Micronauts #1 (IDW)

Micronauts

CREDIT: IDW

Rating: 4/5 – The Micronauts are Back, but Not Smaller than Ever.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

I love the Micronauts!  The series hit such a sweet spot in my childhood years and I remember those early issues from Marvel as though I just read them yesterday.  In fact, when reviewing Marvel’s original series’ first issue a couple years ago, I argued that the series could be considered the best toy inspired comic ever, although I recognize that ROM is also in contention.  Since then, there have been a couple of Micronauts series from other publishers including Image in the early 2000s and a very short stint from Devil’s Due which I never had the chance to read.  Those series never quite caught on but now IDW has acquired the license and has released their first issue.  I’m happy to say that there’s quite a bit to like in this premiere, but at the same time I do have a few concerns.

Writer Cullen Bunn puts a lot into this first issue.  We’re introduced to the team after we see what looks to be a sentient cloud of destruction ravaging an alien planet.  That team includes team leader Oz, a young female named Phenolo-Phi and some characters from the 1980s series that are able to be carried over into this new one, Acroyear and Biotron.  Bunn does a nice job of allowing the characters to be introduced to new readers without having any previous knowledge of their histories.  We’re also introduced to the iconic looking Baron Karza who gets his spotlight, but hasn’t shown his capacity for evil quite just yet.  It’s a fast moving story that I found to be quite enjoyable.

On the art side, David Baldeon provides some beautiful layouts.  I really enjoyed his slightly cartoon-like style on Web Warriors and that same style can be found here.  The opening pages with the sentient cloud were a visual treat and while the majority of the book looks great, three different finish artists working over Baldeon’s layouts gave the book some visual inconsistency.  It was a little disappointing to see that a return to a beloved franchise couldn’t get one single art team, but the art is still solid despite the differences in appearance.  Hopefully we can get one singular look in future issues but if the first issue can’t deliver it, it lessens my hopes for future issues.

My other concern is definitely personal, but one of the things I loved about the early issues of Marvel’s Micronauts was the characters interacting with the world around them, specifically their small and micro stature compared to the normal human world.  Bunn has introduced us to these characters in a large space-opera sort of way and doesn’t show their scale against the normal sized universe.  We never get to see their true size which was such a memorable part of the first series.  I’m expecting to see this addressed in future issues, but missing that hook in this first issue doesn’t give this book that distinct feel that would differentiate it from a Guardians of the Galaxy type book.  I enjoyed this first issue quite a bit and although I have my concerns about the art team inconsistency and lack of “micro” in the “nauts”, I’m confident that this book will get better and I’ll definitely be back for more.

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

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Dept. H #1 (Dark Horse)

DeptH1

CREDIT: Dark Horse

Rating: 4.5/5 – A Locked Room Murder Mystery in the Depths of the Ocean.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Matt Kindt is a prolific creator who is both a writer and an artist.  He has done both series he both writes and draws (like Mind MGMT, one of my favorite books of recent years) as well as serving solely as writer on series like Valiant’s Rai and Ninjak, and his creator owned series from Dark Horse, Past Aways, with artist Scott Kolins.  He’s back on writing and art duties with this new ongoing Dept. H, which is a play on the word depth, since it is about what is essentially a “locked room” murder mystery that takes place on a scientific research station at the bottom of the ocean.

What can I say? I love Kindt.  He is one of my favorite creators working in comics today.  I particularly like his work when he is handling both the writing and art, so this series is right up my alley.  Art appreciation is a very personalized thing.  Different people can look at the same art and one thinks it is wonderful, while the other has an intense dislike for it.  The trick is understanding that just because you don’t like a piece of art does not necessarily make it bad art.  It just means it is art you don’t like.  Kindt has a very distinctive style that some people (like me) love, while others declare it to be “bad”, which really just means they don’t like it and are not able to articulate this thought properly.  But enough preaching about what is probably my #1 pet peeve in comics fandom.  Let’s talk about the comic.

