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Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 1/12

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.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.


Ryan C


Batman #62 (DC)** – Not so much a stand-alone issue as a sidebar that connects into the current ongoing storyline, this is a pretty gruesome and unrelenting yarn, superbly illustrated by Mitch Gerads and featuring a (who thought we’d be saying this anytime again?) stunning Frank Miller variant cover, but all the pretty bells and whistles can’t hide another lackluster Tom King script. Points for trying, though. Overall: 5.5. Recommendation: Read. Or, more specifically, just look at the pictures

Martian Manhunter #2 (DC)** – Another terrific installment from Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo that adds depth and mystery both to J’Onn J’Onzz’s past on Mars and his more recent past on Earth. Two issues in, you already get the distinct feeling that this is shaping up to be something well and truly special. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

The Green Lantern #3 (DC)** – Grant Morrison is getting a bit more ambitious with his scripting here, but it’s still well below his usual standard. Hal Jordan confronts a God-like being who bought the Earth at a cosmic auction and then gets — uhhmmm — overzealous with some bad guys. That’s about it. Nicely-detailed, very crisp art from Liam Sharp elevates the proceedings a bit and truly magnificent colors from the great Steve Oliff elevates them even more, but it’s still a pretty average read at the end of the day. Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Read

Cemetery Beach #5 (Image)** – No one seems to be talking about this brisk, relatively high-concept science fiction barn-burner from Warren Ellis and Jason Howard, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why as it’s both fun and, believe it or not, coming out right on schedule. This is another breakneck chapter that doesn’t give you time to slow down and think, with magnificent, dynamic art. Might be a better read in trade as each “single” only takes a few minutes to read, but that’s a very solid and entertaining few minutes, indeed. Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Buy

Logan

Die #2 (Image)– Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans bring more of the fantasy and RPG elements to the forefront in Die #2 as the main cast of characters are a little frightened to see their long lost friend ruling a fantasy world and also have a good timesettling into their old roles as Godbinder, Neo, Dictator, (especially) Fool, and more. They want to get back and return to their normal lives, but doing spells, fighting, and melding the cyberpunk aesthetic with fantasy can be pretty cool. These contradictions extend to Hans’ art, which ranges from majestic landscapes to maggot ridden corpses. At times, the book feels like Prince Caspian with horror elements, and seeing the heroic quest through jaded adult eyes is both sad and fascinating. Overall: 8.6 Verdict: Buy

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1 (Marvel)– Tom Taylor and Juann Cabal’s new Spider-Man book is refreshingly street level and not in a crime sort of way, but in a Spider-Man/Peter Parker interacts with his roommates and neighbors, which drives the book. Sure, there’s a fantastic action scene towards the beginning, but Taylor and Cabal immediately connect it to a father and daughter moving to Peter’s area. And until things get weird, psychological, and property damage-y towards the end, this is a very location driven, slice of life book where Spider-Man helps people in his community instead of fighting animal themed villains or ninjas and dealing with awkward Marvel superhero cameos. The backup drawn by Marcelo Ferreira and Roberto Poggi is even more emotionally resonant because it’s told from Aunt May’s POV. This book is the perfect purchase for readers who want their superheroes a little more character driven, and Spider-Man to be involved in his community than whatever jet setting he was doing at the end of Dan Slott’s run. Overall: 8 Verdict: Buy

Martian Manhunter #2 (DC)– Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo craft an emotional tour de force as J’onn is outed as a Martian to his partner, who completely and totally freaks out. With an almost gooey art style, Rossmo shows the painful effects of fire onthe Martian physiology that leads into a flashback of J’onn as a beat cop on Mars with a wife, kid, and an interest in the planet Earth. Orlando does some crazy worldbuilding with the Martian culture by giving the Green Martians a social shape they show around society and a private one for the closest people in their lives. Character comes before the mystery in this pulp detective story, and this is what makes it successful. Overall: 8.8 Verdict: Buy

Elana

Barbarella / Dejah Thoris #1 (Dynamite) Writer Leah Williams (guest on my next episode of Graphic Policy Radio) and artist: Germán García weave together pulp heroines of two very different eras — the swinging-est of sixties and the birth of pulp fiction in the 1910s — and transform them into a hard scifi story. The art is pleasantly trippy. The science is robust. The ladies are flirting with each other. It’s good! Verdict: Buy

Jon

Die #2 (Image)** On its own merits the first issue of Die was my favorite debut of 2018. This second episode fulfills its promise as we get our first real look at the magical world of Die. Writer. Kieron Gillen is on point, wasting nary a panel or word of dialog to excess. Gillen conjures thrilling action and bizarre horrors with equal aplomb. Stephanie Hans’ artwork comes into its own,rendering Gillen’s visions in expressive lines. I wasn’t completely sold on her style before but now I can’t imagine any other artist taking her place. Die might be the best comic of this year. It also might be one of the best comics ever. Overall Rating:10. Recommendation: Buy.

