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 – Batgirl #26 (DC Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“Did I mention I am only able to walk again because of a chip in my spine that connects directly to my brain?” Batgirl

Batgirl was one of the first series that got me into the DC ‘New 52’, back when Gail Simone was writing it and had her outstanding run on the character. This week it felt right to revisit Babs to see how she’ll be fairing under Mairghread Scott’s storytelling. I’ve always found Batgirl’s relationship to the Bat family interesting, sort of sitting within it but also outside of the key Batman and Robin(s) relationships. Set up fighting crime in Burnside we pick up with Barbara in a new arc against one of her recurring villains – Grotesque.

Cover art by Murphy & Hollingsworth (DC Comics)

This comic is bought to us by:

  • Writer – Mairghread Scott
  • Penciller – Paul Pelletier
  • Inker – Norm Rapmund
  • Colourist – Jordie Bellaire
  • Letterer – Deron Bennett
  • Cover Artist – Sean Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth

We pick up Batgirl chasing down Grotesque through the streets of Burnside. The villain Grotesque has been living up to his name with a series of horrific murders imitating modern art. It’s a simple yet effective opening which gives some of us who have been a little out of the loop to get to know Batgirl again via her internal monologue as well as Grotesque by his, well, horrific murder spree. It’s a little refreshing in a way to pick up a vigilante superhero being an actual vigilante and dealing with more day-to-day crimes as opposed to something that appears to be a world-ending threat. The story follows Batgirl’s pursuit of Grotesque and plays on some defining traits of her as a character, reaching back to her time as Oracle to revive some of her unique challenges that can be put to one side (such as her dependence on technology to walk). Additionally we get to see Barbara Gordon as Barbara Gordon, building on one of her defining relationships, with her father.

Art by Pelletier, Rapmund, Bellaire & Bennett (DC Comics)

The last time I read a Batgirl comic it was after Simone’s run and Larson took over, with Albuquerque leading on art. At this time a younger, more cartoon-like aesthetic took over from the grittier more Batman-like imagery of the Simone era. To me, Pelletier’s work felt like a well woven blend of the two styles. Batgirl in her more modern outfit, fighting crime in a realistic context with what feels like less of a gritty pallet from the series I was most familiar with. Pelletier’s pencilling combines well with Bellaire’s colouring and Rapmund’s inking to achieve this affect. I also like how the civilian scenes look, with Barbara out of costume she appears friendly and warm as a person whilst coming off as well in control of herself and the situations she is in.

Final Verdict

There’s something I enjoyed about this issue I didn’t spot until my second read. Batgirl is determined and focused on fighting crime. Finding a hero these days who isn’t racked by thoughts of a relationship, villain messing with their mind or existential crisis is quite refreshing.

Final Score – 8.5 Cute Avatars out of 10

Comic Review – Justice League #1 (DC Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“It would escape us, Ganthet. Besides it is not up to us… it never has been.” Stranger

DC are rebooting the Justice League in time to save the univ/multi/dark/insert-prefix-verse. It’s been a while since I dabbled in the Justice League and this seemed like a very good place to hop on board, especially with the likes of Scott Snyder at the helm with the writing. The front cover promises a new era for the League, and with everything that has been happening in the DC Universe it will be interesting to see what this ‘new era’ will bring. This comic is bought to us by:

  • Writer – Scott Snyder
  • Pencils – Jim Cheung
  • Mark Morales – Inks
  • Tomeu Morey – Colours
  • Tom Napolitano – Letters

The DC Universe has been a busy place for large scale cross-overs. The Dark Knights Metal series in particular bought the ‘dark-multiverse’ into play. Additionally for those who have been following along there have been some very significant moments in the DC Universe which have been leading to this story. There is a hole in the source wall, the edge of the universe which traps any who try to pass it, and something has come through. It has rushed through space and time to the present day where the Justice League must respond to it, whilst the likes of Lex Luthor and Vandal Savage have other ideas.

You can probably tell by my opening sentence that the stakes have never been higher. Honestly, I couldn’t help but find this point miss the mark a little. While its meant to ramp tension and show how monumental this event is it’s no different than a comic once upon a time saying the universe was at stake. We’ll need to learn more about the threat our heroes face in subsequent issues before I pass judgement on the threat the League face.

