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Review: Empyre: Captain America #2

Empyre: Captain America #2
Empyre: Captain America #2

Phillip Kennedy Johnson gave his Captain America Empyre tie-in one of the toughest parts of any global conflict to deal with: American military policy. Ol’ Cap had his hands full in issue one trying to convince high ranking officers of providing support to the other countries of the world also fighting the Cotati. America refused, even when told they could inspire international allyship. Empyre: Captain America #2 is an exploration of that decision’s consequences.

Illustrated by Ariel Olivetti, Empyre: Captain America #2 continues to keep the bar high as a tie-in comic. It’s a great example of what these types of comics should be: short incursions into the event that can result in some fun worldbuilding mechanics. To use a music metaphor, good tie-in books can be rip-roaring guitar solos to the hit song that is the event. Johnson and Olivetti’s Empyre book is precisely that.

What makes this comic an essential read within the larger event is that its discussion on the politics of war on Earth feel epic and high stakes. Should Captain America fail at bringing together the international community to fight the Cotati as a singular force, Earth will have its hands full with an enemy that will never fall to the efforts of an individual country.

Captain America makes this point throughout. He speaks to soldiers and world leaders on the dangers of putting too much weight on heroics and not enough on the soldiers and people that are involved in every aspect of war. In one particular instance, Captain America tells a story about a Nazi ambush during World War II that incapacitated him and forced his fellow brothers in arms to take lead and salvage what they could out of the situation. Half of those soldiers died so that Captain America could live.

Empyre: Captain America #2

These types of stories help explain the comic’s focus on military action and how it can be used for good. It also falls in line with Empyre’s main story, where we see the idea of heroism clashing with the idea of practicality. Should heroes put their lives on the line when a less dangerous approach exists? What does this say about war? What should we be asking of soldiers when faced with the extreme realities of combat?

Olivetti’s art does an amazing job of showing the Cotati as a lethal invading force that is undoubtedly alien but also eerily similar to Earth’s vegetation. If the story were about our own vegetation rising up and trying to eradicate humanity, it would still work. The Cotati can infect humans with living seeds that turn them into Cotati themselves. For these sequences, Olivetti takes a very gruesome body horror approach that adds to the lethality of the invaders.

Empyre: Captain America #2 is an impressive exploration of the Cotati invasion and its forays into military policy basically hold up a mirror to America’s Army and how it could be doing more than it usually does.

Story: Phillip Kennedy Johnson Art: Ariel Olivetti
Color: Rachelle Rosenberg Letterer: Ariana Maher
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0
Recommendation: It’s Captain America. Why wouldn’t you buy it?

Review: Star Wars Doctor Aphra #1

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #1

The new volume of Star Wars: Doctor Aphra (Which received a surprise digital release on Star Wars Day) combines the worlds of space adventure and academia into one entertaining package. The elevator pitch for Doctor Aphra is that she is Indiana Jones in space, but a queer woman of color. She also has a more dubious moral compass than Dr. Jones and is one of the best additions to the Star Wars canon since Marvel took over their comics license.

Alyssa Wong, Marika Cresta, and Rachelle Rosenberg do right by Aphra and focus on the archaeological side of her character as she teams up with a pair of female archaeologists to find the Rings of Vaale, which have great power, are cursed, and may not even exist. There’s an also an undercurrent of the conflict between intellectual curiosity and unbridled wealth in the comic’s antagonist, Tagge, a spoiled rich kid that thinks he can buy anything or anyone even an ex-tenured archaeology professor. But Doctor Aphra #1 isn’t all serious stuff. There’s also a healthy dose of gun play and intrigue to make the comic an even more enjoyable experience.

I haven’t read a Doctor Aphra comic since Kieron Gillen, her co-creator, left her solo title, but an action-packed cold open drew me into the story before the title page. Seeing Aphra in a snowtrooper disguise pulling double-crosses at Echo Base during the conclusion of the Battle of Hoth is pure fun and grounds the narrative in a time where the Empire thinks it has the Rebel Alliance on the ropes. Visually, Cresta and Rosenberg contribute smooth artwork to go with Wong’s quips, and it’s easy to follow every blaster bolt or sniper shot as well as surprise AT-AT’s. (It’s Hoth, what do you expect.)

