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Review: Dazzler X-Song #1

In the one-shot Dazzler X-Song #1, writer Magdalene Visaggio, artist Laura Braga, and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg deliver a powerful story about facing down hate and bigotry using the power of music (and cool light shows) just in time for Pride Month. (I seriously wish that Alison Blaire’s new band Lightbringr was playing my local Pride festival.) They use the “rivalry” between mutants and Inhumans that has been simmering in stories like Death of X, Inhumans vs. X-Men, and even in the recent Secret Warriors series as a metaphor for intersectionality in marginalized communities adding layers to the frankly, quite old mutant=minority. And, along the way, Braga and Rosenberg craft hip, energetic visuals and an explosive color palette worthy of the disco Dazzler even though she’s going by Alison these days and doesn’t really want to be a superhero or X-Man for now despite Colossus begging her to join the new look team.

Visaggio and Braga kick off the book with a beautiful establishing page: a four panel entry into the world of Alison and her bandmate Farley setting up for their show; an Inhuman Nora, who has similar powers to Dazzler, and her pal Zee getting ready for the Lightbringr gig, and a member of the Mutant Action ready to get his hate on. Dazzler X-Song #1 has plenty of stylized music video touches, especially in Rosenberg’s colors when the crowd at Alison’s show is overwhelmed by pink, but the narrative is fairly grounded in overcoming  hatred through the power of music. Alison wants the “others” of the Marvel Universe to enjoy their music and have an opportunity to be themselves for one amazing night. But, sadly, like the “no fats, no femmes”, white gay men on dating apps (and sometimes at the club), some folks just wanted to be bigoted and not share the love and enjoy the scene.

One interesting part of Dazzler #1 is Magdalene Visaggio and Laura Braga’s nuanced approach to violence. Many X-Men comics are known for their big, pitched battles to show off the various mutants’ cool powers, but Alison only fights when it’s necessary. Thanks to a sobering tip from Nora after a show, she is aware that the Mutant Action members are at her show and staves them off with a no violence tolerated policy and focusing on the music and de-escalation. In the long run, this doesn’t work, and the Mutant Action starting act worse and even bring power dampeners to gigs so they can assault Inhumans. Seeing a helpless Nora causes Alison to return into action in a a powerful splash page from Braga where you can see the Mutant Action member’s cheek wobble as she decks him Richard Spencer style with Rosenberg adding pink speed lines. Maybe, Alison isn’t ready to put on a spandex costume yet, but she has a good heart and cares about protecting people, who are discriminated against. And her fans end up giving her an assist in the big climax where their vocals amplify her light abilities, and Alison scares away Mutant Action once and for all.

What makes Dazzler #1 refreshing is that Magdalene Visaggio and Laura Braga gives readers a mutant/Inhuman perspective on the Marvel Universe in a way that doesn’t involve folks wanting to be superheroes in a similar manner to the late, great Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat. Nora doesn’t want to beat up supervillains; she wants to use her light abilities to make the dance floor an even more epic place. However, when threatened by mutant bigotry (In a great metaphor for white members of the LGBTQ community being racist towards people of color.), she confronts it directly without getting all superhero clubhouse about it, and Dazzler does the same and even makes a big speech about how mutants and Inhumans can stand together and be powerful without being a part of a superhero team. Their abilities might be fantastic, but they can find community in a way that doesn’t involve costumes, codenames, and Danger Room training.

Dazzler X-Song #1 light show visuals from Laura Braga and Rachelle Rosenberg that perfectly fit a book starring Alison Blaire and a strong message of pride and intersectionality from Magdalene Visaggio. It shows that cool mutant/Inhuman powers, social commentary, characters arc, and sassy humor can co-exist in one great comic book. Now, I need a follow up comic where Alison meets Karen O…

Story: Magdalene Visaggio Art: Laura Braga
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg Letters: Joe Sabino
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: X-Men The Wedding Special #1

Full disclaimer: for a long time, Kitty Pryde was my all time favorite Marvel superhero thanks to her awesomeness in X-Men Evolution and Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men run, and there is a Marvel Legends figure of her sitting on my bookshelf right now as I write this.

Even though Kelly Thompson, Marika Cresta, and Federico Blee end up almost saving the day with a fun tale of X-Women out on the town with pretty, shiny art to match, X-Men The Wedding Special #1 is a big stinker of a “special issue.” Greg Land’s stiff art style isn’t a good fit for a raucous bachelor party, Chris Claremont can’t rekindle his old magic, and this book doesn’t really have much for long time X-Men fans who might be a little lapsed (Like yours truly.) and definitely not new or casual fans. Why are Kitty and Piotr even getting married? Maybe, the X-Men Gold  hardcore readership will find something to love here.

