That’s the premise of Spencer & Locke, a new limited four-book series from Action Lab – Danger Zone. At first, the idea sounds silly, maybe even offensive. Calvin is a beloved comic strip featuring a boy and his stuffed tiger that gently taught life lessons. Sin City was a gritty crime drama chock full of murder, con men and prostitutes.
Locke is all grown up now and a police detective. His partner? You guessed it. A 6-foot-tall version of his stuff blue panther, Spencer (complete with a missing eye) except when we see Locke interacting with other humans, then Spencer is back to his stuffed animal form. “Don’t judge,” Locke explains to us. “You probably got weirder friends.”
When we first meet the pair in the new series Spencer & Locke #1, they are sneaking out of the house to play, a la the comic strip characters they are based upon. But the similarities are quickly wiped away as young Spencer gets a right cross from his dear ol’ mom.
Writer David Pepose keeps the story moving through the use of flashbacks, taking our heroes–and maybe the story’s villains as well–back to happier times. As the time shifts, so does Jorge Santiago’s artwork, moving from simple childlike imagery to a gritty urban landscape.
Pepose sets up enough drama and compelling characters to keep us asking questions and coming back for more–blue panther or no.
When the gods are fighting each other, ’tis best to get out of their way. That is Thor’s current predicament in Mighty Thor#16.
The thunder goddess was previously kidnapped and delivered to the Shi’ar gods Sharra and K’ythri. Wanting to flaunt their dominance over their Norse rival, the pair challenges Thor to a contest. While Thor has no interest in these godly games, the Shi’ar threaten to destroy Earth, leaving the goddess little choice.
Writer Jason Aaron deftly handles the divine dialogue among the three through a combination of highbrow philosophy with some lowbrow humor thrown in. “So begins the kicking of thine hindquarters,” Thor says at one point. But Aaron’s words break new ground for a comic book series as Mighty Thor wrestles with the nature of being a god.
Not All Gods are Equal
The Shi’ar gods have little regard for their worshippers. They are merely pawns in a game. Thor knows about suffering all too well, as her alter ego Jane Foster is dying of cancer. She risks her life to defend the people Sharra and K’ythri put into harm’s way because it’s the right thing to do–even though they don’t pay tribute to her.
Artist Russell Dauterman and colorist Matthew Wilson make a great tag team. There are magnificent close-up battles from Dauterman. And Wilson clearly delineates the many worlds we visit in this issue, from the pastels of the Shi’ar’s M’Kraan Palace to the earth tones of the Asgardian throne room to the blackness of deep space.
But it’s the richness of the characters–particularly the female ones in Thor and Sif–that make the story special. Thor’s quest to accept the burden of being a god–and to cure herself–make the series worth following.
In 1992, comics legend Jim Lee founded a new imprint of DC Comics called WildStorm in 1992. It established it’s own universe of heroes, but eventually shuttered in 2010. Now that Lee is the co-publisher at DC, he’s revived his pet project with the help of fellow comics legend Warren Ellis.
The Wild Storm #1is the kick off to a new line of books. The first issue launches into a re-imagined world of WildStorm comics. It introduces new and old readers to the characters and environments of WildStorm. Ellis is the perfect writer for this material since so much of his work has been this type of densely layered, multi-character, conspiracy sort of story.
WildStorm Gets a Modern Reboot
The book jumps from incident to incident around the city. And right off the bat there is an operation gone bad with the character of Zealot. Eventually, other classic characters like Voodoo and The Engineer appear. Reader are thrown into the crazy world of science fiction and government conspiracies.
It’s striking how grounded the events are in the new Wild Storm. The characters remain super-powered people, but the feel is updated and modern. Much of the extreme sheen of the 90’s is gone. There is now a more street level and gritty take on these characters. As a result, the characters feel more weighty and relevant.
The art by Jon Davis-Hunt creates a clean realistic look that reflects Ellis’ writing. The book is fast-paced and opens the door to many questions. Wild Storm #1 requires readers to invest in the characters and strive for answers about the universe. However, it appears that the creative team is building a large scale story worthy of the investment.
