Tag Archives: jim zub

Messages from Midgard #11 – Thank You, Frost

Endings seem to be a recurring theme for this week’s “War of the Realms” books with Giant-Man being the first tie-in miniseries to reach the finish line thanks to some incredible weirdness and a wonderful father/daughter team-up from Leah Williams, Marco Castiello, and Rachelle Rosenberg. There’s also the bittersweet end to Cullen Bunn’s work on the Asgardians of the Galaxy series even after it was name-dropped in the second highest grossing movie of all time. Thankfully, Tini Howard and German Peralta’s recently announced Strikeforce will continue Angela’s journey.

In addition to these titles, Bunn and Iban Coello’s short Venom arc wraps up just in time for “Absolute Carnage”, Superior Spider-Man is way too funny and meta, Champions seems determined to feature every teen Marvel hero, and Ryan North and Derek Charm’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is still a wonderful gift with Ariana Grande karaoke and Frost Giants talking shop about, well, frost.


Giant-Man #3

My feelings on the conclusion of Leah Williams, Marco Castiello, and Rachelle Rosenberg’s Giant-Man are definitely mixed. What has been a fairly straightforward adventure yarn set in Florida and featuring Marvel’s size changing heroes gets pretty freaking weird. Apparently, former Thunderbolt/Master of Evil Moonstone has been enslaving the women of Florida to forcibly harvest ice from Ymir to make Ice Giants. It’s definitely a twist and throws a wrench into the whole Ymir assassination mission. The scene where Cassie Lang rescues the slaves and teams up with her dad are heartwarming as well as Raz’s empathy for Ymir, who is in pain and being held against his will. Ymir being a victim and more of a primal force of nature than a baddie is more nuanced and memorable than the team punching him to death.

However, Williams and Castiello do less of a good job introducing and telling the story of Moonstone, the miniseries’ Big Bad. Her powers and motivation fluctuate depending on this scene as she goes from slave master to force of nature and even a redemptive figure depending on the scene. It’s like Williams and Castiello reached the end of miniseries and realized they needed a final boss that wasn’t Ymir and used her past connection with Atlas as a shorthand reason to feature her. Throw in visuals that are hard to follow when the characters change size, and unfortunately, Giant-Man #3 earns an Overall Verdict of Pass.


Asgardians of the Galaxy #10

Asgardians of the Galaxy #10 is a bittersweet comic for many reasons. It features the quirky cast of this book kicking ass together one last time as well as Angela using the MacGuffin from the book’s first arc to get revenge on the Angels of Heven, who abused and tortured her. Writer Cullen Bunn and sharp artists Luca Maresca and Federico Blee give each character a couple of fantastic moments before signing off on a series that had an interesting cast of characters, a fun morally ambiguous space-faring tone, fantastic LGBTQ representation, and was mostly forced to be an event tie-in.

But the fact that it’s a tie-in doesn’t negate Skurge earning redemption as a hero in Valhalla, Angela saving Nairobi, Kenya and finding revenge by beheading her evil adoptive mother, and Ren and Annabelle Riggs being cute while getting cool weapons from the dwarf Urzuul. Maresca’s art has a cartoonish lyricism to him with slash shaped panels when Angela and an army of undead gods lay waste to Heven, or when Okoye gives Annabelle tips on using a Valkyrie spear. He and Bunn do an excellent job wrapping up Angela, Skurge, and Annabelle’s arc while letting this team kick ass in various and sundry ways. Asgardians of the Galaxy #10 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy, and hopefully, it’ll get a revival once Chris Hemsworth signs a deal to be in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.


Champions #6

Jim Zub, Juanan Ramirez, and Marco Menyz bust out the Disir, the cursed ghosts of Odin’s father Bor’s Valkyries, in their Champions “War of the Realms” tie-in. First appearing in Kieron Gillen’s run on Journey into Mystery, they’re a formidable foe for this team of teen heroes that almost seems to double in membership each issue. Zub and Ramirez are constantly cutting from character to character throughout this issue in different action scenes. However, a few beats land like Power Man realizing the full potential of his “chi”-based powers and basically hulking out and save the team’s asses when he is stabbed in the heart by a magical, undead Asgardian artifact. There is also Kamala Khan, who gets a vision of her dead in a parallel universe and starts to realize that leadership of the Champions may be too much for her.

