Category: Product Reviews

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    Iron Fist No More

    Mike Danny isleft What happens when the Living Weapon loses his power? Syncing up perfectly with the release of his new Netflix show, Danny Rand, a.k.a Iron Fist, spins out of the acclaimed Power Man & Iron Fist and into his own ongoing adventures.

    Iron Fist
    Iron Fist

    Iron Fist #1 features a very different Danny Rand. He’s no longer the Iron Fist. Danny is left powerless and lost following the destruction of the magical city of K’un L’un. We find him drifting around the world of underground fighting rings. He’s taking more and more dangerous fights in the hopes of once again feeling like the Living Weapon.

    Is Danny Losing His Powers?

    There has always been a lot of dramatic potential in comics for a hero losing his powers. This book is no exception. Writer Ed Brisson fashions a much darker Iron Fist story than we’ve seen before. Without his powers Danny is forced to confront who he really is. He’s spent so much time with the mantle of the Iron Fist that it seems he’s lost some of his humanity.

    While this is an existential character story, it also features the highly kinetic kung fu sequences Iron Fist fans crave. Mike Perkins draws the action exceptionally well.He mixes a brooding noirish vibe with intense and fast paced fight scenes. Colorist Andy Troy deserves a shout out for his bleak minimalist palette that pairs well with the moody and somber tone established by Brisson and Perkins.

    The first issue does a great job of dropping us back into the world of Iron Fist. It puts us inside the head of Danny Rand as he adjusts to his new status quo. The final few pages hint at a much larger story that’s brewing. However, keeping things somewhat grounded to start is great call.

    DANNY’S IN FOR THE FIGHT OF HIS LIFE. PRE-ORDER IRON FIST #2

    Iron Fist #1, Marvel Comics, Released March 22, 2017, Written by Ed Brisson, Art by Mike Perkins, Color by Andy Troy, $3.99

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    SECRET EMPIRE BEGINS

    secret empire

    When Marvel first announced that Captain America was a Hydra sleeper agent, I, like many of my fellow comic book fans, was a bit shaken. It seemed like another tactic to quickly boost sales for yet another big crossover event that would “change the face of Marvel as we know it.” How many times did we hear that in 2016? Too many.

    But as writer Nick Spencer started laying the foundation for Secret Empire in Captain America: Steve Rogers, I began to get more comfortable with this bold new idea. Spencer wrote Cap’s new status in a believable way and watching Cap’s plans come together was fascinating. The buildup to the event was a slow burn and was akin to watching Rogers play chess on a global scale, as pieces were slowly sliding into place right under the noses of our favorite Marvel heroes. After a few months, I found myself enthralled in the tale that Spencer was telling, gobbling up every issue the minute they hit the comic shop.

    “Cap simultaneously at his best and his worst.”

    After a solid year of buildup, Cap’s plan is finally coming to fruition in Secret Empire #0. While most event books start with a bang, this one sees Cap remain calm and collected throughout the entire book. In Secret Empire #0, we see Cap take swathes of Marvel heroes off the playing field group by group as each of his three plans come together. As the book itself tells us, Cap has always been a master strategist; now no longer shackled by morals, this is Cap simultaneously at his best and his worst. I can’t wait to see how far he will go when he needs to get his hands dirty and handle the heroes personally.

    The art by Daniel Acuna is as excellent as Spencer’s writing. Each character’s face conveys a broad range of emotion, which is fantastic since there is a lot of emotion on display in this issue. You can feel the fear and despair dripping off the faces of every Marvel hero as they realize the grim reality that awaits them.

    Issue #0 is a must-read comic if you’re planning on reading Secret Empire. Even if you haven’t read any of the issues that precede this event, this still serves as an excellent starting point and quickly gets new readers up to speed. If every issue in this event can match the writing and art of this one, Secret Empire as a whole will end up as one of Marvel’s best events.

    After nearly everyone called this storyline the worst thing to ever happen to Captain America, it just might end up being the best thing to happen to the Marvel Universe in years.

    PRE-ORDER SECRET EMPIRE AND SAVE!

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    The Revolution Continues in Rebels

    Rebels: A Well Regulated Militia was released in 2015 to tell the story of Seth and Mercy Abbott. Set in 1775 colonial America, the series followed the newlyweds through the War of Independence. Seth was a volunteer in the militia who helped birth a nation.

