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 Book Review – Darth Vader #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“In your rage you chose… a DIFFERENT path.” Emperor Palpatine

Marvel’s original Darth Vader series was considered one of the great successes of their new take on the franchise. Spotting a new series coming out today I figured I couldn’t pass up on it. I am planning more Indie reviews shortly but the comics I’m reading will take a little more than an evening to digest and review. Vader on the other hand felt like nice, familiar territory I could easily jump right into. This comic was bought to us by:

  • Writer – Charles Soule
  • Pencils – Giuseppe Camuncoli
  • Inks – Cam Smith
  • Colourist – David Curiel
  • Letterer – Joe Caramagna

This series picks up right at the moment Episode III ends. I’m sure we all remember that really cringe inducing ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!’ Well we’re bought right back to that scene, right where Vader realises what he’s done and begins to process what this now means. Fortunately, George Lucas is not writing this and we have the talented Charles Soule, an experienced comic book writer having worked on Daredevil, Inhumans and Poe Dameron for Marvel. We see the development of the early stages of the master/pupil relationship between Darth Vader and the Emperor which looks to form the critical relationship and point of tension within the comic, especially with the Emperor’s ‘go out and get the hell on with it’ attitude. I’m expecting we’ll see more inner turmoil eventually from Vader, but that hasn’t reared its head just yet.

We’re also exposed for more Star Wars lore, with an introduction as to where Sith get their lightsabers and more of an understanding of their relationship to the force. It may have not been deliberate but I also couldn’t help but draw parallels between the portrayal the Empire’s propaganda and certain aspects of the current political climate (I’ll say not more for now before I begin ranting again…).

Art by Camuncoli, Smith, Curiel and Caramagna

As for the art – the most dominant presence on every page is Vader. As it should be. He is perhaps the most iconic villain in movie history and Camuncoli, Smith and Curiel have done him justice. I’m particularly impressed with Curiel’s use of colour, it is impressive what can be done to communicate a lot of expression through a black, movement-less helmet. One page in particular impressed me – Vader is drawn in one panel, towering above minor character below, the spacing of the panels and emphasis given to Vader’s makes his figure even more imposing, with clever use of proportions from Camuncoli and Curiel. I’m familiar with the work of Caramagna as well who puts in a lot for Marvel. His lettering cleverly kept to a minimum on the page to add to the effect. Finally, we’re treated to a little combat, although lightsaber-free Vader’s portrayal is one more of a force of nature than a regular villain.

Still, we may have one of the most iconic villains ever, but how do his hands look? They look good of course, however what stood out for me was the mini comic after the main issue. We’re presented with some comic relief with a scene where Vader is constantly interrupted by incompetent underlings, all drawn in a newspaper comic strip/early Simpsons style. Each of the character’s is only wielding four fingers in this and Vader does come off as kind of adorable when he’s grumpily pointing at someone with short, chubby fingers. 9.5/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

Yeah, I’m hooked. You should be too. Go and buy this.

Score: 9.5 Black Lightsabers out of 10

Comic Review – Captain America: Steve Rogers #7 (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“I want to restore the glory of Hydra” Captain America

I’ve been meaning to pick up more Captain America comics. He’s one of my favourite Avengers, especially the way he’s portrayed in the MCU. These days things are not quite as rosy in the comics as they are on the big screen. To bring you up to speed with Issue #1 – 6 there is one big thing you need to know. (SPOILER!) The cosmic cube has been used to warp reality so Steve Rogers has always been a Hydra Agent. I’m sure some fans won’t be too keen on this (see what happened last time) but this is the world of comics. People die, reality gets rewritten, and as long as your name isn’t Uncle Ben one day you’ll be bought back to life/un-mind controlled or reality set back to normal if you’re from the main Marvel or DC universe. Issue #7 is picking up a new story arc, so it’s a good jumping on point. Anyway, this comic was bought to you by:

  • Writer – Nick Spencer
  • Artist – Jesús Saiz
  • Letterer – VC’s Joe Caramagna (when does this guy get time to rest? He seems to do every Marvel issue)
  • Cover – Stephanie Hans
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Cover by Stephanie Hans

The comic is set during two time periods. One, back when Steve Rogers was a young, proud, Hydra Youth back in 1935, and the other the present day. The flashbacks provide an on-going narrative to give the reader context as to why Cap is now the way he is and fills in a brand new, much darker past for our ‘hero’. Meanwhile the Red Skull is rallying the people of Sokovia while he gathers his plans to take on the world, march across Europe and do all of those classic Nazi things. Steve Rogers meanwhile is having none of that. Yes, he is a Hydra Agent, but he wants the Red Skull out of the picture so he can ‘restore the glory of Hydra’. The Red Skull of course has his own plans. He’s going to take on the world and has something up his sleeve to bring down the best of the best.

