Suiciders #1 (Vertigo)

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CREDIT: DC/Vertigo

Rating: 5/5 – Lee Bermejo at His Best Doing Post-Apocalyptic Gladiators!
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas

After reading the first issue of the Suiciders I’m not quite sure the direction of the book is headed in, but I’m excited about finding out. Lee Bermejo who’s best known for his work at DC including the 2008 Joker hardcover and his Lex Luthor mini-series is now bringing his ideas to Vertigo in a story taking place in a California that’s gone through “the big one”, an earthquake that has left the city of Los Angeles in ruins and separated from the rest of the United States. Since that destruction, the city has turned to a form of entertainment that’s reminiscent of the gladiator fights of ancient Rome with “Suiciders” becoming the gladiatorial heroes the city comes to know and love.

Fortunately, Suiciders isn’t just about big fights within impressive arenas. Bermejo is taking his time in this first issue to show that there’s a lot of story to be told, not only about this new form of entertainment that’s exploded in popularity, but also about the way society has changed in a city that’s cut off from the rest of the world and how that affects the people that live there. Bermejo infuses immigration scenarios into the story that are just as strong as the action itself, and ends this premier issue with a powerful scene showing just how much a culture can change when a disaster strikes.

The story was so enjoyable from beginning to end, I’ve read most of Bermejo’s work and I feel as though this is him at his best. The page layouts are creative and cinematic and the detail he’s pouring into each page is extraordinary. Seeing the Suicider known as the Saint being prepped for battle in a full page splash is a perfect example of the amount of thought and time going into Bermejo’s art. The Saint is being dressed in multiple armor plates by a team of helpers that’s similar to a Nascar team prepping and fixing a race car during a pit stop. The action scenes also stand out, especially with Matt Hollingsworth providing the colors. In the arena scenes while the two Suiciders fight, neon signs flash words like “Kill”, “Burn” and more. Hollingsworth is able to delicately balance the violence with spectacle, making it all feel real.

With Suiciders, Lee Bermejo is creating a world where violent entertainment is attempting to cover up a depressing and regrettably altered reality. Bermejo is writing and drawing this new series that will be told in arcs, allowing him to maintain his unique singular vision. As this first issue went along I was starting to see just how many layers there are to the story and each one became as interesting as the last. This is Bermejo at his best. There are so many panels and pages that will stay with me long after I finished reading that I can’t wait to see more.

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

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ei8ht #1 (Dark Horse)

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CREDIT: Dark Horse

Rating: 5/5 – Colors Fill the Artistic Lines and Story Foundation.
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Color plays such an important role in some comic books. The interiors of comics used to be full of plain colored backgrounds and characters due to the limitations imposed by printing, technology and time. While we still see limited colors in some comics, in others, like Ei8ht, we’re seeing colorists having just as much an impact on how I feel about a boot as the art itself.  As much as the art is critiqued, so too are the colors that bring the art to life. In Dark Horse’s Ei8ht, Rafael Albuquerque incorporates color into the story in a way that helps define the book, becoming part of the storytelling process itself.  Ei8ht is the start of a brand new limited series that’s a must read for brilliant and creative use of color, for the art, and for the story.

On the interior cover we see four thick horizontal colors with writing across each one. “The Past is Green”, “The Present is Purple” and so on. Those colors define the different time periods and locations within the story so caption boxes are never needed to guide the reader along. That small artistic choice gives the reader a greater sense of understanding without ever having to be specific, making me feel more engrossed in the story. We see two colors represented so far as Albuquerque’s handles both the art and coloring making Ei8ht what I think is one of the best looking books to come out this month. Albuquerque’s thin and kinetic lines excited me throughout this strong debut issue.

Ei8ht is a story dealing with time travel. Chrononaut Joshua is taking a trip back in time, but we’re not sure as to the why just yet. We come to understand that time travel has an effect on your mind and memories and as Joshua awakes after his trip from the future, he’s lost without the recollection of why or where he is. Ei8ht doesn’t give all the answers and like Joshua, I was left having to discover what’s happening as danger lurked all around. Rafael Albuquerque and co-writer Mike Johnson did a fantastic job of connecting me with the main character, giving me the sense of embarking on this journey through time and space with Joshua.

Dark Horse seems to have a hit on their hands with this new science fiction/time travel series. Not only is the art and writing top notch, but the use of color to define the overall look and structure of the book is a creative tool that’s used to perfection. For me, Ei8ht may be my favorite new series of 2015 and I can’t wait to see what comes next. Ei8ht feels original and unique as colors not only fill in the beautiful lines, but also play a foundational role in the storytelling.

