Tom Smithyman

Tom Smithyman is a newspaperman turned marketing executive. A comic book enthusiast since the 70s, he tries to keep up with these alternate realities while juggling a professional career, family, community theater roles and passion for travel. Connect with him @tsmithyman and linkedin.com/in/tomsmithyman/

Latest stories

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    Dark Days: The Forge #1: The Epic Begins

    “There is a feeling you get at the beginning of an adventure…”

    Thus begins DC’s epic summer event, Metal. The prelude, Dark Days: The Forge, is the perfect introduction, and sets the stage for the magnitude of what is to come.

    Dark Days: The Forge #1

    Comics publishers often overuse the term “all-star” in their books, but in this case, it fits perfectly. DC has recruited its top talent, including writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, for this one-shot story. However, the talent doesn’t stop there, as the book also packs superstar artists Jim Lee, John Romita Jr. and Andy Kubert. Even the cast is epic, featuring Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Aquaman, Mister Miracle – even the Outsiders.

    Dark Days: The Forge #1 Will Keep You Coming Back For More

    The issue gives just enough intrigue to keep you turning the pages with anticipation. Batman has discovered a mysterious substance in the Earth’s metal. Unfortunately, no wants this information to come to light, including the Guardians of the Universe and the Immortal Men.

    As Snyder’s and Tynion’s story unfolds – from the depths of the ocean to the Batcave on the moon – the mystery deepens. What is this mysterious metal? Where did it come from, and why is Batman obsessed with it now? The artwork is stunning and dramatic, exactly what’s you’d expect from this superstar team. If that wasn’t enough to keep you coming back for more, check out the final page. This final page is beautifully rendered by Lee and will seal the deal for this event.

    That feeling you get at the beginning of an adventure? It’s glee. Pure glee for what’s to come.

    Dark Days: The Forge #1, DC Comics, Released June 14, 2017, Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV; Pencils by Andy Kubert, Jim Lee and John Romita Jr.; Inks by Scott Williams, Klaus Janson and Danny Miki; Colors by Alex Sinclair and Jeremiah Skipper; Letters by Steve Wands; $4.99.

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    Iceman #1: Two Icemen for the Price of One

    Marvel’s newest X-Men solo comic, Iceman #1, features the exploits of Bobby Drake (the original, not the time-displaced younger version) battling baddies as well as…his parents? That’s right. Bobby has had so much trouble with his parents’ lack of understanding around him being a mutant, he hasn’t dared telling them he’s gay. Instead, Mr. and Mrs. Drake are waiting for him to bring a nice girl home.

    Iceman Comics at TFAW.com

    If that weren’t bad enough, Iceman is busy schooling the younger version of himself in the ways of his mutant powers. For years Bobby could do little more than creating ice ramps and freezing bad guys, but now he’s an “omega-level mutant” with powers far beyond his imagination. Older Bobby teaches the younger, hipper version of himself how to maximize the potential of those powers.

    And, of course, Iceman has to deal with the real bad guy, which in the premiere issue is an anti-mutant purifier. Not a Sentinel-level threat, but an adequate one in the middle of everything else going on in this story.

    Vitti and Grace Are a Great Choice for Iceman #1

    Artist Alessandro Vitti gives the book a unique style – different from the other X-titles, but still clearly in the family. Writer Sina Grace cleverly bookends the story by having Bobby explain who he is on a dating website. “My friends would say I’m a team player,” he writes while looking at a photo of the X-Men.

    Grace tells a compact yet complete story for this initial outing, one that has drama, humor and enough action to keep fans coming back for more. Finally, Iceman gets his time to shine and it’s one story that is sure to rank among the classics.

    Iceman #1: Marvel Comics, Released June 7, 2017, Written by Sina Grace, Art by Alessandro Vitti, Colors by Rachelle Rosenberg, Letters by VC’s Joe Sabino; $3.99.

