Comic Review – Batman: White Knight #1 (DC Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“I love Gotham” Jack Napier

Batman is bad for Gotham City, he creates criminals, causes unquantifiable amounts of property damage and makes it so much more of a dangerous place. You may have come across some of these points before (see this Episode of Cracked After Hours if you need refresher: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd1sIwCLtIc ). Sometimes you have to wonder what publishers or owners of iconic heroes think of this sort of criticism, Sean Gordon Murphy at DC goes all in and actively embraces this criticism to bring us the new 8 part series – Batman: White Knight.

This comic was bought to us by:

  • Writer, art and cover – Sean Murphy
  • Colours and Cover Colours – Matt Hollingsworth
  • Letters – Todd Klein

For those of you who don’t know, the premise of White Knight is simple. People realise how bad Batman is for Gotham, and the charges against him are lead by none other than his greatest nemesis – Jack Napier aka the Joker. He’s cured of his insanity and takes on Batman as Gotham’s White Knight, taking him on in obvious ways which Bats simply doesn’t see coming. The story opens with what feels like a fun tribute to Lego Batman – with the Joker trying to explore his relationship with a very reluctant Batman. The Joker is portrayed as Batman’s biggest fan, in a similar way to the outstanding Death of the Family series by Scott Snyder. The first issue largely deals with world building, setting up the key plot threads and exploring what makes this Batman the person he is (outside of the usual dead parents, Bat obsession and grumpiness etc.). DC appears to have given Murphy all of the freedom to critique the Bat and vigilantism in general, with undertones of real world polarised political debate.

Murphy took care of the art as well, this being his project and has set the bar very high across the board for himself. The art has a very cinematic feel to it, it feels like these could easily be the frames waiting to be put together for an animated film. Batman is drawn as a hugely imposing figure, there’s a particularly iconic panel early on where Batman and Jack Napier square off. The Bat comes off as monstrous, with Napier for once being calm and collected under pressure. The pale colour pallet used by Hollingsworth lends to a more down to earth feeling, where actions have consequences and people get hurt. Klein also has his work cut out for him with the lettering, there’s a lot of dialogue in parts of the issue and only so much page to fit it into. Klein manages to layout a dynamic format which keeps the reader engaged.

How do both the Dark and White Knight’s hands check out though? Hands only feature so much in this issue, in places lettering or the limited space for panels leaves them squeeze out on occasion. Where they do exist however, a large amount of impact is packed into them. I’ll have to dock a couple of points for scarcity though! 8/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

If any of you know the sort of comic I like, then it won’t come as a surprise that I really enjoyed this. I’m excited to see where Murphy goes with the plot, though unfortunately I have seen promising comics slip up before. If Murphy can keep this up though, I doubt that’ll be the case.

Score: 10 Rooms Full of Batman Memorabilia 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.

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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.

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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 – Tokyo Ghost #1 (Image Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

This week saw the start of a series I’ve been looking forward to since its announcement at Image Expo last year: sci-fi series Tokyo Ghost #1 created by Rick Remender and Sean Murphy on writing and art duties respectively, with colours provided by Matt Hollingsworth and letters from Rus Wooton.

Tokyo Ghost takes place in a 2089 in a world obsessed and addicted to technology, a natural extension of the world we live in now. Debbie Decay, the last tech free human in LA and her partner Led Dent, partners and constables for the Flak corporation, are hunting down a suspect responsible for a series of horrible murders, a nostalgic video game nerd named Davey Trauma who can seemingly hack into any human being with the slightest nano tech to do his bidding. And his bidding is to kill Debbie Decay as she closes in on him, her husband and partner Dent so addicted to video streams and porn that he can’t even make himself get off his bike. This is Debbie and Led’s last job for Flak, before they head off to the only tech free city in the world, Tokyo, to get Led clean off of tech and to start a new life. But Led has to tell Flak that he wants it first…

TokyoGhostThere is a lot to take in for this first issue. Remender packs in an incredible amount of nuanced world-building, without making it centre stage, and while framing it around an incredibly action packed case for the two constables. As for the two main characters, Debbie really shines here, with her actually following up on the case while her tech-addicted partner stays glued to the screens in front of his face. We actually learn more about Dent contextually and through Debbie’s devotion to him, as his obsession renders him as essentially a blank slate here. As a partnership, this makes them fascinating as eventually they do work well together, despite the shortcomings of half of the team. The story is slick and upsettingly prescient, without being too grim or overbearing.

The only minor complaint I had was the dialogue. Not overall, as it is largely very strong without being too faux-futuristic, but specifically the dialogue of Davey Trauma, which comes across as a little painfully ‘gamer’. Maybe it’s a stab at gamergaters, much more likely it is supposed to be so over the top as the character himself is nostalgia-obsessed and so bound to actually fail to accurately represent anyone who has genuinely played a video game in the early 21st century, but as someone who falls between the Millenial and Atari age ranges all of the ‘pwned’ and ‘I ain’t no noob’ read to me a little like the try-hard 12 year olds I used to fight on Halo 2 oh so many years ago. But frankly I assume this was intentional, to read the guy as an idiot poser who barely understood the culture he was misrepresenting, and to make him that much easier to dislike.