In the first story, Kitty Pryde’s co-creator/father of the X-Men Chris Claremont returns to Marvel with his Nightcrawler collaborator Todd Nauck and skilled colorist Rachelle Rosenberg.  However, after having Nauck re-draw Kitty’s greatest hits courtesy of John Byrne, Dave Cockrum, John Romita Jr., Alan Davis, and others, he makes the story all about Kitty’s relationships with the dead men in her life, namely, her dad, Wolverine, and some guy from a 1999 time travel miniseries called X-Men True Friends. Claremont is a still verbose prose stylist, Rosenberg is game with the bright colors of the different eras, and Nauck turns in some gorgeous dualistic compositions contrasting the triumphs and trials of Kitty Pryde’s life as an X-Man.

But there isn’t really a coherent story to channel these skills and traits into as Claremont abruptly cuts from Kitty recounting her life story and feelings about being phased through a bullet (Thank you, Joss Whedon.) to randomly talking about Wolverine and the aforementioned guy from a time travel story. Plus I guess I missed the issue of X-Men Gold where she worked as a bartender at the Hellfire Club themed branch of Coyote Ugly as Claremont and Nauck cut to this, and Nightcrawler has some great lines about faith and facing challenges. There are a few good ingredients, a few bad ones, and sadly, the story doesn’t touch on the great female friendships (and possibly romances) that Claremont set up for Kitty with Magik, Storm, and Rachel Summers among others and focused on ghostly men instead. It’s like a great slice of Chicago deep dish (Shoutout to Deerfield, Illinois resident Kitty Pryde.) that’s completely burnt to a crisp too bogged down in a continuity to have any real emotion or even nostalgia.

The second story by X-Men Gold writer Marc Guggenheim, the aforementioned Land and inker Jay Leisten, and colorist Jason Keith tells the story of Colossus’ bachelor party and except for the part where Piotr throws an anti-mutant alien monster around a casino, it’s cliched, heteronormative, and just plain bad. In keeping with his introverted nature and desire to be faithful towards Kitty after decades of breakups, reunions, and the original Secret Wars crossover, Colossus wants a chill night out and not the typical strippers/booze/brawling trifecta of a normal bachelor party. But Nightcrawler, Gambit, Iceman, and the “boyo” overusing new-look Pyro have other ideas for him including Bobby lecturing Piotr on traditional masculinity and making me glad that Sina Grace had almost exclusive creative control over him for a year. The story follows a limp, through line of getting Colossus to “lighten up”, and you have to buy a whole other comic to see how the story ends. It’s pretty terrible except for the huge smile on Nightcrawler’s face as he ushers his squad into Las Vegas and beams that there is a casino run by demons so he doesn’t have to feel weird or different while having a good time for once. Kurt is such a great character that he shines even in subpar stories like the first two in X-Men Wedding Special #1.

The final story in X-Men Wedding Special #1 is a fun, cute, grownup version of the “X-Men go to the mall” plotline as Storm, Rogue, Jean Grey, Psylocke, and others take Kitty to karaoke, which is actually “stripperoke”. However, there are both male and female strippers at the club, which Kitty is cool with. And it’s also this issue’s only nod at the bisexual subtext surrounding her since the late 1980s. In a similar way to Piotr, Kitty is introverted and more than a little Type A so the cocktail of strippers and karaoke is pretty lethal for her, and she spends most of the issue hoping for a fight.

Kitty does end up doing hand to hand combat with Callisto, who I think had a crush on Colossus, in the 1980s, and her resolves shows how much she has grown in 38 years from the X-Men’s kid sister to their leader. It also shows that artist (and star in waiting) Marika Cresta has a knack for fight sequences as well as conversation, beautiful faces, and high fashion. The bright filters used by Federico Blee and soft lighting definitely give this issue a very laidback field even if Kitty is freaking out a little bit about her wedding. The Kitty/Callisto derails the story a little bit, but Thompson and Cresta easily counterbalance with great moments like Storm rocking the karaoke stage, and Rogue and Kitty having a true heart to heart that reminded me of a more mature version of their bond in X-Men Evolution.

X-Men Wedding Special definitely lessened my faith in the marriage between Kitty and Colossus as well as heterosexual, monogamous marriage as an institution in general. Okay, maybe not completely, but the Marc Guggenheim and Greg Land story is a great example of how bachelor parties are dated and played out. However, Marika Cresta is a real find as an artist in the final story and should definitely be the main artist on one of the big X or Marvel books.