    Rebels: These Free and Independent States
    Rebels: These Free and Independent States

    Rebels: These Free and Independent States #1 picks up the story in 1794. Seth and Mercy’s son, John, has come of age. The boy is a savant who knows everything there is to know about ships and seafaring. He can readily identify any ship by silhouette alone, but has difficulty with social situations.

    Barbary Pirates, George III, Birth of the US Navy

    This is a historical period that saw danger to the fledgling Union from the Barbary Coast, Britain, and political infighting. In the midst of all this uncertainty, the Abbotts must decide what will be best for their odd son.

    Writer Brian Wood (Aliens: Defiance, The Massive, Northlanders) transitions easily from the end of the first season into the beginning of season two. However, readers who haven’t read Militia won’t have any trouble jumping in with Independent States.

    Wood’s script brings emotion and realism to stories that most people have at least a conceptual knowledge of. It can often be difficult to envision history as actual events with living humans who have feelings and relationships. While Wood makes it clear in his disclaimer that his characters never actually existed, they fit beautifully into historical context and give faces to an important era in American history.

    You don’t have to be a history buff in order to enjoy Rebels. While the period details will appeal to history buffs, there is plenty of meat on the bone for action adventure fans.

    FOLLOW JOHN ABBOTT’S HISTORIC ADVENTURE AND PRE-ORDER REBELS: THESE FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES #2

    Rebels: These Free and Independent States #1 (of 5), Dark Horse Comics, Release Date March 22, 2017, Written by Brian Wood, Art by Andrea Mutti, Colors by Lauren Affe, Letters by Jared K. Fletcher, Cover by Matt Taylor, $3.99

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    Aqua-Mystery

    It’s been a tough few months for the King of Atlantis. He’s dealt with an invasion of his home. He’s been involved in a potential war with the United States. And his followers are questioning the woman he married. But things are looking up.

    Aquaman #19 (Variant Cover)
    Aquaman #19 (Variant Cover)

    Aquaman has received a request to help his former enemies–The Aquamarines. This group is a  paramilitary unit with DNA that has been spliced with sea creatures. As a result, they have the ability to shift between human and sea life form. They need the assistance of Aquaman to investigate the sudden radio silence of a naval base. Arthur agrees to help the team. The silence may be connected to a mysterious substance known as Strange Water. And Aquaman has  encountered it before.

    Aquaman’s Expertise is Needed

    Aquaman #19 is an unusual story line for an Aquaman adventure. Typically Aquaman is leading armies of sea creatures against supervillains. Or he’s debating diplomatic strategy as the leader of Atlantis. However, this story casts Aquaman in the role of detective. It emphasizes a slow sense of creeping dread as Aquaman and the Aquamarines investigate the island base.

    Writer Dan Abnett uses the opportunity to pick up on some characters and story threads he started on the New 52 Aquaman. It’s a refreshing change of pace for one of DC Rebirth’s strongest titles. This is definitely painted as a horror story. And it and delivers a villain that even Aquaman may be unable to defeat.

    This issue shows the creepy tale of terrifying sea life. But it also continues to develop the relationship between Aquaman and his fiancé Mera. Their relationship is really at the center of this whole series.  And seeing her fearlessly back Arthur up further solidifies their strength as a couple.

    SEE WHAT HAPPENS IN H2.0 AND PRE-ORDER AQUAMAN #20

    Aquaman #19, DC Comics, Released March 15, 2017, Written by Dan Abnett, Art by Philippe Briones, Cover by Brad Walker, $2.99

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    A World of Things Left Behind

    What remains of a fallen civilization? That’s the question at the center of Aftershock’s newest science fiction comic, World Reader. The new book focuses on an astronaut with a psychic ability to connect to the spirits of dead alien races.

    World Reader
    World Reader

    In World Reader #1 our main character is Sarah. She’s a member of a crew of space explorers investigating uninhabited planets. Sarah has deep connections to the lost citizens of these dead civilizations. It’s her driving force. But it becomes apparent this not the primary focus of the crew’s mission.

    Sarah frequently bumps up against the captain, who’s set on collecting soil samples and investigating the scientific structure planets. He scoffs at Sarah’s supernatural and existential ability. The battle between the science-minded crew members and those open to more ethereal answers will be a major aspect of this story.

