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Review: The Wicked + the Divine #41

The Wicked + the Divine #41

Beginning with Laura’s exciting escape from Baal’s attempted “sacrifice” at the O2 Arena and filled with rescues, big plans, and emotional reunions, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson construct The Wicked + the Divine #41 like both an exciting thriller and a love letter to the fans. And Gillen lines up so many great character development moments like a skilled pool player setting up his shots and then sinking them before concluding the game with a (freaky) eight ball of a final page.

Before digging into the big plot point, WicDiv #41 tonally is an exciting book. There are explosions gamely colored by Wilson to go with McKelvie’s big panel compositions and great sense of movement in the first five pages. Even though her Pantheon powers aren’t at 100%, Laura is straining herself to save the Norns and the talking heads and make sure Baal’s sacrifice and Minerva/Ananke’s master plan doesn’t come to fruition. She herself has a plan, it’s a little crazy, and honestly, she pulls it off for the most part in this issue.

Honestly, the highlight of WicDiv #41 is getting new Kieron Gillen penned dialogue for Luci, Inanna, and Tara in the present day. Luci’s first sentence is priceless, and Jamie McKelvie especially makes the Laura/Luci reunion memorable with a big time weak to go with Gillen’s caption box of guilt. Even though Luci was pretty messed up ethically, she, Inanna, and Tara were characters who died tragically, but represent a relatively more innocent time for WicDiv. For example, Inanna asks questions about Baal’s wellbeing because he is unaware he’s a masked murderer. Gillen has done a great job laying out the bread crumbs for these character’s return, and it pays off in this issue with the help of some great design choices from McKelvie and lyrical nine panel grids.

The nine panel grids in the Underground, which is where Laura, the Norns, and the heads of Mimir, Luci, Inanna, and Tara flee to are a wonderful visual representation of the conclusion to the romantic, doomed, and at times, abusive relationship between Baphomet and the late Morrigan. They allow for a bit of fearful symmetry when Baphomet makes his final goodbyes and also let the conversation between him and Laura about change and not being stuck in his past ways breathe a little bit.

Baphomet has grown as a person and character, and McKelvie has given him a wardrobe to match. He’s gone from douche Goth to pensive, perceptive Goth, or from young Nick Cave to slightly older Nick Cave as Gillen puts it in the backmatter. Baphomet doesn’t have to consumed by Morrigan making him a god, or sacrificing herself to resurrect him in the previous. He can move on and devote his energies to more productive things like rallying an army of talking heads to fight Minerva/Ananke.

WicDiv #41 is a sterling example of how pleasurable a story pay-off in the final arc of a comic can be. Forget guns, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson have put all kinds of kooky items on their proverbial story wall, and now they’re starting to go off. The machine plotline, the heads, and even Baphomet’s moping and conflicts with Morrigan in the previous all flow into the bigger picture and makes for rewarding reading. This is along with all the character reunions, Laura becoming a kind of hero, and Urdr being hopeful for once.

However, this hope could all die in a moment. But, at least, we got to hear from Luci and Inanna (And fucking Tara!) before the end so be sure to drop the needle or hit the play button on a Bowie or Prince album while reading this comic.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.3  Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Conan the Barbarian #2

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #2

Conan finds himself beyond the Black River, surrounded by the warlike PICTS! But the tribesmen may be the least of his worries if he cannot fight his way through the demonic beasts slithering around the forest!

If you expected a continuation of the first issue, then you might be disappointed. Conan the Barbarian #2 has our favorite barbarian on a mission to destroy the Picts but is recruited by them to deal with an infestation of giant venomous snakes.

Write Jason Aaron has delivered a fascinating second issue that doesn’t continue the first issue’s plotline as much as look into the nature of Conan himself. It’s an issue that adds some depth to a character who can be summed up by fighting, booze, and women. We see him grow in the issue and we can also now see how he went from a loner to a King. It’s a character focused issue… it also has a lot of battle and Conan chopping things up.

The art by Mahmud Asrar with colors by Matthew Wilson, and lettering by Travis Lanham is fantastic. Not only is this setting so different than the previous issue, a jungle versus city and crypt, but everything tells a bit of a story. We learn so much about the Picts by what’s shown as opposed to told. We can guess what their community and people are like. The battles, full of chaos and destruction, are still easy to follow with gore flowing everywhere. It’s just fantastic to look at as well as read.

The issue is a fascinating one as it deviates from the first issue. It takes us on a new adventure giving us a bit more about who Conan is and what his beliefs are. We see growth in a character, some leadership that’s not as present in that first issue. Aaron is giving us not just the story about Conan’s death but also how he got from point a, the loner barbarian, to point z, the King.

