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Review: Beta Ray Bill #2

Beta Ray Bill #2

Beta Ray Bill continues to be such a good time going into its second issue as its titular hero looks for Odin to gift him with a new weapon so that he can change back into his humanoid form and be able to romance his love, Sif. Writer/artist Daniel Warren Johnson, colorist Mike Spicer, and letterer Joe Sabino bring both a high level of energy and vulnerability to Beta Ray Bill #2 with their attention to detail, smooth storytelling, and cool sound effects. Johnson uses this second issue to introduce Beta Ray Bill’s supporting cast and their motivations as well as give him some kind of long term goal to achieve by the end of the miniseries.

With down to Earth dialogue and striking images, any back story or exposition fits seamlessly into the story and lets us get to know the characters more. For example, in a similar way to watching Hook over and over again in the first issue, Bill playing ping pong against himself shows his loneliness, and how he’s gotten good at self-soothing or entertaining himself. This feeling segues nicely into Daniel Warren Johnson’s cutaway, double page spread of his sentient ship Skuttlebutt that seems to be the only one to have his back. This spread also establishes a key location in the series that is a home, source of transportation, weapon of war, and even friend.

As befitting an epic quest narrative, Johnson gives Bill companions to help him out and fend off the loneliness. A bored with Valhalla, Skurge the Executioner appears fairly early on and brings a sense of humor and empathy towards Bill. After making jokes about Valhalla not having guns, he gives Bill a big ol’ hug and takes on the role of wingman going foward. Also, Skurge knows where Odin likes to hang out. Bill’s other companion is Pip the Troll, who looks up to him as a hero and hopes to learn to be okay with his own outward appearance as the journey progresses. Even though they’re species that don’t exist in the real world, there’s a real humanity behind Skurge and Pip’s actions, and their motives of boredom and self-growth are relatable.

Whether reuniting old friends, setting up an epic quest, or depicting a bar room brawl, Johnson is a master of body language in his artwork for Beta Ray Bill #2. I’ve mentioned his double page spread, but he also uses lots of small panels to let a scene breathe and sink in instead of going to the next battle, planet, or obstacle. Early on, Johnson shows that Skurge really cares about Bill and isn’t a threat by including beat panels of him putting down his beer glass (He already feels at home.) or affectionately patting Bill on the shoulder to show their bromantic bond. The principles of this almost dance of conversation apply to the issue’s one fight scene that show wrestling moves like Bill spinning his opponent by his arm across the page before being taken by surprise by another brawler because he and Skurge are definitely outnumbered. Speed lines, sound effects, big fists, and a punchy color palette from Mike Spicer show that Skurge and Bill needed to get some steam off until Odin put things to a stop. He may be in total retirement mode, but his presence still commands a room.

And it’s in Beta Ray Bill #2’s conversation between Odin and Bill about finding a new weapon that Daniel Warren Johnson’s no bullshit approach to dialogue really shines. The artist formerly known as All-Father is about to wax poetic about inner beauty when Bill immediately undercuts him and says a fancy speech won’t make him human again. Like a lot of people, especially those living in a neo-liberal, pandemic-ridden police state, action is preferred over conversation, and Johnson brings that out in the character of Bill, who gets Odin to provide a concrete solution to his hammer/mortality problem. Achieving these things will be difficult as the last third of the comic shows, but it also provides a real focus and goal for Bill. He’s not just traveling the Nine Realms willy-nilly although with Daniel Warren Johnson’s chops, I would be fine with that.

Beta Ray Bill #2 is a rare opportunity to see an auteur cartoonist put their mark on an in-continuity, mainstream comic, and Johnson makes me both emotionally connect with Bill’s personal journey while also rocking my socks off with his approach to humor, page design, and fight choreography. Bring on the next three issues as well as the latest addition to Bill’s space adventure party.

Story/Art: Daniel Warren Johnson
Colors: Mike Spicer Letters: Joe Sabino
Story: 8.8 Art: 9.2 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: Carnage, Black, White, and Blood #1

Carnage: Black, White, and Blood #1

There’s been a string of anthology releases with a “color” theme about them. Black, white, and red has been a popular combo. Then there’s also blue and red. There’s the “blood” direction that Marvel has gone as in “black, white, and blood”. Carnage: Black, White, and Blood #1 is the latest anthology that focuses on the ruthless killer.

