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Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 04/11/2021

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.


Joe H

Batman #107 (DC)** So having read nearly every contemporary Batman comic in existence, it is hard for a run to feel fresh in it’s mid stride but somehow this team has done it again. We open with Bruce in the clutches of Scarecrow dripping in paranoia and fear. We the reader are lead to believe that Scarecrow has access to Bruce’s thoughts and Bruce is desperately trying to push that out of his brain. He forces himself to remember and retrace the steps of this case and figure out his next move.
Here we are shown a few flashback scenes with Batman and Barbara operating as Oracle. I must say I really dig when Barbara is used in this fashion, it puts her above and beyond the rest of the caped Bat Fam and really puts her on par with Bruce. She lays out some cool new plans for a new transportable Bat Signal to let Gotham know that Batman is still watching out for them.
We also get a nice little scene of Harley Quinn dishing out some unhinged vigilante justice and I loved that as well.
One this book has in abundance is style. The art by Jimenez has so much flare to it and makes the panels feel like they are moving. It reads along so nicely and is a visual treat. He keeps improving every issue. The colors by Morey are so outstanding and bring these icons to life in spectacular fashion. At times it is the the best book on the market in coloring quality. Lastly Tynion IV keeps slowly adding to his Batman mythos without just throwing stuff at the wall to make it stick. Gotham feels so rich and deep with him at the helm. Even characters I was not crazy about at first like Ghostmaker is winning me over.
All in all another fun issue and I’m loving this direction of new but familiar at the same time. I am not in any rush to have a new team jump on this title and just want to see where it goes. “Just how will Bruce get out of this one?”
Story: 8 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Logan

Batman #107 (DC)– James Tynion, Jorge Jimenez, and Tomeu Morey draw pretty clear parallels between the COVID-19 pandemic and Scarecrow’s creeping threat on Gotham in Batman #107. He hasn’t pulled a fear gas attack just yet, but Gothamites are stocking up on gas masks while the mayor is announcing a curfew. Jimenez’s visuals touch a strong techno-horror note that complements Morey’s graffiti color palette and Clayton Cowles’ glitched out letters as an underfunded Batman, kind of Harley Quinn, and Oracle fight a war on many fronts against Scarecrow, the future creator of the Magistrate, and the Unsanity Collective, a kind of ecoterrorist utopian group. Batman #107 gives a good feel of the fear and paranoia pervading Gotham while taking the plot in a fun direction that involves subterfuge, not fisticuffs. Tynion and Ricardo Lopez-Ortiz’s Ghostmaker backup is pure enjoyment featuring garishly dressed assassins, a MMF threesome, stealth action, and one-liners. Ghostmaker is a bi, anti-billionaire James Bond, and I know that the Bat-books are overexposed, but I wouldn’t mind him having his own mini. Overall: 8.3 Verdict: Buy

The Swamp Thing #2 (DC)– Ram V, Mike Perkins, and Mike Spicer have Levi really come into his own as Swamp Thing in the second issue of this maxiseries. They explore hope and fear through this character and also look into the past when he became connected to the Green after he visited his dying father in India. Then, The Swamp Thing #2 adds the layer on top about the character and his title serving as a vehicle for contemporary anxieties like old straight white men being afraid of a new, multicultural world or the usual battle between corporations and the environment that has been its trademark in most Swamp Thing comics. However, Perkins and Spicer depict these through gorgeous art and layouts from double page spread montages with poetic narration from V to almost painted panels as the narrative reaches his climax, and Levi feels like Swamp Thing and not just some guy having nightmares in New York. Mike Perkins and Mike Spicer match their art style and color palette to each situation in The Swamp Thing #2 with Perkins’ usual photorealism making a comeback in the conversations between Levi and his friends that remind her of a certain botanist from Louisiana. The Swamp Thing #2 definitely has its nods to the previous volumes, but Ram V, Perkins, and Spicer are putting their own spin on the title with new sets of visual language as well as a fully developed arc for Levi. Overall: 8.7 Verdict: Buy

Casual Fling #3 (AWA)– I think I’m really enjoying Jason Starr and Dalibor Talajic’s Casual Fling because it’s a rare erotic suspense story in the medium of single issue comics. Casual Fling #3 introduces us to Matt’s hacker friend Sensei, who gets the funniest lines in the issue, and definitely moves the plot along as they work together to find the masked man who had an affair with his wife Jennifer and then blackmailed her with a sex tape. However, there’s still for emotional moments with Jennifer trying to make things right and repair their damaged relationship as Matt wrestles with the fact that she was unfaithful and was a victim of revenge porn. Most of this comes out through Talajic’s facial acting during quiet scenes at Matt’s mom’s house between sequences of frenetic Hollywood style hacking and facial recognition software. Casual Fling #3 has all this plus ends on a twist/cliffhanger. It’s the thriller where you wish your flight/commute was just a little longer. Overall: 9.0 Verdict: Buy

Project Patron #1 (Aftershock)– What if Superman actually died in the “Death of Superman” storyline? Steve Orlando and Matthew Piazzalunga explore this idea with the serial numbers filed off in Project Patron #1. They go for full, straightforward superheroics in the beginning of the book with lantern jawed figure work from Piazzalunga before showing behind the curtain of the illusion that keeps the iconic hero going. This first issue mostly sets up the players o f Project Patron and their personalities as well as potential enemies. It didn’t hook me completely, but overall, Project Pactron #1 is a solid psychological look at superhero iconography. Overall: 7.6 Verdict: Read

Nocterra #2 (Image)– Scott Snyder, Tony Daniel, and Tomeu Morey’s Nocterra #2 isn’t a particular deep comic, but it’s an enjoyable post-apocalyptic road story meets family drama. Daniel gets to draw creepy monster, biker gangs, and of course, plenty of vehicle, but Nocterra also has flashbacks about its protagonist Val so he gets to showcase his improving skill with facial expressions and less blockbuster moments. The relationship between Val and her brother Emory really becomes meaningful in this second issue as she lies to him about things like heaven and hope when he’s a kid and keeps him more in the loop as an adult. The overrarching concept of this comic continues to be as wacky as ever (Darkness bad, literal light good), but Nocterra #2 is starting to build suspense and also contrasts Val and Emory’s relationship with their mysterious passengers. Overall: 7.9 Verdict: Buy

The Silver Coin #1 (Image)– The Silver Coin is a new anthology series from artist Michael Walsh and a rotating cast of writers. Chip Zdarsky is up first, and their issue is about the guitar player of a struggling bar band who starts using a mysterious silver coin as a pick. Of course, the band starts to sound good, but he becomes overwhelmed with hubris and the rest is history. The story of guitars and deals with the devil is almost as old as the genre itself, but Walsh brings a new level of emotion and intensity to the page with his linework, color palette, and hand lettering. Zdarsky adds the conflict between rock and disco while keep the narrative grounded. The band sounds good, but they don’t find fame and glory or anything. The Silver Coin is off to an auspicious start, and I’m excited to see Michael Walsh and his collaborators’ takes on different genres and the connections between them in the months to come. Overall: 9.0 Verdict Buy

America Chavez: Made in the USA #2 (Marvel)– Kalinda Vazquez continue to provide insight into America Chavez’s past and show her strained relationship with her adoptive family, the Santanas of Washington Heights. America’s memories about her moms and the Utopian Parallel all return in one elementary school crayon drawing, and the flashbacks show her early vigilante activities as she wants to embrace that part of herself. This strain continues to the present day with America’s adoptive dad Javi confronting her and saying she wants to be there for everyone except for her family. The family stuff in America is really engaging, but the mystery stuff: not so much. We do get to see Kate Bishop eat a very spicy taco and coach America on her P.I. technique as Gomez finds delight in both big family gatherings and interdimensional superhero curb stomps. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Marauders #19 (Marvel)– Marauders finally lives up to its roots with Morlocks and Reavers fighting in the streets of Madripoor. If you’re a Marrow, Callisto, or Masque fan, then you’ll really enjoy this issue of Gerry Duggan and Stefano Caselli’s series as the Marauders are grounded by potential UN sanctions so they send in the Morlocks to do their dirty work. (Bishop gets involved though.) There’s a lot of action (and a little bit of drinking) in this issue, and it’s all very cathartic for the “Mutant Massacre”. Nothing beats rich kids getting their asses handed to them, and it’s nice to see the Morlocks play an active role in the new status quo. However, with the exception of Callisto, they’ll probably be sidelined. Even in a so-called utopia, class distinctions exist, and Marauders #19 is a reminder of this as the Morlocks clean up the Marauders’ mess in “Lowtown”. Overall: 8.2 Verdict: Buy

Brett

Crime Syndicate #2 (DC Comics) – There’s a lot of potential in this series which takes us to the Earth where heroes are evil versions of the ones we know. But, these first two issues that have an attack by Starro has been a bit lackluster. The art hasn’t been inspiring and the comic has a bit of a comedic tone which feels rather off for this type of story. This is one that’s just not clicking for me. A backup story featuring the origin of Owlman though is pretty good and much more of what’s expected, it’s the second time the backup story has outshined the main feature. Overall Rating: 5.0 Recommendation: Pass

Far Sector #11 (DC Comics/DC’s Young Animal) – The series begins to wrap up with a rather convoluted and a bit too complicated series of double-crosses and agendas clashing. This issue and the previous one have a bit of a stumble for what has been an amazing series up to this point. As soon as the series shifted from its amazing discussion of social issues and politics, its shine wore off a bit. Still good, but this is one that’ll come together in the finale. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 04/03/2021

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.


