Curse Words #8 (Image)

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Rating: 4.5/5 – Magic can be Fun, Strange, or Disturbing; Sometimes all at Once.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

Step into the world of Wizord, or at least whichever world he is in at the moment. It’s been a magical ride for the past 8 issues. Wizord has done so much up to this point, good and bad, but as he aims to redeem himself for past sins he is left with numerous struggles to look forward to. Magic fuels his power and in the real world magic doesn’t just doesn’t sit around, it’s made by moments from mere mortals with hopes and dreams.

Writer Charles Soule and Artist Ryan Browne are striking gold with this original idea and things are getting stronger every issue.  They provide a rather colorful, chaotic, and interesting story of a defiant Wizard from another world who is sent to conquer our world, but decides he’d rather just hang out and make some honest money. Wizord is a powerful Wizard with a mighty staff used to cast anything he can think of, but there’s the problem of keeping his power charged. In his old world magic was a constant source found everywhere and his master was providing an endless supply of power until Wizord crossed him. In the twisted world that Wizord and Ruby Stitch come from there is a high level of spite from their former master Sizzajee.  Wizord crossed numerous lines against his old master and at this moment there is a rather disturbing contest taking place as to who will be the next of Sizzajee’s henchmen to go after Wizord and possibly Ruby Stitch. The henchmen are showing just how corrupt and twisted they are in this contest, it’s a no holds barred match to weed out the powerful from the weak. In the traditional twisted fashion of the comic, the platform for the game is something out of baseball. With Sizzajee wearing what appears to be baseball gear, and treating the rather ruthless display as simple fun and games with a killer twist. While the world that he came from is being torn apart, Wizord is back trying to making things better with our world after his numerous faults. He’s using his magic to make things better, or maybe worse, and sometimes confusing.

The series comes across playful, disgusting, and interesting all at the same time. The magic wielders have a rather disturbing but amusing method of showing off their power, whether it’s throwing acid based feces, or changing someone into a chair with their face as a seat for punishment, things never seem to be boring. Regardless of some of the rather questionable moments in the comic, the story, art and vibrant colors make Curse Words a top notch read for anyone with a desire to get into something different from any other comic they are reading, it’s a fresh idea with some questionable antics thrown in.  It won’t be for everyone but I’m loving it and I look forward to each new issue.

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

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Femme Magnifique

Femme

Rating: 5/5 – 50 Real Superheroines in Biographic Comics Stories.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.

My name is Al Sparrow and I love superheroines. If you’ve read my most recent reviews (and why haven’t you?) you’ve seen this phrase a couple times already. Once for a manga that pushed the boundaries of what a superheroine (and their costume) must endure, and a second time for a book about the various and wonderful superheroines who have graced comic pages over the past several decades. I hope you’re willing to let me use the phrase just one more time for a crowdsourced book that I recently backed that recently arrived in the mail.  Once again it covers the topic of superheroines – real life ones this time.

Femme Magnifique is a comic book anthology praising 50 women who pushed our boundaries, shook our foundations, and redefined our perceptions of who women truly are. Their stories are related by 50 writers and artists (sometimes one in the same person) who are given three pages plus a quote page introduction to tell their story. The book takes a unique approach, however, in that it asks these writers and artists to not necessarily just relate the history of these women, but also illustrate how they affected them personally. It’s one thing to have Hope Nicholson (remember her from that other book I reviewed?) do a piece about Margaret Atwood, quite another to have her show how the two of them relate to each other, and how she perceives others perceptions of the famed author. Another example: A chance meeting with a not-quite-famous-yet Laurie Anderson influenced Peter Gross’ outlook on not just art but the world around him. It’s a simple concept: Artists influence artists. People influence people. Women influence everybody. Perhaps neither entity is aware of it while it’s occurring, but this book does a wonderful job showing, not telling, how it does occur.

