Tag Archives: Romulo Fajardo

Review: High Level #1

High Level #1

Hundreds of years after the world ended and human society was rebuilt from scratch, a self-interested smuggler is forced to traverse a new continent of danger and mystery to deliver a child messiah to High Level, a mythical city at the top of the world from which no one has ever returned.

I know of Rob Sheridan of his work with Nine Inch Nails and their “Year Zero” alternate reality game. His work influenced some things I’d later do so to see how he’d apply his world building to comics is something I’ve been excited about.

High Level #1 is all about the world building as we’re thrown into a future society where there’s clearly a caste system and the “haves” inhabit a place called High Level where they exploit the workers with promise of climbing the social ladder. But, High Level may also be a myth, a modern Biblical story in a way to control the masses and focus their energy and dreams.

High Level weaves these concepts into a story focused on Thirteen a scavenger scraping a living and just surviving in this world while keeping her head down from the war that wages around her in different regions.

The art by Barnaby Bagenda and Romulo Fajardo is beautiful and haunting in a way. The grime and dirt is around but at the same time there’s bright neon colors to distract. It’s an aesthetic we’ve seen in numerous apocalytpic stories but it still works. Every detail, every color choice, tells a bit of the story. Things look functional but at the same time worn and used. The world is lived in and in ways more real due to that.

The story is subtle in its politics to start, instead focusing on the world building and in many ways feels like Sheridan’s previous ARG work. It sucks you in and then layers on the deeper meaning. The first issue touches upon it but it’s focus is the hook and story and to build a world we want to see more of.

Story: Rob Sheridan Art: Barnaby Bagenda, Romulo Fajardo
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Preview: High Level #1

High Level #1

(W) Rob Sheridan (A) Barnaby Bagenda, Romulo Fajardo (CA) Guillaume Ospital
In Shops: Feb 20, 2019
SRP: $3.99

Hundreds of years after the world ended and human society was rebuilt from scratch, a self-interested smuggler is forced to traverse a new continent of danger and mystery to deliver a child messiah to High Level, a mythical city at the top of the world from which no one has ever returned. Don’t miss the start of a new series from writer Rob Sheridan, co-creator of Nine Inch Nails’ groundbreaking Year Zero alternate-reality game!

High Level #1

Preview: Weapon H #11

Weapon H #11

(W) Greg Pak (A) Guiu Vilanova (CA) Philip Tan, Romulo Fajardo
Rated T+
In Shops: Dec 19, 2018
SRP: $3.99

Sorceress Morgan Le Fay, ruler of Weirdworld, is on the rampage! Time for Clay and his team to cut their losses. But Dario Agger isn’t about to lose a profit – and Weapon H will have to bear the cost!

Weapon H #11

Review: Mera: Queen of Atlantis #1

As the brutal Atlantean Civil War rages, Mera must keep the peace between the surface world and Atlantis as its newly anointed queen in exile. But when Aquaman’s brother Orm, a.k.a. Ocean Master, learns of his homeland’s fate, he’ll stop at nothing to return to Atlantis as its king and savior!

If you haven’t been reading Aquaman, you’ve been missing out one of the best comics DC is publishing. The series has mixed action with political maneuvering. Currently there’s been a change in leadership with Aquaman no leading a resistance against the despotic ruler and Mera is cut off from her people and now anointed queen.

In Mera: Queen of Atlantis #1 she’s recovering from some injuries as well as trying to figure out what to do next. That not only includes defending herself from an assassination attempt but also doing a little politicking. With his run on Aquaman, writer Dan Abnett consistently delivers comics that mix entertainment with politics and we see that continue here. Mera recovers, fights, and has to deal with the United States’ State Department in hopes of preventing the nation from intervening in the affairs of Atlantis. It’s a mix of the fantastical and the grounded and it’s never boring. Abnett also delivers a comic that’s easily picked up by a new reader. What they need to know is explained and laid out in a way that moves the story along as well. The flow of the comic is great.