With a trio of stories the anthology is an interesting one delivering three very different adventures. The first is a very tradition superhero affair with Carnage drifting off to another life. The second takes place in the Wild West with a lawman on the hunt for Carnage. The final is a brilliant choose your own adventure story.

Each has their strengths and weaknesses and each are intriguing takes on the character. There’s still some underlying themes with each, specifically how much of a force of nature the character is and how uncontrollable Carnage is as a symbiote. There’s some stumbles in a few of the stories but it’s an entertaining read, especially the roleplaying like choose your ow adventure, an entry I’d love to see more of.

The art delivers on the chaos as well with visuals that match the death and destruction within the comic. There’s some solid work, especially with the western, that really fits the stories they’re telling and the use of minimal colors makes things interesting. With such a focus on “blood”, it’d be easy for the comic to overdo the red but it’s done at a level that doesn’t distract.

Carnage: Black, White, and Blood #1 is an interesting comic. If you’re a fan of the character, go for it. It’s entertaining and has some interesting takes. For those new, there’s not enough that really jumps out. It’s good one-and-done stories that has some “fun” with a despicable character.

Story: Tini Howard, Benjamin Percy, Al Ewing Art: Ken Lashley, Sara Pichelli, John McCrea
Color: Juan Fernandez, Mattia Iacono Letterer: Joe Sabino
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Start the New Year with a New Kate Bishop Story by Kelly Thompson

Hawkeye writer Kelly Thompson has penned an all-new prose story featuring Kate Bishop, “The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same.” You can read it now for free on the Marvel site!

The story also features exclusive art by Stefano Caselli with lettering by Joe Sabino.

The story has a very Hitchcock Rear Window vibe about it. It’s a great way to relax and kick off the new year!

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

Review: Ghost Rider: Return of Vengeance #1

Ghost Rider: Return of Vengeance

I honestly don’t remember much about Vengeance, the Ghost Rider also-ran. I remember he existed and the design but as a whole the specifics elude me. Thankfully, Ghost Rider: Return of Vengeance catches readers up with a nice recap of what you need to know and why the character is important.

Ghost Rider: Return of Vengeance lays things out in its title. It’s a one-shot that’s focused on the return of the character. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Michael Badilino, aka Vengeance, is in Hell, held prisoner for whatever reasons. With threats of torture and being forced to battle for his life, Ghost Rider: Return of Vengeance is a prison break story.

Your enjoyment of the comic will really depend on how much you care about the Ghost Rider corner of the Marvel Universe or the character. This is a piece of whatever puzzle is being put together for all of that. It’s a jailbreak story with a beginning, middle, and end, but that’s about it. There’s little more than that and Badilino’s background. It’s a chapter of whatever is going on with Ghost Rider and the battle in Hell.

Howard Mackie’s story is fine. It doesn’t stand out in any way but also isn’t terrible either. It feels like a throwback to the comics of the 1990s when Vengeance was a thing. The dialogue is a bit cheesy and there’s a slight choppiness to the narrative. But, it’s a straightforward story. There’s little that’s surprising and a few things you just need to accept.

Javier Saltares handles the art. Saltares is joined by Marc Deering on ink, Arif Prianto on color, and Joe Sabino on lettering. The art too is a bit of a throwback though the opening has a bit of a modern feel to it. There’s not a whole lot that screams “Hell” to me beyond the demons on the page. It feels like a missed opportunity. There’s some details dropped in characters and panels as well that makes the art just ok.

There’s nothing bad about Ghost Rider: Return of Vengeance but there’s also little that stands out. It’s a perfectly entertaining comic in a turn off your brain sort of way. The comic exists as part of the big picture plans for Ghost Rider and that corner of the Marvel Universe. It doesn’t really stand on its whole but it gets the motorcycle rolling for whatever is to come for Vengeance.

