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 Book Review – X-Men Prime #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: Minor spoilers.

“We’ve got much work to do” Kitty Pryde

After completing the Inhumans vs X-Men series I was curious to see what would be in store next for one of Marvel’s most iconic super teams. Following the events of IvX mutants have bought themselves a little respite, with no Terrigen Mist threatening their very existence and the team realising they shockingly have a lot in common with the Inhumans (who’d have guessed?). This series is bought to us by:

  • Writers – Marc Guggenheim, Greg Pac and Cullen Bunn
  • Penciller – Ken Lashley, Ibrahim, Roberson, Leonard Kirk and Guillermo Ortego
  • Colour Artist – Morray Hollowell, Frank D’Armata and Michael Garland
  • Letterer – VC’s Joe Caramangna
  • Publisher – Marvel Comics

Needless to say, a lot of people were brought in on this one. The story picks up with Kitty Pryde reconnecting with Storm and being asked to come back to lead the X-Men. She’s been off world recently and has seen most of what’s gone on as a bystander. This makes her well-placed as an X-Men veteran to come in as a neutral party and give the team something to unite behind. Which they’ll need. The team is fractured; people are uncertain of what to do next and everyone is on the verge of going on their own way. Kitty herself has her own share of awkward reunions with Colossus and other familiar faces. Meanwhile a sinister organisation is abducting many of the more anti-social mutants, focusing on Lady Deathstrike for some sinister purpose we only know involves killing mutants and allusions to a new Weapon X program.

The writing was at its best within the X-Men mansion, seeing the interplay’s between the team, a potential love triangle in the works within the young X-Men and Kitty finding her place again. The new villain hasn’t had much in the way of an introduction yet and their actions are yet to hold any meaning. Kitty fills a very nice role for new readers, given them a chance to be introduced to the main cast of the X-Men and cover the basics – Emma Frost being evil and so on.

The art has many hidden layers, rereading the comic for this review I found myself noticing new details I hadn’t the first time, particularly during the combat scene in the Danger Room. Character’s are very expressive throughout which supports a character interaction-heavy first issue, although Kitty does seem to have a rather large forehead at times! One very interesting panel is when Kitty calls the X-Men together to give them her first speech as the new leader. Her face wasn’t drawn at all. It’s a small area the artistic team had to work with, but they’re a very talented bunch and could have added it if they wanted to. It seems to act as a sort of mask for the readers, letting Kitty be a blank slate for a new beginning for the X-Men.

However, with so any people you’d hope they could draw hands. For the most part of course they can. Both in combat and during normal conversation, although there’s an image where young Scott’s hands are on his hips and his fingers appear to bend in a bit of an odd way, and I couldn’t quite work out one panel with Magik’s glove. 8/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

This is a new beginning for the X-Men, they’re back from Limbo and ready to be heroes again (about time!) It’s a great place to join if you’re a new reader too.

Score: 8.5 Blackbirds out of 10

 

Comic Book Review – Batwoman #1 (DC Comics)

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

Warning: Minor spoilers.

“Kaaaate…. You… you came back… why did you come back?” – Raphael

Batwoman relaunched today (following her Rebirth issue), who has always been an interesting character for me. She always has held a position on the outskirts of the Bat-Family, holding a much higher degree of autonomy than any of the rest. There’s a strong team behind this run as well:

  • Writers – Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV
  • Penciller – Steve Epting
  • Colour Artist – Jeromy Cox
  • Letterer – Deron Bennett
  • Publisher – DC Comics

Cover by Steve Epting

The story picks up Kate following up on a white supremacist terrorist about to launch a venom fuelled attack in Istanbul. She’s running things herself with the help of Julia Pennyworth to stop the spread of monster venom throughout the world. As the plot of develops she’s lead to a mysterious small nation island known as Coryana where it appears she has had dealings before with the mysterious Safiyah. The dynamic between Julia and Kate is a very interesting variation to Batman and Alfred. Julia and Kate are friends first and foremost whereas Alfred is very much a substitute parent for Bruce. This adds to Kate’s character, leaving her feeling much more independent as a vigilante, than even Bruce himself at times.