Brett

Witchblood #1 (Vault Comics) – I can see why a lot of people are enjoying this one but it doesn’t quite click for me. I like the concepts and where things are going but overall the story feels a bit choppy and too random of a setup. The art too is a little all over. While relatively solid, there’s some panels here and there where it feels like the detail drops. It’s a fun comic and definitely worth checking out but for me there’s a roughness around it I had issues getting over. Overall rating: 7.75 Recommendation: Read

The Other History of the DC Universe #3 (DC Comics/DC Black Label) – Not quite as good as the first two issues. This issue focuses on Katana and tells more of a story about her as opposed to a reflection on the DC Universe she witnesses. There’s some commentary but this is a very different focus, more about loss of family and the family found through superheroes. There’s some solid commentary though and the reminder that Soultaker isn’t special and Katana is more about how she presents herself is an interesting take. The art continues to amaze with its retro look and fantastic layouts. A good read though very different focus. Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Beta Ray Bill #1 (Marvel) – A fantastic debut about a character who has always been second tier. That’s part of the point of it as there’s a sadness about the character who has always been in the shadow of others. The art too is solid emphasizing his unique look. Can’t wait to see where this goes. Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy

Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land #2 (Dark Horse) – The series has been fun pulp adventure. There’s not too much to really go into, it’s a classic sort of style with dinosaurs and magic on a mysterious island. It’s a throwback to things like The Shadow, Flash Gordon, and Tarzan, those comics where it was over the top situations and threats. Overall: 7.25 Recommendation: Read

Silk #1 (Marvel) – Silk is a character I don’t know a ton about. I’ve read her adventures here and there and have enjoyed it so far. This debut feels a bit like Spider-Man from a different perspective but it still works well. Good art an intriguing use of Silk being a reporter, it’s a good setup for what’s to come. Overall: 7.95 Recommendation: Read

Logan

X-Men #19 (Marvel)– After last issue’s Darwin, Synch, and X-23 return to Vault setup, Jonathan Hickman and Mahmud Asrar deliver all payoff in X-Men #19. They get to indulge in grotesque visions of post-humanity while telling a story of survival and love as the team’s knowledge of the species that will eventually replace mutants and humans grows. Hickman’s data page do a good job of creating the plot skeleton while he gets to dig deep into the relationship between Darwin, Synch, and Wolverine. There are hugs, kisses, tears, and pain, and after not even knowing who the character was until Hickman’s X-Men run, I truly care about Synch and cared about his survival. This two part storyline is an excellent sci-fi survival story, fleshes out some fantastic side characters (Although Wolverine has carried her own title in recent years.), and best of all, sets up a true foe for the Krakoans as the X-Men don’t defeat the Children of the Vault, but barely escape with their lives. Overall: 8.7 Verdict: Buy

Beta Ray Bill #1 (Marvel)– Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer’s Beta Ray Bill #1 is heavy metal thunder with a soft, vulnerable heart. Johnson leans into Beta Ray Bill traditionally playing second fiddle to Thor in the book. The All-Father steals his victory in battle, gets the praise from the Asgardians, and is responsible for destruction of Stormbreaker and more importantly his inability to revert to his humanoid form. Beta Ray Bill #1 is full of epic spreads of monsters, machinery, blood, and thunder, but Johnson also includes moments of sadness like when Bill’s hookup with Sif goes badly or all of the flashbacks in the issue. Even though it’s initially connected to the continuity of Donny Cates’ Thor and King in Black, Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer bring a big, damn indie sensibility to the house of ideas with hand lettering, a gonzo color palette, and set up a journey that will hopefully be filled with more monsters and epic moments. Overall: 8.4 Verdict: Buy

Witchblood #1 (Vault)– I definitely liked the aesthetic and visual look of Matthew Erman, Lisa Sterle, and Gab Contreras’ Witchblood #1 than its actual content. Erman’s writing is the book’s weak point as he inconsistently flirts with a non-linear narrative, ends the first quite abruptly, and his dialogue is cutesy for the sake of cutesiness. Witchblood is bursting with ideas and settings like diners in irradiated Texas town, vampire gangs named after Kate Bush songs, and witches on motorcycles, but it’s really a case of throwing things at the wall and hoping they stick. However, Sterle’s visuals singlehandedly save Witchblood from being in the “Pass” category with her high energy layouts, inset panels, and facial expressions really showing the no holds barred nature of this Western-meets-urban fantasy. Overall: 7.4 Verdict: Read


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 03/21/2021

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.


Logan

Barbalien: Red Planet #5 (Dark Horse)– Jeff Lemire, Tate Brombal, Gabriel Walta, and Jordie Bellaire really stick the landing in Barbalien: Red Planet #5. They cleverly use a nine panel grid and cross-cutting to show the parallels between Miguel fighting for queer rights and the government to do something about the AIDS crisis on Earth, and Barbalien fighting for his life on Mars. Barbalien Red Planet #5 is a true paean to queer rage as Lemire, Brombal, Walta, and Bellaire show that the riot is the language of the unheard while Barbalien finally gets to cut loose in word and deed on Mars turning his chains into a weapon. While wrapping up Barbalien/Mark Markz/Luke’s struggle with identity as well as Miguel’s activist arc, Barbalien Red Planet #5 also acts as a huge recontextualization of the superhero and sword and planetgenres taking the latent queer subtext of these stories and making them text. Barbalien Red Planet is easily my favorite of the Black Hammer spinoffs, and it functions on many levels as an emotionally honest character study, genre exercise, and an homage to Black and Latinx activists who fought for LGBTQ rights during a really scary time period. It’s also basically “No Cops at Pride” the comic. I definitely plan on revisiting Barbalien Red Planet many times in the years to come. Overall: 10 Verdict: Buy

Detective Comics #1034 (DC)– Mariko Tamaki, Dan Mora, and Jordie Bellaire explore the storytelling potential of Batman being (relatively) broke in Detective Comics #1034, which true to its title is a murder mystery set in the world of the upper crust of Gotham. There’s a satirical edge and a dash of humor and mischief to Tamaki’s writing with the comic’s inciting incident being an attack on Gotham’s very style over substance mayor Nakano. He’s portrayed as being utterly incompetent in everything from getting a power point to work to protecting his wealthy donors. Mora and Bellaire nail the chaos of the very on the nose Party Crashers’ fight against Batman with speed lines, jagged panels, and punches and kicks that explode off the page. However, Mora also excels at the quiet scenes as Bruce gets to know his (first ever) neighbors that also introduces the players in this murder mystery. You can tell each person’s opinion of Bruce from their facial expressions alone. In the backup story, Joshua Williamson and “Big” Gleb Melnikov wrap up their Damian Wayne serial and set the stage for his shonen tournament ongoing series. Melnikov has a real gift for using body weight, lighting, and layouts to make a fight exciting and suspenseful so it should be a fun book, and these backups in Batman and Detective Comics have introduced the premise while throwing in some new wrinkles in Damian’s life. Overall: 8.6 Verdict: Buy

Harley Quinn #1 (DC)– The new Harley Quinn series is a bit of mixed bag and definitely feels like an ancillary book to Batman instead of being its own wacky, independent thing in previous volumes. That being said, Riley Rossmo’s anarchic, cartoon-y art style is perfect for Harley and her hijinks, and he makes jumping from fire escape to fire escape look entertaining. Ivan Plascencia’s colors pair well with his line art bringing a Sour Patch Kid on acid palette to drab, gritty Gotham City. Harley Quinn #1’s weakness lies in Stephanie Phillips’ writing where she ends up focusing on Batman a little too much and makes him drive Harley’s action and the scope of the book instead of its actual protagonist. She does write good one-liners, and the first arc villain she introduces on the last couple pages is the perfect foil for Dr. Quinzel. I’m surprised no one else has used this character as an antagonist for Harley in the past. Overall: 7.4 Verdict: Read

Stray Dogs #2 (Image)– Stray Dogs is the equivalent of a pop song with bright sound, but dark lyrics. Tony Fleecs, Trish Forstner, Tone Rodriguez, and Brad Simpson deliver a haunting story to go with the high concept premise of a serial killer story told from the POV of his victim’s dogs. Forstner’s art for the different dogs is adorable, yet heart-breaking when she and colorist Simpson revisit the protagonist Sophie’s trauma as her owner was strangled in front of her. This issue goes deeper into the dogs’ owner’s twisted psyche and also shows that he treats animals as terribly as humans. Stray Dogs is like a twisted Disney cartoon, but with heart and suspense not juvenile edginess. Overall: 9.1 Verdict: Buy

Cable #9 (Marvel)– Cable #9 deals with the whole “missing the old man Cable” criticism that’s been levied at it from the beginning of the series head on. Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto put their protagonist through the wringer as he can’t find Stryfe despite help from a parade of guest stars like Wolverine, Magik, and all of the Summerses except Alex and Vulcan. Cable #9 has its humorous moments like Cable calling Wolverine Patch even though he’s blown his cover, but Noto’s facial expressions dig into the rage and responsibility that Cable feels with letting his clone run around and kidnap mutant children. Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto turn a labyrinthine 1990s character into a solid character motivation for Cable, and to top things off, the comic has a cool ending that definitely breaks the Krakoan rules. Overall: 8.3 Verdict: Buy