Although there’s some action in this comic it is absolutely not the focus. There’s plenty of text to read and story to get into. The stage is being set for the Skull’s, and Cap’s big plans and there is certainly the promise of battles to come. Every character has a very strong presence. I’ve read comics where you could switch the villain, give them the same text and get the same impact. Not this one though. The Skull, Cap, and supporting cast each fulfill their roles as only they can.

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Art by Saiz

There are two predominant art styles throughout. The present day and the flashbacks. The present day art itself comes in two tones. When Cap is involved colours are brighter and more intense. When the focus is the Red Skull the pallet is muted and greater attention given to the detailed line work. During the flashbacks Saiz has opted for a more colourless, greyscale pallet, with the exception of school ties and badges. The school kids definitely have a Slytherin-ish feel about them, which fits the setting. They are Hydra, and even at a young age pretty evil afterall.

Saiz has taken on a hell of a lot, doing the entirety of the art for this issue. Are his hand drawing skills up to scratch? With the limited action in this comic the majority of the hand drawing is done to support conversations, communicating power through the Red Skull, nervousness through General Novty and defiance through Steve Rogers. I’d like to see what Saiz can do in a fight scene or two and look forward to the next issues to see. It’s a very solid effort this time around. 8/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

One review for this comic dropped it a couple of points for the lack of action and how much text there was. Personally, for the first issue of a new arc I’m don’t think these take away from the issue at all. The characters are given a chance to develop and the stage is now set for what I hope will be a fantastic new arc in Captain America’s story.

Score: 8.5 Unsupervised Creative Expressions out of 10

 

Kit had a few extra thoughts on what the current arc of Captain America represents in the wake of this week’s US Election, the current global political climate and the role of art and fiction have when discussing politics. They are well worth checking out, which you can do right here!

 

Comic Review – Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“Locks are magic. Doors are magic. I am magic” – Merlin

Time for Marvel to start cashing in on the positive reception to Doctor Strange! There were two new Doctor Strange comics released this week, and I picked up Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #1:

  • Writer – Robbie Thompson
  • Penciler – Javier Rodriguez
  • Inker – Alvaro Lopez
  • Colourist – Jordie Bellaire
  • Letterer – VC’s Joe Caramagna
  • Cover – Rafael Albuquerque and John Rauch
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Cover art by Albuquerque & Rauch

I picked this of the two new issues this week largely due to the cover. The intense feel to it and promise of a range of diverse characters appealed to me. The plot is kicked off by Merlin, as a fan of the King Arthur tales I’m always happy to see the classic sorcerer/magician pitch in. After setting things up with the King of the Britons he turns up to “recruit” Stephen Strange. The set up promises an epic battle across time, bringing in every Sorcerer Supreme from across the ages (including Isaac Newton, apparently?). I’m sure as always Marvel will brush over the majority of any obvious plot holes or paradoxes created.

The comic feels a little reminiscent and the first issue of Jason Aaron’s current Doctor Strange run where they reintroduce him, his powers (if limited for now) and his struggle against the magic forces of evil. Especially how so few people are able to tell what he does or even see the battles he rages. As someone reading the main Doctor Strange comic it’s good to see the continuity held up with the main series.

 

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Art by Rodriguez, Lopez. Bellaire & Caramagna

The art is vibrant and intense throughout. There are plenty of large panels packed full of action and Bellaire’s colours shine through. Caramagna’s lettering does a skillful job of leading the reader through the larger of these spreads, especially a wonderfully depicted page of Merlin and Doctor Strange travelling through time. The Forgotten is given an appropriately distorted set of speech bubbles and letters to help it feel as corrupted and evil as it should, and the overall design is both freaky and great.

So many Sorcerer Supremes though, of course means there are a hell of a lot of hands. Clearly it’s time to review them. What I appreciate is how each character’s hands help communicate their personality, Merlin is wise, Doctor Strange somehow both in control and out of his depth at the same time, and the Ancient One full of himself and cocky (makes a lot of sense in context). Thanks to this the hand drawing skills are scoring well, especially when they’re so large at times. 8.75/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

I wasn’t sure when I picked this up if I’d stick to it for the long run. After reading it I will be, I very much enjoyed it. As for downsides, the battle at the end feels a little unsatisfactory where it’s left, it would have been nice to have more of this though the issue did have to accommodate a fair bit of set up as well which took up panel space.

Score: 8.75 Q’Uiven’s out of 10

Comic Review – Black Widow #7 (Marvel Comics)

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

This week I’m revisiting one of the best books being published right now: Black Widow from Marvel Comics. I reviewed the first issue of the current run back in March, and as Marvel are doing a new ‘Marvel NOW!’ launch, I thought I’d review issue #7 as the start of the ‘No More Secrets’ story arc. Black Widow is being co-written by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, with art by Samnee, colours by Matt Wilson and letters from Joe Caramagna.

