Indie Comics Review – The Showdown Vol. 2 (Broken Icon Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

Its Halloween soon, so this week I’m reviewing The Showdown Volume 2, the follow up to the indie comic from Broken Icon Comics that I reviewed back in 2015. The Showdown was created by Russ Lippitt, with illustrations by Ezequiel Pineda and colours by Nae Esteban.

In the depths of hell, once a millennium, The Showdown takes place, a brutal death race which draws the attention of every monster in the underworld. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, skinheads and demons all fix up their cars and roll up to the start line, eager for a chance to make it to the finish line first and claim the grand prize – the chance to raise hell on earth once more.

In Volume 2 the race is in full swing, and Lippitt wastes little time in whittling down his cast of characters. Across the layers of hell, teams who get a little too close for comfort start brutally eliminating each other, either through wrecking vehicles or direct slaughter. The Dead Belles face off against killer clowns, the Hell Howlers try to fend off the Rompers, and the skeleton Bone Crusaders creep ahead of the Marauders. But who will make real progress in the race, and who won’t make it to the end at all?

After a first volume that was largely set up, this is high octane action from the get go, with plenty of surprises along the way, including match ups not playing out quite how you would expect and the arrival of a late contender that is pretty audacious and shocking. The story continues the atmosphere of a crossover between Wacky Races and Mad Max, with a dose of campy horror thrown in that is very enjoyable.

Pineda’s heavy and oppressive style fits right in with the world created in Volume 1, with the various hot rods and vehicles speeding through the various layers of hell, and haunting looking creatures and monsters. There is a level of camp horror that is brought out in the art too, which helps underline a book that definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously.  The colours from Esteban fill the dark and depressing world of hell out, with the sharp contrast of bright hellfire and colourful monsters making the dreariness appear more real.

The Showdown. Volume 2 currently has a Kickstarter, with just over 2 weeks remaining, so go check it out here!

Score: 7.5 Layers of Hell out of 10

 

Comic Review – Batman: White Knight #1 (DC Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“I love Gotham” Jack Napier

Batman is bad for Gotham City, he creates criminals, causes unquantifiable amounts of property damage and makes it so much more of a dangerous place. You may have come across some of these points before (see this Episode of Cracked After Hours if you need refresher: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd1sIwCLtIc ). Sometimes you have to wonder what publishers or owners of iconic heroes think of this sort of criticism, Sean Gordon Murphy at DC goes all in and actively embraces this criticism to bring us the new 8 part series – Batman: White Knight.

This comic was bought to us by:

  • Writer, art and cover – Sean Murphy
  • Colours and Cover Colours – Matt Hollingsworth
  • Letters – Todd Klein

For those of you who don’t know, the premise of White Knight is simple. People realise how bad Batman is for Gotham, and the charges against him are lead by none other than his greatest nemesis – Jack Napier aka the Joker. He’s cured of his insanity and takes on Batman as Gotham’s White Knight, taking him on in obvious ways which Bats simply doesn’t see coming. The story opens with what feels like a fun tribute to Lego Batman – with the Joker trying to explore his relationship with a very reluctant Batman. The Joker is portrayed as Batman’s biggest fan, in a similar way to the outstanding Death of the Family series by Scott Snyder. The first issue largely deals with world building, setting up the key plot threads and exploring what makes this Batman the person he is (outside of the usual dead parents, Bat obsession and grumpiness etc.). DC appears to have given Murphy all of the freedom to critique the Bat and vigilantism in general, with undertones of real world polarised political debate.

Murphy took care of the art as well, this being his project and has set the bar very high across the board for himself. The art has a very cinematic feel to it, it feels like these could easily be the frames waiting to be put together for an animated film. Batman is drawn as a hugely imposing figure, there’s a particularly iconic panel early on where Batman and Jack Napier square off. The Bat comes off as monstrous, with Napier for once being calm and collected under pressure. The pale colour pallet used by Hollingsworth lends to a more down to earth feeling, where actions have consequences and people get hurt. Klein also has his work cut out for him with the lettering, there’s a lot of dialogue in parts of the issue and only so much page to fit it into. Klein manages to layout a dynamic format which keeps the reader engaged.

