Savage #1 (Valiant)

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CREDIT: Valiant

Rating: 5/5 – Great Debut for a New Dinosaur Hunter from Valiant!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

The first issue of Savage from Valiant does a whole lot right! It introduces us to a brand new character and gives us the first parts of his origin. It’s beautifully drawn by two artists that go back and forth between the present day and the not too far past, with both art styles perfect for their specific setting. It’s also as a first issue should be, perfectly accessible to a new reader not only of this particular series, but of any Valiant comic. Savage, like Britannia before it can be enjoyed all its own without knowing anything about the history or current happenings of the Valiant Universe.

Writer B. Clay Moore does a wonderful job of balancing the action and the origin of this Valiant’s version of Turok. I don’t think it’s a stretch to point out the obvious similarities between this character and the 1990s Valiant version of the licensed character. They both are somewhat savage (no pun intended) characters that are on an island full of dinosaurs. Where B. Clay Moore takes us in a different direction though is that Savage’s parents are explored just as much as Savage himself. Their relationship is complex and is just as interesting as the dangers on the island full of dinosaurs.

The art by Lewis LaRosa is stunning and he really steals the show in this first issue. It’s not just the dinosaurs that make his art so beautiful, but it’s Savage and the action sequences between the two that draw you in. The first page is probably the best page of the book, setting the tone with Savage perched upon a tree high above the jungle floor. Within the one page we see a far shot of Savage planning his moves, as well as a close up of his heavily scarred face. It’s a brilliant page that tells you so much about Savage himself, and the world he’s a part of.  Clayton Henry provides the art taking place in the past and while it’s a very clean style when compared to LaRosa’s, it still works.

Much like Valiant’s other high profile titles, this book has a heavy cardstock cover and eight pages of commentary that definitely made me feel as though I got my moneys worth! If you’ve been afraid to jump into Valiant, Savage is definitely a book that makes it easier than ever before. It stands all on its own and although I hope he eventually interacts with the rest of Valiant’s Universe, right now, his isolation from the rest is allowing him to stand out even more!

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

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Tales from the Crypt #1 (Super Genius)

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CREDIT: Super Genius

Rating: 4/5 – The Iconic EC Horror Title Returns!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

If you’ve been reading our back issue reviews, you’ll see that I definitely have a love for horror comics and anthologies. Although my sweet spot is definitely the Warren publications like Creepy and Eerie, I’m also a big fan of all the bronze age horror comics and magazines from DC, Marvel and even Skywald. All of these books owe so much of their styles and formats to the EC books from the 1950s like Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror and more. Although I’ve read most of the EC books through Gemstone’s reprints of the books years ago, I’ve lately started to collect some of these titles when I can find them at a reasonable price. So, I was definitely excited when it was announced that Super Genius, an imprint of Papercutz was bringing the title back, geared towards older readers and inspired by the wonderful material created over sixty years ago!

Papercutz acquired the license to Tales from the Crypt back in 2007, but the book then was geared more towards a younger reader since they’re known as the “#1 Kids Graphic Novel Publisher!”. If you were to look through their website of titles, you’ll find books like Barbie, Hardy Boys, Trolls and more. With this relaunch and this first issue, it’s clear that it isn’t for kids, hence the Super Genius imprint handling the publishing. The format will be familiar to EC readers as the Crypt-Keeper is back hosting a few stories, all with a somewhat similar theme, that being around greed, money, and wall street.

The first story titled “Die-Vestment” is written by Stefan Petrucha and drawn by Jolyon Yates. I really enjoyed the art in this story about a man who is looking to maintain his wealth, and his immortality by any means necessary. Yates’ art is really strong and the colors by JayJay Jackson add to the overall look with some deep rich tones.  The second story of the three by David Anthony Kraft and Onrie Kompan is maybe the most fun and creative! It’s about a human trying to live in a world that’s overrun by zombies. He’s working at a bank where the zombies don’t have any respect for him, and it has the best twist ending of the three stories, and these twists are what the Tales from the Crypt tales are known for. Once again, the art by Miran Kim is great,and is much different from the first and third. The black pages and backgrounds add to the horror, but the large lettering detracts from the art. The third story called “The Were-Wolf of Wall Street” may be the weakest of the three, but is still an entertaining read about exactly what the title suggests.

After the 3 stories presented in this debut issue are over, the back material talks about the changes to this series and how each issue will have a different editor so that each book has a different feel. I’m glad to see this historic and important title return and I hope that enough fans find this all new series, but I for one will be back for more. Well done Super Genius and thanks from bringing this book back!