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

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Divinity #1 (Valiant)

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CREDIT: Valiant

Rating: 4.5/5 – Time Is Not Absolute in Valiant’s New Sci-Fi Series.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Amy Okamoto.

In the 1960s, Russian cosmonaut Abram Adams was sent on an extended secret mission to the far-flung reaches of space. Long thought dead, he has returned, and he’s not the man he was. He’s a god. Divinity is Valiant Entertainment’s newest prestige format limited series. This sci-fi storyline is a departure from their other offerings and features the first new character in the Valiant universe with no preexisting ties to other Valiant titles or characters.

There is much to enjoy about this book. Matt Kindt has written an interesting story that incorporates revisionist history, underlying biblical themes, and the science fiction staples of space and time travel. He even includes a nod to John Carter. Like most of Kindt’s work, he does not lead readers by the hand, letting us infer meaning, using allegory and juxtaposition to enrich the text. Abram’s history is established through a series of flashbacks. The narrator seems detached but omniscient, and as we are taken through time to our present day, even that feels like a flashback. By the end of the book we discover who the narrator is and why both past and present feel like memories.  For the narrator, time is not absolute. He skips through time revisiting events in the same way that we skip through pages of a book to favorite parts or to re-familiarize ourselves with what has passed. I suspect that this will play a prominent role in the continuation of the series.

Artist Trevor Hairsine is the penciller for the series. His gritty yet intricate line style has a unique energy that keeps the book grounded. I find this look preferable over a slick, futuristic look for this storyline. Inker Ryan Winn provides solid work enhancing Hairsine’s lines. Colorist David Baron does a good job of setting mood and providing contrasts between Abram’s strict, bland life in Russia compared to the brilliance of his adventures and the lush environment he creates. The color red seems to be relevant to the book, perhaps as a nod to the red state. The combined talents of these three make for an attractive and emotive book.

Divinity #1 provides plenty of history and sets up an intriguing new character within the current Valiant universe. The source of Abram’s new powers is likely only one of many revelations. With three books left in the series, we are left with many questions to be explored in what promises to be a highly entertaining series.

Reviewed by: Amy Okamoto
(amy@comicspectrum.com
)
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Silk #1 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Silk’s Civilian Identity is Stronger than the Hero.
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

When Silk was highlighted as Bob’s Comic of the Week, I was also intrigued by the new series based on a lot of similar thoughts. She was ret-conned into Spider-Man’s origin and when she was first announced during the Original Sin event, to me it felt a bit forced. That being said, Spider-verse has done a lot not only in telling a fun and exciting story for Spider-Man and all of the interpretations of the character, but for a couple of new characters as well, including the extremely popular Spider-Gwen and now Silk.

As a teen, Cindy Moon was bitten by the same spider that bit Peter Parker and developed powers similar to Spider-Man’s. Their upbringing was quite different though as Cindy was locked in a bunker for a portion of her life to protect her from the main villains of Spider-verse, the Inheritors. Bob had mentioned that many fans have rebelled against the origin, as it could be argued that it makes Peter less unique. Depending on where you fall in that debate, Silk is still a fun first issue with an art style that’s vibrant and fun.

Writer Robbie Thompson has Cindy Moon living in New York and settling in after the the Spider-verse event. We launch right into the action as she battles Dragonclaw, a new villain first appearing here. Although the action scenes are somewhat entertaining, it’s the scenes outside of the action that make this book so enjoyable. During the fight, Silk comes off similar to Spider-Man using humorous quips and poking fun at the villain, but outside of the costume she’s more unique and has her own voice. We see flashbacks to Cindy’s time prior to being trapped in the bunker as well as her life now, and it’s these parts of the story as well as as the art that will have you coming back for a second issue.

Not being familiar with artist Stacey Lee, I was pleasantly surprised with her style and tone for this book. It’s a bit of a cartoony approach that works for the feel of the story, and Lee is able to portray Cindy Moon accurately in the different stages of her life. As a teen, Stacey makes her look younger which many artists struggle to do effectively. Lee’s style feels perfect for this series and with more time and exposure it’ll be exciting to see a new artist get more attention.