In a bigger storytelling picture, Alyssa Wong and Marika Cresta resist the temptation to decompress and pad out scenes in Doctor Aphra #1. They provide the “great hits” of an action sequence, focusing on the coolest or most impactful moment like spending a single panel on Aphra and her crew’s flight from Hoth (Complete with speed lines.) after they spot the aforementioned AT-AT’s.

This economy of narrative extends to the quieter scenes too with Aphra, her former colleague Eustacia Okka, and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed grad student/fangirl Detta Yao laying out their character motivations and agreeing to team up to go after the Rings of Vaale in a single page. Aphra wants money, Eustacia wants her faculty position back, and Detta wants to write her dissertation and also has a kind of true believer connection to the Rings. Marika Cresta’s art is really what sells this pivotal page as she portrays Aphra as a pragmatist and poker player maneuvering to the side while she draws Detta with more open body language.

Alyssa Wong has done an excellent job crafting a core for these characters to build on throughout the series. This goes along with their distinct quirks like Aphra’s flexible approach to morality, Detta’s idealistic approach to the field of archaeology and academia in general, and Eustacia having a “TA” droid, which is this comic’s best joke. They are characters that I can really root for to accomplish their career goals and find the Rings, which will make their inevitable betrayal or moral compromise that much more painful. (This is usually the end result of running with Aphra; that or bumping into a certain Sith apprentice.)

Doctor Aphra #1 has all the hallmarks of a good Star Wars Expanded Universe story as it uses this rich world to tell an adventure story bursting with fun art from Marika Cresta and Rachelle Rosenberg and characters that are easy to connect to. Alyssa Wong also touches on deeper themes like faith and doubt and the connection between money and the academy. Fingers crossed that we see what an Outer Rim university tenure board review is like.

Story: Alyssa Wong Art: Marika Cresta
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg Letters: Joe Caramagna
Story: 8.2 Art: 7.8 Overall: 8.0  Recommendation: Buy


Purchase: comiXologyAmazonKindleTFAWZeus Comics

Review: Star Wars Doctor Aphra #1

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #1

The new volume of Star Wars: Doctor Aphra (Which received a surprise digital release on Star Wars Day) combines the worlds of space adventure and academia into one entertaining package. The elevator pitch for Doctor Aphra is that she is Indiana Jones in space, but a queer woman of color. She also has a more dubious moral compass than Dr. Jones and is one of the best additions to the Star Wars canon since Marvel took over their comics license.

Alyssa Wong, Marika Cresta, and Rachelle Rosenberg do right by Aphra and focus on the archaeological side of her character as she teams up with a pair of female archaeologists to find the Rings of Vaale, which have great power, are cursed, and may not even exist. There’s an also an undercurrent of the conflict between intellectual curiosity and unbridled wealth in the comic’s antagonist, Tagge, a spoiled rich kid that thinks he can buy anything or anyone even an ex-tenured archaeology professor. But Doctor Aphra #1 isn’t all serious stuff. There’s also a healthy dose of gun play and intrigue to make the comic an even more enjoyable experience.

I haven’t read a Doctor Aphra comic since Kieron Gillen, her co-creator, left her solo title, but an action-packed cold open drew me into the story before the title page. Seeing Aphra in a snowtrooper disguise pulling double-crosses at Echo Base during the conclusion of the Battle of Hoth is pure fun and grounds the narrative in a time where the Empire thinks it has the Rebel Alliance on the ropes. Visually, Cresta and Rosenberg contribute smooth artwork to go with Wong’s quips, and it’s easy to follow every blaster bolt or sniper shot as well as surprise AT-AT’s. (It’s Hoth, what do you expect.)

In a bigger storytelling picture, Alyssa Wong and Marika Cresta resist the temptation to decompress and pad out scenes in Doctor Aphra #1. They provide the “great hits” of an action sequence, focusing on the coolest or most impactful moment like spending a single panel on Aphra and her crew’s flight from Hoth (Complete with speed lines.) after they spot the aforementioned AT-AT’s.