The art by Lan Medina, ink by Richard Friend, and color by Veronica Gandini is fantastic with a style that’s fantastic to look at. But, most importantly the comic never makes Mera look like a sex object. She looks great, regal, strong, and vulnerable. The comic looks fantastic and doesn’t attempt to mimic the very distinct style currently running in Aquaman. The issue has to balance action and the more mundane scenes and it does that and then some. And being able to help deliver those shifts in emotion is the lettering by Simon Bowland which helps set the tone.

If you haven’t been reading Aquaman, you’re missing out and you might not appreciate this mini-series. What’s great though is to see Mera get the spotlight and it not being some blow off mini-series. Instead it’s a comic series that’s as important as the main one it spun out of and seems like it’ll be a must for those reading Aquaman.

Story: Dan Abnett Art: Lan Medina Cover: Nicola Scott and Romulo Fajardo
Ink: Richard Friend Color: Veronica Gandini Lettering: Simon Bowland
Group Editor: Brian Cunningham: Editor: Alex Anton
Associate Editor: Brittany Holzherr Assistant Editor: Andrea Shea
Story: 8.35 Art: 8.35 Overall: 8.35 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: Mera: Queen of Atlantis #1

Mera: Queen of Atlantis #1

Story: Dan Abnett Art: Lan Medina Cover: Nicola Scott and Romulo Fajardo
Ink: Richard Friend Color: Veronica Gandini Lettering: Simon Bowland
Group Editor: Brian Cunningham: Editor: Alex Anton
Associate Editor: Brittany Holzherr Assistant Editor: Andrea Shea
In Shops: Feb 28, 2018
SRP: $3.99

From the pages of AQUAMAN comes a brand-new adventure starring Mera, in her own title for the first time ever! As the brutal Atlantean Civil War rages, Mera must keep the peace between the surface world and Atlantis as its newly anointed queen in exile. But when Aquaman’s brother Orm, a.k.a. Ocean Master, learns of his homeland’s fate, he’ll stop at nothing to return to Atlantis as its king and savior!

Review: Midnighter and Apollo #5

midnighterapollo5coverMidnighter punches out and spits on the DC Universe’s equivalent of the devil (The nefarious Neron.) in Midnighter and Apollo #5. If that doesn’t get you excited for this comic, you should really exit this plane of reality and chill out in Limbo, or the world with no shrimp. In all seriousness, writer Steve Orlando, artist Fernando Blanco, and colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr push Midnighter to his absolute breaking point in this issue as he takes a special spell from Extrano that basically turns him into a badass angel of light for seven minutes and gets to whale on Neron while looking for Apollo.

With its sturdy grids and double page spreads for the big finishing move, Blanco and Fajardo go into overload as Midnighter puts every ounce of strength, training, and of course, love into his physical battle with Neron even though he’s more of a concept. Blanco is truly an architect of pain and uses these grids to show the gradual battering of his body. While this is going on, Fajardo blends the angelic and demonic in his use of yellow for the spell that Midnighter uses to shield his body while fighting Neron to go with his usual black and dark grey palette for our protagonist. The yellow begins in the margins of a scene where Midnighter talks some trash to Neron about him being the ultimate enemy, and that all he needs are his fists to win. But he’s really buying time to activate the spell in the rush of giant, golden angel and Hebrew letters. One of the fighting video games should really rip off this “angel punch” move as a finisher for one of their characters.

But, underneath its reverse theodicies and musings about the nature of evil and the afterlife, midnighterapollointeriorMidnighter and Apollo #5 is one big street brawl. Midnighter gets some amazing licks in an almost silent set of pages filled with back hands, kicks, and just sheer punishment. But this is all an illusion, and Midnighter almost becomes incorporeal with his body crumbling in Apollo’s arm after his seven minutes is up. Midnighter would get in a fist fight with the devil to save the man he loves, but defeating a concept on his home turf is a tall order. Without the special spell, he is putty in Neron’s hand, a crumbling mass of red, black, and grey as the soulless Apollo flutters aimlessly like the souls who did neither good nor bad (Or anything out of the blue.) in Dante’s Inferno. Apollo can speak and move and has his usual yellow coloring from Fajardo, but seems like he can’t do anything to get him and Midnighter out of this situation.