As for the art, I find it a little difficult to be subjective here. Murphy and Hollingsworth are now my favourite art team. I suspected it on The Wake, and it was probably confirmed on Chrononauts but they just work so incredibly well together. Sean Murphy’s scratchy and shadowy style does wonders here to create a sort of tech based LA noir feel, and really most of the world building I spoke of comes from what he brings to the table, rendering a very lived-in setting amongst the familiar trappings of bleak dystopia. The car chases and death races look stunning, and the few moments of horrible bloodshed are somehow understated in their realisation. Matt Hollingsworth brings more of his usual washed out, almost pastel colour palette to round off the ‘lived in’ feeling of the world, making everything seem worn out and strained while remaining vivid and exciting. Tokyo Ghost is a stunning book.

This first issue of Tokyo Ghost has a lot going on, aggressively eschewing the usual trade off of character vs. plot for a first issue of a new series by just smashing together both. And it works. More could, and presumably will, be said about Led. To be honest, I worry that once Led starts to come off of his addiction he will start to overshadow Debbie Decay in the story, which I think would be a great shame because as it stands, she is far and away the most compelling character. The story is compelling, but the art is the main draw here for me. Remender, Murphy and Hollingsworth deliver a cyberpunk LA noir with death races, video games obsessives and explosions and it looks ridiculously pretty. This is a great first issue and I can’t wait to see where it goes. Pick it up at your LCS or digitally today.

Score: 9 Tech-free cities out of 10

 

Comic Review – We Stand On Guard #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

This week I picked up We Stand On Guard #1, the first issue of a new series that I’ve been looking forward to since it was announced at Image Expo a while back. It was written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Steve Skroce, with colours by Matt Hollingsworth and letters from Fonografiks.

We Stand on Guard  opens in a home in Canada, 2112, as Amber, her older brother Tommy and their parents look on in horror as the news shows the aftermath of a terrorist attack on US soil. As they guess at which country or domestic group is responsible, the bombs start to fall. Whether Canada or a Canadian group was behind the attack or not, America has responded swiftly with unbelievable force directly aimed at civilian populations. Before they even have time to run the house is ripped apart, and with their parents dead, Amber and Tommy are left to fend for themselves in the face of an occupying US force.

12 years later, Amber is alone in the snowy Canadian wilderness trying to survive. She is set upon by a canine-like mech with a US military brand, but before it finishes her off she is saved by a group of freedom fighters known as the ‘Two-Four’. Despite not trusting her, the group patches her up and then sets into motion a plan to bring down a colossal mech stomping above the forest. By the end of the skirmish, Amber has proven herself to those skeptical of her motives, and as a position tragically opens up, she is welcomed into the ranks of the Two Four.

The first few pages of We Stand on Guard are incredibly visceral, playing up the panic and rushed confusion following a surprise attack that seems so over the top that it looks more like the start of an alien invasion than the opening salvos of a war between two democratic nations. The gut punch and tragedy immediately cools to the post-war world, with Vaughan shifting gears expertly to a situation where dedicated men and women are now fighting in a war that they lost as soon as it began. The set up and plot are great here, even if the character work is a little light. I find new series tend to choose one or the other, plot or character depth, for their opening issue and usually it is those that open big on plot and tease what development will come for their characters that are the stories that will have me coming back for more. Vaughan presents a compelling tale that almost reads like revisionist history transplanted into a near future sci-fi setting, and there are huge mech walkers so really what more could you ask for?

Skroce is given plenty of opportunity to display his range in this first issue, and doesn’t disappoint at all. The opening scenes are intense and at points grotesque (the gore and the overly puffed up and bruised faces immediately reminded me of Chris Burnham’s work), and the desolate wilderness is beautiful as the cold weather almost seems to clash with the cold appearance of the US drone machines. The colour work from Hollingsworth finishes this off perfectly (I think I’ve gone on about Matt Hollingsworth being one of my favourite colourists before), giving the book a hard and chilling edge.

We Stand On Guard is off to a strong start, and I’m looking forward to finding out more about Amber, Tommy and the Two-Four, and what this band of freedom fighters can actually do in the face of total and complete occupation by a faceless and brutal US army. Check this one out at your LCS or download it digitally now!

Score: 8 Oh Canadas out of 10

Comic Review – Chrononauts #1

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

This week I picked up the much-hyped Chrononauts from Image Comics. This new sci-fi series was written by Mark Millar, with art by Sean Murphy, colours by Matt Hollingsworth and letters from Chris Eliopoulos. If you listen to our podcast, you may have heard me voice opinions on what I already think about Mark Millar’s work. It isn’t that I think his writing is bad, far from it. He is a very capable writer. But generally, the comics from him I have enjoyed the most have all been Marvel work. Civil War and The Ultimates in particular I enjoyed. But when uninhibited by editorial restraints, I have tended to not enjoy his creator-owned work, often finding it overly crude, violent or offensive without actually making a point, almost glorifying certain very negative aspects. But regardless, this new series caught my eye and I thought it worth checking out.

