February 13, 2019

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Catch It at the Comic Shop February 13th, 2019

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

Rob's Picks:

Devil Within #3 by Stephanie Phillips, Maan House, Dee Cuniffe, and Troy Peteri, published by Black Mask
The story begins to reveal itself as we learn that there's a connection to the house and the mysterious occurrences there. Despite the lies, true love remains...but it could prove deadly. This horror mystery has been awesome so far, balancing the slow build against wondering who is going to die. House's linework is spectacular at balancing the horror with normality, too. A hidden gem, in my opinion.

By Night #8 by John Allison, Christine Larsen, Sarah Stern, and Jim Campbell, published by Boom! Studios
This was on my shortlist last year and continues to be a ton of fun. Allison wraps up some of the current threads here, such as the stolen information and repairing the transporter. But really, the main reason to read this is the hysterical dialogue among the characters, which males me laugh out loud, while Larsen keeps the visuals matching the humor. Oh yeah, and the troll is back, too. Yay!

Dick Tracy, Dead or Alive #4 by Lee Allred, Mike Allred, Laura Allred, and Rich Tommaso, published by IDW
I don't usually put a final issue on the list here, but this series was so much fun and needs to be read far and wide. Of course Tracy saves the day, but the real story here is Tommaso's ability to make Gould's world his own, and yet at the same time familiar to anyone who has been reading the strip for decades. He draws the characters timelessly, opting to blend modern and classic elements, and his villains are pitch perfect for this world. A great love letter to Dick Tracy. I hope this team gets another arc soon.

Wizard Beach #3 by Shaun Simon, Conor Nolan, George Schall, Chad Lewis, Meg Casey, and Mike Fiorentino, published by Boom! Studios
A beach where wizards chill out in outlandish art? Yes, please! I came late to this one, but it's a silly story primarily about teaching a young, uptight wizard that there is far more to life than grand, epic battles on Dungeons and Dragons planes. This is just silly from start to finish, with complex panel work that contains details worthy of Sergio Aragones. It's a lesson about how we approach life, too, but it's mostly about seeing wizards surf, party, and enjoy their powers for once.

James' Picks:

Mister Miracle TP by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, published by DC Comics
One of the best comics of the past few years, this is a comic that really id live up to the hype. King and Gerads (the team from the spectacular Sheriff of Babylon) are in top form, bringing a story that's alternately moving, frightening, and hilarious. It's a story about superheroes (kind of) but it's also a story about parenthood, living with depression, and the tenuous nature of reality.  Gerards is always great but goes to a whole other level here, as he does some incredible, unsettling work.

Captain Marvel #2 by Kelly Thompson and Carmen Carnero, published by Marvel Comics
I really enjoyed the first issue of this comic. Thompson is a fantastic writer, who does spectacular dialogue and great storytelling. And I didn't know Carnero's work at all but after only one issue I'm highly impressed. They have (along with the very strong Life of Captain Marvel miniseries) succeeded in resetting Carol/Captain Marvel and righting the ship on what is a terrific character gone wrong.

Ms. Marvel #38 by G. Willow Wilson, Nico Leon and more, published by Marvel Comics
This may be the last issue of Ms. Marvel from G. Willow Wilson (I'm not sure) but if not, I know that her time writing the character she co-created is nearing an end, and I'm sad. Wilson has (with the collaboration of many talented artists) really set the bar incredibly high for creating a new character that's funny, engaging, has a ton of personality, and has really grown and evolved over the past 5 years. It sounds weird to say about a fictional character, but I'm proud of Kamala Khan and all the ways in which she's grown over the last 5 years. That's a tribute to Wilson, bringing so much life and heart and verisimilitude to the character. It cannot be overstated how important it is that this character is a Pakistani-American that lives in a real place (Jersey City), practices a real religion (Islam) and has a family and friends that are as fully realized as human beings as I've seen in a superhero book in a long time. That Kamala's religious faith has been a source of strength for her, and that the adults in her life are not just portrayed as idiots but with something useful to offer.  It's all been a wonderful ride. I know that Saladin Ahmed and Minkyu Jung (whose work I am only just now getting familiar with but who seems super-talented) will do a very good job, but I'll miss Wilson's voice on Kamala Khan and all the other fun people that populate her world.

February 11, 2019

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The Fearsome Doctor Fang

The Fearsome Doctor Fang
Written by Tze Chun and Mike Weiss
Art by Dan McDaid
Color art by Daniela Miwa
Letters by Steve Wands
Edited by Sebastian Girner
Design by Jared K. Fletcher
Published by TKO Studios

TKO Studios is a new publisher using an innovative model, whereby they publish miniseries that aren’t offered for sale until they’re completed. And when they’re up for sale, they’re available in 3 different formats - digitally, oversized trade paperback, and as individual floppy issues in a nice display box. But all of the interesting formatting and sales choices don’t mean anything if the comics aren’t good and interesting. Thankfully, I’m happy to report that thus far, from what I’ve read, TKO studios seems to be succeeding on the most important front, which is creating quality comics. My colleague Scott recently looked at Sara, and I'm looking at the terrific The Fearsome Doctor Fang (Doctor Fang for short).

