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Review: Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey Special #1

It’s Wednesday which means it’s new comic book day with new releases hitting shelves, both physical and digital, all across the world. This week we’ve got Black Lightning teaming with Hong Kong Phooey!

Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey Special #1 is by Bryan Hill, Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Jeromy Cox, Janice Chiang, ChrisCross, Gabe Eltaeb, Liz Erickson, Jim Chadwick, and Funky Phantom story by Jeff Parker, Scott Kolins, and Tony Avina.

Get your copy in comic shops today. To find a comic shop near you, visit www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

Amazon/Kindle/comiXology or TFAW

 

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies for review
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Review: Deathstroke #30 – Deathstroke vs. Batman part 1

When Batman discovers a mysterious package containing DNA test results proving that he is not Damian Wayne’s biological father, the Dark Knight sets his sights on his son’s true father-Deathstroke! But Damian Wayne can’t really be Slade Wilson’s son-can he? And who sent the package-and why? The ultimate custody battle ensues as the World’s Greatest Detective and the World’s Deadliest Assassin clash in this instant classic!

It’s always noteworthy when Deathstroke and Batman cross paths, it’s a special event when the writer is master scribe Christopher Priest.

In Deathstroke #30, the first issue of this six part arc, Priest uses a Venn diagram with genius effect, breaking the characters down he’s able to intertwine their worlds by connecting then through their aides de camp, the relationships with their son’s and past histories with Talia Al Ghul.

The art team of Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, and Jeromy Cox take Priest’s hot script and turn in slick art filled with action and cool shots of the two badasses going at it. And as nice as the action is, I really enjoyed the moody Batman doing his detective scenes the most.

My one criticism of this issue is it felt more like a Bat book, which makes me wonder why he hasn’t written one of the main Bat titles before. All in all a great start to a great read, buy it, I’ll be adding it to my pull list.

Story: Christopher Priest Art: Carlo Pagulayan
Inks: Jason Paz Color: Jeromy Cox Letterer: Willie Schubert
Cover: Lee Weeks & Brad Anderson
Group Editor: Brian Cunningham Editor: Alex Antone Assistant Editor: Dave Wielgosz

 

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

REVIEW : THE BLACK RACER AND SHILO NORMAN SPECIAL #1

Who in their right mind wasn’t intrigued by this one when it was first announced? The Black Racer is, after all, one of the more immediately-arresting and enigmatic characters in all of Jack Kirby‘s Fourth World canon, and Shilo Norman was fondly remembered as the trusted “kid sidekick” of Mister Miracle — but given the Racer’s occupation/mission, it was pretty obvious from the outset that any story that would bring these two together would possibly, if not probably, mean that poor Shilo’s days were numbered.

And so it would seem right from the outset of Reginald Hudlin‘s script for The Black Racer And Shilo Norman Special #1, wherein Shilo, having assumed and/or inherited the Mister Miracle mantle for himself, is strapped to a missile (a hat-tip to a concept The King first utilized in Scott Free’s adventures four decades back) as part of a charity event sponsored by a casino magnate who’s an obvious stand-in for — shit, do I even need to say it? Suffice to say, we all want to see this asshole forced to fork over the cash to Shilo’s charity of choice, but the Racer appears to have other plans —

If, like me, you prefer your Kirby homages to be of the big, bold, and brash variety, then Hudlin and pencillers Denys Cowan and Ryan Benjamin, along with inkers Bill Sienkiewicz and Richard Friend, certainly deliver the goods — this is fast-paced, and decidedly high-stakes, storytelling that gives a number of terrific comics veterans who we don’t see nearly enough of anymore the chance to really flex their creative chops on some of Jack’s out-and-out coolest characters and concepts as Shilo, desperate to stay alive, finds himself not only making a quick pit stop into the world of Kamandi, but getting into an underwater tussle with none other than OMAC himself! In short, strap yourself in tight because this is one wild ride.