Excalibur #19 (Marvel)– This whole Psylocke/Captain Britain/Betsy Braddock body swap/energy arc is really starting to drag on in Excalibur #19. Tini Howard and Marcus To have made the book seem like more of a Captain Britain or Psylocke solo title than an ensemble piece with the actual members of Excalibur watching from the sideline. The omniverse and different aspects of Captain Britain are interesting, if very nationalistic, but Howard and To have abandoned it to tell an overlong body swap story. There’s a new bad guy in the end, but it’s a case of too little too late. Hopefully, this series can move onto better things. However, Erick Arciniega colors are gorgeous especially when Betsy’s violet emanation is streaking through Otherworld. Overall: 5.0 Verdict: Pass

Carnage: Black, White, and Blood #1 (Marvel)– Carnage joins the black and white/spot color anthology with decent results. The first story is Bonnie and Clyde with Carnage and Shriek that takes a trippy detour into ancient Rome. Tini Howard’s script is imaginative, and Ken Lashley and Juan Fernandez’s depiction of the battle between Carnage and Shriek and Cloak and Dagger is quite elemental. However, Lashley’s rubbery 1990s art style doesn’t really fit with the monochromatic, and the splashes of red don’t fit the story like the other two. Benjamin Percy and Sara Pichelli definitely understood the assignment in the second story, which is a Western about a sheriff who is corrupted by the Carnage symbiote. Mattia Iacono uses the red to symbolize his corruption, and Pichelli’s art for the gun fight is visceral in all the right ways. Plus it’s a clever use for the character as the hunter becomes the hunted. Carnage #1 wraps up with its best story as Al Ewing and John McCrea do an ultraviolent “choose your own adventure” story, but with Carnage. It’s like a mini, more gore-splattered version of Ewing’s You Are Deadpool, and McCrea’s experience doing black and white, satirical comics in 2000 AD comes in handy in this story. I definitely wanna go back and try to get the “good” ending if any such thing exists. Overall: 8.4 Verdict: Buy


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 03/21/2021

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.


Logan

Orphan and the Five Beasts #1 (Dark Horse)– Orphan and the Five Beasts is James Stokoe’s martial arts epic as Orphan Mo must avenge her master who was ripped off by five “beasts” that used his techniques for evil, like stealing, murder, and animal abuse. There’s a lot of setup and narration in this initial issue, but Stokoe brings his eye for detail as well as some expressive lettering that is almost like another character in the comic. Also, after the backstory of the Beasts is told, he cuts loose with entrails flying, overly vein-y bandit kings, and of course, gorgeous fight scenes. Orphan and the Five Beasts showcases a very talented artist putting his own spin on a fun genre and should only get better as Orphan Mo encounters the various beasts. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Catwoman #29 (DC)– After a couple months off for Future State, Ram V, Fernando Blanco, and the always spectacular Jordie Bellaire hit the ground running with plenty of close quarters action, a little bit of drama, and some big time guest appearances. V continues to build up Catwoman as the guardian of Gotham’s, shall we say, less sociopathic villains while Blanco continues to draw her exuding total swagger to go with his intense close quarter fight scenes. This issue isn’t a stone cold classic like some of the previous ones and Father Valley’s Biblical assassin shtick is starting to wear then, but Ram V starts to thread the needle between Catwoman being a good crime comic and a good Bat-family comic in Catwoman #29. Selina’s an anti-hero and a crime boss, and it’s fun to see the way she acts in each role. Overall: 7.6 Verdict: Read

Ultramega #1 (Image/Skybound)– Ultramega is a bleak, horror-tinged take on the sentai genre from writer/artist James Harren and colorist Dave Stewart. The first issue follows a “Warrior” named Jason, who ends up being terrible at his job because he didn’t kill his wife and unborn child with his Ultramega abilities even though they did have the Kaiju virus. There are literally big consequences to this in this 60 page first issue filled with blood and guts, kaijus cool powers, and moments of regret. Harren nails the scale of these fights, both in the moment, and in their effects on the average people cutting away to show the destruction of battle. He also spends some time doing some social commentary-via-basically Astro Boy on how automation has led to unemployment or taking riskier employment like Jason being an Ultramega and never getting to see his wife and son while being “on call”. Harren’s commentary gets muddled in the last third of the comic as he takes aim at not just automation and the surveillance state, but also collectivism. However, the sentai genre is all about extraordinary individuals fighting monsters, and Ultramega chronicles their failure in all their gory detail with the highlight of the book definitely being the large scale battles drawn by Harren and Stewart. Overall: 8.3 Verdict: Buy

SWORD #4 (Marvel)SWORD #4 is straight up competency porn with Abigail Brand, Wiz-Kid, Frenzy, and Manifold with an assist from Mentallo and the Five orchestrating a resistance to Knull and Knullified Cable before the symbiote threat spreads even more. The cast continues to sprawl, but Al Ewing and Valerio Schiti give each SWORD team member a couple moments in the (at times literal) sun with Manifold demonstrating that his power goes beyond teleportation, Wiz-Kid’s ingenuity and penchant for melodrama paying off in a fire fight, and Magneto and Brand showing they’ll protect mutantdom and Earth, respectively, no matter the cost. Marte Gracia adds a summer event sheen with his color palette with the fight between Knullified Cable and Manifold being particularly gorgeous. SWORD is a book that handle ethical debates and killer setpieces with skill and ease, and with its varied cast of characters, it brings new perspectives to the current Krakoan status quo. Overall: 8.5 Verdict: Buy

X-Force #18 (Marvel)– X-Force #18 is the slightly more creepy, but slightly less impactful sequel to last month’s Quentin Quire-centric issue. The opening scene sets the tone of the comic with artist Garry Brown channeling Swamp Thing as “veg” whisperer Black Tom Cassidy is consumed by a psychic nightmare, which is the recording baddie for this issue and preys on different X-Force members during times of contentment. Evil psychic forces are a dime a dozen, but Benjamin Percy and Brown smartly tie it to specific character traits with Quentin Quire deep down still being a little shit and Beast’s knowledge of Krakoa’s secrets making him the most vulnerable target. Finally, there’s Sage, who has been drinking more to keep the relentless spread of information in her brain now, but she’s starting to have gaps in her calculations. Percy uses both the on-panel interactions and data pages to show these vulnerabilities and that she’s more than just some kind of plot resolver/info giver. The team definitely feels exposed and vulnerable after this issue. Overall: 7.8 Verdict: Buy

Brett

Catwoman #29 (DC Comics) – I’ve generally enjoyed the new team and direction for Catwoman and this first issue of Infinite Frontier keeps the momentum rolling. The issue features a new villain, a possible ally, and a reveal that’ll probably anger a certain group of fans. The art is solid as well delivering some good action and sexiness without going over the top. This is a good spot to start and hints at an intriguing first arc. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Eternals #3 (Marvel) – I’ve generally enjoyed the series with an intriguing set of characters and re-introduction mixed with beautiful art. Three issues in and the series feels like it’s dragging a bit as more characters are introduced and more mysteries dropped. It’s a slice of the big picture but it needs to pick up the pace or risks decompressing things a bit too much. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #1 (Marvel) – I don’t know a ton about the character but he’s about to get the spotlight in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first issue is a good introduction to the character delivering an ass but one you want to follow and see what happens. And that ending… that was… interesting. Overall Rating: 7.85 Recommendation: Read

Orphans and the Five Beasts #1 (Dark Horse) – James Stokoe’s kung-fu epic is beautiful to look at but it’s a lot of style without much that’s new. The story is familiar though some details do stand out. Overall, it’s a comic that’s definitely more flash than substance. But, it’s a lot of fun. Overall Rating: 7.5 Recommendation: Read


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 03/14/2021

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.


Logan

Joker #1 (DC)– Don’t be fooled by the title, but Joker #1 is actually a Jim Gordon solo comic. James Tynion, Guillem March, and Arif Prianto spin the tale of an old man, who has looked evil in the face and just wants to retire. However, he can’t wash the Joker’s face out of his mind, which is the hook as he comes out of retirement not as a cop, but as a hitman. March tries a new art style in Joker #1 taking a horror approach to the Clown Prince of Crime that’s strongly informed by classic Batman artists like Neal Adams, Kelley Jones, and his take on Gotham is straight out of the Frank Miller playbook with colorful Punchline-themed youth gangs and an overall sense of decay. To go along with the strong visuals, Tynion uses a lot of narrative captions to set up Gordon’s state of mind and relationship to the Joker along with his financial struggles as a retiree. He’s definitely a protagonist worth rooting for, and there’s a bit of mystery as he sets out on his mission. Joker #1 also has a Punchline backup, and it has beautiful art from Mirka Andolfo plus the return of an underrated Batman supporting cast member/Tynion co-creation that should shed light on this villain. Overall: 8.8 Verdict: Buy