February 6, 2019

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Catch It at the Comic Shop February 6th, 2019

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

Rob's Picks:

Vampirella vs Re-Animator #2 by Cullen Bunn, Blacky Shepherd, and Taylor Esposito, published by Dynamite Entertainment
Herbert West: Undead Marriage Wrecker? Everyone's favorite mad scientist has gotten way over his head, bringing back a Goddess of Death who wants to use him to create an army. Vampirella's on the case, but West's formula has changed her old foe in ways that might make for strange bed fellows. I knew Cullen would have fun with these characters, mixing horror with humor, and it hasn't disappointed me one bit. Blacky Shepherd's choice to use mostly black and white art with color splashes really makes this one sing, too. A great, fun romp.

Marvel Action Avengers #2 by Matthew K. Manning, Jon Sommariva, Protobunker, and Christa Miesner, published by IDW
Tony Stark: Agent of Aim continues with a Fin Fang Foom chaser. If you loved Marvel Adventures, you'll love this. Take great characters, give them a fun story, and don't worry about continuity, making things "realistic" or shaking things up. That's what all-ages comics should do, and this delivers on all counts. One of my favorite parts is that Manning is really doing a great job of giving each character a personality that's distinctive. The art isn't quite what I'm used to--the characters seem just a bit off--but it's not like it's distracting. If you like the Avengers but don't want the baggage, this book is for you.

James' Picks:

 Wasted Space #6 by Michael Moreci, Hayden Sherman and Jason Wordie, published by Vault Comics
This was one of my favorite series of 2018. It's a smart sci-fi series from writer Moreci which explores ideas of religion, personhood, politics, and has a ton of humor and heart to go with the smart ideas. Sherman and Wordie provide fantastic, scratchy art that gives this futuristic universe a lived-in feel.

Ether vol. 2: The Copper Golems by Matt Kindt and David Rubin, published by Dark Horse
This is a fun, weird series that explores both science and magic, and the tremendous cost that one man undertakes to seek his dreams. Cool, creative story from Kindt, and Rubin provides some stunning art.

Daredevil #1 by Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto, published by Marvel Comics
I don't know much about the current status quo of Daredevil. I really loved the extended Mark Waid run (with many artists, but significantly Chris Samnee) but fell off after that. Zdarsky has proven to be an extremely talented and versatile writer, so I'm curious to see what he brings to the character. And Checchetto is an extremely talented artist.

The Immortal Hulk #13 by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett, published by Marvel Comics
At first I just thought this book was going to be the Hulk as a dark vigilante of the night dishing out brutal justice. But it has turned out to be so much bigger and so much weirder than that. I don't exactly know what's going on, but I really enjoy this book.

February 4, 2019

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“Don’t Dream So Much”— a review of Grafity’s Wall by Ram V, Anand Radhakrishan and Aditya Bidikar

There are all kinds of youthful rebellion.  There’s rebellion against your parents, against the state, against the law and against expectations.  This is 

something that’s universal among boys and girls on the edge of being men and women. All of these types of rebellion aren’t necessarily violent or political, although they can be brutal and ideological.  The conflict in these youthful rebellions is often a personal and international kind, between the children we are and the people we are going to grow into. In Ram V, Anand Radhakrishnan, and Aditya Bidikar’s Grafity’s Wall, three friends in Mumbai experience very different lives but are still brought together by the restlessness of youth.  Mumbai is one of the biggest cities in the world and yet these kids feel that there’s something more out there, out of the city and in the greater world that exists beyond the walls that they have spent their lives living in.

This patchwork nature of this book, told in four parts with each one focusing on one of this group of friends, gives us a much bigger picture of the youthful restlessness than it would have if it had focused on just one of the characters. An artist, a drug dealer, a writer and an actress share the spotlight as Ram V’s writing shows how these four very different people cling to each other in a city that’s doing everything that it can to rip them apart.  Grafity, the graffiti artist whose real name is Suresh (but only his parents call him that,) finds the blank walls of Mumbai to be the perfect canvases to share his visions on. Other than the cops who see him as just another criminal, almost everyone recognizes the talents that this boy has. Flipping through Grafity’s sketchbook, his father tells him, “These are pretty good. You’re getting better, eh?” A compliment from the old man? But his father has a cruel lesson for this son.  “Don’t dream so much. It’s painful to watch,” he tells Grafity before throwing his sketchbook out the window of their apartment.

“Don’t dream so much.”

But ultimately, dreams are all these four kids have in their lives besides each other.  Jay, the delivery boy from some drug dealers, dreams of being a rapper. Chasma dreams of being a writer, leaving letters to people all over the city. Saira, the girlfriend of a mobster, wants to be an actress.  All of them have dreams that their world is telling them are worthless. “Why dream because all you’ll be are criminals and losers?” is the message that’s driven into these four kids’ minds over and over again. Ram V’s story builds up these four characters as the rebels in the city as they fight against the oppression of their lives.  They’re constantly told not to dream, not to strive to be something that they’re not as if their lives and paths are already defined for them by their past and their parent’s past. They’re told to be what everything thinks they are and not to chafe against the expectations of the world. And when those expectations are cruel, base, and violent, they’re told to submit unquestioningly to them.  It’s an awful way to grow up, to be told that you’re never going to be more than what people think you are now.

