Comic Book Review – Man-eaters #1 (Image Comics)

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

This week I picked up the first issue of the new Image Comics series Man-eaters, written by Chelsea Cain with art by Kate Niemczyk, colours by Rachelle Rosenberg, and letters by Joe Caramagna.

A young girl, Maude, introduces us to her dad as he heads off to work as a police officer. He’s investigating a particularly gruesome homicide, which turns out to be perpetrated by a cat. Not an ordinarily cat though, instead suspicion falls on any number of adolescent girls in the area who, infected by a mutant strain of toxoplasmosis, can transform into cat-like monsters who violently attack and kill anyone nearby. This change is brought on during the onset of menses, which the government tightly suppress through hormone therapy in the water. But it isn’t effective in everyone, and Maude has just got her first period.

This first issue is a lot of set up, from the principle cast to the task force that has been set up to deal with the ‘cat’ problem, with the background laid down for the status quo of the world. The series appears to owe a lot of its DNA to Kelly Sue Deconnick and Val De Landro’s Bitch Planet (its no coincidence that Maude has a Bitch Planet poster on her wall), but what I found interesting is that the direction of the series moving forward is likely best indicated by the back matter rather than the bulk of the issue. While the always relevant ‘fuck the patriarchy’ angle to the story is hinted at in the plot, it is resolved much more clearly through the propaganda in the pages following the comic, where the warnings for men and boys for cat attacks or girlfriends who may be cats are clear, despite the issue indicating that anyone can be the victim of a cat attack, especially close family members. It casts Man-eater in a much clearer light, and I expect subsequent issues to focus in on that aspect a little more, drawing on the male fear and confusion of female biology and strength. In this first issue, Cain sets up the plot well and draws a compelling character in Maude, and the simplicity of the final reveal sets the forward momentum up for the series.

Art by Niemczyk, Rosenberg, and Caramagna (Image Comics)

Niemczyk’s pencils and inks use bold lines for well defined character work, that overall is reminiscent of Tank Girl or Kim and Kim. Reteaming with Cain after they worked on Mockingbird together, there is some gruesome art here that shines through, but there are choices with layout and flow that feels very modern and relevant. The colours from Rosenberg are bright and bold, though some of the darker scenes allow her to stretch out and nail those too.

Man-eaters is off to a good start, and while it’s potential is its main selling point, this first issue is the time to jump on and check it out. Pick it up at your local comic book shop or online now!

 

Comic Review – Reborn #3 (Image Comics)

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

I had a (relatively) small stack this week, but I have been meaning to review Reborn for a while now. This week issue #3 of this fairly new Image Comics series came out, created by Mark Millar and Greg Capullo, with Millar on writing duties, Capullo on pencils, inks by Jonathan Glapion, colours by FCO Plascencia and letters from Nate Piekos.

reborn-cover

Cover by Capullo, Glapion & Plascencia

Reborn stars Bonnie Black, a previously 80-year-old woman who has been reborn as a 25-year-old warrior queen, fated to defend the world of Adystria against the forces of Lord Golgotha and The Dark Lands. When she awoke in this new land, she found the world populated with long-lost loved ones and was reunited with her father. Now the pair of them, along with Bonnie’s childhood dog Roy Boy (now a huge armored beast), are travelling Adystria, while hunted by her now anthropomorphic cat Frost, who is working for Golgotha and bears a serious grudge against her. But Frost isn’t the only danger they need to worry about.

Everything I just said probably sounds pretty crazy. Which is fair. Reborn is kitchen-sink crazy with everything that populates this weird after-life plane. It is high concept fantasy and is a hell of a lot of fun to go along with it. Millar’s dialogue and plot move at a breakneck pace in this latest issue, and while it still may not be clear where the story is actually going, it is compelling enough to lose yourself in. A few character beats and choices felt a little out of step, with a particular moment of blind and idiotic trust in a stranger being difficult to believe from anyone without serious head trauma, but mostly this is very strongly written.

reborn-interiors

Art by Capullo, Glapion, Plascencia & Piekos

Millar has been on somewhat of a roll of late with the artists he pairs up with, and while I was sad to see Capullo leave Batman after such an incredible run with Scott Snyder, it is nice to see him stretch some fantasy muscles in Reborn. The result is something truly breathtaking, with dynamic and visceral action being the real strengths here. The standouts in this issue are the terrifying excellence of the monstrous second and third pages, and the gorgeous Black Wish Mountain towards the end of the issue. Glapion and Plascencia have been working with Capullo for a while now, and clearly know how to really make his pencils stand out. The result is an art team producing work that is worth the cover price alone, regardless of the story.