This economy of narrative extends to the quieter scenes too with Aphra, her former colleague Eustacia Okka, and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed grad student/fangirl Detta Yao laying out their character motivations and agreeing to team up to go after the Rings of Vaale in a single page. Aphra wants money, Eustacia wants her faculty position back, and Detta wants to write her dissertation and also has a kind of true believer connection to the Rings. Marika Cresta’s art is really what sells this pivotal page as she portrays Aphra as a pragmatist and poker player maneuvering to the side while she draws Detta with more open body language.

Alyssa Wong has done an excellent job crafting a core for these characters to build on throughout the series. This goes along with their distinct quirks like Aphra’s flexible approach to morality, Detta’s idealistic approach to the field of archaeology and academia in general, and Eustacia having a “TA” droid, which is this comic’s best joke. They are characters that I can really root for to accomplish their career goals and find the Rings, which will make their inevitable betrayal or moral compromise that much more painful. (This is usually the end result of running with Aphra; that or bumping into a certain Sith apprentice.)

Doctor Aphra #1 has all the hallmarks of a good Star Wars Expanded Universe story as it uses this rich world to tell an adventure story bursting with fun art from Marika Cresta and Rachelle Rosenberg and characters that are easy to connect to. Alyssa Wong also touches on deeper themes like faith and doubt and the connection between money and the academy. Fingers crossed that we see what an Outer Rim university tenure board review is like.

Story: Alyssa Wong Art: Marika Cresta
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg Letters: Joe Caramagna
Story: 8.2 Art: 7.8 Overall: 8.0  Recommendation: Buy

Spy Island #1 Sells Out Before Its April Release

Spy Island #1, the Bermuda Triangle spy-mystery miniseries from the Eisner-nominated team Chelsea Cain, Lia Miternique, Elise McCall, Rachelle Rosenberg, and Joe Caramagna sells out ahead of its on-sale date. Dark Horse Comics has announced a second printing, featuring an all-new cover by co-creator Lia Miternique.

The highly anticipated dark-humored espionage-adventure is told from the point of view of wry super spy Nora Freud, and takes place on a tropical island where surfers are more likely to be attacked by mermaids than by sharks, and cheap super villains take advantage of the deep discounts during the off-season.

Spy Island #1 arrives in your local comic shop April 1, 2020 featuring a main cover and variant cover by Lia Miternique. Dark Horse Comics will publish the new, second printing variant of issue 1, featuring an all new cover by Lia Miternique on April 8th, in order to meet the high demand from comic book stores and readers.

Spy Island #1

Review: Annihilation: Scourge

The Cancerverse has invaded the Negative Zone and Earth’s heroes must gather to stop the spread before it breaks into their own universe.

Annihilation: Scourge collects Annihilation: Scourge Alpha, Fantastic Four, Nova, Silver Surfer, Beta Ray Bill, and Omega.

Story: Matthew Rosenberg, Michael Moreci, Christos Gage, Dan Abnett
Art: Juanan Ramirez, Cian Tomey, Ibraim Roberson, Alberto Albuquerque, Diego Olortegui, Paul Davidson, Manuel Garcia
Color: Federico Blee, Carlos Lopez, Jay David Ramos, Erick Arciniega, Matt Milla, Rachelle Rosenberg
Ink: Juan Vlasco, Cam Smith, Scott Hanna
Letterer: Cory Petit, Joe Sabino, Travis Lanham, Clayton Cowles

Get your copy in comic shops now and bookstores on March 24! To find a comic shop near you, visit http://www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/39RJ8Ey
Kindle/comiXology: https://amzn.to/38Ns29i
TFAW: https://shrsl.com/25zrw
Zeus Comics: https://www.zeuscomics.com/products/69085/annihilation-scourge-tp?tag=graphicpolicy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site

Review: Marvel’s Spider-Man: Velocity

The Spider-Man video game saga continues! Why does Spider-Man’s Velocity Suit exist? Find out in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Velocity! Spider-Man must deal with a villain and a mystery as the Gamerverse story continues!

