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Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman announce Kids Love Chains Press and the series Vanish

During their recent live stream, the popular creative duo of Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman announced a new creator-owned project and imprint. Kids Love Chains Press (KLC Press) will be released in some unknown way hinting at an “unprecedented way to interact with the” upcoming project. Revealed was some artwork and the first series Vanish. Vanish is an ongoing series.

Cates and Stegman are coming off their popular run on Venom moving into creator-owned work together.

More information will be coming in July or August but for now check out some of Stegman’s artwork below with inks by JP Mayer, and colors by Jason Keith.

Check out the video below with the reveal at the 51 minute mark and features more artwork.

Review: King in Black #5

King in Black #5

King in Black #5 is the big finale to Marvel’s latest event as Venom finally faces off with Knull. In what felt like a bit of a one-sided affair, Venom mops the town up with Knull. Possessing the Enigma Force makes Eddie Brock Knull’s equal. Even more so, he’s equipped with a weapon made of the Silver Surfer’s board and Mjolnir. It all ends with everything being hunky-dory for everyone, save Eddie, who now appears to be the new King In Black.

You know…I wanted to dislike this so much. There’s something about Donny Cates’ writing that is so enjoyable and yet, some of his work seriously feels like a child who gets to do whatever with his action figures…and I mean that in a positive way. King in Black did really feel like all the power was with Venom, leaving Knull pretty weak, but it all just works. It’s not perfect. I’m not sure how I feel about Venom more-or-less wielding Mjolnir but for what it’s worth, this was a really fun read, spotlighting a character I normally care very little for and leaving me with a newfound appreciation for Venom. I thought the dialogue is great. Knull is one of those pompous characters that has never known defeat so seeing someone like that get taken down is pretty much a guaranteed enjoyable moment.

On the artistic side, Ryan Stegman really put a lot into every page. I felt the layouts stood out to me in a really unique way and the colors really pop. And if I can bring attention to one thing that I like about his art, I feel that he does a good job of conveying emotion on a character’s face. Knull looked really fierce and sinister. Venom just looked awesome.

King in Black #5 was a total package of fun and excitement, coupled with some really cool art. I’m not huge on Marvel or DC events but my overall feeling is that this one ended up being fun while also bringing a lot of stuff that Cates has worked on at Marvel to a head. As far as Venom goes, King in Black serves as a good exclamation point on a really great run for the character. Not sure if it’s worth the cost of admission but I think you’d like what you would read.

Story: Donny Cates Art: Ryan Stegman
Ink: JP Mayer, Ryan Stegman Color: Frank Martin, Jason Keith Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: King in Black #5

King in Black #5

I’ve generally enjoyed the King in Black series and event. It’s big popcorn blockbuster ideas in five issues with a bunch of tie-ins. I was gung-ho about the tie-ins but as the months went on I slowly stopped reading them. And, my gut says, that might have been a bad idea. Going into King in Black #5, I feel like I missed something. The opening and much of the comic feels like I had to walk out of a movie to go to the concession stand and returned having missed key moments. Still, it’s a comic to sit back and just enjoy the over-the-top nature of it all.

Donny Cates delivers a finale that has been built up for years. Eddie Brock, back with Venom and now the Enigma Force, square off against Knull for the fate of everything. The issue is one giant drag out fight between the two that’s not really a contest. Much like their first meeting, this is a one-sided fight that echoes that opening battle. Cates doesn’t even make this close. It’s Eddie beating the living daylights into Knull and the darkness. And seriously, that’s about it.

Cates focuses on these two’s battle so much that the rest of the heroes are generally and afterthought. They stand around and get one moment to look cool. But, beyond that, they don’t really do much and are a non-factor. For as much as various characters have been key in the main event, let alone the various tie-ins, they’re pretty much window dressing for this final issue. It’s an odd choice that takes some of the epic out of the nature of the battle.

Ryan Stegman does deliver solid art. Along with JP Mayer on ink and Frank Martin and Jason Keith on color, the visuals feel like fantasy heavy metal as Venom delivers a beat down with his giant axe. The battle itself looks good and there’s a cathartic aspect to seeing Eddie deliver punch after punch. But, there’s also something missing as well. There’s that truly awe-inspiring epic moment that’s just not there. Beyond one page of “Avengers Assemble” the comic never really goes for the metal aspect it teases. It looks good but isn’t memorable.

Clayton Cowles’ lettering continues to deserve mention for the series. The lettering really helps deliver and nail down Knull. With “normal” lettering, the character wouldn’t work as well. It’s a small detail and nice touch that really emphasizes the character and how “evil” he is.