How do both the Dark and White Knight’s hands check out though? Hands only feature so much in this issue, in places lettering or the limited space for panels leaves them squeeze out on occasion. Where they do exist however, a large amount of impact is packed into them. I’ll have to dock a couple of points for scarcity though! 8/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

If any of you know the sort of comic I like, then it won’t come as a surprise that I really enjoyed this. I’m excited to see where Murphy goes with the plot, though unfortunately I have seen promising comics slip up before. If Murphy can keep this up though, I doubt that’ll be the case.

Score: 10 Rooms Full of Batman Memorabilia out of 10

Comic Review: Legacy #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

This week I picked up Marvel Legacy, the set up from the next stage of the Marvel Universe, ostensibly following on from all of the Generations one shots from the past few weeks. Legacy was written by Jason Aaron, with the art primarily by Esad Ribić and Steve McNiven, colours by Matthew Wilson and letters by VC’s Cory Petit, with additional art from a host of artists including Chris Samnee, Russell Dauterman and Alex Maleev.

First and foremost, Legacy reads like a Previews catalogue, with snippets and hints at ongoing stories that are for the most part seemingly unconnected to the driving narrative, or 2 or 3 driving narrative of this hefty issue. One million years ago, an Avengers-style group including Odin (wielding Mjolnir), the Phoenix, a Black Panther, a Ghost Rider, a Starbrand, a Sorcerer Supreme and an Iron Fist banded together to fight a Celestial. In present day, the current Starbrand and Ghost Rider fight it out near an archeological dig site that is getting dangerously close to where that Celestial was laid low. Meanwhile, Captain America (Sam Wilson, in possibly his last adventure in the uniform), Thor (Jane Foster) and Ironheart (RiRi Williams) battle ice giants, sent by Loki to steal an item held in a SHIELD secret base. Some long dead or missing (well, 2 years or so) heroes return or are hinted at returning along the way.  Around these main through-lines, we are treated to glimpses of where the stories for some of the main books are headed. We check in with Captain America (Steve Rogers) on the road, the Odinson in a bar, and Dr Strange and Iron Fist hanging out for some reason.

Legacy succeeds for the most part in creating tangible excitement for the future of Marvel comics and this universe. Some of these plots don’t quite land, don’t seem to have much prospect for the future, or simply seem a bit like “Hey, guess who is alive again! What? How are they alive again? Don’t worry about it!”. As an attempt to bring in old, lapsed readers unhappy with the current status quo, while retaining any newer readers gained from the increased diversity in recent years, I’m not entirely sure how successful this will be. But from the perspective of good, well told comic books? The driving plot is interesting, and many of the teasers are incredibly compelling (I can’t wait for Samnee and Waid’s Captain America). I hope we see more of the Avengers of 1 million years ago again in particular.

The art in the entire issue is uniformally great, if not entirely uniformal. Esad Ribić’s work on the main plot is as good as his work on Secret Wars, to my mind the best Marvel event in a long while, due in no small part to his art. The early Avengers work is stunning to look at here in Legacy. As for the rest of the art Steve McNiven deliver’s predictably very strong pages, and in general the pages that are either current artists or upcoming artists on the plots they are relating too deliver too. Samnee’s Captain America page is warm, classic and entirely modern all at once, while Dauterman’s Thor page is as breathtakingly epic as ever.

Legacy has made me excited for the future of Marvel comics, after the onset of severe event fatigue. The return to the “original” numbering after this is a gamble that I can’t quite see the long term benefits of with regards to getting new readers in, and this certainly doesn’t feel like a place to start, but with a compelling plot and great art any current or lapsed Marvel fan should check it out.

