Comic Review – Dark Days: The Forge #1 (DC Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

This week I checked out the ludicrously titled Dark Days: The Forge, the one-shot prelude to the upcoming equally ludicrously titled Dark Nights: Metal series from DC Comics. It has been oddly under-marketed it seems, and I was only made aware that it was coming and that it was being released this week because I follow Scott Snyder on Twitter. Dark Days: The Forge was written by Snyder and James Tynion IV, with the art by Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, John Romita, Jr., Scott Williams, Klaus Janson, Danny Miki, Alex Sinclair, Jeremiah Skipper, and Steve Wands.

Cover by Lee, DC Comics

Dark Days jumps between three main narratives. First is Carter Hall, or Hawkman, almost as a journal entry as he recaps his life (or lives) and his curse, the Nth metal that grants him rebirth and how he is tied to his love Shiera and the villainous Hath-Set. But there he also has impossible memories shimmering in the background, memories that look like a dystopic future in the grip of one he would call an ally.

The other two narratives, taking place in the current day, tie in a little more closely (for now). Batman rescues a scientist from a Wayne blacksite as a volcano erupts. He has been investigating metals, and something is wrong with the metal of the Earth. Batman’s investigation seems to not only go beneath the Earth’s crust, but to the surface of the Moon (well, a Batcave on the Moon), to another universe, and to a secret vault in the Fortress of Solitude as well. Meanwhile, the Guardians send Green Lantern Hal Jordan back to Earth, to investigate the Batcave itself. There, with current Bat-sidekick Duke Thomas, he finds a secret Batcave within the Batcave, indicating that Batman has been investigating something for a long time with a secret team, without letting the Justice League or the Bat-family know about it. Whether he can be trusted remains to be seen, but Hal doesn’t seem to be the only one troubled by all of this.

Dark Days: The Forge is a very strong opening to Metal, and with Scott Snyder re-teaming with his Batman collaborator Greg Capullo (oddly absent on this issue) for it, it is sure to be a blockbuster event. Snyder and Tynion IV have both written Batman in one form or another for a while now, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that they have a firm handle on his character and dialogue. Its nice to see a similar care and approach taken to some of the other cast members here, including those seen less often such as Mister Terrific and Mister Miracle. At its core, this series appears to be shaping up as a Batman-centric Justice League event, rather than just a Batman story. And that is important, as there is a worry and a tendency to remove some of the appeal of Batman by making him almost godlike, or making his origins stretch back to the dawn of time (looking at you Morrison). I hope this series doesn’t dip too far towards that, but for this issue it doesn’t rear its head too much. The ongoing mystery of the metals takes cues and threads from throughout Snyder’s run on Batman in such an impressive fashion too, that I can’t help but be drawn in by what it all might mean.

Interior art by Romita Jr, Lee & Kubert

Considering the talent from the art team, the only real negative point I can make is that with Kubert, Lee and Romita Jr all putting in an appreciable number of pages into the book, the art does come off as inconsistent from a stylistic perspective. It is however, consistently very good. Hawkman’s memories by Kubert retain a classic feeling with clear, bold line work, while the lunar character interactions and the volcano escape from Romita Jr feel a little more loose, and the epic scale visions and dark cave scenes show off what makes Lee’s style so iconic for superhero work.

Dark Days: The Forge is a very strong prelude to an event that I know very little about, but the creative team behind it guarantees I’ll be checking it out. This taste has only made me all the more excited about it, especially with the return of Snyder and Capullo for the first time since the end of their run on Batman. Check it out at your LCS or digitally now!

Score: 8 METALS out of 10

 

Comic Book Review – Darth Vader #1 (Marvel Comics)

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

Warning: minor spoilers.

