Tag Archives: kevin shah

Madison’s Favorite Comics of 2016

Last year I prioritized cutting back on cape books and diversifying the publishers and stories that I read. Though many of the comics I read weren’t published in 2016 (especially ones I read during Women’s History Month) I still found it hard to narrow down the list of ongoing series I particularly loved throughout the year.

Here are ten comics I couldn’t put down in 2016:

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10. Goldie Vance by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams

This is a series I would have loved as a child. Goldie is the perfect mix of Nancy Drew and Eloise (of Plaza fame). Goldie Vance is great for a younger audience but doesn’t shy away from emotionally complex stories. Goldie and her friends are well-rounded characters with a wide range of interests who readers–young and not-young alike–will be able to relate to.

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9. Elasticator by Alan C. Medina and Kevin Shah

Elasticator is the kind of smart, political superhero comic I wish was more prevalent. The writing is fresh and interesting and Shah’s art is lively and animated with great colors from Ross A. Campbell.

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8. Snotgirl by Bryan Lee O’Malley and Leslie Hung

Lottie Person is just about as far away from Scott Pilgrim as you could get, though they do, at times, share a similar self-absorption. Snotgirl quickly became one of my favorite series of the year, because while not many people can say they’re successful fashion bloggers, they can likely relate to Lottie’s personal problems. Leslie Hung and Mickey Quinn provide gorgeous, vibrant visuals and the best wardrobe in comics, to boot.

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7. We(l)come Back by Christopher Sebela and Claire Roe

Reincarnation? Check. Assassins? Check. Shadowy organizations? Check. A+ fashion choices? Check. Reincarnated assassins in love running from other assassins who are trying to assassinate them? …Also check. What more can you want from a story?

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6. Shutter by Joe Keatinge and Leila del Duca

Shutter is one of Image’s most underrated titles. The story follows Kate Kristopher, the daughter of legendary explorer Chris Kristopher, and her discovery of some little-known family history. The comic is consistently interesting not only because of its plot, but because del Duca and colorist Owen Gieni are constantly experimenting with narrative structure and using different techniques to influence how the story is read.

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5. Clean Room by Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt

Clean Room is a creepy psychological horror comic about journalist Chloe Pierce’s investigation of self-help master Astrid Mueller, who Pierce suspects is more cult leader than anything else. Or is she? Mueller is a fascinating character, and the unknowable question of which side she’s actually on only adds to the story’s suspense.

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4. The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

What if you could be a god, but you’d die within two years? Consistently equal parts entertaining and heartbreaking with consistently incredible art and color from Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson. You’ve probably heard of this one.

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3. Mockingbird by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, Sean Parsons, and Ibrahim Moustafa

One of the few superhero comics I read this year, Mockingbird was one of my absolute favorites. Cain writes Bobbi Morse as confident and smart, and the result was a fun mystery thriller with gorgeous art. The series also featured some of my favorite colors and covers this year, by Rachelle Rosenberg and Joelle Jones.

By the time I write my 2017 list, I might be over Mockingbird’s cancellation.

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2. Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Val DeLandro

2016 was light on Bitch Planet–only four issues were released throughout the year–but continued to provide insightful and relevant commentary in what turned out to be a period of rapid change in the real-life political landscape.

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1. Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Monstress started strong in 2015 and only got better. The main character, Maika, is a teenage girl living with a monster inside, something she learns to live with and use to her advantage as the plot develops. Monstress is full of unrepentant female characters set in a stunningly rendered fantasy world.

Review: Elasticator #6

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-10-56-54-amMikey Mazzagatti’s story comes to an end with the latest issue of A.C. Medina and Kevin Shah’s Elasticator. The previous chapters chronicled the rise of Brother V and his drug empire–and the life-changing effects they had on Mikey.

Despite its limited run, Elasticator has pulled off a thought-provoking story over the course of six issues. Superheroes have always been a political entity, and by focusing on some of the people who were most affected by the 2008 recession. Elasticator takes the reaction to the recession to some improbable extremes (superpower-giving drugs, for example), but all events are underscored by a focus on humanity.

Issue six jumps right into the fray. The fight for Brooklyn’s fate was set up throughout the previous issues, and Medina and Shah waste no time in diving into the conflict. As with previous issues, Elasticator distances itself from other superhero comics by pausing on those affected by the events as they unfold.

The pacing of the story has always been quick, but moments where residents of an apartment building band together to save a small child slow the frenetic pace just enough that the story isn’t a wild rush to the finish. The timing of Elasticator has always been narratively jumpy, but the story is bookended by scenes that mirror the introductory issue, bringing everything full circle.

The effect is a cool storytelling trick. Mikey has visibly and emotionally changed between his first appearance and his last even though very little time has passed while he told his story. The ending is complex and somewhat unexpected. Without getting too spoilery, the ending is ambiguous and multifaceted, forcing readers not just to think about the outcomes, but how events influence people in different ways.

Shah’s art and Ross A. Campbell’s coloring are, as they have been, perfectly geared to the story at hand. The fights have dramatic flair (pages 6-8 are tons of fun to read) but the quiet moments don’t lose any of the lovely vibrancy present throughout the comic. Shah’s style is expressive and lively, perfect for the tone and pacing of the story.