Story: Chris Claremont, Marc Guggenheim, Kelly Thompson
Art: Todd Nauck, Greg Land with Jay Leisten, Marika Cresta
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg, Jason Keith, Federico Blee Letters: Clayton Cowles

Story: 5.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 5.0 Recommendation: Pass

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Thanos Annual #1

Before he lights up the silver screen and potentially offs some superheroes in Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos gets the Tales from the Crypt treatment in Thanos Annual #1 with the Cosmic Ghost Rider playing the role of Cryptkeeper and telling the story of the Mad Titan’s most demented deeds to a surprise audience. Cosmic Ghost Rider’s pitch black, Southern fried sense of humor keeps the story chugging along through different art styles and an all-star creative team featuring Kieron Gillen‘s return to the Marvel Universe and My Little Pony writer/artist Katie Cook telling a dark of story of fratricide, mass suicide, mass graves, and candy cane impalings.

The current Thanos ongoing series’ creative team of Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, and Antonio Fabela lead off the annual with a short, yet potent story of Thanos’ relationship with his daughter Gamora. Shaw’s art is fluid and shows why Gamora is considered to be the “Deadliest Woman in the Universe” and bursts of green blood from Fabela show that gore, death, and both physical and mental trauma are going to be a recurring motif in this comic book. Their Thanos has a malevolent evil force meets worst stage/bleacher dad ever vibe as Gamora is completely under his control to shape into something that is more of a weapon than a human being. Also, Thanos might be considered a supervillain, and Gamora is a member of the de facto superhero team, the Guardians of the Galaxy, but this story is more science fiction than superhero, especially with its twist ending that was totally once used in an episode of Rick and Morty.

Chris Hastings (Gwenpool), Flaviano (I Am Groot), and Frederico Blee (She-Hulk) go all out cringe comedy in their story which is as painful as slowly removing your fingernails and toenail, one by one. It’s about Thanos visiting a young man every year on his birthday (Except for one because there was a major Marvel Universe crossover.) and making his life utterly miserable depending on his current life situation. Basically, Thanos is evil on both a macro and micro level. He can be annoying like nuclear warfare or annoying like a hangnail. Also, the panel of Thanos texting is up there with the legendary “Thanoscopter”, and honestly, I spent most of the story wondering what evil breakup causing text he concocted. I love how Hastings, Flaviano, and Blee took a pretty standard slice of life setup and turned into torture via sequential art.

Kieron Gillen has a mini reunion with his WicDiv 455 AD collaborators Andre Araujo and Chris O’Halloran in a cosmic take on Say Anything with Thanos playing John Cusack, Lady Death as Ione Skye, and planetary explosions subbing in for a boombox. Because it’s technically about art, Gillen, Araujo, and O’Halloran’s story is metafictional with Thanos commenting that none of these stories really matter in the face of death. In a kind of Lucien’s library of unpublished books in Sandman move, Gillen also creates some of the potentially coolest planets in the Marvel Universe, including a basically Choose Your Own Adventure planet, and then literally blows it up because art can do nothing to stave off mortality. But, hey, O’Halloran colors some pretty explosions, and Araujo continues his knack for architecture in his design for Lady Death’s palace.

The next story in Thanos Annual is both funny and disturbing and sort of in the vein of Happy Tree Friends or I Hate Fairyland. In it, Katie Cook and let’s make this look as much like a cute kid’s cartoon as possible colorist Heather Breckle tell the story of Thanos visiting a planet inhabited by Adorales, who do whatever he wants. Of course, they worship him as a god and then start killing each other in twisted ways after Thanos makes a death threat towards them because they won’t stop bouncing all over him. The adorable style of Cook’s art allows her to get away with a lot more violence than the other more traditionally drawn stories in Thanos Annual and leads to some squicky moments with the Adorales’ lifeless bodies filling up the page. Luckily, Cook fills the story with some great  asides from Thanos, who was not expecting this kind of situation just as much as the readers.

In the next story, Ryan North, Will Robson, and Rachelle Rosenberg rapidly switch gears from fish out of water comedy (Thanos helping to searing existential torture and also make good use of the walking plot device that is the Infinity Gauntlet. With the exception of a colorful intro page where he and Rosenberg throw it back to the actual Infinity Gauntlet story with battles and superheroes, Robson’s art is pretty deadpan, and he nails the hilarious reactions that every day people have to Thanos helping and chatting pleasantly with an old lady. Of course, he has a supremely evil ulterior motive of stifling a brilliant mind from having an epiphany and finding a cure for all diseases and sickness. North gets to write a fantastic monologue at the end about how he doesn’t just love physical death, but the death of hope and potential. Most of us will never experience half the Earth population dying, but many people struggle with not reaching their potential so this story kind of hits hard after its absurdist beginning.