There is also the question of Kate’s past experience at Coryana. Much is left unanswered at this point in time, except somebody very powerful lives there who wants people dead. What’s interesting is while there is more than one death in this issue, by the apparent same hand there is no obvious connection between the two, except the island. The assassin in question does make a brief appearance, quiet and very much deadly they form an imposing figure in the few panels they’re in.

Art by Epting, Cox & Bennett

The art feels very much grounded, with strong earthy colours used throughout the opening scene, these are switched up for darker blues and greys which create a more relaxed atmosphere between Kate and Julia. During the flashback a different approach to colouring is adopted, the panels are kept black and white except for Kate’s iconic red hair and Safiyah’s red lipstick. The use of red on Safiyah marks her as an equal to Kate in these scenes and we can be sure this is a sign of future clashes to come. Bennett does a very good job with keeping the lettering unintrusive throughout the issue, there are many large panels giving him plenty of space to work with. Finally, Kate herself forms an intimidating figure throughout, both in and out of costume her figure appears powerful.

However, how well does Epting draw hands? Very well of course. There isn’t much to fault for the hand drawing in this issue. They won’t quite pick up a perfect score as they don’t appear too often during the issue, however where they do – be it in a battle scene, carrying out and action or mid conversation they look great. 9/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

This is a very interesting start to a series. It isn’t the most explosive I’ve read, but it feels like its setting things up for a run well worth picking up.

Score: 8 Mysterious Throwing Knives out of 10

Comic Book Review – The Last Sheriff #1 (Reckless Hero)

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

Warning: Minor spoilers.

“Everybody calls me The Sheriff.” John H. Wilson

I was recommended another indie comic recently, and filling in for Adam this week felt like the perfect opportunity to try it. So let me introduce to you The Last Sheriff:

  • Writers – Chris Jenkins, Matthew King, Chris Imber
  • Penciller – Chris Imber
  • Colour Artist – Chris Jenkins
  • Letterer – Chris Jenkins
  • Publisher – Reckless Hero

The story begins in a dystopian western setting. New colonies have been founded, and although Sheriffs were brought in to keep law and order, eventually overpopulation and scarce resources lead to a societal breakdown and the rise of The Coalition – corrupt individuals dishing out their own form of justice. A civil war broke out and all of the Sheriffs were wiped out… at least that’s what people believe.

We’re offered an innovative western sci-fi world, where mules and revolvers meet high tech power ups and retinal implants. I wasn’t sure of the writing team’s approach of providing a couple of pages to sum up the setting before getting into the comic itself, but it did mean we could get right into the action without too much exposition once we were past it. Something that I found particularly interesting within the story is the motivation of the Sheriff. His war is all but lost, the once lawless Coalition are now the law, and society is adapting to it. It isn’t a nice society, but he is certainly an outsider fighting a battle that is lost. What makes this a little different though, is he very much still represents an establishment as opposed to being a totally anti-establishment figure. You can be sure that the disdain he has for the Coalition was once exactly how they felt towards the Sheriffs.

the-last-sheriff-coverImber and Jenkins work well together on the art, I was very much drawn to the front cover and the majority of the art inside is at a high standard. There’s the odd panel which doesn’t quite fit for me though – one where a character’s mouth simply doesn’t look right stood out, however this should not take away from the rest of the issue.  The Sheriff comes across as an intimidating and powerful figure during the action scenes and the dark tone of the comic is well supported by the colour work throughout the issue. My favourite question though:

Can Imber and Jenkins draw hands? This is an action packed issue, as such we see many hands punching, grabbing or wielding weapons. Imber and Jenkins do a solid job throughout in dealing with multiple perspectives and tricky angles to get hands looking as they should within the art as a whole. I did notice that Sheriff has very well kept finger nails for a rebel constantly battling in a dystopian western setting, but that clearly means he simply has high standards of hygiene.