Young biochemist Ted Sallis was working in the Everglades as part of a secret team, known as Project: Gladiator. The team’s mission was to recreate the Super-Soldier Serum that gave Captain AmericaSteve Rogers his abilities.
Dr. Sallis breached protocol on the site by allowing his lover, Ellen Brandt, to accompany him in the lab. When Sallis discovered his girlfriend was a double agent who had sold him out, he destroyed his written notes. He had the formula memorized, but there was only one existing vial of completed serum.
Fleeing with the vial of serum, Dr. Sallis was ambushed by Brandt and a couple thugs. In a desperate attempt to save his own life, Sallis injected himself with the serum. Unfortunately, before the serum took effect, he crashed his car into the swamp.
Bursting from the car and rising from the soupy muck, he emerged as Man-Thing.
Man-Thing is a creature composed of plant matter and has superhuman strength and stamina. It is able to sense human emotion and interact with humans, but lacks human sentience.
R.L. Stine (Goosebumps, Fear Street) uses Man-Thing #1 to expand on a concept that was first touched on in What If? #26 (April 1981). What if the Man-Thing had regained Ted Sallis’ brain?
Man-Thing’s Past Comes Back To Haunt Him
The five-part miniseries opens on a movie set where Man-Thing is starring in a science fiction action film. The Man-Monster has recovered his ability to speak and has the intelligence and memory of Dr. Sallis.
When he’s fired from the set of the movie, sentient Man-Thing struggles (literally) against his animal self. He has to decide whether to return to the swamp or try to make things work in the city. Unfortunately, it’s not easy for a ten-foot tall vegetable with superhuman strength and a Ph.D. to fit in.
Wilson Fisk made his debut in The Amazing Spider-Man #50 (July 1967). The Kingpin later made enemies of The Punisher and Hell’s Kitchen’s own Daredevil.Kingpin is classically depicted as a cold-blooded crime lord who uses his wealth and law enforcement connections to remain untouchable.
Kingpin #1presents Wilson Fisk as a repentant gentle giant who is seeking to have his story told in an attempt to reinvent his image. Fisk seeks out disgraced journalist Sarah Dewey to write his book and spends the entire chapter trying to cajole her into taking the job. There are a couple red flags that pop up here and there. But if Fisk is working an angle, he never breaks kayfabe.
Dewey’s resistance to Fisk is palpable, but she really doesn’t have any options. The former Pulitzer Prize winner has been reduced to covering local boxing matches in seedy gyms. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and Fisk’s charm is disarming. It would appear that Kingpin has chosen wisely as Dewey’s resolve begins to shake.
A Spiraling Saga of Crime and Betrayal Begins Anew
Matthew Rosenberg, who also wrote the Civil War IIKingpin tie-in, takes a fresh look at the classic villain. Narrative exposition isn’t really necessary in a book that centers on such an established heel. This script falls right in line with what the reader already knows and then takes a new direction.
Ben Torres’ art uses heavy lines and deep shadows to give a noir impression to the work. Torres’ use of facial expressions is especially effective on the big man. Kingpin’s nonverbal cues can easily be read as either affable and aloof or menacing and dangerous.
Readers who are already familiar with Wilson Fisk from the Spider-Man series, Daredeviland Punisher will enjoy Kingpin. This title also works as a brilliant jumping on point for fans of noir and crime procedurals. While the character is familiar, Kingpin is a brand new series. No foreknowledge is necessary to pick up this book and dive in.
HAS WILSON FISK REALLY CHANGED? PRE-ORDER KINGPIN #2 AND FIND OUT
In God Country, Emmett Quinlan was seemingly chosen at random to wield a magical sword called Valofax. While holding the 12-foot sword, Quinlan is whole again for the first time in decades. As a result, his Alzheimer’s horrible fog is lifted. He met his granddaughter for the first time. He remembers his son, daughter-in-law, and the pain of losing his wife, Elizabeth.
