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: 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 – All-Star Batman #1 (DC Comics)

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

Warning: Minor Spoilers

“I just wanted to say… I’m so sorry I had to do it.” – *******

Another new DC Rebirth Comic this week! It’s another Batman run DC are kicking off with All-Star Batman #1, written by Scott Snyder, with art by John Romita Jr., Danny Miki and Dean White for the main story, and Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire on the backup story, with Steve Wands lettering both parts. I wasn’t sure what to expect with All-Star Batman as opposed to more traditional Batman comics. The only version of this to come out before was All Star Batman and Robin in 2005-2008, and all I know about that is Dick Grayson gets abandoned in the Bat Cave and has to eat rats to stay alive. What I got here was a comic where Scott Snyder, who lead the outstanding New 52 Batman run, really strutting his stuff.

All star batman cover

Cover art by Romita Jr., Miki & White

Snyder has been let loose to do what he does best: character interaction. The plot of issue #1 focuses on the relationship between Batman and Two Face, interestingly quite a line is drawn between Two Face and Harvey Dent in this case. The two are off to ‘burn out’ Two Face once and for all. Two Face of course isn’t too keen of the idea and has put a huge bounty on the both of them. It isn’t all talking though, we get a wonderfully over-the-top fight scene as mercenaries try to bring the Bat down. Batman manages to switch things up and the whole thing takes on a cheesy horror movie-esque feel to it while Bats takes on his attackers.

There’s more to the relationships than only Batman and Two Face though, we get an additional story attached to the main one, from Duke Thomas’s perspective where he and Batman try to save victims of Zsasz. There’s again a focus on their relationship, emphasising that this is not Duke as Robin, it is not Batman and Robin (Damian still holds that title) but something ‘new’. It feels like the pair of them are finding their feet a little with this relationship. While I always like the idea of Batman having a side-kick or similar I’m not sure DC know quite where this one is going. I hope they do and it’s only the character’s uncertainty but I can’t quite tell what it’s meant to be yet.

All star interiors

Art by Romita Jr., Miki, White & Wands

As for the art, overall it was solid. Romita Jr. and Miki team up to create stunning moments, particularly in the fight scenes and a certain silhouette of Batman with a chainsaw looks awesome, though if I’m honest while the over the top imagery suits the big panel images it sometimes looked off in some of the smaller interactions. White’s colours for the main story are somewhat subdued and more of a desaturated palette, which works well to show the passing of the time of day throughout the start of the road trip, and makes the field scenes look particularly impressive. In the back up story, Shalvey’s art is a nice contrast to the brighter outdoor aesthetic in the main arc, with a more ominous feel that is simultaneously highly detailed, particularly with the contrast of the geometric shapes forming ‘The Cursed Wheel’ and the crime scene. Bellaire’s vibrant colours help to further distinguish the back up not only from the main story but from different scenes in the same short tale, with dim Batcave clashing nicely with the bright colours on the Batcomputer.

Speaking of smaller interactions, can Romita Jr. draw hands? There were less examples of actual hands than I was expecting as so many of them are covered by chunky gloves or armour. While gloved or armoured they do look good, though naturally a lot of the detail in the fingers and joints is simplified somewhat. There is one trucker with very stubby fingers, but they are used well in gesture when they are in panel, covered or not. Romita can, though didn’t get to show off properly in this issue, which is why they’ll get a 7.5/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

I like how different this feels to the main Batman run. I am a huge fan of Snyder’s past work on Batman so I have high hopes for this. It looses a point for some of the art and the uncertainty over Batman and Duke, but those are issues I’m sure many will disagree on. If you like them this would be a 9.5, though in my opinion it drops to:

Score: 8.5 Stilling Cuts out of 10

Comic Review – Black Science #10

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

As I was aiming to do a quick review this week, and am struggling for cash a fair bit so opted to avoid any new titles, I’ve finally decided to review an issue of Black Science, as issue #10 just came out. I think the first issue came out before I started up these weekly single comic reviews, but like Saga before it I’ve held off on this one for a bit, going more for first issues or last issues of arcs instead. I think it’s high time to direct anyone not yet reading this title towards it now though. Black Science is a high concept sci-fi series from Image Comics, written by Rick Remender with art from Matteo Scalera, painted art by Dean White and letters by Rus Wooton.

Black Science focuses on a group of alternative scientists pushing the boundaries of conventional research, led by Grant McKay, formerly of the Anarchist Order of Scientists (new band name, I call it!). Their project, ‘The Pillar’, is intended to breach into different dimensions, in theory allowing the collection of an abundance of resources and knowledge. However, someone sabotages the machine, and it is stuck jumping across different worlds – dragging everyone that was present along with it, including the other scientists and Grant’s kids Pia and Nate. They’ve been dragged through ‘The Onion’ of all the overlapping worlds, hunted by lizards through,jungle environments, they’ve landed in the middle of a war between Nazi’s and hi-tech Native Americans, and now they find themselves on a distinctly more barren world with pillar worshipping insects, and all along the way people have died.

This issue largely focuses on Pia and Nate, escaping their previous capture by these insects, who are trying to psychically probe them to find out the location of the pillar. During their flight, Pia lets out all of her rage at her father (through both inner monologue and talking to her brother) for putting them in this situation, for never being around during their childhood and for breaking their mother not just through infidelity but by loving his work more than her. Alongside this, there is some forward momentum on another world involving the Grant McKays from multiple worlds, all of whom are very different. It seems more than one person in this story wants to use the Pillar to get back someone they lost, but is that in any way a good idea?

Remender’s story is as layered as ‘The Onion’ it takes place in, and is expertly crafted and complicated sci-fi. The concept of a multiverse isn’t a new one, but it is utilised well in Black Science by positing the potential of the ability to traverse dimensions, while highlighting what a horrible idea it turns out to be. In this issue, I loved the dialogue from the insect priest figure, essentially saying that if the only difference between him living under hardship and an alternate version of him living in opulence is a simple misstep of his behalf, and if across all the realities everything is happening, what meaning does any action or decision have? Coupled with the well fleshed out characters, almost all of whom are incredibly flawed (some across multiple incarnations), this makes for a great read. The art is stunning, with Scalera’s work being consistently one of my favourites in the business. From claustrophobic and crowded scenes full of millipede creatures, to the gorgeous sprawling mountainous area in the background of Pia and Nate’s escape on a weird flying hippo creature, the art really works for the story, all brought to vivid life by White’s painted colours.

Black Science is one of the titles I look forward to the most every month, and this issue did not disappoint. The multi-layered story is fascinating and bleak, and I can’t wait to see where it all ends up. Issue #10 may not be the best jumping on point, but the writing is strong enough that you can still pick it up and enjoy it, or track down the first 9 issues physically (many of which have had multiple reprints due to demand) or digitally to get caught up. Alternatively, the first trade ‘How To Fall Forever’ is already out, collecting issues 1-6, and the second ‘Welcome, Nowhere’  is coming out soon that will go right up to next month’s issue #11. However you do it, Black Science is definitely worth your time.

9 Pillars out of 10