Reborn is a great looking, huge and insane fantasy book that you should be definitely checking out. I can’t wait to see where the series goes, and what weird and wonderful creatures Capullo is going to get to draw along the way. Check it out at your local comic book shop or digitally now!

Score: 8 Political Prisoners out of 10

Comic Review – Seven to Eternity #1 (Image Comics)

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

As if to swiftly fill the hole left by Tokyo Ghost ending a few weeks ago, Rick Remender is back with another new series in the form of Seven to Eternity from Image Comics, reuniting with his long-time collaborator Jerome Opeña on art duties, with Matt Hollingsworth providing colours and lettering from Rus Wooton. As a big fan of Fear Agent I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now, so seemed an obvious choice for review this week.

seven-cover

Cover by Opeña & Hollingsworth

Seven to Eternity takes place in the Kingdom of Zhal, where the ruthless and terrifying tyrant The God of Whispers (also known as the Mud King) has, after a long and devastating war, nearly secured his absolute dominion over the land. By inciting fear and hatred, by turning others against their friends and allies, he has taken control and even made those who stand against him pariahs rather than heroes. Zebadiah Osidis was one such man, and rather than hear the Mud King’s offer and bend his knee to him, he took his family far away. Years later, the Mud King has sent his agents to deal with Zebadiah, and while he sticks to his principles and refuses to hear the offer, his now adult son Adam, thinking of his own young family and the threat to them, travels across Zhal and through the dying embers of the war to hear The God of Whispers out.

Zhal is a high-fantasy world of magic rather than technology, and the entire team here has quickly established an incredibly rich world. The nature and design of how it all works together is stunning, and again really shows a creative team working so well together. This is a dense and heavy story that is unforgiving, but well worth the effort to get into. Seven to Eternity is cinematic in scope, which is clear from even the cover. Remender’s characters are as always, fascinating studies into individuals whose obsession or devotion to their ideals may very well be their undoing. Zebadiah is uncompromising in his principles, and by refusing to bend on them he turned his family into hated outcasts. Adam may not do the same, but his choices may well end up even more dangerous for everyone. The complex characters, a legitimately terrifying villain, and strong dialogue round off a great start to the story.

seven-interior

Art by Opeña & Hollingsworth

The art is the best work I’ve seen from Opeña to date. The visuals are utterly gorgeous, the action sequences insanely detailed, and the way the magic in this world works is just mesmerising. The double page splash of Adam seeing the city is almost criminally good. I don’t know what was going on in it, but my god was it pretty. Matt Hollingsworth’s colours are an excellent edition to the art, often bringing almost a glow to the backgrounds, while infusing the action with an intense vibrancy. The lettering from Wooton in this book is particularly strong too, never intruding on the art but guiding through the pages with a perfect flow.

What is clear in Seven to Eternity is that this is a truly collaborative affair, and everyone involved is pulling in some of the best work of their careers. It’s a dense, intriguing high fantasy epic that I genuinely can’t wait to read more of, and you should definitely be checking this out. Pick it up at your LCS or digitally now.

Score: 9 Mud Hounds out of 10

 

Comic Review – Kill or be Killed #1 (Image Comics)

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

It’s rare to have so much trust in a creative team in comics, that when I hear they have a new book coming out I don’t have to look into what it is or what its about. At the very least, I’ll check out the first issue and will almost certainly be back for more. Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser are such a team, with Brubaker and Phillips’s previous collaborations Criminal, Fatale and The Fade Out (Breitweiser joined them as colorist on the latter) all receiving critically acclaim. The Fade Out (the first issue of which I reviewed a while back) was deservedly given the Eisner Award for Best Limited Series this year, as well as a place on the far less prestigious ‘Adam’s Top 5 Comics of 2015‘. So with all that in mind, Kill or be Killed #1 (written by Brubaker, drawn by Phillips and coloured by Breitweiser, published by Image Comics) was a must-buy this week. As with The Fade Out, this first issue also comes with a short piece from Devin Faraci on cinema, this time on Death Wish and what it said about 1970’s America, and is as interesting a read as his pieces on 1940’s Hollywood. That on top of a 34 page comic is a pretty good deal.

