Category: Product Reviews

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    Getting to Know Venom

    The Venom Symbiote made its first appearance in Marvel Heroes Secret Wars #8 (May 1984). Spider-Man accidentally released the parasitic Klyntar following a scuffle on Battleworld. Spidey thought he was simply generating a new suit after his was shredded in the fight.

    Venom #6
    Venom #6

    When Spidey finally realized the slick black and white suit was actually an alien organism, he rejected it. However, during the time the two were bonded, the Symbiote learned Peter Parker’s genetic code. Now Venom has the ability to grant any wearer Spider-Man’s abilities.

    Since Peter Parker, there have been many notable wearers of the Black Suit. Eddie Brock is the most notorious. It was Brock’s time in the Symbiote that solidly established Venom as Peter Parker’s worst nightmare.

    A Fresh Take On An Old Villain

    In Venom #1, writer Mike Costa introduced a new perspective on the sentient alien goo. Taking us inside the Symbiote’s consciousness, Costa raises some interesting questions about a character we all thought we knew.

    What if Venom is merely an amplification of the wearer’s Id? What if the Klyntar has less control over its actions than it appears, and the host is subconsciously in control the whole time?

    By the time we roll around to Venom #6, it’s evident that the current host is bad news. Lee Price is a horrible person. He is a disabled military veteran with a grudge. His experience as an Army Ranger has made him mentally hard and his disability has made him bitter.

    Lee dominates the suit to the point of abuse. For the first time, the suit appears unable to overcome the will of its host.

    Now, with the FBI chasing it down, Venom crosses paths with The Amazing Spider-Man. In a bizarre turn of events, the leader of the Bureau’s Anti-Symbiote Task Force is none other than…Eddie Brock.

    It’s about to hit the fan in this fatal four-way.

    FIND OUT WHAT’S NEXT FOR EDDIE BROCK AND PRE-ORDER VENOM #150

    Venom #6, Marvel Comics, Released April 19, 2017, Written by Mike Costa, Art and cover by Gerardo Sandoval, Color by Dono Sanchez-Almara, letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles, $3.99

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    Marvel Unleashes the Monsters

    After the extremely successful miniseries Monsters Unleashed, Marvel and writer Cullen Bunn have decided to continue the monster mayhem in an ongoing series of the same name. Monsters Unleashed #1 has the fun spirit of the miniseries, but sets up a new adventure.

    In the first issue, 11-year-old Kai Kawade (better known as Kid Kaiju) has the ability to bring the monsters he draws to life. Following the events of the miniseries, Kid Kaiju decides to use his monster friends to help save the world. One of these acts of heroism has drawn the ire of the super-powered cleanup crew Damage Control.

    Monsters Unleashed #1
    Monsters Unleashed #1

    Kid Kaiju Needs All the Help He Can Get

    Giant monsters may save the day but they do create an awful lot of property damage. Luckily Kai has a couple of companions to help him train on how best to deploy his team of monsters.

    A member of a legendary family of monster hunters (Elsa Bloodstone) is Kai’s personal bodyguard and mentor. That is, when she hasn’t run off to fight vampires. Elsa helps implement effective battle strategies picked up from a lifetime of combating monsters. Beyond the battlefield, Kai has a robot  tasked with giving Kai a proper education in the subject of super-heroism.

    And Kai’s going to need all the help he can get because giant monsters aren’t the only threat coming his way. A group of legendary Marvel super-villains have banded together to put an end to Kid Kaiju and his beloved monsters.

    There’s obviously a lot of love for this genre from the creative team of Bunn and artist David Baldeon. This book knows what’s it audience is looking for and delivers. It’s filled with all the large scale monster battles Marvel readers crave.

    It will be fun to see what new massive action this creative team can dream up each month to face our gang of heroes.

    SEE WHO WINS THE POWRE GRAB AND PRE-ORDER MONSTERS UNLEASHED #2

    Monsters Unleashed #1, Marvel Comics, Released April 19, 2017, Writer Cullen Bunn, Art by David Baldeon and Arthur Adams, $3.99

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    Regression: A Tale of Supernatural Terror and Intrigue

    Regression #1 introduces Adrian, a pretty ordinary guy–except for one thing. Adrian is plagued by vivid waking nightmares. The visions are so intense they are ruining his life. Finally, his friend Molly coerces Adrian into a past life regression hypnotherapy session with her friend Sid.