Score: 7.5 secret SHIELD caches out of 10

Comic Review – Generations: The Marvels #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“Umm… protesting stuff? And unicorns.” Kamala Khan

Me again this week, next week I’ll be off on my honeymoon as I get married on the 22nd! This week I wanted to this new Generations run Marvel are currently doing. Ms. Marvel has always been a figure who I’ve liked the idea of but have never read up on as much as I’d have liked to, when I saw the Ms. Marvel and Ms. Marvel comic come up this week I figured it’d be a good place to start which appears to be the intention with the Generations – giving an easy pick up point for new readers to explore characters they want to get involved with, and if they’re a fan of the classic they get to know who is wearing those boots in 2017. This comic was bought to us by:

  • Writer – G. Willow Wilson
  • Artist – Paolo Villanelli
  • Colourist – Ian Herring
  • Letterer – VC’s Joe Caramangna

In this issue Kamala Khan, the current incarnation of Ms. Marvel, has been thrust back in time, for reasons. There isn’t much of an explanation as to how she’s got there, but that’s comic books for you. From what I’ve seen this is a theme in all the Generations releases and may well be explained as a more overarching theme. She finds herself in what appears to be the 60s with second wave feminism in the process of taking off. Through a series of accidents she finds herself working for Carol Danvers at the Daily Bugle on a leading women’s magazine insert. Naturally there’s an alien takeover attempt (maybe not quite in the way you expect) and both Ms. Marvels team up to kick some ass. As you may expect there are feminist overtones to the issue, with Kamala making some key points which feel as relevant today as they would have back in the 60s.

Villanelli and Herring’s work has been done through a rather vintage lens. The colours appear faded and with the exception of Kamala much of the art looks like you were looking at it through an early colour TV set. Naturally this makes Kamala stand out and look even more out of place. As always with Kamala in the action Villanelli appears to have had some fun playing with size and proportions during the battles, however Kamala often feels like she’s taking a back seat to Carol’s lead.

60s or not though, can Villanelli draw hands? Reading the issue while paying particular attention to the hands you see a lot of the character’s personality and mood communicated through them. Danvers feels in control and confident while Kamala’s body language is often nervous as if she feels out of place (of course). There’s also plenty to look at during combat and I think Villanelli certainly can draw hands. 9/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

I enjoyed this, it was a fun issue which has hooked me in to pick up more Ms. Marvel comics, its best not to think of some of the potential plot issues though. Well done Marvel, your promotion is working.

Score: 8.5 Ridiculously Cheap Outfits out of 10

Comic Review – Secret Empire: Omega (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“The war is over. All around me my country is regaining what it lost. Healing. Rebuilding. So why am I here?” Captain America

Well Secret Empire is finally complete. It’s been a series not without its controversies, from the backlash against Steve Rogers – a character created by Jewish comic book writers turning to the very far right  to issues around Magneto’s portrayal as a pro-Hydra villain on one of the comic book covers (he very much stays pro-mutant, anti-Hydra throughout) but for me I think there was very much value in the story it sought to tell, as can be seen in a previous article of mine – ‘Captain America and the Rise of Hydra’ (warning, contains political rambling!), found here.

I didn’t however, review issue 10 of Secret Empire. This was honestly because I found it a little disappointing. The series finale felt rushed with a ‘Cosmic Cube fixes the world’ ending and for me personally what I saw as the key idea the writer Nick Spencer was trying to get at wasn’t properly addressed, i.e. Captain America going Hydra being a metaphor for the rise of far right populism in America. That was until now. I picked up Secret Empire Omega a little tentatively, at a high price and off the back of an ending which didn’t quite hit the mark but as I’ll explain, for me Spencer added some of the ideological struggle to the epilogue of this story the ending was sorely missing.