King in Black #5 is a fine finale. It wraps up the event well and there’s some cathartic aspects to it. But, for an event that was so good, it’s a bit of a letdown. The comic lacks that memorable moment and the one it delivers feels like we’ve seen before. It’s the end sequence for a summer popcorn film that attempts to be full of ideas and visuals but lacks depth.

Story: Donny Cates Art: Ryan Stegman
Ink: JP Mayer, Ryan Stegman Color: Frank Martin, Jason Keith Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.75 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: King in Black #4

King in Black #4

There are moments in film, comics, television, and books where the hero discovers their inner power and the tide begins to turn against evil. In Transformers: The Movie it was Hot Rod opening the Matrix and turning into Rodimus Prime. Those moments can bring tingles and excitement as good begins to triumph over evil. King in Black #4 delivers that moment multiple times in the penultimate issue of the event.

Written by Donny Cates, things look dire as the issue begins. Knull has dominated the world, killed Eddie Brock, and subjugated most of the world’s heroes. But Cates has been hinting at another who might defeat Knull. If Knull represents darkness, someone, or something, must be the light. It’s been pretty obvious for a while that we’d eventually find out who the who or what is in this event and this is the issue where that all becomes clearer.

King in Black #4 features a showdown between Dylan and Knull with Dylan being the clearest current threat to the wannabe god. It’s a solid showdown as Dylan takes his stand showing all it takes is a single individual to make a change. It being a kid feels all the more symbolic as it is so many kids over recent years that are leading the way. But Dylan is just a catalyst. The comic is full of “fuck yeah” moments as heroes begin to free themselves and make their attacks against Knull. We don’t get one “Rodimus” moment, we get multiple resulting in a crescendo of excitement of “hells yes” beats. All building to the issue’s finale with the big reveal Cates has been hinted at.

Cates is helped by Ryan Stegman who nails every beat. Along with JP Mayer on ink, Frank Martin on color, and Clayton Cowles on lettering, the crescendo is clear in the art. The battle goes from what feels like a “psychic landscape” to the physical world and it just ups the awe with every opportunity. There’s so many moments that are memorable, the art brings home Cates’ concepts with a blast. Cowles lettering is key as he depicts Knull giving him his own font. It emphasizes the character’s evil stance and without it, the character wouldn’t work as well. It’s a perfect combination and team.

The issue also features our first look and Peach Momoko‘s Demon Days. The short backup comic features an English Adaptation by Zack Davisson, and lettering by Ariana Maher. Momoko takes the X-Men into a fantasy world rooted in Japan and its mythology. The result is a story that’s beautiful to look at but the story itself doesn’t feel quite unique enough. Taking characters and just making them samurai and animals isn’t new or different. So, this is one to wait and see. As a teaser for the first issue and series, it doesn’t excite and quite land.

King in Black #4 is a hell of a comic that’ll get you pumped and excited. There’s just one more issue left and this could leave us with a hell of a change to the Marvel landscape. Marvel has stumbled with events in recent years but King in Black #4 has delivered with every issue and is their best in a long time. It brings popcorn excitement and this issue helps lights our darkest hour.

Story: Donny Cates, Peach Momoko Art: Ryan Stegman, Peach Momoko
Ink: JP Mayer Color: Frank Martin Letterer: Clayton Cowles, Ariana Maher

English Adaptation: Zack Davisson
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: King in Black #3

King in Black #3

King in Black #3 continues the entertaining Marvel event delivering hints as to what’s to come. Knull has taken over the world bringing darkness to everywhere. There’s a glimpse of hope though. Eddie Brock’s son, Dylan, is channeling an unknown power, the light to defeat the darkness of Knull.

This is the first stand as a small group of heroes need to band together and fight back. Writer Donny Cates delivers another solid issue as what the fight back begins. Though it’s realistically a losing battle, Cates infuses the fight with hope. The heroes feel like heroes doing battle against impossible odds.

Cates delivers that with an interesting narrative. The narrator is a mysterious character who doesn’t make their presence known until the end. But, what’s said is what’s really intriguing. There’s hints as to what’s to come. Dylan’s power is coming from something, someone. Knull is darkness which means there’s someone that’s the opposite. Who is that? Get your speculation going as it’s sure to be someone big and really shake things up post event.

The issue is also very cinematic with action sequences that deliver some emotional resonance. The arrival of Thor to battle, Iron Man’s actions, these are moments that deserve to be on the big screen. They’re larger than life and that’s due to the art of Ryan Stegman.

Stegman continues to be one of the most exciting artists out there. His work with Cates has been fantastic and the duo are just in sync with what they deliver on the page. The images are jaw dropping at times. The moments really deliver that punch as things begin to go south. Everything looks fantastic no matter how over the top it all is. Stegman is helped by the ink of JP Mayer, color of Frank Martin, and lettering by Clayton Cowles. In a story that involves a world engulfed in darkness, the team keeps things colorful. It never feels “dark” but definitely gives you the sense of that world. The lettering is fantastic with Cowles giving such personality to Knull and his controlled through the choice of lettering and styles.