These two strong character moments stand out in what is mostly a loud, action-driven issue where the Champions are driven up a wall, and it’s hard to get a read on any character personalities between the explosions. Zub does hit on a few cool concepts like Hummingbird joining the team because she saw a distress call on a message board and using her empathy-driven, telepathic abilities to calm the team down. With the exception of the loose cartooning and cool moment where Power Man gets to wreak havoc, Champions #6 pales in comparison to the previous issue’s Cyclops and Kamala-centric tale and reduces powerful enemies to “monster of the week” status. Therefore, it earns an Overall Verdict of Pass.


Superior Spider-Man #7

I haven’t read the previous issues of Superior Spider-Man, but Christos Gage, Lan Medina, Cam Smith, and Andy Troy’s work on this story definitely made me want to pick up the previous six issues. The series has a similar premise to Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man, but without the weird mind swap plot devices and is more about a bad guy trying to do good and use the power of science and his intellect to be a better hero than Spider-Man. The first half of this issue is filled with precise storytelling and illustrations from Medina and Smith as Spider-Ock evacuates San Francisco and turns his brain to the cause of Frost Giants invading North America and not just the symptom. As Gwenpool later states, he’s a core miniseries hero stuck in a tie-in.

Oh yeah, and to pile awesomeness on more awesomeness, Gage, and Medina pair Spider-Ock with the West Coast Avengers because he wants to use America’s star portal abilities to shut down the one letting Frost Giants onto Earth. This plan doesn’t work out, but we get fun team-up fights, Gwenpool doing running commentary on event comic structure, and Spider-Ock and Quentin Quire bonding over their shared interest in arrogance. I love how the other characters think she’s raving mad, but the always curious Spider-Ock is out here asking questions about “legacy characters”. For its strong visuals, heavy dose of meta-humor, fun guest stars, and interesting characterization of Spider-Ock, Superior Spider-Man earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.


Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #45

The search for the Frost Giants’ secret base continues in Ryan North, Derek Charm, and Rico Renzi’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #45, but due to irreconcilable ethical differences, Squirrel Girl and Ratatoskr break up as teammates fairly early in the story. The split-up and reunion leads to great comedy, pathos, and later, adventure using the power of Frost Giant-induced fast travel. Ratatoskr doesn’t want to save the world; she only wants to create chaos and use her mind control abilities to get whatever the heck she wants. This includes go-kart video games, on command Frost Giant-friendly performances of “Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande, and even psychological therapy.

However, the therapy part (Done by a mind-controlled Frost Giant.) named Daisy reveals that Squirrel Girl’s words about Ratatoskr never creating and only destroying have gotten under her skin. (Charm and Renzi draw moment of truth Ratatoskr quite adorable.) This leads to forgiveness and working together to stop the Frost Giant in an ethical, non-mind controlling way. But, there’s one last pit stop before the HQ as Charm and Renzi capture the beauty of snowfall and nature with the help of the (Newly in the public domain) poems of Robert Frost. (Also, North can’t help himself with puns.) It’s a singular moment in a very silly comic with a tongue in cheek ending. For showing that beauty and humor can co-exist with sneaking around a Frost Giant camp, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #45 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.


Venom #15

In the conclusion to their Venom “War of the Realms” arc, Cullen Bunn, Iban Coello, Alberto Albuquerque, Roberto Poggi, and Andres Mossa realize that Jack’o’Lantern is kind of a lame villain and pivot to Eddie Brock battling his own anger with a side of Dreamstone magic. The interplay between Bunn’s narration and the chaotic line art of Coello and Albuquerque creates heavy metal alchemy as Eddie wanders around New York and channels his anger again to remember that he is a “lethal” protector of the innocent, especially his son Dylan. He genuinely cares about the regular people who are caught in the crossfire of the War of the Realms and comes up with a new spin on “We are Venom” to protect them in a fist-bumping moment.

