Comic Review – Savage Sword of Conan #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars… Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jewelled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.” – The Nemedian Chronicles

Cover by Alex Ross (Marvel)

When I was looking for a new series this week, the brutal cover art of Savage Sword of Conan caught my attention. My main memories of Conan are of Conan The Adventurer, the 1997 TV series that was on when I was a kid. I don’t remember too much of it, other than Conan being tough as nails about 98% muscle. I definitely enjoyed it as an 11 year old, but who knows if it will hold up 20 years later.

This comic is bought to us by:

  • Writer – Gerry Duggan
  • Artist – Ron Garney
  • Colour Artist – Richard Isanove
  • Letterer – VC’s Travis Lanham
  • Cover Artist – Alex Ross

Conan is sitting in a life of luxury, a beautiful woman beside him, a feast before his eyes, drinks a plenty and a roaring fire… except something is wrong, the smell and the taste are most foul… Conan is actually awash at sea, shark meat in his mouth, at the whims of Crom, perhaps the front runner for least sympathetic god I’ve come across in comic books. The tone of the comic book is absolutely reminiscent of the TV show I remember. It sets up the story for a brutal adventure that will take all of his strength and fortitude to survive. Conan is thrown right into the deep end, finds himself with literally nothing yet turns the situation around in no time, only to face harder and harder challenges.

Art by Garney, Isanove & Lanham (Marvel)

The dark tone of the comic is emphasised by Garney’s masterful artwork. There is a fantastic two page spread where Conan is close to death and recovering slowly, in and out of consciousness. The panels alternate between chilling artwork and black panels with simple text between them. This array in the comic shows off the skills of Duggan’s story writing, Garney’s art, Isanove’s rich colours – his shadow work in particular building the grungy, darker tone and Lanham’s lettering very effective in its simplicity. When the story gets more monstrous Garney and Isanove work well together to bring the beasts to life.

Final Verdict

If you want a change from the regular super hero comics, that still feels properly epic in scale with high stakes then Conan fits the bill perfectly. The adventurous tone of the comic book makes it a fun, if dark at times, romp. The series has the classic feel of sword and sorcery and feels a lot like a solo player DnD campaign. The art is also outstanding and is set to be a real highlight of this series.

Comic Review – Age of X-Man Alpha #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“It is the age of perfection” – Narrator

Cover art by Phil Noto (Marvel Comics)

With a new X-Men series kicking off I took the chance this week to return to the team to see how they are holding up. This is an ‘Age of’ series which means we are talking alternate timelines/realities and the majority of the team will have some kind of presence. This one will be the Age of X-Man Alpha, so we can assume that Nate Grey, aka X-Man will be pivotal to everything that is going in this run. In my experience the plots to the ‘Age of’ runs can contain fascinating concepts and alternate takes on characters so this was well worth a look.

This comic is bought to us by:

  • Writers – Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler
  • Artist – Ramon Rosanas
  • Colour Artist – Triona Farrell
  • Letterer – VC’s Clayton Cowles
  • Cover Artist – Phil Noto

The world is a utopia, where mutant-kind has come back from the brink of extinction, mutants and homo-sapiens live in a fully integrated society where the stigma of the X-gene seems to be completely gone (It’s interesting to see no mention of Inhumans however). The X-Men play a critical role in keeping people safe and many of the team have taken a step out of the super-hero life to bring up and educate mutants in this new world. The steps that bought about this world, where peace and harmony has finally been achieved, are yet to be explained, although it is apparent that many of the original A-listers have unfortunately passed away to bring this about. It’s only at the end of the issue where it becomes clear that this world and peace is not what it seems. It does bring about the question, yet again, as to if the dream of Professor X is ultimately achievable at all. Nate Grey himself plays a role in the issue, but no more than the other characters, if this is to be his story his role is not totally apparent yet.

Art by Rosanas, Farrell & Cowles (Marvel Comics)

Rosanas and Farrell combine well to portray a world that feels dream-like. This does seem to be Professor X’s dream fully realised, so the light touch line work from Rosanas and light colour pallet from Farrell really help create that atmosphere. The contrast towards the end of the issue, where the twist is revealed, in the change in pallet and use of light emphasises the uncertainty as to what is really going on.