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    Wonder Woman Annual #1: Four for the Road

    Wonder Woman’s first annual of the DC Rebirth era arrives just in time for her big screen debut. If the movie is half as good as Wonder Woman Annual #1, it’ll be a blockbuster.

    Instead of telling an extended tale, the annual gives us four vignettes by different creative teams – highlighting different aspects of our heroine.

    Wonder Woman Annual #1 Review

    The first story features the team of writer Greg Rucka and artist Nicola Scott. The story picks up on Wondy’s Year One saga by chronicling her first meeting with Superman and Batman. This enjoyable tale showcases the DC trinity at their best: Wonder Woman full of hope, Superman as the optimist and Batman… well, as Batman – suspicious and untrusting.

    Scott’s drawings are fantastic, illustrating Wonder Woman as the powerful hero she is. Rucka’s story, while light on action, fills in an amusing backstory.

    Wonder Woman Annual #1 Features Some Amazing Talent On Each Story

    If it’s action you want, the second story from writer Vita Ayala and artist Claire Roe starts off with a bang: King Shark is about to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit. Invading the country of Markovia, Wonder Woman shows off her many powers, and her lasso, by making short work of the executioners.

    The story is classic Wonder Woman – plenty of action sprinkled with hope.

    The third tale by Michael Moreci and drawn by Stephanie Hans pits Princess Diana against a monster threatening a peaceful Japanese village. However, this is no simple monster of the month story, because Wonder Woman knows the would-be attacker. Exquisitely drawn by Hans, each image jumps off the page. You’ll really that you are in Japan.

    The final story is by writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing and artist David Lafuente. This tale pits Wonder Woman against a monstrous kaiju. Again, Diana must choose between violence or compassion. The tale – and the issues – provides plenty of both.

    Wonder Woman Annual #1 is the perfect jumping on point for new readers. The comic also gives longtime fans an assortment of fantastic Wonder Woman stories. Whether you’re planning on seeing the new movie or not, make sure to pick up this comic.

    Wonder Woman Annual #1: DC Comics, Released May 31, 2017, Written by Greg Rucka, Vita Ayala, Michael Moreci, Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing; Art by Nicola Scott, Claire Roe, Stephanie Hans and David Lafuente; $4.99.

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    I Am Groot #1: I Am, Well, You Know

    Capitalizing on the success of its newest blockbuster, Marvel has given Groot the starring role in his own comic with I Am Groot #1. Like in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Groot is not a full tree; instead, he is an adorable adolescent twig. Unfortunately, his maturity matches his size, and this causes him to get in the way of his fellow guardians. To make up for it, the anthropomorphic tree tries to help. However, he ultimately fails, leaving him stranded at the other end of the galaxy.

    I Am Groot #1

    I Am Groot #1 Features a Strong Creative Team

    Writer Christopher Hastings wisely includes Groot’s teammates in the comic. This addition means that we aren’t constantly inundated with “I am Groot” – though there’s plenty of that. The comic also features new characters as well. One such character is Buddy, a dog-like creature that Groot meets on the other side of known space.

    Flaviano provides the gripping otherworldly artwork. He gets to show off his skills with a variety of scenes ranging from the close confines of a spaceship to the vastness of space to some pretty funky alien landscapes.

    However, it’s colorist Marcio Menyz who really shines in this inaugural issue. Menyz showcases his considerable talent in the space scenes. Some of the standout colors include the glow of rocket engines and interstellar phenomena illuminate the pitch blackness of space. With colorful characters like Gamora, Rocket Raccoon and Drax, Menyz has a broad pallet to work with.

    I Am Groot #1 is only the first chapter of a larger story that hopefully reunites our wooden character with the rest of his team. It’s a story well worth reading and is highly recommend for fans of the character.

    I Am Groot #1, Marvel Comics, Released May 24, 2017, Written by Christopher Hastings; Art by Flaviano; Colors by Marcio Menyz; Lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna; $3.99.

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    Batman #23: The Brave and the Mold Review

    Batman #23 starts off with a bang – two bangs actually.

