Bloodborne #1 (Titan Comics)

CREDIT: Titan Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – Comics Set in the Lovecraft-Inspired World of Bloodborne.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

I’m a big fan of the FromSoftware games Dark Souls and Bloodborne. Of the two, Bloodborne is my preferred title as I love the setting, monsters and H.P. Lovecraft inspired world and themes. Unfortunately, the games don’t give the player much in terms of a cohesive story. Both game worlds are purposefully vague, forcing the player to try his or her best to piece the story together by gathering items and reading their descriptions in the hopes of tying the narrative, gameplay scenes, and action together. Although I didn’t expect a clear and simple story with Bloodborne number one, I was hoping writer Ales Kot, a huge Bloodborne fan, would tell a more traditional story set within the Bloodborne Universe.

So far, this first issue hovers somewhere in between the two. While the story flows well, there’s still plenty of questions as to who some of the characters are, and how they relate to one another. This issue opens up with the familiar Hunter from the game walking through Yharnam, slaughtering monsters as he goes. He stops once he sees a small child, a pale blood. From there, more familiar faces from the game show up until the end, where I was left with even more questions, but slightly more confident than I was during my playing of the game that we may eventually get some clearer answers.

I really enjoyed the art by Piotr Kowalski, but unfortunately his panels didn’t always flow from one to another. There were a few times where the action felt as though it was missing some panels, or Kowalski missed the opportunity to lay his pages out differently to tell a clearer story. His full page splashes are wonderful though and the monsters are whet you’d expect from the game. I didn’t enjoy Titan’s attempt at the Dark Souls comic and dropped it after two issues, but I enjoyed this first issue of Bloodborne much more and plan to be back for at least a few more issues.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
http://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

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The Brave and the Bold #1 (DC)

CREDIT: DC

Rating: 4.5/5 – Batman and Wonder Woman are Braver and Bolder!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas

It’s funny, although Liam Sharp has been in the comic industry for some time, only recently have I come to love his work. Sharp started drawing comics back in the 1980s with 2000AD and jumped around, working with all the major publishers and may be best known for a work I haven’t read, which is Vertigo’s Testament. Although I have read some of his Gears of War issues, and his Lord Havok and the Extremists books, they never stood out to me. It wasn’t until his recent Wonder Woman run with Greg Rucka that I really took notice.

Sharp’s art is beautiful and his pencils on a character like Wonder Woman really shine so I was ecstatic when DC not only announced that Sharp would be returning to Wonder Woman, but that he was also bringing back the Brave and the Bold! Brave and the Bold is a title I hold near and dear to my heart, and although it’s never had that long of runs since it’s heyday back in the Silver and Bronze age, those back issue bring fond memories.

This Brave and the Bold is a mini-series lasting just six issues starring Wonder Woman and Batman. Not only does Sharp provide the art, but he’s handling the writing duties as well. In this first issue the land of the faeries is full of unrest and conflict and the god Cernunnos needs the help of Wonder Woman to bring back peace and solve a murder. Meanwhile, Batman has noticed that something isn’t right within Gotham City that will for sure, although it hasn’t quite yet, tie into Wonder Woman’s adventure. The story has a few stutters as Sharp provides a bit too much exposition before getting to the action, but it does the job of getting you to want to come back for what gets set up by issue’s end.

It’s the art though, even if there weren’t any words, that would still make me come back. From the cover to the final page, Brave and the Bold is stunning. Sharp jumps between the fantasy and real world and although both look great, its the world of the faeries where Sharp’s pencils come to life. Castles, ruins, goblins and more fill the pages and the colors by Romulo Fajardo Jr. are a perfect match. I’ll also add that I love the logo design, incorporating the Batman and Wonder Woman symbols within the title. It’s is a nice touch that makes the cover stand out even more! Welcome back Brave and the Bold!

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
http://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

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Thrawn #1 (Marvel)

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 4/5 – Thrawn’s Initiation into the Empire, From the 2017 Novel.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Although I read and loved the Timothy Zahn helmed Thrawn trilogy that was published in 1992, I have not read the Thrawn novel that defines his origin that was released last year. Thankfully, Marvel has decided to publish a mini-series that will adapt the novel over the course of six issues. Writer Jody Houser will be adapting this story, who also happened to adapt Rogue One in comics form, so she’s definitely familiar with not only the material, but the format of adaptations as well. That experience pays off as I really enjoyed this first issue.

The story opens up with three pages that use a nine-panel grid to show Thrawn silently taking out a group of imperial soldiers on a hostile planet. From there, Thrawn makes himself known to the Empire and cunningly and openly works his way up the ranks. In this first issue I definitely got the sense that there was probably much more time and details dedicated to Thrawn’s initiation into the Empire, but Houser still managed to make it entertaining while not seeming as though the story was rushed. Throughout this first issue Houser balances the material to fit within the confines of a first part of a six-issue series.