    Secrets are killing the universe

    There’s also a strong mystery at the heart of this book. Sarah is used to connecting to dead cultures, but there’s something more unsettling about this planet. The spirits are unusually quiet and Sarah finds it difficult to form a connection. As she digs deeper a sinister answer begins to appear. And Sarah finds that what’s happened here is beyond anyone’s imagination.

    At its core, World Reader is about pure empathy. But it’s also a detective story with an existentialist bent. Writer Jeff Loveness throws us into a sci-fi world without weighing the story down with needless details. He’s building a world, but trusts the reader to follow the events without holding their hand.

    The art by Juan Doe gives the book a colorful and dreamy look that perfectly fits the trippy alien nature of the setting and story. It’s a richly designed world that begs to be discovered further.

    In addition, it’s great to see a science fiction tale focused on the humanity of its characters, rather than epic battle sequences. As a result, conflict arises, but there’s a deeper philosophical tale that connects this comic to the classics of sci-fi literature.

    SEE IF SARAH CAN SOLVE A UNIVERSAL CRIME AND PRE-ORDER WORLD READER #2

    World Reader #1, Aftershock Comics, Release date April 19, 2017, Written by Jeff Loveness, Art by Juan Doe, $3.99

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    American Gods Gets the Comic Book Treatment

    Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods is based on the idea that where believers exist, their gods also exist. Immigrants to the United States bring versions of their gods with them. As long as believers hold their faith, the gods flourish.

    The more believers in one place and the stronger their belief, the bigger and more powerful a deity. When a belief system breaks down, the forgotten gods lose their power and eventually disappear. Old gods are constantly fighting to keep their foothold in a society where new gods are constantly popping up. Ever wonder why the Old Testament God was so adamant about graven images?

    American Gods: Shadows #1
    American Gods: Shadows #1

    American Gods: Shadows #1 introduces Shadow Moon, a convict who is released from prison a few days early to grieve. His wife was killed in an auto accident the week before Shadow’s scheduled release. On his flight home, Shadow has an uncomfortable meeting with Mr. Wednesday.

    The grizzled old man offers Shadow a job after demonstrating impossible knowledge of Shadow’s past and present. Taking Wednesday for a grifter, Shadow declines and the two part ways. Unbeknownst to him, this isn’t the last time Shadow will encounter Mr. Wednesday. Shadow likewise has no idea how thin his perception of reality is about to stretch.

    A Superstar Lineup. Neil Gaiman! P. Craig Russell! Scott Hampton!

    P. Craig Russell is no stranger to adapting Gaiman works. Russell provided art for Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, Coraline, and the Graveyard Book. This time he takes the reigns, writing the script with Gaiman available as a consultant.

    Neil Gaiman has been involved throughout the adaptation process and is pleased with the comic series. “I’ve been watching P. Craig Russell breaking down the book into comic form, watching Scott Hampton painting the pages, watching Glenn Fabry create the covers, and grinning to myself with delight, because the American Gods comic is going to be an astonishing, faithful, and beautiful adaptation.”

    American Gods: Shadows will appeal to fans of the source novel, action-adventure, fantasy, horror, Americana, and mythology.

    SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SHADOW GETS OUT OF JAIL AND PRE-ORDER AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS #2

    American Gods: Shadows #1, Dark Horse Comics, Release date March 15, 2017, Rated Mature, Story and Words by Neil Gaiman, Script and Layouts by P. Craig Russell, Art by Scott Hampton, Letters by Rick Parker, Cover by Glenn Fabry with Adam Brown, $3.99

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    Cap’s New Past as a Hydra Double Agent Continues

    Steve Rogers shocked the world back in Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, May 2016. While hurling his friend and ally to his presumed death, he uttered two words that nobody ever believed would come out of Captain America’s mouth. “Hail Hydra.”

    It has since been revealed that Red Skull used Kobik to turn Roger’s memory inside out. In his new recollection of events, Cap remembers learning Hydra’s ideals as a child in a special school. He also remembers befriending a young Helmut Zemo.

    Captain America Steve Rogers
    Captain America Steve Rogers

    In his head, Rogers returned to the United States and then became the first Super Soldier. It was perfect cover for Hydra’s ultimate spy.

    Baron Zemo Steals The Show

    Captain America: Steve Rogers #13 spends most of the chapter developing Baron Zemo’s character. In the buildup to Secret Empire, Nick Spencer delivers a fuller picture of just how highly Cap regards his friendship with Baron Zemo. Rogers will go so far as to stand between Bucky and Zemo in the middle of a firefight to keep them both alive.