The Dreaming # 5 (DC/Vertigo)** Si Spurrier and Bilquis Evely’s run on The Dreaming has been the best of the four titles in Vertigo’s Sandman Universe line. This issue is the best yet. Everything starts coming to a head as Judge Gallows reign of terror begins to fracture and Dora prepares to take a stand against his tyranny. Spurrier understands what made Gaiman’s Sandman unique was not just the plot and characters but the deeper themes that united. Evely’s artwork is as magnificent as ever though there are a few fill in pages that are not up to the high standards she has set for this book. Overall Rating: 8. Recommendation: Buy.

The Green Lantern #3 (DC)** Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp’s The Green Lantern may well be one of the most insane comics I’ve ever read…and one of greatest. Morrison has a tendency to outpace his audience and write at a level most mere mortals can’t grasp. Here he manages to avoid that trap nicely producing a fun sci-fi adventure comic with hints of pulp. If you’ve never read a Morrison comic before this is a great one to start with. Every issue has been better than the last and this one is no exception. I never knew I wanted to see Hal Jordan punch God in the face with the giant green boxing glove until Liam Sharp showed it to me. Sharp is the perfect fit for this series. If you loved his work on Wonder Woman this is even better. His lush, hyper detailed style makes you feel like this should be hidden your mattress in an issue of Heavy Metal. The Green Lantern is so good waiting for the next issue hurts. Overall Rating: 10 Recommendation: Buy.

Shean

Star Wars: Jango Fett #1 (Marvel) In this one shot we get Marvel’s version of Batman and Damian. As Jango takes Boba on his first job with a crew. A double cross shows the young prodigy’s aptitude for the job. By issue’s end, this one story I would love to see continued. Overall: 9:3 Recommendation: Buy

Joe Hesh

Young Justice #1 (DC) Another book thats been away a minute that i was looking forward to. Bendis, Gleason no brainer. Well its not quite the bombastic return i was hoping for. Sure its great to see Conner, Cass and Bart back in the fold but it doesn’tfeel quite right. This doesnt feel like a homecoming as much as it does an awkward blind date. Now i love Damian Wayne but without careful observation I almost thought i was reading Tim Drake in a Robin costume again. Also the alien menace come to Earth and everyone bands together has been done to death. Also much better. I love all these characters but the magic is when they are on their downtime and being themselves. This just felt like a generic super team of teens taking on another menace. I’m sure this is just a building issue as all Bendis writing is. He does the long game but it didnt grab me out the gate. I think that is something he forgot how to do. It happened with the first issue of Superman and it happened here. Sure building the danger is great, but it doesn’t have to be boring right at the jump. I will chalk this up as one month and return for the next one but I am certainly not going to be long on this title if this is the tempo. Shame too given the talent that is on it. Overall: What should have felt like seeing long lost friends after many years just felt like a chore and not quite inspired. Score: 5 Recommendation: Pass


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 For The Week Ending 1/5

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.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.


Shean

Killmonger #3 (Marvel)– In the third issue, we find Bullseye coming for the team, having killed one of them, King finds them refuge as they find themselves fleeing New York. As their numbers start to dwindle, Erik and Knight find a spark between themselves. By issue’s end, a key betrayal leads Erik and Knight working for SHIELD. Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy


 Conan The Barbarian #1 (Marvel)– Far from the run of the mill sword and sorcery story, we get a ghost story for for a king. As we find Conan’s past sins coming back to haunt him. As we glimpses of him as a young Cimirrian warrior and a witch who enchants him. By issue’s end, King Conan deals with the same threat with new menagerie, leaving him trapped once again. Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy

Man Without Fear #1 (Marvel)-In what feels like Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman got together and went psychedelic, we get this interesting first issue. As we find Foggy talking to Matt as he lays comatose from one fight which finds his luck running out. As he carries guilt from everyone who was close to him that died , he confronts his demons and deals with his many sides . By issue’s end , no one can save Matt from himself. Overall: 9
Recommendation: Buy
e

Star Wars: Age Of Republic: Obi Wan Kenobi#1 ( Marvel)-In the prequel story, we find an unready Obi-Wan, as he still is finding his way as a Jedi Master. As he decides to take Anakin on his first mission, on a search for a Jedi Holocron. By issue’s end, we find out about Obi-Wan before he was found by Qui-Gon Jinn and see that wasn’t quite as confident as fans would know him to be. Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

Wolverine The Long Night Adaptation #1 (Marvel)– I will keep this one sweet and short, as this issue was slow to start and you don’t see the titular character until the last three pages,but ends on a high note. I am hoping the second issue ramps up. Definitely worth checking out. Overall: 8.5
Recommendation: Borrow

Logan

Crowded #6 (Image)– One of my favorite comics of 2018 ends its first arc with a lot of action, clever layouts, a cute dog, and even some political satire. Our leads Charlie, who has a price on her head thanks to a crowdfunded assassination app, and Vita, who is protecting her thanks to basically Uber for bodyguards, face off with the obnoxious “celebrity assassin” Trotter. It savages obnoxious YouTubers and is a lyrical masterpiece of destruction from the art team of Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, and Triona Farrell. But writer Chris Sebela knows the banter and relationship between Vita and Charlie is what keeps readers coming back as he keeps a couple loose ends open and changes the setting in the end. Arc 2 could be bigger better. Overall: 9 Verdict: Buy

