The Wild Storm #1 (DC)

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CREDIT: DC Comics

 

 Rating: 5/5 -Another Relaunch of Wildstorm that’s Off to a Great Start!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Wildstorm was one of the original studios of Image Comics when it debuted back in 1992. Under the oversight of Jim Lee the imprint saw some really phenomenal success with titles like WildC.A.T.s, Gen 13, and Stormwatch. That success didn’t last all that long after the comic market crashed in the late 1990s due to increased speculation from people who were buying but not reading comics, artificially buoying up massive print runs of art driven comics that didn’t deliver on entertaining storytelling. In 1998, Wildstorm was acquired by DC Comics and again found some brief success with the Authority and a relaunch of Stormwatch with with Warren Ellis handling the writing.

From there, Wildstorm saw its ups and downs with some highs like Joe Casey’s Wildcats and the lows of being known as an imprint of DC rife with licensed properties, especially video games. Some of its original creations were then incorporated into DC proper with New52, launching titles like Voodoo and Grifter. Those saw very short lives and now here we are again with yet another relaunch of the Wildstorm universe.  But so far, after reading this debut issue, it looks very promising!

Warren Ellis is back as writer and kicks off what will be a twenty-four issue series that can be seen on the heading of this cover. Ellis does a great job of reintroducing us to the major players that so far consist of Zealot, the Engineer, Jacob Marlowe, and more. The story is tightly scripted as it weaves in and out of each character’s reintroduction and so far, the stand out for me is the Engineer.  Not only because of Ellis’ take on her, but also because of the art from Jon Davis-Hunt.  Hunt’s drawing of the Engineer’s transformation into “superhero” in order to save Jacob Marlowe is nothing short of brilliant. Davis-Hunt draws the Engineer’s skin as it changes from flesh into bits of glass and machinery in a multi-panel grid that is jaw dropping good! He’s also able to give each and every other character a unique look that’s new, but still reminiscent of what’s come before.

The Wild Storm is an introduction of not only Wildcats, but also some characters from the Wildstorm universe that I’m now extremely excited to see. Ellis and Davis-Hunt have me caring about the Wildstorm universe again and with Ellis at the helm, this relaunch looks as though it has a strong chance at a longer life, at least as long as he stays involved.

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

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Kingpin #1 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Showing a Softer Side of the Kingpin.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Kingpin has had his fair share of ups and downs, but throughout it all he has remained one of Marvel’s most compelling and iconic villains. Most recently, we saw the brilliant interpretation of the character in Netflix’s Daredevil series. He was portrayed as a violent and ruthless villain who also wanted what’s best for Hell’s Kitchen, as well as for his love interest, Vanessa. This all new Kingpin ongoing series gives us a very similar Wilson Fisk to what we saw in that series, a violent mastermind who also happens to want and be something more.

Writer Matthew Rosenberg does a really great job throughout this first issue of balancing the two sides of the villain, weighing more in favor as someone who is trying to become better than he what he is, and what he may be most known for. The Kingpin wants to publish his biography and he attempts to court an unknown writer named Sarah Dewey who knows of the Kingpin’s past to write it.  Sarah is a great balance for the imposing Fisk not only in stature, but personality as well.

The art by Ben Torres is exceptional, and a fantastic fit for the story. There are panels that are reminiscent of Frank Miller with some heavy blacks and somewhat blocky bodies that could be found in Miller’s past Sin City work, but he’s also able to soften the characters when needed, especially in a scene where Wilson and Sarah are sharing donuts in a diner. It’s a great scene that shows this may be a different Wilson Fisk than we’ve seen in the comics before, even though by issue’s end you’ll be questioning his true motives.

There’s little to no action in this first issue as Rosenberg spends most of the time developing the personality of Kingpin’s potential biographer, while showing a softer side of Wilson Fisk as he has multiple encounters with her throughout the issue.  Overall, this first issue is a great start to what I’m hoping will be a successful and long lasting series about one of Marvel’s best villains!

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

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Justice League of America: Rebirth #1 (DC)

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CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – Batman and the B-List Heroes of DC.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Justice League of America: Rebirth number one is the typical Rebirth book, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it truly is a book that sets up what’s to come. There has been plenty of focus around the Justice League lately with a stand alone series, a crossover with the Suicide Squad and an upcoming movie, so DC is striking while the iron (and fan interest) is hot and is releasing another ongoing series. This time though it’s focusing on a team that doesn’t include DC’s trinity, or even some of it’s most popular heroes. It’s Batman leading a team of B-listers that could potentially provide for some unique stories.

As this issue opens, it’s Killer Frost who gets the spotlight as Batman’s first recruit to join the new team. It’s an odd pick and will require some previous reading to understand why, but it sets the tone for what will end up being an odd team. From there, Killer Frost goes on to recruit Black Canary and on the story goes with each subsequent team member recruiting the next. While it’s somewhat exciting to see each team member get chosen, the rapid pace by which the story does so doesn’t allow for a whole lot of depth or character development. Writer Steve Orlando gets us through the selection process of the seven new team members quickly over the course of this rebirth issue and while I appreciate it not being drawn out, some characters like the Ray and Vixen could have had a little bit more time to shine.

