all-new tale of the titan of horror and science fiction that has scared audiences for decades.

The new series will introduce readers to Gabriel Cruz who years ago almost literally gave his life to Weyland-Yutani when he barely survived an alien attack. Recently retired, Cruz is trying to patch things up with his abandoned son with the help of his friend, a Bishop-model android, but his re-entry into civilian life is not going smoothly…and his encounters with the deadly Xenomorph are far from over. No one is safe. No one is innocent. And no one can hear you scream. See the terrors in store in this all-new thrilling trailer, featuring never-before-seen artwork from the highly anticipated issue.

Don’t miss this historic addition to the Alien legacy when ALIEN #1 arrives on March 24th featuring a cover by InHyuk Lee.

Review: Avengers: Mech Strike #1

Avengers: Mech Strike #1

Remember not long ago when cartoons and movies were around clearly to sell toys? That’s kind of how Avengers: Mech Strike #1 feels, though takes a bit to get there. Giant kaiju, I mean biomechanoids, are threatening the planet and new problems require new solutions. This solution? GIant Avengers mechs piloted by the heroes. Don’t worry they’ve been in the works for a while, also don’t try to think so hard.

Writer Jed MacKay delivers a new spin on the Avengers that feels like it was spun out of a Saturday morning cartoon. It’s Pacific Rim but with biomechanoids instead of Kaiju and one Avenger piloting each Jaeger. But, Avengers: Mech Strike #1 seems to realize all of this, and the general silliness of the concept, and rolls with it. It hopes the readers roll with it too and not think too hard about the situation.

There’s a fun goofiness about Avengers: Mech Strike #1 but it works and works well. MacKay has a good handle on the team though the writing has some small ticks that get irritating as you read them over and over. As the battle wages on characters talk to the team by saying “(fill in character’s name) to Avengers” and when that happens what feels like multiple times on a page and feels rather stilted, it stands out and kills the momentum a bit. But, there’s a solid play between the characters with Spider-Man delivering some humor to everyone else’s rather stiff nature.

The art by Carlos Magno is solid and fun. The action is good and easy to follow as the monster tears apart a neighborhood. The characters look great and everything works together, yes even the mechs look like they fit this world. Magno is helped by Guru-eFX on colors and lettering by Cory Petit. It’s all good but doesn’t quite pop. There aren’t memorable moments visually when there’s an opportunity for a lot, it all feels rather standard, even the ending which should pop.

Avengers: Mech Strike #1 feels like it’s aimed at younger readers who will run out and eventually get the toys tied into the series. It’s a pretty fun comic, though feels a little thin in some ways and you just need to accept the reality. An example is Tony’s mechs match up to the team. Keep in mind the team often changes and these mechs have been worked on for years, so it’s just random that the mechs match the Avengers or there’s a whole bunch more mechs out there for other members.

It’s not a bad comic at all but it also never quite pops the way it could. The story is good. The art is good. It never quite gets to that moment where there’s something really exciting. The comic comes off as an attempt to sell some toys and that’s it.

Story: Jed MacKay Art: Carlos Magno
Color: Guru-eFX Letterer: Cory Pettit
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Review: Taskmaster #1

Taskmaster #1

Taskmaster is one of those characters that deserves such a spotlight and generally has been underused through the years. Whenever he’s be used, he’s stood out and weirdly never became a huge hit. Even as a background character he’s stood out over the years and become even better in recent decades. From a generic villain with some cool powers to a smart-ass super villain with cool powers, it’s his personality that has been the focus. Taskmaster #1 nails the character down, mixing action, humor, and some intrigue.

Written by Jed MacKay, Taskmaster #1 has the character on the run after he’s possibly framed for the murder of Maria Hill. There’s now a price on his head and he’ll have to prove his innocence.

The comic is beyond fun with a great mix of action and humor. It kicks off with Taskmaster as a partner during a golf tournament to raise money for mobsters. It’s the kind of set-up that sets the tone so well. The duo he’s facing features Bullseye promising a gold game even I’d watch. But, what it really does is set the tone. The comments between the two are great and really let you know what type of character Taskmaster is. From there’s action, some more laughs, and a focus on what we can expect going forward.

It’s a solid opening that has such a firm grasp on its voice and tone. There’s little doubt as to what you’re going to get with the issue and now the series. It’s a comic that establishes itself and makes you ask why it’s taken so long to get something like this.