Establishing a personal connection for the reader to the city, Radhakrishnan's art, Bidikar’s letters and Jason Wordie’s colors evocatively recreates the sights, smells and sounds of a hot, summer Mumbai.  The art is messy and dirty, where details weirdly drop out of some panels, leaving lumps and odd shapes for the reader to complete as people and places. There’s a sense of memory cast in this artwork, as if some unseen and unidentified narrator is recalling these events of their past through an incomplete memory.  The large movements of the story are recalled but Radhakrishnan’s art shows that some of the lesser details are fuzzy and only half-remembered. An unseen storyteller is remembering the main moments of these Mumbai days, certain of the happenings but a bit unclear on the specific details.

Creating a lived-in city, Radhakrishnan conveys the spirit of Mumbai on every page.  It’s a cliche to say that the city becomes a character in a story but Radhakrishnan’s Mumbai is a lot like Grafity and his friends in this story.  There’s a sense from the story that everyone knows this city and that what it is now is all it’s ever going to be. Even Grafity is guilty of thinking what the city is now is all it is ever destined to be.  After his father tosses his sketchbook out the window, Grafity meets Jayesh, the drug delivery boy, at a still-standing chunk of wall at a demolished building site. Still dealing with a run in with the cops and his own father’s negligence and having learned their lessons, Grafity begins his latest work by spraying “No One Gives a Fuck” on the wall.  That’s the Mumbai that Ram V. and Radhakrishnan are showing Grafity, Jay and the other live in or at least how they experience it. It’s a city that doesn’t care for its children and its dreamers. But there’s also the possibility that Grafity and his friends are failing to see the potential that the city has to offer just as everyone else fails to see the potential in them.

So as Mumbai becomes the fifth member of this rebellion, the creators of Grafity’s Wall challenge us to look beyond the surface and to dig into the spirits of the people and places around us.  They don’t promise us that everything will be wine and roses but they do encourage us in the audience to allow ourselves to be surprised at what is around us. Sometimes these surprises will be delightful but we also have to allow that sometimes these surprises will cut and hurt us.  In Grafity’s Wall, Ram V. Anand Radhakrishnan, Aditya Bidikar and Jason Wordie tell an unpredictable story of life in a bit city that can be as kind as it is cruel.

Grafity’s Wall

Written by Ram V

Drawn by Anand Radhakrishnan

Lettered by Aditya Bidikar

Colored by Jason Wordie, Irma Kniivila & Anand Radhakrishan

Art Assistance by Girish Malap

Published by Unbound

January 30, 2019

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Catch It at the Comic Shop January 30th, 2019

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

Scott’s Picks:

Terrifics #12 by Jeff Lemire &Viktor Bogdanovic, published by DC Comics
Meet the Beatles was one of the first albums I remember listening to and staring at the cover of.  It was probably at least 12-13 years after it came out but it was one of the things in my parents’ record collection that I really stuck out to me whenever I would flip through their record collection.  So I love any variation of that cover, such as Doc Shaner’s homage to it in the new issue of The Terrifics.  I’ll admit that I really haven’t kept up on this series but I want to catch up with it just to get this cover.

Off Season by James Sturm, published by Drawn & Quarterly
Since James Sturm spends most of his time nowadays teaching the next great generations of cartoonists at the Center for Cartoon Studies, we don’t get to see as much of his work as we may want.  And Sturm has never been the most prolific cartoonist so it’s always great to be able to anticipate a new book by him.  I’m always interested to see the latest work by teachers as it’s fascinating to see them practice the art that they’re teaching. 

I Want To Eat Your Pancreas, The Complete Manga Collection by Yoru Sumino & Idumi Kirihara, published by Seven Seas Entertainment
Just the title of this alone is great but it may make you think that you’re getting ready to read the next Hannibal Lecter book and not a sweet romance comic about a girl dying from a pancreatic disease and the boy who finds out her secret.  This looks like a nice, sweet slice-of-life comic and was based on Sumino’s novel and has also been adapted into a live-action film and an anime movie as well.  This story has some serious legs to it so I’m looking forward to diving into Seven Seas printing of the manga.  It looks like it may be the perfect thing to read this week when the temperatures are going to be plunging well below 0 degrees in the Midwest.  

James' Picks:

Shanghai Red TP by Christopher Sebela, Joshua Hixson and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, published by Image Comics
I highly recommend this series. It's a terrific, dramatic series set in late 19th century Portland, involving piracy, issues of gender identity, violence, families, and a whole lot of other ideas. Really great, strong writing (as always) from Chris Sebela, with terrifically expressive art from Joshua Hixson.

Ms. Marvel #37 by G. Willow Wilson and Nico Leon, published by Marvel Comics
I feel like this book is now underappreciated. G. Willow Wilson (and a series of talented artists) have been telling stories about this wonderful character that Wilson co-created (with Marvel editor Sana Amanat) for more than 5 years now, and as Wilson is going to be leaving the book soon, it's worth acknowledging the terrific work she's done.  Kamala Khan is a character of depth and a very specific voice, with a rich family, social setting, with stories told in a very real-seeming (yet fantastical) world.  I'm not suggesting you start with this issue - I'm suggesting you go back to the very beginning and read all you can about this terrific teen hero.

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 by Kieron Gillen and Caspar Winjgaard, published by Dynamite Entertainment 
So, I knew virtually nothing about this character other than the fact that he was the basis for Ozymandias in Watchmen.  However, whren you've got a writer as good as Kieron Gillen, and an artist as talented as Caspar Winjgaard, you've got my attention. I've read the first issue and I can say it's a terrific read, and clearly setting up to be a fun meta-superhero deconstruction story, along with being a fun adventure.