The art by Luke Ross is a great choice and I almost wished he would have used more of the nine-panel grid throughout as it was such an effective opening. Instead, he uses a wide variety of panel layouts and page designs so that the story flow never gets stale or monotonous. My only complaint is with the colors. At times it goes from a dot pattern color shade, to smooth, and back again. It gives some pages an inconsistent feel, although never enough where it lessened my enjoyment of the total package. Although this is an adaptation of a novel, if you haven’t read it in book form, I’d definitely suggest giving this issue a try. I’m certainly glad I did.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
http://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

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Young Monsters in Love #1 (DC)

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Great Creators, but a Hefty Cover Price.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Young Monsters in Love is a collection of short stories by a bunch of talented creators. Kelley Jones, Bryan Hitch, Paul Dini, Frazer Irving, Steve Orlando, and many more tell ten stories starring a wide assortment of characters from Batman and Superman (of course) to some surprising stars like I, Vampire, Etrigan the Demon, and even the Creature Commandos. As strong as some stories are, there’s more than a few that just missed the mark for me, but lets start with the good!

My favorite tale in this issue stars Swamp Thing and is written by Mark Russell and drawn by Frazer Irving. Swamp Thing has found love, but it doesn’t work out the way he planned and a tragedy occurs that makes Swamp Thing enact a dark yet clever revenge. Irving’s art is perfect for the story and the setting in Louisiana provides an eerie backdrop for Swamp Thing to fade into.

A close second is the first story of the book starring Man-Bat and Batman. Kyle Higgins and Kelley Jones team to tell a story about Kirk Langstrom struggling to free himself of the Man-Bat curse. Jones’ art stands out with its dark colors and his interpretation of Man-Bat is frightening! My only complaint with Jones’ art is I wish he would have also told a story around his cover art! I would have loved to have seen Frankenstein going up against Swamp Thing, but I’m glad we got the story we did.

Rounding out my favorites is a story titled “Be My Valentine” by Paul Dini and Guillem March. Deadman inhabits a young boy who’s being bullied at school. Instead of this being a simple revenge tale, Dini adds an extra layer to the story that makes it even more memorable.

I don’t want to spend too much time on the negatives, but some of the misses for me were the stories starring I, Vampire, Raven, and Etrigan. What you’ll have to decide though is if all these stories are worth the $10 price tag. For me, I wouldn’t pay cover price for this issue at a shop, my copy was heavily discounted because I ordered it from DCBS. Although I enjoyed more than half the tales in this book, I still don’t think the stories I loved were worth the hefty price tag.  This is a common trait of anthologies, I don’t know about your experience with them but I rarely like all the stories so I have to factor the cover price against the content that I enjoyed.  Because of that, I can only recommend this if you can find it for less than cover price at some point.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
http://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

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Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 (DC)

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 5/5 – A Wonderful Tribute to Swamp Thing and Creator Len Wein.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

It could be argued that artist Jason Fabok is DC’s go to artist. He’s been the artist on DC’s flagship title Justice League along with Geoff Johns and had a popular run on Batman in Detective Comics. So when it was announced that he’d be doing a Swamp Thing one-shot that pays tribute to the character’s creator Len Wein, I couldn’t be happier. Not only that, but again the argument could be made that Tom King is DC’s hottest writer so this a fantastic combination on a character that in my opinion, deserves a creative duo of this caliber. It feels great to say that they absolutely deliver in both categories, and Len Wein would be proud!

Each page is a wonderful sight and Fabok uses all sorts of creative panel layouts to tell a captivating tale that has Swamp Thing protecting a young boy from the harshness of winter. Swamp Thing is out of his element as the freezing temperatures and snow have disconnected him from the Green. Fabok does a wonderful job of capturing the Swamp Thing’s diminishing form as he goes from a healthy and lush green at the beginning, to a worn and withered brown towards the end. It’s clear that Fabok has a love for the character and although he does not directly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with classic Swamp Thing artists like Bernie Wrightson or John Totleben, I loved his take on the character.

Not only are we treated to Fabok’s art on the main Tom King story, we also get a second story that was the planned first issue of the continuation of Len Wein and Kelley Jones’ Swamp Thing mini series from last year that was started prior to Wein’s unfortunate passing away. There is a foreword to the story that explains why there’s no dialogue and I completely understand why it was done this way, at the same time, I think the story suffers for it. Jones’ art is of course beautiful and haunting and he has such a creative way of detailing Swamp Thing’s powers and although the story didn’t connect with me, I’m glad that DC chose to publish it. Overall, this is a must read and a fitting tribute to Wein and makes me wish for a Swamp Thing ongoing. Read this book!