To make Midnighter and Apollo even more emotionally unbearable, Steve Orlando pulls a twist on the old Sandman quote, “What power would Hell have if those here imprisoned were not able to dream of Heaven?” except it’s not Morpheus not besting a demon, but Midnighter being utterly unable to save the soul of Apollo. But there is still hope with a sliver of yellow on the final page. I really have no idea how DC Comics’ power couple are going to get out of this trap. Deus ex Extrano, perhaps?

In Midnighter and Apollo #5, Steve Orlando, Fernando Blanco, and Romulo Fajardo toss out the philosophizing and fancy fight computer enhanced panels for a blunt instrument of a reading experience. Midnighter and Neron beat each other bloody in what turns out to be a pointless battle for best boyfriend in the universe as evil isn’t something you can’t best in hand to hand combat.

But I hope that Midnighter and Apollo can beat it because the cliffhanger at the end of Midnighter and Apollo #5 is pretty bleak even for a series that has mostly been set in a place where weeping and gnashing of teeth are an hourly occurrence.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Fernando Blanco Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Midnighter and Apollo #4

midnighterapollo4coverWatching a fight scene in a Steve Orlando scripted Midnighter comic is a lot like watching Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder get a triple double. He gets one almost every night, but the ride is just as thrilling as he dunks on and corrals rebounds from taller opponents, hits high degree of difficulty jump shots, and makes his teammates look good too. Likewise, Orlando, artist Fernando Blanco, and colorist Romulo Fajardo team up to show the thrilling battle between Midnighter and the Mawzir, the head of the demon gang Lords of the Gun, who sent his boyfriend Apollo to Hell. Foolishly or not so foolishly, Midnighter has decided to bring a single bullet to some kind of quadruple-wielding, first person shooter on steroids gun fight. Apollo also has to bargain for his soul from Neron, and it doesn’t go the greatest, but Orlando continues to bring insight to his past. Fajardo also gives him a golden glow

Exciting layouts has been the bread and butter of Blanco on Midnighter and Apolloand issue 4 is no exception with three fascinating sequences to watch unfold. The board game theme of the previous issue returns, but Midnighter is more of a Candyland than a Carcassone man and instead of juxtaposing images and dialogue, Blanco just shows him bludgeoning demons up and down and around the sides of Neron’s winding castle. However, the fight between Midnighter and Mawzir is Midnighter and Apollo as directed by John Woo without the doves unfortunately. It’s a battle to the death with guns, fists, slow-mo, and Blanco drawing Midnighter dodging bullets in silhouette is an exciting touch too. He is also an artist of the body and shows how Midnighter and Apollo are physically and mentally drained by the end of the issue although they cling onto some kind of hope. And Fajardo is there with plenty of red as Midnighter wreaks havoc on the Mawzir and the other denizens of Hell.

The Apollo scenes provide a lighter in color palette, yet just as heavy in tone counterbalance to the mayhem of midnighterapollo4interiorMidnighter versus the Lords of the Gun and also show his pure soul even if Neron continues to taunt him about his violent methods as a superhero and “sins”. Except this purity means that pulling a John Constantine or Morpheus and trying to bargain and talk his way out of losing his soul is a bad idea. Apollo is way too good for his place, and this is why it takes his more hellish boyfriend, who gets headhunted by one of Hell’s deadliest demon gangs after killing their leader, to save him.

I do feel like I understand Apollo better as a person after Midnighter and Apollo #4 as Blanco dials down the insane layouts, but ups the defiance in his drawing of Apollo. He’s not just a damsel in distress with the powers of Superman that doesn’t work thanks to the abundance of darkness and hellfire. No, Apollo is a survivor beginning with his homophobic father, who went away and continuing with the aliens who abducted and experimented on him. And hopefully, he’ll make it out of this situation if Midnighter has anything to say about it.

