Comic Review – Super Sons Annual #1 (DC Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“Ruff Ruff” Krypto

I tend not to pick up comic annuals when they come out, but this week I was stuck for something to review, this week being a 5th week. Then I saw a cover with Krypto the Super Dog and Titus the Bat Hound on it. I had to go straight for it because both these characters are amazing. I would highly recommend the post-Rebirth arc of Superman, which features Krypto kicking ass. As for Titus the Bat Hound, while I’m less familiar with him the cover frames this issue as the interaction between Krypto and Titus in the way we’d usually see Batman and Superman (World’s Finest) or more recently Damien and Jonathan the Super Sons (of course, why its presented as a special for that series.

This comic was bought to us by:

  • Story and Words – Peter J. Tomasi
  • Penciller – Paul Pelletier
  • Inker – Cam Smith
  • Colourist – Hi-Fi
  • Letterers – Carlos M. Mangual and Travis Lanham

While we do get a fun sequence with Robin and Super Boy preventing a bank robbery, the main focus is their interaction and the way they bounce off each other. Both children presenting slightly exaggerated personalities of their fathers. What they haven’t had a chance to deal with yet though, is the series of dog-nappings taking place throughout Gotham City. Much as the boys need to rest Kypto is having none of it and flies off to bring in support. Not only are we treated to Titus the Bat Hound joining in, we also get treated to Bat Cow, Flexi the Plastic Bird and Streaky the Super Cat. As I’m sure you will have guessed, this isn’t the most serious of stories, but its bright, colourful and a hell of a lot of fun. Once Kypto takes over the story we’re getting by mostly on animal noises for dialogue, not that this takes away from the plot or the character interactions. It transpires that after the loss of Clay Critter (seemingly at the paws of the feline Red Lantern Dex-Starr) the Super-Pets were forced to disband and before they can solve the mystery of the stolen pets they need to rebuild broken bridges and bring the team back together.

With an issue less heavy on dialogue Pelletier, Smith and Hi-Fi had to be on their game with the art. Hi-Fi provides fun and vibrant colours, reminiscent of the sort of thing I remember from Saturday morning cartoons. The detail provided by Pelletier and Smith provides a huge amount of characterisation and expression for our non-human protagonists. Emotions are communicated as they try to resolve their differences and their roles in their team nice and clear.

 

 

The question is though, how well do the art team draw hands? While hands feature in the story they only do for a very limited number of pages with very few characters with any. I can’t fault the ones that are there, but only giving a 7.5/10 due to the limited number. Maybe an 8.5/10 if we count chimp hands. Unlike most comics though, it’s only fair to ask if the art team can draw paws for this one! (and hooves and bird feet…) They certainly can. Presenting us with a wide range of animals whatever appendages they possess are drawn well and look great both in and out of action. 10/10 for various animal appendage drawing skills.

Final Verdict

This is the sort of comic that helps brighten a week. It isn’t a serious story or anything revolutionary, but it’s fun and accessible and if you need something light hearted and you like your animal as well as super heroes it’s well worth a look.

Score: 9 Terrifying Bat Hounds out of 10

Indie Comic Review – Tragic Tales of Horrere Halloween Special

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“Octopus, are you digging for clams?”

Another indie comic, issuing this a day or two later than would be ideal (entirely my bad, it’s been a busy period!) but this time it’s the Tragic Tales of Horrore – Halloween Special. Why this one? Because Halloween is awesome, I love horror and should try to get some more horror comics reviewed and this issue happens to treat us to three horror stories. This comic is bought to us by:

The Quiescent:

Writer – Michael Sambrook and Robin Jones

Artist – Joe Becci

The three stories in this issue each have a different approach to horror. The first, The Quiescent is a tongue in cheek tale of an old man visiting an old friend, who appears to have fallen to some kind of Lovecraftian monstrosity. The art in this is of a very high quality, the greyscale and line work provides a black and white TV show feel which fits with the aesthetic of the setting – sometime around the 1800s or so. While its clear what the plot will be in the first couple of pages the narrative is delivered in an entertaining way with the art supporting it well. One criticism I had is with the lettering – while I understand and very much like the choice of a font which looks like handwriting to fit with a journal being written as an internal monologue the specific font chosen made occasional words a little unclear as to what they were meant to be.

Octopus & Raven

Writer and Artist – Matt Pringle

The second story is an interaction between two spirits, Octopus and Crow, observed by three Native Americans. I like the exploration of horror within a different cultural context than European/American (USA) and while the conversation between Octopus and Crow has a very limited verity of words much more of their interaction is in expression and body language. I found the use of three observers and their apparent indifference to the skeptical an interesting choice as well, showing perhaps an acceptance of the natural world and the way it will always be. The art is good, its simpler than in The Quiescent which fits with the simplicity of the story being told.

Do You Want To See?