Children of the Atom #1 (Marvel)– Vita Ayala, Bernard Chang, and Marcelo Maiolo do a straight up teen superhero comic in Children of the Atom #1 that starts with Cherub, Marvel Guy, Cyclops-Lass, Gimmick, and Daycrawler holding their own against a team of depowered mutant criminals. There’s some struggles with collateral damage and teleporting far away enough, but they’re definitely on Krakoa and some heavy hitters’ radar. Really, the best part of this comic is when Ayala and Chang do a scene of Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm shooting pool and having a lively conversation about whether they should go after these young mutants or let them be. Chang and Maiolo even add a cool frosting effect every time Jean is speaking telepathically. It’s nice to see these iconic characters be regular people for a bit before the main cast geeks out over them. Kudos to Vita Ayala and Bernard Chang for adding new mutants to the X-book pantheon and also providing a glimpse at mutant youth culture through things like fan wikis, live streams, and even cosplay. Children of Atom #1 strikes a nice balance between slice of life and superhero, and features colorful art. I look forward to learning more about these young heroes. Overall: 8.2 Verdict: Buy

X-Factor #8 (Marvel)– Leah Williams and David Baldeon’s X-Factor is a little bit procedural, a little bit horror, and has lots of dying in it. They use Eye-Boy as a POV character to bear witness to the deaths of most of the team and also see every bit of dust and trace of scent on the page. Baldeon’s layouts are bold, especially when Morrigan or Eye-Boy get involved, and there’s a reason she cut through the team with ease. While also focusing on the main plotline, Williams takes all kinds of cute and interesting sidebars like Eye-Boy bonding with Rachel Summers’ pet Amazing Baby or Prodigy continuing to investigate his own resurrection. X-Factor #8 does wrap up with oodles of text box exposition from Leah Williams, but it’s quirky cast of characters and creative use of their power sets keeps it afloat. Overall: 7.8 Verdict: Read

Proctor Valley Road #1 (BOOM!)– With a large cast of characters and heavy dose of 1960s nostalgia, Grant Morrison, Alex Child, and Naomi Franquiz’s Proctor Valley Road definitely comes across as a proof of concept for a Netflix show. However, it’s a fun little creature feature based on real life urban legends around a road between Chula Vista and San Diego. The main cast of girls have distinct personalities and a shared passion for ghost stories and Janis Joplin, and it’s nice to see a regular plotline threaded in between all the darkness and disappearances that colorist Tamra Bonvillain enhances with a shadowy palette that contrasts with the faded out desert colors for the rest of the book. Throw in anxieties about the Vietnam War and racism in the United States, and Morrison, Child, and Franquiz really start to thread the needle between cryptids and the real fears of the time. Overall: 7.7 Verdict: Read

The Autumnal #5 (Vault)– Daniel Kraus and Chris Shehan small town horror tale continues to build to terrifying crescendo in The Autumnal #5. They alternate between the story of child murderers, killer leaves, and equinoxes being a myth pitting a kindly small town mayor and a drug addict against each other as sources of information. But, in between the investigations and occasional creepy moments, Kraus doesn’t skimp on showing the relationship between Kat, her daughter, and new boyfriend as they adapt to life in comfort notch. Sheehan’s art nails the rhythm of conversation in his paneling while he and colorist Jason Wordie continue to make warm fall days and colors menacing. Overall: 8.6 Verdict: Buy

Brett

Rorschach #6 (DC Comics/DC Black Label) – On its own, Rorschach #6 makes absolutely no sense at all. It’s a small piece of a larger puzzle focused on Laura and Wil and a back and forth of letters. It’s the setup of the latter half of the series dropping some hints as to how things have played out but in a picture that’s not clear. The art as always is a bit confusing in what time period it’s supposed to be giving a 70s vibe for what is a more modern story. It’s an intriguing issue but one that’s a bit frustrating on its own. Overall Rating: 6.0 Recommendation: Read

Superman #29 (DC Comics) – It’s a new era for Superman and a new creative team. The issue is really solid with a focus on Jon and how he sees his dad, as well as the knowledge he has of the future. It’s an interesting issue that examines the child and parent relationship as well as Jon’s burden. We also get a decent threat that can hurt Superman delivering an issue where there’s some heart, emotion, and stakes. A back-up story focused on Bibbo is interesting delivering a more traditional action focused story. Overall, a solid debut that has me wanting to see what’s next. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Wonder Woman #770 (DC Comics) – Wonder Woman was the key to the new DC Universe and as she has rejected her knew role she has been thrust back into the life of a superhero… but where? No longer on Earth, Diana finds herself on Asgard, yes that one, where she’ll do battle over and over. What’s going on? We’ll find out! There’s a backup story featuring a young Diana as well that has a very cute art style and story to it. It’s so different from the main story it’s a bit odd and feels more at home in a graphic novel geared towards young readers. Still, it’s an intriguing start for the series. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 03/07/2021

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.


Logan

Infinite Frontier #0 (DC)– Infinite Frontier #0 is a lot to take in, but I came out of it with mostly positive vibes. (Although, I had similar feelings about DC Rebirth.) In almost line-wide way (Especially in the stories penned by Joshua Williamson), Infinite Frontier is embracing legacy heroes, the DC multiverse/Elseworlds, and DC Comics’ 83 year old history for better or worse. Some of the highlights of this one-shot are Philip Kennedy Johnson and an always fantastic Jamal Igle showing that Jon Kent is just as much as a hero as his father, and James Tynion and a chameleon-like Jorge Jimenez focusing on the Bat-family (Especially the Batgirls past and present) while grafting in some of the status quo from Future State, which worked best when dealing with the Gotham stuff. Also, Alan Scott coming out as gay in the main continuity, Nubia becoming queen of the Amazons, Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance reuniting, and even Wally West becoming the main Flash show the heartwarming side of the DC Universe. As an artist, Howard Porter (He did the Flash story.) has gotten better with age. The only real stinkers of the bunch are Geoff Johns and Todd Nauck doing a text-heavy, bad cover version of Bendis and Bagley’s Ultimate Spider-Man in their Stargirl story, and Geoff Thorne continuing to show that his take on the Green Lantern characters is a bit disjointed even if Teen Lantern can’t help but shine through. I didn’t really follow Death Metal or Generations to get why the DC Universe is like this, but Infinite Frontier is a great primer on characters, books, and creators to follow going forward in 2021 and is a reminder that DC Comics has a deep bench of worlds, heroes, and villains that are dying to be fleshed out and explored. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

The Swamp Thing #1 (DC)– Ram V, Mike Perkins, and Mike Spicer kick off their ongoing Swamp Thing series with parallel stories. A monster in the Arizona desert (Rumore to be around since the 1860s) kills with no respite, and an Indian man named Levi Kamei has nightmares of the Green while returning from India back to New York. Perkins’ horror chops continue to be evident in any sequence featuring the Pale Wanderer and are at its finest in a double page nightmare sequence where Swamp Thing emerges from Levi’s body (and eyes aka ick!) causing the plane to crash. V doesn’t reveal a lot of information about Levi’s connection to Swamp Thing instead focusing on introducing him as a character. He came to New York when he was a teen to study biology at Columbia and has a strained relationship with his family in India, yet still wants to make amends. Mike Perkins uses nine panel grids to capture the natural conversational flow between Levi and his colleague Jennifer Reece in the quieter moments between the nightmares. He’s a smart, vulnerable protagonist who from the final page seems utterly prepared for the Western-meets-horror story going on in the other side of the country. Like Alan Moore and various artists in the famous “American Gothic” arc, Ram V and Mike Perkins are using Swamp Thing as a vehicle to comment on the nature of America using the horror genre from an outside perspective (Ram V is an Indian writer who now lives in London) and succeed at setting that up in their first issue. Overall: 8.6 Verdict: Buy

Chariot #1 (AWA)– Although it sometimes seems like it came right out of an after school special and the premise is straight out of Knight Rider, Priscilla Petraites’ art and Marco Lesko’s colors giving Chariot #1 that extra push that’ll make give issue 2 of the series a shot. Writer Bryan Edward Hill lets them cut loose over the first 10 pages of the comic in a gorgeous, thrilling car chase with pastel, synthwave colors from Lesko, who is easily the book’s MVP. The protagonist’s love for cars comes out in how nicely he treats this special prototype even though it confuses him initially. Also, having him struggle with medical debt makes him really relatable for our day and age. If the characterization matches the setpieces that open and close this comic, Hill, Petraites, and Lesko could have a hit on their hands. Overall: 7.6 Verdict: read

Nocterra #1 (Image)– Scott Snyder and Tony Daniel craft a high concept world in Nocterra: a universe where the sun has gone out. People live on secondary light sources, like bulbs and lanterns, or risk being turned into shades. The idea is a little silly, but it works as a metaphor for a world-ending. Nocterra #1 explores life after everything goes “PM” from the perspective of Em, who was child when it happened, and now works as a truck driver taking humans to sanctuary cities. Daniel inks himself on this comic, and he and colorist Tomeu Morey bring a naturalistic approach going stylized for when the shades attack or a scary opponent pops up towards the end of the issue. Snyder also builds the plot around Em needing to find a way to reverse the darkness in her brother Emory, and this justifies any risks she might take. Also, the final page stage cranks up the stakes big time. Overall: 8.5 Verdict: Buy

