Comic Book Review – Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 (Boom! Studios)

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

I am a long-time fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, and though I dropped off the comic book continuation, the announcement of essentially a “modern” (well, not late-90’s) comic reboot had me intrigued. More intriguing is that the new Buffy is being written by colourist-of-at-least-a-third-of-all-my-favourite-comics Jordie Bellaire, with illustrations by Dan Mora, colours from Raúl Angulo, lettering by Ed Dukeshire and cover art by Matthew Taylor.

On the off chance that you don’t know, the basic premise of Buffy is this: Into every generation, a Slayer is born; a chosen one. They alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. Buffy Summers is that Slayer, and those vampires, demons and forces of darkness are all congregating in the town of Sunnydale. Mostly because there is a Hellmouth there. Buffy is new in the town, working a crappy fast-food restaurant job and struggling to connect with other students, while patrolling for vampires and arguing with her Watcher Giles. But there is someone selling magic items to vamps that seems to be making them stake-proof, so the Slayer has her work cut out for her.

Bellaire doesn’t waste much time establishing Buffy’s world here, but this issue is as much about resetting and reassuring that despite the smart phone on the front cover, the spirit and feeling of the original TV series will be maintained. That much is clear in the character relationships shown her, with brief interactions between Buffy and her mother Joyce, her Watcher Giles, and her first meeting with her soon to be fellow Scoobies Willow and Xander all note-perfect for what has come before. But that isn’t to say Bellaire plays it safe here, or is simply retreading this Slayer’s origin story. In between the familiar, the actual driving plot seems compelling on its own, but without the baggage of 7 years of stories. There is a good mix of known and unknown dangers and threads that make me excited for what is to come.

Mora’s art complements the story and the feeling of familiarity well, with each of the main characters very much resembling their TV counterpart, but not slavishly so or to the detriment to the rest of the art. The couple of action scenes are fun and dynamic, with dusting vamps looking much cooler than it ever did on the show. The Sunnydale High library is somehow daunting and oppressive, and while many scenes are bright with Angulo’s vibrant colours, they have deep shadows that help to sell the horror angle of the book.

I was worried that as part of this reboot of Buffy there would be a painful attempt to sound too young, to be too referential to current tech or apps. But as with the TV show itself, the new series largely eschews that and manages to feel both relevant and timeless. The art is great, and the world and the characters felt both familiar and fresh at the same time. I really enjoyed this issue and can’t wait for more. Pick it up at your LCS or online now!

Comic Review – Black Widow #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

After a bit of a break, we are back with our weekly comic reviews! Warning: minor spoilers.

“Finally I can let my monster loose, the killer I was meant to be.” Black Widow

Cover art by Crain (Marvel)

Sorry for the long break between my reviews, I’m back now for 2019 and glad to be here! Conveniently my first day back coincided with the release of a new Black Widow series from Marvel. Black Widow is someone I first really got to know through the MCU, and while I’ve seen some of her adventures in the comic series, these have often been vicariously via cameos in other books. Additionally, the 2016 Waid and Samnee run was recommended to me countless times and is a series I regret not picking up before. This latest run is bought to us by:

  • Writers – Jen and Sylvia Soska
  • Artist – Flaviano
  • Colour Artist – Veronica Gandini
  • Letterer – VC’s Joe Caramagna
  • Cover artist – Clayton Crain

The series begins with a team up between Captain America and Black Widow, providing an interesting dynamic considering the climax of things between them during the events of the recent Secret Empire. This is referenced heavily, explaining Black Widow’s current non-Avenger status in the world as well as what she has come through in recent comic book history. Reading this felt like a throw back to the Secret Empire run with the intention to draw a line under it for Black Widow to move on from. Additionally, her dialogue with Cap establishes her key motivation and attitude that will be sure to form the running theme throughout this series, specifically it frame this Black Widow as one who is more than happy to get some blood on her hands to put criminals and villains to a permanent end.

Art by Flaviano, Gandini and Caramagna (Marvel)

After the resolution of things between her and Cap she’s off to lead on her own solo mission that is yet to be defined, with her objective only becoming clear during the final pages of the issue, which will presumably become the initial main conflict. Jen and Sylvia Soska have framed this series as a violent and bloody one with Black Widow no longer held back from the Avengers or the morality of other characters.