Venom #15, and Bunn and Coello’s overall work on this storyline has been a fantastic marriage of deep emotional turmoil and fun symbiote-meet-dark magic action. This issue is no exception as Eddie has his big moment and the returns to the bunker to protect Dylan and continue their journey to survive. What could have been filler while Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman were prepping “Absolute Carnage” end up telling a tale about Eddie and his son trying to survive in a world without his symbiote and featured memorable visual mash-ups of Asgardian and symbiote iconography. Because of this, Venom #15 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.

This was truly “War of the Realms'” week of the underdog as characters, like Skurge the Executioner, Squirrel Girl, Gwenpool, Spider-Ock, Annabelle Riggs, and the West Coast Avengers, who get their books canceled or a relegated to second stringers lit up the comics pages thanks to the passion of creators like Cullen Bunn, Ryan North, Christos Gage, Luca Maresca, Derek Charm, and Lan Medina. In particular, Bunn’s letter at the end of Asgardians of the Galaxy #10 about how he wanted to do a story with these characters back in 2015 and then had to shoehorn them into two events shows the pitfalls of having an original spirit in corporate comics. But, hey, we’ll have those ten majestic issues than honestly work whether or not you read “Infinity Wars” or “War of the Realms”.


Panel of the Week

I really hope someone in the Ariana Grande camp reads comics. (From Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #45, Art by Derek Charm and Rico Renzi)

Jim Zub and Max Dunbar Reunite for Dungeons & Dragons: Infernal Tides this November

IDW Publishing reunites the Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate creative team of writer Jim Zub and artist Max Dunbar for an all-new adventure: Dungeons & Dragons: Infernal Tides! Debuting in November 2019, the five-issue miniseries delves into the mythology established in the highly-anticipated D&D adventure Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus arriving on September 17.

In Infernal Tides, fan-favorite Minsc and his friends are caught in the middle of devil-tainted corruption that has taken hold of Baldur’s Gate. Unravelling the secret of its source will take the heroes to unexpected places and threaten the sanctity of their very souls. Even if they survive this perilous journey, there will be Hell to pay!

Infernal Tides, while an accommodating entry point for intrepid new readers, rewards longtime fans as the continuation of Jim Zub’s epic comic book storyline which began with Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate and continued into Shadows of the VampireFrost Giant’s Fury, and Evil at Baldur’s Gate.

Messages from Midgard #5: Cyclops Was Right

Halfway through the “War of the Realms“, and it looks like this is gonna be an event where the tie-ins were more memorable than the core story. War of the Realms #3 dropped this week, and it’s a treat to see Russell Dauterman draw, basically, the entire Marvel Universe including the Fantastic Four and Captain America’s cute little snow jacket for adventuring in Jotunheim. But, it’s just trailers for better, more interesting comics like Bryan Hill and Leinil Yu’s very longwindedly named War of the Realms Strikeforce: Dark Elf Realm #1 and Champions #5 where Jim Zub and Juanan Ramirez once and for all prove that, indeed, Cyclops was right. (But Ramirez’s trolls look like Skrulls, oops.)

War of the Realms #3

After two straight issues of various Marvel superheroes fighting various fantasy creatures, we get yet another issue of Marvel superheroes fighting various fantasy creatures. Sights that Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson subject us to include Daredevil tripping balls and flirting with being an agnostic while having the power of the god of fear, Luke Cage riding a flying horse, Punisher wanting to blow up Ghost Rider’s car, and of course, Thor covered in blue Frost Giant blood. And there are jokes; so many jokes. However, with the exception of the Thor becoming a berserker part and a Venom plot point, the comic feels like a trailer for other comics, namely, the Strikeforce series of one-shots.

Jason Aaron did a fantastic job writing Daredevil in War Scrolls #1, and I was excited to see how he set up the Man without Fear’s transformation. Boy, was I disappointed. Heimdall makes a quip about about creeping on Daredevil while he was on Earth, there’s another joke about Catholicism, and then Daredevil is the God of Fear and defender of the BiFrost. The page where he gains godhood is very trippy with a Dippin’ Dots color palette from Wilson though even if his role is basically Asgardian Scotty from Star Trek until the BiFrost has to be destroyed for plot reasons.