America Chavez: Made in the USA #1 (Marvel)– America Chavez finally gets a solo series worthy of her star turns in Young Avengers, Ultimates, and West Coast Avengers courtesy of Kalinda Vazquez and Carlos Gomez. Even though there’s plenty of punching and one-liners, America Chavez #1 keeps its ambitions terrestrial with plenty of flashbacks of America with her adoptive family, the Santanas, who found her when she washed up on Jones Beach. Vazquez and Gomez set up this miniseries to be set up around her Washington Heights root and Latinx heritage while also telling a more traditional loss of powers stories. Gomez’s art is a little on the house style side, but his depiction of America and Kate Bishop punching giant moles made me smile. This issue provided a lot of insight both into America’s past as well as how she’s feeling currently, and I look forward to the rest of the mini. Overall: 8.8 Verdict: Buy

Hellions #10 (Marvel)– Arcade has upgraded from murderous pinball games and Snake (If you played Marvel Ultimate Alliance.) to psychological horror in another excellent issue of Hellions from Zeb Wells and Stephen Segovia. His motivation is trying to get Mr. Sinister to provide him clones, which is quite easy, but he still makes the Hellions go through their worst nightmares anyway. This ranges from Kwannon not knowing her name to Empath being confronted by everyone he’s ever mentally manipulated to and Havok having some weird, horny thing with Madelyne Pryor. Segovia and David Curiel do an excellent job setting up a different tone for each room, and we really get to know each team member as Arcade ramps up the scenario. Also, Mr. Sinister roasting Arcade at the beginning of the book is quite hilarious. Overall: 8.9 Verdict: Buy

Brett

Batman #106 (DC Comics) – Batman’s Future State storyline was fantastic and the seeds to that possible future are being planted here. Gotham is in chaos (is it not?). Arkham has been destroyed and so many issues are cropping up. Batman’s doing what he can with his new situation and his new headquarters. There’s a solid mix of action, setup, and letting new readers know what’s up. It’s the most solid issue of James Tynion IV’s run so far. The art is really solid as well with some fantastic visuals that pop, especially for the action sequences. This is what I’ve been hoping and waiting for. Overall Rating: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Man-Bat #2 (DC Comics) – The first issue was solid with an exploration of Langstrom’s addiction and drug use resulting in his becoming Man-Bat. This issue? Not so much. The Suicide Squad is after him resulting in an entertaining but overused battle trope. There’s also a reveal of the big bad. An entertaining issue but the first is so much better. Overall Rating: 7.75 Recommendation: Read

BRZRKR #1 (BOOM! Studios) – The high profile comic is here in its first single issue. It’s pure action and quite clearly a vehicle for actor Keanu Reeves whos’ one of the co-writers/creators. The story of an immortal who wants to die has a lot of potential and the tease at the end of the comic is really solid but as is, it’s a lot of flash with little substance. But, that flash looks great on the page. Overall Rating: 7.85 Recommendation: Read

Dead Dog’s Bite #1 (Dark Horse) – A girl is missing and that’s about what we got in this interesting setup of a mystery. The characters and location has potential but the comic doesn’t quite hook. It starts off with an interesting narrator but then gets into a fairly typical murder mystery laying things out. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Underrated: Scarlet Spider (2012)

Scarlet Spider has always been one of my favourite Spier-Man sub characters, and even more so when his former enemy (and clone) Kaine took up the mantle. However unwillingly. I recently reread the series, and so, as you can see, wanted to revisit an old column.

The series more than holds up.


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: The 2012 Scarlet Spider run.


Scarlet_Spider_Vol_2_1

I have always enjoyed stories about villains becoming heroes, struggling to atone for or come to terms with their actions; I’m a sucker for a good redemption story, I’ll admit. There’s something about somebody striving to earn forgiveness when surrounded by people who don’t believe in them I’ve always enjoyed.

With 2012’s Scarlet Spider we get almost the exact opposite of that. A man who just wants to disappear surrounded by those who inexplicably believe in him.

I originally added this to my pull list with its first issue way back in 2012, I had assumed that the Scarlet Spider in question was Ben Reilly in a new costume, and not Kaine. I’m sure had I been reading the Spider-Man comics at the time I’d have known better, but I figured this was a good place to jump on board – and I wasn’t wrong in that sense, but I was wrong about who was wearing the costume. So I settled in to enjoy a story about Spider-Man’s clone, and as I hoped I ended up loving the series.

But not for the reasons I expected. Instead of a heroic story featuring Ben Reilly, Scarlet Spider delivered something I wasn’t expecting – and ended up loving more than I thought I would given my initial expectations of who I was going to be reading about.

The story starts with Kaine trying to get to Mexico, having recently been cured of the cellular degeneration he was suffering as a clone (it’s a whole thing that’s explained in multiple stories and other resources), he’s seeking a chance to finally live his life free of the constant agony he used to suffer. But, as with any good story featuring a Spider, things inevitably get in the way of that and Kaine gets stuck in Houston, quickly becoming the city’s own resident super hero. The series was written by Chistopher Yost, who was joined by a variety of hugely talented pencillers, inkers and colourists throughout the series 25 issue run (there were also  couple of specials and tie-in issues that bulk up the issue count if you want the whole story).

The full run remains one of my favourite Spider stories, in part because of the redemptive nature, but also because it’s just really good. But like all series that features a lesser known character it was cancelled because of low sales – though Kaine still pops up as the Scarlet Spider from time to time, and I will always try to grab those issues as and when I can. Scarlet Spider is a brilliant alternate to Spider-Man as we see a hero with, as the tag line so eloquently puts it, “all of the power, and none of the responsibility.” But Kaine is still a Parker, and as he begrudgingly accepts the responsibility of being the Scarlet Spider, we get to see a villain slowly change into (well, almost) a hero. However reluctantly.

This is a fantastic run, easily one of my favourite parts of my collection, but it’s one I don’t see getting the love it deserves – that’s why the book is Underrated.


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

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 2/27/2021

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.


Logan

The Next Batman: Second Son #1 (DC)– Writer John Ridley and artists Tony Akins, Ryan Benjamin, and Mark Morales tell the story of Tim Fox’s pre-Next Batman days as he and the unseen tech guy Vol try to take out a Vietnamese human trafficker. This first issue is all action, or attempts at action, highlighting Tim’s inexperience as he gets lured into a trap and does some stupid stuff like throwing his melee weapon right at his opponent. You can definitely see the passion in Tim’s face and in Ridley’s dialogue and passion, but he’s not even close to Batman or Batwing yet. On the visual side, Benjamin’s layouts are simple, yet effective using 2 or 3 panels a page to show how deep the shit Tim is getting in. The final page is a weird angle/choice from him and Akins though, but it connects him to the context of Future State and the larger DC Universe. Second Son #1 is a pretty, straightforward riff on Batman Year One with an international setting and focus on hacking as well as hand to combat. It’s not spectacular, but it’s solid. Opening with an extended action sequence is always a good move. Overall: 7.5 Verdict: Read

Future State-Superman: House of El #1 (DC)– House of El #1 is a glimpse at a far-flung future where the descendants of Superman from various planets band together to defend Earth from the Red King and his minions. Philip Kennedy Johnson and Scott Godlewski craft a world where Superman and his fellow heroes are practically a myth and where hope is all but lost. Theand’r, who is Kryptonian and Tamaranean, even thinks Superman never existed, and that he was a story to inspire Kryptonian immigrants who found a home on Earth. Johnson throws a lot of interesting ideas that could sustain a mini, but he and Godlewski condense it down to one double-sized comic with plenty of action and an enemy that is a metaphor for white supremacism. Godlewski’s compositions during the fight scenes fill up the page as the remnants of the House of El fight Parademons, Black Racer, and multiple Doomsdays. He draws blockbuster superhero action and interpersonal moments equally well adding a level of vulnerability to these warriors. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #6 (Dark Horse)– Jeff Lemire and Toni Zonjic’s commentary on child sidekicks, violent vigilantes who were formerly child sidekicks, and 1990s Frank Miller art concludes in Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy #6. Zoncic’s art is definitely the highlight of this final issue with a contrasting red and blue palette as Skeleton Boy struggles between choosing a life of violence with Skulldigger or something more stable with Officer Reyes and her partner. He also does some striking black and white work for the big emotional beats and also for Skulldigger’s kills. Storywise, Lemire creates a parallel between Skulldigger’s strained relationship with his mentor when he was the young sidekick Alley Cat, and his similar trauma bond with Skeleton Boy as he’ll probably end up getting Skeleton Boy hurt or killed. The actual ending of the issue seems like an anti-climax, but Lemire and Zonjic create a wonderfully redemptive moment for Matthew (Formerly known as Skeleton Boy) while lingering on a couple images of a lonely Skulldigger, whose vigilante crusade and vendetta against Grimjim (Think the Joker plus immortality.) will never end. Overall: 8.5 Verdict: Buy

Crossover #4 (Image)– Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw’s Ready Player One comic book edition continues in Crossover #4. Wisely, they’ve sidestepped their feeble attempts at real world relevance or commentary on the medium and gone for all out action in this issue with the standout being a Ben-Day dot filled double page spread featuring Madman, a yo-yo, and a nostalgic color palette from Dee Cuniffe. The lead characters Ellie, Ryan, and Ava are just ciphers taking the reader from Easter Egg to Easter Egg with Cates’ ominiscient narrator seeing more as a cover his ass situation than adding anything substantial to the series. As co-creators of the series, Cates and Shaws are well within their rights to make God Country a critical part of Crossover’s plot, but it really cheapens the resonance of a series that was their most emotionally honest work. Unless you’re a hunt the Easter Egg enthusiast, this one is worth skipping along with their prose and TV medium relatives, the aforementioned Ready Player One and Stranger Things Season One. Geoff Shaw and Dee Cuniffe’s visuals are very pretty though. Overall: 5.3 Verdict: Pass

