Black Hammer #1 (Dark Horse)

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CREDIT: Dark Horse

Rating: 5/5 – A Must Read First Issue with Limitless Potential!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Black Hammer impressed me from the first page until the very end in an almost perfect combination of writing, art, and colors. Writer Jeff Lemire, artist Dean Ormston, and colorist Dave Stewart have created and designed a great cast of characters that we don’t know too much about yet, but after reading this opening issue, have made it so it’ll be tough having to wait to read more. It’s not a surprise that Lemire has another potential hit on his hands, but it is surprising at just how much potential this series has!

Black Hammer’s opening pages introduce us to Abraham Slam and Golden Gail. The setting is a farm that’s similar to the Kent farm from Superman. As the two talk, you realize that there’s something not quite right with their relationship and it only gets more complicated as the story goes along. Additionally, we’re introduced to more of the characters that were once known as the greatest heroes of the Golden Age, all trapped, or at least tied to this same farm. Talky Walky is a robotic sidekick of Col. Weird who is just that, mumbling throughout the issue of the dangers of the Para-Zone. We also get the mysterious Madame Dragonfly and Barbalien, the “Martian Manhunter” of this team.

Lemire doesn’t throw a whole lot of action into this book, in fact there’s almost none at all. What he does do is create a mystery of just who these characters were, why they’re all on this farm, and what does the outside world know about them? Each character is given enough time to make you question the origins of each, building that potential mentioned above for plenty of stories that take place in the present as well as during their time in the Golden Age, not to mention each of their individual genre defining characteristics. Dean Ormstom’s art is a perfect match for the story. He also hints at two different styles we may see throughout this series, the present day pencils that have a realistic feel especially when paired with Dave Stewart’s colors, and the flashback pencils that we only get a small taste of in this issue are similar in style to the iconic art of Mike Mignola.

The first issue of Black Hammer is a fantastic read that did all it needed to do to hook me on the series.  It introduces an all new group of heroes that span multiple ages of comics history. Lemire, Ormston and Stewart have created one of my favorite premiere issues of the year so far, right up there with Dark Horse’s other solid first issue, Dept. H. I can’t recommend this issue enough. It’s truly a must read!

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

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The Hellblazer: Rebirth #1 (DC)

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CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – Moving Farther Away, but Still Part of the DCU.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

After DC’s Brightest Day event, John Constantine was thrown back into the main DC Universe after being part of Vertigo for so long. Although it was an exciting premise to see him standing alongside of the iconic DC heroes as he did when he first appeared, I don’t feel as though it ever really caught on. Seeing him alongside Swamp Thing of course felt natural and him leading the Justice League Dark team had its moments, but seeing him star in something like Trinity War felt like a miss. Now in this Rebirth issue, Constantine’s settings are changing which will again lead him away from the DCU, while still allowing for the potential of him to mingle with DC’s super-heroes and villains.

After a flashback scene shows Constantine dealing with a demon who he’ll face off with again as the main part of the story, we see Constantine leaving New York City. The reason…Constantine explains that it was starting to feel like home “but when a racist, short fingered failed meat salesman began circling the White House…things started take a turn for the strange, even for me”. Writer Simon Oliver’s choice to have Constantine leave New York because of Trump and the strangeness surrounding him didn’t make a whole lot of sense, and took me out of the story for a bit (I don’t need Trump invading my comics!), but getting him away from DC’s heroes, even if it’s for just a bit is a smart choice.

After the strange opening though, Oliver does a nice job of explaining just who Constantine is and what makes him so special. The same demon who we see in the flashback scene at the beginning battles John in London, casting a spell that has potential to wipe out eight million lives. During this time Oliver gives the reader a peek into Constantine’s past and family as John attempts to turn the tables. Artist Moritat is a nice choice for this type of story and character. Where his art doesn’t match is when we see a cameo scene starring Shazam and Wonder Woman. They look off and some of their expressions don’t match the scene taking place around them, showing again that it’s the right move to have Constantine further away from the heroes if this is the artistic choice.

This Rebirth issue is similar to DC’s other Rebirth premieres. It’s a primer for new readers and allows the creative teams to establish the tone for the series. Oliver and Moritat are able to do this. The ending seems a little too convenient, but also leaves the reader with questions as to just what type of person Constantine is, which I feel is a smart move. Yes he’s a hero, but he’s also kind of an untrustworthy jerk. Although I didn’t love this issue, I like the direction it’s headed and am confident that it’ll get better now that Constantine is still part of, but farther away from the main DCU.

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

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Horizon #1 (Image)

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CREDIT: Image Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – An Alien Invasion Story Where Earth is the Invader
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

The premise of the book “Earth invades another planet” is a cool one.  That premise could go in a lot of directions.  Most commonly, we’d have a very action-packed story focusing on the invasion with lots of spaceships and lasers.  But the physical invasion of Valius is not the focus of this issue.  Instead we see alien agent Zhia Malen on an infiltration mission on Earth.  THAT was a really different way to start off a story that is pitched with this premise.