For all its breakneck action, though, there is also plenty of humanity at the heart of these proceedings — we get a deeper look at the Racer’s civilian alter-ego, Willie Walker, than we have at any point since his first appearance way back in New Gods #3, Shilo is both as likable and, frankly, immature (not to mention a tad bit sexist) as ever, and a genuine air of mystery and the unknown is imbued back into “The Source” in a manner that would no doubt make Kirby himself smile with appreciation. Yes, this is as much a re-hash as any and all of the other “King 100” specials, and there’s certainly nothing revolutionary about its sabotage/betrayal central plot conceit, but damn, it hits all the right notes and frankly hits them so well that I think it will have appeal to more than just the “hopeless nostalgia” crowd.

Needless to say, that’s not entirely due to the story alone although, as discussed, that’s certainly quite good — the simple fact, however, is that for a book that’s got an “art by committee” approach, this thing looks pretty damn seamless (thanks in large part to Jeromy Cox‘s vibrant and attention-grabbing colors throughout), and the Cowan/Sienkiewicz team, in particular (always a winning combination “back in the day”), appears not to have lost a step at all. This is fluid, graceful, and expressionistic stuff, rendered with obvious love for both the creations they’re playing with and, crucially, their creator. Heck, it’s borderline majestic in many instances — particular Willie Walker’s Vietnam flashbacks — and consistently dynamic and bracing from start to finish. Prepare to be thoroughly impressed indeed.

Finish it all off with three Kirby “Young Gods Of Supertown” back-up strips from New Gods #s 4, 5, and 6, respectively, and you have a comprehensively fun and entertaining spectacle with plenty of soul to both balance out and underpin all the gloriously far-out cosmic otherworldliness. I’ll be the first to admit that these DC Kirby tribute books have been a decidedly mixed bag on the whole, but The Black Racer And Shilo Norman Special #1 is definitely the best of the bunch and well worth its, fair enough, pretty steep $4.99 asking price. As The King himself used to say : “Don’t ask — just buy it!”

Story : Reginald Hudlin  Art : Denys Cowan, Ryan Benjamin, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Richard Friend

Story : 7.5  Art : 8.5  Overall : 8  Recommendation : Buy

Review: Batwoman #2

Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV add another feather to their cap as they give us another well thought out, perfectly executed issue of Batwoman. Their sophomore turn at the superheroine’s current story arc is nothing short of brilliant. They weave together backstory and present conflicts in a way that doesn’t seem like it’s spoonfeeding us plot points. The duo go out of their way to give us a complete story that not only builds empathy for Batwoman but, makes us crave more.

In this issue, we find our title hero back in a place that she’s abandoned and the people she left there. We see frenemies, enemies and old loves all come into play and no character or place is frivolous. Bennett and Tynion cut all the fat from the story to give us nothing short of a gripping tale, with fully realized characters and interesting entry points into the world of the island and its inhabitants.

Steve Epting and Jeromy Cox give us great panels with perfectly muted colors that showcase the story being told. While the style of art is consistent throughout the comic, they change up on the intensity of the colors to show the difference between current scenes and flashbacks. The great art style, smart color choices and sleek lines make this issue beautiful to look at and it complements the story perfectly.

This second undertaking of an underutilized character in the DC universe is perfect. It has a real chance of bringing her and her story into the light and, I’m always here for complex, solo female (anti)heroes. The writing makes her interesting and adds a layer of dimension to her that I’m happy to see. The art team does ethnicity well in its drawing and color choices making it so that it doesn’t feel like we are just looking at a homogeneous group in different shades and,, they do so without making other ethnicities look like caricatures. Overall, I can’t wait to see what this team does with this character and arc because, if this issue is any indication there’s so much talent happening that it can only keep going up from here.