Silk is a solid start to a new series. Although Silk as a hero isn’t as compelling for me as the character Cindy Moon so far, with time I’m hoping that both will balance out. Cindy Moon is on a quest to find her parents and recover lost years of her life and that personal quest looks as though it will bleed over into her super hero life. When both parts of Silk’s story become equally strong, I think this will be a series to watch.  For now, this first issue hints at great potential that I hope to see realized.

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

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Black Hood #1 (Archie/Dark Circle)

Black Hood #1

CREDIT: Archie/Dark Circle

Rating: 5/5 – Moody Noir Fiction Kicks Off Archie Comics Dark Circle Line.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.

The Black Hood is the first series that Archie Comics is relaunching as part of their Dark Circle Comics imprint, itself a relaunch of their Red Circle Comics imprint. Like its predecessor, Dark Circle Comics will feature Archie’s superhero line, which includes classic characters that predate most contemporary superheroes. I love everything that Archie Comics has been doing recently, so I jumped on this without hesitation despite not being overly familiar with the original Black Hood or any of his subsequent incarnations. I’m going into this relaunch with a fresh outlook and no baggage for comparisons, but also with high expectations since Archie Comics has been hitting home-runs with me of late.

That Dark Circle Comics tapped writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Michael Gaydos to revive the Black Hood already scored big points for me, but also raised my level of expectation. I’ve had books disappoint because of high expectations, but I’ve also had them exceed those expectations. In the case of the Black Hood, I can definitely say it was the latter.  Right out of the gate, the Black Hood struck a decidedly darker and more mature tone from Archie’s usual offerings. The protagonist, Philadelphia police officer Gregory Hettinger, finds his life changed forever when he is wounded in the line of duty. Proclaimed a “hero” by the public, he spends the remainder of the first issue on a downward spiral toward rock bottom as he deals with the physical, psychological, and emotional trauma of what has happened to him. Duane Swierczynski does an excellent job of placing the reader squarely into Hettinger’s state of mind with a distraught and drug induced narration that sometimes teeters on paranoia and madness. There isn’t a classical hero in this series in the bright tights and cape crusading tradition, but if Hettinger works through his inner demons he can certainly be the type of hero his city needs. Swierczynski masterfully paints a picture of “the mean streets of Philadelphia” and I felt throughout the issue as if the city itself is a character in the story. It’s a city beloved by its natives, but also a city of contradiction that mirrors Hettinger’s current struggles–continually on the edge of violence and despair, but capable of producing many great things.

I fell in love with the art of Michael Gaydos during his run on Marvel’s Alias and I cannot think of a better match for this story. His artwork is the kind that grounds the source material in reality and strips away any hokey superhero vibe that would otherwise paint the story as unbelievable. There’s a grit to his work that gives the series a dark and rough noir feeling that complements Swierczynski’s writing perfectly. With the color palette of Kelly Fitzpatrick and his own heavy inks, Gaydos’s art made me feel like I was descending into Hettinger’s madness right along with him, whether I was reading the narration or not. His portrayal of the Philadelphia streets also lends to the feeling that the city is its own character and that, as the back-up article articulates, there is “something bred in the bone about [its] crime and corruption.”

The tale of the Black Hood is about as different from those set in idyllic Riverdale as one can get. Set in a city that is dangerous and unforgiving, the man destined to become the Black Hood is at best an anti-hero, though his journey towards redemption is only just beginning. Duane Swierczynski adeptly flexes his crime writer skills to present a piece of noir fiction that marks a distinctly dark turn for an Archie publication, but it’s refreshing that the publisher is taking chances to tell this kind of story. Together with the amazing art of Michael Gaydos, I think the Black Hood is a strong start for the Dark Circle Comics imprint and raises the bar for its other upcoming releases. As if I wasn’t on board already, I now await more Dark Circle comics with great anticipation.

Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
(adam@comicspectrum.com
)
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The Multiversity: Mastermen #1 (DC)

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CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – A Much Too Quick Visit to Earth-10.
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

I’ve reviewed a few of the Multiversity books and have found the majority of them to be fantastic. Grant Morrison is taking us through a tour of the DC Multiverse, visiting multiple earths while maintaining some consistent themes and characters throughout. In Multiversity: Mastermen that tour takes us to Earth-10 where we encounter Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters in their attempt to take down a nazi raised Superman. Whereas Pax Americana required some cliff notes and rereading to make sense of it all, Mastermen is about as straight forward a story as I think you can get from Grant Morrison.