Mike's Picks:

Animosity: Evolution # 10 by Marguerite Bennett, Eric Gapstur, Rob Schwagger, and Marshall Dillon, published by Aftershock Comics
I've officially reached the point where I'm unable to determine which is the better of the two Animosity books. Evolution is certainly the darker of the two series, but from that darkness springs a degree of satire that doesn't come from the main series. It's less long form survival-adventure epic like its sister series, and more of meditation on irony. This issue promises a major turning point in the War of the Species as the animal utopia continues to show signs of its inevitable descent into the same perils that plague human society.

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 by Kieron Gillen and Caspar Wijngaard, published by Dynamite Entertainment
Look, you'll probably read about 372 pieces surrounding the launch of this comic that references the fact that Peter Cannon was the inspiration for Ozymandias (373, check). It's not the backstory that should draw you to the book, though. Dynamite last rebooted Peter Cannon over five years ago in the wake of the successful relaunches of bygone properties in Project Superpowers, Kirby: Genesis, and Green Hornet. Whereas that previous volume, spearheaded by Alex Ross, played up the character's traditional Silver Age stories, Gillen makes no bones about reappropriating Cannon as an Ozymandias pastiche, thereby completing some nutso postmodern cycle of simulacra.

Herakles Book 2 by Edouard Cour, published by Lion Forge
Lion Forge has a multi-pronged approach to comics that includes the Catalyst Prime shared universe, original graphic novels including the critically acclaimed Upgrade Soul, and translations of European work of various genres. Cour's Herakles is the right kind of reimagined mythology - it pays enough attention to the source material while modernizing it enough to make a point. Cour's art alternates from clean to wavy, and he explores washed out colors to make the book feel both old and surreal.

Deep Roots Vol. 1 by Dan Watters, Val Rodrigues, Triona Farrell, and Aditya Bidikar, published by Vault Comics
Deep Roots deservingly found itself on a number of critics "Best of 2018" lists. Like all Vault books, this series combines and novel concept with impeccable design. Watters and Rodrigues craft one an eco-horror story worthy of Swamp Thing by creating a tale that is part mystery and part X-Files episode. Deep Roots is gnarly and wild, and it is all tied together by the deft pallete of one of the best colorists working today, Triona Farrell.

Rob's Picks:

WWE Forever #1, by Various Creators including Lan Pitts, Brent Schoonover, and others, published by Boom! Studios
One of the biggest draws that WWE uses is their long history in the industry, highlighting at the start of all their shows and using the tag line "Then, Now, Forever" these days. While the main comic series focuses on their current starts like AJ Styles, this issue takes a look at classic wrestlers, ranging from Bret Hart to Razor Ramon. I'm not steeped in the history of wrestling the way that others are, with only a casual knowledge of the old greats. A series like this, however, is a no-brainer for wrestling fans everywhere, regardless of your feelings on the current product WWE has. With people like my former 'Rama colleague Lan, a huge fan of the sport, at the creative helm, these should be great stories.

The Shape of Elvira #1, by David Avallone, Fran Strukan, and others, published by Dynamite Entertainment
Elvira is the perfect character to take pot shots at an award-winning film about amphibious amour, given her sexy, comedic horror concept and the movie's clear relation to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. In this one, Elvira agrees to be in what's supposed to be an art film but has a very different angle that could land her in more than hot water. The first Elvira mini was a great romp that made my short list, and I look forward to this one being more of the same zaniness that manages to capture the camp and put it on the comic page

January 21, 2019

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Review: Wasted Space 6 | The Boys & Bots Are Back...

Written by Michael Moreci
Art by Hayden Sherman
Colors by Jason Wordie
Lettering by Jim Campbell

The space saga is back folks, and it couldn't have returned with more appropriate timing. Just when real life continues to get more and more convoluted and frustrating, Moreci and company return to illustrate commentary on a version of our path toward a science fiction monstrosity. We previously left our team of Wasted Space protagonists, led by Billy Bane the distraught ex-voice of The Creator, having just uncovered meaning to the Alpha and Omega as they came face to face with Legion, the deity craving destruction of The Creator. It was a wild ending to an already wicked good time.

I was an easy sell on this book when it was first announced. My ability to zero in on Hayden Sherman illustrations has been none to be reckoned with ever sense his stroke of gritty wit graced the pages of Sean Lewis' The Few a couple years back. Wasted Space is Sherman's first book with Vault Comics, and me being new to the crowd exposed to that heady comic publication, I was soon to be added as self-proclaimed street team member talking up its comics to anyone who would listen. Sherman's sketchy lines and creative character design bring the largest of story's to life, and that is exactly what is done here with Michael Moreci's Wasted Space. A story so large, yet so detailed with clever dialogue, that it gives our cast of characters plenty of room to explore and tell the story being told.

