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Review: The Nice House on the Lake #6

Nice House

Big reveals in puzzle box-like stories often rob narratives of their mystique, ending the guessing game that hooked audiences in to begin with. It’s a bit like what The Joker says about dogs chasing cars in Christopher Nolan (2008). The chase is all. Once you catch up to the car, what’re you supposed to do with it?

I admit that I’ve been dreading the moment James Tynion IV and Álvaro Martínez Bueno’s The Nice House on the Lake started pulling the veil back on its secrets. The series’ strong character development and bizarre end-of-world scenario is just too rich. At points, it made me wish that things would never even get explained, that we could live in a constant state of ambiguity where speculation and conspiracy reign. Those who followed Lost during its first three seasons as it aired have a good idea of the kind of thrill this type of storytelling produces.

Fortunately for us, Nice House #6 takes a very careful approach to reveals, offering big chunks of the puzzle without letting too much light fall on its final shape. A new member is introduced to the group and with him comes information about the very purpose of the Nice House. There’s talk of who or what Walter (the person responsible for bringing everyone to the house) truly is, what the group’s composition is supposed to represent, and why the end of the world was forced upon humanity.

Nice House

What makes this unraveling of secrets so successful is Tynion’s ability to add new questions with each new tidbit of information. Reveals don’t offer absolute answers or definitive endpoints to key plot elements. Instead, they open new paths the overarching narrative can merge to, some of which can fundamentally alter character relationships and even deepen the mystery at the heart of the story. Those expecting a buffet of answers in this issue will only be half satisfied as new questions come with each turn of the screw, but it’s all in the service of allowing for a more urgent and interesting read.

Martínez Bueno’s art pulls in closer to the characters in this issue, highlighting the shock felt by each one after each new development. It’s wonderfully expressive, giving readers an intimate look at the fear and confusion coursing through the group. Worldviews get shattered in this issue and Martínez Bueno’s body language work is on full display, and to great effect.

The Nice House on the Lake just keeps getting better and better. It’s hard to imagine what comes after this issue, the series’ halfway point. So much has already been explored and set up that it’s easy to get swept up with the situation at the Nice House. Now it’s a matter of sticking the landing, whatever that may be. Thankfully, every issue thus far has been further confirmation we’re in the good hands of a creative team that has no intention of dropping the ball this late in the game.

Story: James TynionIV Art: Álvaro Martínez Bueno
Color: Jordie Bellaire Letterer: Andworld Design
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10
Overall: A definite buy that should be accompanied by a full reread of the series.

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE review copy for review

Purchase: comiXolologyKindleZeus ComicsTFAW

Preview: Darkhold: Wasp #1

Darkhold: Wasp #1

(W) Jordie Bellaire (A) Claire Roe (CA) Paul Renaud
In Shops: Nov 17, 2021
SRP: $3.99

Renowned colorist and writer Jordie Bellaire makes her Marvel writing debut with a story that will make you shrink in fear! Bidden to draw forth five archetypal heroes, the Scarlet Witch chose Janet Van Dyne as “the artist” – the hero whose ingenuity and strength of will could prove the lynchpin in the coming battle against Chthon. To enter Chthon’s dimension and face his darkness head-on, the Wasp read from the ill-fated Darkhold text…and it drove her insane. Now her entire life is subject to question. Janet is no stranger to mental illness; she spent years trying to redeem ex-husband Hank Pym despite his violent breakdowns. But now, she has the power to reclaim her story…and fight back. Bellaire brings you the most twisted comic you’ll read this year!

Darkhold: Wasp #1

Review: The Thing #1

The Thing #1

The Thing #1 kicks off a new series that’s described as “sweeping.” And after reading the debut issue, it might be a bit too “sweeping.” The story has Ben Grimm embarking on a journey that has potential but doesn’t quite click for a first issue. It seems he’s having a bit of bad luck, he in fact might be cursed. That lands Grimm in trouble and a rift between himself and his love. We get the start of Ben’s journey, whatever that might be.

Written by Walter Mosley, The Thing # has a lot of potential but doesn’t quite get across exactly what it’s going for. There’s some interesting aspects, like what would Ben attempting to date be like and what a jail to hold him would be, but overall, the story has a choppiness about it. There isn’t a smooth narrative, instead it has its moments setting up what’s to come with the end result coming off more like a puzzle of which we’re missing some pieces.

A dark ominous figure overshadows the story. Who that is, isn’t really teased much. Why they’re doing what they’re doing isn’t as well. Instead, we just know there’s this enemy that’s manipulating events and making Ben have a really bad few days. It’s a setup but one that leaves a bit too much unanswered.