Final Verdict

We don’t know much about the world of Age of X-Man Alpha yet. It’s clear that not everything is what it seems, though I doubt there would be much of a comic if it was. The issue did drag a little to begin with for me, though it’s clear the world building was trying to be set out.

My one major issue is less to do with the story itself, but the huge number of tag lines saying “Find Out Why This Character Is Picking His Nose in The Amazing Nose Picking Mutant #1” or at least something to that effect. At times this felt less like a first issue and more like a run of adverts. I am curious to see where the plot goes and what is really going on here. Hopefully outside of the first issue there won’t be so many of these though.

Comic Review – Black Widow #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

After a bit of a break, we are back with our weekly comic reviews! Warning: minor spoilers.

“Finally I can let my monster loose, the killer I was meant to be.” Black Widow

Cover art by Crain (Marvel)

Sorry for the long break between my reviews, I’m back now for 2019 and glad to be here! Conveniently my first day back coincided with the release of a new Black Widow series from Marvel. Black Widow is someone I first really got to know through the MCU, and while I’ve seen some of her adventures in the comic series, these have often been vicariously via cameos in other books. Additionally, the 2016 Waid and Samnee run was recommended to me countless times and is a series I regret not picking up before. This latest run is bought to us by:

  • Writers – Jen and Sylvia Soska
  • Artist – Flaviano
  • Colour Artist – Veronica Gandini
  • Letterer – VC’s Joe Caramagna
  • Cover artist – Clayton Crain

The series begins with a team up between Captain America and Black Widow, providing an interesting dynamic considering the climax of things between them during the events of the recent Secret Empire. This is referenced heavily, explaining Black Widow’s current non-Avenger status in the world as well as what she has come through in recent comic book history. Reading this felt like a throw back to the Secret Empire run with the intention to draw a line under it for Black Widow to move on from. Additionally, her dialogue with Cap establishes her key motivation and attitude that will be sure to form the running theme throughout this series, specifically it frame this Black Widow as one who is more than happy to get some blood on her hands to put criminals and villains to a permanent end.

Art by Flaviano, Gandini and Caramagna (Marvel)

After the resolution of things between her and Cap she’s off to lead on her own solo mission that is yet to be defined, with her objective only becoming clear during the final pages of the issue, which will presumably become the initial main conflict. Jen and Sylvia Soska have framed this series as a violent and bloody one with Black Widow no longer held back from the Avengers or the morality of other characters.

The main criticism I would raise against this issue is how although Flaviano and Gandini’s art is very good, it feels a little out of place considering the tone of the story. Were this art in say a Squirrel Girl, Spider-Man or other more light-hearted run it would be right at home. The art is colourful, and the action scenes feel reminiscent of the super hero cartoons that I fell in love with as a kid. The scenery and backgrounds are vibrant and bring the nightlife and settings to life, although I would have expected more muted tones. Caramagna’s lettering is worked into the issue well, providing robust and functional dialogue throughout without much of a call for anything fancy to be done.

 

Final Verdict

Black Widow is presented as a hard drinking killer willing to do what other’s won’t. This feels like a return to the traditional portrayal of Black Widow, who I certainly want to get to know more. I have criticised the art style, however that is less to do with the quality, more to do with the contrast against the story. This is purely based on the one issue however, and the story may develop to where its pairing with the art may become more apparent.

Comic Review – Shuri #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“Even then I learned best by observation. And I moved like a panther” Shuri

Cover by Spratt (Marvel Comics)

While I was at a friend’s over the weekend we re-watched Black Panther, because it’s fantastic of course. There’s a pretty strong consensus between us that Shuri is one of the best characters in the film as well. This meant that when I saw Marvel were releasing a Shuri comic series this week I had to check it out, especially with the wonderfully realistic front cover drawn by Sam Spratt which caught both my attention and a likeness to Shuri in the movies that makes the comic very recognisable for new readers who will know her from the movie. I’ve really enjoyed Marvel’s Black Panther runs previously, so looked forward to seeing Wakanda and the stories it holds from somebody else’s perspective.