Writer Michael Moreci has put together one hell of a clever story as he comments on modern culture in a subtle, and often crude stylistic approach. It is a story of religion. It is a story of conformity. It is a story of political power and those with which that have it as they manipulate the space around them. Moreci is posing questions that challenge blind faith and structured politics in such ways that are designed for good but result in nothing more than ill-intended suppression. On a macro level this comic is a space story very much in vein with what a more authentic take of the original Star Wars would feel like if told today (fight me, nerds). On a micro level this is a study of who God is and why. Wasted Space issues 1 through 5 gave us introduction to the characters and what purpose they serve. We found certain empathic purpose for Billy Bane, a fraud-prophet turned space junkie, whose every trans-galactic purchase is funded by Dust, his *clears throat* Fuq-Bot sidekick who's profession is literally to whore himself out for nothing short of a modest profit. Yes, this is the Han Solo and Chewbacca we always knew we deserved but never thought we wanted.

Wasted Space #6 page 6. Published by Vault.

This next week Wasted Space is back! It is back with a solid punch to the crotch and a nod to the enlightened. The Legion led deity resistance to The Creator heats up and suggests we are in for a solidly introspective look at the purposes of freewill in respect to good versus evil. After reading issue 6 it becomes more apparent that we are in the midst of a larger, and denser read. It suddenly is paced perfectly as any ongoing comic should. With this being the first issue written since it was announced to be Vault's first ongoing series there is no surprise that it comes to read in this way. New characters emerge as familiar ones embark on the journey set forth suggested on the final page of issue 5. No disappointment is had with the progression of plot, but what comes as the surprise is the addition of added and deepened themes that were otherwise only hinted at prior to this issue. The first volume read as a safe offering of these ideas and now, knowing the commitment to longevity, the pacing feels more intentional and relaxed. All set forth by it's creative team telling this mini space epic. Each interaction packs well thought out purpose and I'm in it to the end.

Wasted Space #6 page 1 Published by Vault.

I have a lot of respect for this book, and my hope is that Wasted Space gets the exposure it deserves; with more issues like this one I am sure that it will. It seems that it may be on the heels of larger successes unlike any other Vault book thus far. Judging by the several copies of Volume 1 at my local Barnes & Noble I'd assume this were to be true, because we all know that those shelves are typically reserved for trades of the Big 2 (Marvel or DC) and Image. That being said, this is a fun read and I'll be damned if I don't help promote the hell out of it. The sixth issue of Wasted Space gets a strong 9/10 from me. It wastes no time in jumping back into the story all while adding new pieces to the puzzle. I'm excited to see where this comic takes us.

Moreci & Sherman & Co., you've managed to make it to my pull list. Who am I but just another fan with enough disposable income to spare for a few comics monthly?
Here, take my money.. cheers!

- @argyleeater

January 16, 2019

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Catch It at the Comic Shop January 16th, 2019

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

James' Picks:

Deadly Class #36 by Rick Remender, Wes Craig and Jordan Boyd, published by Image Comics
Great series. This is the start of a new arc and it's worth your time to go back to the very beginning. Fantastically engaging story about students at a high school for assassins in the 1980's. You've probably seen the pilot or at least promos for the pilot.  I'm sure it's good, but the TV show doesn't include the next level art from Wes Craig. Seriously, his work is bonkers. Paired with fantastic colors from Jordan Boyd?  This is an amazing-looking comic with a punk ethos, and it also happens to be a searing portrayal of alienation and depression, along with bonkers action and humor.

Black Badge #6 by Matt Kindt, Tyler Jenkins and Hilary Jenkins, published by Boom! Studios 
A small group of Boy Scouts actually function as spies! It's such a great hook, and thus far the book has been terrific. I just recent read the conclusion of Grass Kings, and am reading this book, and I feel like the Kindt/Jenkins pairing is a really strong one. Jenkins' art style isn't identical to Kindt's but you can see why they would work so well together. This story is just getting started, and it feels like there's going to be a much bigger mythology to explore.

Fantastic Four #6 by Dan Slott and Aaron Kuder, published by Marvel Comics
I love the Fantastic Four. I wasn't so crazy about the first arc of this book, as it felt like a bumpy way to start the series back up. But the wedding of Ben and Alicia was very sweet, and now we're going into a Doom/Glactus story, which makes it feel like this is really the proper start of the series. The real F4 is back, ready to take on big challenges and mysteries. I still don't 100% have a feel for this book, but I'm excited to see where this goes, particularly with talented artist Aaron Kuder now involved.

Black Widow #1 by Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska and Flaviano, published by Marvel Comics
I'm not familiar with the Soska sisters, but I understand they're horror movie directors and producers. So I'm, more than anything, just really curious as to what sort of take they'll bring to the character of Black Widow. I'm also glad to see the character written by women, which (I believe) hasn't been the case for a while.  She's a great character, who's been through a lot, having recently been dead and all. So, we'll see. I'm looking forward to checking it out.

Gideon Falls #10 by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino and Dave Stewart, published by Image Comics
One of my favorite books of last year. This is creepy, unsettling, existential horror with religious overtones. The sense of dread and freaky vibe is palpable in this story. I don't totally know what's going on, and I love it. Sorrentino and Stewart are combining for some next-level art. If you're looking for a scary, thoughtful read, this is the book.

Mike's Picks:

Albert Einstein: Time Mason # 4 by Marcus Perry and Tony Donley, published by Action Lab Entertainment
Action Lab has had a string of fun, pulpish adventure series. This series is a quirky romp, and a throwback to a different mode of storytelling. Donley's art is absolutely impressive, existing in a special pocket that is part Jack Kirby and part Roy Lichenstein with a nod to Chris Mooneyham.