Tom Reilly‘s art is interesting. With color by Jordie Bellaire and lettering by Joe Sabino, it captures a sadness and frustration as far as what’s happening to Ben. There’s some scary moments that come off well and create enough of a visual tease to play off of the dialogue that only dangles further mysteries. The Thing looks great with a style about the comic that feels a bit like a riff on Jack Kirby.

The Thing #1 is an interesting start but not one that really excites. It has its moments and potential but there’s just too much that feels rather random or unexplained to really get the reader excited for what’s to come. There’s a clear threat but beyond being an annoyance, it doesn’t feel much like one. The Thing #1 might take the whole “thing” to heart a bit too much and feels like it leaves a lot of things hanging.

Story: Walter Mosley Art: Tom Reilly
Color: Jordie Bellaire Letterer: Joe Sabino
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.65 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus Comics

Underrated: Autumnlands: Woodland Creatures

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:  Autumnlands: Woodland Creatures

A few weeks ago I wrote about the first volume of The Autumnlands  in this column (which you can find in a horribly typo filled post here because apparently I forgot to spell check). I was quite taken with the book, and remarkably surprised that I’d never come across the story before, and as I’m sure you’ve figured out, I picked up the second trade. This time for full price.

The second trade, Woodland Creatures picks up, with the aftermath of the bridge battle sending Dusty and Learoyd left abandoned on the ground as the rest of the citizens are rehomed.

Whereas the first volume touched on the divide of rich and poor in a class-based society, the second really drives home the differences between the magic users and the rest of the woodland creatures, culminating in a shocking and remarkably relevant commentary on the imposition of one’s will over another.

Slavery, class divide, religion, environmental damage and technological abuses are all touched upon here in a way that doesn’t come off as Kurt Busiek standing on a soapbox, but rather encouraging us to think about the world around us. Maybe something that seems impossible has a rather obvious solution when approached from a different angle.

If you’re looking for a fun fantasy story, then you will find what you’re looking for with the second volume in the Autumnlands saga. Without question, this is a top notch comic book. But like any great science fiction or fantasy series, the messages barely beneath the surface are more powerful and relevant for their seemingly innocuous delivery and framing within the confines of the story.

As with all great works of fiction, Woodland Creatures asks exactly as much of the reader as it needs to in order to encourage you become a better person. Yup. But as deeply as I have read into this book, and possibly far deeper than I should have, you don’t need to do that. This is a book that can be enjoyed solely as a great story.

Image has a vast library of great books, and while we’re still waiting on the third volume of the series, this book is worth reading now. Yes, there’s a set up for the following issue, and yes there are unanswered questions, but nothing that will haunt you long into the night (though the wait for the next chapter  will suck).

As with most books covered in this column, it’s a book I don’t see getting the love it deserves – that’s why the book is Underrated. Go read it now. You won’t regret it.

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

Underrated: Autumn Lands: Tooth And Claw

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:  Autumn Lands: Tooth And Claw

In another case of “Alex bought something for Underrated without knowing anything about it beforehand,” we have The Autumn Lands: Tooth And Claw by Kurt Busiek, Benjamin Dewey, Jordie Bellaire and John Roshell of Comicraft. I had never heard of this series before spotting it at my LCS last week as I restocked the trade shelves (I’m not a nice person, they pay me to do it). Then this week a used copy came in, and I couldn’t turn down a half priced trade.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that $5 was an utter steal for this book. Within four pages I had become absorbed into this wonderfull world of anthromorphic animals, magic and class based society.

Autumnlands is published by Image, with the first volume being released in 2015 that collects the six issues released from November 2014 to June 2015. There was a second volume released in 2017 that collects the eight issues released from November 2015 to January 2017. As a person who only recently discovered the series, I can imagine that the less than frequent release date didn’t help garner Autumnlands much buzz – but I could easily be wrong here as it is entirely possible I just missed it. Like I missed the comics.

Magic is failing in the world, and a group of sky-city dwelling wizards want to bring back the Great Champion so that he can show them how to return the world’s magic. Only… the wizards didn’t bring back a savior, they snagged themselves a soldier. An effective soldier, but a soldier nonetheless. From anther world, or time, or dimension. Into this new world, then, the soldier finds himself embroiled in the politics of a city (or he would if he seemed to care about such things), and it’s through the uses of the types of animals that we can see a class-based commentary begin to form.

Although this is more a rule of thumb than specifically stated, meat eaters, generally, seem to be at the top of the hierarchy, while herbivors are (quite literally) at the ground level. There are exceptions to this, including a wizarding giraffe, however. But put the politics and commentary aside, and you still have a solid fantasy story about a hero who finds himself alone in a strange world who must somehow protect and save those who need him. Busiek delivers on multiple levels with this book, and it’s easy to see why there’s a cover quote telling us it’s his best work in some time.