    Regression #1
    Regression #1

    During the first session, Adrian catches a glimpse of a bizarre and ghastly scene. Unable to process the scene he just witnessed, Adrian wakes in a daze. Unconvinced that he has just experienced a peek into his past life, Adrian is ready to give up on therapy.

    Occult, Conspiracy, Mystery, Reincarnation, and Insanity

    Unfortunately for Adrian, the vision was real. Something unspeakable happened in his past life, and it has followed him to his present.

    Writer Cullen Bunn drew on experiences from his childhood when penning the script for Regression. “My father was a hypnotist, and I watched him perform a number of past life regressions,” Bunn noted in an exclusive interview with TFAW. “I thought about those regressions quite a bit over the years. Somewhere along the way, the troubling thought dawned on me: what if one of those past lives were evil? Or possessed by evil? And what if the regression gave them a finger hold in someone’s life? What if they could hitch a ride to the present?”

    Bunn’s first hand experience with hypnosis, subconscious, and past life regression comes through in the story. There is a very creepy and unsettling realism to the scenario he is describing. The artwork and color choices by Danny Luckert and Marie Enger sell the terror and levity of the script brilliantly.

    Fans of horror and occult comics will revel in Regression If you’ve read Harrow County, The Damned, Outcast, or God Country, you absolutely don’t want to miss this series!

    ADRIAN’S DESCENT INTO MADNESS CONTINUES. PRE-ORDER REGRESSION #2

    Regression #1, Image Comics, Release Date May 10, 2017, Written by Cullen Bunn, Art by Danny Luckert, Color/Letters by Marie Enger, $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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    The Unstoppable Will vs. The Unstoppable Mouth

    The main difference between The Punisher and Deadpool is motivation. Both appear to be sociopaths. But Frank Castle is driven by vengeance and Wade Wilson’s main concern is his paycheck. Neither wants to admit how deeply they are actually driven by emotion.

    In Deadpool vs. Punisher #1, Fred Van Lente serves up a script that puts these two on opposite sides of an ambiguous moral scenario.

    Wilson and Castle are very familiar with each other’s work. Wilson thinks Castle is a “self-righteous, sociopathic, shoot-first-ask-questions-never, humorless, fascist hard-ass.” Castle views Wilson as a “motor-mouthed, muddle-headed, arrested adolescent with delusions of competence.”

    See the World. Fill it Full of Bullets

    Deadpool vs. Punisher #1 opens with Punisher working undercover at an underground illegal gambling club. “VS.” is a place where degenerates gather to place wagers on superheroes. Some names on the board include Spider-Man (original, probably), Captain American Falcon, and Guy who thinks he’s Hercules.

    After Punisher violently shuts down the club, he gets the information he’s been after. That’s when the desperate club manager gives up details on The Bank in order to save his own life. The Bank is Castle’s true target. But he’s also Wade Wilson’s accountant, money launderer, client, and close friend.

    Pere Perez’ artwork suits the script perfectly. And there are plenty of background details, but not so many as to distract from well-planned action sequences. In addition, he nails the expressions on the unmasked characters. Perez brilliantly telegraphs nuanced expression through Pool’s mask and body language.

    Van Lente sets up an interesting “best of five rounds” scenario. With a clear winner in each of the planned five chapters, Deadpool is playing with a loaded deck. With his regenerative abilities, he can afford to lose four of five battles and still come back for the next installment. Punisher doesn’t have the same luxury.

    SEE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT AND PRE-ORDER THE REST OF THE 5 PART SERIES

    Deadpool vs. Punisher #1, Marvel Comics, April 12, 2017, Written by Fred Van Lente, Art by Pere Perez, Color by Ruth Redmond, Letters by VC’s Joe Sabino, Cover by Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire, $3.99

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    Magical Rose

    Rose is a new series fantasy series that embraces the classic archetypes with gusto. There are magical kingdoms, evil sorcerers, and a young hero embracing her destiny.

    Rose #1 (Variant Cover)
    Rose #1 (Variant Cover)

    The story is set in a world that for years was protected a group of warriors known as Guardians. These brave soldiers defended the land with animal companions called Khats. The Guardians were eventually defeated by an evil sorceress named Drucilla, who destroyed most of the land and outlawed magic.