The main criticism I would raise against this issue is how although Flaviano and Gandini’s art is very good, it feels a little out of place considering the tone of the story. Were this art in say a Squirrel Girl, Spider-Man or other more light-hearted run it would be right at home. The art is colourful, and the action scenes feel reminiscent of the super hero cartoons that I fell in love with as a kid. The scenery and backgrounds are vibrant and bring the nightlife and settings to life, although I would have expected more muted tones. Caramagna’s lettering is worked into the issue well, providing robust and functional dialogue throughout without much of a call for anything fancy to be done.

 

Final Verdict

Black Widow is presented as a hard drinking killer willing to do what other’s won’t. This feels like a return to the traditional portrayal of Black Widow, who I certainly want to get to know more. I have criticised the art style, however that is less to do with the quality, more to do with the contrast against the story. This is purely based on the one issue however, and the story may develop to where its pairing with the art may become more apparent.

Comic Review – American Carnage #1 (DC Vertigo)

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

“Welcome to the REAL America” Jennifer Morgan

Cover art by Ben Oliver (DC Vertigo)

I did not expect to pick up a comic book like this on the DC app store. We live in a highly partisan era and comic books should never be overlooked as a medium to explore the more uncomfortable tones we have to deal with this political climate. In fact, they have the potential to be a great medium to do so, able to deliver deeply personal stories backed up with art to depict distressing and challenging scenes that will leave you with a page open in front of you, needing to take a moment for it to sink in. Unlike books which lack the visual element or TV which moves at its own pace, the reader is in control of how long they take on each page, confronting each issue.

American Carnage does not shy away from contentious issues, and based on the first instalment, I applaud DC Vertigo for publishing this. I hope this series maintains its critical themes and stance it has set out with. This comic is bought to us by:

  • Story – Bryan Hill
  • Art – Leonardo Fernandez
  • Colour – Dean White
  • Lettering – Pat Brosseau
  • Cover – Ben Oliver

Agent Sheila Curry of the FBI has just witnessed the death of the prime suspect in her ex-partner’s murder, a man part of a far-right hate group who carried out a gruesome killing. The FBI are ordering the investigation to be closed, however Curry suspects links to a populist ‘libertarian’ celebrity/philanthropist who is leading a Trump-esque anti-establishment campaign with suspected ties to these far-right groups. Hill does not pull his punches. This comic sets up the far-right as the bad guys they are, and refers to the likes of Morgan as a potential ‘MAGA true believer’. Curry seeks the help of Richard Wright, an ex-FBI officer who lost his place on the force a few years before. He’s a mess, but he is good at what he does – infiltrate groups, become part of their fabric and report back. Curry wants him in to investigate Morgan.

Art by Fernandez and White (DC Vertigo)

A lot of the language used throughout this issue could have been ripped straight from angry right-wing Twitter nuts, extremist TV personalities or what you would expect to see in the Daily Mail comment section, which does prove uncomfortable reading at times. As Wright is wrapped up more and more into this world his disgust is unmissable in every panel. This is communicated through Fernandez’s art, who demonstrates a talent for expressing emotion through facial expression. There is a subtlety in his work, shown in panel after panel of interview showing the emotional pain on Curry’s face during the opening pages. Fernandez’s work is supported by White’s colours, providing a gritty tone while avoiding the standard brown and grey colour pallet seen in some series.

Final Verdict

This comic treats the issues involved with the gravity they deserve. It feels genuine and has the potential to be something special. It builds incredibly to a hell of a cliff-hanger, and I hope it sticks true to the serious tone it has set. I feel this would be lost if either magic or Mecha-Hitler are secretly behind this all. This is a story about modern right-wing extremists and their presentation within the media that feels way too real at this point in time.

This series is bound to receive some negative press by the worst parts of the internet, but that is a good thing. After all, if you’re challenging extreme right ideology, and pissing off Nazis, you’re doing something right.