Story: Howard Mackie Art: Javier Saltares
Ink: Javier Saltares, Marc Deering Color: Arif Prianto Letterer: Joe Sabino
Story: 6.75 Art: 6.95 Overall: 6.85 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: U.S.Agent #2

U.S.Agent #2

While I can see what writer Priest is going for in his take on the controversial character U.S.Agent, the series in two issues has been a mixed result. There’s concepts within that are great but there’s far too many distractions. The result has been a choppy narrative that at times doesn’t quite make sense. U.S.Agent #2 continues the frustrating series that has me longing to read other works of Priest.

U.S.Agent #2 feels like it’s serving a few too many bosses. Priest takes us to the past and back again. The second issue fleshes out John Walker’s past while also trying to deliver some sort of conflict in the present.

John Walker is an interesting character. He’s the conservative “Captain America” driven my “Red State” ideals and that includes wearing his racism and bigotry on his sleeve. But, he does stand to fight for America and what he believes. He’s the bigot that’s right part of the time, as long as your “right” is a basic understanding of American ideals.

This miniseries has attempted to flesh out Walker’s history introducing us to his sister and giving us more of his trauma. We can see the beginnings of a troubled human being and with that some sympathy. Just some. He’s truly a horrible human being. And that’s part of the issue with the series and character. There’d be a great juxtaposition in having us cheering on his justified mission but at the same time questioning his other beliefs and him as a person. He’d be a horrible person doing what’s right. But, the series is taking too long to set that out. We’re getting too much of a character to dislike and that’s about it.

There’s also issues with how the issue is generally presented. The art by Georges Jeanty is nice and improved over the first issue. But, there’s not enough definition between the past and present making it confusing at times to determine what scenes take place and when. Joined by Karl Story on ink, Matt Milla on color, and lettering by Joe Sabino, the comic is fine to look at. There’s some really solid moments. But, the art doesn’t quite hook the reader enough to justify the sub-par story. There are some details that are great to the story visually. The use of confessionals, U.S.Agent being greated by the town, these stand out. The art fits more of the comedic tone of the series but the series doesn’t quite know if it wants to be a comedy or something else.

U.S.Agent #2, like the first issue, is a bit of a letdown. The creative team is top-notch and it might be high expectations that this series feels like a letdown. It’s possible by the end it’ll all come together for something greater than its individual parts. But, it hasn’t gotten to that point yet and as individual issues, the series has been rough. There’s so much better from the creative team that’s been or being, released, it’s better to spend your time reading those instead.

Story: Priest Art: Georges Jeanty
Ink: Karl Story Color: Matt Milla Letterer: Joe Sabino
Story: 5.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 5.0 Recommendation: Pass

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus Comics

Review: Juggernaut #3

Juggernaut #3

I’ve enjoyed Juggernaut for its first two issues. It has explored a man broken and lacking direction in so many ways. Cain Marko is shown both wanting his “fix” and also in control and trying to focus on what comes next. Juggernaut #3 continues that concept but also is sidetracked by yet another fight.

On trial for damage during a battle, Marko is again forced to confront his past. The literal destruction he has caused. If writer Fabian Nicieza focused on just this juxtaposed with his attempt to regain his power, the comic would be far stronger. Instead, the issue feels distracted a bit with a battle against Quicksand who is after D-Cel. There are some things teased for what’s to come. But, it all feels like a side quest to the more interesting main story.

Juggernaut #3 finally answers the question as to how Cain Marko is armored up again. How it happens, with the other half of the trial, creates an interesting narrative of addiction. It’s a story of obsession and the impact on those around you. There’s a lot to mine there for quality storytelling. Sadly the comic mostly dances around it all. Where depth is there for the taking, we get an issue of a fight that is rather forgettable but for a few moments that stand out.

Ron Garney‘s art stands out though. A two page spread of Juggernaut fighting Spider-Man, Juggernauts new bands of Cyttorak, and Quicksand all look great. Matt Milla‘s colors add to it all as things like the Cyttorak armor feel like they glow from the page. The panel work and use of D-Cel’s voiceover all come together for a visually interesting comic whose visuals are more memorable than the story itself.

Juggernaut #3 seems to be taking the series more into a bigger narrative and direction based on the revelations about Quicksand. The series’ strength has been the introspection by Cain over his past as well as his obsession of regaining his lost power. Unfortunately, that feels like it’s getting sidetracked. What started out a strong series might be getting distracted and lose its most interesting aspect, a main character looking for redemption and a path forward.

