Wytches #1 (Image)

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CREDIT: Image

Rating: 5/5 – A Horror Comic That is Genuinely Scary.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

The first issue of Wytches by Image Comics, in just the first five pages, does its best to introduce the reader to what it sets out to be, and that’s a horror comic. In the opening scene set in the past we see a woman trapped inside of a tree, struggling to get out. We come to understand that she’s been “pledged”, which is a word and theme that carries on throughout this first issue. It seems as though she’s been sacrificed or offered up to an all powerful group of as yet unseen witches. It’s a powerful scene that draws you into the world, and right off the bat delivers on the horror. The story then flash forwards to the present day where we meet the Rooks Family and explores what their relationship with said witches might be. Writer Scott Snyder does a great job of balancing the horrific and scary moments with everyday realism and great character development while Jock does a fantastic job of accomplishing the same thing with his scratchy and kinetic art style.

Jock’s art perfectly balances both the panel layouts and pacing as he’s able to craft some truly memorable and scary scenes. The above mentioned opening works so well because Jock was able to naturally move my eyes on page exactly where they needed to go, ultimately delivering on the scares. He does this so well throughout this oversized first issue, whether it be with full page splashes, pages without panel borders or knowing just when to have the action stop or carry forward from one page to the next. Letterer Clem Robins also added to the overall mood of this first issue by delivering on some fantastic sound effects that added a lot to the story. Whether it was the sounds of struggling, off in the distance scratching sounds, terrifying screams or something more unnatural, Robins knew just where to place the letters to provide an added layer of horror.

It’s not very often that a comic book creates genuinely scary moments for me since as the reader, I control the page page turns, the pacing, and the setting in which I’m reading. Wytches by Scott Snyder and Jock have done just that, they have created a book that  frightened me, but left me wanting to come back for more as it built on some solid character work and nice takes on the long held tradition of witches.  The masterful storytelling gave this book a unique and interesting twist that makes witches feel more dangerous than ever. This first issue also ended on a terrifying and suspenseful cliffhanger that absolutely left me craving the second issue.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
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Elric: The Ruby Throne OGN (Titan)

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CREDIT: Titan Comics

Rating: 5/5 – The Albino King’s Tale Gets a Superb New Telling.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.

Can you recall the last time a single comic book page held your attention for well over ten minutes? A page where the artwork is so inspiring and beautiful you spent more time soaking it in than it takes to read your standard 22-page comic book? A page that forces you to re-evaluate what you look for in these funnybooks you’ve spent so much time and money investing in? Because if they can look this amazing, then why don’t they? Welcome to the first page of Michael Moorcock’s Elric: The Ruby Throne from Titan Comics.

Moorcock’s melancholy albino emperor/sorcerer/warrior has had his tale told in graphic format many times before, but I don’t think it has ever been told this lushly, with artwork this beautiful, and with as much detail woven into the doomed isle as is given to the people who inhabit it. If comics could win awards for best costume design, as they do with the Oscars, this book would have the nomination sewn up as far as I’m concerned. The artwork in this book is on par with what I’ve come to expect from a Titan book – it raises the bar for everyone in terms of production quality and sheer beauty.

Equally notable is that the book has Moorcock himself writing the forward, giving his blessing to writer Julien Blondel’s take on his character. For those true Elric fans out there who feel they’ve read this story before, take note: Elric’s creator Michael Moorcock, original writer of these stories says of Blondel, “[he] has given the story a few extra twists which, with my approval, have improved on my original narrative!”

All too often when a beloved character is altered to suit a new creator’s vision, chaos ensues, and there can be diminished returns. Happily, that isn’t the case here. This is the Elric adaptation I’ve been hoping to see for some time now. Longtime followers of Moorcock’s stories will find a welcome home in these pages and will be left hungry for the next installment (4 books are planned, this being the first). Newcomers to Elric are, of course, encouraged to find Moorcock’s original text, but they could do a lot worse than to have this adaption be their introduction to the decadent and bloody end of an empire, and the birth of a new era for Elric and his Kingdom.

Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
(al@comicspectrum.com
)
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Earth 2 World’s End #1 (DC)

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CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 3/5 – Too Many Characters. Confusing For Readers New to Earth 2?
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Earth 2 World’s End packs in as much story as possible in this first part of DC’s third weekly event. Following Batman Eternal and Futures End with Earth 2 World’s End, DC is now filling almost an entire month with a weekly release. For those who have not been following the main Earth 2 series, this book may be tough to get into with it’s immense cast of characters.  Although they have familiar names and looks, they feel very different from the main DC New 52 Universe versions. For those that have been following it, it’s heavy on the “what’s happened before” and only towards the final third of the book do they start to move the story forward.