Previously, in God Country #2, Aristus, God of War, comes to Texas to retrieve the blade of blades. Aristus is rebuked by the sword itself when he tries to remove the sword from Quinlan. Valofax, it turns out, is more than a magic weapon. Valofax is the God of blades and it has chosen Emmett.
The Power of the Sword
“It is every sword ever forged. Every enchanted blade you have ever heard of. Every myth, every song, every tale spoken of a mighty warrior and his unbreakable steel…it is and has always been Valofax.”
Emmett begins to feel the true weight of the amazing gift Valofax has given him. He will have to fight gods and demons to keep the blade. If he relinquishes Valofax to Aristus, he will suffer no consequences or retribution from the gods. The downside is that his dementia will return.
At the end of the chapter, Quinlan’s intent becomes clear. He sends Aristus back to The Kingdom of Always with a four word message–“Come and take it.”
Death Has Come To West Texas
In the opening sequences of God Country #3, Emmett spends some granddaddy time with Deena. Roy and Janey finally have some time alone to process the miraculous events unfolding.
Meanwhile, Emmett’s message to The Kingdom of Always has been received. And the time for catchin’ up and carryin’ on has ended. Balegrim and his demon army descend on the Quinlan farm. Challenge accepted.
Action Comics #973 opens with Clark Kent shaving in his Metropolis apartment. Then it cuts to Clark Kent working under the hood of a pickup truck on his family’s farm. How can Clark be in two places at once? A mysterious, human Clark Kent has been puzzling Superman since Action Comics #957.
Having his doppelganger fill in for him at The Daily Planet frees up some time for the big man to be Super, but it raises some interesting dilemmas. For instance, how will Lois handle it when “Other Clark” asks her out? This guy is clearly an imposter, but the investigative reporter in her wants to know more.
Meanwhile, the Last Son of Krypton responds to an intruder alarm at his Fortress of Solitude. This is unprecedented for several reasons. First, no one really knows the Fortress exists. Then, there’s a six-ton boulder blocking the entrance should anyone accidently stumble upon the secret locale.
The Road to Superman: Reborn Starts Here!
This chapter is really two stories simultaneously unfolding. The separation between Lois Lane’s story and Kal-El’s allows Lois’ character to develop nicely. Dan Jurgens (Batman Beyond, Justice League) is giving us a nice slow burn on the mystery of DoppelClark. The development is paced brilliantly, keeping the enigma fresh without rushing the blow off.
Pat Zircher (Green Arrow, Black Panther) and Steven Segovia (Batman: Arkham Knight) split art duties, with Segovia penciling the Superman story and Zircher handling the Lois/Clark sequences. This arrangement highlights the dichotomy between the two scripts, while having Arif Prianto color the entire chapter lends continuity throughout.
Action Comics is stepping forward as another DC Rebirth title to watch. This chapter is a little light on action, but makes up for it in suspense. Lots of loose ends are left hanging with the promise that everything will make sense very soon.
Every week we review New Comics. This week we’re looking at Doctor Strange, Deathstroke and Empowered. As always these are only a few of the amazing comics that came out this week. Check out our other blog articles so see our thoughts on other books. Be sure to comment or share our post on Facebook or Twitter if you like our articles!
SPOILER ALERT — We try to keep from posting spoilers, but one may sneak through to our reviews now and again. Read with caution, true believers.
Deathstroke #12 By: Christopher Priest, Joe Bennett, Mark Morales, Bill Sienkiewicz
With the end of the last issue, Slade Wilson being captured and sent to Colorado Supermax prison. We being this new arc with The Red Lion breaking him out. Although it doesn’t seem like Slade wants to go. After finding out there’s a copycat in Chicago, Slade needs to find out who this is, and why.
The issue is broken down into sub-sections, which at first was a little confusing, but I quickly got used to the format. Priest and Larry Hama do a great job setting up this arc. You know where this sis going, but you want to see it happen. Joe Bennett, Mark Morales, and Jeromy Cox do a fantastic job with the action scenes.