    Batman #23 Review

    We see a man reciting the lyrics to “My Wild Irish Rose” as he is being shot in the head twice. The man seemingly continues to recite the words after he’s died.

    The dead man, it turns out, is Swamp Thing’s father. The plant elemental shows up at the crime scene as Batman and Commissioner Gordon are trying to figure out how the killer came in through the 86th floor window. The resulting investigation is a superhero team-up for the ages.
    However, it takes a close second to the other dynamic duo – writer Tom King and artist Mitch Gerads, the pair behind the critically acclaimed “The Sheriff of Babylon.” As with that series, Batman #23 is a tale doesn’t disappoint.

    Batman #23 Is Swamp Thing’s Rebirth

    King spins a tight yarn complete with mystery, drama, revenge and a bit of pathos on the side. With his recent work on the book, King is proving himself to be a worthy successor to longtime Dark Knight scribe Scott Snyder. As compelling as the story is, it’s Gerads’ visuals that bring the story home. His Batman – normally the dominant figure in every panel – is dwarfed by Swamp Thing. It’s appropriate since ultimately, it’s really Swamp Thing’s story.

    Gerads shades each chapter with its own color – green when we first see Swamp Thing rising from a small plant, shades of gray as the man is being shot, browns to match the mahogany walls of stately Wayne Manor. It’s an excellent visual effect which really adds an extra layer of depth to this fantastic tale.

    The surprise ending is every bit as emotional as it is gruesome, leaving nearly every character as a victim. Everyone, that is, except the reader, who will be thrilled with this great story.

    Love Batman? Then be sure to check out Dark Days: The Forge!

    Batman #23, Marvel Comics, Released May 17th, 2017, Written by Tom King, Art By Mitch Gerads, $2.99

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    Star Wars: Screaming Citadel (One Shot): In Space No One Can Hear Your Lightsaber

    Marvel’s latest Star Wars crossover unites two unlikely characters, Luke Skywalker and Doctor Aphra. It’s a combination that probably shouldn’t work, but somehow does under the skillful pen of writer Kieron Gillen. More importantly, the Screaming Citadel one shot helps to fill in some of the gaps in Luke Skywalker’s path to becoming a Jedi Knight.

    Star Wars Screaming Citadel (One Shot)
    Despite their different allegiances, the characters need each other. Luke feels the Force, but has no real training to become a Jedi. Aphra wants to unlock the power in an artifact she recovered. The irony of the situation isn’t lost on Gillen. After a grueling cantina fight (Luke can’t seem to avoid them), he accuses Aphra of being evil. “Evil is a very strong word,” she replies.

    Aphra convinces Luke to accompany her to the Screaming Citadel to unlock the mystery of her artifact – and to get him the training he desperately needs. However, the price the pair has to pay for that knowledge is could end up being too high.

    Screaming Citadel Is Star Wars At Its Best

    Artist Marco Checchetto gets to play with lots of Star Wars toys in this premiere issue. Checchetto has no problem drawing Wookies, Twi’leks, Toydarians, and even a Gungun (though hopefully not Jar Jar Binks). Our favorite characters, including Leia and Luke, are easily recognizable, right down to the smirk on Han Solo’s face.

    Despite the dire circumstances, Gillen keeps the mood light with his irreverent characters, including Doctor Aphra and her two droids. Where R2-D2 and C-3PO frequently save the heroes lives, Aphra’s abominations gleefully plot the torture of everyone they meet. Aphra herself is a welcome change to the Star Wars universe – think of a female Han Solo with even more selfish motives.

    “Two people and a Wookie versus a bar?” she says. “That’s what I call the start of a great weekend.”

    It’s also the start of a great series.

    Like the first issue? We’ve got the issues you need to continue the story!

    Star Wars: Screaming Citadel #1, Marvel Comics, Released May 10, 2017; Written by Kieron Gillen; Art by Marco Checchetto; Colors by Andres Mossa; Lettering by VC’s Joe Caramanga; $4.99.