“In your rage you chose… a DIFFERENT path.” Emperor Palpatine

Marvel’s original Darth Vader series was considered one of the great successes of their new take on the franchise. Spotting a new series coming out today I figured I couldn’t pass up on it. I am planning more Indie reviews shortly but the comics I’m reading will take a little more than an evening to digest and review. Vader on the other hand felt like nice, familiar territory I could easily jump right into. This comic was bought to us by:

  • Writer – Charles Soule
  • Pencils – Giuseppe Camuncoli
  • Inks – Cam Smith
  • Colourist – David Curiel
  • Letterer – Joe Caramagna

This series picks up right at the moment Episode III ends. I’m sure we all remember that really cringe inducing ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!’ Well we’re bought right back to that scene, right where Vader realises what he’s done and begins to process what this now means. Fortunately, George Lucas is not writing this and we have the talented Charles Soule, an experienced comic book writer having worked on Daredevil, Inhumans and Poe Dameron for Marvel. We see the development of the early stages of the master/pupil relationship between Darth Vader and the Emperor which looks to form the critical relationship and point of tension within the comic, especially with the Emperor’s ‘go out and get the hell on with it’ attitude. I’m expecting we’ll see more inner turmoil eventually from Vader, but that hasn’t reared its head just yet.

We’re also exposed for more Star Wars lore, with an introduction as to where Sith get their lightsabers and more of an understanding of their relationship to the force. It may have not been deliberate but I also couldn’t help but draw parallels between the portrayal the Empire’s propaganda and certain aspects of the current political climate (I’ll say not more for now before I begin ranting again…).

Art by Camuncoli, Smith, Curiel and Caramagna

As for the art – the most dominant presence on every page is Vader. As it should be. He is perhaps the most iconic villain in movie history and Camuncoli, Smith and Curiel have done him justice. I’m particularly impressed with Curiel’s use of colour, it is impressive what can be done to communicate a lot of expression through a black, movement-less helmet. One page in particular impressed me – Vader is drawn in one panel, towering above minor character below, the spacing of the panels and emphasis given to Vader’s makes his figure even more imposing, with clever use of proportions from Camuncoli and Curiel. I’m familiar with the work of Caramagna as well who puts in a lot for Marvel. His lettering cleverly kept to a minimum on the page to add to the effect. Finally, we’re treated to a little combat, although lightsaber-free Vader’s portrayal is one more of a force of nature than a regular villain.

Still, we may have one of the most iconic villains ever, but how do his hands look? They look good of course, however what stood out for me was the mini comic after the main issue. We’re presented with some comic relief with a scene where Vader is constantly interrupted by incompetent underlings, all drawn in a newspaper comic strip/early Simpsons style. Each of the character’s is only wielding four fingers in this and Vader does come off as kind of adorable when he’s grumpily pointing at someone with short, chubby fingers. 9.5/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

Yeah, I’m hooked. You should be too. Go and buy this.

Score: 9.5 Black Lightsabers out of 10

Indie Comic Book Review – The Ether #1

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

Warning: minor spoilers.

“I don’t want you getting hurt” Rubi

Time for another Indie review. This week I picked up The Ether, a new comic released recently putting a spin on a classic vigilante tale. The comic was brought to us by:

  • Writer – Matt Garvey
  • Artist – Dizevez

Although this comic has a high quality front cover, what really caught my attention to begin with was the variant cover on the second page. It’s a playful send up and tribute to classic comic book art styles. The other key feature is the Question/Rorschach style mask, covered by a map in place of a weird pattern of blank expression. Part of me may have thought of EastEnders when I first saw this, but it does show the masked vigilantes used for inspiration for The Ether. As with many vigilante stories this issue deals with heavy themes at times within the issue.

As for the plot, we’re introduced to a familiar tale – a badass vigilante who doesn’t play by the rules but gets results, a secret identity and a tenuous relationship with the cops. Don’t let this familiarity put you off. The format provides a foundation for an unexpectedly deep level of characterisation, with character interactions being the priority during the early parts of the comic. As the story develops unique twists are introduced which bring the story to life, providing a unique spin of the familiar tale. It also plays to the strength of the medium, with the visual nature of the comic communicating the twist without the features of say a television to potentially give the game away beforehand.