Many of the “usual candidates” are here. A book on highly influential women would be suspect not to include people like Ursula Le Guin, Sally Ride, or Harriet Tubman. Yet right alongside them are some personal heroes of mine I was surprised to see – Hedy Lamarr, Beth Ditto, and Rumiko Takahashi – and it’s interesting to see just how these women influenced others, even if it wasn’t the same way they influenced me. Additionally, there are a number of new…well, new to me…names and faces that I now want to learn more about. I feel Roz Kaveney, Diane di Prima, and Louise Fitzhugh can teach me a lot, and perhaps they still will if I’m willing to not let their story end with the three pages in this tome. Chances are you’ll find different women you’ve never heard of, and will be inspired to find out more. If that happens even once, the book has done its job.

It’s worth noting that Femme Magnifique employs both male and female creators to talk about how  women inspired and influenced them. To be sure, they could have adopted a “females only” policy, and that would have been fine, but I think it’s a more powerful statement to show that these women aren’t just looked up to by other women…they’re looked up to by everyone. You can even take three blank-paneled pages in the back of the book to create your own personal 51st influential female. I noticed Joan Amatrading was suspiciously absent from my volume. Hmmm…

My name is Al Sparrow and I love superheroines. I have since I was a child, and I will until I pass on from this world. Still, as long as I’m on this plane of existence, it’s comforting to know that real ones walk among us, isn’t it? They’d likely deny it if you confronted them with it, but in my mind there’s little doubt…the 50 women in Femme Magnifique are just that. Superheroines.  If you didn’t back the Kickstarter months ago, there’s not a way for you to get a copy of this wonderful book in print at this time, but fear not:  It is available digitally on Comixology if you want to read it.  The chief benefit of digital comics is that the”print run” does not sell out!

Reviewed by: Al Sparrow (al@comicspectrum.com)
https://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics for Fans who Love Comics

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The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen

Sisterhood

CREDIT: Quirk Books

Rating: 5/5 –  A Valuable Resource for Fans of Heroines – both Super and Otherwise.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.

My name is Al Sparrow and I love superheroines. I began a recent review with those same words, no less true now than they were then. Where that review covered a manga more concerned with the overly titillating aspects – pun intended – of all things super-powered and feminine, this time around we’re examining a book that covers comic book heroines throughout history. From the super-powered to the strong willed. From the spandex-clad to the fashionably (and perhaps more sensibly) dressed. From “good girls” to “bad girls” and all points in between, The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen: Awesome Female Characters from Comic Book History covers it all…okay, almost all of it all…and belongs on any comic book historian’s shelf.

Quirk Books has been knocking it out of the park lately with their examinations of all things simultaneously brilliant and bizarre regarding comic book heroes and villains of eras bygone. The League of Regrettable Superheroes and The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains (both by Jon Morris) are invaluable tomes for anyone curious about the comic book also-rans of yesteryear, or anyone who just wants to win at obscure comic book trivia. This third book, with writing chores taken on by Hope Nicholson, doesn’t follow that same formula. It may even be a mistake on my part to call it a third book in the series, as it really does stand apart from those other two books not only in content, but in its approach to said content. Superwomen takes a more serious look at the role women have played not just as comic book characters, but as comic book creators, writers, artists, inkers, colorists, letterers…look, it basically proves a point that some comic lovers always knew and that some did not know: Women have always been an important part of comic books, they just haven’t always (ever?) received the same level of acknowledgement their male peers have.

Each chapter covers a decade, with individual write-ups on those female characters who helped define that era. Nicholson does a great job not sticking with one particular type of female heroine – plucky reporters with a lot of gumption from the 40s share the pages with bikini-clad modster models from the 60s and dental floss costumed bad girls straight out of the 90s. She does not judge – although she doesn’t shy away from making her opinions known – but instead tries to paint a broad picture of the zeitgeist of a decade, and how these female characters and their creators helped to define it. Every chapter ends with the one heroine who best helped define it – Hope calls it the “Icon of the Decade” – and you can imagine who might be chosen for each one, depending on how well you know your comic book history.