Elasticator–though not for all audiences–is a fun comic that packs a punch, and with a team that works as well as this one, we can hopefully look forward to future comics.

Story: A.C. Medina Art: Kevin Shah
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Graphic Policy was provided with a FREE copy for review

Review: Elasticator #5

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 7.59.23 PMAlthough A.C. Medina and Kevin Shah’s Elasticator is a superhero story, humanity has always been central to the characters and their motivation.

The release of Elasticator #5 marks the penultimate issue. Though the series was originally slated for eight issues, Elasticator’s Facebook page shared a post explaining that the series would end with six issues rather than eight. With that being said, the action comes to a head in #5. Mikey makes amends with some characters whose lives have gone on while he trained to fight.

Elasticator has always been, in large part, about the economic downturn that hit the United States in 2008. It is a major point of the series and, seemingly, a catalyst for the things to come. The series does a great job of exploring the ways in which Brooklyn’s various socioeconomic groups were affected. Brooklyn was hit particularly hard during the recession, with neighborhoods with high populations of people of color faced staggering rates of unemployment.

It’s this perfect storm of factors that cause a man like Brother V to gain power. In Mikey’s world of mind and body bending drugs, Elasticator explores a number of hypothetical outcomes. The rise of Brother V is a logical (if not very, very extreme) response to the recession.

With Elasticator #5, the focus shifts from the politics to the action. As the second-to-last issue, readers are set up for an all-out brawl that will decide Brooklyn’s fate.

As always, the art is spectacular and well-suited to the action-packed nature of the story. Even in a fight, the characters remain expressive and each has a visibly distinct style of fighting. The creative panel layout keeps the story flowing through character interactions and altercations alike.The fights can get slightly muddled at times, but are overall enjoyable and fun to read. Mikey is a character you can’t help but root for, and though his life experiences are drastically different than anything probably all readers will experience, he’s a relatable character. In part this is due to the expressions and body language Shah has given him. Ross A. Campbell’s coloring is a wonderful addition to the series. The colors are bright but always tonally appropriate for the story. Each scene comes alive in vivid brilliance, with art and colors working in tandem.

With elements that work so well together, Elasticator will be dearly missed after it ends with the next issue.

Story: A.C. Medina Art: Kevin Shah
Story: 9.4 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

Scout Comics provided Graphic Policy with FREE copy for review.

Review: Elasticator #4

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 5.34.36 PMThough writer A.C. Medina and artist Kevin Shah have largely avoided the usual superhero tropes thus far, it’s pretty impossible to have a superhero story without the main character going through a little bit of hell first.

A little bit of hell is exactly what’s headed Mikey’s way in Elasticator #4. In a departure from previous issues, the cover looks like something straight out of Mad Max: Fury Road. The previous issue ended with Mikey’s fate hanging in the balance after taking a serious beating. Regardless of whether the intent was to draw a subtle comparison to Mad Max, the effect is something of a haunting reminder: The only people in control are the ones at the top of the food chain.

As always, humanity is placed first and foremost in the story, pitted against the cold and unforgiving politics that run Mikey’s Brooklyn. Elasticator #4 fills in a lot of the gaps of the story so far, rounding out details of Mikey’s past and keeping the reader updated on what Mikey’s mom is going through during his absence. The emphasis on characters outside of the superpowered Mikey reinforces the sheer humanity of the story. Brooklyn is Mikey’s home, but it belongs to others. What happens to Mikey happens to others, and what happens to Mikey has consequences on others. The overall effect of this special emphasis is like watching a slingshot stretch as the tension in the story builds. Sooner or later, it’s inevitable that something’s going to give.

Shah’s art still brings the series balance. The panel layout helps the story maintain its fast pace with innovative designs that create movement to match the action in the story, and coupled with the bright colors and expressive characters, it’s a great mix. The unique and non-static panels give the series a more intimate feel by subtly highlighting movement and elements of the environment within each frame.

Elasticator is the perfect comic for geeks interested in, well, geeky things and politics. While this issue focuses less on the politics than its predecessors, no hero would be complete without an origin story and Elasticator, as usual, delivers.

Story: A.C. Medina Art: Kevin Shah
Story: 10.0 Art: 10.0 Overall: 10.0 Recommendation: Buy

Scout Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Elasticator #3

stl003075In this issue: the moment we’ve all been waiting for. A.C. Medina and Kevin Shah’s Elasticator hasn’t left readers wanting for action so far, and Elasticator #3 doesn’t disappoint.

The series began with the arrest of Mikey Mazzagatti and has since centered on the events leading up to the arrest, including the complex politics of Brooklyn and a rampant drug problem. With necessary introductions covered in issues #1 and #2, the bones of the story are shaping up into a formidable beast. Elasticator #3 provides some extremely satisfying answers to some of the overarching questions of the series without losing the same smart storytelling that has been a defining characteristic of the story so far. Fans will finally get Mikey’s superhero origin story and discover more about Tiggy and the combination of drugs and political machinations that got both of them in trouble in the first place.