This past weekend, Avengers Endgame showed that spectacular action could be combined with both continuity fun and character arcs. However, War of the Realms #3 is mostly just the spectacular action part with Aaron and Dauterman just moving pieces on the board. Sure, the comic looks cool, and there are some actually funny jokes (Spider-Man’s line about fighting with a shield). But it’s all fights and no substance or emotional tether even with Freya, who is written much better in the Dark Elf Realm one-shot. I also have some little quibbles with it like Captain America and Spider-Man being cool with animal cruelty, and Aaron’s portrayal of Venom not fitting in with Cullen Bunn and Iban Coello’s story for him. War of the Realms #3 is just a skeleton to be filled in with “meat” from its tie-ins so it gets the Overall Verdict of Pass.

War of the Realms Strikeforce: Dark Elf Realm #1

I thought this was going to be yet another Punisher fights Elves shoot ’em up fest. I was happy to be proven wrong as Bryan Hill proves the old Brian Bendis saying that conversations can be fight scenes, and Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, and Matt Hollingsworth bring grit and shadow to the art of War of the Realms Strikeforce: Dark Elf Realm #1. Basically, this shows how Freyja recruited Punisher, Hulk, Ghost Rider, and Blade to destroy and then defend the Black Bifrost adding context, depth, and resolution to the fight in War of the Realms #3. Along the way, Hill and Yu create some parallels between these heroes (and one not quite hero) and the Black Bifrost itself as they and Freyja embrace their shadow selves to get the job done.

In the space of a single one-shot, Bryan Hill, Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, and Matt Hollingsworth create some fantastic chemistry between the Punisher and Freyja. Freyja is afraid that she has to dip into the dark, sorcerous side of herself to defeat Malekith so she enlists a man who has been consumed by darkness and revenge to help her. Yu goes very stylized with Frank’s first appearance and in other scenes shrouding him in shadow as he has come to terms that he’s a monster fighting monsters.

This insight extends to the characterization of Jennifer Walters, Ghost Rider, and Blade as they fight their worst fears in powerful one page sequences that involves Jen punching Bruce’s Hulk in the heart, Ghost Rider headbutting Johnny Blaze while he tries to do a Penance Stare, and Blade fighting his older self, a vampire king. Yu uses close ups to give each final blow maximum effect and establishes that even though three of these characters are Avengers, they’re not afraid to act like a black ops team on this mission. But maybe Freyja isn’t ready, which is Frank comes in and talks about how they’re at war and must do everything to get victory.

Bryan Hill makes multiple cases for why he should take over a Punisher or Blade ongoing comic, or even a dark series set in Asgard as that realm (As shown in Aaron and Fraction’s Thor work and the Thor Ragnarok film.) was built on violence and war. He, Yu, Alanguilan, and Hollingsworth serve up dark, fascinating visions of characters (Except for Freyja.)who have been treated like jokes or action figures in the core War of the Realms series so Dark Elf Realm #1 earns an overall verdict of Buy.

Champions #5

Jim Zub and Juanan Ramirez finally give Cyclops the respect he deserves in Champions #5 where he takes a break from the X-Men to defend New York with his younger self’s old superhero team, the Champions. Along the way, Miles Morales and Kamala Khan deal with the guilt of letting someone die on his watch and seeing friends and teammates drift away respectively. It’s an issue that is part introspective and part cartoon-y art from Ramirez as Cyclops and Kamala showcase their tactical skills and fight trolls of the non-Internet variety.

Through Kamala’s narration and with the help of Ramirez’s kinetic fight choreography and confident poses, Jim Zub shows that Cyclops isn’t just a stoic stiff or mutant terrorist, but a great leader, who is cool under pressure. Also, with the tension of the Champions and their shifting and expanding lineup, Kamala needed a hug and a reassurance from an old friend. Zub and Ramirez also use the return of Cyclops to have him interact with Dust, who decided to not rejoin the X-Men because their predilection for violence wasn’t in line with her Islamic beliefs. For example, after a badass sequence where she uses her sand manipulation powers to choke out some trolls, Dust prays and tries to come to grips if her violent actions were necessary for the situation. Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that this lineup of the Champions is the first time that two Muslim women have been on a superhero team.