The story focuses on Mia.  Her father was the head of USEAR (Underwater Science Exploration And Research) and was on a station 7 miles down at the bottom of the ocean where he was murdered.  Why?  And by whom?  Mia is determined to find out and this first issue gives us the basic background, introduces us to the key players, and gets her down to the station.  As far as storytelling goes, Kindt is employing some interesting techniques.  1st, each issue will be 1 day in the lives of the characters.  That does not mean every day will necessarily be the very next day from the previous issue, there may be skips, but the issue itself takes place over the course of a day.  That said, Kindt is moving a bit outside of that constraint by including flashbacks to fill in background material, and this is where the superb watercolors provided by Sharlene Kindt (Matt’s wife) come into play.  The present day scenes are in full color while the flashbacks are in muted blue-tones, the effect worked really nicely for me and I’m loving the art & color in the issue.

Dept. H is a must read series for fans of Matt Kindt’s writing AND art.  If you loved Mind MGMT, you should be on board for this.  If you’re unsure, pick up a copy of the issue at your comic shop and flip through it.  Does the art appeal to you?  If so, buy it and read it, I think you’ll enjoy it.  This is definitely a series that needs fan support.  Kindt makes an appeal to fans in the back saying that the success of any series depends on people buying the book monthly.  “Waiting for the Trade” is all well and good, but if enough people do that instead of buying the series as it comes out, there won’t be any trades to wait for, the series will end due to low sales.  Kindt intends to reward monthly readers by including material every month that will not be reproduced in the collected editions; sketches, pin-ups, articles, process pieces.  If you like it, buy it monthly!  I am.

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

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Aliens: Defiance (Dark Horse)

Aliens Defiance

CREDIT: Dark Horse

Rating: 4/5 – Fresh Faces, New Story, Same Aliens Survival Trope.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

Alien Day was on Tuesday the 26th, so I found it only proper to purchase one of the Aliens comics, and what better title than the recently released “Aliens: Defiance”. I’m an Alien franchise fan, I own all the movies and several figures, but I am not one to typically dive into the comics, at least not since I was much younger. Since my local comic shop had this on the shelf, I took a shot at it.

The comic starts out like most of the movies; military and/or hibernation chambers. These are not the characters I know, and about a couple pages in I couldn’t help but think, “Someone is doing this right.” Typically it’s the same situation, abandoned ship or colony, then an Alien (Xenomorph) attacks, everyone dies except one person, a robot (Synthetic) is on the team and either kills everyone or is programmed to keep the Aliens alive for the Weyland Corporation. This was a little different, and I’m happy about that. The entire task force is Synthetics, except one person. According to the characters in the story, the task force was made of synthetics to bring an abandoned ship infested with Xenomorphs to Earth.

Writer Brian Wood brings a fresh and well written story to the Aliens franchise, but it’s still an Alien survival comic. Wood brings some rationality to his story and it’s well thought out. Weyland wants a Xenomorph so they can weaponize it, but that never seems to work out in their favor. The lead human hero is a fresh face, but devoted fans will be happy to see a Ripley cameo in the beginning of the comic. Artist Tristan Jones and Colorist Dan Jackson bring back old memories with their style of art and color. I felt as if I was picking up a comic from when I was a kid. The art feels very retro and though some people may not enjoy this, it brought good vibes to me and my history with the comics from years ago.

The comic seems fresh on first look, but in the end it was still the same Aliens story being reused over and again. An infestation breaks out and people have to fight for their lives. But it is what it is, and devoted Alien fans should check it out for something a little different and judge for themselves if it’s worth following the series.  Those bored with seeing Aliens attack and kill continuously may want to steer clear. For my own part, I probably won’t be going forward to read more as I fall into the second group.

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

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Madballs #1 (Roar Comics)

MB-01-CvrA-McGinty-FNL-34e4a

CREDIT: Roar Comics

Rating: 4/5 – An All Ages Comic Bringing Back Madballs!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Although I didn’t have many, I loved the Madballs toys when I was a kid. In the mid 1980s these rubber and foam balls capitalized on the gross including snots, scars and skulls. I had Horn Head when I was a kid which was part of the original lineup, but they also had a second series that added eight more characters and even a few extra large “Super Madballs”. In 1986 Madballs starred in their first comic series as part of Marvel’s Star Comics imprint, so the disgusting circular characters are not new to the world of comics.