Kill or be killed cover

Cover art by Phillips

Kill or be Killed opens with a healthy dose of violence, with a masked and hooded man making his way through a building ruthlessly killing several men with a shotgun. The attacks take on the air of pitiless executions, while the book’s protagonist narrates over the killings calmly, reflecting on how he came to be doing this – murdering ‘bad people’ who deserve it. It’s an in media res opening that, after our masked man Dylan brutally finishes off his last target, winds back to his previous life. The narration moves on, somewhat haphazardly as Dylan tries to bring context to the reader, going from an early instance of feeling weak when a girlfriend is catcalled, to his recent suicide attempt.

Clearly, Dylan isn’t happy. His roommate is dating his best friend Kira, whom he is predictably also in love with, complicating and suffocating his home life. But the worst thing, and what drives him to a rooftop, is their pity amidst his loneliness. However, between this failed suicide attempt and the opening scene, Dylan gets back the “joy of being motherfucking alive”… and then his life changes dramatically, and the 28-year-old grad student becomes a man who needs to kill, however he justifies it in his head.

I went into Kill or be Killed knowing little else past the title and the team behind it, and if I’ve been particularly vague in my summary it’s because I think that is the best way to approach the story. The trigger point for why Dylan starts to kill was unexpected and deftly handled, and I think more satisfying with no prior knowledge. Rest assured, it is good. And as for the rest of the story, Brubaker’s talent for intrigue and character study are on full display, while delivering a script and plot that only replicates the level of quality of his previous work while simultaneously doing something entirely new. It is definitively modern, with Dylan talking about how “Cops kill innocent black kids and get away with it…” and “Psychopaths run for President…” as examples pulled straight from the headlines to illustrate how messed up the world is right now. But how that justifies his actions, or at least how he thinks it does (and we don’t know why the men he is killing are bad, all we have is his word), opens up a fascinating look into the morality of the vigilante killer, rendering Kill or be Killed as much more than a simple take on The Punisher for example. All said, this is very strong start to what promises to be an intriguing story.

Kill or be killed interiors

Art by Phillips & Breitweiser

As for the art, if Phillips and Breitweiser were producing stunning work on The Fade Out (they were), then this is some next level excellence. The book is full of heavy shadows, marrying subdued art up perfectly with the tone of the story. The action at the start is exhilarating and affectingly violent, while the facial detail throughout is gorgeous. The level of detail in the backgrounds too is incredibly high, in particular the snowbound city towards the end of the issue. But the more chilling elements of the book, and the catalyst for Dylan’s new life, is where I found the book to excel. There is a lot to be said of the layout of the art too, with panels framed in such a way as to enhance the fact that this is being narrated by the main character, and he is the focus.

Breitweiser compliments and brings out the best in Phillips’ work, with an array of different palettes and tones through each scene, none of which are a jarring change from the last. From the opening action and the dominance of the reds of Dylan’s mask and the blood spatters, to the oppressive clinical glare of a hospital waiting room or the unclean tones of a city bus and the city lights outside it, all the colour work blends in with the shadowy aesthetics of the book for a result that simply is the best modern comics can look.

It’s rare to have so much trust in a creative team in comics that you pick up a new book without looking into it at all. It is even rarer for that book to be even better than you expected from them. This is comic books at their best. Check it out at your local comic shop or digitally now.

Score: 9.5 Laundry Lines out of 10

Comic Review – Birthright Volume 1: Homecoming (Image Comics)

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

Warning: Minor spoilers. Especially as I’ll be reviewing a whole volume, you’ll probably know most of the plot of the first issue by the time you finish. But go and buy it anyway (implied spoiler about the score I give it)!