The art is very detailed and adds a serious, gritty tone to the proceedings. This suits the atmosphere in the comic, of oncoming doom and potential disaster. Cheung and Morales’ work on the lines provide the detail necessary, both in action scenes and in expressions during conversations. Luthor in particular comes off as particularly intimidating when he steals the show. Morey’s colour palette also ties into the mood of the comic and the lettering from Napolitano weaves seamlessly throughout the story without distracting from the artwork.

There are one or two issues that this comic urgently needs to address though. One action by the League in particular is going to have pretty catastrophic events, unless its addressed incredibly quickly.

Final Verdict

This has my interest, the story has some potential flaws and plot holes, although they can be addressed in later issues. Additionally while this is heralded as a ‘new era’ those without a familiarity with a lot of recent DC events won’t find much meaning in some of the key plot points. Otherwise I am most curious to see what happens with the sometimes super villain, sometimes anti-hero Lex Luthor as well as the Justice League lead of the story – the Martian Manhunter who had a particularly engaging arc this issue.

Final Score – 8 Batman Impressions out of 10

Comic Book Review – Justice League: No Justice #1 (DC Comics)

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

This week I picked up the first part of DC’s Justice League: No Justice mini series, the next big thing following on from Metal for the DC Universe. I dropped off Justice League a little bit after Rebirth because something about it just wasn’t clicking for me, but with writers Scott Snyder, Joshua Williamson and James Tynion IV on board for this series, and art from Francis Manapul, I was certainly interested in checking this out! Colours on this issue were provided by Hi-Fi, with lettering by AndWorld Design, and cover art by Manapul.

Cover by Manapul

Following on from the Metal event, the Source Wall surrounding the universe has been destroyed. While the Green Lanterns have gone to investigate, one of the biggest villains in the DCU has wasted little time in attacking Earth – Brainiac. And he has come to warn of a far greater threat on the way, the Omega Titans, cosmic gods and world eaters that have been awoken or set in motion by the shattering of the Source Wall. And Brainiac has come to rally the heroes and villains of Earth to save his home planet of Colu and stop the Omega Titans.

No Justice kicks off pretty quickly, and while the first issue of many events like this are often full of set up and are a little bit of a slow burn, Snyder, Williamson and Tynion IV manage to set the scene while still moving the plot forward. The cast of characters is such that no one really gets much chance to shine, maybe Damian Wayne and the Martian Manhunter get a decent amount of time, and a few of the characters do feel a little out of place here, but its a nice spread overall and the set up of the plot should force some interesting team dynamics. The story itself with the Omega Titans has a lot of potential too. Think Galactus but if there was 4 of him.

Art by Manapul, Hi-Fi and AndWorld Design

Manapul’s art is very strong superhero fare in this issue. His experience in superhero comics is on full display here, juggling an array of varied characters easily with a real sense of scale to the world shaking events and some great splash panels. Hi-Fi’s colours are very vibrant, with the colourful costumes and a couple of green skinned characters so distinct it almost pops off the page.

The story is an interesting start, possibly a little impenetrable to new readers, but those familiar with the DCU, especially recent events, will get a lot out of this. The art from Manapul is very nice, and the potential for some great action sequences moving forward is very high. Check out Justice League: No Justice #1 at your local comic shop or online now!

Score: 8 Nodes out of 10

Comic Review – Mera: Queen of Atlantis #1 (DC Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

Cover art by Nicola Scott

“To my surprise I have been declared Queen in Exile” Mera

And I’m back again to pick up a new comic review. I thought it time to return to the mainstream comics having picked up an indie last time (though there will be more of these to follow). This time Mera: Queen of Atlantis caught my eye. It’s a first issue and I’m looking to expand the DC comics I read. Mera is a character I am familiar with through other media – Justice League and Aquaman mainly and she is someone I felt I could get to know better. She’s framed as a warrior queen in a similar way to a fair few other comic book heroes, and I want to see what she can do with the spotlight on her and not in a supporting role. This comic is bought to us by:

  • Writer – Dan Abnett
  • Pencils – Lan Medina
  • Inks – Richard Friend
  • Colours – Veronica Gandini
  • Letters – Simon Bowland

The plot picks up with Mera stranded on the surface, the throne lost and much of her power drained in a coup in Atlantis. Aquaman may be dead and not only does she have to recover, take back the throne and keep the surface world countries out of Atlantis through political maneuvering, she also has to deal with assassins sent by the usurper Rath. It’s a lonely task as well, as with many civil disputes it’s not an issue outsiders such as the Justice League can simply weigh in on. There’s a lot of exposition getting into this comic. In rapid succession it brings the reader up to speed with the state of play in Atlantis, Mera’s situation and how it relates to the world at large. Additionally the issue sets up the likely role of who I presume will be her ally, Ocean Master.