Under Jim Zub’s shepherding, the Champions series has been a template for a modern team of young superheroes with its diverse lineup of characters, social conscience, fun team-up action, and plots that come out of the team’s interpersonal relationships. Yeah, the series is a bit soapy at times, but Champions #5 ably juggles a big lineup of characters while getting in the action beats and doing some soul searching with Miles and Kamala. On top of that, Zub’s work on Avengers No Surrender and No Road Home has served him well in using big events and continuity to tell compelling stories like understanding that the X-Men are in New York at the same time as the Champions and using it to put a little respect on Cyclops’ name. For that, Champions #5 easily gets an Overall Verdict of Buy.


Unless Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman make some second half adjustments, War of the Realms might go down as that event where different Marvel superheroes had cool fantasy inflected designed and had some big battles, but it was mostly empty calories of story. Aaron does hit on some small beats like Jane Foster growing into her role of All-Mother and leading the Asgardians into battle despite having no powers and Thor’s violence addiction. The event has also been an okay frame for more perceptive intriguing stories featuring characters Freyja, Frank Castle, Kamala Khan, Blade, Dust, and surprise surprise, Cyclops!

Panel of the Week

Nothing more refreshing than Cyclops leading a team of superheroes into battle. Plus I love how Juanan Ramirez draws his classic costume. From Champions #5, Art by Ramirez and Marco Menyz.

Preview: Champions #5

Champions #5

(W) Jim Zub (A) Juanan Ramirez (CA) Aaron Kim Jacinto
Rated T+
In Shops: May 01, 2019
SRP: $3.99

WAR OF THE REALMS TIE-IN!
• The War of the Realms rages across Midgard, bringing together heroes from across the globe to fight for our world against mythic evil.
• In the midst of this chaos, the Champions need…Scott Summers?
• Cyclops reunites with the Champions, all grown up!

Champions #5

Preview: Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons and Dragons Box Set

Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons and Dragons Box Set

Patrick Rothfuss & Jim Zub (w) • Troy Little (a & c)

Collects the entire miniseries! If you missed out on the Rick and Morty™ vs. Dungeons & Dragons miniseries when it was on shelves, you can stop kicking yourself, because now the whole thing is available in one convenient package—and with exclusive covers to boot! Collects issues #1-4 of the series, each issue with an all-new variant character sheet cover not available outside of this box set, as well as a blank character sheet sketch cover so you can get in on the fun. Wubba lubba dub dub!!

FC • 169 pages w/ slipcase • $29.99

Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons and Dragons Box Set

Review: Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons Director’s Cut #1

Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons Director’s Cut #1

The first time I was exposed to Dungeons & Dragons was when I was in middle school. One of my friends asked if I wanted to play. I didn’t quite understand the game or even its allure at the time. It seemed to me that it was just pretending to be someone you weren’t, which I found was what made it so compelling. The next time I’d see anyone play it was when I was in the Navy.

The game itself is steeped in lore and contained hundreds of characters which explained why some of the smartest people I knew played the game in the first place. The negotiation and social skills one would learn from the game is something one would never think you can get from roleplaying. Fast forward to today and RPGs are some of the best kind of games you can play in person, on game consoles, and even on your mobile device. This what made Patrick Rothfuss’ collaboration with Jim Zub for the crossover between D&D and Rick & Morty so appealing. We get a deluxe edition of the first issue in the series, Rick And Morty VS Dungeons & Dragons #1: Directors Cut.

We find Morty on the school bus, as he listens in on two kids who play D&D, who are deep into a game, one which intrigues Morty enough to want in. As he ends up going to hobby store to pick up a handbook and ends up flirting with a girl working there. As he starts reading, he soon realizes that he is out of his depth and asks Rick to teach him. As he shows him how he learned, which is far out of date for nay player, which forces Rick to step his game up. This leads to him creating a machine where both of them can build characters and play the actual game within a game.

Overall, an excellent tale that imbues the love of the game and of the people that play them, as this edition gives readers extra scenes and an excellent behind the scenes of the book. The story by Rothfuss and Zub is hilarious, action packed and well developed. The art by the creative team is pretty much gorgeous. Altogether, a joy ride for fans of the game and the TV show and this special edition is for fans of the creative team and the astounding work they did on this book.

Story: Patrick Rothfuss and Jim Zub
Art: Troy Little, Leonard Ito, Robbie Robbins and Alex Cormack
Story: 10 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

IDW Publishing and Oni Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

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