Creative fighting, deep introspection, and variety in panel layouts that show comics is the perfect medium for intense action sequences ensure that Apollo and Midnighter #4 continues the series’ momentum into 2017. This issue reads like a great tie-in for a long lost Vertigo/Wildstorm crossover, and Midnighter bathing in the blood in demons just to save his man inspires me so much.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Fernando Blanco Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Midnighter and Apollo #2

midnighterapollo2coverIn Midnighter and Apollo #2, Midnighter is so struck by the “death” of his boyfriend Apollo that he shuts everyone out of his life in a quest to bring him back through whatever means necessary. Writer Steve Orlando and artist Fernando Blanco take time out of the non-stop fights and torture of Apollo in Hell to show Midnighter’s feelings about the loss of his boyfriend. Orlando also singlehandedly redeems the formerly stereotypical gay DC Comics superhero/magician, who in the past fought an “AIDS vampire”, into a kind of Dr. Strange reality bender with an adopted angel child.

Blanco’s layouts continue to be a highlight of Midnighter and Apollo #2 as the comic opens with Bendix talking trash to Midnighter about designing his fight computer and setting up a kind of obstacle course that his teleporter can’t bust through. Well, he kind of obliterates the course in a double page spread that is like an ultraviolent version of a spiral ham or a planetary orbit complete with inset panels, cybernetic, a crimson color palette from Romulo Fajardo, and Mawzir, the demonic goon of the Lords of the Gun from the Garth Ennis and John McCrea Hitman comics doing his thing. Orlando is really a master of using obscure-ish DC or Wildstorm characters in cool or exciting ways and uses Mawzir’s dialogue to draw parallels between him and Midnighter. Even though he doesn’t serve a demonic cult, both Mawzir and Midnighter love violence for violence’s sake, and Blanco shows this by going beyond your average punch-up and getting creative with the fight choreography. I could feel that sweeping leg kick through the page.

Even though it seems like Bendix will end up being the “final boss” of Midnighter and Apollo, Orlando and Blanco craft a powerful, kind of out of Midnighter’s league bad guy to challenge him in this issue and beyond. It’s Neron, a reality warping demon from the 1995 Underworld Unleashed crossover and also popped up in Grant midnighterapollo2interiorMorrison’s JLA run. He’s the living embodiment of a mind screwer, and Blanco gets all Hieronymus Bosch with his art style while depicting Apollo trying to break him and fellow, but it’s just a trick on him and superhero comics readers expecting some kind of miraculous escape and fight scene. Apollo might be as strong (or stronger) than Superman, but the darkness of Hell negates his power. He is really out of his depth with demons and other dimensions because he can’t defeat with a well-timed punch or burst of solar energy.

Fajardo shows Apollo bursting out of his stocks (The punishments are pretty retro down in hell.) with a burst of golden heat vision, but slowly obscures the yellow with red as Neron exercises his power over Apollo and binds him and his fellow captives. Orlando doesn’t quote or reference the scene directly, but this sequence reminded me of a quote from the first arc of Sandman where Morpheus wins a duel with demon with the word “hope” and says, “What power would hell have if those imprisoned here would not be able to dream of Heaven?”  However, this idea has a much more negative connotation in Midnighter and Apollo as the only hope for Apollo is Midnighter kicking everyone’s asses, and him fighting demons should be super fun to watch unfold in the next issue.

In Midnighter and Apollo #2, Steve Orlando, Fernando Blanco, and Romulo Fajardo show the bond between Apollo and Midnighter mostly through Midnighter’s ceaseless pursuit of violence and even magical means to save his love and help. Blanco’s skill at layouts makes the reality bending and action scenes super thrilling, and he can also slow down and bask in emotions like when Midnighter cradles Apollo’s lifeless body. It’s yet another violent, vulnerable chapter in a miniseries that looks to get even more exciting thanks to the final page with its great Midnighter one-liner.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Fernando Blanco Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Story: 8 Art: 9 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Midnighter and Apollo #1

midnapo_cv1_dsBone-crunching action, check. Unapologetic sexiness, check. Unexpected emotions from human fight computer and former lab rat Midnighter, check. Writer Steve Orlando and colorist Romulo Fajardo return with new series artist Fernando Blanco (Batman and Robin Eternal, Phantom Stranger) to continue the saga of Midnighter against his creator Bendix in Midnighter and Apollo #1. But Midnighter is far from single in the new series and is happily (for now) dating his ex-boyfriend Apollo, who is basically a god. This relationship throws many new challenges his way in both Midnighter’s interpersonal interactions and the larger plot as Bendix can use Apollo to hurt him in unimaginable ways.