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Cover art by Samnee & Wilson

Widow has defeated the Weeping Lion, the man threatening to expose her past and a host of S.H.I.E.L.D. secrets to the world. Discovering that he possesses telepathic abilities, Natasha recruits him in her mission to stop her old Red Room Headmistress and her daughter Recluse, who have resumed recruiting young girls and training them as assassins in the new ‘Dark Room’. Together, Widow and Lion sneak into the Greenland Sea Base, while the rest of the issue flashes back to Natasha’s first kill mission.

Wait and Samnee continue to display how well they understand the character of Natasha Romanoff and what makes a truly great spy-craft story with this issue. This book has been one of the strongest offerings from Marvel in recent memory (and is mercifully untouched by Civil War II thus far), and the latest issue doesn’t break that streak. Razor-sharp dialogue permeates the book, and despite her recent set backs Black Widow remains stoic and formidable (and even a bit of a dick at the end, almost like she wants to create a new enemy for herself). Interestingly, while the art and writing are both of a top-notch quality throughout, they are given distinct parts of this issue to shine. The showdown at the end of the book between Widow and Weeping Lion, and the Headmistress and Recluse is driven by dialogue rather than action, allowing the characters and the plot room to stretch out, even if it is amidst some stunning visuals.

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Art by Samnee & Wilson, letters from Caramagna

However, it is in the flashback to Natasha’s first kill mission where the art gets to truly impress, and is really the most impressive part of this issue. The young Black Widow engages in some utterly brutal violence (it is a kill mission after all) to a degree that is all the more stunning coming from a child. Samnee’s art seems to step up a gear with every issue, and this sequence was possibly the best yet. The detached horror and fury from the young assassin’s face is chilling, and the montage of the implications of her kill showcases some excellent character work and panel design. Matt Wilson’s colours work superbly along with Samnee’s art, with the flashback scenes washed with a warm sepia tone and the present day steeped in the shadows and dark palette of the final confrontation in a spy movie, interspersed with the violent flash of colour of the discharge of firearms.

Black Widow is one of the best books on the stands right now. It’s definitely my favourite Marvel book (just beating out Mighty Thor), and when I look back on this year I’d be hard-pressed to think of another comic that I have enjoyed more. With gorgeous art, razor-sharp dialogue and a slick spy story, this is a must-buy. Check it out at your local comic book shop or online doo-dad now!

Score: 9.5 Exploding Heads out of 10

Comic Review – Black Widow #1 (Marvel 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 one, with potential minor spoilers.

More Marvel first issues! This week I picked up the highly anticipated Black Widow #1 from the team behind the critically lauded Daredevil run that ended in late 2015 – co-written by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, with art by Samnee, colours by Matt Wilson (as I suspected, he does colour everything I’m reading!) and letters from VC’s Joe Caramagna. Black Widow #1 was published by Marvel Comics.

BWNatasha Romanoff is on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. The super spy has taken something from her (presumably now former) employers, and their leader Maria Hill wants her stopped at all costs. This first issue picks right up in the middle of the action, as Natasha is declared an enemy of S.H.I.E.L.D. and she attempts a daring escape from a helicarrier, cutting a brutal path through scores of agents that are trying to catch and pursue her. We don’t know what she’s taken, but it must be incredibly important (and considering S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hill’s recent behaviour, fairly damning) for the organisation to disavow one of their most valuable agents.

Black Widow #1 is very light on dialogue, with Romanoff herself uttering a single line right at the end of the issue and most of the rest coming from the agents desperately trying to capture her. This serves to let the action come to the forefront of the book, with no one pontificating or dragging the pace down with exposition. Widow has taken something. S.H.I.E.L.D. wants it back. Go. The pacing and style therefore mirrors in a way the elevator scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where Cap is suddenly faced with scores of agents trying to take him down. This feels very much like a direct and intentional homage to that, while simultaneously raising the stakes with regards to the action.

BW2And the action is superbly drawn by Samnee. With both him and Waid co-writing the book, it seems that Samnee had a lot of input on the flow of the story and as a result the action within. Natasha wrecks agents left and right, silently and brutally taking down all comers. Despite the pace and dealing with multiple figures, many of whom are in the same uniform, the fighting never gets confusing or muddled. When the issue becomes a city-wide chase scene, the speed and intensity is palpable. The line art is bold and incredibly dynamic, with an excellent variation across the book. And god damn that double page spread of the helicarrier as a title page was beautiful.

I joke about Wilson seemingly colouring every book I read (and it’s not quite true, but close!), but with every comic he brings something totally different that fits and really enhancing an already great looking issue. There’s a vibrancy to the helicarrier escape as Natasha runs through (or breaks through) the sterile corridors, a washed out late-afternoon glow to the chase scenes and a moody, bloody end-of-the-film style hue to the sunset showdown at the end.

The first issue of the new run on Black Widow is an excellent display of a creative team at the top of their game. These folks know how to bring out the best in each other, and it shines in this book. Marvel needs to stop putting out so many books that I can’t stop reading. Pick this up at your local comic book shop or digital comics app now!

Score: 9.5 Jetpacks out of 10