Goddess Mode ?#2 by Zoe Quinn, Robbi Rodriguez, and Rico Renzi, published by DC Vertigo
Goddess Mode is one of my series to watch in 2019. After an incredibly strong debut issue, Goddess Mode looks to continue and extend the welcomed trend of brighter cyberpunk series thanks both to Robbi Rodriguez's sharp lines and Rico Renzi's neon color pallette.

Invaders # 1 by Chip Zdarsky, Carlos Magno, and Butch Guice, published by Marvel Comics
If you're like me, there are always going to be a few characters for whom you will purchase any book that features them, regardless of context or creative team. Namor is one of those characters. And while the King of Atlantis himself is enough to warrant the purchase, I'm particularly excited for Zdarsky's Imperius Rex dialogue.

Shade: The Changing Woman TPB by Cecil Castelucci, Marley Zarcone, Becky Cloonan, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and Saida Temofonte, published by DC/Young Animal
Yes, fine, this collection did arrive last week, but, in my haste, I completely missed. And I'm remiss, because it caps one of the most enjoyable runs of an absolutely near-perfect series. And, to be fair, it does arrive in bookstores this week, so if you're that type of tradewaiter, or you're just living under a rock like me, technically it's a new release this week. Simply put., Zarcone and Fitzpatrick combine for an otherworldly psychedelic adventure that captures an inventive, touching, and poignant story by Cecil Castelucci. It's a story of second chances and new worlds, and it's an absolute master class in graphic storytelling.

Sean's Picks:

Appalachian Apocalypse #1 by Billy Tucci, Ethan Nicolle, and others, published by  Cave Pictures Publishing
It’s the start of a new year and with it we have a new comic publisher joining the club. This week they are having their first release, Apalachian Apocalypse, and it is fantastic. It’s part zombie apocalypse, part 19th century North vs South USA, and part situational comedy with teens Caleb and George steering the hunt. It is still very early for much to be known of this story, and the amount of ripe momentum coming from being the new publisher on the block will help signify this as a top contender at the shop this week. I have a lot of cards in the game for this one. It feels like a small piece to a large story that could be around for awhile. Fans of Walking Dead, Farmhand, and early Matt Kindt comics should take notice to Apalachian Apocalypse, as will I.

Black Badge #6 by Matt Kindt, Tyler Jenkins, and Hillary Jenkins, published by BOOM! Studios
Speaking of Matt Kindt, he has an ongoing comic with BOOM! and it is one of my current favorite monthly’s to read while waking up with a coffee on a Saturday afternoon. If you’ve been following along with this story, you are aware of the basic premise and the often skittish competitive nature of things. This issue sees us with new surroundings and new oaths of honor to achieve. This is a fun book. I enjoy the art, Tyler Jenkins has a strong depiction of life in his illustrations that are so poetically organic it is difficult to look away (or easy to get lost in, depending on if you’re a glass is half empty or half full kinda person). Don’t skip this one.. it’s a killer good time.

Go-Bots #3 by Tom Scioli, published by IDW Publishing
Cy-Kill, Scooter, Leader-1, as well as panels and pages of other Go-Bots are here to challenge our every meaning to exist in this inventive new depiction of a classic. I grew up rebelling the fancy Transformers and all the excitement that Optimus Prime seemed to kindle up with my friends. I was the kid that opted for more obscure (and reasonably priced) transforming bots, the Tonka inspired Go-Bots franchise. It was fun, my friend down the street had a metallic StarScream and I had a plastic Leader-1. Fast forward and it’s twenty nineteen, I’m nearly forty and Tom Scioli is scripting, lettering, and illustrating a Go-Bots comic full of witty one-liners and nostalgic imagery; enough to keep me coming back month after month. Now three issues in, Tom Scioli’s art is a breath of retro fresh air.

Venom #10 by Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, and others, published by Marvel Comics
Last week we had Ryan Stegman’s Web of Venom: Venom Unleashed, and the week of Thanksgiving we had Donny Cates’ Web of Venom: Carnage Born. The first arc of Donny Cates’ Venom main story can be categorically described as a dense prologue to what is beginning to read as a stripped down retelling of the Eddie Brock character. I am so on board with this approach to the Venom story and I am completely enjoying the depth we are going into with the character. Last month Eddie Brock return to San Francisco with his mute and futile symbiote at his side with the intent to confront his father and face his personal demons. What we discovered was something (or… someone) no one saw coming.. a half brother?! Cates is at his best when he writes about interpersonal turmoil and loss of loved ones. Case in point is the stunningly simple, while gorgeously perfect, God Country. Venom #9 was a beautiful set up to a new chapter of Venom that we have yet to witness, one of complete solitude and personal reflection. Stegman’s Unleashed chapter, and Cates’ Carnage rendition was what feels to be a small step toward a larger story telling goal. In the meantime it is apparent that we are about to be taken on a journey of self discovery and (maybe) loss while the buildup simmers in the abyss.

January 14, 2019

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"Because It's Next" - The Creator's Dilemma in Self/Made # 2

Written by Mat Groom
Line Art by Eduardo Ferigato
Color Art by Marcelo Costa
Letters by Troy Peteri
Published by Image 

The second issue of Self/Made hit the stands this week. Only two issues in, this book has proven that it can tackle large philosophical concepts without sacrificing any degree of narrative flow. This series is dark and intense, but it doesn't feel depressing or morbid, mostly thanks to Mat Groom's punchy dialogue and an art team that understands the sweet spot tone of this book. Ferigato and Costa combine to create a world that effectively uses stark contrasts to mimic the landscape of a near future proto-dystopia

January 10, 2019

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Waiting for the Moment- a review of Garth Ennis, Steve Epting and Elizabeth Breitweiser’s Sara

Let’s just get this out of the way immediately— Garth Ennis loves his war stories.  