Likewise, there’s also a cver quote extolling Benjamin Dewey’s art work, and rightly so, as he and colourist Jordie Bellaire deliver the second punch with their all out visual assualt. Rarely have I been so surprised by a book’s visual impact as I was when reading this.

Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw is fatastic, and I’d have been supremely happy with this at twice the price – I’m pretty sure my LCS has volume two (or they did when I put it on the shelf), so I’ll be picking that up this weekend, too. Volume one is going to set you backaroud $10 new, which is an astounding deal for six issues, let alone six issues of this quality. Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw is a really good read, phenomenl, even.

But as with most books covered in this column, it’s a book I don’t see getting the love it deserves – that’s why the book is Underrated. Go read it now. You won’t regret it.

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

Review: Shadowman (2021) Vol. 1

Shadowman kicks off with a whole new volume that has the character trying to figure out why breaches keep happening around the world.

Collecting issues #1-4 of the 2021 series.

Story: Cullen Bunn
Art: Jon Davis-Hunt
Color: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

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


Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
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The Year of Valiant Begins in 2022 with a Year Long Celebration

The Valiant Universe is about to expand.

The Year of Valiant will be a year-long celebration of Valiant throughout 2022, consisting of new launches with new creators, the return of fan-favorite characters, the formation of new teams, and the Valiant characters exploring beyond traditional publishing methods. To celebrate the announcement, Valiant Entertainment is incredibly proud to showcase its universe with exciting new artwork from acclaimed creators Tyler Kirkham and Arif Prianto.

The Year of Valiant Teaser

The Year of Valiant kicks off with the return of the critically-acclaimed series Shadowman in January. The first chapter of ‘Deadside War’, an epic horror storyline that will see the return of Punk Mambo and other familiar faces from the Valiant Universe, will begin in Shadowman #5 on January 19th from the master of horror Cullen Bunn, rising star artist Pedro Andreo, and Eisner-nominated creators Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles.

Shadowman #5

More announcements about new launches from The Year of Valiant will arrive in the coming months!

Review: Batman: The Imposter #1

Batman: The Imposter #1

It’s only a few years into Batman’s war on crime and the city isn’t quite sure what to make of him. Batman: The Imposter #1 is the latest DC Black Label Batman comic delivering a start that sets up a series full of potential. While Batman’s war on crime shows signs of some success, grumblings under Gotham indicate he’s angered forces that would rather see him go away. An ambitious Detective Wong is trying to put pieces together as to who Batman might be and what his connection is to Gotham’s wealth.

Written by Mattson Tomlin Batman: The Imposter #1 is an interesting beginning. It’s a dual narrative examining Batman and also examining Batman through the eyes of the police. Early on, Bruce is forced into the care of Dr. Thompkins, expanding his discussions with the doctor about his anger to his motivation to seek justice.

While the comic doesn’t dive too deep into all of that yet, it does bring an interesting perspective. Bruce must meet with Thompkins. If he doesn’t, she has threatened him with revealing his identity to the police. But, as a Doctor, she has a responsibility of a patient is going to harm themself or others. There’s a dance between the two that I hope we see more of as the series progresses.

The other exploration of Batman is by Detective Wong. The Gotham Police Department is no longer lead by Gordon and instead has no issue bringing Batman in. Wong is on the trail and through her, we get to see an interesting dive in trying to figure out who’s under the mask. Tomlin does a great job of teasing and dropping hints for the police but never makes it obvious. There’s small details that show Batman/Bruce has thought about this sort of situation. But, Wong is smart enough to figure out and accept that whomever is under the mask, they’re bankrolled in some way and that means the place to start is with Gotham’s wealthy. Again, it’s a solid addition to the story of Batman and gives a grounded perspective that makes you wonder why Gotham PD has never bothered with this before.

The art by Andrea Sorrentino is fantastic. With color by Jordie Bellaire, the duo have created a moody comic that gives us a dark and grimy traditional Gotham. The city, and the people within, feel dirty and worn down. This is a world that doesn’t yet have colorful characters but all the same is a colorful character in itself. “Grounded” feels like the best way to describe the look and feel of this take. It feels more like what we have seen of Matt Reeve’s upcoming The Batman. There’s a realistic quality about it all that balances the fantastical elements of Batman’s world.

Batman: The Imposter #1 is a fantastic start to the series. It isn’t some dark and gritty read one might expect from DC Black Label. Instead, the issue has a very practical approach to it all. What Batman even faces is down-to-earth in some ways. Combine that with some great art and this feels like there’s potential here for a memorable Batman story people will come back to for a while.

Story: Mattson Tomlin Art: Andrea Sorrentino Color: Jordie Bellaire
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus ComicsTFAW

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