The thought provoking nature of “That Time Thanos Helped An Old Lady Cross the Street” extends to the final, full story in Thanos Annual #1 before it’s wrapped up with an ending tag featuring Cosmic Ghost Rider and a mysterious guest character. Al Ewing is one of Marvel’s most imaginative and intelligent writers, and he uses a science fiction and a gorgeously painted tale from Frazer Irving to ask an age old theological question, “Can people be moral without a higher power to look up to?” Before this question is asked by Thanos, who literally kills a god in an epic Irving splash page, Ewing and Irving create almost the perfect religion that is a hybrid of Golden Rule-driven monotheism with a side of reincarnation. However, Thanos totally upends the scientific mechanisms that kept this faith chugging along and creates one hell of an existential crisis for the Kehlrassians that bleeds into Cosmic Ghost Rider’s narration because he has been to both Heaven and Hell. It reminds readers that Thanos is both a psychological and physical threat, which is something that Ewing explored in the second half of his Ultimates run. (RIP)

Stealthily, Thanos Annual #1 is just a great collection of intelligent and darkly humorous sci-fi shorts that just happen to take place in the Marvel Universe. It features some of its most clever writers and artists that have an eye for both humor and violence on a large and small scale and makes you realize that reading stories about Thanos is like staring into the abyss or being one of those dumbasses that looked at the solar eclipse without those special glasses.

Story: Donny Cates, Chris Hastings, Kieron Gillen, Katie Cook, Ryan North, Al Ewing Art: Geoff Shaw, Flaviano, Andre Araujo, Katie Cook, Will Robson, Frazer Irving Colors: Antonio Fabela, Frederico Blee, Chris O’Halloran, Heather Breckle, Rachelle Rosenberg 
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Hunt for Wolverine #1

The return of Wolverine begins here, providing the first piece of a mystery that will leave no corner of the Marvel Universe untouched. Just as the X-Men have finally come to terms with Logan’s death, they learn a terrible secret. Old wounds will be re-opened, truths questioned, and an epic quest begun. The earliest clues to the mystery of Wolverine’s return are laid down here… who will solve it first?

Wolverine is back. We already know that. But, how did it happen? Who knows? That’s what Hunt for Wolverine reveals. I’ll admit, I am rather shocked as to how much I enjoyed this first issue. Writer Charles Soule is beyond talented but I wasn’t too keen on the Death of Wolverine, so his return, I didn’t expect much at all.

This issue though… wow, it’s a solid set up and goes in directions I wasn’t expecting at all.

The story is really three parts. There’s a portion that takes us back to Wolverine’s encased body as the Reavers attempt to snatch it for… some reason. The X-Men show up and there’s a battle and that’s when things get interesting. See, there’s a secret they’ve been hiding about their encased teammate and that’s what has made me enjoy the story. The unexpected is where it’s at and to reveal any of that will decrease the enjoyment.

Are there answers? No, not really. This doesn’t tell you what happened fully. What the issue does do is lead into the various spin-offs that will send individuals across the world looking for a returned Wolverine and attempt to figure out exactly how that happened.

The art by David Marquez and Paulo Siqueira is hit and miss. The first story involving the Reavers looks fantastic. There’s solid action and the page layouts impress. It’s the second story with Tony that’s more of a miss. Compared to the first it just doesn’t hold up and it frankly reminds me of event spin-offs that don’t have the same quality as the main event comic. While it’s not bad, it also doesn’t excite at all.

I’m not sure what I was expecting as far as a story but this definitely wasn’t it. There are things in here that actually had me surprised and wanting to get the answers to come. This comic is supposed to do exactly that and in that way it succeeds and then some.