I was very impressed with the art in this issue. Dizevez’s Ether carries a level of definition which the other characters lack. The eye is always drawn to the mask and the intricate detail of is a stark contrast to many of the other characters whose features are often less set. There’s a particularly powerful scene where we see the Ether’s true self shine through where Dizevez’s clearly defined art creates a powerful and lonely moment in the issue.

But I have to ask, can Dizevez draw hands? As I’ve already said the art is of a very high standard in this issue. Hands are drawn in a wide variety of situations, positions, actions and communicate powerful emotions when need be throughout conversations. 9.5/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

I was a little apprehensive when I first opened this issue, unsure if it was going to offer anything I hadn’t seen before. But it certainly did, using the familiar setting to pursue themes too often overlooked within the comic book industry.

You can pick up The Ether #1 digitally here!

 

Comic Book Review – Rocket #1 (Marvel Comics)

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

Warning: Minor spoilers.

“When the vault door blew, Rocket knew it was all up” Narrator

Another Marvel film, another tie-in. With the outstanding Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 now out Marvel are naturally cashing in on its success with a new series of comics of the beloved characters. Rocket naturally picks up Rocket Racoon’s story, Rocket’s character arc in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is truly great so I wasn’t able to say no. This was bought to us by:

  • Writer – Al Ewing
  • Artists – Adam Gorham
  • Colourist – Michael Garland
  • Letterer – Jeff Eckleberry
  • Cover – Mike Mayhew

Cover art by Mayhew

So what’s Marvel’s take on the lovable trash-panda? Naturally a heist. With the Guardians currently disbanded Rocket finds himself in a hive of scum and villainy in some far off planet full of low lives. Who does he meet? The ex-love of his life who got him locked up in jail a while back when he used to make a living cracking safes, relaxing on a beach, rinsing and repeating.

The issue is written in the style of a heist movie, with the quirky band of people with very specific skill sets… and an egg… pooling their talents to bust into a high tech facility and bust open an unbeatable safe, with a few unexpected twists thrown in. There’s also a narrator who provides an insight into Rocket’s inner thoughts, adding a touch of additional humour to the issue. We get to see a glimpse into Rocket’s past as well, seeing what he was like before he became a…. hero? Needless to say, he hasn’t exactly changed too much over the years.

Art by Gorham, Garland & Eckleberry

The art fits the tone of the issue. There’s a weird and wonderful cast of background alien characters, Gorham has done a great job of creating an almost fantastical setting in these weird and wonderful worlds. With the Narrator’s input a significant portion of the issue is given over to that as opposed to the regular comic panels. There’s a risk with these sorts of tropes that too much blank space is used and it detracts from the story. This is not the case in Rocket. Eckleberry manages to present the text in a simple but effective way which only adds to the story.

Right, important questions. Can Gorham draw hands? Define hand. With so many weird and wonderful aliens throughout the issue there are plenty of hands, claws, paws and everything else. Where conversations are had Gorham has done a good job of communicating through body language and adding depth to the characters. 8.5/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

This is a lot of fun. I wouldn’t expect this to reshape the foundations at Marvel but for something different and an enjoyable read I’d highly recommend it.

Score: 8.75 Raging Chicks out of 10

 

Comic Book Review – Rat Queens Volume Two: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

Warning: Minor spoilers.

“Put on some clothes before I whip out my fuck wand again” Hannah

 

I’ll be honest, this isn’t what I planned to review today, but I was meaning to read this for a little while, so I figured I’d read the first chapter or two. Next thing I knew I was putting down the volume, the whole thing read. Rat Queens is something I picked up recently and its fast become a favourite of mine. I appreciate volume 2 is an odd place to start, but what I say in this review will very much apply to volume 1 as well. This was bought to use by:

  • Writer – Kurtis J. Wiebe
  • Artists – Stjepan Sejic
  • Letterer – Ed Brisson

Well then, Rat Queens, how to sum up what it’s about in one sentence: Imagine a graphic novel written about characters in a Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder Tabletop Roleplay Game (RP). It uses many of the same tropes, focusing on a party of fantasy characters and classes with as broad a range as you’d expect in any D&D adventure. Unlike your usual story, and much more like the way a RP game plays out, much as the characters are very competent at what they do, there is certainly a lot of chaos is their wake. From a night of binge drinking to accidentally bringing an orc army down onto a town.