Conan the Barbarian #1 (Marvel)– Wow, this was awesome. Jason Aaron, Mahmud Asrar, and Matt Wilson create an epic (and bloody) first issue that spans the different eras of Conan from orphan to pit fighter and even king as he fights the Crimson Witch. The Witch knows his weaknesses at each era from attractive woman to fighting and respecting his dead foes as a king and is a good first arc baddie. On the technical side of things, Aaron’s dialogue has pulpy vigor, Asrar has adopted a new painted with a side of cartooning art style perfect for grand battles and adventures, and Wilson gives the book a palette like you’re finding a long forgotten scroll from Aquilonia. Marvel really pulled out all the stops for Conan, and it feels like a flagship book, not a cash grab. Overall: 10 Verdict: Buy

Jon


Books of Magic #3 (DC/Vertigo): I’ve been enjoying the Sandman Universe line quite a bit but Books of Magic remains my least favorite entry in the series. Kat Howard’s take on Tim Hunter’s coming of age is plodding in its pacing and utterly forgettable. I read the last two issues the day before I wrote this review and already I have a hard time remembering what it was about. I just don’t care about any of these characters. Tom Fowler’s art is competent but not my cup of tea. Overall this series continues to feel like an unnecessary retread of earlier material that was much better the first time around. Rating: 4. Recommendation: Pass 

Heroes in Crisis #4 (DC):
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with decompressed storytelling in comics; it’s a more cinematic way to get your point across and good books have been produced using it. The problem is that it’s hard to tell the quality of any given story from its component parts. We’re almost halfway through Tom King and Clay Mann’s exploration of superheroes with PTSD and I still don’t know whether it’s good or bad, though I am tending towards the latter opinion. The biggest issue I have with this “event” is that it seems to be stretching out the mystery while remaining light on character. Mann’s art is a nice blend of Jim Lee and Jim Cheung and I do like how King uses the nine panel grid to present confessional style revelations into aspects of the interior life of some of DC’s biggest heroes (Black Canary fans may find it worth it for her page alone). Beyond that I find the writing vacillates between being infuriatingly opaque and painfully cliche. I may change my opinion when all is said and done, especially if there are valuable clues being revealed that will only be apparent in retrospect, but as of today I cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone read this unless you enjoy wasting time. Rating: 5. Recommendation: Pass.

Hex Wives #3 (DC/Vertigo)
Three issues in and Hex Wives, the story of a coven of witches held hostage in a world on fire by domestic servitude to their male adversaries, remains an intriguing read amidst the strong stable of titles cultivated by the recently relaunched Vertigo. The combination of supernatural thriller and sharp satire works well in the hand of writer Ben Blacker and artist Mika Andolfo. If there’s one problem I have with the series in general its the pacing. Every installment thus far has built to a last page reveal but none of these cliffhangers has really paid out. This issue in particular feels like the story takes one step forward and two steps back. I think this is going to be a great series to read when it’s all collected in trade but I’m not too sure it works in single issues. Rating:6 Recommendation: Read.


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 (**).

First Impressions Featuring: Dead Man Logan, X-O Manowar, Warning, and More

Welcome to Graphic Policy’s First Impressions where we take a look at a handful of comics in order to discern just how accessible they are for new readers, because every comic could be somebody’s first – and that’s the first question that’ll be answered with this feature. The second is whether you should  start there because sometimes a book could be accessible to new readers but the quality could be less than average, and so each comic will receive a score out of ten based upon Graphic Policy’s typical ten point scale.

Where possible we’ll also be providing  recap of sorts for the relevant story beats up until the issue in question in order to help you figure out if the series is something you’re interested in, assuming we’ve read any part of the story thus far. All comics were provided for review purposes unless otherwise noted.


 

X-O Manowar #21 (Valiant)
Can you start here?
Uh…. yeah
Recap & Review: 
Having returned to Earth after some time in the far reaches of space, X-O Manowar has been tasked to investigate an alien spacecraft that crash landed along with Colonel Capshaw an ended up in the middle of a surprisingly interdimensional conflict. 
Score: 8.9

These Savage Shores #2 (Vault)
Can you start here?
Yup
Recap & Review: 
Having missed the first issue, I dove into this head first without any idea what this comic as about –  and I thoroughly enjoyed the tale about a vampire hunter in the 1700s. I’ll be back for the next issue.
Score: 8.6

Dead Man Logan #1 (Marvel)
Can you start here? Yes

Recap & Review: Old Man Logan’s story begins to come full circle as he tries to stop the man who could potentially kill the X-Men, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four in the final way. But is Mysterio really that deadly? Personally, I’ve been a big fan of this character, and I am curious how his story ends now that the younger Wolverine has returned – bonus that the first issue is pretty good.
Score: 8

Warning #1 (Image)
Can you start here?
Yes.
Recap & Review: First issue of a new erie – no recap needed. But the comic, while not my cup of tea, evokes memories of Universal Soldier, Independence Day and a half dozen other  enhanced soldier stories. I didn’t hate it..
Score:
 6.8

Flash #59 (DC)
Can you start here?
More or less.
Recap & Review: Honestly, I haven’t read a Flash comic in a few months, and all this did was remind me why I stopped.
Score:
 5.0

First Impressions Featuring: The Sentry, Farmhand and More!