Story: Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum
Art: Emilion Laiso
Color: Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettering: Travis Lanham

Get your copy in comic shops now and bookstores on March 3! To find a comic shop near you, visit http://www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

Amazon
Kindle/comiXology
TFAW
Zeus Comics

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site

Review: Marvel’s Voices #1

Marvel's Voices #1

Marvel’s Voices is an Experience, capital E. It’s the first comic I know about that adapts the concept of a podcast into a comics anthology collecting stories from black creators giving their take on the Marvel universe.

The book’s title carries over from the podcast it’s based on, which is hosted by Angélique Roché. The list of creators includes Vita Ayala, Damion Scott, Kyle Baker, Brian Stelfreeze, Roxane Gay, Method Man, Alitha Martínez, among other notable industry names. What’s interesting about the project, though, is that it embraces its multimedia roots by featuring essays from other creators accessible via Marvel’s Voices online page.

Two particular essays grabbed my attention: Regine L. Sawyer’s “Growing Up Marvel” and Karama Horne’s “The Legacy of Isaiah Bradley: The First Black Captain America.” (Disclosure: Karama and Regine have both contributed to our site – ed.)

Sawyer’s essay is about her origin story into comics through a less conventional avenue than most other stories of the kind: X-Men trading cards. I don’t want to spoil the essay because it is a fascinating and well-written story, but it is wonderful to get this look at how comics allow for multiple entry points given it’s an entire cultural package. It made me remember my card collecting days growing up, both the same X-Men cards Sawyer collected and the classic Pepsi Cards I religiously hunted down back when they came out in Puerto Rico. I still have them with me and they also helped me embrace comics.

Horne’s essay is about two comics: Truth and The Crew. Each one stands as some of Marvel’s best comic book offerings. They were subversive and hard-hitting, daring enough to give Marvel a black Captain America (in Truth), complete with an exploration of the tragic treatment black heroes get using real-life black history as the basis for the problems each character faces (which is expanded upon in The Crew).

The essay is a great and concise history of these comics, but it also serves as a lesson on visibility. That Marvel hasn’t reprinted these stories or released newer editions of the paperbacks brings up more questions than it should. I think Horne’s essay makes a strong argument as to why we need these comics back on the stands.

On the comic’s side of Marvel’s Voices, we get a strong if a bit uneven set of short stories that are personal, celebratory, and thoughtful as to why Marvel characters mean so much in the struggle for more diverse voices in the industry. Kyle Baker, for instance, produced a one-pager Ant-Man and Nick Fury story titled “Perspective,” about Fury’s problem with depth perception. It’s a quick hit but the art on display here is impressive enough to make anyone want to see Baker do more Marvel work.

Geoffrey Thorne, Khary Randolph, and Emilio López’s “Top of the Key,” on the other hand, is a one-pager on Mosaic story (a character Marvel has severely underused, in my opinion) that would’ve benefited from an additional page or two. It feels more like a setup for a larger story and we only really just get a taste of it.

Rob Markman, Damion Scott, and Dono Sánchez-Almara’s “What a Wonderful World” stands as one of the most impressive stories in the anthology as it offers a well-rounded look at a Marvel character with outstanding art and a clear message to boot. It centers on a troubled Silver Surfer, comparing Marvel’s biggest villains with humanity’s own villainy when it comes to protecting the environment. No panel was spared, no color was misplaced, and no bit of text hung without intent. Just a really good two-page story.

The best story in the book is without question “Inspiration,” by James Monroe Iglehart, Ray-Anthony Height, and Emilio López. This 4-page tale gives the radioactive spider that gave Peter Parker his powers a much-deserved platform to contemplate his role in the grand scheme of things. The script showcases an interesting play on what a superpowered spider is supposed to be and how much of its natural instincts define its actions. It’s simply unforgettable and truly worthy of getting its own comic book series.

Marvel Voices #1 is the type of book Marvel needs to invest more on. It shows just how important it is to bring in other perspectives into this superhero universe and just how different it can all turn out to be. It speaks to the power of voices hungry for diversity in storytelling. And that, in itself, is a beautiful thing.