As this new arc begins It’ll be exciting to see the story unfold. As we find out the story behind the first pages reveal about Deathstroke. [Martin M. at TFAW.com]
This issue opens with the Sorcerers Supreme struggling to regroup after a defeat and hard losses to the Forgotten. Flash back to Doctor Strange’s first meeting with Sir Isaac Newton. A sorcerer supreme himself. Searching for a fabled, ultimate power of creation and destruction. Newton and Strange battle a familiar evil genius/villian Doctor Doom who also seeks this power. Who will find this power and to what purpose will they put it should they succeed?
Find out how this first encounter reveals more about the Forgotten’s power that continues to rack up losses for the Sorcerers. [Angela G. at TFAW.com]
The silly antics in Cape City return and so does Empowered! Soldier of Love starts a new story with a new character Soldado Del Amor. Whos seems to be able to cause love with a gun, and always has love music playing in the background. This series has always been funny, this new arc is no exception. With its adult themes of all the Superheroes hooking up rather than fighting crime. It looks like only a few are unaffected, for now.
Adam Warren has ben very consistent in his writing of the Empowered series. Which is great. Karla Diaz who’s new to the series does an excellent job with the art, and looking at her webcomics I can see that she’s a perfect fit for Empowered. [Martin M. at TFAW.com]
Batman has consistently been one of DC’s top books in terms of sales and quality. It doesn’t hurt that writer Tom King and artist extraordinaire David Finch have now teamed up to present the next story arc–I Am Bane.
In Batman #16, King writes a compelling first chapter to the story, picking up on unfinished threads from earlier issues while continuing to advance the tale. After previously kidnapping the Psycho-Pirate from Santa Prisca, team Batman must heal Gotham Girl while waiting for Bane’s inevitable counterattack. With knowledge of the Caped Crusader’s secret identity, when that counterattack comes, it is as brutal as it is personal.
Bane is Coming and No One is Safe
But it’s not a maudlin story–at least not yet. King takes every opportunity to imbue humor. There’s a hilarious visit to the fast-food restaurant Batburger, where patrons are encouraged to “Jokerize” their meals of Night-Wings, Robbin Nuggets and Bat-Mite Meals. Needless to say, Bruce Wayne is not amused.
As great as his words are, King knows when to let Finch’s artwork carry the story. The first four pages are nothing but compelling images that tell a story without words getting in the way. Finch is at home with these characters. Bruce as stoic as ever, while Damian Wayne exudes cockiness. And Dick Grayson is clearly his laid-back self. The sexual tension between Batman and Catwoman is palpable before you ever read their dialogue.
It’s great to see the creative team at the top of their game. It bodes well for the rest title and the rest of the arc–though Batman himself may end up paying the price.
Star Wars: Darth Maul #1explores Darth Maul’s years prior to the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The chapter opens with a demonstration of a younger Darth Maul’s fighting prowess. Seeking out the most dangerous creatures in the galaxy to hunt for sport, Darth Maul fights his way through a pack of Rathtars.
Fear. Anger. Hate. These are the weapons of the Sith. Darth Maul has all three in spades. He feels like Darth Sidius is misusing him by not allowing Maul to fulfill his bloodlust. The Zabrakian Sith lord is a hunter, and his preferred prey is Jedi. Unfortunately for him, the Sith are still lurking in shadows at this point in the Star Wars timeline.
The Shadows Hold a Great Rage
Interestingly, the titular character has the least spoken dialogue of any character in the book. This is hardly surprising considering the Zabrak spoke only 31 words in Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Writer Cullen Bunn (Harrow County, Conan the Slayer) effectively conveys Darth Maul’s seething rage almost exclusively using inner voice.
If the artwork in this book looks familiar, it should. Luke Ross is simultaneously pulling art duties on this series and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Ross deftly pulls off sets that fit right into the tone of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. The likeness between the film actors and Ross’ depiction of the characters is uncanny.