Working with Steve Epting and Elizabeth Breitweiser, Ennis’ Sara doesn’t have the tough guy texture of a typical Ennis story, but if anything, Ennis is a far more versatile writer than he gets credit for.  When you look at some of Ennis’ more popular work, Sara lacks some of the self-loathing that shows up in Preacher, Punisher or his Nick Fury stories. Maybe that’s mostly due to Epting’s classical realism, with his line work resembling a cross of Milton Caniff and Al Williamson, that doesn’t allow any part of this book to be ugly either physically or even soulfully.  But even the story, the tale of a female Russian sniper in World War II, reads as something different for Ennis. This writer/artist/colorist collaboration has created a comic that melds each of their talents and tastes to produce a stoic, cold and efficient story about how wars change the people who have fight in them.

So while this is a story set in the snowy fields of Russia during World War II, Sara may not be an actual war story.  The character Sara is a product of her Russia as Ennis’s best stories are not about the wars but about the ways that the struggles of war and fighting transform the non-soldiers who are conscripted to fight enemies who remain largely faceless and nameless.  All we know about Sara before this story is that she was a college student before war came to Russia. Now she’s a killer of Nazis, a ruthless and efficient killer. Ennis and Epting focus on the stories’ present and not its past but they do give enough glimpses of the formation of Sara into the soldier that she is.  

Employing a cinematic clarity, Epting and Breitweiser create a stoic, cold environment which perfectly matches the stoic, cold story being told.  Epting’s concise storytelling has a job to do and it gets it done with the same professional attitude as Sara wielding her rifle; this is a job that demands the best of its professionals.  Epting’s characters are true actors on each and every page. He tells each person’s story through their body language, whether they’re a scared Russian girl or a shocked German, reacting the the guns and violence around them.

Epting’s realism also gives him and Breitweiser the ability to create the environment of this story.  They allow it to act as another force, working for and against Sara and her team. The cold, snowy, Russian front depicted here reflects Ennis’ characters.  They’re tough, isolated, and focused. Ennis and Epting build a past around Sara that is everything to the character as it gives a fiery soul to the story. In the book, there’s a structural conflict between the frozen environment of Russia and the revealed source of Sara’s anger towards the world around her.  Sara is the only one who knows what her and her comrades are fighting against. For as evil as the Nazis are, Sara recognizes the blood that’s on her countrymen’s hands as well as the blood that’s on the German’s hands. This frontier isn’t the place for innocents and children. The warriors like Sara have to be as icy as their environment, without letting the chaos of the fighting distract them.

A college student before the Germans invaded Russia, Sara is a now a killer- a ruthless and efficient killer.  Epting shows in her eyes that she constantly is aware of who and what she is. Unlike some of the others that she’s fighting alongside, she is not idealistic or even patriotic.  As they flash back to the past, Ennis and Epting reveal the events that have made Sara the professional that she is. She’s not a fanatic or a believer. If anything, she ends up being quite the opposite. Some war stories are propaganda, even decades after the real battles took place.  Ennis isn’t interested in war as an expression national pride or prowess. He explores how it eats away at people, stripping them of who they were or revealing them for who they truly are.

War made Sara the sniper that she is in this story.  When Ennis is at his best, he allows actions to define his character and in some ways this comic is all about the action.  Epting’s straightforward artwork makes Sara’s cold emotion concrete and rigid, like the character herself. Combined with Ennis’ lean dialogue, Epting’s artwork helps define the frozen nature of all involved, creating a book that feels as chilly as its characters.  Reading Sara, we may be waiting for some glimpse of warmth but even the warmer moments are tinged with a bone chilling cold that reminds us of the bloody Russian fields.

So, yes, Garth Ennis loves his war stories even as he hates what war turns us into.  Even the classically traditional artwork of Steve Epting and Elizabeth Breitweiser cannot disguise the corruptive effects of war on the human soul.  Sara should still be a college student somewhere, studying something like economics, art history, or political science. She should know anything other than how to sit in a tree waiting for just the right moment in time to kill a Nazi.  Sara is a war story that shows the cost of war on the human soul.

Written by Garth Ennis
Drawn by Steve Epting
Colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser
Lettered by Rob Steen
Published by TKO Studiovs

January 8, 2019

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Catch It at the Comic Shop January 9th, 2019

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

James' Picks:

House Amok #4 by Christopher Sebela and Shawn McManus, published by IDW/Black Crown
Go back and read this book from the beginning. It's SO weird! I love it. Chris Sebela had a fantastic 2018 and I'm sure that he'll continue to write terrific books in 2019. House Amok is a wonderfully messed-up story about a family that's suffering from a mass delusion and doing terrible things as a result, when one of the family members stops suffering from the delusion and begins to see the world as it is. Great premise, great book. I highly recommend it.