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

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Death of X #4 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Death of a Key X-Men Character Finally Revealed.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

The last issue of Death of X came out, and I’m little bummed by the ending. The story, dialogue and art came out better for me the further I  got into the series, but I’m still a little bothered by the matching of these events to what I’ve read from the rest of the Inhuman and X-Men titles previously released. The story goes; Cyclops and Emma Frost decide to do something about the Terrigen clouds that are killing Mutants around the world. They search out the Mutant named “Alchemy”, and the plan is for Alchemy to change the structure of the Terrigen mist to not be harmful to Mutants or Inhumans anymore.

No one is coming to stop this genocide, because though it is bad for Mutants, it’s sacred to Inhumans, which is still a controversial subject because some Humans with the Inhuman DNA can die during Terrigenesis. Marvel is pushing for Inhumans to be the new status quo, so the people of the Marvel Universe find Inhumans to be considered a good thing, but Mutants are still an abomination. Writers Charles Soule and Jeff Lemire brought some emotion to this last issue, because the end to this series is political and controversial. It’s all about ethics, and whose side would you agree with during this altercation. Though the series feels a little out of balance since it is set 8 months in the past from the current Inhumans and X-books, it’s not a bad story and with artist Aaron Kuder throwing some fantastic art into each panel, I thought it ended up being a good 4 issue series, though it still leaves some questions to be answered.  According to Marvel through online discussion boards and early released images of the first issue for Inhumans vs. X-Men. I think some additional questions will be answered in issues to come outside of this series. It’s not a bad story, but I’m still thinking that this series should have come out many months earlier than it did.  Soule and Lemire put some good skill into this 4 part series, but if I put the good dialogue and writing aside, the underlying story that being pushed is still not setting well with me. With the story to the side, Kuder takes the gold by delivering heavy emotional panels.

Spoilers ahead……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found myself drifting more towards cheering for the Mutants, Cyclops’ way of handling the situation of the Terrigen cloud was brilliant, so brilliant there is no way he could have thought of it. It’s like the plan all along was to establish a peaceful resolution to the Terrigen cloud, and the plan works. In Cyclops’ final moments of this series, he explains that the mist won’t hurt anyone anymore, but that means that the cloud won’t be able to put anyone with Inhuman DNA into a transformation either. I had figured Cyclops would have completely destroyed the cloud, but he created a peaceful and well thought out resolution. It was sensible and rational, but I guess this still upsets the Inhumans, because they consider transformation from the Terrigen cloud to be a rite of passage. In their frustration, Black Bolt takes it upon himself to kill Cyclops for changing the cloud. Mutants are devastated by how Cyclops is killed off, especially after they thought a peaceful resolution had been created. Personally, I find Black Bolt killing Cyclops for the reasons he had a bit too much, and very cold blooded.  The Inhuman nation is committing genocide and no one cares to fix it, so the people dying take a stand and find a peaceful resolution, which results in the ones committing genocide to kill because they don’t have the upper hand any more. Any Mutant claiming to be on the side of the Inhumans after this is nothing but a coward, at this point it’s not about peace, it’s about control.

At one point, Medusa belittles Storm for allowing Magneto to run around and do the things he does. Medusa implies that if Magneto were an Inhuman villain he would have been dealt with by now. She implies that Storm is not strong enough to handle matters like this, and instead of Storm sticking up for herself she hangs her head in shame. Yet Medusa and Black Bolt have time and again allowed Maximus to run free destroying, killing and corrupting. The Inhumans couldn’t control the situation anymore, so they struck out in anger. With the Inhumans attempts to “resolve” the issue of the clouds with Mutants, they take the best and easy option (defusing the cloud to protect Mutants) as an attack on their people. There is no price of death or fighting, just a change, but the Inhumans tend to be more about controlling everything like stubborn rulers than making peace. I look at older comic books with Dr. Doom as the ruler of Latveria. Regardless of Doom ruling a nation and taking care of his people, he’s still looked at as a villain because he does villainous things. The Inhumans at this point are villains posed as heroes with manipulation of the world population via the Terrigen mist as their main purpose.

I’m glad to see the story gap being finally filled, though I’m not 100% satisfied with how everything played out in this 4 issues series. Emma Frost plays a big part in assisting Cyclops in fixing the issue, and also making him look like a civilized and rational person at the end of this series. These events alone should start a war, and I think that was the plan all along. After seeing a couple of the leaked first pages of Inhumans vs. X-Men, it will fill in a gap of what happened after Death of X, but if that is the case it just makes things look a bit more unorganized. I’m glad these events have been explained up to a point.