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    Secret Empire #1: Hail Captain America!

    Secret Empire #1

    Never have the words “Hail Hydra” packed more of a wallop than when they are uttered by that star-spangled Avenger, Captain America, in Secret Empire #1. However, that’s now the situation facing the Marvel universe in the publisher’s latest event.
    Secret Empire #1
    As seen in Secret Empire #0, Cap has engineered the rise of Hydra by trapping most of the heroes in space or in the Darkforce. The book opens with a time skip, showing that Cap’s coalition of Hydra forces now control the United States – and have their sights trained on the rest of the world. Only a handful of good guys remain, led by Hawkeye and Black Widow.

    Secret Empire #1 Raises the Stakes

    In the hands of writer Nick Spencer, this doesn’t feel like a typical Marvel event. The rules have changed, and the stakes are higher. The bad guy isn’t a bonafide villain like Ultron, Thanos or the shapeshifting Skrulls: it’s Captain America. The icon. Our unblemished hero.

    Spencer shows his knack for capturing the many characters’ essences without reducing them to caricatures. Cap shows his steely resolve, remaining Boy Scout-like even while approving pumping mind-altering drugs into the water supply. Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel displays her bravery in the face of impossible odds. Even Tony Stark’s AI self gets into the act, appropriately sarcastic, drunken, womanizing, and even unshaven.
    Secret Empire #1 Variant
    Artist Steve McNiven has his hands full with depicting the new resistance, which includes members such as Viv Vision, Ironheart and the Hulk, battling the forces of Baron Zemo, Dr. Faustus and Arnim Zola.

    To cap off the compelling first chapter of this nine-issue series, Spencer hands us a shocking – no, really, it’s completely shocking – surprise that will leave fans divided but will compel readers to come back for more.

    Long live the Secret Empire!

    Secret Empire #1 Is Off To A Strong Start — Make Sure To Order The Remaining Issues!

    Secret Empire #1: Marvel Comics, Released May 3, 2017, Written by Nick Spencer; Pencils by Steve McNiven; Inks by Jay Leisten; Colors by Matthew Wilson; Lettering by VC’s Travis Lanham; $4.99.

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    The Shadow Knows, But He Ain’t Telling

    On the surface, it’s a match made in vigilante heaven. The two greatest crimefighters of the 20th century–Batman and The Shadow–have both stricken fear in the hearts of their adversaries for more than 75 years. Both have solved more mysteries than Scotland Yard and the Gotham Police Department combined.

    But when they initially meet in Batman The Shadow #1, it’s not as bats of a feather, rather as enemies. The two come to blows almost immediately. Mostly because it looks as though The Shadow, who supposedly died of cancer in the 1960s, has returned to Gotham City to kill one of his descendants. Coincidently, the deceased also bears the name Lamont Cranston, just like The Shadow.

    Unraveling the Lamont Cranston Mystery

    Batman auteur Scott Snyder teams with Steve Orlando to provide the compelling mystery. Neither is a stranger to the Dark Knight. And their fascination with the character continues. However, this time they are tying Bruce Wayne’s grandfather, Patrick, into some kind of relationship with Cranston. And the writing pair give Shadow fans something to enjoy as well. Batman interrogates Cranston’s known associates–all of whom are well past their crime-fighting prime.

    Artist Riley Rossmo is a great choice to draw this six-part limited series. Interestingly, he gives Batman a more rooted feeling, while The Shadow is more ethereal. The result is a combination of Jim Lee and Paul Pope pencils, which is a welcome addition to the Caped Crusader’s looks.

    If they’re anything like the premiere issue, the next five installments should be must-haves. Like Batman yells at The Shadow after their first fight, “Bats live in the shadows.”