Final Verdict

I was recommended this by a friend and I’m glad I read it, this is amongst the best action based indie comics I’ve reviewed and I’d recommend picking it up.

You can find The Last Sheriff physically and digitally at the Reckless Hero shop here.

Comic Book Review – Hulk #3 (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers (including Civil War II spoilers)

“What’s worse? Dying? Or getting that close to death… and getting turned around… and dragged back into the world…” – Jennifer Walters

 

Issue #3 of Hulk caught my eye this week. Partially because Jennifer Walters was on the front cover and I’ve always found She-Hulk to be that little bit more engaging than The Hulk himself, and the simplicity of the title. Only Hulk, not Incredible, Unstoppable etc. With so many the Adjective Super hero comics out there one with such a simple name stands out. This comic was bought to us by:

Cover by Jeff Dekal

Cover by Jeff Dekal

  • Writer – Mariko Tamaki
  • Artist – Nico Leon
  • Colour Artist – Matt Milla
  • Letterer – VC’s Cory Petit

We pick things up with Jen after the end of Civil War II. She had been knocked into a coma during the war, and her cousin Bruce’s death served as one of the key catalysts to the whole battle. I didn’t read Civil War II myself, so I was playing a little catch up here in learning the background to the comic. You don’t need to know too much of the detail though to understand the story telling approach taken by Tamaki. Jen is dealing with a hell of a lot. Work is both uninspiring and too much at the same time and she always looks tired, finding it hard to engage with her friends. In the mean-time crime is still taking place in New York, and conspiracies as always are developing.

Art by

Art by Leon & Milla

The art is bright and simplistic throughout. I think this was done to create that artificial light feel anyone who’s working into the evening on a winter’s night in retail will know well. It slightly clashes with the mood of the comic, which in actually helps set the tone. Jen is pushing on and trying to get back to day to day life because she has to. She has to keep at it even when it’s the last thing she wants. Even so, this approach by Milla may not be for everyone. Leon did a great job in portraying Jen throughout the issue. His line work leaves her looking exhausted throughout and as if she cannot be bothered to deal with people.

However, even a Hulk has hands. How well are they drawn this issue? This is not a combat issue at all. There’s no action to speak of and character interactions are entirely social. Hands are well used to convey emotion throughout the issue, however Leon and Milla’s art style is light on detail. Although hands are drawn well there are not many knuckles in this issue. 8/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

I always enjoy a character exploration issue. It did take me a moment to catch up with things not having read Civil War II, however if this series continues along its initial set up we may be treated to a deeper engagement with Jen’s personality. I would like to see more Hulk myself too. For a series simply named Hulk, it was a little light on Hulk.

Score: 8.2 Hairnets out of 10

 

Comic Book Review – Kingpin #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“Because I’m a large man? No, I never made donuts when I was fourteen. I sat at this table most nights and sold narcotics for a man named Pizzolo” – Wilson Fisk

Cover art by Jeff Dekal

Cover art by Jeff Dekal

The Kingpin has been a staple villain throughout my enjoyment of super heroes for my whole life. This started with him as the arch nemesis during Spiderman: The Animated Series, to the current Daredevil run on Netflix. During the modern Daredevil interpretation he’s presented as a surprisingly endearing and complex character, and seeing a new run focusing him in the comics this week I thought I’d pick it up and give it a try. This comic was bought to us by:

  • Writer – Matthew Rosenberg
  • Penciler – Ben Torres
  • Colourist – Jordan Boyd
  • Letterer – VC’s Travis Lanham

The story is from the perspective of Sarah Dewey, a reporter who’s found herself writing boxing profiles. She’s approached by Wesley (those who have seen the Netflix Daredevil will be immediately familiar with him), and finds herself offered a unique opportunity of writing the Kingpin’s biography. The focus of the first issue is Sarah’s conflict in deciding whether or not to take Fisk up on the offer. Unsurprisingly, there are parallels between the Netflix and comic incarnations of Fisk. He’s presented as intelligent, dangerous, a little awkward but surprisingly charming.