Although the story is driven by Daniel Wilson, writers Marguerite Bennett and Mike Johnson also contribute to this first issue that deals with the heroes of Earth 2 and the armies and agents of Darkseid. It’s packed full of characters and because there’s so many, no one character truly stands out. Although Green Lantern narrates the first part of the book, that switches about halfway through and different characters take different turns narrating and driving the story forward. It lacks a singular focus that could have benefited a book with this many characters, especially those that may be new to readers I would assume DC hopes to capture with this series.

For as many characters are in this book, it seems as though there are also that many artists. The breakdowns are by Scott McDaniel, and then eight different artists work on the book including Ardian Syaf, Eddy Barrows and Cam Smith, to name a few. The art is strong throughout the book, but I noticed differences in quality, especially during the book’s middle section. That said, the art is the strongest part of this book and I’ll be curious to see how the different artists will handle future issues.

DC has consistently taken this type of multi-creator approach to their over-sized first issues and weekly series, and at times it pays off like this one did with the art, but because of the amount of characters and story lines presented, this one failed to hit the mark with me on story content, which is disappointing considering how strong I’ve felt the main Earth 2 series has been. This is a series that can benefit in future if they don’t try to fit every Earth 2 character into one issue.  Allowing single characters time to shine so readers can become invested in them would be a smart path to follow, in my opinion.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Thanos: A God Up There Listening #1 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 3/5 – A Story Designed for Digital That Doesn’t Work As Well on the Printed Page.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Thanos: A God Up There Listening was originally part of Marvel’s digital “Infinite” comic line and has now been released in print. Unfortunately, this probably works better in the digital version as the art seems sparse on the page and you get a sense that the panels and pages were designed for a digital experience, which is great for the digital reader but not so great for someone reading it on the printed page. In terms of story, this first issue also suffers a bit as the title suggests that it’s a story about Thanos, but this issue focuses more on his son Thane who was introduced in Marvel’s Infinity event. For readers who may be unfamiliar with the son of Thanos, it does a nice job of introducing you to him, but by the end you’ll be questioning which direction this story will be heading.

When the story opens we see Thane contemplating his origins and his life. As he reflects he’s visited by the Ebony Maw, one of Thanos’ dark disciples. Ebony Maw makes Thane question himself and his relation to Thanos and what his ultimate destiny may be. Writer Rob Willams lays a foundation for Thane to become a tragic character, but never goes far enough to ultimately make you care about him and turn him into something more. And regrettably as the story goes on, the focus seems to shift away from Thane and more to Thanos. The ending and preview would also lead you to believe that the second issue will be all about Thanos as Thane takes a step back in story and becomes much like the reader, just a witness to Thanos’ previously unknown adventures.

The art by Iban Coello is clean and it’s a great style for a tablet, but it’s weird to see a credit for “storyboard artists” in a comic, which is yet another indicator that this was originally intended for digital devices. Some of the panels and transitions feel strange, especially in the opening page where in one panel Thane is walking alone, and in the next Ebony Maw suddenly appears without any exposition. It may work reading it digitally, but here on the printed page it just felt random and confusing. Also, the art at times has a real cartoony feel, while at other times it takes a more serious approach which much like the story, doesn’t ever give a clear direction for the book.

If you’re a mega fan of Thanos and his mythology, you may want to read this story the way it was originally intended, digitally.  Even then the story seemed to lack clear direction.  On the printed page, and for casual fans of Thanos, this is something that is very easily “missable”.  For my own self, it’s a story I could have skipped and I won’t be back for more.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Retropunk OGN (Markosia)

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Rating: 4.5/5 – Action-Packed Romp with Likeable Characters.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Stephen Bretall.

Retropunk is a new original graphic novel that tells the story of a catgirl and a robot bounty hunter team in a cyberpunk metropolis.  They are tasked with protecting a pop star trying to escape from the mega corporation that owns her and along the way they learn about each other and fight all sorts of crazy battles in this massive 144 page romp.

Retropunk definitely lives up to its title, though not quite in the way I expected before reading it. The ‘punk’ style comes in the form of irreverent characters who I really developed feelings for over the course of the book. They’re not the best people in the world, but their failings make them human – even when they aren’t entirely ‘human’, if you know what I mean. The ‘retro’ comes from a variety of sources, but as far as I can tell, it’s a lot of 80s and 90s manga and anime influences.

The story, by Matthew Ritter & James Surdez, is fairly basic, but really shines in its focus on the characters. The dialog is excellent and the character development is strong. The feel bounces back and forth between hard-hitting cyberpunk and lighter anime-style slice-of-life, but both elements, while fairly different, worked quite well together for me. Fans of both or either genre should find a lot here to enjoy. Jhomar Soriano’s art is very loose, which works with the overall styling and theme of the book – the rough lines really drove home the cyberpunk feel of the story for me and gave the action an edge that a cleaner style just wouldn’t be able to provide.

Retropunk delivers a fun story with likable characters and some exciting and creative action scenes.  I got a great retro feel of the creative team doing their best to give me a fun feel-good time, with an edge of punk to keep things interesting. If you’re a fan of sci-fi, cyber-punk, ninja assassins, or robots, give Retropunk a try – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!  If your local shop isn’t carrying this, you can find it on Amazon or the Markosia web-site (best if you’re in the UK).