This coming was bought to us by:

  • Writer – Nnedi Okorafor
  • Artist – Leonardo Romero
  • Colour Artist – Jordie Bellaire
  • Letterer – VC’s Joe Sabino
  • Cover Artist – Sam Spratt

The story begins with a brief overview of Shuri’s history in the Marvel Universe. Explaining some of her previous adventures and the powers she’s obtained. With T’Challa currently busy elsewhere in the Marvel Universe, Shuri has time on her hands to focus on her inventions and some of the significant issues in Wakanda. We get to see her relationship with her ancestor’s and the dichotomy between her modern attitude towards those issues and those of her family and ancestors. We’re also treated to a flashback which defines her relationship with her brother and how the movers and shakers within Wakanda view her. To avoid any particular spoilers, the set up presented at the end of this issue could easily have been shunted in right at the beginning, which would have been a shame as we’d have been deprived of the chance to get to know this incarnation of Shuri that Okorafor is able to bring out.

Art by Romero, Bellaire & Sabino (Marvel Comics)

Bellaire’s light pallet provides a sense of reality to the issue. The less bold tones providing some gravity as opposed to intense wackiness seen in some comic books. The flash back is presented in very contrasting red and white giving an other worldly sense to the spectacle. Finally, the shift to warmer tones in the setting sun during the final scene gives the sense of change that the issue delivers to the state of affairs in Wakanda as well as Shuri and her story. Romero’s art compliments Spratt’s eye-catching cover art well, keeping the characters recognisable to those who only know the films to date. I’m very familiar with Sabino’s work now which as usual is well worked into the issue in both spoken and online chat format.

Final Verdict

My only issue with the set off for the series is I’m worried Shuri will simply fill in shoes that are not her own as opposed to really fitting into hers. We’ll see however. Okorafor clearly has a talent for Shuri, who is definitely in a safe pair of hands.

 

Comic Book Review – Captain America #4 (Marvel Comics)

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

This week I’m reviewing Captain America #4 (or #708 with Legacy numbering), written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, with pencils by Leinil Francis Yu, inks by Gerry Alanguilan, colours by Sunny Cho and letters from VC’s Joe Caramagna, with cover art by Alex Ross.

Cover art by Alex Ross

Steve Rogers is still trying to make up for what was done in his name, and with his face, when Hydra took over the United States. He’s lost the trust of his government and the American people, and is now rushing to the aid of Sharon Carter, Agent 13, who has been working with the government and has been captured during her latest mission. Cap goes in alone, tearing his way through a base full of goons before coming up against an opponent who’s battle abilities rival his own. Meanwhile Sharon is questioned and tortured by members of the mysterious Power Elite, the next group who are looking to take over the US!

Coates’ run so far on Captain America has been thrilling, and in this issue he shows off a deep and clear understanding of the character, as Cap narrates over his fights. See Cap is an idealist, and truly believes in America and the ideals it should stand for. It’s why he is the Captain of it. But his issue increasingly lies with people who call themselves patriots but act like nothing but, people who “swear by the flag one day, and set it on fire the next”. Even without a familiarity with Coates’ non-fiction writings (with which you should get acquainted), it’s difficult not to see the commentary here on the current climate in the United States. The plot here is good, and it’s ties some of the best Cap stories in the past 20 years is a big plus, but it’s the characterisation of Steve Rogers this commentary that makes the book shine. More is being done and said with the aftermath of Secret Empire here and with a more deft hand than in the event itself.

Art by Yu, Alanguilan, Cho and Caramagna

Yu’s Cap is fierce with a real sense of power. For such an action-heavy issue, nothing drags and it feels kinetic and brutal. At the same time, the interrogation scenes with Sharon are dark and ominous, allowing the threat level in both scenes to come through very strongly. The colours are slightly washed out and dulled, which suits the tone and the base environs of the issue.

Coates and Yu’s Captain America is my favourite book on the stands right now, and goes to the top of my reading pile whenever it comes out. The art is strong and the plot and character musings are incredibly timely. Don’t sleep on this. Pick it up at your LCS, and the first 3 issues if you haven’t already read them!

Comic Review – Thor #5 (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“And the road of the mighty necroworld shakes the heavens. But not loud enough to drown out the laughter of one little worm” Narrator

This week I wasn’t sure what I’d review, until I enjoyed Thor #5 so much I couldn’t help but take the chance to write about it. I’ve really enjoyed the return of the Odinson to the mantle of Thor (as I did the fantastic Jane Foster Thor run before) and the cosmic level adventure to date has provided an incredibly fun change of pace and has bought some of the most powerful Marvel entities such as the Great Galactus, Ego the Living Planet and a mysterious cosmic worm into the picture.