King in Black #3 continues an epic story. While it foreshadows things a bit too much the end of the comic made me forgive that with a new player on the field. Things really feel epic but at the same time the issue and story stays focused on a small cast. There’s been a string of misses as far as major events in recent years but King in Black continues to impress and exceed expectations.

Story: Donny Cates Art: Ryan Stegman
Ink: JP Mayer Color: Frank Martin Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.65 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.65 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXologyAmazon KindleZeus Comics

Review: King in Black #2

King in Black #2

The first issue of King in Black delivered a big screen blockbuster on the comic page and King in Black #2 continues the action and ups the desperation. Knull has taken over the world subjugating its heroes and controlling them through symbiotes. A small group of heroes remains to take a stand and their hope rests in Eddie Brock who last issue was tossed from atop a building. As we saw in the recent issue of Venom, Eddie does indeed fall and this issue we see the crushing conclusion.

Writer Donny Cates delivers an issue that’s full of desperation and really sets up the uphill battle that’s ahead. Things look bleak and dark without it actually being bleak and dark. Cates does an excellent job of giving us hope. It’s the battle where Optimus shows up before falling against Megatron… queue music as he clings for life.

Cates delivers the desperation and the heart as he teases hope and solutions. The heroes are desperate and instead of dragging things out, we’re delivered a possible solution within the issue. There’s a lot packed in and that adds to the emotional punch of it all. Hope is served and quickly taken away. King in Black #2 is a hell of an emotional ride.

Things are helped by Ryan Stegman‘s art which is its usual amazing. Stegman is joined by JP Mayer on ink, Frank Martin on colors, and Clayton Cowles on lettering. Everyone nails it adding to the atmosphere. The brilliance of the art is delivering a dark horror comic without it being too dark and foreboding. The corrupted heroes are scary without being distracting. The color and ink create the darkness of Knull without making the art difficult to see. It’s a great balance and pulled off well. There’s also so much detail in the damage done, especially in Spider-Man’s tattered costume. And the lettering too adds to it all nailing Knull’s voice or emphasizing the emotion.

King in Black #2 is a hell of a second issue. It takes us on an emotional rollercoaster while also delivering big screen popcorn levels of visuals. It’s a great combination and what events should be. Two issues in and this is one of Marvel’s best events in many years.

Story: Donny Cates Art: Ryan Stegman
Ink: JP Mayer Color: Frank Martin Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXologyAmazonKindleZeus Comics

Review: King in Black #1

King in Black #1

Marvel’s next event kicks off with King in Black #1, the culmination of years of build-up and teases throughout the Marvel Universe. This even sees Knull, the “god of the symbiotes” attack Earth with the heroes having to make a stand before he brings complete darkness to Earth and all of existence.

Marvel has had numerous events over the recent years and while many have had their moments, for the most part these events have fallen flat. They may start off with a bang but generally fizzle. King in Black #1 definitely launches with a hell of a start. It’s a disaster film in comic form. The heroes must scramble on a grand scale while the comic also focuses in on the micro scale as well.

Writer Donny Cates nails the opening with a little something for everyone. The heroes get their stand. There’s great moments like the X-Men swooping in. But, it’s the focus on Eddie Brock and his son that delivers heart for the series.

Eddie, also known as Venom, is directly tied to Knull and Cates has been building to this event through that series for years at this point. Cates has evolved Brock from the popular anti-hero to a father with concerns for his son. We see that here as he attempts to seek shelter and protect his kid. It’s a human detail that adds so much to this beginning. King in Black #1 could easily have just been battle after battle. But, this small part adds something we can relate to as parents and children. It adds a human aspect to the larger than life event and grounds it in some ways. It also allows us to connect and really care as to what happens.

Joining Cates is artist Ryan Stegman who has worked with Cates through so much of his Venom run. Stegman’s style is very much his with imagery that pops and comes off as larger than life. It’s a look I personally love and here it works so well with such grand-scale moments. Stegman’s style has a certain exaggeration and it helps emphasize the larger than life moments. Stegman is joined by JP Mayer on ink, Frank Martin on color, and Clayton Cowles with lettering. The art could easily fall into a space that’s too dark but despite the black and red, it never gets to a point it feels like a dirge. There’s still something that jumps from the page despite the “dark” nature of it all.