What I loved about this issue was the art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado. I’ve said it before, but Reis continues to be one of my favorite artists working today and this is another solid example of why. He’s able to handle a large cast and it’s great to see his drawing of the Ray and Lobo in particular (and thank goodness it’s the classic Lobo!). Reis uses plenty of different angles to capture the heroes and the action and it’s definitely the highlight of the book for me.

If you like “getting the gang together” types of stories, then you’ll enjoy Justice League of America: Rebirth, but be aware that this really isn’t required reading for the story ahead, aside from assembling the team line-up nothing vital; happens here. While I didn’t love this first issue for its story, the art and the potential of future stories with this team is what will have me coming back for more!

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

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The Dregs #1 (Black Mask)

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CREDIT: Black Mask

Rating: 4/5 – When Gentrification, Mystery, and Horror Collide.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

The Dregs is not for the squeamish.  The opening sequence has a man being butchered and made into sausage which is ultimately served at a restaurant filled with trendy diners.  That said, the story that Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler are telling here is a powerful one.

The growth of a city (in this case Vancouver, British Columbia) has that point where it moves into decline and there is a run down urban area with homeless people, drugs, crime, etc.   As has happened in many cities, developers realize there is money to be made in revitalizing those urban areas and little thought is given to the displacement of the “residents” who manage to eke out a living amongst the squalor.  The story follows Arnold, a resident of the streets, who is trying to find out what happened to his missing pal Manny.  There are many players in the story; Arnold and the other denizens of The Dregs, the developers and politicians, the cops, drug dealers, and other more mysterious people.  The art, by Eric Zawadzki, is well suited to the subject matter and not at all “super-hero standard”.  Zawadzki was either purposely or subconsciously modeling one of the female characters Arnold interacts with on Gillian Anderson, but in general the art did a great job of setting the stage and telling the story.

The Dregs is a great example of what Black Mask does best: edgy comics with a touch of a social awareness message mixed in to add flavor to the story.  I found the underlying mystery to be gripping, particularly after the gut-punch of the horrific opening sequence.  Ultimately I was rooting for the protagonist in his search for his friend and against the greedy politicians and businessmen who were in it to line their own pockets with little regard for the well-being of others.  If you’d like to try a comic that plays well outside the realm of the capes and cowls, The Dregs is worth a look.

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

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Red Sonja (2017) #1 (Dynamite)

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CREDIT: Dynamite

Rating: 4/5 – Sonja Is Displaced in time.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

I was on board with the last volume when writer Marguerite Bennett and Artist Aneke brought an older and wiser red Sonja to the table. With a much more covered and boldly dressed Sonja, I couldn’t help but take the plunge and reap the benefits of what would be a short lived but amazing run with Bennett and Aneke’s take of a classic heroine. With a little time to let the dust settle Red Sonja is back, wearing her trademark bikini made of scaled metal at what appears to be a possible earlier time in Sonja’s life. Readers are brought a new adventure that brings Sonja into a realm that she has not traveled to before (at least in the Dynamite incarnation of the character), the future.

Writer Amy Chu and Artist Carlos Gomez are a pair of talented creators that have been able to keep me going on this series after Bennett and Aneke’s run. After the 25 cent #0 issue was released I was skeptical; I wasn’t too into the younger bikini’d Sonja in the#0 issue, and honestly I was not positive I would continue. I don’t mind change, but abrupt unexplained changes are tedious to me.  But I gave it one more issue and Lo and behold, when I grabbed issue #1 of this series, I thought it was fantastic. Not only is the future, (New York City) unknown to her, but she is considered a relic there. Constant bubbles of conversation from New Yorkers put Sonja in a frustrated and confusing state because they speak in a language unknown to her, but Amy Chu provides a rather interesting and humorous translation. These new world characters constantly make jokes and comments about how underdressed Sonja is, and how her constant need to be unclothed is a bit too much. It’s a great conversational topic to be brought into the story and added volumes to the story for me. It seems to be a way to appeal to the hardcore Red Sonja fans, but also appease new readers that may find our heroine’s mode of dress a bit too revealing.

Issue #2 continues the great story, but things seem to have gone a little astray. The beginning kept things interesting, but from the middle of the comic to the end was just down time of Sonja removing all her clothes and with the narrative jumping all over between panels. By the end of the issue I had to double check if I was missing a page, because the panels jumped over major gaps in time that could have been explained with more clarity. One scene goes from a moment in an apartment, straight to the character in the apartment being chased in the street. The art alone is phenomenal; Gomez delivers captivating panels that are crisp, clean, and captivating. I also have to give a shout out to colorist Mohan for supplying great color tones to the characters to keep things interesting and a bit more concealed.