This comic was bought to us by:

  • Writer – Nick Spencer
  • Artist – Andrea Sorrentino
  • Additional Art – Joe Bennett with Joe Pimentel
  • Letterer – VC’s Travis Lanham

The plot to Secret Empire Omega is necessarily simple. Now the fighting is over and the clean-up beginning Steve Rogers, both good (Captain America for reference) and bad (I’ll refer to as Captain Hydra for lack of a better term) clash again. This time in an ideological debate rather than hand to hand combat. There’s a line from Captain America that may communicate Spencer’s feeling on this that he himself may have wanted more time to dig into this during the main series – that when he saw his enemy there wasn’t time to talk, only fight and close the series out. Omega also touches on what the longer lasting impacts of Secret Empire will be – Captain America’s emotional scarring and loss of influence globally (think how America will be post-Trump), the death of a significant character and how other characters are coping now its over.

There is a key message in all this as well, if you read Captain Hydra as a metaphor for modern America – You allowed this to happen. Captain Hydra blame Steve Rogers, Carol Danvers, US politicians and pretty much everyone but himself for his rise to power. It’s possible to read this as a criticism of those with influence in the real world where Trump was elected, which was only possible because of the state of the US to begin with.

I was a little cheeky with this review and had a flick through one or two of the other early reviews before writing. There’s more I wanted to say than normal and it helped to see if I was missing any other major points. One of the reviews I read criticised the artwork, that Sorrentino’s portrayal of the two Cap’s out of costume not distinctive enough. I noticed this as well but actually liked that they were less distinctive. They look very similar and that’s the point. They’re the same or at least the same bar ideals and the point made earlier – that Captain Hydra could take the power he did because of the actions of Captain America amongst others means the line between them is currently a little blurred. There’s a sombre tone to the art in this issue, with a grey pallet used for Captain America and red for Captain Hydra. I feel the art was exactly how it should have been for this issue.

Final Verdict

I have complicated feelings towards Secret Empire as a series, but there was an intent with the story which Spencer sought to tell. If you’d asked me before reading this I would have said the point hadn’t been made properly, now it has. On balance, I would rate the series as a whole at 7.5 out of 10, starting close to 10 but moving down to maybe a 6.5. I would have liked to have seen a more optimistic note struck for the other characters than Cap with all this coming to an end as the series does have a fairly downer ending, that isn’t to say it’s bad though. This issue really helped make the ending much more satisfying for me.

Score: 8.25 Legacies out of 10

Comic Review: Generations: The Iron #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

This week, I picked up another installment of Marvel’s Generations, the stop gap between the contentious Secret Empire that wrapped up last week and their next event, Marvel Legacy, that will apparently smash together classic characters and their more recent legacy counterparts into a new status quo. Generations is a series of one-shots, where the current and classic versions of several of Marvel’s most recognizable characters team up for a short adventure. This time, I’m reviewing The Iron, written by Brian Michael Bendis, pencils by Marco Rudy, Szymon Kudranski and Nico Leon, inks by Kudranski, Will Sliney, Scott Koblish and Leon, colours by Rudy, Dean White and Paul Mounts, and letters from VC’s Clayton Cowles.

“The Vanishing Point – An instant apart! A moment beyond! Loosed from the shackles of past, present and future – a place where time has no meaning! But where true insight can be gained! Make your choice! Select your destination! This journey is a gift…”

The Iron stars Riri Williams as Ironheart, Tony Stark’s replacement shellhead in the wake of the punishment he received at the hands of Captain Marvel in last year’s Civil War II. The story picks up with Riri falling, her suit failing and the Tony Stark AI she uses as her version of Jarvis/Friday unresponsive. She lands in a futuristic Chicago, and how she got there is a complete mystery. But before she passes out, she meets a group of young Avengers, most of whom appear to be related to recognizable original members and all of whom know who Ironheart is. When she wakes up, she discovers that Tony Stark is alive and well, and is now 126 years old. And he has a new title too. Tony takes Riri on a tour of the future, a utopia of science and philosophy that includes the quickest thwarting of a villain ever, and the return of an old face (or an older version of a young face) that hasn’t been seen in the Marvel U for a couple of years. But Tony also needs to make sure he doesn’t reveal too many secrets, as knowing your own future can be a dangerous thing. They have banned time travel in the future after all.