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

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Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – An Annual that’s Fun but not Required Reading.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

For at least the past five to ten years, super-hero annuals have unfortunately become unnecessary and quite often uneventful reading. While offering more pages, the pages that we do get are often full of guest artists, writers, and/or newcomers to the industry. These “new” and different creators will get a back story or tale that doesn’t tie into the main storyline happening in the numbered series, or is just a fun one-in-done tale meant to entertain and fill the extra pages.  While we get those extra pages, they do come at a price and in this case it’s $4.99 which is high when the stories aren’t “required” reading produced by a handful of guest creators.

Amazing Spider-Man Annual number one is all the things mentioned above. It has three different stories that are out of the current continuity in the main book, it has artists and writers that haven’t contributed to the main series, and a couple of the stories are lighthearted and fun, moving away from the serious tones of the current Clone Conspiracy storyline that has been extending its reach into other Spider-family titles like Prowler and Silk.

That said, while the annual is all these non-essential things, I still enjoyed my time reading it.  The first story of the three stars Spider-Man in Mexico City as he fights to stop a demon goddess called Izpapalotl. It’s written by Christos Gage and Humberto Ramos, which is an interesting writing team up, with really fun and cartoony art by Francisco Herrera. Herrera exaggerates his line and his facial expressions and his art is reminiscent of a Disney animated movie which made each and every page a joy to look at. While the story is a fun read, the ending looks as though it may continue on in some future story with a villain who needs more time in the spotlight.

The second story is called “Neon Dragon” and stars Cloak and Dagger. Written by James Asmus, it’s a decent story that I may have liked less because of my personal apathy towards Cloak and Dagger. While I love the characters visually, I’m not sure if I ever read a story starring the two characters that I really loved. That same feeling applies here. It’s a well told tale, but there’s nothing all that memorable and I didn’t walk away wishing I could see these characters again soon.

The last story is called “Whose Crime Is It, Anyway” and as the cover blurb states, it guest stars Wayne Brady and Jonathan Mangum who write the story as well. While I admittedly rolled my eyes when I saw Brady’s name on the cover, the story is quiet cute and clever. Spider-Man is struggling with his one-liners and material and heads to the Improv club to get his groove back. While it’s definitely not going to be considered cannon, it’s still a fun read.

Overall, while this annual isn’t a must read it’s still a fun read.  I wouldn’t recommend paying the full cover price of $4.99 for this unless you’re a Spider-Man completist.  Best bet is to watch for this one to show up in the bargain bins at your local comic shop or convention.

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

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Civil War II #7 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 3/5 – I’m Ready for This Event to be Over.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

It’s tough to review the latest issue of Marvel’s big event Civil War II as just a single issue without commenting on the series itself. Civil War II has been plagued by delays which has caused many of the current Marvel titles and brand new series to be spoiled, albeit without details, many of the big changes and outcomes that we’ve yet to see. For example, over in Infamous Iron Man we know that Dr. Doom has taken over the role of Iron Man since Tony is no longer around, we just don’t know exactly why he’s gone just yet. This seventh issue of Civil War II gives us the beginning of the explanation, but it’s an explanation that feels much too long in its set up and with mixed duties on the art, even though only David Marquez’s name is on the cover it feels as though Marvel had to make more changes to the storytelling and visual vision to get this issue out when they did.

As mentioned above, David Marquez has been the main artist on this series and while his art takes up about half of this issue, Andrea Sorrentino’s art makes up for the other half. Although Sorrentino’s art is pretty to look at, his sequence feels padded and to be honest, because of the long delays it makes me wonder if this portion of the story was written and extended specifically for Sorrentino. The series itself was originally scheduled to be 7 issues, and then expanded to an 8th, so this could be extra padding that was not in the original plan. During this portion of the story rather than “seeing” a vision of the future, Ulysses is transported to a future where he learns a key bit of information that’s crucial to this story’s conclusion. Not only did this sequence feel as though it could have been better served in one or two pages, it also took away from the more interesting part of the story, the confrontation that has been building between Carol Danvers and Tony Stark.

Unfortunately, the confrontation between Danvers and Stark feels much too short as writer Brian Michael Bendis spends too much time with Ulysses’ trip to the future and an underwhelming meeting between Captain America and Spider-Man. Ultimately, this issue fails to deliver until the final pages and while it looks as though the upcoming final issue may give us plenty of the missing details to questions we already know, I’ve lost much of the motivation to care. To me this event has gone on much too long and at $4.99 per issue, the extra issue stings just a bit more. I’m hoping for an amazing conclusion that can get me excited for the current series coming out now, and although I enjoy Sorrentino’s art, hopefully David Marquez can deliver a conclusion that’s exciting and memorable.