Art by Torres & Boyd

Art by Torres & Boyd

A very dark palette is adopted for the colours throughout the issue, changing briefly when we’re first introduced to Fisk. This really emphasises his status as main character to the series, despite the story not being from his perspective. Fisk himself is drawn in a very intimidating physique, with extremities supersized, combined with a cruel smile creating a slightly monstrous appearance. Individual panels are kept clear of clutter with no detail beyond the character themselves during many of the conversations. This helps keep the focus on the character development and plot which will lead the series.

The real question is, can Torres and Boyd draw hands? In an issue like this the focus will be on gesticulation and hands in casual poses much more than clenched fists. Fisk’s stand out as they’re the same size as most character’s heads. Where possible a fair amount of personality is communicated through each character’s gestures, with their mannerisms showing through. 9/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

As the first issue of the series, it takes its time to set up the characters. If you’re hoping for an action packed explosive series it’s unlikely this will be for you. If you’re hoping for an exploration of a classic character, getting into detailed plots of corruption and drama then this absolutely will be for you.

Score: 8.9 Apple Juices out of 10

 

Comic Book Review – Whatever Happened to the Archetype? (Insane Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“In here they call me ‘crazy’ Christopher Quin. But not so long ago I was known by another name… The Archetype” – The Archetype

Time to mix things up with an indie comic. I was recommended this one by a friend and thought it was well worth a look. Seeing as Whatever Happened to the Archetype? promised one of those alternate takes on the classic super hero story, looking at what may happen to them once they retire, I couldn’t help myself. This comic was bought to us by:

  • Writer – Stu Perrins
  • Artist – Ron Gravelle
  • Cover – Shaun Dobie
  • Publisher – Insane Comics

archetypeThis story follows Christopher Quin, now living in a nursing home, looking back on his life from his alien home world, to being the world famous super hero the Archetype, to raising a family. It’s a spin on the classic Superman storyline, himself being the archetypal super hero, making the Archetype’s name that much more fitting. Things don’t play out exactly as they did on Krypton though. Quin grows up on his home world of Arcadia and has a close relationship with his Arcadian family and a very different set of events lead to him leaving his home world.

While the plot covers his transformation into the Archetype and many of his adventures, the focus is always his relationships with the other characters and how he copes with the pressures and expectations of being a hero. This is at play even more now as he’s simply dismissed as a crazy old man claiming to be the once iconic hero. Perrins also offers an insight we don’t often see in any super hero media – heroes who sometimes fail, innocent people die and that weighs on them.

Gravelle’s art has a very detailed style throughout the issue with a lot of effort put into expressions and backgrounds. While this lends itself well to the panels setting up a new scene or on large, zoomed out areas during an action scene it does at times distract from conversations and the characters having them. Gravelle’s art has a focus on characters’ facial expressions. This really shows the how they age throughout the issue and portrays real emotion during Quin’s opening narration, however, the most striking and powerful expressions during conversations between characters are often those with less detail to them.

However, all of the above does not address hands in particular. So, my favourite questions, can Gravelle draw hands? Absolutely, throughout the comic they’re drawn doing all manner of things, communicating body language, throwing punches and at a huge range of sizes from a child’s to a gigantic monster’s.

Final Verdict

This is a fresh approach to a classic super hero tale. The overarching plot stands out, providing a narrative full of emotion, while dealing with themes often overlooked within the genre. There are two points which felt a little out of place for me though – while it felt very plausible Christopher’s tale would be dismissed as the ramblings of an old man, I couldn’t quite buy into the idea that the Archetype’s existence may be relegated to that of a myth. The other, while addressed later in the story, still stood out to me – I was surprised Quin didn’t wonder how people could read and speak his language right away. As for the art Gravelle’s is of a very high quality, although at times less would have been more.

You can check out Whatever Happened to the Archetype? digitally or in print from Insane Comics.

Stu Perrins will be at True Believers Comic Festival in Cheltenham on February 4th!