    SEE WHAT HAPPENS WITH THE DUO GOES AFTER THE STAG AND PRE-ORDER BATMAN THE SHADOW #2

    Batman The Shadow #1, DC Comics and Dynamite, Released April 26, 2017, Written by Scott Snyder and Steve Orlando, Pencils by Riley Rossmo, Colors by Ivan Plascencia, Lettering by Clem Robins; $3.99.

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    Shaolin Cowboy’s Surf and Turf Battle

    Leave it to Geoff Darrow to begin a new issue (and a new series) with a trio of talking vultures. The triad is circling the remains of a huge battle to find their next meal. And they provide the most intelligent dialogue in the book.

    Shaolin Cowboy’s latest battle, which nearly left him for dead, provides the backdrop for the vultures’ discussion of physiognomy, smorgasbords and cholesterol. Seeing a dead Asian combatant, one of the vultures declares, “It looks pretty fresh, and it’s been awhile since I’ve had any sashimi.”

    Old Nemeses Hell Bent on Revenge

    Shaolin Cowboy: Who'll Stop The Reign? #1 (variant cover)
    Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop The Reign? #1 (variant cover)

    In The Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign #1, Cowboy doesn’t have much to say. That leaves the vultures and less-intelligent humans to fill in the story. That plot revolves around a number of enemies trying to take advantage of Cowboy’s weakened state. Those include the vultures, a warden from hell, and a beer-guzzling crab-human hybrid. It’s quintessential Darrow. And that’s a beautiful thing.

    But it’s detailed artwork that Darrow fans demand. And this issue doesn’t disappoint. While the book doesn’t have the decapitation by chainsaw on a rope that we’ve come to expect from the Cowboy, there’s still plenty to feast your eyes on.

    There are impossible moves where the Cowboy propels himself into the back of a moving car. Bleak mountain landscapes complete with anti-Trump graffiti. And the generous use of two-page spreads with knife-legged dogs as a treat for the careful observer. Darrow creates a visual treat that will leave you coming back for the rest of this four-part series.

    RE-ORDER SHAOLIN COWBOY: WHO’LL STOP THE RAIN #2 AND FIND OUT WHO’S IN HOT PURSUIT OF THE COWBOY

    The Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign? #1, Dark Horse Comics, Released April 19, 2017, Written and Art by Geoff Darrow, Colors by Dave Stewart, Lettering by Nate Piekos, $3.99.

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    Action Comics #977: A Walk Down Memory Lane

    The death of the New 52 Superman. The discovery of another Clark Kent. The near loss of his son Jon at the hands of Mister Mxyzptlk. Kal-El has had little time for reflection. But his latest adventure with Mxyzptlk has shaken him to the core–and left him wondering about his true past. Is someone manipulating him and the entire DC universe?

    Action Comics #977 (variant cover)
    Action Comics #977 (variant cover)

    Superman Reborn Aftermath Part One Begins

    Action Comics #977 expertly alternates between the past and present, Superman relives the final hours of his home planet, Krypton. For the first time, he sees his parents struggle as they say goodbye to their infant son. They are comforted only by the fact that Earth’s yellow sun will give him power and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Writer Dan Jurgens even manages to slip in a political reference, with superdad Jor-El. He’s complaining that his planet’s leaders would rather embrace money than trying to save their people from the coming catastrophic natural disaster.

    Supes also witnesses his arrival on Earth and his rescue and adoption by the Kents. At the same time, a mysterious villain is assembling a rogues gallery of super adversaries including Metallo and Blanque.

    Artist Ian Churchill is given the plum assignment of depicting the futuristic Krypton (complete with baby Kal-El’s superbinky). In addition, he has the task of bringing to life the seemingly endless cornfields of Kansas that the Kents call home. His more modern depiction of the assembly of villains is seemingly taken straight from the Matrix, which adds to the intrigue. But it’s his multiple splash-page depictions of Superman himself that make the reader want to come back for more.

    And with a story and art like this, keeping readers hooked on this Action Comics series isn’t going to be a problem.