Story: Fabian Nicieza Art: Ron Garney
Color: Matt Milla Letterer: Joe Sabino
Story: 7.0 Art: 8.25 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus Comics

Review: U.S.Agent #1

U.S.Agent #1

U.S. Agent has always been a bit too much of a B-lister for me to care much about. I do feel he worked best as a haywire version of Captain America, one not afraid to get his hands too bloody to save the day. I’m also a bit of a fan of Christopher Priest from his Quantum & Woody stuff and his more recent Deathstroke work. So, I wanted to see Priest’s take on the character in U.S.Agent #1.

U.S.Agent #1 is comprised of Priest’s writing style, lots of black box panels to move the reader along. Story-wise, U.S. Agent is holed up in a mining town punching out pizza deliverymen until one comes to his house and hands him a slice of his ass and sends him toppling down the stairs. Then the mystery pizza man hangs out with him and they fly off to fight some bad people.

I wanted to like this but I did not like it much at all. U.S. Agent doesn’t work as some jobber just getting beaten down by randos. Maybe I have not paid enough attention to the character history to know what’s up but this guy was Captain America’s replacement and here he just kinda sucks. And it stink because I like Priest’s work but this just felt like the scrap ideas of a bunch of better books that he’s done. I liked Georges Jeanty’s art a bit more than the writing on this book. Nothing special with the panels but his detail is solid. He deserves a better project than this.

Overall, U. S. Agent seemed quite a bit mediocre and I don’t see the appeal of a weak knock-off going on this kind of adventure. It lacked the humor and action that I expect from a Christopher Priest book. Instead of buying this, go get one of the Deathstroke trade paperbacks because that’s a better use of your money.

Story: Christopher Priest Art: Georges Jeanty
Ink: Karl Story Color: Matt Milla Letterer: Joe Sabino
Story: 4.0 Art: 6.0 Overall: 5.0 Recommendation: Pass

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXology – Amazon – Kindle – Zeus Comics

Review: U.S.Agent #1

U.S.Agent #1

There’s a lot I like about U.S.Agent #1. There’s also a lot I struggled with in a mixed debut issue. John Walker is back but he’s no longer an official agent of the government. Instead, he’s a government contractor hired out to do whatever his employer wants. The conflict of this debut revolves around a small town and a conflict with a mega-corporation that has moved in. There’s a lot of potential with just that but with some twists and turns what should be a simple commentary on the state of Middle America turns into a rather muddled and confusing debut.

Written by Christopher Priest, U.S.Agent #1 has a premise that should be easy. It’s themes are an easy layup and its focus should be clear. The concept of a small town having to deal with a mega-corporation destroying their life is something that is well worth discussing. It’s a real-world event that happens over and over and there’s so much material to mine. Instead, Priest mixes in former S.H.I.E.L.D. operation centers, Walker having a partner to tag along, and kidnapping pizza boys!? Yeah, the last part is a bit over the top, even for a character such as Walker.

But, where Priest really drops the ball is Walker himself. The man is beyond bigoted and racist. As depicted, he has absolutely no redeeming qualities. He’s completely unlikeable. I’m given no reason to cheer for him in succeeding or even redeeming himself. He’s a complete asshole and at this point I would love to see him just take a bullet and get it over with.

Georges Jeanty‘s art delivers a little pep to the debut with a style that fits the more comedic tone of the debut. A lot of the art leans on to stereotypes, especially when it comes to the small town. Joined by Karl Story on ink, Matt Milla on color, and Joe Sabino on lettering, the opening few pages features individuals who live in the small town. Each is a bit too similar to each other with the same positioning of their head and even mouth and teeth that look like they’re repeated. I’m not sure if this is done on purpose to make a point or if it’s just the style. But, we’re told they’re small town folk by their hats, clothes, and the slightly dirty look to them all.

But, not all of the art is frustrating. The action has its moments and when the comic wants to play for laughs, Jeanty’s style really fits the moment and the pacing delivered with each panel plays a comedic action comedy beat. If the comic went more in that direction and stuck with it, the art might pull the comic up to a point I’m more excited about it but there’s just too much that doesn’t click in both narrative and visuals.