Welcome to Graphic Policy’s First Impressions where we take a look at a handful of comics in order to discern just how accessible they are for new readers, because every comic could be somebody’s first – and that’s the first question that’ll be answered with this feature. The second is whether youshould  start there because sometimes a book could be accessible to new readers but the quality could be less than average, and so each comic will receive a score out of ten based upon Graphic Policy’s typical ten point scale.

Where possible we’ll also be providing  recap of sorts for the relevant story beats up until the issue in question in order to help you figure out if the series is something you’re interested in, assuming we’ve read any part of the story thus far. All comics were provided for review purposes unless otherwise noted.


 

The Sentry #1 (Marvel Comics)
Can a new reader start here? Yes.
Recap & review: Bob Reynolds is at the same time the most powerful hero in the Marvel Universe, the Sentry, and its most deadly villain, the Void. For without one there cannot be the other. This duality is explored in a comic steeped in the duality that Bob lives with, and a story that is far deeper than you’d expect. Yes, a new reader might struggle, but it’s a struggle that will pay off.
Rating: 8.7

Farmhand #1 (Image)
Can a new reader start here? Sure.
Recap & review: In a world where transplant organs and limbs can be grown on a farm, an estranged family try to reconnect amidst a backdrop of industrial espionage – honestly, this is the kind of story you read comics for.
Rating: 9.5

Superman #1 (DC)
Can a new reader start here? Uh… maybe.
Recap & review: Save your money. Honestly, there are better Superman stories out there, and you’d be better off finding one of those – the few redeeming features aren’t enough to justify buying this comic. It also doesn’t help that this doesn’t feel like a first issue, rather the start of a new arc.
Rating: 5.5

The Mall #1 (Scout Comics)
Can a new reader start here? Yup.
Recap & review: Having no idea what this was about going into the comic, I was enthralled with the story from start to finish. A significantly better comic than I expected given the cover, I’d recommend this to those who don’t want to only read about the spandex crowd.
Rating: 8.5

 

First Impressions Featuring: Captain America, Catwoman and the Hulk

Welcome to Graphic Policy’s First Impressions where we take a look at a handful of comics in order to discern just how accessible they are for new readers, because every comic could be somebody’s first – and that’s the first question that’ll be answered with this feature. The second is whether youshould  start there because sometimes a book could be accessible to new readers but the quality could be less than average, and so each comic will receive a score out of ten based upon Graphic Policy’s typical ten point scale.

Where possible we’ll also be providing  recap of sorts for the relevant story beats up until the issue in question in order to help you figure out if the series is something you’re interested in, assuming we’ve read any part of the story thus far. All comics were provided for review purposes unless otherwise noted.


 

Captain America #1 (Marvel Comics)
Can a new reader start here? Yes.
Recap & review: An almost direct sequel to last year’s Secret Wars, this issue picks up in the aftermath of Hyrdra’s defeat and the sense of confusion and despair is palpable. You don’t need to have read the event series to get the gist of it (Hydra took over the world using either a fake Captain America or a mind controlled Cap. I don’t know which because I never read the series – either way the public saw it as Captain America). Here we see the beginning of Steve Rogers rediscovering his place in the world – with a classic costume.
Rating: 8.7

Catwoman #1 (DC)
Can a new reader start here? Yes.
Recap & review: Assuming you’ve read Batman 50, or at least had it spoiled, you’ll be able to read this. If you want.
Rating: 5.5

Cosmic Ghost Rider #1 (Marvel)
Can a new reader start here? Uh…
Recap & review: Frank Castle is Ghost Rider? What. The. #@!%? Not exactly easy to follow if you’re not at least partly familiar with the character’s more recent history.
Rating: 7.5

Immortal Hulk #2 (Marvel Comics)
Can a new reader start here? Yes.
Recap & review: Bruce Banner was dead and now he isn’t; now he’s wandering middle America. Honestly, the narration gives you all you need. And this comic is phenomenal.
Rating: 9.5

Jim Henson’s Beneath The Dark Crystal #1 (Archaia)
Can a new reader start here? Yes. Kinda.
Recap & review: 
I have never seen or read anything in the Dark Crystal mythos, so if I can enjoy this, so can you. That said, I was quite comfortable not knowing fully what I was getting myself into – your mileage may vary.
Rating:
6.8

Joe Hill’s The Cape: Fallen #1 (IDW)
Can a new reader start here? Yes.
Recap & review: This is good. Really good. A sequel miniseries, but one you don’t need to have read the first few issues of the story.
Rating: 9

Lowlifes #1 (IDW)
Can a new reader start here? Yes.
Recap & review: A crime comic about a good cop turning to the other side of the law for his answers makes a compelling read, and one that really needs no recap (because, y’know, a first issue).
Rating: 7.2