This is a perfect example of how to craft a standalone story that also ties into the greater meta story that’s being told at the same time.

This series so far is excellent delivering so much in each issue. Not only are there suggestions about what books to read for more about the Picts but the issue continues the prose story “Black Starlight” by John C. Hocking. The series celebrates the character’s origins.

Another great issue in what is becoming one of the best series out there. Fantastic storytelling and fantastic art and bonus prose combine for something that stands out from the crowd.

Story: Jason Aaron, John C. Hocking Art: Mahmud Asrar
Color: Matthew Wilson Letterer: Travis Lanham
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

War of the Realms #2: The World at War!

The War of the Realms has come! All ten realms have fallen to Malekith and his army…except one!

Midgard still stands, but Earth is missing a pivotal Avenger – and trapped in the land of the Frost Giants, Thor’s absence may cost New York City everything! Meanwhile, all the heroes of the Marvel Universe have assembled to take on the fight…and it still might not be enough to stop Malekith’s endless war.

In War of the Realms #1, Malekith’s invasion starts in Manhattan, but he doesn’t just want to conquer part of Earth — he wants the whole realm! The heroes will have a hard enough time just defending New York from Malekith’s forces — but when they realize the full scope of his attack in April’s War of the Realms #2, they’ll have to make some daring and surprising moves in order to stop Malekith and his army of Frost Giants, Fire Goblins, Trolls and more from taking over the entire planet! And as with any war, this world at war will have some casualties…

This April, all hell will break loose as the award-winning creative team of Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson ushers in an event of unparalleled scale! Plus, don’t miss a special midnight release of War of the Realms #1 for retailers – be sure to check future Marvel mailers for details!

War of the Realms #2 is out April 17 with a cover by Arthur Adams and Matthew Wilson.

War of the Realms #2

Review: Conan the Barbarian #1

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #1

I was skeptical when Marvel announced they had reacquired the rights to publish comics based on Robert E Howard’s Cimmerian adventure. Conan is one of my favorite characters but Howard’s vision was a singular one and few creators have matched his best work let alone bettered it. Where else do you go after comics have adapted every good Conan story at least twice? How could new Conan comics be anything other than superfluous additions to a canon that didn’t need expansion?

Jason Aaron proves me wrong by approaching Conan in a way that is both original and familiar. Conan confronts the Crimson Witch, a supernatural foe bent on his destruction. It’s a thin plot but Aaron’s choice to set the story at two different points in Conan’s career elevates the material. The bulk of the action takes place when Conan is a teenage pit fighter, but fast forwards to his days as a middle-aged King. The change in perspective allows the reader to compare and contrast Conan’s attitudes towards life as a young man and an adult while giving us the fulfillment of a single issue story embedded within a longer, more complex story arc. There is also a promise implicit in the premier title: The Life and Death of Conan. I don’t imagine for a second that Marvel will kill off such a major property forever but I’m excited to watch the comic book death and resurrection narrative play out with Conan at its center.

Mahmud Asrar was the right artist to pair with Aaron’s bracing script. His line work is adept at capturing the brutality and sensuality of the Hyborian age, aided by Matthew Wilson’s palette of muted earth tones and brilliant reds. Letterer Travis Lanham’s copy is as easy to read as it is inconspicuous. This is an excellent comic, crafted by creators working at the peak of their skills. Any fan of Conan or Howard will find something here to love. The character’s long history should not intimidate new readers; they summarize everything you need to know out on the first two  pages. Conan the Barbarian is one of the best fantasy comic debuts in years.

It’s not a perfect book, however. The problem lies in context. The new Conan is a throwback to the days when Roy Thomas, Barry Smith and John Buscema first translated Howard’s work from pulp fiction to sequential art. There’s nothing wrong with that but I can’t help think Comics Gate will be happy to see such a work of apolitical adventure fiction dominating sales charts. Conan himself is too close to their ideal: a blue-eyed juggernaut who takes what he wants be it wine, women or the right to rule a nation by main strength. While there is nothing as offensive as racist caricatures or sexual violence here, there is also nothing to refute their presence elsewhere in the saga. It’s an uncritical appreciation of Howard’s work with no acknowledgement of its more problematic elements. I hope Aaron and company delve deeper in future installment because it would be a shame to see a comic with this much promise turn out to be just another pale pastiche.

Story: Jason Aaron Art: Mahmud Asrar 
Colors: Matthew Wilson Letters: Travis Lanham
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for the purposes of this review but I went ahead and bought one anyway. 

Conan the Babarian’s First Two Issues Get Second Printings!