Writer – Michael Sambrook and Robin Jones

Artist – Alexa Renee

Finally there’s Do You Want To See? The tale of three bored kids giving into curiosity to explore a mysterious cave and are tempted in by some strange travelers. The interactions of the kids is fun and feels pretty real. I couldn’t quite gauge when this is meant to be set – the outfits of the travelers being very different to those of the kids but the tension was there and the imagery of the horror was great. I did like the use of lettering, particularly when things step up a gear.

Final Verdict

This is a great way to keep in the horror spirit now Halloween is over. I’d suggest picking it up here

 

Indie Comics Review – Packs of the Lowcountry

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

This week I’m reviewing another horror themed comic in honour of the season, this time the original graphic novel Packs of the Low Country (on Kickstarter here). Packs of the Lowcountry is written by John Dudley, with pencils and inks by Don Cardenas, colours by Mark Dale and Kelly Fitzpatrick with colour flats assist from Drew Browne, and lettering from John Westhoff and Don Cardenas.

In a post apocalyptic world, humanity only retains some form of normalcy within walled fortifications. Those unfortunate enough to be  left outside have to try and survive packs of ‘invaders’, monsters of various forms that recently appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and started killing humans wholesale. Bastion is a soldier dropped into the Lowcountry (South Carolina), following up on intel from Agent T regarding the Baker pack, a group of invaders that are essentially werewolves. But Bastion’s superiors haven’t told him the whole truth, and there are other invaders at play in the Lowcountry. He’s about to find out how the invasion started, who started it and make some pretty weird friends along the way.

Packs of the Lowcountry feels like a book very much inspired by 90s comics (and by extension, 80s action films), and as such is a lot of fun while being hugely over the top. Dudley’s characters are well rounded with just enough detail to make them fully realised, without bogging the story down with unnecessary exposition. The plot itself feels like a complete OGN, while the ending and world certainly leave things open for more stories in the world.

The art is expressive and kinetic, but the monster designs are the star of the show here. The wolves and ‘dragons’ are terrifying looking, while ‘The Connect’ has one of the more interesting designs I’ve seen in a long while. The bright colours splashed over the forest environs of the book rounds off the more retro feel of the comic.

Check out Packs of the Lowcountry. It’s a fun action-horror book that is well worth a read. Check out the Kickstarter here.

Comic Review – Wonder Woman/Conan #2 (DC Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“Man of iron and woman of granite. The two greatest warriors of any age” Narrator

Another cross over of an 80s/90s classic and a super hero is making the rounds at the moment in the form of Wonder Woman/Conan. Other than picking up Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I’ve let most of these pass me by, this one however happens to be written by Gail Simone. I got to know Simone’s work in her outstanding run on Batgirl in the New 52 and Clean Room, although she has certainly done her time with Wonder Woman before and although from what I can see her work on Conan is limited she knows her way around a barbarian thanks to Red Sonja. Naturally I had to check this out. This comic is bought to us by:

  • Writer – Gail Simone
  • Pencils – Aaron Lopresti
  • Inks – Matt Ryan
  • Colours – Wendy Broome
  • Letters – Saida Temofonie

One thing I like with the versions of the characters offered by Simone is instead of the usual version of events where the current era hero is miraculously plucked from time and transported into the past we appear to have a unique take on the warrior princess in the world of Conan the Barbarian. The two protagonists are still working each other out at this stage in the comic, with mystery facing Wonder Woman’s past and danger around every corner. The two have an uneasy relationship, thrown into a gladiatorial arena by the manipulations of gods to battle for the pleasure of bloodthirsty spectators. This is one of the few points I was a little disappointed by in the issue. With the likes of Batman vs Superman unfortunately haunting our memories still two heroes battling it out is feeling a little old. Don’t let that put you off though. Both Conan and Wonder Woman are fully rounded characters in this incarnation with an intriguing backstory and backstories well adapted to this version of events.

Lopresti, Ryan and Broome did an excellent job on the artwork. I really like the creative borders put around the panels showing backstory and the power exuded by both warriors. A big thing for me when reading Wonder Woman is for her to feel powerful by the way she presents herself and the art team communicate that very effectively in this issue. They also have to deal with a huge cast of characters, with appearances from many side characters who have a role to play or a background to fill. Each of them is packed full of detail and character, at the standard you’d usually expect your lead characters to be at. I also really liked Temofonie’s work on the lettering, packing in a lot of dialogue to busy pages and a creative portrayal of the narrator’s lettering.

However, how well do Lopresti, Ryan and Broome team up to draw hands? They look consistently great throughout the issue. They are used well to differentiate the carefree body language and attitude of the heroes as kids in the flashback, the tension in the combat or the attitudes in conversation. 9/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

I very much enjoyed the world portrayed in this comic and the versions of the characters and their development within it. My main criticism would be some of the themes, the two heroes forced into combat right away and so on are feeling a little overly familiar now.

Score: 8.5 Broken Lutes out of 10

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