Lost City Explorers #1 (Aftershock)
Can a new reader start here? Yes.
Recap & review: Although one doesn’t need a recap, the review would simply be “go read this now.” Despite the fairly generic set up, this is still an interesting comic with a lot of possibilities for character building relationships in the coming issues.
Rating: 8.1

Unnatural #1 (Image)
Can a new reader start here? Yes.
Recap & review: Well shit. This is just the kinda comic you want to read.
Rating: 8.8

Underrated: Starlight

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: Starlight.



starlight_cover 1.jpgConceived by Hollywood darling Mark Millar (with art by Goran Parlov), Starlight was a six issue miniseries that was released beginning in March of 2014 and ending in October 2014. Telling the story of the superbly named Duke McQueen, an Air Force pilot who went to space and saved the alien planet of Tantalus from tyranny forty years ago, before returning home and raising a family instead of staying to rule the planet. His exploits, sadly, were written off as the ravings of a attention seeker, and Duke became a joke to all but his sweetheart.

Now, with his wife dead, his family not giving him the time of day, and people still treating him as a joke, a spaceship arrives to take the old man on one last grand adventure to save the planet Tantalus once again.

One of the less Mark Millar-y comics that have come from his keyboard in the last half decade, this mini series had none of the hyper violence seen in things such as Kick-Ass, Wanted and Kingsman. Surprisingly Starlight is a sentimental yarn about a former hero redeeming himself in his own eyes and saving the planet from a tyrannical despot once again.

Starlight is a pleasure to read. Although criticism can be levelled at the sudden change as Duke McQueen goes from couch-bound crank to crack aimed space hero over the course of only a couple of issues, for me that misses the spirit of the book. Think not of Starlight in terms of the modern, more realism based stories we’ve become accustomed to, and instead fall back into the nostalgia of the classic stories of yesteryear as Millar embraces the straight forward nature of the story – almost against type, as McQueen battles against an antagonist who doesn’t measure up to the rich and deep characterization of the hero; Kingfisher is a perfectly adequate villain, but make no mistake, Starlight is a redemptive story for Duke McQueen.

Perhaps in seeing McQueen struggle against overwhelming odds, himself, and the reputation he had been given, we can find hope and inspiration in our own lives. Not quite the lesson I expected to take from a Mark Millar book.

 

I had forgotten how much I loved Starlight until I saw a tweet mentioning the series a few days ago that inspired me to dig the comics out and reread them.  It’s a love that I genuinely believe you’ll share when you give the series a chance – it’s an underrated gem that you wouldn’t typically expect to come from Mark Millar.


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

Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 2/3

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.

 


 

Jon

MotherlandsCoverKill the Minotaur TPB (Image): This revisionist re-telling of the Greek legend of Theseus managed to hold my interest but I doubt that I’ll remember much about it next week. Co-writers Chris Pasetto and Christian Cantamesa show they can craft a good plot and artist Lukas Ketner graces his pages with a nice blend of Ray Harryhausen and H.R. Giger but the characters are largely trope ridden cliches and the team never manages between themselves to do anything that lifts this treatment above any of the hundreds of times you’ve heard this story before. It’s worth it if you find the single issues in the dollar bin or catch a sale on ComiXology or you find it on the shelf at your local library. Rating: 6 Recommendation: Pass

Motherlands #1 (DC/Vertigo): Tabitha Tubach is a bounty hunter trolling a surreal multiverse for wanted criminals and the daughter of “The Scarlet Sylph”, once one of the most renowned stars of the golden age of “huntertainment”, now disabled and retired. When Tabitha brings in a perp with information regarding one of the most wanted people in existence mother and child must team up to bring them in. Motherlands is far from writer Si Spurrier’s best work. The pacing didn’t feel quite right to me and I saw the last page cliffhanger coming about ten pages in advance. That said I’ve enjoyed enough of his other work (his Legion run was fantastic) to give this one at least one more issue to hook me. The characters are strong, there’s a lot of potential in the concept and the art by Rachael Stott is very good. Stott’s elegant style keeps things detailed without being cluttered and her sense of design provides us with a few weird visions that aren’t quite like anything we’ve seen before. There’s also a nifty bit where letterer Simon Bowland uses the shape of the word balloons to help indicate movement between worlds in the chase scene. Rating: 7 Verdict: Buy.

Eternal (Black Mask): Haunted by ghosts both literal and metaphorical shield maiden Vif must make a stand. This is a gorgeous book. Artist Eric Zawadski has a spare style that recalls Becky Cloonan and he adds lots of flourishes to his layout that enhance the story and draw you into the world of medieval Viking village. Colorist Dee Cunniffe assists the illusion with a muted a muted palette that brilliantly recall the spectres of cold and frost. Ryan K Lindsay’s story is good but it suffers from the constant leaps from past to present. This makes it hard to comprehend on a first read. Still it’s rich enough that you’ll want to read it twice. Rating: 7.5 Recommendation: Buy