In three issues, Medina and Shah have created the kind of comic that many superhero stories could take notes from. Both the setting and characters are richly developed, with compelling motivations that propel the plot. The focus on real life issues and creating very human characters elevates Elasticator beyond a run-of-the-mill superhero story, and the attention given to developing background characters ensures the story remains, at a base level, very much about humanity.

As with the previous issues, Shah’s art is a highlight. The characters are dynamic and stylized, which keeps the story from feeling too heavy even as it explores topics like drugs, violence, and political corruption. The character designs are diverse and unique, with expressive faces and body language that highlight the constant motion on each page. Ross A. Campbell has brought some incredible colors into this issue, bringing a wonderful vibrancy to already lively characters. Mikey’s warm, rich palette gets a moment in the spotlight toward the end of the comic that also serves to emphasize the contrast and burgeoning conflict between him and Brother V’s forces. The art has always been a standout, but it also seems to get better each issue.

The Elasticator team has created a book with depth, great characters, and themes that get more compelling with each chapter. As the intrigue heightens, Elasticator is a comic that deserves its spot on your pull list.

Story: A.C. Medina Art: Kevin Shah
Story: 9.5 Art: 10.0 Overall: 9.75 Recommendation: Buy

Scout Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review: Elasticator #2

stl000603Though most hero comics feature grown men running around in potentially embarrassing outfits, many are at the core about humanity. Writer A.C. Medina carries the theme of humanity in Elasticator, a story in which title character is a superhero with a focus greater than himself.

Like the previous issue, Elasticator snaps back and forth between time periods, catching readers up on what happened between Mikey’s move to Brooklyn and his arrest. The last few pages advance the present-day plot, further exploring the control Brother V is gaining over Brooklyn.

In our interview with Medina, he spoke about how Brooklyn isn’t only the backdrop for the events of the story, it’s a character who’s part of the story. This is further emphasized in Elasticator #2, where just as much time is devoted to giving context to the complex socioeconomic systems that exist in Brooklyn as is given to introducing and developing human characters. It’s a smart and ambitious story, and now that the initial exposition is out of the way, readers get to dig right into the corporate and political corruption at the heart of it all.

In further exploring the motivations behind Mikey’s actions and his relationship with Tiggy, the reader is given context for the social and economic conditions that brought about the current situation. The story is climbing closer to a crescendo where Mikey’s narrative will intersect with real-time events, though what happens between now and then is anyone’s guess. The action throughout the story is unpredictable, but the pacing of both the dialogue and action is good.

Kevin Shah’s art is beautifully fluid. His style lends itself to the large amount of movement present in the story and it complements Mikey’s narrative. The expressive movement and faces and vivid color palette keep the story visually interesting while also preventing it from becoming too grim and dark. It’s fun to look at, which helps make the story fun to read.

Elasticator’s second issue was another strong effort. The narrative does get a little confusing when navigating time in the story, but the story builds intrigue throughout the issue. It’s well worth reading for the fast-paced dialogue and action.

Story: A.C. Medina Art: Kevin Shah
Story: 7.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.3 Recommendation: Read

Review: Elasticator #1

stk697740Being an indie comic superhero story is a unique sort of challenge, between carving a space in the comics market and standing out from the plethora of existing superheroes. Elasticator #1, however, stands up to the challenge with an intriguing story by A.C. Medina and expressive art by Kevin Shah.

Elasticator begins with the title character’s arrest. Mikey Mazzagatti is a skinny, sarcastic young man, whose actions, by his own admission, have gone due south. The rest of the issue bounces between the past and present, developing the background story with a particular focus on establishing Mikey’s unhappy childhood as well as the setting.

Brooklyn is essential to the story. The setting is not the trendy hipster Brooklyn that has been made popular and remade by gentrification, but a much less idyllic Brooklyn that serves as a backdrop for a number of crimes. With such a significant amount of time spent developing the setting, it’s clear Mikey is deeply connected to Brooklyn despite his initial unwillingness to move there as a child.

Many mainstream superhero books lack deeper themes, or ones that explore the issues associated with actual effects things like drug crimes and gentrification have on the communities in which they occur. While Elasticator doesn’t need deep reflection of sociopolitical issues to remain entertaining, it will be interesting to see where Medina takes the plot next and if he elaborates after mentioning these things in the pilot issue.

Another successful aspect of Elasticator is the art. Kevin Shah’s illustration is clean and expressive, slightly exaggerated in a way that would lend itself to animation. While the story is leaning in a darker direction, the art doesn’t follow. It is, at times, quite violent, but the brighter color palette and body language of the characters fit with Mikey’s sarcastic narration. The art is fun to look at and keeps the tone of the story away from grim and dark, another thing that sets it apart from many of the mainstream hero stories.

So far, it’s unclear what Mikey’s powers are. The brief moment in which Mikey gets in a fight isn’t him dressed as a superhero, even though he’s been beaten quite badly by the time he’s arrested. The story is pretty well-paced, mostly focused on exhibition but with enough forward progress that it sets the gears in motion for the larger story.

Story: A.C. Medina Art: Kevin Shah
Story: 7.8
Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Read

Scout Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review