The art by Alessandro Vitti is great. Though Taskmaster features a skull mask, you’re still able to get a full feel as to what’s going on when it comes to emotions. The comic has an exaggerated aspect to it with the action having an almost Looney Tunes aspect of it. It’s just over the top as Taskmaster must deal with his would-be assassin having to use what he can to fire back and ducking the bullets flying at him. Guru-eFX provides colors while Joe Caramagna does the lettering and the art team just nails it all down.

Taskmaster #1 is a hell of a lot of fun. Not sure what else to really say. There’s a mix of action and humor and anyone can pick up the comic and enjoy it. It’s not deep. There’s no deeper themes. It’s a simple frame job that has the main character in the crosshairs of others who want him dead in revenge. It’s a simple concept but executed so well. I was hoping the comic would be entertaining and it exceeded my expectations getting me to laugh out loud and leaving me with a smile.

Story: Jed MacKay Art: Alessandro Vitti
Color: Guru-eFX Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 8.75 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Review: Wolverine: Black, White, & Blood #1

Wolverine: Black, White, & Blood #1

I’m a fan of anthologies. You get a chance to see numerous creators all have fun in the same pool or give their spin on the same character. To see how different creators handle the same character is always interesting in that you can get such varied takes really showing how different voices and perspectives can be. Wolverine: Black, White, & Blood #1 kicks off a new anthology mini-series from Marvel focused on Wolverine from a varied group of writers, artists, and colorists.

Wolverine: Black, White, & Blood #1 features three stories each of which vary a lot in tone and style. They all have one thing in common, they’re bloody. These aren’t Wolverine comics for the kids, the stories are adult, mature, and use their limited color palette really well.

The Beast Within Them” explores Wolverine’s time in the Weapon X program. It’s an appropriate start taking us back to the early days of the character preceding the other two stories within this first issue. Written by Gerry Duggan, with art by Adam Kubert, and color by Frank Martin, the story is interesting as it explores the ongoing struggle within the character. Still known as Experiment-X, Wolverine is sent on tests to see how he reacts and how much he can be controlled. He’s a loose beast fighting other beasts for survival, running on instinct. But, underneath there’s a man. Duggan explores why the program may have had so many issues with Logan. The art is fierce and guttural at times finely depicting the rage and brutal nature of the fights.

I Shall Be a Wolf” is by writer Matthew Rosenberg, artist Joshua Cassara, and colors by Guru-eFX. Focused more on the spy side of Wolverine, he’s capture by Hydra who wants to use him to get to Nick Fury. It’s a brutal story with the bodies piling up and some twists and turns that are unexpected. While it at times feels like a familiar spy story we’ve seen before, where the story goes is unexpected. The end really pays off, though the entire story is a solid back and forth. I gasped with an “oh shit” towards the end as the story wraps up and the exclamation point is delivered.

Declan Shalvey handles writing and art with “Cabin Fever,” the final story. Wolverine comes across a murdered couple and crying baby in a cabin and then must deal with those who killed the couple. It’s a bloody and violent story filled with body parts launched from a simple story.

Clayton Cowles provides the lettering for each story and each has their own subtle differences. It’s interesting to see how each story varies and Cowles handles the lettering for such different stories. You can see the thought given to each, especially in “Cabin Fever”. With that story the lettering shifts to reflect Wolverine’s rage going from white to orange to red and back to orange and then white. It’s subtle but smart.

Each story is different and each creative team delivers. There’s not a stinker in the bunch. Wolverine: Black, White, & Blood #1 shows us such different sides of the same character, the beast, the patriot and soldier, and the man. Each has a common theme of someone struggling with their mission and to find peace. But, that person is driven to do what’s right. Each story is bloody and brutal though. Despite the very human person at the center of it all, there’s a level of violence that’s inhuman.

Wolverine: Black, White, & Blood #1 is a hell of a start for the series. It’s a solid read whether you like Wolverine or not. Each story is full of violent, brutal, action, but also has more than enough to have you pause and think. A solid start to the series that makes the case for more of these types of releases.

Story: Gerry Duggan, Matthew Rosenberg, Declan Shalvey
Art: Adam Kubert, Joshua Cassara, Declan Shalvey
Color: Frank Martin, Guru-eFX, Declan Shalvey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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