Reviewed by: Stephen Bretall
(stephen@comicspectrum.com
)
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Avengers and X-Men: Axis #1(Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 3.5/5- The Avengers and X-Men Team Up to Prevent World War Hate.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Gabe Bustamantez.

Rick Remender has been building to this big moment since the end of Avengers VS X-Men and the start of his Uncanny Avengers series. That’s 3 years worth of groundwork being laid down that have led us to Marvel’s latest event crossover, which is Professor X’s worst nightmare come to life. Mutants are being gathered and imprisoned in reeducation camps on Genosha by the Red Skull, now reborn as the Red Onslaught.

Rick Remender and Adam Kubert collaborate to put together a huge team of Marvel’s mightiest heroes. The cast of Axis is just about every active Avenger and X-Men brought together against Red Onslaught’s psychic attack that has crippled the entire world with hate. A hate that causes division within the X-Men and Avengers teams and also reveals a darker and more sinister time during Tony Stark’s tenure as the leader of SHIELD (which was way more interesting to me than Tony Stark’s big secret during Original Sin).

Adam Kubert is one of my favorite and longest working comic book artists that Marvel has on staff. He is back drawing Onslaught after drawing the original incarnation of the character back in 1996.  Kubert can produce some great layouts and his body language and storytelling skills are excellent in this issue, every character is posed with perfection and ready for action, but there is little additional detail in his figure drawings. Almost everyone’s eyes were black dots or solid black circles and it was hard to determine exactly how Red Onslaught looks. Is Red Onslaught a disembodied head floating slightly above his shoulders? I couldn’t be sure with the lack of details. That “minimalistic finish” artistic choice didn’t provide enough elements for me to fully enjoy the set pieces, figure work, or action.  Throughout the issue there was a “Axis” board running across the top and bottom of the pages that was very distracting and noticeable because the font still makes “Axis” read to me as “Sixis” and at one point it skips a few pages and then starts again. That kind of design features should not be noticeable or distracting.

This large scale story is peppered with lots of huge action pieces involving world-wide threats and high stakes for the Avengers and X-Men.  Axis sets up a  far-reaching story and looks like the start of an interesting event, but how self contained will the story of Axis be?  Will it be understandable within the main Axis title or will the reader need to also jump aboard some of the other Axis related titles and mini-series in order to soak in all that’s going on?  That unknown element mixed with the lower than expected art quality from Adam Kubert and slight event fatigue has made me decide to not come back for #2 and instead “trade wait” on this storyline.

Reviewed by: Gabe Bustamantez
(gabe@comicspectrum.com
)
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Birthright #1 (Image)

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CREDIT: Image

Rating: 5/5 – Perfectly Balancing Adventures in Two Different Worlds.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas

Joshua Williamson seems to be on a creative roll lately. Writing the haunting and mysterious Ghosted, the serial killer hit Nailbiter, and now another new series from Image that combines fantasy and the everyday world in Birthright. Williamson is not only coming up with some great ideas, but he’s able to make them work with great storytelling and partnering with the right artists to give those ideas life. With Birthright, he may have created his best work to date in a story that will surprise you multiple times throughout this first issue, not only in the story’s twists and turns, but also in the fantastic art by Andrei Bressan.

Bressan’s art is gorgeous. Since this book alternates between the real word and the fantasy world of Terrenos, Bressan has a tough challenge to make both worlds just as visually appealing as the other. If the fantasy world were to look better than the real world, readers would prefer one over the other. That’s not the case here. Bressan makes both feel real and lived in as he fills the pages and panels with tons of detail. His character designs are great and although they feel a bit familiar to traditional fantasy-type characters, they still feel unique. Bressan also adds a heavy dose of emotion as he’s able to capture the right facial expressions for the scene, and during a particularly tragic moment, makes it all that more sad by showing it on the character’s faces. I can’t wait to see more of Bressan’s work throughout this series as it feels he’s just starting to scratch the surface of his and Williamson’s world building.

It’s tough not to spoil this issue, but there were two moments in the story that really surprised me and that’s refreshing. In the back of this issue Williamson talks about his love for movies like the Goonies or The NeverEnding Story and he always wondered how those kids would ever go back to living out their lives in normalcy after their adventures. The idea for this book came out of attempting to answer just that. That’s how Williamson is able to tell an engaging story on two fronts. We get to see a story that looks as though it will be a grand fantasy adventure, while also getting a story about family, kids and coping with tragedy. Each story is perfectly balanced throughout as we’re introduced to all the major characters, and how the events of this first issue have shaped their lives. This is a comic that should absolutely not be missed. I enjoyed each and every page and because of the surprising cliffhanger, I can’t wait for the next issue. Don’t miss out on what looks to be another amazing series from Image.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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