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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Hi-Fi Fight Club #1 (BOOM! Studios)

HiFi1

BOOM! Studios / BOOM! Box

Rating: 4/5 – Slice of Life Intro with a Big Payoff on Last Page
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

The last page “reveal” is given away in the solicitation and every interview for this new series but that doesn’t lessen the fun of taking the ride from page 1 to 22.  Heck, it’s given away in the title of the series.  Vinyl Mayhem, the New Jersey record store that serves as the main setting for the series is a front for a teen girl fight club….but with a twist that moves it away from merely mindless mayhem.

If you’re only into action/adventure comics with costumed characters whooping the tar out of one another, this is probably not going to be your cup of tea (I can hear someone on the internet decreeing that this is “boring”).  I beg to differ.  If you’re like mean and you are enthralled by well written characters, crisp dialogue, and personal interactions that feel like you’re standing just to the side out of sight watching them unfold in real life, then this should be your jam.

This is film & TV director Carly Usdin’s first foray into comics and she does a great job.  The setting is New Jersey in 1998; since Usdin grew up in Jersey in the 90s she is seemingly following the credo of “write what you know”.  It felt genuine to me and has that one key that will always get me to come back for a second issue: I immediately took a liking to these characters.  From the lead (tomboy Chris) to the rest of the staff at Vinyl Mayhem and the store manager Irene.  The art by Nina Vakueva on pencils and Irene Flores on inks supported the story nicely.  The character design, clothes, body language, and facial expressions kept the story interesting, even with it mostly being people talking in various locations.  While they skipped background detail in a lot of panels they included enough where needed to give the story a definite feeling of “place”.  It never felt generic to me, it captured the essence of the settings.

Hi-Fi Fight Club stands out for me as unique among the 140+ comics I read each month.  There’s nothing else like it on the stands and that in and of itself is enough to get me to come back for more.  Add in the crisp art and dialogue, captivating characters, and the touch of mystery with a real possibility for a unique take on how that mystery will be investigated and solved and I was sold.  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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Inhumans: Once & Future Kings #1 (Marvel)

Inhumans-OaFK1

Rating: 4.5/5 – Great Backstory for the Inhumans Royal Family
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

The Inhumans are getting a lot of press lately, Marvel is pushing them in the comics with a lot of new series and mini-series and on TV with their own show debuting at the end of September.  It seems as though Marvel wants them to be the “new X-Men” who are not optioned to Fox.  All that aside, the attention is a good thing if we get some good comics out of it and I certainly think this new series by writer Christoper Priest with art by Phil Noto is a very good tale recounting the early years (late teens?) of Black Bolt, Maximus, and Medusa.

I cannot claim to have read every comic featuring the Inhumans, in fact I’ve been kind of actively avoiding them lately.  But when I flipped through this one on the rack at my Local Comic Shop the Phil Noto artwork lept off the page at me.  No great surprise, he is one of my favorite artists and his style is very distinctive.  He does a great job portraying the future leaders of the Inhumans as young adults.  They don’t look like adults, they don’t look like children.  Their faces, body language, and scale to adult characters all look appropriate to the age they are supposed to be.  The writing is very “Priest-like”.  By this I mean I was flipping through the book without having explicitly noted the creator names.  Noto’s art was identifiable at a glance, but I usually need to do more reading to note a writer’s particular style… Except every scene as I flipped through the book had a “title card”, like: “In Memorium” Alpha Primitive Barracks.   This is something Priest does in most (all?) of his writing and it got me to flip back to the credits to confirm his name.

Priest and Noto keep the story moving throughout the issue introducing characters and plot points in an even flow from the beginning to the end of the issue.  Priest seems to have a really good grasp of the characters “voices” (even the typically silent Black Bolt).  These are characters I have “known” for many decades and they felt right to me.  We’re even treated to a whimsical 2 page backup story featuring Lockjaw and Ben Grimm by Ryan North and Gustavo Duarte.  This issue was a winner for me.

There is seemingly a minor continuity conflict with Lockjaw, the giant teleporting dog who is a fan favorite.  The conflict is between Once & Future Kings #1 and Black Bolt #5, both of which shipped to stores on September 6th and both edited by Wil Moss.  In this comic, Lockjaw is shown to be a puppy (albeit a very large one) when Black Bolt & company are in their late teens.  In Black Bolt #5 a much larger Lockjaw is seen to be watching over an infant Black Bolt. Maybe there are multiple teleporting dogs that are all named Lockjaw; as each one passes on into dog heaven he is perhaps replaced with a cloned replacement of the same name.  This might be hinted at by them mentioning Lockjaw is an “experiment” in Black Bolt #5.  If there is only one Lockjaw, then the 2 issues contradict one another and it is something that the editor should have had fixed.