Story: Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV Art: Steve Epting and Jeromy Cox
Story: 9.2 Art: 9 Overall: 9.1 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Batwoman #1

Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV weave an interesting and diverse tale in Batwoman #1 the return of the character to her own ongoing series. This isn’t just a Rebirth, it is an awakening of a compelling and interesting story where a fluff line used to reside. There’s real emotion and a real story being told and I’m more than happy to allow myself to get engaged in it and take this arc up on its offer for what seems to be a very compelling ride. The women in this story are strong, vulnerable, relatable and human. There are layers to everything that peek through the surface and pull you in deeper. The beginning of the “Many Arms of Death” storyline has Kate’s chickens coming home to roost as she finds herself living on her yacht and hunting down the surge of a lethal drug that has hit the streets of Cortana. We not only get to see Batwoman in action, without the brooding caped crusader stealing her thunder but, we get to learn a little bit more about her lost years which it turns out weren’t all parties and passion.

Steve Epting and Jeromy Cox provide some really cool, muted and realistic art for the panels in this issue. The colors only pop when that red hair is in the middle of kicking some ass, keeping the focus on our somber hero. The rest of the time the art stays muted and dark which matches the tone of the story of a killer street drug on an island of criminals. There’s a sense of danger, foreboding and death that lingers in the edges of the panels that makes the story feel real and dark but, also engaging.

There isn’t a useless panel, word, or action in any of the pages of this story. Each conversation, fight, intel gathering computer screen flash is meaningful and important. Everything moves the story forward and engages the reader giving off flashes of insight to air of mystery that surrounds Batwoman. You can’t help but be drawn in and fascinated by everything about the character and the writers put the focus squarely on her, literally and figuratively. There is also not a trace of Batman which means that we are treated to a Batwoman story and arc that is, gasp, all about Batwoman as it should be.

Bennett and Tynion give her character some much-needed urgency and fire. Having established Kate’s sexuality in the previous start-up issue, Bennett doesn’t revisit it outside of a flashback showing that there may have been something going on between Kate and someone from the island. The way Bennett chose to have this play out is brilliant, she isn’t washing over her sexuality nor is she exploiting it. Having established it already it allows the story to continue, like in real life because no one goes about their daily business professing their sexuality.  This choice normalizes something that is normal and allows us to get to know the character better and, doesn’t use her being a lesbian as a gimmick or as a diversity red herring. There’s something to be said about being able to tell a compelling story without the use of cheap tricks AND still having diversity and inclusion in the story.

Overall, I found this issue a fast, compelling, well-written read and I can’t wait until the next installment in, if this opening issue is any indication, what I am sure will be a very interesting arc and a wonderful upgrade to the Batwoman legacy and series.

Story: Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV Art: Steve Epting and Jeromy Cox
Story: 9.3 Art: 9.1 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review

Review: Batwoman Rebirth #1

batwomanrebirthcoverMost of Batwoman Rebirth #1 is a rehash of the past ten years of major storylines featuring Kate Kane from the tragic murder of her mother when she was 12 to the most recent “Batwoman Begins” arc in Detective Comics. Writers Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion provide a decent primer for potential new fans of Batwoman while dropping some very intriguing teasers for her ongoing series that starts next month. It’s nice to have the whole of Kate Kane’s arc in a single issue of a comic, but most of it feels like a single issue of a comic-length “Previously on Batwoman Elegy” that costs $2.99.

However, Steve Epting‘s art and Jeromy Cox‘s colors present a possibly compelling reason to at the very least flip through some gorgeous, red tinged full page spreads. Epting’s skill with espionage action from his work on Captain America and especially Velvet with Ed Brubaker serves him well in a scene set in Kate Lane’s lost year where she was living with her girlfriend Safiyah on a Mediterranean Island. The interaction between shadows, shifting angles, and a focus on the background instead of the foreground during certain panels definitely whetted my appetite for more stealth incursions in the Batwoman ongoing title. Epting also plays off J.H. Williams stellar work with layouts by setting up pages at the beginning and end of the comic that look like something has shattered in Batwoman with figures from her past accusing her and asking her questions about what she’s doing with her life. The faded red from Cox evokes her costume as well as her rage and tumultous life from childhood to being kicked out of West Point and even the past year of Detective Comics. And the juicy image on the final page shows that these events have taken perhaps a little bit too much of a negative toll on her.