“You think your weapons can stop me? I’ve been trained to battle magic and monsters that if you were ever to see them would make your eyes bleed! It is my fate to save the world and no one will stop me!” Mikey

A couple of months ago I made a huge mistake. I went into Excelsior! Comics in Bristol and asked them for a recommendation. I was told I had to read Birthright written by Joshua Williamson, with art by Andrei Bressan and Adriano Lucas. You know what? They were completely, 100% right. I’m hooked on it and need to pick up another volume as soon as I can.

birthright featured image

Volume One Cover by Bressan & Lucas

Now let me tell you why it’s good. Our hero is a boy and later a man called Mikey. As a kid he had a loving, tight knit family, with caring parents and was best friends with his brother. He goes out for a game of catch with his dad, but the ball goes astray, he chases after it but finds himself in the fantasy world of Terrenos, full of dragons, kingdoms and of course an evil God King called Lore, and yes, he’s the chosen one. Destined to save the world and defeat the evil king. Meanwhile his family search desperately for him but come up blank, eventually the police get involved and the dad is bought into custody, after all he was the last person to see Mikey.

A few years later Mikey has returned to the world, while his older brother is still in school but getting into fights, his parents are divorced and hate each other and his dad a raging alcoholic, Mikey is a fully grown man built to make Arnold Schwarzenegger look tiny and with an arsenal of magical weapons and items that would make any Dungeons & Dragons party cry. He has returned from the world of Terrenos to save our world from a great evil. The story then hops backwards and forwards between the current time in our world and Mikey’s time in Terrenos, showing us what happened to him while he was there and how he grew up in another world. As a world Terrenos is full of wonderful magic, creatures and peoples. The characters there are full of personality and you’re left wanting to know so much more about it.

Birthright art

Art by Bressan & Lucas

I’ll leave it there. There’s more involved, fantastic plot twists and a wonderfully gripping story. Mikey is unsurprisingly treated as a mad man and has such a battle convincing his family he is who he says he is. As well as that the art is incredible, the action scenes are full of the fantastical colour you’d hope for from fantasy combat and both worlds have the perfect feel to them. There’s only so much I can say about it, but the art is absolutely one of the strongest points of this comic.

Final Verdict

This is one of my new favourites. If you like comics and fantasy then you need to try this. It isn’t quite the perfect fairy tale story some of these turn out to be either.

Final Score – 9.25 Flaming Swords out of 10!

Retro Review – Spawn: Origins Book 1

Nath reads the first Spawn: Origins collection and makes his case for Spawn being an underrated superhero

Remember Soul Calibur 2? Probably a game played by many of us for many years, highly competitive, especially with friends. If you had the Gamecube version, you got to play as Link and if you had the Playstation 2 version, you got to play as Heihachi Mishima. Can anyone remember what character was Xbox version specific? Spawn. This was the first time I had ever heard of this comic book character, but I was intrigued to find out more.

Please note that this article contains spoilers.

Spawn2

The first Spawn: Origins book collects the original story of Spawn and how he came to be. Al Simmons, a black ops soldier, is killed by the CIA and sent to hell as he killed many innocent individuals whilst he was working for them.

He makes a deal with Malebolgia, lord of the eighth level of hell to see his wife Wanda again. However, Malebolgia sends Al Simmons back to earth as Spawn, a demonic creature with little memory of his former life. He was also sent back to earth 5 years later, Wanda has remarried Al’s best friend Terry and they have a child together, Cyan, something that Al was unable to give Wanda.

What a back story. A man killed by his old team and makes a deal with the devil thinking everything would be fine. Whilst he is trying to remember his past, he becomes an anti-hero of the city, protecting the bums and tramps he lives with, as well as hurting and killing street thugs and murderers, with an arsenal of powers at his disposal, albeit when he uses his powers, he gets closer and closer to death.

Spawn3

It’s safe to say that Spawn is an absolutely brilliant comic book creation. Created by Todd MacFarlane (no relation to Seth MacFarlane) in the early 90’s, and released by Image Comics (co-founded by MacFarlane) it became one of their flagship comics during that time, the first issue selling 1.7 millions copies. It was so popular that a feature film was created in 1997 starring Michael Jai White (Black Dynamite and The Dark Knight as Gambol) and even though is didn’t get that great reviews, I still enjoyed it.

There have even been some crossovers with other titles such as Batman and Deadpool, however there is a question that has been on my mind for a while. Is Spawn a truly underrated superhero? A hero with a very troubled back story and powers that are far greater than many modern day heroes. Surely Spawn deserves some time in the sun once again.