A really nice inclusion is the “Essential Reading” at the end of each character’s entry. Sure, it’s easy enough to find Barbarella collected editions, but good luck trying to find Starr Flagg, The Wing, or Maureen Marine if you don’t know where to look. Fortunately, Nicholson points out places either online or in print where you can do further research – when it’s available of course. So many of the characters in this volume are sadly lost to history, with reprints unlikely. Even still, astute back-issue bin divers or collectors of vintage books will perhaps find some new treasures to hunt.

Books of this nature invite comparison and possibly complaints. After all, how scholarly can this book be when Nicholson left out xxx character from xxx book, right? When you’re done reading this book, I have little doubt you’re going to have a list of personal favorites she left out of this book. I know I had mine. And you know what? That’s great! How cool is it that these women have made enough of an impact on our lives – whether we knew it or not – that we’re coming up with our own lists of who should be considered influential. Thing is, this is Hope Nicholson’s list, and it’s a damn good one. If you love comic history, you should make plans to buy this book. If you love superheroines, you should own it already.

Reviewed by: Al Sparrow (al@comicspectrum.com)
https://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics for Fans who Love Comics

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Fu Jitsu #1 (AfterShock)

FuJitsu1

CREDIT: AfterShock Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – James Dean, an Atomic Katana, and the Enlightenment of Whataburger.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

I read a 5-page preview of Fu Jitsu #1 in AfterShock’s Dark Ark #1.  I liked that preview more than the main story, which wasn’t bad, but it was dark and downbeat while Fu Jitsu was light and fun.  Co-creators Jai Nitz (writer) and Wesley St. Claire (artist) are telling the story of a Kung Fu master born in 1897, who is just coming out of a 3-year period in sensory deprivation under the ice of Antarctica (to “forget about a girl”).  There is talk of rebirth and he has the appearance of a teenage boy, so it’s unclear if he never ages or if he periodically regenerates… or perhaps he uses his “cellular kung fu” to keep himself from aging.

The villainous Doctor Wadlow has just reacquired the Atomic Katana, a “Spear of Destiny” level mystical weapon he had his zombie blacksmiths forge for him in the atomic fire of Nagasaki at the end of World War II.  He’s going to try to use it to take over the world, but he needs to deal with the one thing that could stop him… our hero Fu Jitsu.

There is a lot going on in this issue.  A lot of backstory is only hinted at.  Our hero is 120 years old, he’s been doing this for a while.  That all this information coming at me made me want to learn more instead of being off-putting is a credit to Nitz and St. Claire. The dialogue was informative while not feeling stilted and St. Claire made even the most mundane scenes hold my visual interest.  The story kicks into high gear when James Dean (!!) shows up at the Antarctic base with every intention of taking out Fu.  The art follows suit and St. Clair brings the reader through an action sequence that takes up most of the second half of the issue with some great visuals and Nitz/St. Claire showcase some very fantastical kung fu powers that border on the mystical/super-heroic, which just added to the fun for me.

I thoroughly enjoyed Fu Jitsu from beginning to end.  It was a welcome relief to both the from reality I see on the nightly news every day, as well as to a lot of other comics that have a darker take on storytelling.  I liked the title character immediately and I want to know more about him and his world.  That’s 100% all the creative team needed to do to get me to come back for #2, but they added onto that with engaging dialogue and kinetic art that drew me into the world.  Fu Jitsu is one of my favorite new series of the past few months and I’ll definitely be back for more.

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

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Dark Ark #1 (AfterShock)

DarkArk1

CREDIT: AfterShock

Rating: 4/5 – The Flipside to Noah’s Ark…It’s Eeeevil!
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

Most people know the story of Noah’s ark (which I’ll paraphrase and I am admittedly NOT a Bible scholar).  God decided to destroy the world with a flood to destroy wickedness but tasked Noah build an ark and save two of all the natural creatures so they can ride out the flood and start the world anew.  The high concept of Dark Ark is “What if the Devil also tasked someone to build and ark and save all the unnatural creatures?”  Creatures like vampires, harpies, maticore, unicorns, dragons, etc.