Phoenix Resurrection Jean Grey #5 (Marvel) Even coming up with enough to say for a short review is a challenge. The art by Leinil Francis Yu is up to his usual high standard and Joe Bennett’s is adequate I guess. As to Matthew Rosenberg’s story… well, one mutant character I like is back and another is dead (for now) and yet I felt absolutely nothing after reading this. Maybe I would have a different response had I been reading the series straight along from issue#1, but if you can’t manage to eke out some emotion from the climactic moment in your story then you’ve failed in whatever it was you set out to do as a storyteller. The first part of Dark Phoenix Saga I read was the last and that inspired me to go back and read the whole thing from the beginning. This doesn’t do that at all. I’m hoping X-Men Red#1 will rekindle my love for mighty Marvel’s merry mutants because this issue left me cold. Rating: 5 (and that’s mostly because I like Yu’s art). Recommendation: Pass

 

Ryan

animosity 12Animosity #12 (Aftershock)** – I wanna keep loving Sandor, but Marguerite Bennett is making it tough, as the secrets around everyone’s favorite over-protective dog continue to grow. Unfortunately, the suspense surrounding the current main plot — a humans vs. bees war — has been constructed in a bit more slipshod manner. It still makes for okay reading, but only that — okay reading. Fortunately, while the writing on this frankly over-franchised series has been slipping lately, Rafael De Latorre’s art continues to both shine and consistently improve. Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Read. 

Punisher Max: The Platoon #5 (Marvel/Max)** – The penultimate issue of Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov’s “Punisher In Vietnam” mini-series continues to ramp up the high-wire tension without letting up on either the razor-sharp characterization or the pitch-pitch combat writing. Frank’s left in a real pickle at the end of this one, and how it’s all going to play out is anyone’s guess — quite a feat considering that we all know our protagonist and most of the other principal players are sure to get out alive. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Underwinter: A Field Of Feathers #4 (Image)** – Speaking of penultimate issues, there’s just one more to go in Ray Fawkes’ impressionistic horror series, and he sets the stage for what should probably be a terrific finale by giving away just enough of his hand in this admittedly heavily-expository installment — but not too much. The lush and atmospheric art seals the deal, and all in all I have to say that I’m missing this comic before it’s even over with. Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Dark Ark #5 (Aftershock)** – Cullen Bunn and Juan Doe put their first arc on this series to bed with an installment that sees an accidental (and frightening) visit to the Ark by a gaggle on angels that ends with our protagonist seeing his mission changing in abrupt, and sure-to-be-fascinating, fashion. Good as the scripting is, though, for my money Doe’s stylish and darkly atmospheric art and colors are the real star of this book. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Logan

JEAN_GREY_CVR_011Jean Grey #11 (Marvel) Dennis Hopeless and company’s solo story of time displaced Jean Grey and a major chapter in the ongoing “Phoenix saga” comes to a close as Jean battles the cosmic firebird in a kind of limbo between life and death. This purgatory-esque framing narrative provides a great opportunity for Victor Ibanez and Alberto Albuquerque to show Jean fighting in various cool locations like Limbo, the Savage Land, and best of all, the fiery pits of the Days of Future Past reality featuring the hound, Rachel Grey. But the comic isn’t just a fight for time, but young Jean coming to terms with who she is as a woman and X-Man without the Phoenix’s interference. Corresponding to the main story in Phoenix Resurrection, Hopeless finishes out his story by creating a reality where two Jeans can interact and learn from each other and not continually have to fight back and forth for the whims of a flaming avian plot device. I look forward to seeing what future writers do with them. Overall: 8 Verdict: Read

Patrick

Big Trouble in Little China: Old Man Jack #5 (Boom!)** – In the latest issue of this romp through the apocalyptic future that Jack Burton caused, we throw down with the Three Storms. “There will be no popping! This time will be much weirder!” This series is a hoot: John Carpenter & Anthony Burch’s script has a breakneck pace and Jorge Corona’s art is energetic and expressive, with a cartoony style that still really delivers on the action. Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

now 2.jpgNOW #2 (Fantagraphics)** – I am so, so very happy that this anthology exists! Not only does it give me the chance to regularly see work by artists I know like Dash Shaw and Sammy Harkham, but I get to discover even more work. At 120 pages it’s the perfect size, too, for a week of bite-sized reading. Highlights this time around for me: Tommi Musturi’s “Samuel”, with colourful landscapes that reminded me of a more formally-precise Peter Max, Anuj Streatha’s “National Bird” (with an absolutely brilliant image at the centre of it that I can’t get out of my head), James Turek’s “Saved” (“Let’s remember/Those throw away days/When going nowhere meant so much”) and Ariel Lopez V.’s hipster Twilight Zone piece “A Perfect Triangle” (and now that I’ve said “hipster Twilight Zone” I just want this artist to do more of them). Go give these people your money so they can make more art. Overall: 7.5 (because, after all, anthology) Recommendation:  Buy

Shean

Star Wars DJ Most Wanted (Marvel)– Having watched the Last Jedi, honestly it was djmostwanted.jpghard to find a reason to care about Benicio Del Toro’s mysterious character. So when I found out they were doing a prequel story,I wanted to give the character another chance, in hopes of finding out what would happen in the next movie.Unfortunately, that potential was never realized in this story. Sad to say, but fans of Star Wars, should keep moving, nothing worth your time here. Overall: 4 Recommendation: Pass