As for the art, Medina, Friend and Gandini have worked together to create a vibrant world, rich in colour. There are numerous different settings which they jump between, using full colour spreads during the intense action, a faded palette during flashbacks and good use of white space to slow things down during conversations and exposition reveals.

Art by Medina, Friend, Gandini and Bowland

The real test, with so many different settings and scenes is how well the hands are drawn though? Pretty solidly overall. They look great during action scenes and add a great dynamic element to Mera when she’s swimming or in water. When they are visible during character conversations they look good, however I would have liked to have seen more of them due to the emphasis they can give on body language, emotion and communication.

Final Verdict

This is a solid first issue. There is a lot to get through though and it took me a couple of reads to take everything in. I think if you’re more familiar with Atlantean DC Lore you would pick this up easily but as someone who knows their way around it less it was a bit of a tough read in places.

Score: 8 Aquakinetics out of 10

Comic Review – Batman and The Signal #1 (DC Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“So you go to electrical…. And you find a passage behind a light panel…. And you head downstairs… to your secret base and… Wait, your secret base?” – The Signal

Happy new year! We’re into 2018 now and I’m back onto the comic reviews. First up this year is Batman and The Signal Issue #1. This caught my attention due to its inclusion of Duke Thomas, who you may have spotted around some of the various Batman tie ins. It had been a while since I checked in with him and I wanted to see what DC had in store. This comic is bought to us by:

  • Story – Scott Snyder and Tony Patrick
  • Writer – Tony Patrick
  • Artist – Cully Hamner
  • Colourist – Laura Martin
  • Letterer – Deron Bennett

As with all things Batman with Scott Snyder’s name on it I opened this up with high hopes. Duke is an interesting character as well – he’s been written as a kid being shaped into ‘something different’ rather than a standard Robin or Bat-family side kick and this comic begins to explore what that will ultimately mean for Duke. He’s named himself as well now – ‘Signal’, after the Signal knights who were the first to venture out into the day during medieval times and a key point in the early plot is how he finds his place in the Bat-family proper. Even if he is something different he still has the Bat emblem on his chest.

The plot focuses around Duke beginning the journey of learning who he will end up being. This includes a new suit, an introduction to the rest of the family and his very own secret lair (as a side note, surely in both Marvel and DC there must be some secret, super highly capable super hero architects, engineers, builders, electricians and other contractors who build these damn things for them… and must have copies of all of the designs, know the locations etc…). Duke’s journey to self-discovery is a little on the nose, as he has developed meta human powers and is trying to learn where exactly they came from.

As for the art, Hamner’s work presents us with a detailed world, with over exaggerated positions and expressions during dramatic moments and combat. Martin’s colours add to the aesthetic, with the yellow of Duke’s costume jumping out of the page with how vibrant it is. Duke appears to have picked one of the least stealthy colours for his suit, but we’ll have to see how he makes it work in the issues to come. Bennett has done a solid job with the lettering. The issue is a little dialogue heavy at times (not a bad thing, there’s a lot of good stuff in there!) and Bennett works well with the space available to still allow Hamner and Martin’s work to do its thing.

Still, as far as I’m concerned the real test is how well the team drew hands? We have a very hand prominent issue, if hands are your thing, this is a good comic to see them in. For the most part they’re used to communicate body language in conversation and during individual scenes. I like what the team have done in this issue and they definitely pass this made up, arbitrary test. 9/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

An interesting start. The team work well with a character who I could see going either way right now – someone special to find their footing as part of the Bat family or someone a little forgettable. This isn’t the fault of the team behind this comic, they did a very good job with it, but I simply did forget about Duke before I saw this issue! I think this could bring him into his own though.

Score: 8 Secretly Built Lair’s out of 10