Inhumans: Once & Future Kings #1 gets a big thumbs up from me.   Priest sets up some nasty politics and court intrigue surrounding Black Bolt & Maximus’s Father (not the nicest guy) and the obligatory evil court advisor, as well as budding revolution and a moral conflict surrounding the Alpha Primitives.  A lot of story packed into a first issue that did its job in selling me on this series that I had previously passed over.  That makes it a 100% successful 1st issue for me and a series that I look forward to reading more of.

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

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Star Wars: Mace Windu #1 (Marvel)

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 3/5 – This Is NOT the Star Wars Comic I’m Looking For.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

I’m a big Star Wars fan, but of all the characters Marvel could have created a series about, Mace Windu was one of the last characters I was clamoring to read about, so this started off at a disadvantage with me. That being said, I’m still really enjoying the Star Wars line of comics and haven’t disliked anything they’ve published so far and thought this was definitely worth a try.

The story, by Matt Owen, takes place right in the middle of the Clone Wars so as of now, this isn’t a story that talks about Mace Windu’s origin or how he came to be a Jedi, which would have been interesting to me. Instead it picks up right after the Battle for Geonosis and has Mace Windu building a team of Jedi to go after a Separatist fleet that has landed on the planet Hissrich. One of the Jedi that Windu chooses is Kit Fisto, as well as two other Jedi who I’m unfamiliar with, but who may have had appearances in the cartoon.   The art by Denys Cowan never seemed to be the right fit. The pages are sparse and really failed to deliver anything but generic landscapes and backgrounds, and although Mace himself looks fine throughout this issue, I thought Cowan missed the mark with Yoda and some of the other Jedi.

Mace and his team fights with battle droids who regrettably use the same level of eye rolling humor we saw in the prequels, which really put this on rocky ground for me. The issue ended on a cliffhanger that really failed to excite me, leaving me even less interested in issue number two, which is the opposite effect a cliffhanger should be having on me as a reader. I was hoping for more, given how much I’ve enjoyed all of Marvel’s Star Wars material so far, but this looks as though it’ll be the first Star Wars series I skip.  This may be a series that resonates more with people who really love Mace Windu as a character.

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

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Darkseid Special #1 (DC Comics)

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – Darkseid Doesn’t Like It When People Escape His Prisons.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

This past month DC has been celebrating the birthday of Jack Kirby by releasing a handful of one-shots starring Kirby creations like the New Gods, OMAC and the Newsboy Legion. I’ve read all of them with mostly positive but some mixed satisfaction, but this last issue was definitely my favorite of the bunch! Written by longtime Kirby partner Mark Evanier with art by Scott Kollins, Darkseid Special tells the story of how Darkseid feels about someone escaping from his prisons, and the expectations he has of his army to get them back.

Evanier makes the smart choice to tell the story through the eyes and thoughts of the escapee, providing insight on what it’s like to live on Apokolips… and it’s not pretty. The main character is a strong one and we’re shown just how determined she is to defy the god that has made her planet the place of despair that it is. While there are a couple plot holes, it’s an entertaining story that ends with a bit of insight into the character that I loved. I also loved seeing Kollins’ art on this issue as well, definitely influenced by Kirby and there are plenty of nods to the King’s work. We see the Omega Beams, Kirby dots, and characters like Granny Goodness and Desaad.  There is also a short story about OMAC by Paul Levitz and Phil Hester as well as a couple back-up tales that are reprinted from Tales of the Unexpected and The Forever People.

This was a fitting tribute for Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday and in a one-page letter that closes the isseu, Mark Evanier provides a bit more insight into Darkseid that I really enjoyed reading.   He tells a cute story of why some fans may get confused with the pronunciation of Darkseid, and shows just what type of guy Jack really was. I think you definitely get your money’s worth with this issue and think DC saved the best for last with this issue that capped off the month long celebration of Jack’s 100th!