Know, oh prince, that in the year 2019, the first two issues of Conan the Babarian have gone back to print with Conan the Babarian #2 selling out at Diamond before hitting stores! The world has spoken, and acclaim for the sword-slashing hero’s return to Marvel is triumphant!

With Mahmud Asrar’s tantalizing art, Matthew Wilson’s sensational colors, and Esad Ribić’s stunning covers, and the start of Jason Aaron’s epic tale, Conan the Babarian is a debut you will not want to miss.

You can read our review of the first issue.

Conan the Barbarian #1 2nd Printing

Review: Conan the Barbarian #1

Robert E. Howard‘s Conan the Barbarian is back at Marvel and the first issue of his new sword and sorcery adventures are being brought to us by Jason Aaron, Mahmud Asrar, Matthew Wilson, and Travis Lanham.

Get your copy in comic shops on January 2nd! To find a comic shop near you, visit www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

Amazon/comiXology/Kindle
TFAW

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies for review
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Review: Conan the Barbarian #1

Conan the Barbarian #1

From an age undreamed…hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet…

Conan’s travels have brought him to the far reaches of the unkown, from his birthplace in Cimmeria to the kingdom of Aquilonia and all in between. As his fighting prowess allows him to carve his way through life, so too does it attract the forces of death!

Conan has returned to Marvel with Jason Aaron in the driver seat as the writer. Aaron has proven himself a leader in the sword and sorcery genre of storytelling with his epic run on Thor and he brings that talent to Conan the Barbarian #1.

With an expected literary device of using the past and present to weave the tale, this debut is a solid start to Robert E. Howard’s classic creation. The first few pages honor what has come before with an amazing two page spread bringing together art from across the comic ages of Conan. It’s a simple nod to remember what has come before and honor the creators who got the character to this point.

I myself and not the biggest fan of the character. I enjoy Schwarzenegger’s films and have read a bit of what was released by Dark Horse but the books and Marvel’s original works are something that never appealed to me, as I’m not much of a sword and sorcery fan. But, this first might change that as Aaron puts together a story that feels like an epic poem of someone’s adventures and conquests. His narrative doesn’t just embrace what and who Conan is but also feels like it honors the classic storytelling that was used to pass on the adventures of such characters in the past.

Aaron is helped by the art by Mahmud Asrar, color by Matthew Wilson, and lettering by Travis Lanham. The trio deliver an art style that nails the action and settings with just enough gore, grime, bones, and blood. The action is brutal and begs you to look at the details of which each small one tells a story and adds to the world.

Like the story, the art is solid though nothing groundbreaking. Conan the Barbarian #1 is just a really good comic that does everything well. The story flows with lots of action, the issue sets up the first arc really well with interesting framing, and most importantly, it left me wanting more. This is a really good debut that brings the classic character back to Marvel and into the hands of a creative team you can tell loves the character and world.

Beyond the comic, we’re also treated to the first of a twelve part prose story by John C. Hocking, the “Black Starlight.” It’s a solid reminder of the prose origin of the character. The story is great and feels like a bonus for the comic itself. It’s the cherry on top of an already solid read.

Conan the Barbarian #1 is a fantastic start to the new year and hopefully a hint as to the overflowing entertaining comics we’ll be spoiled with in 2019.

Story: Jason Aaron Prose: John C. Hocking Art: Mahmud Asrar
Color: Matthew Wilson Letterer: Travis Lanham
Cover: Esad Ribic
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

The World at War! Marvel Releases a Teaser Trailer for The War of the Realms

The War of the Realms has made Earth its battlefield! This April, one of the largest conflicts to engulf the Marvel Universe erupts in The War of the Realms – a new, epic crossover event from the award-winning creative team of Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson, with covers by the legendary Arthur Adams! Marvel’s 2019 war-to-end-all wars must enlist every great Marvel Hero to save Earth…and beyond!

Marvel has released a teaser trailer for the event featuring Jason Aaron and editor Wil Moss, complete with the first look at issue #1’s cover from Arthur Adams!

Not since Secret Wars has a comic event had such far-reaching consequences for the Marvel Universe – be there when THE WAR OF THE REALMS starts this April!

Marvel Teases the War of the Realms with the Runes of the Realms

For six years now in my run on THOR, I’ve been using Malekith’s war to explore the different realms that are strung along the World Tree. We’ve been to each and every one of them and seen how the people there have been touched by this war to end all wars. Now, as the war finally comes to the last realm standing, Midgard, where the heroes of Earth are waiting, those other realms will still have a pivotal part to play. Whether for good or ill remains to be seen…

– Jason Aaron

The War of the Realms begins April 2019 by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson.

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