Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling reviews of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full one for.
These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.
What If…? Dark: Venom #1 (Marvel) – Stephanie Phillips and Jethro Morales have Thing merge with the Venom symbiote in the latest installment of What If…? Dark. Set in the 1980s after Secret Wars when Thing left the team, this one-shot plays off Ben Grimm’s desire to be human to great effect. Of course, the symbiote makes him human again, but there’s a cost, and Thing indulges his dark side with the help of Lizard. Phillips and Morales draw a parallel between Curt Connors and Grimm musing if Thing would be considered a hero if he wasn’t part of the Fantastic Four. Sadly, the third act turns this interesting relationship into pure edginess, but there’s 2/3 of an interesting and badass at times comic in What If Dark Venom #1. Overall: 7.4 Verdict: Read (I purchased a copy)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem– TMNT: Mutant Mayhem is like going to the movies with your cool (probably stoner) older brother. The latest reboot based on the most successful independent comic of all time goes for Gen Z in a lot of its jokes, references (Leonardo “rizzes up” April O’Neil), and of course, in the voice performances of the Turtles, but is pure Gen X in its soundtrack with lots of classic hip hop cuts from ODB, Gang Starr, and De La Soul to name a few. TMNT: Mutant Mayhem focuses on the “teenage” side of the mutant ninja turtles as Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Donatello just want to live normal lives with humans and go to high school instead of cowering in the sewers with their human-phobic father Splinter. However, the bad guys are all mutant as Super Fly (Ice Cube) plots with a veritable menagerie of mutated animals to take out all the humans and make New York an extension of the Bronx Zoo. The seven writers on this film and director Jeff Rowe give Mutant Mayhem an anarchic spirit that literally oozes from the DIY-ish animation style, and the voice cast is star-studded, but not in annoying, say Rio way. Paul Rudd as a chill mutant gecko is the find of the year, and Ayo Edibiri’s earnestness and nervous energy as April O’Neil is the definitive performance of this TMNT ally. The final fight is a little on the short side, but overall, TMNT: Mutant Mayhem is an audiovisual feast with a great sense of humor that does “hated and feared” better than most of the X-Men films. Overall: 8.2
Conan the Barbarian #1 (Titan) – Set in Conan’s younger adventuring days, writer Jim Zub, artist Rob de la Torre, and colorist Jose Villarrubia immediately raise the stakes by having Conan and his new ally, the Pict women Brissa, face off against undead tribe of Picts that are ravaging the countryside. The highlights are the brutal battle sequences with de la Torre and Villarrubia excelling at both close-up intimate panels and huge spreads of the carnage. Unlike the Free Comic Book Day issue, Zub is more sparing with his purple prose captions using them to dig into the larger themes of Conan #1 even though sometimes they end up describing the visuals of the panels. All in all, Conan the Barbarian #1 nails its protagonist’s world-weariness with a heart of gold and feels like a throwback to the old John Buscema Conan comics while adding psychological depth and exploring its hero’s connection to his Cimmerian roots. Overall: 8.1 Verdict: Buy (I purchased a copy)
Magneto #1 (Marvel) – Magneto #1 continues to try to answer the age-old question: how could Magneto be both hero or terrorist? Featuring retro art from Todd Nauck and a psychologically savvy script from JM DeMatteis, this tale set in the 1980s features Magneto caught between being the teacher of the New Mutants and the leader of a new iteration of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Magneto #1 takes its time to explore pivotal moments from Erik Lehnsherr’s going deep into his motivations, and how the big attack in X-Men #1 was just him playing role and basically trying to get the X-Men over as heroes. DeMatteis and Nauck also don’t shy away from portraying Magneto in a negative light like a scene where he freaks out at Wolfsbane and almost hurts her with his magnetic abilities. The comic strikes the perfect balance between nostalgia and character study and has some big action scenes to boot like a Danger Room showdown between the New Mutants and Brotherhood. Overall: 8.4 Verdict: Buy
Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!
Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).