    The flashback sequence teases a bigger conflict between Barnes and Zemo in the upcoming Secret Empire. A forced decision with mortal consequences between his two best friends could be the trigger that snaps Cap out of the fugue he’s been living in. We can hope, anyway.

    While this chapter is heavy on exposition, there are a few dynamic action scenes. The artwork is fantastic throughout. Baron Zemo’s arrogant indifference is telegraphed brilliantly, despite being a masked character.

    It’s hard to tell where the pencils of Ro Stein leave off and Ted Brandt’s begin. There is one sequence in particular that has four pages, sixteen panels, and zero dialogue. The artwork tells the entire story, and the reader has no difficulty following along.

    PRE-ORDER CAPTAIN AMERICA STEVE ROGERS #14 AND FIND OUT WHO’S BEEN PULLING ALL THE STRINGS

    Captain America Steve Rogers #13, Marvel Comics, Released March 8, 2017, Written by Nick Spencer, Art by Ro Stein and Ted Brandt, Color by Rachelle Rosenberg, Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna, Cover by Arthur Adams and Jason Keith, $3.99

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    Kings of Grass

    Comics are often about building new worlds. These fictional societies have their own sets of rules and order. And they don’t always have to be fantastical. Sometimes they’re a slice of a world that’s under-exposed. Such is the case in Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins new comic Grass Kings.

    Grass Kings
    Grass Kings

    In Grass Kings #1 we are introduced to the Grass Kingdom, a small patch of land that does not recognize the authority or rules of the United States. Grass Kingdom has a longstanding feud with neighboring town Cargill. The citizens of Grass Kingdom are viewed as squatters illegally possessing the land.

    The Promised Land?

    The central conflict of the book revolves around Cargill’s sheriff and the two brothers who run Grass Kingdom. Bruce and Robert inherited the kingdom from their family who’s possessed the land since World War I. Robert is the king and Bruce is the sheriff in charge of protecting the land from Cargill.

    The relationship between Robert and Bruce is a tenuous one at best. Robert lost his daughter and has fallen into alcoholism to deal with his grief. This puts pressure on Bruce to look out for the well being of the town and his brother.

    Kindt’s script generates a lot of conflict right from the start. This is a book with a great deal of narrative setup at work. It’s a family drama and a crime story. But it’s also a mystery.

    Kindt’s writing pairs extremely well with Jenkin’s exceptional artwork. The hazy water colored images strike a beautiful balance between detailed and dreamlike. This is especially true as the book shifts into flashback scenes.

    Overall, this a strong first issue that does a great job of establishing setting and characters. It also leaves enough threads for readers to continue to pick up future issues.

    SEE WHAT’S NEXT IN GRASS KINGDOM AND PRE-ORDER GRASS KINGS #2

    Grass Kings #1, Boom! Studios, Released March 8, 2017, Written by Matt Kindt, Art by Tyler Jenkins, $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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    Miss America

    America Chavez has been a standout member of the Young Avengers and The Ultimates. Now she’s taking center stage in her first solo ongoing series–America. Fans will not be disappointed as she retains all the attitude and strength that made her so popular.

    America #1 kicks things off with The Ultimates in battle before the teen hero heads off for her first day at college. She’s a super-powered Avenger from another reality, but she still needs to get an education.

    America
    America

    America is enrolled at Sotomayor University. But this campus is a little different. There are Magic/Mutant Power Test Zones and a department devoted to Radical Women and Intergalactic Indigenous Peoples. At school, America reunites with former Young Avenger, Prodigy. And she also runs afoul of Professor Douglas, who teaches “Intergalactic Revolutionaries and You.”

    Digging into America

    America #1 is a lot of fun. There’s a lot of story potential seeing America in a normal college environment. This gives writer Gabby Rivera the opportunity to dig deeper in America’s character. Separated from a group dynamic, America’s relationship problems and her struggle to overcome the death of her mother are highlighted. She’s also been separated from her best friend Kate Bishop, who’s off in LA solving crimes in her own book–Hawkeye.

    This series continues Marvel’s recent move of focusing on younger female characters. Although the story is fun and fast-paced, it’s also a coming of age tale. America has much to learn about being a superhero.

    Marvel readers, both new and old, are sure to enjoy America’s journey. Plus, there’s a twist in the final pages that promises exciting things for future issues.