Although I never read the series from Star Comics, I was pleasantly surprised to have seen the property picked up by Roar Comics, an imprint of Lion Forge Comics. Roar Comics has published digital comics like “Saved by the Bell” and “Punky Brewster” so they’re no stranger to publishing comics for a younger audience. Madballs is intentionally catering to a younger fan and in that attempt it succeeds. A more mature reader may find that the stories within are juvenile, but they’re supposed to be. Madballs shouldn’t be long form storytelling. Writer Brad McGinty tells us a few stories that touch on sports in “Bizarro Bowl”, horror in “Night of the Purple Putty Cat” and I guess you can say history in “Ye Olde-Tymer’s Game”. What’s found throughout each story is humor and plenty of it. The stories weren’t all that memorable, but I had fun with a feeling of nostalgia while reading about Screaming Meemie or Skull Face that made me smile on multiple occasions.

The art is impressive throughout and I loved the book’s multiple art styles from artists Scarecrowoven, Dan Zettwoch and Brian Smith. The book is bright and colorful and each of the Madballs is represented quite well in the art. Each of the artists have embraced the grossness, like in a panel where Screamin Meemie is licking the brain out of Bash Brain, or in the second story as Scarecrowoven draws a blob of Madballs together that form a walking and talking monster that looks like it would shine under a blacklight.

Madballs number didn’t deliver powerful or memorable storytelling, but it did succeed in making the most out of a disgustingly cool toy concept from the 1980s. If I had this book when I was younger I’d have loved it.  Although the writing didn’t connect with me that same way as an adult, I still loved it. The real test will come when I give it to my seven and four year old to try…

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

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Dark Souls #1 (Titan Comics)

DarkSouls1_Cover-D-by-Marco-Turini

CREDIT: Titan Comics

Rating: 3/5 – It’s Dark Souls, but So Far Only in Title.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

I love the Dark Souls series of games not only for their incredible difficulty, but for their equally complicated and challenging story lines. With the release of Dark Souls 3 which is supposedly the last of the series, Titan Comics has released a brand new comic series to debut along side of it. When Dark Souls the comic was first announced, I was so excited to read into the lore that’s been introduced within the games, but never fully laid out. I didn’t necessarily want to come away with all the answers, but I was hoping to see some locales or characters we’ve seen before and feel as though I was reading a comic within the Dark Souls world. Other than a couple small moments in this debut issue, I never really did.

Writer George Mann introduces us to the main character Fira and her traveling companion Aldrich. Just who they are and the background of where they came form is a mystery, but unlike the Dark Souls games, its a mystery that failed in capturing my attention. We know that Fira is chasing the Dragon Augerer through a crystal cave and we see flashbacks to her life prior to this quest, but there is still plenty of story and answers that need to be told. There’s a great cameo by a Dark Souls favorite that was a highlight of the book for me, but I kept expecting more and that more never came.

The art by Alan Quah is pretty strong, but again I feel as though it doesn’t really fit the world of Dark Souls. Quah uses plenty of different page layouts to tell the story and never duplicates a page pattern throughout. The art has a painted look to it, but a strong use of computer effects make some of these scenes stand out in a way that detracts from the atmosphere they were going for. For example, a campfire looks as though it doesn’t fit within the same setting as the surrounding crystals walls within the cave don’t reflect the colors of the flame. For the most part I enjoyed the art, but there were a few scenes like this one that seemed off.

Overall, this first issue of Dark Souls was a disappointment to me and if it wasn’t for me being such a huge fan of the series, I wouldn’t be back for a second issue. I’m going to give this series one more try, but much like the game I’m scared of what might come next.