batwomanrebirthinterior

Most of the big beats in Batwoman Rebirth #1 were already explored in depth in the excellent Batwoman Elegy comic, but Bennett and Tynion make a valiant effort to add shading to that classic story. The interactions between Bennett is an excellent writer of flirting as seen in Bombshells, the Angela comics, and Josie and the Pussycats, and Epting’s gift with body language along with close-ups on lips and hands create instant chemistry between Kate and her three girlfriends that pop up in the flashbacks. The nearly silent page  of Kate and Renee Montoya is a pure masterpiece and a visual argument for why they should be a couple. Except these hints of romance are suddenly swept away for boring recaps of “Batwoman Begins” combined with one tantalizing image at the end. The scales of interesting and a skippable re-do aren’t evenly balanced though.

Batwoman Rebirth #1 has fantastic art and colors from Steve Epting and Jeromy Cox, who will hopefully return her book’s visuals to the lofty heights of J.H. Williams and Amy Reeder several years back. Bennett and Tynion’s plot is skippable for long time Batwoman aficionadoes, and Elegy is a better introduction for new fans so this is definitely a comic you pick up just for the art and the occasional spark of intrigue or romance.

Story: Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV Art: Steve Epting Colors: Jeromy Cox
Story: 6 Art: 9 Overall: 7 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Deathstroke #11

deathstroke11coverIn Deathstroke #11, writer Priest and a stellar guest art team of Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, and regular colorist Jeromy Cox tackle the problem of gun violence. The story is set in Chicago, and Priest does his usual non-linear narrative thing switching from neighborhood to neighborhood and getting a variety of perspectives on how Chicago can have less homicides. Is it okay to take revenge on your killer’s children with your own gun, or the gun of a mercenary? Priest and Cowan explore this question through the specific lens of the city of Chicago in a scratchily inked (Sienkiewicz is kind of the best at this.) mystery yarn.

Deathstroke #11 is a master class in both how to tell a story that is both engaging and socially relevant in a non-preachy way and with an O. Henry twist ending. Priest’s writing gives insights into the characters of Detective Gill, the journalist Jack Ryder who has been following Deathstroke since he was responsible for a string of killings in Philadelphia, and the mysterious reverend. He focuses on ideas and characterization while letting Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz seed in visual clues about who has been killing the child killers in Chicago.

Cowan and Sienkiewicz’s artwork feels like a talented lead guitarist and rhythm guitarist trading riffs and creating a flawless wall of sound. Except nothing about the artwork of Deathstroke #11 is smooth or refined with Cowan going for gritty almost photorealism with his figures and backgrounds, and Sienkiewicz adding crosshatching and thin lines. Jeromy Cox adds splashes of red when Deathstroke makes his kills, an exclamation point in the wintry gloom. Yes, there is a lot of snow in this comic, and you can feel the subzero Chicago temperatures on almost every page. And when Creeper shows up, Cowan channels George Perez, Cox assaults our eyeballs with Christmas-like reds and greens, but the scratchy inks are still there because this is definitely not an issue of New Teen Titans.

deathstroke11interior

Creeper himself is an agent of chaos, who literally won’t die and messes with Priest’s  procedural-meets-journalism with little eruptions of violence tone. Jack Ryder is a kind of oblivious, kind of empathetic investigative journalist and keeps the narrative as the facts keep changing with victims and murderers switching, and the urban legend of Deathstroke lurking in the background. He centers the narrative until he transforms into a straight up freak hellbent on violence. This might be a bit of a logical leap, but I think that Creeper symbolizes using over-the-top violence to stop crime in the United States. Like the tanks in Ferguson after Trayvon Martin was killed, or Donald Trump tweeting about sending “the Feds” to Chicago when he was too afraid to even give a speech there while campaigning. It’s tone deaf destruction and noise like Creeper’s over the top dialogue, or George Zimmerman’s repeated 911 calls, and doesn’t even come close to helping out.