Punisher Platoon #5 (Marvel)**– We catch up with the Platoon soon after they get deployed into another high visibility area, one which leaves them more open then they know. Ly Quan, Frank’s “mirror” female version, finds her opportunity to pounce and that’s exactly what she does. This quagmire leaves Frank and the boys, in a position where they can neither retreat nor surrender, as Ly Quan has a taste for blood. By book’s end, it seems the Platoon is as good as dead, but as everyone who has read the Punisher knows, Castle has no quit in him. Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Joe

Moon Knight #191 (Marvel) – After the wackiness of the last few but fun Moon Knight runs, I wondered where Bemis would take this run. I am happy to report that it is so far so good for Mr. Spector and his friends. The art is great, the plot is crazy fun, and the jokes are funny. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Old Man Logan #34 (Marvel) – Marvel has continued it’s Legacy branded nostalgic trend of tapping into past storylines across their titles, as Old Man Logan digs deep into Madripoor, Silver Samurai, and The Hand. This was a fun issue, and I have enjoyed every issue of Old Man Logan, with this being no different. Overall: 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 For The Week Ending 11/4

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.


Logan

POWER PACK #63Power Pack #63 (Marvel): Damn, this one-shot made me miss Marvel’s other superhero family as Katie Power narrates an adventure of her and her superpowered siblings for a rewrite on a high school paper. It’s a retelling of an older Power Pack comic, but writer Devin Grayson editorializes enough to show how much Katie misses blasting bad guys with her family. The story is also a strong argument for outlandish, standalone superhero stories instead of “realistic” ones, and Marika Cresta’s clean lines remind me of New Mutants’ (and Power Pack fill-in artist) Bob McLeod. It is highly relatable to anyone who is missing a sibling, who has moved far away. Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy

Ryan C

Batman: White Knight #2 (DC)** – I keep hoping that Sean Murphy has something else up his sleeve other than “look how I’m tweaking Gotham City norms at the margins,” but so far that’s all we’re getting here story-wise apart from some nasty white-washing of fascism. The art’s awesome, no question about it, and there’s a decent cliffhanger on offer here that will have you looking at Clayface in a new and decidedly unpleasant way, but damn — do we really need another story that looks at the most unpleasant aspect of Batman’s character (namely that he’s essentially a vigilante protecting the 1% by beating the crap out of poor people) and tries to cast it in a positive light a la “The Dark Knight Rises”? I think not. So far the only “message” I’m getting from this book is that if poor people get out of line, it’s up to the rich to knock them back down for the “good” of all. Pretty fucking repugnant, really. Overall: 4 Recommendation: Pass.

BMJKWK_Cv2_dsBatman #34 (DC)** – Another superb art job from Joelle Jones is wasted on another lazy-ass Tom King script. This is the most sumptuous-looking fight you’ll see all week, no question — but that’s still all we’re gejuy6tting here : an issue-length fight. Whatever. Overall: 3.5. Recommendation: Pass 

Crosswind #5 (Image)** – I’m still not sold on Cat Staggs’ heavily-photo-referenced art, being more a fan of actual free-hand drawing myself, but damn is Gail Simone’s darkly comic take on the “Freaky Friday” premise all kinds of fun. Events seem to be converging toward a conclusion of sorts, but hopefully the seeds of a second arc will be planted next issue, because I’d hate to see this book die a premature death. Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Buy

Paper Girls #17 (Image)** – When it comes to paying homage to Spielberg-style ’80s blockbusters, Brian K. Vaughn and Cliff Chiang are getting exactly right everything that “Stranger Things” season two got exactly wrong — and even though this issue is heavy on the exposition, it’s true, these are answers that have been a long time coming and they lead to even more questions, so it’s all good. And the art’s more than good, it’s great. The iron fist 74most quietly consistent series going, and one that’s got all kinds of heart, too. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Shean

Iron Fist #74 (Marvel) When Danny Rand returns home to NYC, he finds the Book of the Iron Fist stolen by the Serpent and the Serpent Society. He teams up with Sabretooth to find it while knocking some heads along the way. At the same time, an old villain of The Iron Fist, Choshin is looking to take over Kun Luna do with an army Overall: 10 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 (**).

Underrated: Lake Of Fire

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: Lake Of Fire



It is 1220 AD, and the gears of the Albigensian Crusade grind on. When an alien spacecraft infested with a horde of bloodthirsty predators crash-lands in the remote wilderness of the French Pyrenees, a small band of crusaders and a Cathar heretic are all that stand between God’s Kingdom and Hell on Earth.Lakeof-Fire-vol.1.jpg

When the owner of my LCS not so subtly recommended this to me by putting it in my pull box, I figured that she’s never steered me wrong yet, so why not give it a go? A few hours ago I opened the cover to the five issue collection, unsure of what I’d be getting beyond the notion that it was essentially aliens verses knights, and I didn’t stop reading until the story was done.