Fernando Blanco’s art style combines the agile, fluid layouts of ACO with the yummy beefcake figure drawing skills of Stephen Mooney on the previous Midnighter series. His double page spread of Midnighter taking out Half-beard’s goons on the God Train (Orlando is unafraid to tap into the weird side of the DC Universe.) is one of the most exciting action scenes in any medium with Blanco using gutters to frame each high powered punch, kick, broken bone, or neck snap. And he uses inset panels to simulate Midnighter’s fight computer and show how Midnighter is always prepared to take down the next baddie. Romulo Fajardo fills the spread with plenty of grey and black, which are Midnighter’s colors on his costume, signifying that the anti-hero is back in full swing. But this time, he has the help of a boyfriend, who is a sexier version of Superman and gets the more traditional full page splashes from Blanco showing his raw power.


A fun, nerdy bonus is Orlando’s decision to make Midnighter and Apollo #1 more connected to the supernatural side of the DC Universe as Bendix is willing to switch his mad scientist/black ops M.O. to take them out with one of comics’ coolest MacGuffins ever. This plot decision also fits in with Blanco’s background as an artist because he previously drew Phantom Stranger and excelled at telling stories featuring demons, magic, and a touch of horror with real emotional resonance as the Phantom Stranger really just wanted to be a family man. The series also dealt with complex theological themes, and there is a little bit of those in the issue’s closing pages where Fajardo creates a deathly contrast between dark and light, or a marriage between heaven and hell gone awry. The color scheme could also be representing the tenuous relationship between Apollo and Midnighter.

The heart of Midnighter and Apollo #1 isn’t fights against demons, subway pirates, train golems, or even B-list supervillains, but a small dinner party hosted by Apollo and Midnighter for their friends Tony and Marina, who were key supporting characters in Midnighter. The scene shows Midnighter trying to live a normal life and joking around about letting Apollo do all the cooking because he grew up in Pennsylvania, not the God Garden while Marina and Apollo quip about him keeping his emotions under lock. Blanco elevates the chit-chat into a very passionate sex scene before Fajardo relaxes his palette and uses cooler colors as Apollo asks Midnighter why he has to kill. This moral difference could create a crack in their fragile relationship and is foreshadowed earlier by Orlando when a bystander talks about Midnighter being dangerous even though he helps the kids who were kidnapped by the God Train find their parents. He is quite a complicated fellow.

Steve Orlando and Fernando Blanco give their power couple sizzling chemistry in both words, sidelong glances, and of course, intense smooching in Midnighter and Apollo #1. This chemistry (along with Blanco’s creative use of layouts) supercharges the action sequences as Orlando differentiates this series from the previous one with a heavy injection of urban fantasy and horror, especially in the last few pages. (Melting faces equals freaky.)

Come for the punching and one-liners, but stay for the messy, yet star-crossed relationship between Midnighter and Apollo, who are truly DC Comics’ power couple.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Fernando Blanco Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Story: 9 Art: 10 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Midnighter #12

Midnighter12CoverAll excellent things must eventually wrap up, and this includes Midnighter, one of two mainstream comics with an LGBT male lead, and one that also happened to be a monthly exercise in writer Steve Orlando writing clever and occasionally tear jerking dialogue while weaving together action thriller plots that artists Aco and Hugo Petrus and colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. turned into exercises in brutality. In Midnighter #12, Apollo and Midnighter with the kind of, sort of help of Spyral and Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad fight the Unified, a superhuman with the abilities of both Apollo and Midnighter, who was crafted by Midnighter’s “father” Bendix to be the ultimate soldier only dedicated to the mission and not caring about civilian casualties. A character who has both Midnighter’s fight computer and is on the same power level seems insurmountable, but Orlando, Aco, and Petrus show the truth behind Sidney Prescott’s anti-remake quote from Scream 4, “Don’t fuck with the originals.” as Midnighter comes to a close.