Comic Review – The Green Lantern #1 (DC Comics)

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

“So I’m back in the saddle?” Hal Jordan

Cover by Sharp and Oliff (DC Comics)

This week DC started a new run on The Green Lantern. While his series have never been ones I’ve closely followed, I’m familiar enough with the Lantern lore to know how impressive they can be and how good the stories are by reputation (I can’t say I know him from the movies as I did my best to steer clear of the Green Lantern one…). This new series is written by Grant Morrison of all people, so there is a huge name in comic book history leading on this. With both of these in mind I felt I had to give it a look this week. The cover is very eye catching as well. Hal Jordan plastered in his trademark green is stood front and centre, proudly drawing the eye and setting a powerful tone for this new series. This comic is bought to us by:

  • Writer – Grant Morrison
  • Artist – Liam Sharp
  • Colorist – Steve Oliff
  • Letterer – Tom Orzechowski

The opening of the story brings us to the Green Lanterns, in their wonderful multiform and colourful variety battling it out with bunch of alien pirates. This forms the backstory and set up to the series and brings to any totally new readers an understanding of who the Lantern Corp are and the scale of the problems they deal with. We then get to see Hal Jordan, and in a scene very reminiscent of the very first time he picked up a power ring, how he gets back in the game. We get to know the type of person Hal is, how he very much knows how to handle himself around hostile aliens, and his status within the Corp. Naturally, towards the end of the issue we get the set up for the on-going plot this series will cover and the real challenge Hal will face, with the entire Corp under threat from a foreboding prophecy of betrayal.

Art by Sharp, Oliff and Orzechowski (DC Comics)

Sharp covers the art throughout this issue. His resume within the comic industry is hugely impressive and he is more than up to the task to deliver to the standard required by one of DC’s top tier characters and working beside the likes of Morrison. Sharp’s line work is incredibly detailed and adds a sense of gravity to the issue, with Oliff adding a colour pallet true to the Green Lantern’s classic shade of green. There is also a very interesting page where Hal while being heroic within the context has a noticeably sinister design to him. I have a sense reading this that Hal may have a dark streak that could come into play in this series. The creative alien designs also bring a sense of weird and wonder to the issue.

Final Verdict

This is a very interesting start. Morrison and Sharpe make an excellent team and I’ll be reading further issues as they come out. I certainly hadn’t realised though quite how many different Corps there now seems to be! Seems there a lot more than the visible rainbow spectrum now!

Comic Review – Shuri #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“Even then I learned best by observation. And I moved like a panther” Shuri

Cover by Spratt (Marvel Comics)

While I was at a friend’s over the weekend we re-watched Black Panther, because it’s fantastic of course. There’s a pretty strong consensus between us that Shuri is one of the best characters in the film as well. This meant that when I saw Marvel were releasing a Shuri comic series this week I had to check it out, especially with the wonderfully realistic front cover drawn by Sam Spratt which caught both my attention and a likeness to Shuri in the movies that makes the comic very recognisable for new readers who will know her from the movie. I’ve really enjoyed Marvel’s Black Panther runs previously, so looked forward to seeing Wakanda and the stories it holds from somebody else’s perspective.

This coming was bought to us by:

  • Writer – Nnedi Okorafor
  • Artist – Leonardo Romero
  • Colour Artist – Jordie Bellaire
  • Letterer – VC’s Joe Sabino
  • Cover Artist – Sam Spratt

The story begins with a brief overview of Shuri’s history in the Marvel Universe. Explaining some of her previous adventures and the powers she’s obtained. With T’Challa currently busy elsewhere in the Marvel Universe, Shuri has time on her hands to focus on her inventions and some of the significant issues in Wakanda. We get to see her relationship with her ancestor’s and the dichotomy between her modern attitude towards those issues and those of her family and ancestors. We’re also treated to a flashback which defines her relationship with her brother and how the movers and shakers within Wakanda view her. To avoid any particular spoilers, the set up presented at the end of this issue could easily have been shunted in right at the beginning, which would have been a shame as we’d have been deprived of the chance to get to know this incarnation of Shuri that Okorafor is able to bring out.

Art by Romero, Bellaire & Sabino (Marvel Comics)

Bellaire’s light pallet provides a sense of reality to the issue. The less bold tones providing some gravity as opposed to intense wackiness seen in some comic books. The flash back is presented in very contrasting red and white giving an other worldly sense to the spectacle. Finally, the shift to warmer tones in the setting sun during the final scene gives the sense of change that the issue delivers to the state of affairs in Wakanda as well as Shuri and her story. Romero’s art compliments Spratt’s eye-catching cover art well, keeping the characters recognisable to those who only know the films to date. I’m very familiar with Sabino’s work now which as usual is well worked into the issue in both spoken and online chat format.

Final Verdict

My only issue with the set off for the series is I’m worried Shuri will simply fill in shoes that are not her own as opposed to really fitting into hers. We’ll see however. Okorafor clearly has a talent for Shuri, who is definitely in a safe pair of hands.