    Restoring Balance

    Rose #1 begins ten years later. A young girl named Rose possesses the magic powers of a Guardian. Fearing for her daughter’s safety, Rose’s mother makes the girl promise not to use her powers. Rose is forced to flee her village and head into the woods when tragedy strikes. And that’s where she meets up with the leadership of the resistance against the evil queen.

    This first issue definitely feels like the beginning of a fairy tale saga. Like any good first issue it’s laying the groundwork for the series. Writer Meredith Finch is obviously inspired by a lot of classic fantasy stories. But she clearly wants to put her own spin on it without alienating readers looking for a traditional tale of a magical realm.

    The art does a lot to create an otherworldly vibe. Artist Ig Guara offers up a number of striking and unique character designs. The characters and the world around them shift between beautiful and grotesque. It leads to a sense of both wonder and dread that’s perfect for this story. Drawing the reader ever further into a world with exciting magic and creepy horror.

    Rose is definitely a book for fantasy fans. However, it’s also a story constructed out of such classic and archetypical building blocks that anyone can pick it up and get engrossed.

    SEE IF ROSE CAN DEFEAT THE DARKNESS AND PRE-ORDER ROSE #2

    Rose #1, Image Comics, Release Date April 12, 2017, Written by Meredith Finch, Art by Ig Guara, $3.99

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    Is All New Wolverine Immune?

    One of the most popular and acclaimed titles of the last X-Men relaunch was Tom Taylor’s All-New Wolverine. It saw fan favorite Laura Kinney take up the mantle of the fallen Wolverine.

    And All-New Wolverine is the only returning title from the previous generation of X Books as Marvel announced the new X-Men Ressurxion initiative.

    An Alien Ship! A Dying Passenger!

    All New Wolverine #19
    All New Wolverine #19

    In All New Wolverine #19 there is a continuation of Laura’s journey that began last year. But a couple of things are revamped for the new era of X-Men. One of the biggest changes is a redesign of Wolverine’s costume. It’s now very reminiscent of the costume Wolverine sported in the X-Force books. Laura now dons a sleek, black tactical outfit. Her loyal companion Gabby, has upgraded the costume to be completely bulletproof. Gabby points out getting shot still hurts, even if you have a healing factor.

    Issue 19 is also the beginning of a new story arc. It kicks off with an alien ship crash landing. Ironheart makes a guest appearance and she prevents the crashing ship from leveling Manhattan. The badly injured alien pilot has just two words for Ironheart–Laura Kinney.

    Laura is just as baffled about her connection to this alien as Ironheart or the SHIELD agents monitoring the situation. Even more baffling is the mysterious virus that lead to a quarantine of Roosevelt Island.

    All-New Wolverine has been one of Marvel’s strongest since it’s launch. And it’s new story arc begins with the same energy and intensity that made past issues a hit. Putting Laura at the center of a mystery with such high stakes will surely give Wolverine fans the charge of excitement they’ve come to expect. Plus, a number of beloved Marvel characters make cameo appearances in this first issue. But make no mistake, this is Laura’s story, and she’s here to do what she does best.

    FOLLOW LAURA KINNEY’S NEXT MOVES AND PRE-ORDER ALL NEW WOLVERINE #20

    All New Wolverine, Marvel Comics, Released April 5, 2017, Written by Tom Taylor, Art by Nicole Virella and David Lopez, $3.99

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    Rev Up Your Harley

    In Harley Quinn #17, our hero takes on an insidious threat, after squashing an alien invasion in her previous story arc. Co-writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti have been laying the seeds for this dark storyline for several issues. And Harley Quinn fans will be very excited to see the buildup pay off.

    Deadly Sin Part 1 Kicks Off

    The mayor of Brooklyn has enacted a plan to deal with the city’s homelessness problem. The homeless are being rounded up, killed and fed to the rich. This incredibly disturbing initiative comes to the attention of Harley’s ally, the chief of police. And he asks Harley and her ragtag group of antiheroes to look into the disappearances.

    Harley and her group plan a sting operation to go undercover. The result of Harley posing as a homeless person ends up in beat down on some thugs who are really asking for it. However, by the comic’’s end Harley gets a taste of what’s really going on. And that leaves our beloved heroine in a precarious situation.

    But one of the big standouts of this issue is the backup story scripted by Palmiotti and Harley Quinn co-creator Paul Dini. It’s a flashback to Harley and Joker in happier times. It also invokes the classic Batman: The Animated Series art style.

