Comic Review – Gotham Academy: Second Semester #1

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“This place can be lonely at times. But it can also be full of life, full of comfort and happiness and full of the best friends you could ever want in the world” Olive

academy-cover

Cover by Kershl

This week one new release caught my eye – Gotham Academy: Second Semester. It’s written by Karl Kerschl, Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher, with art by Adam Archer, Sandra Hope, MSASSYK, Chris Sotomayor, and Serge LaPointe and the cover by Karl Kershl. I picked this as I was familiar with the Gotham Academy series through the Batman comics I’d never read any. Cloonan and Fletcher lead the story during the first semester of Gotham Academy and Fletcher also took part in the recent Batgirl run as well. As with Batgirl this comic from the get go feels like it isn’t aimed at the traditional, or ‘regular’ comic book reader (aka the 10 – 30 year old male, a category I am worryingly close to reaching the end of). The comic feels like it’s been written with a younger audience in mind, and with a lead teenage girl it appears to be trying to bring in a wider audience as Batgirl did. Something that should very much be welcomed into the industry.

The story follows Olive, living at the academy through the winter break with only a few teachers to keep her company. The place is large, creepy and full of mystery with old buildings where you rely on fire and candle light to get around at night. To Olive’s surprise a new roommate arrives – Amy, who isn’t exactly one for respecting the rules or keeping herself out of trouble. In an old academy like this, there’s plenty of trouble to get into. While exploring some of the off limit parts of the grounds they stumble across a mystery a fellow student has been looking into. One which hints at leading into the history of Gotham and some very dangerous people.

As you’d expect with a first issue this is very much and introduction to things. You get to know Olive as a person, she’s cautious and seems a little depressed having been without anyone her age and limited company all winter.

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Art by Archer, Hope, MSASSYK, Sotomayor, & LaPointe

As for the art as a whole, it is done to a very high standard. Archer and Hope do an excellent job of adding the right touches of loneliness, tension or optimism to each page with high quality colouring throughout. The characters are full of expression which is clearly communicated through simply, yet expertly drawn, faces. The art is one of the real stand out factors in the comic for me.

As for what could have been done better – there are a couple of things that weren’t clear to me as a first time reader, such as what Olive’s status is in terms of a family (I assume she’s an orphan?) and this issue feels pretty self-contained for the most part. While it gives us the chance to get to know the setting and Olive, if someone were to start on issue #2 I think they’d pick things up well enough without needing to read this.

That aside, can Archer and Hope draw hands? As I’ve already raved about the art of course they can. As with some other artists hands aren’t used so much in conversation or as a tool of communication, at least that how it felt when the story focused on Olive. She seems to have her hands by her side most of the time. Which is a well-used tool as it communicates her uncertainty and an apparent lack of confidence in herself. As with the rest of the art, very good overall. 8.5/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

Score: 8.5 Secret Passages out of 10

Comic Review – The Punisher #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

This week I picked up The Punisher #1 from Marvel Comics, the start of a new series written by Becky Cloonan and drawn by Steve Dillon, with colours from Frank Martin and letters from Cory Petit. The Punisher has long been one of my favourite Marvel characters (an issue of Garth Ennis’ MAX  series was one of the first single issues I ever bought), and with Cloonan writing and Dillon returning to the character for art duties, and after Castle’s turn on Daredevil Season 2, this was definitely one of my most anticipated books of 2016.

Punisher

Cover art by Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire

In the warehouse district of Brooklyn, gangsters Face and Olaf are preparing a shipment of EMC, a new drug that creates incredibly strong soldiers out of normal people. Their boss, Condor, wants the shipment ready to go tomorrow, so it’s all hands on deck. Nearby, the DEA are putting together evidence and finishing the paperwork that means they can finally take down the operation the next morning and close in on Condor. Unfortunately, that paperwork slowed them down just enough for Frank Castle to jump in line and bring his particular brand of justice down to Brooklyn.

I don’t want to go into more detail than that, you’ll have to read the book to find out the motivations and twists yourself. Which you should absolutely do. Cloonan kicks off excellently in this first issue, delivering a Frank Castle that is, as he should be, a force of nature. A boogeyman that turns up and just wrecks shop. And he does it in complete, deathly silence. Characters familiar with his work know better than to underestimate him, and the others scrabble around in a panic as they pointlessly try to take him down. The DEA are almost played for fun here, with all the work they’ve put into the case totally wasted. And the people that The Punisher has pissed off? It should be very interesting to see how they plan on taking Frank down.

Punisher page

Art by Steve Dillon & Frank Martin

Dillon’s return to drawing The Punisher is fantastic, and as an artist that has rendered some fairly gruesome violence over the years, the ‘Parental Advisory! Not For Kids!’ warning on the cover is well earned. Frank’s take down of the gang is kinetic and brutal, with some genuinely unsettling panels. But perhaps the most grisly is Face’s “trophy wall”. The colours from Martin complement Dillon’s heavy line work, with the explosive action retaining a brighter hue to contrast against the earlier shadowy and washed out scenes with The Punisher lurking before his attack.

Also that cover from Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire is insanely good.

This was a great return for The Punisher, with a tight and intriguing opening issue with great action. As forces rally themselves against Frank Castle that action is only going to intensify, and I can’t wait to see how far the book pushes or where Cloonan takes him. Pick this up at your local comic book shop or digitally.

Score: 8.5 Cinder Blocks out of 10

Comic Review – Southern Cross #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

This week I picked up Southern Cross, a new sci-fi mystery title from Image Comics, written by Becky Cloonan with art from Andy Belanger, colours by Lee Loughridge and letters from Serge LaPointe.

Southern Cross stars Alex Braith, a slightly rough around the edges and misanthropic woman, as she boards the space tanker ‘Southern Cross’ to the moon of Titan. Her sister Amber had worked for the Zemi Corporation rig on Titan, but had recently died. Working for the rig is a dangerous job, but Amber worked in administration, which shouldn’t be dangerous at all. Alex is travelling to Titan ostensibly to collect her sister’s remains and belongings, but also to investigate what happened to her sister, and who might be responsible. In this first issue she meets her room mate aboard the Southern Cross for the 6 day journey, an irritating girl who may still prove useful, and Captain Mori who shows her the gravity drive powering the ship. Alex will need to keep her wits about her if she’s to figure out what is going on and who may have killed her sister.

I am much more familiar with Becky Cloonan’s art work, most recently on Killjoys, but have been introduced to her writing in the very enjoyable Gotham Academy (co-writing I guess in that instance). Regardless, here she does a solid job of setting up a compelling sci-fi mystery in Alex’s quest to find answers. The characters so far are all vaguely enigmatic but compelling, and the giant grimy looking tanker, a little reminiscent of the Red Dwarf mining ship, should be a great setting for the story.

Belanger’s art does a good job of capturing the scale of the ship and how small our cast is in it as it whizzes through hyperspace. This is best seen in the pages where Alex is led down corridors, elevators and stairs to her room, as the dialogue follows the characters around the page depending on where they are on the deck. There are a few times when faces are a little inconsistent, and emotions tend to vary between anger and disinterest, but the situation does seem grim so maybe there isn’t much cause for smiling. Loughridge’s colours sell the dank looking environs and the ship’s inhabitants, but bring out the brightness of the ship’s core and hyperspace.

This was an interesting first issue of what looks to be a compelling sci-fi mystery. Pick it up at your LCS or digital platform now!

Score: 7.5 Gravity Drives out of 10