I devoured the entire tpb in one sitting and immediately wondered why I hadn’t read about this somewhere before. Why had nobody told me about this before the owner of my LCS told me to read it?

lake of fire q.jpg

Published by Image, Lake Of Fire was written, coloured and lettered by Nathan Fairbairn with art by Matt Smith (no, not the guy who played Doctor Who), the comic does have a fairly straight forward knights verses aliens feel to it – not that that is a bad thing as it allows the characters, action and art to really pop.

Yes, there are the fairly standard typical characters within the story, but while Fairbairn does tread familiar ground with the characters, the major players all feel as though they have a weight about them. You have the grizzled old warrior, the naive young knights and the dark priest all present and accounted for, and yes they are popular fantasy archetypes, but they’re well written archetypes which goes a long way in my book. I’d rather a well written archetype than a shallow character for the sake of originality.

That being said, rather than having the characters face off against a supernatural threat Fairbairn instead pits them against a horde of alien predators. I’ve always been partial to seeing how our ancestors would fair against an extraterrestrial threat, and the collected edition of Lake Of Fire scratches that itch remarkably well.

Matt Smith‘s art couldn’t be better suited to the past-meets-future story; the action sequences are easy to follow and once the comic reaches the midpoint the atmospheric art really amps up the threatening feel of the story itself in a case where Fairbairn’s colouring melds so well with Smith’s line art that it’s hard to believe that two people were involved in creating the visuals for the story.lakeoffire-01_cvrb.jpg

It may seem as if I’m being a little harsh on the story for being relatively straight forward, and that’s not my intent. Lake Of Fire is a fairly easy tale to follow from start to finish, but there are a more layers to the characters than you’d initially expect from the story – such as the relationships between some of the characters – and there’s an underlying theme about acceptance and tolerance in a time when neither of these were encouraged or widely practiced.

As far as recommendations from my LCS go, this is one of the more surprising ones; I didn’t expect much more out of this story than to be able to just pop my feet up with a cup of tea and just relax with a half the story before moving on to something else. Instead I ended up finishing the entire trade in one go and immediately start writing this column. Lake Of Fire is a really enjoyable story that surpasses a lot of the comics currently on the racks – and it’s also entirely self contained.

There are a lot of reasons why I wanted to spotlight the comic this week, but chief among them is that I haven’t heard anything about it anywhere – and that’s why it’s Underrated.


That’s all for this week folks. Join us next week when we talk about something else that falls under the Underrated banner in the comic book world.

Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 10/29

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.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.


Logan

BMMERC_Cv1_2PBatman: The Merciless #1 (DC)– What if Batman fought his war on crime as the literal God of War? After Diana is killed in a battle with Ares, Batman picks up his helm and becomes the Merciless. Thanks to Francis Manapul on art and colors, Batman: The Merciless #1 is one of the most visual stunning Metal tie-ins with a plethora of double page spreads and panels that grip the emotions and senses like Batman cradling Diana in his arms, or little evil Robins eating their Court of the Owls counterparts. Sadly, writer Peter Tomasi skimps on the complex relationship between Diana and Bruce, but mostly redeems this gap with a fun bit of Dr. Strangelove influenced satire as the various paramilitary organizations in the DC Universe scramble to fight the Dark Knights. Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Ryan C

Black Panther #166 (Marvel)** – A pretty decent revisionist look at Klaw’s origins from writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Leonard Kirk’s art is an improvement over the litany of fill-in artists on offer in recent months, but we’re still very much in “competent, but uninspired” territory here. The trend is positive, but not enough to warrant a “buy” recommendation yet. Overall: 6 Recommendation: Read

Action Comics #990 (DC)** – The penultimate chapter of “The Oz Effect” honestly isn’t much better than the previous three, with fairly nice art from Viktor Bogdanovic that has more personality than most “Big Two” illustration frankly wasted on a Dan Jurgens story that feels very rote and “by-the-numbers” indeed. Mostly events just stall here until a terrible, forced, and drama-free cliffhanger finally cuts things off. Overall: 3.5 Recommendation: Pass.

GlitterbombTheFameGame_02-1Glitterbomb: The Fame Game #2 (Image)** – Another dreary and non-dramatic installment in what has to rank as the most disappointing return of 2017. I absolutely loved the first run of “Glitterbomb,” but writer Jim Zub and artist Djibril Morissette-Pham seem to be having a tough time shaking off the rust of their long hiatus. Our protagonist basically just does the exact same thing in this issue as she did in the last, and the horror of offer seems both tepid and shoehorned-in. Oh, how a once-mighty title has fallen. Overall: 3 Recommendation: Pass

Violent Love #9** – Wow, I didn’t see that coming! One of our two protagonists dies this issue, and both are victims of a massive double-cross. The truncated time frame that follows leads me to believe that this series is being rushed toward a forced conclusion, which is semi-tragic because Frank J. Barbiere’s scripting has been solid and Victor Santos’ art is just plain breathtaking. I’ll be sorry to see this one end. High marks to Ryan Ferrier and Jamie Jones for their superb back-up strip, as well. Overall: 8 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 (**).

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