Department of Truth #6 (Image)– James Tynion and guest artist Elsa Charretier peel the table behind the Department of Truth a little bit in a flashback story as a fresh off killing JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald learns about the conspiracies of 1000 AD. Compared to the series’ usual style, Charretier’s art has an earthiness that works for the medieval setting, and she even riffs on tapestry as the hag in the woods/Julia Augusta spins basically the origin story of the Illuminati featuring the Julian Calendar, monks, and fake Charlemagne. Tynion and Charretier explore the underlying theme and purpose of Department of Truth, which is to make sure a certain narrative is a dominant one and places it in the wider context of medieval European history. The Roman empire has fallen, Islam is on the rise, and the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox church are about to break apart so why not create the fiction of something that is neither an empire, holy, or Roman to hold things together. It will be interesting to see the ideas introduced in Department of Truth #6 echo down the road and see some of the recurring imagery and themes. It’s definitely my favorite issue of the series so far. Overall: 9.5 Verdict: Buy

Brett

Future State: Batman/Superman #2 (DC Comics) – The art shines a bit more than the story itself which just feels like a way to add more flavor to this new Gotham and the Magistrate. It has some great themes I’d love to see explored more but overall, it feels like the end of a filler arc that touches upon bigger things elsewhere. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Future State: Dark Detective #4 (DC Comics) – The issue makes me want more of this future Gotham and story direction. The first story features the showdown between Batman and the Magistrate’s leader and it’s a hell of a battle. The art is fantastic with some amazing spreads and awesome action. The second story featuring Jason Todd delivers some solid twists and turns leaving the reader with a lot of questions that’ll be answered in the future. This was the Future State I wanted and it left me begging for it to continue. Overall Rating: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #2 (DC Comics) – I really don’t know the Legion of Super-Heroes and this disconnect had me shrugging my shoulders with this one. This comic feels a bit more for the die-hards with knowledge. The art is solid with a very unique style so that was at least entertaining for me. Overall Rating: 6.5 Recomendation: Pass

Future State: Suicide Squad #2 (DC Comics) – The Suicide Squad portion of the comic is fanastic. The ending is something I didn’t see coming and it just feels like a solid mission for the team on another world. The art is really good delivering entertaining action with some subtle things here and there that really stand out. The Black Adam story is interesting but since I’m not into the whole magic aspect of the DC universe, it just didn’t quite pack the punch for me. The ending was also solid but the art stands out with some pages packed in with action and characters. You’ll need a bit to take it all in. Overall Rating: 7.75 Recommendation: Buy

Future State: Superman vs. Imperious Lex #2 (DC Comics) – Writer Mark Russell delivers the humor and satire I’d expect in a story where Lex Luthor rules over an entire planet. There’s some solid digs and concepts in here and it gave me a good laugh. Overall Rating: 7.75 Recommendation: Read

Generations Forged #1 (DC Comics) – There’s a lot of talent with this comic which really should have been released as individual chapters digitally. Seeing different heroes from different times together is fun and there’s a nice retro feel to it all, story and look wise. The comic also opens up the concept of the Linearverse which feels a bit odd and clunky with the current reset of the DC Universe and expansion of the Omniverse. Overall, great concept with an ok execution. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Batman: Black & White #3 (DC Comics) – I’m loving this anthology series and just want more of it. The stories and art is varied with John Ridley’s opening standing out. This is a fantastic buy and exactly what DC should be putting out more often. Overall Rating: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Black Widow #5 (Marvel) – The best series on Marvel’s shelf right now. This wraps up the initial arc delivering some unbelievable action and amazing art. There’s so much to take in and just nails everything I’d want in a Black Widow comic. This is the series I have to read with each release. Overall Rating: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Chasing the Dragon #1 (Heavy Metal) – An interesting fantasy series that mixes in a concept of addiction to dragon’s blood to it. The opening is a little choppy with some good ideas that I want to see where it goes. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Crossover #4 (Image Comics) – I’ve really been enjoying this series which dips between great concepts and nostalgia. This issue feels a bit heavy on the nostalgia end of things as the creators reference one of their own creations. It feels a bit like autofellatio. There’s some solid art though which really stands out. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games #3 (Marvel) – It’s M.O.D.O.K. versus Gwenpool a character I normally dislike. She works here in this over-the-top issue and series that features other organisms designed for killing. A silly, action-filled comic, that’ll leave you laughing. It’s delivered every issue with great jokes and solid art. It’s Looney Tunes type fun. Overall Rating: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Nailbiter Returns #10 (Image Comics) – The latest volume wraps up and it’s a hell of an ending. Though it’s a little choppy it feels very appropriate for a horror sequel. There’s also a bit I don’t want to spoil. For those that have followed this series, you’ll be happy with the finale. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Stray Dogs #1 (Image Comics) – A hell of a debut featuring a dog with memory problem that winds up in a new home. The art is amazing and the build-up to the comic is gasp-inducing and also heartbreaking at moments. This is a must-get and must-read. Just fantastic in every way. Overall Rating: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar #5 (Marvel) – The issue wraps up the miniseries with a showdown between Marneus and the Chaos forces. It brings things together in the two storylines and art is decent as usual. It ups the blood and guts a bit and overall is a satisfying though not exciting finale. Overall Rating: 7.0 Recommendation: Read


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 2/20/2021

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.


Logan

Future State: The Next Batman #4 (DC)– John Ridley, Nick Derington, and Laura Braga’s four part “Next Batman” serial concludes as one of the killers that Tim is trying to bring to justice turns on him. This cliffhanger is quickly resolved, and we’re onto a chase scene with a suburban instead of a Batmobile. Derington and Braga continue to be nimble with the action scenes picking interesting moments to focus on like the brake slam before the Peackeeper’s motorcycles come and using grids for hand to hand combat. Theme-wise, Ridley shows Fox’s struggles as Batman, especially with the no-killing rule, and that he has no friends among the GCPD before wrapping everything up with a strained, yet slightly tender family moment. Seeing a Batman who has a living family that thinks he’s a loser is an interesting dynamic, and I look forward to seeing more of it in the upcoming Tim Fox digital series“Batgirls” concludes with a glorious prison break story that also sets up the status quo in Future State Gotham going forward. Writer Vita Ayala uses time stamp captions based on the time of the prison riot started by Stephanie Brown to create tension and also show what’s going on in Cassandra Cain’s hacking/rescue mission. Aneke varies her layouts using double page spreads for the big prison brawl featuring Stephanie and various supervillains and using precise, diagram-style ones for Cass’ break in. And then she and Ayala spring the big emotional moment: a big reunion with Barbara Gordon aka Oracle that changes the tone of the whole story for good and shows that heroism can still exist even in a fascist state as they also show that the paradigm of hero/villain has changed in this new setting. “Batgirls” has excellent action, but Vita Ayala and Aneke especially nail the little reunion moments at the end between Steph and Cass and Oracle and a slightly too pragmatic Nightwing. They are a true dynamic duo and really understand the Bat-family’s relationship even in a dark, crappy futurePaula Sevenbergen, Emanuela Luppacino, and Wade von Grawbadger’s tonally all over the place “Gotham Sirens” wraps up with a mix of darkness and girl’s night out antics. This is a comic where a tech billionaire but the the consciousness of a dying teenage girl into his sex-bot and also one where the eggplant emoji is used to describe Bruce Wayne. Luppacino’s art captures the sparkling personalities of Selina, Poison Ivy, and Dee as well as the mayhem of the Peacemakers, but the story doesn’t know if it wants to be a fun romp or a serious story about consent, cyber ethics, and what it means to be human. It’s definitely the weak link of the bunch even though it has some fun ideas like Poison Ivy opening a speakeasy and talking about how she turns to cause instead of people because she’s afraid to get vulnerable. Sevenbergen definitely has a good handle on her character, but she makes the underdeveloped, plot device, borderline trauma porn original character Dee the focus of the story, which makes it less effective. Overall: 8.1 Verdict: Buy

Snow Angels #1 (Comixology Originals)– Jeff Lemire and Jock combine their storytelling sensibilities to tell the story of a dad and his two daughters, Milliken and Mae Mae, who live in a post-apocalyptic frozen wasteland called the Trench. This is a world where clouds cover the sky, children learn how to ice skate before walking, and folks cower in fear before the mysterious Snowman. Jock uses a lot of negative space to show the sheer bleakness of the landscape using pencil and ink to make wind, ice, and snow cover everything. During more tense scenes, like the hunting of a wolf, he adds reds and blacks to create tension and shifts to a more radiant palette when the dad gives Milliken a birthday present: a relic of the “before times”. He and Lemire have the task of establishing a world and a family dynamic, and they do that by having everything center around a coming of age hunt/road trip. It’s refreshing to see sibling squabbles still happening in the midst of the apocalypse, and Lemire’s skill combining interpersonal relationships in genre setting is a perfect fit for this comic. Throw in an air of mystery and a refreshing subversion of traditional gender roles in a society that is definitely in patriarchal, hunter gatherer mode, and Snow Angels #1 is a solid start to a series that fits in with my current icy, living-in-a-pandemic reality. Overall: 8.7 Verdict: Buy

