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.

Total Reroll NSCU: Episode 27 – I Love My Swords

Welcome to the episode 27 of Total Reroll NSCU, our Dungeons and Dragons podcast series. We are members of the Neverwinter Special Crimes Unit, brought in to investigate strange goings on in the city of Neverwinter and to uphold the law!

We just busted up the drow mercenary gang Bregan D’aerthe, who years ago killed Grim’s partner. A type of justice was meted out. Now its time for some well deserved R&R (after one of us is chewed out by the Captain…).

Download this episode (right click and save)

New episodes are out every other week on alternate Fridays to The Weekly Rapture pop culture podcast. If you enjoy the episode, please let us know on Twitter or Facebook, give us a 5* rating on itunes, or share with anyone you think may enjoy it!

Our intro and outro music is ‘Winter’s Howl’ by Ed Curry.

Enjoy!

Fancy supporting the site? You can pick up all of the 5th edition D&D books from Wizards of the Coast using our Amazon links below, and we’ll get a cut with no extra cost to you!

Dungeon Master’s Guide

Player’s Handbook

Monster Manual

Volo’s Guide to Monsters

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

Starter Set

Tales from the Yawning Portal

Comic Book Review – Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 (Boom! Studios)

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

I am a long-time fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, and though I dropped off the comic book continuation, the announcement of essentially a “modern” (well, not late-90’s) comic reboot had me intrigued. More intriguing is that the new Buffy is being written by colourist-of-at-least-a-third-of-all-my-favourite-comics Jordie Bellaire, with illustrations by Dan Mora, colours from Raúl Angulo, lettering by Ed Dukeshire and cover art by Matthew Taylor.

On the off chance that you don’t know, the basic premise of Buffy is this: Into every generation, a Slayer is born; a chosen one. They alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. Buffy Summers is that Slayer, and those vampires, demons and forces of darkness are all congregating in the town of Sunnydale. Mostly because there is a Hellmouth there. Buffy is new in the town, working a crappy fast-food restaurant job and struggling to connect with other students, while patrolling for vampires and arguing with her Watcher Giles. But there is someone selling magic items to vamps that seems to be making them stake-proof, so the Slayer has her work cut out for her.

Bellaire doesn’t waste much time establishing Buffy’s world here, but this issue is as much about resetting and reassuring that despite the smart phone on the front cover, the spirit and feeling of the original TV series will be maintained. That much is clear in the character relationships shown her, with brief interactions between Buffy and her mother Joyce, her Watcher Giles, and her first meeting with her soon to be fellow Scoobies Willow and Xander all note-perfect for what has come before. But that isn’t to say Bellaire plays it safe here, or is simply retreading this Slayer’s origin story. In between the familiar, the actual driving plot seems compelling on its own, but without the baggage of 7 years of stories. There is a good mix of known and unknown dangers and threads that make me excited for what is to come.

Mora’s art complements the story and the feeling of familiarity well, with each of the main characters very much resembling their TV counterpart, but not slavishly so or to the detriment to the rest of the art. The couple of action scenes are fun and dynamic, with dusting vamps looking much cooler than it ever did on the show. The Sunnydale High library is somehow daunting and oppressive, and while many scenes are bright with Angulo’s vibrant colours, they have deep shadows that help to sell the horror angle of the book.

I was worried that as part of this reboot of Buffy there would be a painful attempt to sound too young, to be too referential to current tech or apps. But as with the TV show itself, the new series largely eschews that and manages to feel both relevant and timeless. The art is great, and the world and the characters felt both familiar and fresh at the same time. I really enjoyed this issue and can’t wait for more. Pick it up at your LCS or online now!

Total Reroll NSCU: Episode 26 – The House with a Horse in the Window

Welcome to the episode 26 of Total Reroll NSCU, our new Dungeons and Dragons podcast series. We are members of the Neverwinter Special Crimes Unit, brought in to investigate strange goings on in the city of Neverwinter and to uphold the law!

We are in the HQ of the drow mercenaries Bregan D’aerthe, the gang who killed Grim’s partner years ago. But will he find justice?

Download this episode (right click and save)

New episodes are out every other week on alternate Fridays to The Weekly Rapture pop culture podcast. If you enjoy the episode, please let us know on Twitter or Facebook, give us a 5* rating on itunes, or share with anyone you think may enjoy it!

Our intro and outro music is ‘Winter’s Howl’ by Ed Curry.

Enjoy!

Fancy supporting the site? You can pick up all of the 5th edition D&D books from Wizards of the Coast using our Amazon links below, and we’ll g8et a cut with no extra cost to you!

Dungeon Master’s Guide

Player’s Handbook

Monster Manual

Volo’s Guide to Monsters

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

Starter Set

Tales from the Yawning Portal

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.

Total Reroll NSCU: Episode 25 – Honey Trap

Welcome to the episode 25 of Total Reroll NSCU, our new Dungeons and Dragons podcast series. We are members of the Neverwinter Special Crimes Unit, brought in to investigate strange goings on in the city of Neverwinter and to uphold the law!

We are closing in on the HQ of the drow mercenaries Bregan D’aerthe, the gang who killed Grim’s partner years ago. Time for some subtle infiltration.

Download this episode (right click and save)

New episodes are out every other week on alternate Fridays to The Weekly Rapture pop culture podcast. If you enjoy the episode, please let us know on Twitter or Facebook, give us a 5* rating on itunes, or share with anyone you think may enjoy it!

Our intro and outro music is ‘Winter’s Howl’ by Ed Curry.

Enjoy!

Fancy supporting the site? You can pick up all of the 5th edition D&D books from Wizards of the Coast using our Amazon links below, and we’ll get a cut with no extra cost to you!

Dungeon Master’s Guide

Player’s Handbook

Monster Manual

Volo’s Guide to Monsters

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

Starter Set

Tales from the Yawning Portal