It’s a good time to be a Star Wars fan. In addition to the availability of the Star Wars movies, there are a ton of new comic titles to flesh out the Star Wars canon. Whether you’re 501stLegion, Dark Empire, Jedi Assembly, Mandalorian Mercs, Rebel Legion, or Saber Guild, there’s a Star Wars comic series for you.
New Comic Book Day is here! This week we take on Zombies, Time-Travel, get interrupted during a vacation, and build a new team. Remember, these are only a few comics that came out this week. Check out our other blog articles so see our thoughts on other books. Be sure to comment or share our post on Facebook or Twitter if you like our articles!
SPOILER ALERT — We try to keep from posting spoilers, but one may sneak through to our reviews now and again. Read with caution, true believers.
Man, for 25¢ this was a non-stop pulse-pounding issue. The largest group of Walkers they’ve ever encountered is headed right toward their town. Like everything in this world, the only thing they can do is fight. They send off a few of the crew on horseback to hopefully lead the heard away. While others in the town try a fend off the rest.
I’ve been reading The Walking Dead on and off for about 5 years now. Full disclosure this is the first issue in a while for me, and it reminded me why I got hooked on this series in the first place. Even though it’s a story, Robert Kirkman has always been able to make this feel real. I know these people and what they’re going through. I don’t want to say goodbye to them anytime soon. Let’s hope the herd isn’t too much for them. [Martin M. at TFAW.com]
Detective Comics vol 1 By: James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, Al Barrionuevo
While Batman has always had one of the most extensive networks of supporting characters and partners, he’s always operated like a lone wolf, often to his detriment. Realizing this, Batman is now embracing the importance of operating and training a team of heroes to better protect Gotham City. Lead by Batwoman, the two of them assemble of a team of fan-favorite characters, Red Robin, Spoiler, Orphan, and Clayface, to revolutionize the concept of the Bat-Family.
James Tynion IV kicks off this series with an explosive punch that shakes an already new team to the core. The depth in which he develops every character in the group in just 7 issues is not only impressive but easily sets this series up as being one of the most important Batman books in years. Eddy Barrows art is certainly to thank for how impactful this is as well. Whether it’s giant cityscape action scenes or fights in a room, this is easily one of the best-looking books on the shelves for superheroes.
Monsters, Time Travel, the 80’s? Why aren’t you reading this book? Holy crap. After the events of the first 10 issues our heroes find themselves hoping they’re back in their own time, on their own planet. It looks to be the case, until Mac finds someone who doesn’t speak any language I’ve seen before, and a beast that’s not of our world.
If you’ve been urging for Season 2 of Stranger Things, Paper Girls is a great way to spend that in-between seasons time. Brian K Vaughan, Cliff Change, and Matt Wilson have done a tremendous job with this series thus far and Issue 11 is no exception. I can’t wait to see where this goes from here. [Martin M. at TFAW.com]
All New X-Men #1.MU By: Jeremy Whitley, Carlo Barberi, Adam Kubert, Ron Lim
A tie-in to the Monsters Unleashed event currently happening, The team of young X-Men decide to take a vacation to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras. While the team goes to see the sights, Wolverine meets up with her old partner Gambit in the swamps. What starts as a team-up investigation, quickly turns into an all-out monster battle, with New Orleans caught in the middle of it.
While a tie-in, Jeremy Whitley weaves a fun, stand-alone adventure. Even if this weren’t part of a bigger story, this issue could easily stand up as one of the classic weird X-Men books the series is known for featuring from time to time. Carlo Barberi and Ron Lim bring to life all the spectacle of a monster movie, but all the dynamic shots of a superhero comic.
Whether or not you’re picking up the main Monsters Unleashed title, All-New X-Men #1.MU is worth your time. [Mikey N. at TFAW.com]
On November 16, 2016 March: Book 3 won a National Book Award. It’s the first graphic novel ever to receive this prestigious honor. And it doesn’t take long to see why it was worthy of such accolades.
For those unfamiliar, the March trilogy is Congressman John Lewis’ first hand account of his experiences on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. But it’s far from a dry history lesson. Rather, March is a powerful and stirring boots-on-the-ground look at the heroic figures and hard fought battles of the movement.