Priest and Cowan face the intersection of racism and gun usage head on in Deathstroke #11. Why are Oregon militamen who occupy a wildlife sanctuary for 41 days and leave shit, bombs, and guns behind for government employees to clean up, and a police officer who shot a 12 year old boy in Cleveland  named Tamir Rice acquitted? It’s white privilege plain and simple, and Priest echoes that in the dialogue of the mothers of the dead children in Deathstroke #11. They just want justice for their kids even if they have to spend their hard earned money on a masked assassin. Their desperate straits makes you sympathize with them even if the killings by Deathstroke in the comic are horrific like a jarring image of a fireman’s ax in a rich white man, who sent his secretary to buy his drugs in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. Vigilante justice is cathartic, yet hollow, but again Priest doesn’t go the “message route” and ends the story on an ambiguous line of dialogue to go with Cowan’s pure black and white art.

Deathstroke #11 is an intelligent, tightly plotted, and well-researched piece of vigilante fiction from Priest, Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Jeromy Cox aka the comic book equivalent of the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls starting lineup  It’s worth picking up even if you don’t know your Deathstrokes from your Deadshots (Or Deadpools.) and rewards rereading.

Story: Priest Pencils: Denys Cowan Inks: Bill Sienkiewicz Colors: Jeromy Cox
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Superwoman #2

swm_cv2_dsThe battle of Metropolis Harbor rages on and the casualties are mounting! To save both herself and the city from the ultra-powered Bizarress duo, Superwoman must turn to John Henry Irons—a.k.a. Steel—for help! But there is a larger villainous force at work behind the scenes, and you won’t believe who it is! Buckle up for the shocking true identity of Ultra Woman!

Last issue saw a shocking death and this issue picks up with weird things going on with Lex’s battle carrier, some reveals, and some choppiness in the story telling.

The issue kicks off with Lana trying to figure out what has happened to Lois and a reveal of a villain who then fires Lex’s cruiser at Metropolis. This is the first problem I have with the issue. It looks like projectiles are fired and then later it’s revealed to be EMP pulses, but initially it’s just left out there as if they hit the city and there’s no discussion of it at all. It’s a panel that sets up what you think are explosions and then there’s nothing. I found myself going back a few times to see if it’s addressed and I missed something.

The next bit of bumpiness is a line where Lana is walking in with Steel and they see Natasha Irons. Lana tells John to not say anything about Lois then a page later she basically blurts out something has happened to Lois in front of Natasha with no reaction from Natasha. Another thing that took me out of the issue.

But, beyond that, there’s some good too.

Writer Phil Jimenez teases out the story of Lois as Superwoman isn’t over and gives us a reveal of the big bad at the end of the issue. But, what I think is the strongest part of the issue is Lana’s talking to Maggie Sawyer and Lana and Steel at the GCPD station. There’s a bit of racism shown by cops, but the connection between Maggie and Lana feels real and genuine going over each other’s history as Sawyer attempts to figure out what’s going on. It humanizes both characters really well.

Jimenez does double duty also providing art with ink by Matt Santorelli and Joe Prado and coloring by Jeromy Cox. The issue is packed with lots of panels, so there isn’t much as far as large images to show of Jimenez’s talent. The art is decent is this case though not quite up to Jimenez’s usual quality. I think that’s partially because there’s so many panels it’s just hard to get that amount of detail in there. Still, Jimenez’s strengths of character design shine throughout as everyone has personality and his able to transition the mood from scene to scene works well too, especially with the help of the inking and coloring which really comes into play at times.

The end of the issue has me intrigued as there’s some reveals that shake some things up and there’s hints in the comic as more to come. Overall, it’s an entertaining read and a series that captures the feel of classic Superman.