Cover by Ribic (Marvel Comics)

This coming was bought to us by:

  • Writer – Jason Aaron
  • Guest Artist – Christian Ward
  • Logo – Jay Bowen
  • Letterer – VC’s Joe Sabino
  • Cover Artist – Esad Ribic

Thor #5 takes place in the distant future, in a dying universe where the All-Father Old Man Thor and his grand daughters protect New Midgard. The issue picks up with Thor coming face to face with an old friend – (very!) Old Man Wolverine, the current incarnation of the Phoenix Force. We’re treated to a flash back to show the dynamic between the two in the modern era, with them both enjoying a few drinks in ‘the best bar in Midgard’. We see that although there is still a friendship between the two in the future there are far greater forces at play here they are both bound by. In the meantime, the majority of the universe has deteriorated and passed away, leaving only the most powerful forces standing. New Midgard has caught their attention and the grand daughters of Thor must protect it.

Art by Ward and Sabino (Marvel Comics)

Ward excels in an art style well suited to such a fantastical issue and cosmic scale events. His characters and actions scenes almost appear to be painted brushwork, with intense colours communicating motion, action and awesome imagery that captures the imagination. Sabino’s lettering adds to the grand atmosphere. His choice of speech bubble, font and text colour for various characters suits them perfectly and brings out their personality – the passion of Thor or the malevolence of Ego the Living Planet. Sabino does a solid job with the lettering tucking them into tight panels weaving the reader’s eye through the pages and allowing the reader to appreciate the art.

Final Verdict

I really enjoyed this issue. This is a hell of a good way to write Thor, cosmic battles for the fate of the Marvel universe against cosmic level entities. It’s fun to see Aaron’s interpretation of a few familiar faces come the end of time, to see who from the current era is still kicking around and what has happened to certain characters and powers that make a cameo appearance and set up a cliff hanger for the next issue.

I’ve been enjoying Thor for a while, and that won’t be stopping any time soon!

Final Score: 9.5 weird goat stories out of 10

Comic Book Review – The Punisher #1 (Marvel Comics)

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

Marvel relaunched The Punisher with a new #1 this week with the ‘World War Frank’ arc, with previous series writer Matt Rosenberg continuing on writing duties, art from Szymon Kudranski, colours by Antonio Fabela and lettering from VC’s Cory Petit.

Cover by Greg Smallwood (Marvel Comics)

Shady dealings have been going on between Hydra and Roxxon, and their respective leaders Baron Zemo and Dario Agger. Partnering with The Mandarin, they have been convincing or strong-arming UN members to recognise Bagalia as a sovereign nation. Presumably as a cover for further shady dealings. But a wrench in their plans has turned up in the form of Frank Castle, AKA The Punisher. See Frank is after bigger game than his usual gangland targets on the streets of New York, and he is set to go to war with Hydra and a whole nation.

Here Castle is as driven as ever, choosing his words carefully and only ever as a terrifying bogeyman to create maximum intimidation for his targets. While he is going after people who usually go up against Captain America or the Avengers, it’s a nice change of pace for The Punisher, And it is good to see his tactics and planning come into play to deal with that scale. Something that really bothered me in Secret Empire was the characterisation of Castle, doing things and making decisions that seemed wildly out of character and fairly stupid, so this is a welcome return to form. While the set up page indicates that this series and Rosenberg’s work on the character before takes its motivation out of the ashes of that event, it seems that is all that it is. The story here seems to be grand in scope and very entertaining, with a strong cast that I’m looking forward to seeing in action.

Art by Kudranski, Fabela and Petit (Marvel Comics)

The art from Kudranski is kinetic and dark, evoking The Punisher MAX series. There are a few moments where faces are a little inconsistent., and there are some signs or text in the art that looks like they was added as an afterthought later. But largely the issue is strong, with the explosive action given vibrant life by the colours from Fabela. The highlight however has to be the multi panelled sequence outside the lift in the Roxxon base, which was superb.

The Punisher #1 is a good start to a story with a lot of potential for fun, huge explosive action. Check it out at your local comic book shop or digitally now!

Score: 7  out of 10