King in Black #1 kicks things off with jaw-dropping moments and unexpected twists. But, it’s the heart of it all where things succeed. Eddie Brock brings a touch to the story that we can all relate to. And, more importantly, he brings a character we can empathize with and feel sorry for. He’s likely sacrificing himself to save the world and his kid and knows it. Yet, he goes through with it. King in Black #1 is the shift of Eddie Brock from anti-hero to true hero willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good. It’s the start of an event but also the next step for the character that Cates and Stegman have been adding depth to for years.

Darkness might reign but King in Black #1 shines.

Story: Donny Cates Art: Ryan Stegman
Ink: JP Mayer Color: Frank Martin Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus Comics

Review: Absolute Carnage #2

Absolute Carnage #2

Things are looking desperate in Absolute Carnage #2. Venom and Spider-Man are surrounded by Carnage and his horde and that’s even before we get to Miles Morales’ story.

Writer Donny Cates continues to deliver an event that brings a tinge of horror to the Spider-Man universe. Carnage is on a mission to resurrect the symbiote god and he’ll need to kill a lot of people to do so.

What Cates delivers so well is the feeling of desperation. Spider-Man and Venom are outnumbered and know it. That feeling of people overwhelmed is projected to the reader nicely. There’s a sense of drowning concerning it all. That experience is repeated quite a few times within the issue. And that also leads the first problem.

The issue delivers some of the events we see in Absolute Carnage: Miles Morales #1. While it comes off as the “Reader’s Digest” version the two stories don’t quite line up in all of the details as far as what’s show in each. Some of that may be chalked up to different perspectives but it stands out. Also, the spin-off’s depiction of events feels a bit superior to this abbreviated take.

The art by Ryan Stegman is pretty solid. With ink by JP Mayer and color by Frank Martin, it looks really good. It’s not all perfect. There are moments where Stegman’s style doesn’t quite match the “horror” vibe of it. And, in one particular panel, Pete’s facial expression doesn’t quite match the moment. Stegman’s style is usually fantastic for Venom and Spider-Man but here it misses the tone a bit. What does hit the vibe is Clayton Cowles‘ lettering which just nails Carnage’s “voice” so well. It stands out and emphasizes the terror in every scene he’s in. It’s a perfect match of a lettering style to a character.

Absolute Carnage #2 is a good entry in the stand out event. The issue has some flaws but those are minor compared to the entertainment.

Story: Donny Cates Art: Ryan Stegman
Ink: JP Mayer Color: Frank Martin Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.75 Art: 7.75 Overall: 7.75 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Absolute Carnage #1

Absolute Carnage #1

There’s been a longtime build-up to this opening salvo of Marvel’s latest event. Absolute Carnage #1 delivers in every way.

I’ve never been a fan of the character Carnage but writer Donny Cates is slowly turning me into one.

Absolute Carnage #1 picks up on Cates’ epic Knull storyline as the back from the dead Carnage wants to free the symbiote god. Cates has been laying the groundwork for this for some time. Venom has seen most of the focus when it comes to this new depth for the symbiotes and their alien kind.

Here, tension builds as Eddie seeks out Spider-Man’s help. The two realize what is happening and decide to team-up to figure out how to stop Carnage.

Cates is able to deliver foreboding dread throughout the issue but also adds in the expected humor when it comes to Spider-Man. The story is serious but never crosses the line to the horror it should be. It comes close though.

What’s most impressive about Cates’ writing is he’s able to sum up most of what readers need to know. It’s all packed into the issue and in a way that feels organic. It’s not just Eddie recounting where we’re at, it feels important as he gets Spider-Man up to speed on the situation. It creates a comic both new and old readers alike can enjoy.

The art by Ryan Stegman is amazing. Along with ink by JP Mayer, color by Frank Martin, and lettering by Clayton Cowles, the issue is fantastic to look at. The art team delivers on the horror vibe of it all. But, they do so without diving into gore. Instead, the colors chosen and shapes of Carnage play and deliver on the vibe of it all. It’s supposed to make you uneasy and fill you with dread and it does. Even the page layouts and small details around the edge of some pages add to the emotion of it.

The issue is a hell of a start and how you do an event. There’s more than enough there to be inviting to new and old readers and it delivers a hell of a punch.

Story: Donny Cates Art: Ryan Stegman
Ink: JP Mayer Color: Frank Martin Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 9.5 Art: 8.75 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Venom Vol. 2 The Abyss

Venom has battled a god but where does he go from there? How about dealing with his past? Eddie Brock and Venom head to his childhood home and faces his family.

Story: Donny Cates
Art: Iban Coello, Ryan Stegman, Joshua Cassara
Ink: Iban Coello, JP Mayer, Joshua Cassara
Color: Andres Mossa, Frank Martin
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Get your copy in comic shops and book stores now! 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.


Marvel provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies for review
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