Writer Brandon Thomas does an awesome job of detailing the landing and staging of Zhia on Earth.  She needs supplies, she needs to blend in with humans (because she has blue skin and white pupil-less eyes), and she needs to hook up with her contacts, other Valians already on Earth.  I don’t want to spoil the steps Thomas puts his protagonist through to accomplish these tasks, but they really impressed me with the little details, which were beautifully accentuated by the art of Juan Gedeon.

If you’re looking for an action packed space opera, this isn’t the place to look.  At least not yet, the story could go there in time I suppose.  The action here is more low-key.  It is the action involved in following along with an agent on a mission in enemy territory.  Exactly what is the mission?  I’m not sure yet.  But Thomas & Gedeon accomplished the most important task for me with a debut issue.  They gave me someone I could root for (who in this case is an alien on a mission against Earth, go figure….) and they made the character of Zhia jump off the page and into my mind.  I care about her and I want to know what happens next.  Mission accomplished for the creators.  I’ll be back for more!

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
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Throwaways #1 (Image)

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CREDIT: Image Comics

Rating: 3/5 – Assassins, Conspiracies, and Super-Powers
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

Throwaways is espionage slang for a disposable asset, an assassin meant to die along their intended target.  At it’s heart, Throwaways is meant to be an action thriller set in the espionage world, but ultimately the debut issue felt really disjointed to me.

Writer Caitlin Kittredge starts out with one of my least favorite literary devices, the flash forward.  This is typically used to start a story off on an action-oriented scene when the actual start is slower and will build in momentum.  The “4 hours earlier” pages are certainly action-packed, so what the flash-forward really accomplishes is showing one of the protagonists, Dan, manifesting a Magneto-like ability to capture fragments of metal in mid-air and hurl them back at his attackers (this is page 2 of the story, a full page spread that is the first thing to catch your eye when opening the comic, so not really a spoiler).  The rest of the story jumps around as an endless supply of heavily armed assailants attempt to kill both Dean (with his girlfriend along for the ride) and the 2nd protagonist, a female (ex?) soldier named Palmer.  Add in various flashback, hallucinations, and a couple of cut-scenes that will likely weave into the story in a later issue and I ended up having a really hard time following the story.  The art, by Steven Sanders, felt very stiff to me, which didn’t help matters as the action kept building throughout the issue.

Throwaways felt like a story that will read better in a collected edition than in serialized issues.  There were a lot of unresolved and disjointed scenes in this first issue and the “4 hours later” flash-forward that opened things up was not resolved in this issue.  The story and characters just didn’t click with me.  I never developed a bond with either of the 2 main protagonists, and exited the issue not really caring what happens to either of them.  Perhaps had I been able to keep going (in the TPB collection) this bond would have developed and I’d have gotten a better idea what was going on.  As it was, this #1 issue failed to make me want to come back for more.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Voltron Legendary Defender #1 (Lion Forge Comics)

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CREDIT: Lion Forge Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – Head Writer of the Show Writing the Comic!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

I’m about three episodes into Dreamworks’ new Voltron Legendary Defender series that is available on Netflix right now. The show brings me right back to the cartoon of the mid 1980s and in some ways, I’ve enjoyed this one more than I did when I watched it back then. Not only am I enjoying the show, but so are my two sons who after finishing each episode want to immediately start watching another. Now, Lion Forge has acquired the license to the Voltron Legendary Defender show and has released the series’ first issue and if you enjoy the show, then this is a must buy!

First of all, the art looks as though it’s right out of the cartoon. The art is bright and colorful and the characters look exactly like they do on the show. I wouldn’t go far as to say the panels look like animated cels, but it’s close. Not only that, but the art uses storytelling techniques the show uses like having the characters’ heads appear in floating circles around the action while they provide dialogue or commentary. The lions look great in this issue and although the forming of Voltron doesn’t look as impressive as it does on the show, once formed he looks imposing on the page. My only complaint with the art is that the beginning is much stronger than the ending, so the multiple artists within the Art Chefs team seem to each taking a portion of the story, and I like some more than others.

Speaking of the story, it was actually perfect timing for me since I’m not too far into the show since on the inside front cover it says that this issue takes place immediately after the events of episode 108: Rebirth. Although this is farther than I’ve actually watched, it’s still within the show’s main storyline so I didn’t notice any spoilers. The story also goes into more of the team’s training as Coran takes them to the Karthulian system which is an ancient training ground of the original paladins. Upon getting there, Coran gets into a bit more trouble than they expected and the team is forced to recover a dangerous and rare treasure in order to save him.

I’ve been enjoying a lot of what Lion Forge is producing and Voltron may be my favorite so far. If you’re a fan of the show, I can’t recommend this enough. The characters look, act, and read just like they do on the cartoon and this fits right into the show’s current season. Not only that, but it’s written by the show’s head writer Tim Hedrick and writer Mitch Iverson so you know you’re in good hands!