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
http://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

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Incredible Hulk #712 (Marvel)

Incredible_Hulk712

CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – Thor: Ragnarok’s Hulk v. Thor Battle Makes its Way (in Spirit) to the Comics.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

Amadeus Cho had decided to make a trip to Planet Hulk, thinking it was the best option for himself because he is questioning if he truly can control his meaner greener side, The Hulk. His trip lands him on the Red Planet and straight into the shadow of Bruce Banner’s Hulk. One side of the people want to praise him like he is the Green Scar coming home, but the other side wants him dead. Regardless of what Bruce Banner did on his time on the planet, or even what Skaar had done, everything seems to come full circle. There is a new Red Warlord that decides whether you live or die, the people wanting an ordinary life, and a hero / monster to save them all.

Amadeus Cho has been fighting as the people’s champion of Sakaar for several rounds now, if he makes it through 5 rounds the people he defends can go free. The Warlord testing Amadeus is trying everything he can to stop the green giant from succeeding. Lickspit, one of the Warlord’s obedient servants is calling down beings from the whole in the sky to battle Amadeus. After numerous attempts, Lickspit has found a worthy opponent, The Unworthy Thor. It’s the matchup we saw in the movie Thor: Ragnarok, but of course, this is set in comic book continuity so is not really the same thing except in spirit.

Writer Greg Pak pulls readers in with an action packed drama, on one hand Amadeus is fighting the Hulk within, but on Sakaar there are monsters everywhere to be fought. Dramatically there are lives on the line, but every issue is packed with new foes in the gladiator arena. Pak brings readers back to Sakaar and is letting us know isn’t the place to get better. War is the life of Sakaar and Amadeus is put right into the type of place he probably didn’t want to be in. When the fight gets heavy, Amadeus must make a choice to either stay safe and sane, or let his Hulk side take the wheel. Though the battle should come out as a big bold battle for the ages, it feels short lived. Odinson is fighting against his will, he’s being controlled, and regardless of how hard he tries to stop swinging his axe, he does’t seem to have the strength and pull away. The battle is more of a mental test for Amadeus, he doesn’t want to fight his friend, but if he doesn’t then not only will the people he is defending die, but he will die as well. Artist Greg Land toughens up the pages with some fierce art. Each panel, each swing of a fist or blade, is strong, Land kept me moving from page to page like I was watching a boxing match for the ages.

The Return to Planet Hulk story arc is not a long one, but I wish it was longer. Some of the comics feel rushed, but this story could keep going just as long as the original Planet Hulk story. The Hulk side of Amadeus might go in the direction that Bruce had gone by becoming the new ruler, but Amadeus most likely wouldn’t let that happen. Amadeus seems to be in better control of his Hulk self than Bruce was, and I still can’t tell which direction everything will go in the end. A great mystery is always appreciated, but Marvel has already teased the possibilities of a World War Hulk II story.  I’m loving Hulk right now, so I’m on board for whatever storyline follows this one.

Reviewed by: Adam Brunell
(adamb@comicspectrum.com
)
http://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

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X-Men: Grand Design #1-2 (Marvel)

X-Men Grand Design CR: Marvel

CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 5/5 – Ed Piskor Superbly Summarizes X-Men up to GS #1
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

I try not to toss around words like “masterpiece” lightly, but if this guided tour to the history of the X-Men by Ed Piskor isn’t one, I don’t know what is.  Piskor is the principle illustrated historian working in comics today.  Like in his Eisner Award winning “Hip Hop Family Tree” for Fantagraphics, Piskor seems to have an uncanny ability to assimilate key points in time and weave them together into an entertaining narrative that both entertains and educates the reader.

The first two issues of X-Men Grand Design weave together events from the earliest days of mutants in the Marvel Universe up through the relaunch/recomposition of the team in Giant-Size X-Men #1. Piskor includes essential material that was only revealed through flashbacks sometimes decades later or in other series, but placing it into its proper chronological context in the pages of these comics.  Using his “faux browned pulp paper” background color these comics felt as though I was stepping back into the pages of old comics from the 60s and 70s.  Hopefully as he continues with the series up into the current day, he’ll switch to a white background as he covers events around the time they started using the high quality paper stock that does not age like this over time.  Other nice touches are acknowledgement pages listing the names of all the artists and writers who worked on comics with events that made it into the issues, as well as a bibliography with specific references to what issues the events depicted originally occurred in.

X-Men Grand Design covers “my X-Men”, the team that existed when I first started reading comics in the early 1970s.  Seeing the complete story of the X-Men told in chronological order was an absolute treat.  My fondest hope is that Piskor will be able to make me comprehend the X-Men’s history through the 1990s and 2000s where I drifted away from and lost track of their continuity as it became increasingly complicated and arcane.  I am eagerly looking forward to more issues of this series, though I understand that they are labor intensive and it will be quite a while before the next issue is available.  Whenever it does come out, I’ll be there buying it!

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
http://comicspectrum.com/   By Fans who Love Comics for Fans who Love Comics

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