Story: Charles Soule Art: David Marquez, Paulo Siqueira
Color: Rachelle Rosenberg, Walden Wong, Ruth Redmond Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Story: 8.05 Art: 7.75 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: Marvel Rising #0

Marvel Rising #0

Story: Devin Grayson
Art: Marco Failla
Color: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Helen Chen
Design: Jay Bowen
Editors: Heather Antos, Sarah Brunstad
Consulting Editor: Sana Amanat

This April SQUIRREL GIRL meets MS. MARVEL – for the very first time! When Doreen Green (also known as the unbeatable Squirrel Girl) volunteers as head counselor for an extra-curricular computer programming camp, little does she know that junior counselor Kamala Khan moonlights as crime fighting super hero Ms. Marvel! But this coding camp is more than just ones and zeros when A.I.M. makes an appearance! Will our heroes be able to save the campers without blowing their secret identities? Join Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, America, Inferno, and Patriot as they learn exactly what it means to be a young hero in the Marvel Universe – and what it means to be a hero to each other.

Celebrate Amazing Spider-Man’s Landmark 800th Issue With A Variant Cover by Greg Land and Rachelle Rosenberg

It’s all been building to this – the biggest Peter Parker and Norman Osborn story of all time, and the first Marvel comic EVER to hit 800 issues! In celebration of the 800th issue of Amazing Spider-Man and the now historic run of Dan Slott, Marvel is excited to show a variant cover from industry greats Greg Land and Rachelle Rosenberg!

Witness the culmination of the Red Goblin story as Slott is joined for his final issue by epic artists such as Stuart Immonen, Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Nick Bradshaw, and a main cover by Alex Ross!

The Amazing Spider-Man #800 is out May 30th.

Preview: Hunt for Wolverine #1

Hunt for Wolverine #1

Story: Charles Soule
Art: David Marquez, Paulo Siqueira
Color: Rachelle Rosenberg, Walden Wong, Ruth Redmond
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Art: Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, Laura Martin
Variant Covers: Marco Checcetto, Elizabeth Torque, Nolan Woodard, Adam Kubert, Dan Brown, Mike Deodato, Morry Hollowell
Editors: Jordan D. White, Mark Paniccia
Assistant Editors: Annalise Bissa, Christina Harringnton
Rated T+
In Shops: Apr 25, 2018
SRP: $5.99

The RETURN OF WOLVERINE begins here, providing the first piece of a mystery that will leave no corner of the Marvel Universe untouched. Just as the X-Men have finally come to terms with Logan’s death, they learn a terrible secret. Old wounds will be re-opened, truths questioned, and an epic quest begun. The earliest clues to the mystery of Wolverine’s return are laid down here… who will solve it first?

Exclusive Preview: Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #19

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #19

Story: Kieron Gillen, Si Spurrier
Art: Emilio Laiso
Color: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Art: Ashley Witter
Editors: Jordan D. White, Mark Paniccia
Assistant Editors: Heather Antos, Emily Newcomen
Rated T
In Shops: Apr 25, 2018
SRP: $3.99

“REMASTERED” CONTINUES!
• Evil droid mastermind Triple-Zero has been blackmailing Doctor Aphra into stealing his old memories…
• …which also has included sneaking onto Rebel training grounds run by General Hera Syndulla.
• Now hunted by both Hera of the Rebellion and Tolvan of the Empire, Aphra’s got a lot on her mind…
• But if there’s anything to know about the Doctor, it’s that she’s always got tricks up her electro-sleeve!

Review: Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey

It’s Wednesday which means it’s new comic book day with new releases hitting shelves, both physical and digital, all across the world. This week we’ve got the return of Jean Grey!

Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey collects issues #1-5 by Matthew Rosenberg, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Carlos Pacheco, Rafael Fonteriz, Joe Bennett, Lorenzo Ruggiero, Ramon Rosanas, Belardino Brabo, Rachelle Rosenberg, VC’s Travis Lanham, Sunny Gho, Romulo Fajardo, Jr., Marte Gracia, Nolan Woodard, Christina Harrington, Chris Robinson, Darren Shan, and Mark Paniccia.

Get your copy in comic shops today and in book stores May 1. 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/Kindle/comiXology or TFW or TFW

 

 

Marvel​ provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies for review
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Black Panther: World of Wakanda Wins a GLAAD Media Award

Black Panther: World of Wakanda has won the GLAAD Media Award for comic books. It was one of ten nominees in the comic category for the 29th annual award. Two other Marvel books, America and Iceman, were also nominated.

The award celebrates inclusivity in pop culture.

Recognized for the book was the creative team of Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Yona Harvey, Rembert Browne, Alitha E. Martinez, Manny Mederos, Joe Bennett, Afua Richardson, Roberto Poggi, Tamra Bonvillain, Rachelle Rosenberg, Virtual Calligraphy, and Joe Sabino.

Other nominees included the Backstagers, Batwoman, Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love, Goldie Vance, Lumberjanes, The Woods, and Quantum Teens are Go.

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