 

Comic Book Review – Captain America #4 (Marvel Comics)

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

This week I’m reviewing Captain America #4 (or #708 with Legacy numbering), written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, with pencils by Leinil Francis Yu, inks by Gerry Alanguilan, colours by Sunny Cho and letters from VC’s Joe Caramagna, with cover art by Alex Ross.

Cover art by Alex Ross

Steve Rogers is still trying to make up for what was done in his name, and with his face, when Hydra took over the United States. He’s lost the trust of his government and the American people, and is now rushing to the aid of Sharon Carter, Agent 13, who has been working with the government and has been captured during her latest mission. Cap goes in alone, tearing his way through a base full of goons before coming up against an opponent who’s battle abilities rival his own. Meanwhile Sharon is questioned and tortured by members of the mysterious Power Elite, the next group who are looking to take over the US!

Coates’ run so far on Captain America has been thrilling, and in this issue he shows off a deep and clear understanding of the character, as Cap narrates over his fights. See Cap is an idealist, and truly believes in America and the ideals it should stand for. It’s why he is the Captain of it. But his issue increasingly lies with people who call themselves patriots but act like nothing but, people who “swear by the flag one day, and set it on fire the next”. Even without a familiarity with Coates’ non-fiction writings (with which you should get acquainted), it’s difficult not to see the commentary here on the current climate in the United States. The plot here is good, and it’s ties some of the best Cap stories in the past 20 years is a big plus, but it’s the characterisation of Steve Rogers this commentary that makes the book shine. More is being done and said with the aftermath of Secret Empire here and with a more deft hand than in the event itself.

Art by Yu, Alanguilan, Cho and Caramagna

Yu’s Cap is fierce with a real sense of power. For such an action-heavy issue, nothing drags and it feels kinetic and brutal. At the same time, the interrogation scenes with Sharon are dark and ominous, allowing the threat level in both scenes to come through very strongly. The colours are slightly washed out and dulled, which suits the tone and the base environs of the issue.

Coates and Yu’s Captain America is my favourite book on the stands right now, and goes to the top of my reading pile whenever it comes out. The art is strong and the plot and character musings are incredibly timely. Don’t sleep on this. Pick it up at your LCS, and the first 3 issues if you haven’t already read them!

Indie Comic Preview – Candles

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

“Hopefully next time we can grab a meal and go unnoticed for once” – Idris

This week I’d like to highlight an exciting new comic due to come out later this month. Candles is a self-contained fantasy graphic novel both written and drawn by Lyndon White. For any of you who picked up a copy of the Little Heroes Comics Anthology #2 you’ll immediately recognise Lyndon’s unique colourful style where each panel is it’s own miniature work of art.

Lyndon’s previous work has covered a full spectrum of genres, available at www.lyndonwhite.com. Lyndon’s art is well suited to both the fantastical such as Candles, horror which he’s worked on extensively before, and bringing out an emotional intensity as seem on Little Heroes. Candles itself promises a fun fantastical adventure, with a simple premise of an overly enthusiastic child learning magic in a sceptical and fearful society which promises characters and their personalities to shine and drive the story.

Generation after generation people are taught one thing, never use magic. The evil Witch has cast a plague known as Dark-bark over the land and one by one, infected villagers are lured into the enchanted forest never to be seen again. As a last resort to save her family, Grace embarks on a quest to steal the Witch’s magic and use it to save her dying village.

Meanwhile, Idris, a flamboyant sorcerer and his talented apprentice Ava, are outcasted from their town and begin to track the source of the Dark-bark. Wolves howl at the night sky and candles begin to glow. The Witch must be stopped at all costs, however, everything is not as it seems. Candles is a full colour fantasy graphic novel, written and illustrated by Lyndon White.

The book is being crowdfunded through Unbound, launching during the Lakes Comic Art Festival and aiming to launch the campaign by the 11th October 2018.

Lyndon has recently finished work on the fantasy, horror mini-series Mandy the Monster Hunter: Legend of the Spindly Man with Hellbound Media, after launching a highly successful Kickstarter in March 2018, for his Call of Cthulhu concertina book.

Candles will be his third graphic novel after Sparks and the Fallen Star, 2016 and The Mind of James Svengal, 2018 (written by Jordan Sam Adams), both of which were published by Blue Fox Comics.

 

Got an indie comic for us to review? Email us at lostlighthouseindie@gmail.com