That’s the story writer Cullen Bunn and artist Juan Does are telling here, the tale of the “Evil Ark” shepherded by an evil sorcerer, Shrae, and his family (as opposed to by the pious Noah).  Bunn’s story contains infighting and conflict among the evil creatures that would pretty much be in their nature and he throws in a few twists and turns along the way, including a cliffhanger mystery that caps off the issue, hopefully getting readers to come back for more.  Doe’s art is blocky and angular, a good match for the ‘evil’ portrayed, including his use of blacks.  The color palette (Doe doing his own colors, I assume as there is no colorist in the credits) is heavy on reds, greens, and purples, another good match for the ‘evil’ characters being portrayed, and certainly helping to establish the mood of the story.  Nothing about this book felt cheerful to me.

At 20 pages, Dark Ark #1 felt short, I was left at the end thinking “Is that all there is?” and flipping the page to see if I had missed a few pages of story (alas, no, but there was a 5 page preview of Fu Jitsu, out next week from AfterShock that intrigued me).  Bunn set up the premise, introduced characters, and a few potential points of conflict to play off of in future issues, but nothing that I drew a strong attachment to.  This is a problem I have with stories that focus on characters that are ostensibly the bad guys: I tend not to identify with bad guys and I personally have a hard time being drawn into a story where I can’t relate to or root for any of the characters.  For instance, one of the main characters in this issue was a Manticore named Kruul, not someone I gravitated towards, though there is potential for the evil sorcerer’s daughter Khalee to be that ‘touchpoint’ character for me, but the connection didn’t click for me in this issue, another reason that a few more pages could have been valuable.  Ultimately I’m going to give this another issue or two to see if the story and characters can connect with me.   That said, the exact point that failed to grab me (not having a good character to relate to) could be the one that is a compelling plus to another reader.

 

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

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Angelic #1 (Image)

Angelic1

CREDIT: Image Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – Flying Monkeys vs. Flying Dolphins… Need I Say More?
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

Angelic is why I love comic shops that stock new comics series “on the rack” and not just in the pull boxes of subscribers.  This comic didn’t get a “pre-order” thumbs up from me when I saw it in Previews a couple of months ago, I’m not really sure why.  But being able to take a look at it when it came out?  SOLD!  Let’s call it post-apocalyptic and we don’t yet know what happened to humans, but they’re not around in this story.  What we do have is a society of winged monkeys living in the ruins of what looks to be a human city… there is reference to ‘the mans’ as the Devil’s doers, perhaps making them the architects of the apocalypse.

Angelic is good news for fans of futuristic argot (slang/jargon made up, in this case, to show the evolution of language over the years)… these guys say stuff like “Pray your sorries to the Maker!”.  Perfect meat for people who loved reading the Nadsat dialect in Anthony Burgess’ ‘Clockwork Orange’ or the speaking pattern of the Valleypeople in the 6th storyline of David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas’.  In comics we have the futurespeak of the humans developed by Alan Moore in ‘Crossed +100’, or that used by the characters created by Brian Azzarello in ‘Spaceman’ as examples of argot.

The story in Angelic #1 follows Qora, a female monk who longs to fly with the scrap packs that defend the monks from the dolphins with jetpacks (?!?!?!?) who make sport of hunting them!  (writing that last sentence was kind of mind blowing…)  The dolphins have their own argot that is just as fun as the one used by the monks.  Back to Qora… she longs to play a role that monk society has forbidden to females.  In fact, monk society is fairly sexist with the females highest honor being to be wed to the king, subsequently to be made ‘with child’.  It’s a grim society in many ways, especially for a female monk with high aspirations.  The uplifting silver lining to the story is the character of Qora, writer Simon Spurrier makes it pretty clear that she’s a nonconformist, it not only gets her into a situation by issues end but will also serve to drive the story moving forward.  Spurrier has created a very rich and intriguing world in 25 pages, ably assisted by the enchanting art of Caspar Wijngaard whose crisp angular style packs a lot of characterization into a minimum of linework leaving a lot of nuance to the colors that he is also providing.  Wijngaard doesn’t get too fancy with page design, but varies the panels and layouts enough to keep each page visually appealing and the story moving forward.