    SUPERMAN’S LIFE HAS BEEN CHANGED IN SUPERMAN REBORN AFTERMATH PART TWO. PRE-ORDER ACTION COMICS #978 TO SEE HOW

    Action Comics #977, DC Comics, Released April 12, 2017, Written by Dan Jurgens, Art by Ian Churchill, Colors by Hi-Fi, Lettering by Rob Leigh, $2.99

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    Serenity: A Conclusion With No End in Sight

    Few television shows inspire as much loyalty from die-hard fans as Firefly, Joss Whedon’s 2002 science fiction-Western hybrid. Capitalizing on the demand for new stories after the 2005 feature film Serenity, Dark Horse Comics has published several limited series. Its latest, Serenity: No Power in the ‘Verse #6, concludes with bang.

    Serenity: No Power in the 'Verse #6
    Serenity: No Power in the ‘Verse #6

    In addition, the book has nailed the feeling of the beloved – but short-lived TV show. There’s the Western-style dialogue (“We put up a good fight for a spell.”). And the occasional Chinese curses (“Bi zui!”). Georges Jeanty’s realistic artwork lets us revisit our favorites characters. Capt. Mal Reynolds, mercenary Jayne Cobb, psychic River Tam all make appearances.

    The Battle Lines Have Been Drawn

    The new book takes place after the events of the Serenity movie. No Power in the ‘Verse sets the stage for a new uprising against the evil Alliance and its band of all-powerful psychics. Reynolds and his crew are caught in the middle forced to rescue River and other friends. This is also all happening while trying to figure out who are their friends and their true enemies.

    However, instead of neatly wrapping up the story, writer Chris Robertson sets the stage for the next as-of-yet unannounced next limited series. The battle lines have been drawn–both within Serenity crew and between the crew and the Alliance. And the next installment can’t come soon enough.

    GET CAUGHT UP ON THE SERENITY SERIES AND ORDER ALL THE ISSUES. YOU CAN ALSO CHECK OUT THE SERENITY GRAPHIC NOVEL

    Serenity: No Power in the ‘Verse #6, Dark Horse Comics, Released March 29, 2017, Written by Chris Roberson, Pencils by Georges Jeanty, Inks by Karl Story, Colors by Wes Dzioba, Lettering by Michael Heisler, $3.99

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    Tommy Can You Hear Me?

    Taking on a tale as complex as the new Royal City could spell disaster. But Jeff Lemire makes it look easy in Royal City #1. He has a practiced hand telling such complicated stories as Sweet Tooth, Essex County and Moon Knight. And he makes this new undertaking seem effortless.

    Royal City #1 (Variant Cover)
    Royal City #1 (Variant Cover)

    Taking on double duty in writing and illustrating, Lemire methodically introduces us to the Pike family. There’s the elderly Peter and Patti, who are having marital issues. Author Pat who is having trouble batting out his next novel. Daughter Tara, who is struggling to reshape the titular city–and make a fortune in the process. And Richard, who finds solace from life at the bottom of a bottle.

    Then There’s Tommy

    Tommy, the youngest son, appears in different forms–a young boy, a drinking buddy, a long-forgotten voice on the radio. He is whatever his family needs him to be. While it’s easy to guess Tommy’s real fate, the revelation is no less of a gut punch.

    Royal City itself is a character. And plays a significant role in the book. Royal City is a sleepy town of 45,000. Many of the characters are looking to escape the town. Or at least they think they are. More than likely, we’ll eventually learn they are trying to escape their own poor life choices. Lemire hasn’t taken us there yet. But when he does, we’ll be waiting.

    With his other acclaimed projects like Descender and A.D., Lemire is clearly at the top of his game. Between his colored pencils and his even more colorful words, Royal City is already among his best works.

    SEE WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE BLACK-SHEEP OF THE PIKE FAMILY. PRE-ORDER ROYAL CITY #2

    Royal City #1, Image Comics, Released March 1, 2017, Written and Art by Jeff Lemire, Lettering by Steve Wands; $4.99.

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