    SEE HOW AMERICA HANDLES HOMEWORK AND MONSTERS. PRE-ORDER AMERICA #2

    America #1, Marvel Comics, Released March 1, 2017, Written by Gabby Rivera, Art Joe Quinones, $3.99

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    Wonder Woman is Back with a Vengeance

    The DC Comics Bombshells franchise began as a line of statues that re-imagined popular female characters in historical context. Artist Ant Lucia used period fashion from the World War II era to create a line of retro heroines that were part pinup girl, all badass.

    DC Comics Bombshell Statue
    DC Comics Bombshell Statue

    The initial four designs were later expanded to nine, then twelve. The continued popularity of the statues prompted even more designs.The DC Comics Bombshells ongoing series was born when writer Marguerite Bennett was given the green light to build a narrative out of the retro heroine line.

    “We were able to retro-engineer this complete environment that lets them showcase their powers that lets them have good relationships and friendships that they wouldn’t have been able to explore in another sphere…Going down to the smallest details that [Ant Lucia] puts into the statues and creating whole backstories for items.”

    It’s a face-off between Wonder Woman and Cheetah!

    DC Comics Bombshells #23 picks up on the Isle of Cocytus. It’s the aftermath of the Battle of Britain. Wonder Woman and Supergirl are there together to mourn the loss of Stargirl. “To live, to die, to grieve, to hurt, to heal…this is to be human.”

    Except neither woman IS human. One from the stars and one from the soil, they must come to terms with human emotions.

    They each must learn to grieve. Grief validates that Stargirl was real and that she mattered. They need to sort it out, and quickly. Wonder Woman is needed in Zambesi. Lex Luthor makes a cameo (in the invisible jet) to inform Wonder Woman her friend Queen Mari is in danger of losing her kingdom.

    The script balances action and character development very well. There’s a  heel turn and an apparent face turn–all while coming to terms with the loss of a comrade. And this happens in the midst of an epic battle. Despite having three different hands on pencils, the artwork flows seamlessly from first page to last.

    PRE-ORDER DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #24 TO SEE WHAT’S NEXT IN THE ALL-OUT BATTLE

    DC Comics Bombshells #23, DC Comics, Released March 1, 2017, Written by Marguerite Bennett, Art by Matias Bergara, Laura Braga and Mirka Andolfo, Color by J. Nanjan, Letters by Wes Abbott, Cover by Marguerite Sauvage, $3.99

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    Newly Formed JLA Versus a Group of Misguided Maniacs

    Whenever a new super-group is assembled there’s an inevitable learning curve for the reader. Steve Orlando has neatly dodged this awkward phase by writing four solo one-shot tie-ins that explore this new JLA roster individually before throwing them all together in Justice League of America #1.

    While it wouldn’t hurt to have already read the Suicide Squad/Justice League series and the five JLA Rebirth one-shots, this issue serves nicely to kick off the new roster. The new JLA consists of Batman, the Atom, Black Canary, Killer Frost, Lobo, the Ray, and Vixen.

    This chapter opens with each member of the new team in their respective cities fighting their own jobbers before they receive their first team call. The Extremists have invaded Earth and are hell bent on conquering the populace to save Earth from herself.

    Lord Havok and The Extremists Thirst for Peace, Prosperity, and Total Submission

    Justice League of America #1 is heavy on action. Orlando wastes no time throwing his misfit team up against a formidable challenge. The Extremists are the NWO in this invasion angle. Hailing from Angor (Earth-8), they represent a familiar, yet foreign, enemy. The Justice League of America must overcome their different moral compasses, experience levels, and personal histories in order to prevail.

    Ivan Reis delivers sharp panels and dynamic splash pages. He plays around quite a bit with angles and perspective. Reis’ character designs are also on point. The Extremists’ designs hint slyly at their origin without giving away the punch line entirely. (Is that a Magneto helmet?)

    This series aims to make heroes more accessible to John Q. Public. In Batman’s own words, “People need to see heroes are human…like THEM, that THEY can be heroes. The JLA will show them that.”

    DON’T MISS THE BATTLE BETWEEN THE EXTREMISTS AND BATMAN. PRE-ORDER JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #2

    Justice League of America #1, DC Comics, Released February 22, 2017, Written by Steve Orlando, Pencils by Ivan Reis, Inks by Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, and Julio Ferreira, Colors by Marcelo Maiolo, Letters by Clayton Cowles, $2.99

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