People who read my reviews know that I’m a big fan of “different” and Angelic #1 certainly ticks that box on the checklist.  I’ve never read another comic quite like this one, it stands out on the rack if you pick it up and flip through it and in stands out in my mind; this is a series I won’t have any trouble remembering month to month, it absolutely won’t blend into anything else I’m reading.  A winged monkey fighting the oppressive mores of monk society whilst also embarking on an adventure of discovery in Spurrier & Wijngaard’s post-apocalyptic world.  I’m looking forward to whatever new discoveries Qora makes on her journeys as Angelic marches on.

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

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ADVANCE REVIEW: C.H.E.S.S. #1 (Powerverse Comics)

CHESS1 cvr

CREDIT: Powerverse Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – Classic Covert Operative Team Action!
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

If you’re a fan of the action genre that has a team of operatives banding together to fight threats that jeopardize the world, this new Kickstarter campaign is introducing a team that may be right up your alley.  This follows the tradition of teams like Checkmate and H.A.R.D. Corps but strikes out on its own, not feeling directly derivative of any of the teams that have gone before, while displaying a kinship with other similar comics.  Add in the “alphabet soup” name (Command Headquarters of Espionage and Strategic Strikes) and it will bring a smile to the face of any fan who can rattle off the meaning of any of the multiple versions of Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. acronym, or even DC’s A.R.G.U.S. or Tower Comics T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents…

Created by Alfred Paige with a plot by Paige & Alex De-Gruchy, and written by De-Gruchy, C.H.E.S.S. #1 is set in a world not that different from the one outside our window and this saves Paige & De-Gruchy from having to do a tremendous amount of world building.  The bad guy reveals his nefarious plot early on and this moves the story into team building mode.  We’re introduced to the members of the squad, and each has a codename: Heart, Pinpoint, Blowtorch, Airborne, Footpath, and the mandatory “enigmatic team member” Infrared.  Mission briefing, personality building team banter en route to engaging with the bad guys, and then the story kicks into action mode.  It’s all a bit by-the-book for this kind of story, but I’ve seen this structure many times and it works well enough here, covering the ground that any new book in a new universe must; introducing the characters, their personalities, and the point of conflict that will drive the story moving forward.  Ultimately, I found the story to be pretty good, as long as I accept one key plot point that could, for some readers, be a bit hard to swallow.  I’m kind of on the fence about it, and don’t want a spoiler in the review. It’s something that if various key individuals thought the way I do, they could easily just sidestep the entire problem that is staring them in the face, but sometimes as a reader you just need to suspend your disbelief on that crucial point that kind of bugs you, because it will cripple your enjoyment of the story if you can’t just accept it.

The art by J.C. Fabul was generally pretty good but had some story flow problems like points where it seems like an extra panel could have been used to fill in a gap between point A and B of the story with more clarity and a tendency to rotate the art also (by this I mean overuse of stuff canted at a 45 degree angle or even almost rotated full horizontal in one case) and the last couple of pages lacked the crisp lines and facial detail present in the rest of the issue, almost looking like Fabul rushed to complete those last couple of pages.  The colors by Jorge Cortes had some challenges for me as well, including lighting effect highlights that made a Japanese character with black hair appear to have light brown/blond hair in several places.

I’m glad I was given an opportunity to read the pre-release copy of C.H.E.S.S. #1.  The first issue is complete and the Kickstarter to get it printed and into the hands of fans is live now, though fans who back to get a PDF should get it before the print copy is available.  I’m a fan of this type of team comic, I liked the characters, and was left with a feeling that I’d like to get to know them better.  The art, while not the most compelling part of the comic for me, shows promise and I’ll be interested to see how it evolves in issue #2 and beyond.  If you’re a fan of covert action teams with acronym names, or good guys saving the world action comics in general, you’ll definitely want to check this one out.

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

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