Chrononauts is the story of Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly, two doctors and best friends, who are set to become the world’s first time travellers. It starts with Quinn, hunting down anachronistic and chronologically displaced technology and vehicles, planes in ancient and cars being found buried under Mayan pyramids for example, and using it as proof of concept for the possibility of time travel. Soon after, he and his friend Reilly, with a team of scientists helping them, send a satellite back through time to the American Civil War, transmitting live video around the world. 18 months later, and Corbin and Danny are prepping for the first manned mission back in time, with the whole world watching with bated breath. Corbin goes through first, but is knocked off course. Danny insists on following, heading back to 1504 to rescue his friend.

I may have been a bit overly critical of Millar before, but this is a really nice first issue. There is none of the unnecessary crassness that has often put me off his independent work, instead here he tells an action packed opening that lays plenty of groundwork, has a decent amount of character set up. There is a big emphasis on bravado and bromance here, with the guys even calling themselves rock stars, but it is played up comically and doesn’t feel out of place. The feel of the story is a cross between the lunar landing and Black Science, without the success of the former or the horrible depressiveness of the latter.

Murphy’s art here is superb. I was already a big fan of his, and to be honest the art team was what sold me on this book more than the premise or the writer, so it was likely I was going to be reasonably pleased with anything he put out. There are some lovely set pieces, wide shots and backgrounds that work to show the normality of the setting and how routine what they are attempting seems to be, even though it is effectively stepping through a Stargate to another time in a fancy suit. The facial work is dark and heavy, but very expressive. The most impressive panels though are those dealing with the time travel, appearing as a burst of twisting energy for the most part, but looking really nice when it shows Danny actually stepping from the timestream or whatever it is called into his new destination. This is all beautifully realised with the help of Hollingsworth, certainly one of my favourite colourists in comics, who brings his pastel style and range to make the different time periods and time travel scenes really distinct.

Chrononauts is off to a good start, and while the story is very good it is really the gorgeous art that makes this worth picking up. Check this out at your LCS or digital comics platform.

Score: 8 Arrows out of 10

Comic Review – Wytches #1

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.

There were a lot of great comics out this week, but Wytches is a book I have been looking forward to since it was announced a few months ago. This is a new horror series from Image Comics written by Scott Snyder, with art by Jock, colours from Matt Hollingsworth and letters by Clem Robins. All of those people have worked on something that I have loved, so having them team up to bring this new story was pretty exciting.

Wytches. according to Snyder in the last few pages in which he recounts his inspiration for the story, involves the real witches, “No brooms or pointy hats.”, an ancient evil worshipped by those who were burnt at the stake in their place. They creep around in the darkness of the forest, granting wishes to those who bring them pledges: human sacrifices. This first issue opens with one of these pledges in 1919, before moving up to present day and introducing the Rooks family who have just moved to a new secluded home in the woods. Charlie is a graphic artist and writer, and he and his wife Lucy and teenage daughter Sailor (nicknamed Sail, an interesting name) moved to get away from some unpleasant events that took place where they used to live. Lucy is wheelchair-bound following an undisclosed accident and Sail, after months of bullying, witnesses the disappearance of her tormentor. Starting at a new school, Sail’s reputation proceeds her and everyone assumes that she killed the girl. We are shown that while Sail may have wished for it, and she continues to obsess over her potential involvement in what happened, she was certainly not the one who killed her bully. Sail may have unwittingly had an encounter with the Wytches in the forest that night and even though they have moved, the Rook family may bump into them again sooner rather than later.

Snyder is really at home writing horror, on clear display in the excellent American Vampire, but also more subtly influencing the work he has done on Batman. The actual titular evil takes a back seat in this first issue, making way for character development for the key cast and scene setting, which serves to make the world feel fleshed out while the glimpses of the threat really builds the tension and fear. Jock is an excellent horror artist, with his creepy and scratchy style a perfect fit to illustrate the dark woodland setting. The colours from Hollingsworth really accenuate and bring the best out of Jock’s art too, and while I’m used to more pastel colours from him, he shows off a really dynamic range contrasting them in calmer daylight scenes with the oppressive dark scenes taking place in the woods at night. The art all together ramps up the terrifying aspect of the story, with a few stand out panels that are certain to haunt some dreams and cause readers to look up into any trees they walk past in the darkness.

Shockingly, I enjoyed this. Wytches #1 is a great start for a horror series, living up to the hype built up around it. This first issue is bound to sell out, but Image are good at extra printings for their titles so more will be out soon. Pick this up either physically or digitally, it should be a great ride.

Score: 8.5 Pledges out of 10