The characters are incredible, packed with personality and subversion of usual tropes – from the dwarf who keeps her beard shaved to the grumpy necromancer. The main characters in the story are the adventuring party the Rat Queens, who work, compete and play hard with and against other parties (such as the Four Daves) to protect the town of Palisade. Each of them immediately feels like an RP character, with colourful backstories and much smaller quirks like having literally no cooking ability. What adds to the cast is how unashamed the story is about showing who they are, every vice, every urge, every flaw which makes them feel as much more rounded characters than you’d expect in most comic books. This is not a comic for kids however, if you like bloody combat, awesome monsters, sex and drugs this is a comic for you.

As for the art throughout is of a very high standard, the variation in the cast of characters is huge, Sejic bringing them to life with well defined line work and vibrant colours throughout.

As always, the question is though, can Sejic draw hands? Seeing as I’m looking at an entire volume here, there are plenty drawn throughout the issue. Which means both plenty of opportunities for hands to look good, but plenty for them to look bad as well. Sejic certainly achieves the former, throughout conversations, combats or sex scene and plenty of other weird and wonderful circumstances. 9/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

This comic is a hell of a lot of fun. I have volume 3 which I expect may get both started and finished tomorrow evening. If you’re a fan of roleplaying games this is certainly for you, even if you’re not and simply want to enjoy a no-punches-pulled fantasy adventure with well developed characters this is also for you.

Also, volume 2 has awesome Lovecraftian Elder Gods wrecking everything. Who doesn’t love some of that?

Score: 9 Redbirds of Wrath out of 10

Comic Review – Secret Empire #0 (Marvel Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

This week saw the start of Secret Empire, the latest event from Marvel comics that marks the culmination of over a year of build up in Captain America Steve Rogers. We’ve been assured that this will be the last major event from Marvel for 18 months after this 9 issue series (although I don’t know if this issue counts as 1 of 9, or 0 of 9…), which is definitely a good thing since everyone is feeling serious event fatigue. Not that every event has been bad (Secret Wars was great), but a break in the constant story interruptions, world resetting, series ending and new #1s is certainly welcome. Here is hoping that Secret Empire leads us into that break on a high. Secret Empire #0 was written by current Captain America (both Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson) writer Nick Spencer, with prologue art by Rod Reis, main story art by Daniel Acuña and letters by VC’s Travis Lanham. Cover art was provided by Mark Brooks.

Cover by Mark Brooks

Following on from the events started in Captain America Steve Rogers #1 in May 2016 and the Pleasant Hill event, Captain America has had his reality rewritten by the Red Skull and a sentient cosmic cube in the form of a little girl, known as Kobik. You may have heard about it when the internet melted down as a result. In the new reality, Steve Rogers was recruited by Hydra at a young age to be their spy, and so unbeknownst to all of his allies, Captain America has always been an agent of Hydra. Over the last year he has been maneuvering and scheming his ultimate plan to take over the world, now finally revealing himself and his allegiance to all who thought they knew and trusted him.

I won’t go much more into details of the plot, but Secret Empire #0  is action packed and a thrill to read. Spencer has weaved a layered and complex plot with the fall of the greatest Avenger and his betrayal, and the time he has spent with the character really pays off. The most puzzling aspect of this issue is therefore the question of why this is a #0 rather than the opening issue of the event itself? Zero issues typically set the table for the event, and recap the plot leading up to it for anyone that might not have been following. But Secret Empire #0 seems to be essential reading and an integral part of the story, and it would be confusing and a shame for readers to miss out due to that #0 rather than #1 on the cover. Also I don’t know why Tony Stark is back in the land of the living. I read Invincible Iron Man too and as far as I was aware the only Tony was RiRi Williams’s AI. Is this the AI? Because there was definitely a man inside that can at one point. Those quibbles aside, the storytelling in this issue was great.