Morrison opens with Adolf Hitler in a bathroom stall reading Superman comics (a scene that was all over message forums & comics news sites), right off the bat he grabs your attention. Although it’s a comedic opening, from that point on the story carries a somber tone as we see Superman take over the Earth. This is a story that could have easily been told over multiple issues and multiple arcs, but this is a quick one-issue stop on the tour and Morrison has to quickly move the the story along. Unfortunately, I think that ultimately hurt the story as I ended up wanting to see more (though maybe wanting more is a good thing if this is a jump off point to more stores on this world down the line).  I wanted to see the origins of this Earth’s Justice League and more of Superman’s upbringing. Morrison takes us from Superman as a baby, then jumps ahead by seventeen years, and later in the story again by sixty years. You get a complete story that’s reminiscent of a DC tale from the Silver Age, but I’d have loved to have seen this Earth get much more time.

When you see Jim Lee’s name on the cover, that usually means you’re about to see some special art by a master of his craft. Lee’s art in this issue is for the most part solid, but it has four different inkers and that gives an inconsistent look to the art. Some faces look rushed and panels with Superman’s Justice League look plain and unfinished. It’s an oversized issue which is a challenge for any single artist, but it left me feeling it could have been much better. That said, even a “not at his best” Jim Lee is still solid.

Story wise, Mastermen delivers a complete story that presents an interesting and exciting Earth-10. At the same time I was left wanting to see more as Morrison takes us through over seventy-five years of its history in about thirty pages leaving me feeling as though I didn’t get enough. Regrettably, much like the story the art felt rushed as well. I hope we get to revisit this world post DC’s convergence as there’s so much story left to be told, I just hope that the next time the creators get more time to tell it.

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

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Secret Identities #1 (Image)

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CREDIT: Image Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Juicy Secrets Revealed That Are Sure to be Trouble Later.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer R.C. Killian

In my own world, Jay Faerber’s name is instantly, automatically, and forever associated with Noble Causes. During my first foray into gloves-off experimentation with books to read about a decade ago, my interest in Robert Kirkman’s Invincible had someone tell me to look into Faerber’s creation, after I admitted freely that the soap opera-like arcs of character were one of the biggest draws. “It’s literally intended as a superhero soap opera,” I was told, which made me somewhat wary—usually such things, unless you’re a literal fan of soap operas, are best left as a “coincidence”. I shouldn’t have been wary, though—I was hooked almost instantly. That book is the reason that I decided to check out Secret Identities, sight unseen. Well, beyond the cover, anyway.

Faerber and co-creator Brian Joines open mid-battle on a character who is clearly waiting to enter a fray happening just off-panel, which we’re introduced to on the double splash on pages 2 & 3 (with a sprinkling of panels at the bottom to keep the story moving and the introductions a little cleaner and less forced). We meet each of the Frontliners—our book’s super team–over these two pages and the next: Our opening character Crosswind, plus Punchline, Luminary, Helot, Vesuvius, Recluse, Gaijin, and Rundown. It’s not an old-school, “Let me awkwardly insert a description of my powers as I state my name clearly and openly”, but enough of an idea is given to feel comfortable with them as superheroes.  They’re battling Perdition (who, I cannot emphasize enough, is almost unquestionably intended to look like Alan Moore, almost to the point of distraction), who has unleashed a horde of demons on Toronto. Having established the superheroic element, we get the meat of the book that inspires the title: all their secret identities.

The art of Ilias Kyriazis and the colors of Charlie Kirchoff really worked for me on this book: bright, colorful, and with appropriately melodramatic, expressive faces. Their work really bolsters the story in terms of building up the metaphorical bombs under the table in each character’s life, keeping the feeling that the dangerous secrets aren’t yet a problem, but very easily could be, with the support characters for each also comfortable—for now!—with the status quos. Because stories like this tend to be heavily predicated on big, visual revelations (there may or may not be one here!), it’s important to have an art team that can regularly re-create an appearance so that you don’t miss such things, and Kyriazis and Kirchoff seem up to the task.

This is familiar territory for Faerber, at least in light of the aforementioned Noble Causes. He and Joines do a great job of setting up a brand new team of superheroes with the same kind of gusto that book had, superheroes who we’re convincingly told have a lot of backstory, without sitting us down for the lot of it. The structure—introduce the super team, introduce a core conflict, and seed each of the characters with a secret identity that can’t end well—is just the right kind of enticing for anyone who is looking for a book to alternate between tense teasing and explosive revelations, exactly as intended.

Reviewed by: R.C. Killian
(RC@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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