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

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Erathune #1 (Stranger Comics)

Erathune

CREDIT: Stranger Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Dwarves and Elves and Orcs, Oh My!
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

Erathune #1 is another “I didn’t pre-order it, but picked it up when I saw it on the rack at the comic shop” book for me.  It’s one of the reasons that I try to go to a comic shop with a good selection (meaning lots of Indies in addition to the standard super-hero comics) every week.  When I’m home I go to Comics Toons’n’Toys in Tustin, CA.  When I’m on the road I try to stop in at local shops wherever I’m at.  I picked this comic up at Third Eye Comics in Annapolis, MD, which is a fabulous full-service shop with a world class selection of comics.

Back to the comic… The main character in Erathune is a Dwarf named Buxton Stonebeard.   He was banished from his Dwarven home 200 years ago, but now he has come back home.  Writers Sebastian A. Jones and Darrel May seem to be laying the groundwork for a fantasy epic here.  The main character and focus is on the dwarves, but there are light and dark elves in the story, as well as the fairly common fantasy threat of an all-out orc invasion force.  Sheldon Mitchell’s art (working off layouts by Darrell May) is solid and ably conveys the story while keeping things moving along.  Mitchell does a great job on faces, body language, and backgrounds; he really sold me on the characters and world.

Erathune is set in the fantasy world of Asunda, which is a common setting to a number of other series from Stranger Comics including Niobe, The Untamed, and Dusu.  I have not read any of the other offerings from Stranger yet, but the shared world concept is something I hope they use sparsely while they are building their audience.  The last thing I would personally want to see is a premature cross-over of titles in the first year or two before each series can establish its own voice and following.

Erathune #1 is a solid introductory issue with a good balance of action and character development.  It’s seems to be a title that is best suited for fans of the fantasy genre. If you love worlds where axes, bows and swords are state-of-the art weaponry and don’t mind the writers tossing around strange fantasy names for people, places, and things then this will be right up your alley.  For my own part, reading Tolkien in middle school, playing in a D&D campaign starting in 10th grade (1978) and staying a fan of the genre ever since puts me squarely in the demographic this kind of story is aimed at.  I’m doing my April comics pre-order this week and Erathune #2 (Diamond code APR161901) is on the list!  I’m looking forward to seeing how the Dwarf-Orc war plays out in the world of Asunda.

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

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Black Eyed Kids #1 (Aftershock)

BEK

CREDIT: Black Eyed Kids

Rating: 4/5 – Perfect Comic Series for Fans of the Horror Genre.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

While picking up my monthly comics from my local comic shop the owner made some recommendations about new comics I should try. One of those comics, Black Eyed Kids from Aftershock, had a low introductory price so I decided to give it a try.  It was the first Aftershock comic I’ve bought and after reading this issue, I’m glad to be supporting Aftershock and its line.  In suggesting Black Eyed Kids my local comic shop guy used the words “Horror comic” and “Village of the Damned”.  Hearing this, the first thing that popped into my head was 30 Days of Night by writer Steve Niles and artist Ben Templesmith. It’s really the only horror comic I’ve found any kind of satisfaction in reading; I really don’t count Marvel comics like Morbius or Blade as proper parts of the horror genre.

Since this was a #1 issue, Black Eyed Kids was the first I chose to read out of my stack of comics when I got home. The first couple of pages brought back some repressed memories of when my sister would sleep walk when she was little.  Complete chills ran down my spine as writer Joe Pruett nailed this moment for me. Artist Szymon Kudranski captures the moment in a dark and distorted way, and it’s not just this scene, but every page in this comic. My comic shop owner was right, this was like watching Village of the Damned when I was younger, but these kids aren’t psychic, they’re something else. The story kept things simple for the first couple of pages and then jumped right into the insanity. Dark figures standing in the distance, creepy kids, black eyes and death…I loved it.

Black Eyed Kids #1 was well worth the introductory $1.99 price.  It’s definitely not an all ages title and is probably best suited for fans of the horror genre. This was right up my alley since I’m a horror movie fanatic; toss me Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger or Michael Myers any day. I feel like this series might reach the level of greatness that 30 Days of Night did and I can’t wait for the next issue to be released.

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

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