There are still no more clues as to what the Vanishing Point is, or why heroes are being time displaced for these brief adventures. I had expected some indication to come in the finale of Secret Empire, but all there was was a throwaway line that something had happened. However, Generations continues to be a lot of fun, and The Iron is no different. There is a lot of interesting philosophizing, and it is rare to see a future in a Marvel comic where everything is actually going well. As with The Thunder, at least one hero here leaves with their horizons expanded. Generally, the story and dialogue from Bendis here are good, though both Riri and Tony have one instance where they add in a comment halfway into a speech bubble in parentheses, which just isn’t how people talk and so I’m not sure what the aim is, other than a snide comment within a comment.

Interestingly, while the art goes through several changes throughout the issue, it never feels incomplete or inconsistent. Rather, it feels like each section of the story and the tour of the future switches between discrete art styles that gives a satisfying overall flow. There are levels of Ditko-esque psychedelia throughout that almost resembles Christian Ward’s work on ODY-C, and some really interesting paneling is employed across the issue. The colorist on the book bring this psychedelia to life, as a contrast to the blue tones of the future.

The Iron is another strong Generations book, even if it doesn’t answer any more questions than the other issues. Pick it up at your LCS or digitally now!

Score: 7.5 Shards of the Odinsdottir out of 10

Comic Review – Darkseid Special (DC Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“You just showed me what your concept of “loyalty” is worth” – Darkseid

For the centenary celebration of the birth of Jack Kirby DC are publishing a series of special edition comics for many of his most famous characters. Darkseid has always been one of DCs most iconic villains, on par with the likes of the Joker and Lex Luthor. What separates him from the others though – power. Of all the specials coming out this one appealed to me most. It also has a special OMAC short story and some classic stories written and drawn by Jack Kirby.

This comic was brought to us by:

  • Writer – Mark Evanier
  • Artist – Scott Kolins
  • Colourist – Dave McCaig
  • Letterer – A Larger World’s Troy Peteri

The comic is set entirely Apokolips, picking up the tale of ‘The Resistance’, three escapes who have dared deface one of the great statues of Darkseid, this is their story. Darkseid doesn’t make an appearance during the early pages of the comic, but even seeing the world through the perspective of our rebellious heroes is enough to give insight into Darkseid. His cruelty, power and inspired loyalty through fear are apparent throughout the entire landscape, environment and world of Apokolips. As the story develops, we see how Evanier manages to demonstrate both the in depth character development of each of the characters and the great, larger than life classic New Gods plot. There are cameos from the likes of Granny Goodness and the Furies who come across just as psychotic and monstrous as they have always been.

Kolins’ art perfectly communicates the dire situation on Apokolips. The pages are swamped with browns, reds and darker shades which simply makes the place look like hell under the hand of McCraig. The New Gods and Furies are larger than life and the emotion and desperation on the faces of the protagonists comes appears raw and human. Kolins and McCraig are both perfectly suited to the dark and gritty atmosphere in the comic.

The question is though, can Kolins draw hands? There are a huge variety of hands, from those which tremble in terror to the gigantic mitts of Darkseid. Kolins and McCraig do great work with what they have in this comic, though we rarely see the characters reoccur too often to see the same hands in different situations. 8/10 for hand drawing skills!

The special editions from Jack Kirby, which he both wrote and drew. They’re classic golden age comics with the surreal, larger than life story and simple, effective art. These themselves make the issue worth picking up.

Final Verdict

This is a fitting tribute to one of the most significant figures in comic book history. The story provides some unique insights to Darkseid as a character. Combined with the reprints of Kirby’s classic issues this is an issue well worth picking up

Score: 9 Parademons out of 10