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

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Venom #1 (2106) (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 4/5 – Venom back into the darkness
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

For some time now the symbiote known as Venom has been attached to Flash Thompson. Throughout Flash’s time with the symbiote it has been revealed that the Symbiote species is from a planet and the symbiotes are actually civilized and not as destructive as they have been portrayed since the late 1980s. To get everyone up to speed, Flash Thompson joined the Guardians of the Galaxy and also became a Space Knight. The symbiote known as Venom found peace and healing while attached to Flash, but that is all about to change.

The last known attachment between Flash Thompson and Venom had come to an end when the Guardians of the Galaxy ended up stranded on Earth. For any further information on this, you can get a good idea of what happened from either the Civil War II or Guardians of the Galaxy comics. Flash leaves Venom in a chamber and the symbiote is no longer in his care. Somehow, Venom gets out.  How this happens is not explained in this recent issue of Venom, but he’s out and looking for a new host. Venom finds his way to Lee Price, an ex-military man that comes across as the strong silent type that just wants to make some money because of being put into bad situations of poor luck. Writer Mike Costa brings a rational dialogue to the symbiote, bringing full on conversations between the main character Lee Price and Venom.

In the past we would see Venom taking over the host and have a thirst for blood and death, until Flash Thompson cleared Venom of his negative desires and turned him into a hero. With this new story for Marvel Now, Venom is being brought back to his bad roots, but it’s not Venom who is lashing out of control. Instead of making the symbiote the parasite to take over its host, Costa has made Venom the victim. The story is dark and regardless of Venom’s recent cleansing with Flash Thompson, the new host just may be more than Venom wanted to latch onto. To bring Venom into this new environment is Artist Gerardo Sandoval, and it’s well seen throughout each panel. Sandoval brings Venom into Lee Price’s chaotic and dark environment. You can see within the first couple of panels that things aren’t going to be so clean and bright, but Sandoval is bringing Venom to a dark place and it looks fantastic.

I’m not a heavy follower of Venom, but I’m up to speed on Venom’s recent situation because I follow the Guardians of the Galaxy comics. I’m not sure if this new direction will turn out good or not, it seems that Venom is going backwards instead of forward. Venom has come a long way and has gone through a deep detox on his home planet to wipe the years of corruption from evil or psychotic hosts. It seems that Marvel has a plan to bring Venom back to his darker image once again.  With Sandoval and Costa teaming up to bring Venom back to that darker state I think things will run well.

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

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Vampire Hunter D: Message From Mars #1 (Stranger)

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CREDIT: Stranger Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – New Reader Friendly Intro to a Classic Character
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Vampire Hunter D has been around since 1983, and has been in over 30 novels as well as a couple of popular Anime films.  I’ve never experienced the character until this comic came out.  Reading a comic featuring a well established character can go a couple of ways: It can make a lot of assumptions about an existing familiarity with the character and make a new reader feel like they walked into the middle of something or it can bring new readers up to speed.  I think this comic from Stranger Comics followed the latter path as I had no problem coming up to speed as I read the comic.

Brandon Easton did a great job writing this (from an original story by Hideyuki Kikuchi).  He did not blast out an information overload or give a tired rehashing of the character’s full backstory and origin.  There is plenty that I don’t know yet, but that is not different than any first issue for a new property where things need to be introduced to the readers.  There is just enough introductory dialogue and internal monologue to get me going with what I need to know and I picked up the rest as I went along…though I was left wondering what the deal is with D’s demonic left hand (but I got a bit of background on this in the backmatter of the comic).  The art by Michael Broussard was excellent, moody and rich with a wonderful range of color complementing the art, I was particularly fond of his work on characters faces.

The art was the main draw on this for me as I initially browsed the comic, but I was then drawn in by the story and the world, particularly as presented by the creative team of Easton and Broussard.  I cannot speak to how this comic will work for people who have a previous familiarity with the Vampire Hunter D character, but it worked great for me as an introduction to the character and his world.  I appreciate the fact that Stranger added a couple of pages at the back of the comic detailing the publication history of the character as well as the basic backstory of the character.  This is a seemingly simple thing to add that a lot of comics skip.  It added a lot of value for me and I really appreciate it.  I’m definitely on board for this 5 issue series.  The next issue is due out in January, and it has been added to my pull list!

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

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