Red Sonja is a longtime character that has been gone through different dynamics and concepts over the decades. The thing with Sonja is that she always seems to come back to her roots, or at least the artistic direction is to bring back the metal bikini. I find nothing wrong with that, as long as the story can make everything work together. Chu and Gomez bring the story and art to the table that does just that.  The series has an interesting premise with the New York City “fish out of water” setting.  Hopefully the minor inconsistencies in story flow that bothered me in this issue will smooth out moving forward.

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

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Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern #1 (BOOM!/DC)

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CREDIT: BOOM! Studios / DC Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Franchise Mash-Up with a Cool Hook.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Franchise crossover have been a staple of comics for years.  There seems to be a tendency to cross over Green Lantern, Planet of the Apes, Predator, Star Trek and Tarzan, among other franchises.  This has given us Planet of the Apes/Star Trek; Star Trek/Green Lantern; Star Trek/Planet of the Apes; Tarzan/Predator; Tarzan/Planet of the Apes…so it was about time to see Planet of the Apes and Green Lantern get together.  I expect to see both of these franchises going up against the Predators before long!

What makes or break one of these franchise mash-ups is the story hook that brings them together and then the concept that drives the story forward.  PotA/GL had both of these, in a story by Robbie Thompson (Silk, Doctor Strange and the Sorcerors Supreme) and written by Justin Jordan (Luther Strode, Spread).  In this story a mysterious hooded figure with various Lanterns of the different spectral Corps creates a ring that shifts between the colors, for an as yet unknown reason, it crashes down onto the Planet of the Apes where it is found by Cornelius, who (as you might have guessed) ends up putting it on and becomes a Lantern.  I can’t go into a whole lot more without giving away the story, but fans of the PotA franchise will get to see Cornelius, Zira, Nova, and the bomb-worshiping mutants from Beneath the Planet of the Apes.  On the Green Lantern side, we get a LOT of popular characters including Hal, Guy, Arisia, Kilowog, the Guardians, Sinestro, and many more for sharp-eyed fans to pick out in the various scenes.  The art, by Barnaby Bagenda,exhibits solid visual storytelling and some nice page designs, particularly a dimension breaching energy burst from the ring as Cornelius dons it.  That said, it felt a bit too hard edged to me, with very sparse backgrounds.

These kinds of crossovers are targeted at fans of one (or even better BOTH) of the franchises involved.  In this first issue the Green Lantern mythos seemed to have much more of a role.  People not familiar with the GL Corps, especially the various colored Corps from the last decade or so, would likely be a bit lost.  Similarly, having at least a basic knowledge of the original Planet of the Apes movie and its first sequel is really helpful.  Fortunately I’m versed in both of these things so was really in the “marketing sweet spot” for this series.  As a result I really enjoyed the story and I’ll be back for the remainder of the series.  If you’re like me and are a fan of the two franchises you should definitely be checking out this  comic.

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

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Blood Blister #1 (AfterShock)

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CREDIT: AfterShock

Rating: 4.5/5 – Blood Blister Boils!
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

This week AfterShock released another new title in its arsenal of heavy hitters, and it’s no surprise that the comic comes with a shock value. The cover alone has a rather disfigured man that appears to be two sides to a coin, one side is a well-dressed business man, and the other is a disfigured dark figure with what appears to be heat or mist vapors coming off of him. After reading the first issue, it was easier to understand the cover art.

“What a dark and interesting tale of darkness and deceit.” This came to my mind when reading the first issue of Blood Blister. It’s not a surprise after Aftershock’s previous output that Blood Blister has a standard “Shock and Awe” to it. Writer Phil Hester and Artist Tony Harris are working on this fine piece of comics artistry, leaving no stone unturned when it comes to steady and heavy religious scare tactics.  This comic read like a mix of the movies “The Devil’s Advocate” and “A Christmas Carol”.  It supplies a rather controversial main character; a lawyer on the wrong side of right. Brandon Hull makes his living by tricking and using his knowledge of the law to better serve those that don’t deserve safety. With his soul plagued by the sins he has committed, Brandon must endure physical and emotional backlash from the poor choices he has made. He may seem tough as nails but his ability to withstand dark forces may prove to be insufficient. Hester supplies realistic dialogue to the characters throughout the comic, leaving no room for innocence. While Harris drops controversial and grotesque images to ensure the point gets across that this comic is not holding back at how ugly life or the people in it are. If this was a movie it would have a mature rating, so make sure you have your grownup pants on, because this is not something you hand to a child, or anyone with a weak stomach.

Blood Blister’s main character is a pompous jerk that lines his pockets with money from his dealings with villainous people. He’s a bad father and all around bad person, his morals are shot, and his respect for others is nonexistent.  All possible sympathetic consideration for him is weeded out in the beginning of the comic and if that doesn’t make you loathe him, throughout the comic he is continuously unlikeable.  He makes a fantastic character to watch and enjoy being tormented by demons.  This comic is definitely providing an interesting story, with art that is emotionally heavy and can even be nauseating at times…  I can’t wait to read the next one to see how Brandon holds up after the ending of the first issue.

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

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