Writers: John Jennings, Anthony Piper, Luciano Vecchio, David Betancourt, James Monroe Iglehart, Evan Narcisse, Vita Ayala, Regine L. Sawyer, Brian Stelfreeze, Brandon Montclare, Tatiana King Jones, Karama Horne, Kyle Baker, Roxane Gay, Yona Harvey, Don McGregor, Geoffrey Thorne, Rob Markman, Method Man, Daniel Dominguez, Charlamagne The God, David F. Walker, Chuck Brown
Art: Anthony Piper, Luciano Vecchio, Ray-Anthony Height, Jahnoy Lindsay, Bernard Chang, Brian Stelfreeze, Natacha Bustos, Kyle Baker, Brittney L. Williams, Khary Randolph, Damion Scott, Alitha E. Martinez, JJ Kirby, Sanford Greene
Color: Anthony Piper, Luciano Vecchio, Emilio Lopez, Marcelo Maiolo, Brian Stelfreeze, Tamra Bonvillain, Kyle Baker, Rachelle Rosenberg, Dono Sánchez-Almara, JJ Kirby, Matt Herms
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Writing: 9 Essays: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10
Recommendation: Buy and make sure to bag and board it.

Review: Star Wars: Target Vader

Darth Vader is on the hunt for a criminal syndicate but he doesn’t know that same syndicate has hired a group of bounty hunters to take Vader out once and for all.

Star Wars: Target Vader collects #1-6.

Story: Robbie Thompson
Art: Marc Laming, Cris Bolson, Stefano Landini, Marco Failla, Robert Di Salvo, Georges Duarte
Color: Neeraj Menon, Rachelle Rosenberg, Jordan Boyd, Andres Mossa, Federico Blee, Erick Arciniega, Giada Marchisio
Lettering: Joe Caramagna, Clayton Cowles

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

Amazon
Kindle/comiXology
TFAW
Zeus Comics

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site

Review: Gwen Stacy #1

Gwen Stacy #1

Marvel has been having success lately with adding unknown history to its characters. Not retcons, these additions flesh out unknown moments and weave in this new revelation into modern storylines. Gwen Stacy #1 kicks off a new direction with that as it lifts the curtain on the classic character before she met Peter Parker.

Written by Christos Gage, the comic is good, though doesn’t quite hook the reader. The issue sets the tone of the series as it takes us from Gwen’s experiences in high school to her relationship with her father. With some crime/police drama thrown in, the series finds its drama with that. And that’s where the series stumbles a bit. More time is spent with the plot swirling around Gwen’s police officer father than it feels with her. While I was expecting a more “Archie inspired” series, instead we get crime drama. She’s a bystander in a way in her own series.

Gwen also feels like an anachronism in a way. She has modern sensibilities but in a comic that doesn’t take place in modern times. The exact date is nebulous and with Marvel’s sliding history it’s hard to pin down. We know when the comic takes place relative to Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s story but that’s it. Gwen’s attitude feels a bit modern compared to some of what’s around her. Her dialogue just doesn’t quite click at times.

The art by Todd Nauck doesn’t pick up the slack of the story. While not bad, there’s an awkwardness to some of the character design. Characters look familiar but off at the same time too. They also don’t quite feel like they’re in high school and instead feel like 20-something actors playing high school students. Rachelle Rosenberg‘s color and Joe Caramagna‘s lettering are good with the colors helping Nauck’s line art.

Gwen Stacy #1 feels like the start of a limited-series where you wonder exactly what was being gone for. An opportunity to deliver a series geared towards middle-grade readers instead is muddled with mob violence and shakedowns. The comic isn’t bad at all but it also doesn’t excite. It just is.

Story: Christos Gage Art: Todd Nauck
Color: Rachelle Rosenberg Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Weapon Plus: World War IV #1

Weapon Plus: World War IV is… something. We’re just not sure what.

Story: Benjamin Percy, Ryan Cady
Art: Georges Jeanty, David Baldeón
Ink: Wayne Faucher, Marc Deering
Color: Rachelle Rosenberg, Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: Joe Sabino

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

Amazon
TFAW
Zeus Comics

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site

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