Civil Rights in an Unconventional Medium
The choice to tell this story in a comic book format is an unconventional one. However, almost from page one it becomes clear it was the right one. The stunning black and white art from Nate Powell conveys the intensity and passion of the scenes. You can feel each sequence viscerally from the terror and the violence of mob attacks to the passion of the speeches during the March on Washington.
Powell’s command over the sequential art form makes the book compulsively readable. You’re swept up in this turbulent time in American history–even if you know the facts. Seeing history played out like this creates a breathless reading experience that pulses with emotion. It brings out a life and a beating heart that would be sorely missed in a history textbook.
A First-Person Look at the Movement
Another big impact is that the story is told from the perspective of John Lewis, a sitting member of the US Congress. He’s been a champion for equal rights since he was a teenager. This personal perspective creates great empathy with the reader. Often the importance of such historic events can be lost when they are shown in an objective and broad scope. But this is John Lewis’ story and through him it becomes the story of an entire movement.
The storytelling in March is another brilliant stroke by Lewis and co-writer Andrew Aydin. The three books are framed around Lewis preparing for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. While getting ready to leave his office, Lewis encounters a woman with her two sons. She is star struck by Lewis. He then recounts to them his days in the Civil Rights Movement. This creates the first person narration that will carry throughout all three books. Lewis’ warm and candid voice is a key to the success of this book. You feel his presence. It’s like you’re one of those children in that room being told this story.
With Lewis as our protagonist in this sweeping story, March becomes as much memoir as it is history. We start with Lewis as a child. We follow the experiences and events he witnessed from a young age that created his passion and drive for equal rights. Through this focus we get another of the book’s great achievements–a rich humanity.
A Human Portrayal of Historical Figures
It’s often easy to cast historical figures as two dimensional characters. Their achievements and failures come to represent them more than their individual personalities or beliefs. In March, luminaries of the time are painted as very human figures. Martin Luther King was a resolute leader in the movement, but he also had fears and doubts about what was being done. Robert F. Kennedy sympathized with the movement, but felt his hands were tied by the rigidness of the political system.
It’s in the moments of confusion or doubt that these real life characters come alive in this book. Although we know the outcome of the events, you can feel the fragile nature of what’s being built. There was no real roadmap for what these activists were doing. And while morally justified and committed to their cause, there’s no denying what they were doing was scary. And they could face terrible consequences.
One of the most powerful sequences occurs near the beginning of March Book 2. Following the violent outbursts during stand-ins at Tennessee movie theaters, the movement’s leadership comes together to discuss ending the protest. Lewis simply states, “We’re gonna march.” He repeats it again and again–despite the outcry from fellow organizers. This is the type of heroism portrayed throughout March. There were people fighting for what’s right despite the potential danger. This is really the type of heroics that comic books are built on. And it’s much more impactful to read a story of real people overcoming the societal pressures and their own fears to stand up for truth, justice, and the American way.
The Movement’s Lasting Impact
One of the most beautiful and moving parts of this story is the movement’s commitment to nonviolence. Such racially charged events like the ones recalled by Lewis obviously created an emotional boiling point.
It would be understandable to see people lose control in these situations. Leaders such as Lewis and Dr. King knew change would only happen if the protests were peaceful. Understanding this from an academic standpoint is one thing, but it’s another to see the horrific and hateful acts of violence perpetrated against the members of the movement. It further demonstrates the strength, conviction and beliefs of people like John Lewis. And it clearly emphasizes why this movement was so special and impactful on history.
Marchbelongs among the ranks of Maus and Watchmen as one of the most important works in the comics medium. Beyond being a great piece of comic art, March has so much value as a history text. And it provides a relevant message about tolerance and peaceful protest.
It’s a book that reminds us how bad things once were and how far we still have to come. It doesn’t shy away from the horrors that occurred. But it also shines a bright light on the hard won victories of a passionate group of people who struggled to create a better world. It’s a work with limitless impact that will continue to educate and inspire generations to come.