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

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New Super-Man #1 (DC)

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CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 5/5 – Great New Character and Supporting Cast Can Stand on it’s Own!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

I was completely expecting New Super-Man to be a disappointment. When compared to Marvel, DC hasn’t had the best of success when it comes to introducing new characters, especially in the years since the New 52 and struggling with the direction of their legacy heroes. Marvel has had great success with Ms. Marvel and is now benefiting from the time spent keeping Miles Morales and X-23 in the spotlight, embracing them as “All-New” as well as showcasing diversity. New Super-Man seemed somewhat of an “us too” when first announced and writer Gene Luen Yang’s run on New 52 Superman starting at issue #41 was disappointing to me, so I had low expectations.  After reading this first issue, it’s actually one of my favorite Rebirth issues so far!

New Super-Man feels a bit old school in its writing. It’s quickly paced and a lot happens in this first issue that sets up the series.  We’re introduced to the new hero and Yang is starting to build an interesting and deep supporting cast. This isn’t just a Super-Man in China although there are plenty of parallels. For instance, there’s a female reporter named Laney Lan and this Super-Man is named Kenan Kong so alliteration is alive and well in this first issue. That being said, Kenan isn’t Clark Kent. When we first see him he’s bullying a fellow student and stealing his lunch. We also see his relationship with his parents that’s much different from what we’ve seen before. There’s quite a bit in this first issue and instead of the story being deconstructed, Yang moves it along and gives us an origin of his powers without ever feeling rushed. The art by Viktor Bogdanovic is fantastic throughout and he’s able to tell a clear story despite all that’s within. Kenan is drawn like a teenager should look, and the supporting cast are all realistic looking as Bogdanovic grounds them in reality even with his somewhat cartoony style. I enjoyed the art just as much as I enjoyed the writing.

I’m excited for the future of New Super-Man. DC needs to allow this new character to establish himself on his own before throwing him into any crossovers and/or events,  so I hope they allow him to stand on his own for a while.  So far, it seems as though he can and I’m excited for what is in store next.

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

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Civil War II: Gods of War #2 (Marvel)

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Rating: 3.5/5 – Gods of War or Gods of Drama?
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

So I’ve grabbed a couple of the side comics for Marvel’s Civil War II event. I got issue 1 of the Gods of War title when it was released, it seemed fairly decent, but I was undecided after 1 issue if it was worth going the distance, so I got #2. There are several Marvel comics out right now that revolve around the Civil War II event, some seem more suited to the core Civil War concept, and some not so much. After reading the recent release of Gods of War, I feel like it’s just another filler.

I haven’t gotten into a Hercules title since 2008-2009. World War Hulk, Aftersmash and Secret Invasion were some of the titles I was really into back then, but I drifted away. Being called “Gods of War” I figured this title would incorporate some other major name gods like Thor or Ares, but that hasn’t been the case yet. When I grabbed the first issue and thought it would be another great Hercules title similar to what I had read prior, I slowly started realizing that it wasn’t. I shared my criticism with a fellow comic enthusiast, because I figured I was just being cynical. It was pointed out to me that this story seems to flow from the previous Hercules series, so it’s more about Hercules and the supporting characters from that series as opposed to Marvel Gods I was familiar with. The title led me astray a bit, and though it’s in the Marvel Universe during the Civil War conflict, Hercules is not included in any of the other Civil War stuff I’ve been reading. Hercules is going after his own problem, which only he and his other godlike buddies can see. Everyone else in the Marvel Universe thinks Hercules is just acting crazy and destructive, no major heroes seem to trust or want Hercules to assist with any of the major issues anymore. Poor Hercules has been cast aside, being considered just as destructive as Hulk at times. Writer Dan Abnett is tackling the Gods of War title, but it reads like something out of a TV drama as opposed to being more “war of the Gods” oriented.  I was expecting more action out of a title that called Gods and War. The comic carries on through the first 2 issues with little fighting and more old godlike acquaintances having dramatic conversations with heavy criticism of each other. By the end of this issue, Hercules is raging out and it appears to be getting interesting, but I’m left wondering if the entire second issue was just Hercules being controlled and still seeing things that no one else can. I’m left with little curiosity and desire to go forward in this series since it feels like I’m reading a soup opera.

Artist Emilio Laiso kept me turning the pages, his art is playful and even the most comical scenes are really well done. Before I say how great Laiso is with his art, I have to say even his skill with a pencil didn’t save the issue since I really didn’t care for the slow paced drama of the story. His design of these old mythological heroes is pretty interesting and I was more interested in seeing Laiso’s depiction of these heroes instead of actually reading the comic. His angles are great, and when it comes to a scene where Hercules goes into a chaotic rage mode, it was something they could make a poster out of that I’d happily mount on my wall.

I went through two issues hoping things would pick up; the title of the series pulled me in, the art kept me interested, but the lack of pure intensity in the story is just not sitting well with me.  It seems to me that the story could have just been titled Hercules instead of Gods of War. It didn’t feel like it had much of anything to do with Civil War, even as  filler, it’s just about Hercules. The first issue had a couple of pages about what’s going on in the Civil War, but the major heroes in the Marvel Universe have made it perfectly clear that they don’t want Hercules involved. Hercules didn’t take that rejection in stride very well, and I got a story that felt more about his depression towards not being included in the major Civil War situations.  The lack of action here is just not my cup of tea, and I’m done with it after this issue.

Reviewed by: Adam Brunell
(adamb@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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