    Harley Quinn #18
    Harley Quinn #18

    This is a fun, fast-paced story that gives us a window into the domestic life of Harley and Mr. J. Seeing Harley return to her animated series origins, and particularly from the pen of the man who gave her life, is a major thrill for fans on the 25th anniversary of the series.

    DON’T MISS WHAT’S NEXT FOR HARLEY IN DEADLY SIN PART 2. PRE-ORDER HARLEY QUINN #18

    Harley Quinn #17, DC Comics, Released April 5, 2017, Written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, Art by John Timms, $2.99

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    Black Cloud’s Addictive Magic

    Everyone dreams of traveling to a fantastical realm. It could be to see impossible wonders. Or maybe just to escape their everyday existence.

    So, what happens if you meet someone with the power to take you to another world filled with magic and fantastical creatures? And what would you do to get there?

    These questions are at the center of Image Comics new fantasy book Black Cloud #1.

    Selling Dreams to the Rich

    Black Cloud #1 focuses on Zelda, a mysterious young homeless girl wandering the streets begging for money. However, she has a secret. She’s from a magical world–one she can travel to at her discretion.

    In addition, she can sell these trips to wealthy members of society at whatever price she names. This power would seem to offer her a solution to her financial woes. But as the story progresses, it’s revealed that this other world may not be as welcoming as initially expected. And the people willing to pay for this trip likely possess sinister motives.

    Black Cloud #1
    Black Cloud #1

    This a fantasy story that also feels very timely. It focuses on economic disparity and the clash of classes, all surrounding a magical mythology.

    The writing team of Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon develop a very conflicted hero. She exists in a very complicated and relatable world. And her abilities are used as a metaphor for drug dealing. In this analogy, the writers able to criticize the nature of spoiled rich kids seeking any kind of high–whether it’s drugs or, in this case, magic.

    The art in this type of book can really be make or break the story. But Greg Hinkle delivers a very interesting take on a mystical realm. Instead of pristine and gorgeous landscapes, it’s a grimy, art deco, noirish aesthetic that evokes curiosity about the details of this new world.

    Overall, this is a fantasy tale with a lot of depth. It also has some great story threads that will surely be picked up in future issues.

    FIND OUT WHAT’S NEXT FOR ZELDA AND PRE-ORDER BLACK CLOUD #2 and BLACK CLOUD #3

    Black Cloud #1, Image Comics, Release Date April 5, 2017, Written by Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon, Art by Greg Hinkle, $3.99

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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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    The Suicide Bananas

    This week, DC launched a series of crossover one-shots featuring their characters and classic cartoons from Hanna Barbera Animation. The most outrageous and unexpected of the bunch is Suicide Squad Banana Splits Special #1.

    The Banana Splits are a pretty deep pull from the Hanna Barbera library. It was the company’s first foray into live action content and a bizarre team up with HR Pufnstuf creators Sid and Marty Kroft. Focusing on a rock band made up of fuzzy animals originally played by actors in costumes.

    A Crazy, Fun Crossover Ride

    So, how does a band of cuddly kids performers cross paths with the lovably deranged members of Task Force X? The answer is, of course, quite complicated. While on their way to play a gig, the Splits are mistakenly arrested and tossed into Belle Reve Penitentiary.

    At the same time the Suicide Squad has come under heavy fire on their latest mission. This leaves team members in a precarious situation. They’re in need of new Squad members. And they turn to Belle Reve’s newest inmates, who are even more off the books and expendable than the original squad.

    Now armed to teeth and equipped with military tactical outfits the band of animal musicians head out to the rescue the Squad. Each Banana Split is paired up with a different member of Task Force X as they take on an army of creepy robot children.

    This book is truly loopy fun. It’s nice to see DC be willing to take chances with their characters like this.

    Writer Tony Bedard embraces the chaos and insanity of this team up. And he does it with gusto giving us an action packed and hilariously weird story. He even goes so far as to capture the bizarre speech patterns of the Banana Splits in his dialogue. Artist Ben Caldwell gives the Suicide Squad a cartoonish makeover to better fit with their more kid-friendly companions in a story that is anything but for children.

    WANT MORE SUICIDE SQUAD? PRE-ORDER SUICIDE SQUAD #15

    Suicide Squad Banana Splits Special #1, DC Comics, Released March 29, 2017, Written by Antony Bedard, Art by Ben Caldwell, $4.99

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