Art by Daniel Acuña

As for the art, it is consistently strong throughout. The prologue from Rod Reis is a gorgeous and ethereal opener that displays the weight of the story to come. Acuña’s art throughout the main story is similarly incredible, jumping between some fantastic action that stretches from New York, to Earth’s orbit and the skies above Sokovia, and the dark, heavier moments that drive the plot and show the determination and grim resolve behind the master strategist with his efforts aimed at dominating the world rather than saving it. Acuña’s bold art makes these latter character moments really land, with the surprise these heroes are experiencing feeling really genuine.

Secret Empire is off to a good start, with strong art and a story that feels like a real payoff to a year of story. Issue #0 feels like essential reading for the plot, and even then it may be a little impenetrable to new readers. Even so, I definitely recommend Secret Empire #0,  which you can pick up at your local comic shop or digitally now!

Score: 8 Helicarriers out of 10

 

Pick up the first two volumes of Spencer’s Captain America Steve Rogers run here and here!

Indie Comic Book Review – Grief

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

Warning: minor spoilers.

“… and I’ll NEVER let you go.” Mya

It’s time for another indie review. This week its Grief by Frank Gogol. Grief is a collection of short issue comics, each of which deals with a degree of heavy content, from mental health to drug abuse and the challenges of parenthood. This series is bought to us by:

  • Writer – Frank Gogol
  • Artists:
    • Nenad Cviticanin,
    • Bethany Vani
    • Ryan Foust
    • Jey Soliva
    • Kim Holm
  • Colourists:
    • Esther Gil-Munilla
    • Luca Bulgheroni
    • Nenad Cviticanin
    • Bethany Vani
    • Emily Elmer
  • Letterer – Sean Rinehart
  • Cover Artist – Dani Martins
  • Editors:
    • Marc Sumerak
    • Andy Schmidt
    • Molly Lazer

As you can see, a lot of people worked on this comic, and I’ll be honest – when I opened it and saw it was 84 pages long my first instinct was to only read the first chapter or two and review them only. The next thing I knew I was hooked and finished the whole thing. The stories all follow a similar format – they’re a few pages long, and gradually build up with a character’s internal monologue towards a twist in the final panels. These range from heart-warming, to shocking and disturbing. Gogol demonstrates great versatility moving around a range of genres, from the fantastical to the very down to earth and very real, producing a wide range of emotions in a short number of pages.

It also helps that the first character monologue references the Greek Legend of Troy, and I love stuff like that.

The art changes to match the story being told. The different artists offer a wide range of styles which each complement story. Two that stood out were Bulgheroni producing a dark atmosphere with a pallet full of strong earthy colours to match the darker tones of The Debt, Cviticanin’s strong bright style adds impact to twists. Across the board the art is of a very high quality, getting the colouring right in indie comics makes all the difference, and the team has done so. Rinehart’s work on the lettering also should not be overlooked. The font, colouring and placing of speech bubbles is constantly great throughout the whole volume.

Also, there’s something I couldn’t help but notice throughout – Superheroes. They’re not in every story, but some of them involve superheroes and in some of them superhero toys are present. There’s always a running theme with them – hope. Even when they break, with enough love and enough work they’re repaired and can lead to better things. I’m not sure if this was a deliberate choice by Gogol, but intentional or not it’s a theme I couldn’t help but pick up on.

As with all comics though, I will ask, can the art team draw hands? You’ll probably already know I’m going to say yes. The art throughout this comic has been of a very impressive standard and there weren’t any pages where the way the hands were drawn either looked out of place considering the context or the art style. 9/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

I was very impressed with this comic. As I said, I went in planning to check out the first two stories and found myself finishing them all and wanting more. This is the sort of indie comic very much worth supporting, which you can do through their Kickstarter campaign here.