The much anticipated team up between Apollo and Midnighter that was set up in the previous gets a scintillating payoff thanks to the efforts of the art team of Aco, Petrus, and Fajardo. They draw Apollo as a pure powerhouse with power that can’t really be fathomed as Fajardo uses plenty of yellow to show all culminating in a huge solar blast before Petrus/Apollo send the Unified off to Aco/Midnighter for one last four page battle royale of layouts, one-liners, and bone rattling sound effects.

In the tradition of Batman vs. Superman in The Dark Knight Returns and other battles between basically gods and superheroes, Midnighter uses a sonic device to get the drop on the Unified, and Aco depicts this in his art by having his usual grid set-up woozily wobble before cutting to his trademark “X-ray panels” (Think Mortal Kombat) of the effect that it’s having on the Unified’s non-empathy having, soldier brain. And the killing blow is spectacular as Aco and Fajardo turn gore into poetry by turning the Unified’s brain matter into a sound effect. One of the highlights of Midnighter as a whole was its creative, no holds barred fight sequences, and Aco makes sure that issue 12’s big battle is worthy of its predecessors while Orlando keeps Midnighter’s character consistent.


Midnighter hates the Unified so much because he is hurting innocent civilians in some misguided crusade to provide retribution for a terrorist attack on American soil. He might be a killer, but he’s not a cold-blooded one like the Unified, who is the metahuman embodiment of destruction porn in the first few pages of the comics. For example, Midnighter takes a break from beating up various Multiplexes to help a Modoran child find shelter and safety when a Modoran soldier points a gun at the kid and calls him a coward. Even in his most violent moments, Midnighter is always there to protect those being exploited by powerful forces just like he was with the Gardener.


This is because he is a human being and not a weapon or a lab experiment, and Orlando, Aco, and Petrus spend plenty of time at the end of the issue reinforcing that with his friends in Boston throwing him a nice party after he tells Gardener about Bendix’s return because that relationship is always going to be super complicated. Even though he was betrayed by Prometheus, Midnighter has come to trust some people, and he even begins to repair his relationship with Apollo. Along with their skill laying out action sequences, Aco and Petrus draw really sexy men, which makes Apollo and Midnighter’s flirty banter and make-outs extra flaming hot. But Orlando wisely keeps their relationship ambiguous with dialogue like “Who said he’s my man?” even though it’s clear from their body language that they still love each other. However, their kiss and makeup scene is a huge progression from the beginning of the series when they wanted nothing to do with each other.

Another relationship that Orlando leaves open for other writers to explore in the future (Hopefully, Rob Williams in Suicide Squad and definitely Tim Seeley in Nightwing.) is Midnighter’s place in the black ops, espionage world of the DC Universe. Spinning out of his work with them in Grayson, Midnighter started by backing Helena Bertinelli and Spyral, but by the end of Midnighter #12, it seems like he’s more on Amanda Waller’s side, especially when she tells him that Bertinelli is reverse engineering Afterthought, a superhuman with precognitive power that beat Midnighter up a few issues back. And even if they never meet again, Orlando gives them a relationship of mutual respect as Waller isn’t afraid to correct her mistakes, like the Unified, or get her hands dirty. (She throws down with Bendix a little bit.) Midnighter definitely sees her as a worthy opponent, who can occasionally get the drop on him with her brilliant tactical mind, despite her not having any special powers or abilities.

Midnighter #12 is a wonderful capper on Steve Orlando, Aco, Hugo Petrus, Romulo Fajardo, and other wonderful artists’ story of a man trying to maneuver through the world and find his identity as both an open gay man and science experiment turned violent, yet altruistic anti-hero. The final two pages of him kissing and talking to Apollo about his uncertainty for the future and leaping into action perfectly encapsulate the character of Midnighter, who is a total badass that struggles to navigate the minefields of romantic relationships.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Aco and Hugo Petrus Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Story: 9 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

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

« Older Entries