Barbalien: Red Planet #4 (Dark Horse)– Tate Brombal, Jeff Lemire, and Gabriel Walta look into the background of Luke/Barbalien’s lover, Miguel using grids and minimal captions to trace the life of this Puerto Rican activist, who has AIDS and lost his boyfriend to the virus. It gives context to his passion and creates distance between them when Luke tries to “come out” as Barbalien, which he eventually just does in a full page spread that comes after 17 pages of build-up. Also, Brombal goes after the Catholic Church in this issue and shows the homophobia and hatefulness of many Christian organizations (Especially at that time), and how they contributed to the stigma towards AIDS and HIV and hindered finding a cure or treatment for these diseases. With the conflict building between the predominantly Black and Latinx queer community of Spiral City and their police department, the serial killer plotline featuring Boaz isn’t as compelling even though it’s interesting that he probably gets away with his crimes because he’s disguised as a police officer. Barbalien: Red Planet #4 features a big moment in Barbalien’s life and also shows him struggling with his various identities: Martian, superhero, cop, and gay man. There is emotion and a darkness to Walta and Joride Bellaire’s visuals that is only broken up by the growing scope of the conflict as this mini goes into its final issue. Overall: 8.8 Verdict: Buy

Hollow Heart #1 (Vault)– Paul Allor and Paul Tucker turn in a pretty good slow burn queer romance between a cyborg El and his mechanic Mateo. Allor’s philosophical, at times tangential narration fleshes out the profound empathy that Mateo shows to people, and why he wants to set El free from the base that he’s at and would rather die than spend another day there. Tucker’s art is hit or miss for me with the opening pages being a little unclear to follow, and Allor’s dialogue setting up the context that El is running away. However, I love his color choices, especially the pink for El’s face, and the mood lighting at the bar where Mateo tries to build a rapport with a coworker and at an apartment where he tries to empathize with a hook up, but really only cares for El. Hollow Heart is definitely centered around their relationship, and Tucker builds it with glances between them while Allor adds precise dialogue to build their romance like El immediately starting to speak when Mateo says he respects him. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Once and Future #16 (BOOM!)– Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain return to the Brexit-y, Grail myth trappings of the early issues of Once and Future in this action-packed middle chapter. With Bridgette and Duncan holed up and stuck between the proverbial fire and frying pan (Lancelot and a dragon), the walls between myth and the real world are dangerously thin. There is just as much political conniving and maneuvering as gun and sword play in Once and Future #16, and Mora and Bonvillain are game for either kind of scene going for big reaction shots and even bigger bursts of colors any time Lancelot or Merlin do their thing. By the time the final page rolls around, our main cast seems to be totally screwed, and Dan Mora has fun on a “redesign” of a previous antagonist that we thought was a protagonist. Once and Future continues to be one of Gillen’s more setpiece and plot driven comics, but issue 16 shows that this book still has a bit of a bite with its comment on British nationalism, government bureaucracies, and the ability to twist stories to one’s end. (See what white supremacists have done with Thor’s hammer and Odin’s symbols.) Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Second Coming: Only Begotten Son #2 (Ahoy!)– Mark Russell and artists Richard Pace, Leonard Kirk, and Andy Troy satirize the commercialization of Christianity by evangelicals, prosperity preachers, televangelists etc in Second Coming: Only Begotten Son #2. On a hunt for more disciples, Jesus rolls up up to Bible Safari that instantly brought flashbacks of places like the Creation Museum, Ark Experience, and even church fairs/events as these ancient writings lose context and meaning to make a buck. Pace channels his inner Sienkiewicz and uses a scratchy style for the waves of people at Bible Safari and nails the depersonalization of 21st century life and being a statistic in a mega church. However, Second Coming #2 isn’t all satire and irony, but Russell throws in a touching B-plot that becomes an A-plot as Jesus just *connects* with a man attempting suicide on a bridge aka the polar opposite of the televangelist company he called earlier. I like this book when it’s being sharp, but I love it when it’s being sweet and humanist. (In the nice chaplain at my university sense, not the Bill Maher one.) Overall: 9.2 Verdict: Buy

Cable #8 (Marvel)– With the exception of some gorgeous art and colors from Phil Noto and witty banter from Cable and Domino via Gerry Duggan’s dialogue, Cable #8 is really a confusing mess of clones, time travelers, timelines, and Stryfes. Annoyingly enough, it starts like Armageddon with Domino narrating and comparing her powers to asteroids hitting each other. There’s some charm to the Tokyo setting as Domino and Cable enjoy gyoza at a Space-Knight themed eatery, and Noto’s fight choreography is sharp and fun on an aesthetic level. However, there’s no deeper level or reason to care about these characters beyond the “pew pew” of it all as Cable fights copies of himself and has a crisis about his place on the timeline. Maybe, if I read more X-comics from the 1990s, I would get it. Domino’s charisma, and Phil Noto’s portrayal of her powers keep this one from being a total stinker, but it’s still a pass from me. Overall: 5.6 Verdict: Pass

Marauders #18 (Marvel)– Gerry Duggan, Matteo Lolli, and Stefano Casselli show Krakoan foreign policy in action in Marauders #18 as the team buys up property and opens a free clinic in Madripoor to fight back the gentrification of the Homines Verendi. Iceman, Bishop, and Pyro take center stage with some key guest appearances from Professor X, Magneto, and (!!) Proteus, who shows that this clinic is named after his mother Moira MacTaggart. (This is a bit of a tie-in to Powers of X, and I’m curious to see how it’s explored down the road.) However, the real action in Marauders #18 comes from a new take on the Reavers, who are humans that have been maimed by characters like Iceman and Gorgon and are fitted with upgrades to take their revenge. The Reavers combined with the Marauders not being so stealthy puts pressure on the team and shows some consequences to Krakoa’s well-intentioned saber rattling. After the Shaw storyline, Duggan and steady artists Lolli and Casselli are really on a role combining political allegory and superhero team-up action in Marauders. However, Bishop joking about “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” was in very poor taste even if it is one panel in the midst of many. Overall: 8.6 Verdict: Bu

Brett

Batman/Catwoman #3 (DC Comics) – An improved issue for me. The narrative is a bit clearer as to the timelines and there’s a hell of a lot of tension throughout the issue. The art is solid though there seems to be a bit of a focus on Catwoman’s ass throughout. A much better issue than the first two and I’m finally interested in seeing where the series goes. Overall Rating: 7.95 Recommendation: Read

Future State: Catwoman #2 (DC Comics) – DC has been running on full cylinders with Batman’s corner of Future State. In this series we see how a captured Bruce/Batman was freed and talks of the Resistance against the Magistrate. It’s a sliver of the bigger picture and works so well building the world. These two issues deliver solid action with Catwoman on a mission to steal from a train and it works so well. The art is top notch showing off the action and creating a fantastic flow that’s befitting a train heist. DC has nailed this pocket universe and every series and issue involved has been a piece of the puzzle creating a hell of a picture. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Future State: Nightwing #2 (DC Comics) – A nice action comic that’s a bit more than one long fight sequence. There’s some interesting bits about technology and the use of media to wage wars and battles. Again, as a piece of the larger story about a Future Gotham, it’s a great piece of the puzzle. There’s some fantastic moments that really hit a solid beat with the art just nailing the action. Overall Rating: 7.75 Recommendation: Read

Future State: Shazam! #2 (DC Comics) – I really like the concept of the comic’s two issues. But, it takes a bit too long before things come together. The ending also is a bit shrug unless you really know the character, which I don’t. The art is solid though I’d like to have seen a little bit more torture in Shazam over what’s going on. A not bad issue that’s so close to being great. Overall Rating: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Future State: Superman: Worlds of War #2 (DC Comics) – The main Superman story has a nice poetic aspect to it with some fantastic art. There’s a Spartacus/World War Hulk vibe about it but the comic makes a fantastic case for Superman’s position and what he’s up to and why. The trio of other stories are a bit mixed. Featuring Mister Miracle, Midnighter, and a new Black Racer, each story has some good and bad about it. They all feel setups for things to come though never giving a complete feel to them. They feel like preludes to something else instead of self-contained stories which feels odd for a self-contained event like this. Still, each is entertaining. The issue as a whole is pretty solid and does a decent job of crafting a “world” revolving around Superman. Overall Rating: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #2 (IDW Publishing) – The issue is fantastic like the debut. There’s a lot of history laid out here as we get a better sense of the world and what happened to the Turtles. There’s a hell of a lot of tragedy to it that matches the action. This is a must for TMNT fans and those that love stories like The Dark Knight. Overall Rating: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Logan’s Favorite Comics of 2020

2020 definitely felt like a year where I embraced comics in all their different formats and genres from the convenient, satisfying graphic novella to the series of loosely connected and curated one shots and even the door stopper of an omnibus/hardcover or that charming webcomic that comes out one or twice a week on Instagram. This was partially due to the Covid-19 pandemic that shut down comics’ traditional direct market for a bit so I started reviewing webcomics, trade paperbacks, graphic novels and nonfiction even after this supply chain re-opened. I also co-hosted and edited two seasons of a podcast about indie comics where we basically read either a trade every week for discussion, and that definitely meant spending more time with that format. However, floppy fans should still be happy because I do have a traditional ongoing series on my list as well as some minis.

Without further ado, here are my favorite comics of 2020.