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

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Divinity #0 (Valiant)

CREDIT: Valiant

Rating: 4/5 – Divinity Takes a Tour of the Valiant Universe.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Divinity is one of my favorite characters at Valiant. He’s all powerful like DC’s Dr. Manhattan, able to bend and shape reality to his will, but he still has a humbleness about him that keeps his powers in check. He’s had a few limited series, each written by Matt Kindt that have focused mostly on him and the two cosmonauts he went into space with, both of whom also have tremendous powers. Now, Kindt and artist Renato Guedes have Divinity taking a tour of the Valiant universe in a zero issue that’s more about Divinity’s thoughts on each of the major characters within the universe, rather than being the first part of an all new story.

I have to first start out by talking about the visuals. Guedes’ art is beautiful. I remember Guedes’ art on Superman, but I just don’t remember it being this good! He uses a painted style that looks as though it was done with watercolors and each character that Divinity visits gets a slightly different color pallet so that each stands out on its own. The art definitely has a Clayton Crain vibe to it, but tighter. Although there are a couple pages that got a bit confusing for me with exactly what was going on within the panels, overall this is a really strong output and I’m hoping that Guedes sticks around for more adventures with Valiant.

The story in Divinity #0 is solid, but it’s more of seeing how Divinity feels about each character he’s had a run in with in the past. So, in a way, it does feel like a zero issue. It’s meant to define the character and show you what makes him tick. Divinity’s meeting with Ninjak for example not only shows what Divinity is thinking, but also does a great job of showing just how cool Ninjak is, a character who also happens to be written by Kindt. The end has a nice surprise and gives us a sneak peek at the next Divinity mini series which I’m really excited about. I’d definitely recommend this zero issue for the art alone, but Kindt does a really nice job of showing how this all powerful hero thinks and feels about all the major players within the Valiant Universe.

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

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Generations: All-New Wolverine & Wolverine #1 (Marvel)

GenerationsWolverine

Rating: 4.5/5 – Double the Berserker Rage With 2 Wolverines!
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

Keeping up with the Generations comics can be a little confusing, they are one shot comics with no real explanation as to why the events portrayed are happening, but that doesn’t mean the stories aren’t good. Take Generations: All-New Wolverine & Wolverine for instance, it delivers something that was brought up during writer Tim Seeley’s “Death of Wolverine: The Logan Legacy” when the story focused on Laura. The comic gives something that has been mentioned a lot since Wolverine died.  The same thing that the clone / daughter of Wolverine wanted so much, closure.

Writer Tom Taylor and Artist Ramon Rosanas’ start off the comic with intensity – Wolverine is fighting The Hand and he’s losing. Wolverine is wearing his famous yellow and blues, and he mentions during the fight that he’s looking for Amiko Kobayashi. This very situation appears to be during the “Once Upon a Time in Little Tokyo” series from 1996. If this is the timeframe then that was during Wolverines bandana mask days, so this moment isn’t exactly as it was back then, but some people may like the idea of the bandana look being lost in time. Besides the possible costume miscast it’s an interesting part of Wolverine’s history to revisit. Rosanas’ art is something to be proud of, making every page of this moment in time something to put in the Wolverine history books. Though the detail in fighting and characters from 1996 are pretty interesting, things get more interesting when the All-New Wolverine shows up. Unlike the previous Generations comics being released, Laura knows where she is, and she isn’t questioning why or how she got there right now. She appears in the shadows as her ‘father’ is being taken down, and it takes only seconds for her to even the odds. Though the action moments keep things interesting, it has one thing that the previous Generations titles have not had: the lack of consideration for the past.  Hulk and Jean Grey both had the attitude of keeping things as they should be and not interfering with time. Laura on the other hand doesn’t care and is taking the time to give Wolverine a lesson in life. The ending gives Laura the closure she’s needed, and though Wolverine has never been one to take good advice from anyone, he takes it from Laura with a smile and a hug.

Taylor writes dialogue like it’s coming from his soul; he’s delivering every ounce of what Wolverine fans want and remember. He is delivering the goods and Rosanas is dropping the art to keep things just as energetic. Colorist Nolan Woodard supplies deep colors to give the art a real 1996 Wolverine comic feel, making this comic thoroughly enjoyable.

The moment in time explored in this issue was a big one for Logan and with Laura’s help, while she may have not changed his fate, she did change a major part in his life. With Laura’s help this one single time of doing something different will hopefully impact Amiko Kobayashi’s life in a positive way. I doubt this event will make any impact in the ongoing All-New Wolverine series, but I hope that what Laura did for Amiko changes history in some way that is shown in the Marvel Universe in an upcoming story.

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

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