Story: Phil Jimenez Art: Phil Jimenez Ink: Matt Santorelli, Joe Prado Color: Jeromy Cox
Story: 7 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Deathstroke #1

DS_Cv1_dsDeathstroke’s latest contract takes him to a war-torn African country, where he finds himself caught in the middle of a disintegrating alliance between a ruthless dictator and a deadly super-villain. With an entire nation at stake, Slade Wilson must choose between fulfilling his contract and saving an old friend.

Christopher Priest continues is adventures of Slade Wilson in Deathstroke #1 in an interesting style I go back and forth about. The story is a bit choppy as the issue is broken up into chapters and bounces around in some ways. By the end of the issue, it all makes a lot more sense and comes together, but as I began the issue I found it a bit offputting.

The issue is also a continuation of Deathstroke: Rebirth. It’s really important you read that and if you haven’t you’ll want to start there. This issue doesn’t hold on its own without it, so do yourself a favor and start with Rebirth.

Priest is really focused on Wilson the man, much like he was in Rebirth. It’s a solid move to differentiate this run in many ways and add a lot more depth to a character that has been twisted and turned in many ways. It’s back to basics in some ways and focusing on more than action in many others. An interesting take overall that really lets us get a sense of who Deathstroke is and why he’s more than an anti-hero or straight up villain.

The art by Carlo Pagulayan, inks by Jason Praz, and color by Jeromy Cox is a solid combination that looks great. It isn’t the testosterone fused version that launched with the New 52, and feels more grounded in some ways. There’s still lots of action and sex, but it’s not as over the top as we’ve seen in the past.

The issue is an interesting first issue as it doesn’t stand on its own and really relies on the Rebirth issue, which is good in some ways and bad in others. What it does is set up some potentially interesting things in the future and Priest is giving us something more than a badass with big guns.

Story: Christopher Priest Art: Carlo Pagulayan Inks: Jason Paz Color: Jeromy Cox
Story: 7.5 Art: 7.6 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Superwoman #1

SWM_Cv1_dsLois Lane takes flight! Now powered up with the abilities of Superman, Lois pledges to carry on the super-legacy as Superwoman! There’s only one problem: Lois’ new powers are killing her, and neither she nor her friend and confidant Lana Lang know what to do about it. Will Lois even survive long enough to learn the deadly secret of Ultra Woman?

Positive and fun. That’s the best way to describe Superwoman #1 from writer Phil Jimenez who does double duty on art. I’m going to warn folks, there may be some spoilers here, as there’s things I didn’t know going into it.

Though the title of the comic is singular, it’s actually a buddy cop comic in many ways. Lois Lane has gained powers due to the death of the New 52 Superman and she needs to learn how to use them. Enter, Lana Lang, who is not only acting as Lois’ mentor… but also her partner!? Yes, Lana Lang has powers too it would seem, and for folks who remember Superman Red/Blue, they’ll feel a bit familiar. The two together, as two folks who don’t necessarily like each other, but are still civil, reminds me a lot of the dynamic you’d see with a buddy cop movie of two different individuals brought together to fight crime.

But, what’s really amazing about the comic is the positive attitude that Jimenez has brought to it all. This isn’t two individuals who are bickering and being mean to each other. They may not want to work together, and are very much opposites, but they are nice and wind up helping each other out. There’s a sisterhood here that’s missing from so many comics.

The way that Jimenez lays things out with the pacing is great too. It throws you into the action and builds things out well relying on a few flashbacks to catch new readers up as to what’s going on. It’s a great mix that creates a solid flow to the comic and story.

Jimenez works on the art and is joined by Matt Santorelli on inks and Jeromy Cox on color. The artwork looks fantastic. Jimenez’s style is just beautiful to look at and he gives us figures that look realistic and shies away from the pin-up look so many other female led comics rely on. Lois and Lana look athletic and the characters look unique. Just fantastic art.

Remember how comics are supposed to be full of fun, positive action? This captures that and brings so much more.

Story: Phil Jimenez Art: Phil Jimenez Ink: Matt Santorelli Color: Jeromy Cox
Story: 8.6 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.65 Recommendation:  Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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