Criminal #1 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, published by Image Comics
I'm thrilled that Criminal is coming back as a monthly book. If you've never read Criminal before, you really ned to go out and do that now. It's a sprawling series of stories set over the course of many years, involving an wide but related set of characters. It's crime-noir at its very best. Sean Phillips is an incredible, grounded artist and a fantastic storyteller. This is a wonderful series and terrific exploration of the grimy side of life.

Captain Marvel #1 by Kelly Thompson, Carmen Carnero and Tamra Bonvillain, published by Marvel Comics
Captain Marvel is a terrific character, but recent writers have not always done so well by her (looking at you Bendis, and Civil War II). But she's a fun, engaging character and a terrific hero, and I'm happy to try out a new book for her. Particularly with the movie coming out in a few months, I'm excited to see what the creative team here does. I wasn't familiar with the artist but I looked at some preview pages and this book looks GREAT.  And I absolutely love Kelly Thompson's work; Her Hawkeye book was one of my favorite books of the year, and I'm also enjoying West Coast Avengers and have enjoyed many other books she's written.

Cemetery Beach #5 by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard, published by Image Comics
This book has, thus far, been one big crazy action sequwnce and I'm totally digging it.  There's a guy who's been captured trying to infiltrate a rogue human colony that was established almost a century earlier. Humanity has gone in some weird directions in this colony. It's a good story, and Jason Howard is an incredible artist.  I think you can wait until this is collected in trade, but I definitely recommend it.

Mike's Picks:

Laguardia 2 by Nnedi Okorafor, Tana Ford, James Devlin, and Sal Ciprlano, published by Dark Horse/Berger Books
There’s a lot going on in Laguardia, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Okorafor’s apt use of science fiction and African Futurist motifs coupled with Ford’s intricate, heavily inked art creates a beautiful, exaggerated world that’s part bio-punk, part fable fantasy, and all social commentary.

Turok 1 by Ron Marz, Roberto Castro, Salvatore Aiala, and Troy Peteri, published by Dynamite Entertainment
I’ll make no claims that I understand that various Gold Key relaunches since Dynamite acquired the license, but every iteration has been well done. Dynamite handles their properties well, and Ron Marz has proven he can inherit and extend older characters well through his work in Dynamite’s John Carter universe. Aiala’s artwork is also a great suite for such a book. He channels a good amount of pulp influence while still maintaining a modern feel.

Archie Meets Batman ‘66 #6 by Jeff Parker, Michael Moreci, Dan Parent, J. Bone, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Jack Morelli, published by DC Comics/Archie Comics
This entire mini-series has treated us to silver age nostalgia of the highest caliber. The mix of artists, and the nods to various styles has helped to set this series apart from even the other well-done Batman ‘66 iterations. This issue wraps up an incredibly fun series, and a caper worth of Adam West himself.

Young Justice # 1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Patrick Gleason, published by DC Comics
Young Justice represents the first item from Bendis’s new Wonder Comics pop-up imprint. Bendis has a knack for the character dynamic of a large team book, and I’m excited to see Pat Gleason get into the mix with a new set of characters, drawing his first team book since Green Lantern Corps. Bendis and Gleason’s initial Action Comics arc demonstrated the pair can make a strong tandem.

Kirk's Picks:

Die #2 by Stephanie Hans and Kieron Gillen, published by Image Comics
I would never want to sit at any RPG table that Kieron Gillen is DMing. He’s sadistic and has already set the precedent that he’s going to run these new characters he’s created through the grinder in this story if their own adult life choices don’t do them in first. Die is the story 5 adults summoned back to a cursed role-playing game from their youth that kept them from the real world for 2 years and it showcases once again how prolific Gillen is at creating fully realized and nuanced fantasy worlds, and more importantly the rules that govern them. The real treat is Stephanie’s interiors. Largely known as an illustrator for covers, her art is lush and hints at an unseen turmoil. You don’t have to be familiar with role-playing games or the genre, but this series will make you a fan right away.

Murder Falcon #4 by Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer, published by Image Comics
Daniel could draw the annotated history of the lead pencil and I would still be compelled to pick it up. Easily one of the most exciting artists in comics at the moment (Check out his Instagram! @danielwarrenart). The follow up to his brutal fantasy epic Extremity, Murder Falcon is his love letter to all things Metal. A guitar-shredding virtuoso on a mission to find the enchanted rock instruments with his friends to get their band back together and fight the demonic kaiju of Magnum Khaos as they bleed their way into our reality to feed on our fears and doubt! It comes complete with a a drum kit with rockets that flies and a bass that summons a wooly mammoth avatar. It’s every fight scene from Scott Pilgrim on DMT. It’s also the most earnest lesson about forgiveness and believing in yourself that you need to read.

House Amok #4 by Christopher Sebela and Shawn McManus, published by Black Crown/IDW
2018 was a marquee year for Sebela. Titles like Crowded and Shanghai Red kept him on many Best Of lists at the end of the year and it’s great to see Black Crown give his voice a home with this story. if you have been reading any of the other titles from Black Crown (and you should be), the unreliable narrator tone of House Amok is right on brand with this publishing imprint from IDW. Bogeymen that can’t be unseen, organ theft, and urban legends chase a young girl, her twin sister, and the rest of their family on road trip ripe with high crime across the country. Chris’ talent for lulling readers to a safe place before unleashing anxiety-inducing levels of tension are in full effect within these pages. Though the story has been great so far at keeping me guessing whether the events are real or not, I didn’t expect to question if I want them to be.