We’ve had Guardians of the Galaxy, we’ve got Doctor Strange and Black Panther coming out soon, surely we can have another Spawn movie. Remember those awful Joel Schumacher Batman movies? (apart from Jim Carrey as the Riddler and to some degree Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face). The Batman franchise was completely revamped by Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight being the best one of the lot.

In my opinion, Spawn is a very underrated superhero. I have re-read Origins Volume 1 as I finally got my hands on Origins Volume 2 (after many years of searching) and I will continue buying these volumes until the end. I truly believe this anti-hero of bums of tramps deserves another shot. Seeing as this is the age of comic book to screen transitions, I’m hoping we see something very soon.

Spawn4As for Spawn: Origins Volume 1, which includes the back story above, as well as the introduction of certain villains, my personal favourite is the Violator. The volume includes issues 1-12 and they are all fantastic reads, from the origin, Billy Kincaid and Overt-Kill. The artwork is incredible too, some small pieces scattered across the pages, but some incredible double feature pages that requires you to actually look over it like a masterpiece instead of casually glancing over the page.

I am genuinely excited to start reading Volume 2. Hopefully I will find out more to Spawn’s back story as he tried to uncover the remnants of his troubled past. I’d give Volume 1 10 Heart Ripping Demons out of 10. A truly fantastic read and a great set up for this incredible superhero.

Comic Review – Paper Girls #5 (Image Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. He missed reviewing them while he tries to write up his PhD thesis, so every other week he’ll be reviewing of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

This week the first arc of Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s Paper Girls came to a close with issue #5. The series started back in October last year, written by Vaughan and drawn  by Chiang, with colours from Matt Wilson (who apparently colours all the books I read) and letters and design by Jared K. Fletcher.

Paper Girls started fairly innocuously. In the early morning after Halloween 1988, 12-year-old Erin meets three fellow paper girls. What began as a reasonably normal night quickly spins out of control into an other-worldly sci-fi adventure involving gleaming futuristic knights mounted on pteranodons, time travel and accidental gun violence. Erin, Mac, KJ and Tiffany find themselves in an emptied suburban landscape where they dash between different supernatural occurrences, trying to figure out where everyone is and what is going on.

When Paper Girls was first announced, I immediately added it to my pull list entirely due to the creative team. Everything I’ve read by Brian K. Vaughan has been at least excellent. At least. And following his superb run on Wonder Woman with Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang has become one of my favourite artists too. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the series, but the off-the-wall sci-fi leanings that arose at the end of the first issue came as a welcome surprise. From that point on there has been no hand-holding for the reader, leaving us as bewildered and rushed off our feet as the four friends who find themselves dealing with the tech-augmented travelers spouting strange alien speech (I tried using a translation app on the language. Shockingly it did not work).

Paper girlsWhile this approach is initially confusing (and I certainly won’t pretend to know fully what is going even now), it ultimately comes across as strong, non-patronising storytelling from Vaughan. Erin and her friends are all compelling and brave, and their mysterious sci-fi antagonists are intriguing. The conclusion to this first arc adds a fun new wrinkle to the already disorientating situation the girls find themselves in, with the series actually improving with each issue (the time travel considerations with regards to position in space in the opening pages were great) and I can’t want to see what’s coming for the next part in a few months.

The art in Paper Girls is superb, and this new issue is absolutely no exception. Chiang deploys his thick, and minimalist line work to great effect, with grotesque body horror, huge sci-fi panels and rare quiet moments that show off very real emotion between the characters, despite their situation. Throughout the arc one of the most impactful visuals has been the eerie night sky above the suburb, forked with lightning and slowly filling up with more pteranodons, but the two pages of explosion and displacement that lead our heroines to the end of the arc are just gorgeous. Wilson’s colours provide a really strong solidity to the book, with the washed out palette he’s using working to create an aged aesthetic that lends credence to the late-80s setting of the comic.

Paper Girls wraps up it’s first arc well, despite the mysteries of the book largely being no clearer than they were from the start. I have no idea where the story is going with the second arc, and that genuinely excites me. The first five issues are being collected as a trade paperback from Image, due to come out on April 13th. If you can’t track down the single issues, either check out the trade or grab the issues through your digital comics app!

Score: 9 iNsecs out of 10