U.S.Agent #1 feels like it doesn’t know what it wants to be. There’s part of it that’s action/comedy starring a racist. Part of it is a spy/action story… also starring a racist. Then, there are hints there are some psychological things at play and it’s an exploration of John Walker himself. It can be any of those things and if it focused on one of them it might be really good and interesting. As presented, it comes off as a choppy debut that never quite gets its bearing or finds its voice.

Story: Christopher Priest Art: Georges Jeanty
Ink: Karl Story Color: Matt Milla Letterer: Joe Sabino
Story: 6.0 Art: 7.4 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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The Unstoppable Juggernaut Takes on the Immortal Hulk in Juggernaut #2

Renowned X-Men writer Fabian Nicieza and celebrated artist Ron Garney are taking the unstoppable Juggernaut in a bold new direction with a brand-new series! Juggernaut #1 hit stands yesterday, and fans learned that Cain Marko’s new path is as full of destruction and mayhem as ever before. The action continues next month when a matchup that True Believers have debated about for decades comes to life. That’s right —it’s Juggernaut VS Hulk in an epic clash that will shake the Marvel Universe to its core—literally!

Juggernaut #2 is by Nicieza and Garney with colors by Matt Milla and lettering by Joe Sabino.

Juggernaut #2

Review: Juggernaut #1

Juggernaut #1

I didn’t think I needed a comic starring the Juggernaut. After Juggernaut #1, I absolutely want a comic about the Juggernaut! Like Maestro #1, Juggernaut #1 is a fantastic debut that draws you into the character delivering a comic that adds depth and some sympathy.

Cain Marko, aka Juggernaut, is out of limbo. That’s both literal and metaphorical. The character was left there in a previous volume of the X-Men’s adventures and has been absent from the current status. Now, he’s attempting to figure out his life and has taken a job with Damage Control to do what he does best, wreck things. Yes, the Juggernaut is now Wreck It Ralph. But, it completely works and delivers a debut that’s a surprising humanizing look at the character.

Writer Fabian Nicieza presents a pretty straightforward story. The Juggernaut has found work and somehow escaped his prison. The latter is teased throughout the issue but it’s the combination of the two that creates the success of the comic. Nicieza focuses on the man in the suit. This is a character that doesn’t have a lot of options in life and has found a path that works. He’s broken in many ways and there’s a hurt that’s present. He’s the criminal that’s hoping to reform but knows he has a slippery slope ahead of him.

And that’s the balance of the debut issue. The reader is left to wonder at what point, if any, does the Juggernaut screw up? Is he really in a place of peace or is this just a way to make more money until he’s presented with a more tempting offer. That temptation is in the form of squatters in a nearby building threatened by gentrification and the promise of internet fame. The use of a YouTube clone and instant celebrity and potentially money is a carrot that feels like it’s perfectly crafted to tempt Marko. There’s a teasing of the apple from the tree of knowledge aspect to it all, and that’s extended to what we know of the Juggernaut’s escape from his prison.

Ron Garney delivers fantastic visuals. Joined by Matt Milla on colors and Joe Sabino on lettering, this is a Juggernaut that’s imposing and feels full of mystical energy. The new costume design fuels the mystery of how Cain Marko regained his power and gives a nice updated look to the classic character. The art’s details are fantastic as well as they bounce between the past and present. Locked away, we see Cain Marko whither and suffer and he seeks to escape his prison. Armor is lost, body mass withers, hair grows. You can “feel” his struggles through the visuals. In the present There’s an imposing gentleness about his actions and movements. He tosses debris to find someone trapped with a sense of urgency. You can “feel” his shock as someone actually slows him down. But, it’s with his helmet off we get a human take on the character that makes him come off as tired, out of touch, and broken internally.

Juggernaut #1 is a fantastic debut of a comic. It adds a lot of depth and emotion to a character who has at times lacked it. There’s a fantastic mystery here of a man who’s at his lowest and is attempting to get his life in order. In many ways it’s a story of addiction, failure, temptation, and possible redemption. It’s aspects we can all relate to and helps take this classic villain and a much welcome direction.

Story: Fabian Nicieza Art: Ron Garney
Color: Matt Milla Letterer: Joe Sabino
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus Comics

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