Marvels Snapshots: X-Men #1 – But Why Tho? A Geek Community

10. Marvels Snapshots (Marvel)

Curated by original Marvels writer Kurt Busiek and with cover art by original Marvels artist Alex Ross, Marvels Snapshots collects seven perspectives on on the “major” events of the Marvel Universe from the perspectives of ordinary people from The Golden Age of the 1940s to 2006’s Civil War. It’s cool to get a more character-driven and human POV on the ol’ corporate IP toy box from Alan Brennert and Jerry Ordway exploring Namor the Submariner’s PTSD to Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, and Benjamin Dewey showing the real reason behind Johnny Storm’s airhead celebrity act. There’s also Mark Russell and Ramon Perez’s take on the classic Captain America “Madbomb” storyline, Barbara Kesel’s and Staz Johnson’s sweet, Bronze Age-era romance between two first responders as the Avengers battle a threat against the city, and Saladin Ahmed and Ryan Kelly add nuance to the superhuman Civil War by showing how the Registration Act affects a Cape-Killer agent as well as a young elemental protector of Toledo, Ohio, who just wants to help his community and do things like purify water. However, the main reason Marvels Snapshots made my “favorite” list was Jay Edidin and Tom Reilly‘s character-defining work showing the pre-X-Men life of Cyclops as he struggles with orphan life, is inspired by heroes like Reed Richards, and lays the groundwork for the strategist, leader, and even revolutionary that appears in later comics.

9. Fangs (Tapas)

Fangs is cartoonist Sarah Andersen’s entry into the Gothic romance genre and was a light, funny, and occasionally sexy series that got me through a difficult year. Simply put, it follows the relationship of a vampire named Elsie and a werewolf named Jimmy, both how they met and their life together. Andersen plays with vampire and werewolf fiction tropes and sets up humorous situations like a date night featuring a bloody rare steak and a glass of blood instead of wine, Jimmy having an unspoken animosity against mail carriers, and just generally working around things like lycanthropy every 28 days and an aversion to sunlight. As well as being hilarious and cute, Fangs shows Sarah Andersen leveling up as an artist as she works with deep blacks, different eye shapes and textures, and more detailed backgrounds to match the tone of her story while not skimping on the relatable content that made Sarah’s Scribbles an online phenomenon.

8. Heavy #1-3 (Vault)

I really got into Vault Comics this year. (I retroactively make These Savage Shores my favorite comic of 2019.) As far as prose, I mainly read SF, and Vault nicely fills that niche in the comics landscape and features talented, idiosyncratic creative teams. Heavy is no exception as Max Bemis, Eryk Donovan, and Cris Peter tell the story of Bill, who was gunned down by some mobsters, and now is separated from his wife in a place called “The Wait” where he has to set right enough multiversal wrongs via violence to be reunited with her in Heaven. This series is a glorious grab bag of hyperviolence, psychological examinations of toxic masculinity, and moral philosophy. Heavy also has a filthy and non-heteronormative sense of humor. Donovan and Peter bring a high level of chaotic energy to the book’s visuals and are game for both tenderhearted flashbacks as well as brawls with literal cum monsters. In addition to all this, Bemis and Donovan aren’t afraid to play with and deconstruct their series’ premise, which is what makes Heavy my ongoing monthly comic.

Amazon.com: Maids eBook: Skelly, Katie, Skelly, Katie: Kindle Store

7. Maids (Fantagraphics)

Writer/artist Katie Skelly puts her own spin on the true crime genre in Maids, a highly stylized account of Christine and Lea Papin murdering their employers in France during the 1930s. Skelly’s linework and eye popping colors expertly convey the trauma and isolation that the Papins go through as they are at the beck and call of the family they work almost 24/7. Flashbacks add depth and context to Christine and Lea’s characters and provide fuel to the fire of the class warfare that they end up engaging in. Skelly’s simple, yet iconic approach character design really allowed me to connect with the Papins and empathize with them during the build-up from a new job to murder and mayhem. Maids is truly a showcase for a gifted cartoonist and not just a summary of historical events.

6. Grind Like A Girl (Gumroad/Instagram)

In her webcomic Grind Like A Girl, cartoonist Veronica Casson tells the story of growing up trans in 1990s New Jersey. The memoir recently came to a beautiful conclusion with Casson showing her first forays into New York, meeting other trans women, and finding a sense of community with them that was almost the polar opposite of her experiences in high school. I’ve really enjoyed seeing the evolution of Veronica Casson’s art style during different periods of her life from an almost Peanuts vibe for her childhood to using more flowing lines, bright colors, and ambitious panel layouts as an older teen and finally an adult. She also does a good job using the Instagram platform to give readers a true “guided view” experience and point out certain details before putting it all together in a single page so one can appreciate the comic at both a macro/micro levels. All in all, Grind Like A Girl is a personal and stylish coming of age memoir from Veronica Casson, and I look forward to seeing more of her work.

5. Papaya Salad (Dark Horse)

Thai/Italian cartoonist Elisa Macellari tells an unconventional World War II story in Papaya Salad, a recently translated history comic about her great uncle Sompong, who just wanted to see the world. However, he ended up serving with the Thai diplomatic corps in Italy, Germany, and Austria during World War II. Macellari uses a recipe for her great uncle’s favorite dish, papaya salad, to structure the comic, and her work has a warm, dreamlike quality to go with the reality of the places that Sampong visits and works at. Also, it’s very refreshing to get a non-American or British perspective on this time in history as Sampong grapples with the shifting status of Thailand during the war as well as the racism of American soldiers, who celebrate the atomic bomb and lump him and his colleagues with the Japanese officers, and are not shown in a very positive light. However, deep down, Papaya Salad is a love story filled with small human moments that make life worth living, like appetizing meals, jokes during dark times, and faith in something beyond ourselves. It’s a real showcase of the comics medium’s ability to tell stories from a unique point of view.

4. Pulp (Image)

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (with colorist Jacob Phillips) are two creators whose work has graced my “favorite comics” list many times. And this time they really outdid themselves with the graphic novella Pulp about the final days of Max Winters, a gunslinger-turned-Western dime novelist. It’s a character study peppered with flashbacks as Phillips and Phillips use changes in body posture and color palette to show Max getting older while his passion for resisting those who would exploit others is still intact. Basically, he can shoot and rob fascists just like he shot and robbed cattle barons back in the day. Brubaker and Phillips understand that genre fiction doesn’t exist in a vacuum and is informed by the historical context around it, which is what makes Pulp such a compelling read. If you like your explorations of the banality of evil and creeping specter of fascism with heists, gun battles, and plenty of introspection, then this is the comic for you.

3. My Riot (Oni Press)

Music is my next favorite interest after comics so My Riot was an easy pick for my favorite comics list. The book is a coming of age story filtered through 1990s riot girl music from writer Rick Spears and artist Emmett Helen. It follows the life of Valerie, who goes from doing ballet and living a fairly conservative suburban life to being the frontwoman and songwriter for a cult riot girl band. Much of this transformation happens through Helen’s art and colors as his palette comes to life just as Valerie does when she successfully calls out some audience members/her boyfriend for being sexist and patronizing. The comic itself also takes on a much more DIY quality with its layouts and storytelling design as well as how the characters look and act. My Riot is about the power of music to find one’s identify and true self and build a community like The Proper Ladies do throughout the book. Valerie’s arc is definitely empowering and relatable for any queer kid, who was forced to conform to way of life and thinking that wasn’t their own.

2. Getting It Together #1-3 (Image)

I’ll let you in on a little secret: slice of life is my all-time favorite comic book genre. So, I was overjoyed when writers Sina Grace and Omar Spahi, artist Jenny D. Fine, and colorist Mx. Struble announced that they were doing a monthly slice of life comic about a brother, sister, and their best friend/ex-boyfriend (respectively) set in San Francisco that also touched on the gay and indie music scene. And Getting It Together definitely has lifted up to my pre-release hype as Grace and Spahi have fleshed out a complex web of relationships and drama with gorgeous and occasionally hilarious art by Fine and Struble. There are gay and bisexual characters all over the book with different personalities and approaches to life, dating, and relationships, which is refreshing too. Grace, Spahi, and Fine also take some time away from the drama to let us know about the ensemble cast’s passions and struggles like indie musician Lauren’s lifelong love for songwriting even if her band has a joke name (Nipslip), or her ex-boyfriend Sam’s issues with mental health. I would definitely love to spend more than four issues with these folks.

1. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott (Avery Hill)

My favorite comic of 2020 was The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott , a debut graphic novel by cartoonist Zoe Thorogood. The premise of the comic is that Billie is an artist who is going blind in two weeks, and she must come up with some paintings for her debut gallery show during that time period. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott boasts an adorably idiosyncratic cast of characters that Thorogood lovingly brings to life with warm visuals and naturalistic dialogue as Billie goes from making art alone in her room to making connections with the people around her, especially Rachel, a passionate folk punk musician. The book also acts as a powerful advocate for the inspirational quality of art and the act of creation. Zoe Thorogood even creates “art within the art” and concludes the story with the different portraits that Billie painted throughout her travels. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott was the hopeful comic that I needed in a dark year and one I will cherish for quite some time as I ooh and aah over Thorogood’s skill with everything from drawing different hair styles to crafting horrific dream sequences featuring eyeballs.

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