Gravetrancers #1 (Black Mask Studios)

CREDIT: Black Mask Studios

Rating: 4.5/5 – A Disturbing and Memorable Debut Issue!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

I wasn’t quite sure whether I’d enjoy the first issue of Gravetrancers after the first few pages, but that quickly changed with each subsequent page, and by the end I was hooked! Gravetrancers isn’t your typical horror story, not only because of the writing, but for the art as well. Gravetrancers is written, drawn and colored by a trio of creators I’m not familiar with, but I’m glad I’ve now been introduced to their work!

The art by James Michael Whynot is gritty…real gritty. It’s a heavy line where it seems as though the pencil rarely disconnects from the page. His characters aren’t pretty, and in fact, some of them are downright ugly. Whynot has a stylized look, with his characters having irregular anatomy that lends to the book’s tone, and to their strange personalities. The colors by Dee Cunniffe are a perfect match, using typically bright colors, but muting and darkening them to fit the story. And this story is dark!

Maribel and Anthony are traveling to the grave of their father, who they have not had the best of relationships with. Their journey leads them to the Burwood Funeral Parlor and Memorial Park where they meet the Mallort Family. It’s here where the story becomes quiet scary and a bit disturbing. Maribel and Anthony aren’t prepared for what they find, and I’d hate to spoil it for any potential readers, but it isn’t pretty. It’s graphic in its violence and heavy with its drug use, and because of what happens, I’m not sure just where this story can go next and that’s a compliment to writer M. L. Miller

I really enjoyed Gravetrancers and if you’re looking for something different I’d really recommend giving this a try. The art and story may not be for everyone, but I walked away from this first issue not forgetting it, and wondering just where this story is headed. I’m definitely coming back from more, even though I may be a bit scared to!

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
) By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics


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Amazing Spider-Man: Venom Inc. Alpha (Marvel)

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 4/5 – Venom is About to Get Complicated Again.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

After years and years of the symbiote being attached to Flash Thompson and a handful of other characters, the symbiote costume recently attached itself back to Eddie Brock. This move simplified what was becoming a much more complicated landscape with Venom and venom-infused characters appearing all over the Marvel Universe. I’ve really enjoyed the new Venom series, and seeing Venom back as Eddie Brock was a much needed back to basics approach to the character. Unfortunately, it looks like with this Alpha issue of Venom Inc. the simplicity didn’t last long.

Writers Dan Slott and Mike Costa, the two writers of Amazing Spider-Man and Venom write this Alpha issue and the art by Ryan Stegman is fantastic throughout.  The issue opens up with Mania, another Venom-like character having the suit stolen from her and then quickly moving from Spider-Man who’s stopping D-list villains like the Ringer and the Tumbler, to Venom battling the Looter. This issue has a really quick pace that’s definitely entertaining, even though I didn’t necessarily agree with the direction that this story is headed. This issue ends on a cliffhanger that sets up an upcoming crossover between Amazing Spider-Man and Venom, before finishing in an Omega issue that will wrap everything up.

This is a fun first issue that both Venom and Spider-Man fans should enjoy. Although I hope after this story is over we get back to simplifying Venom, I’ll be around for this storyline as I’m currently reading both titles. I’m just hoping I enjoy the rest of the storyline, despite the direction it took at the end, as much as I did this first part.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
) By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

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Spirits of Vengeance #3 (Marvel)


CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 3.5/5 – Marvel’s Supernatural Heroes in the Middle of a War Between Hell and Heaven.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

One Marvel Legacy that caught my eye was the “Spirits of Vengeance” title with Johnny Blaze instead of the current Marvel Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes. Being a big fan of the 1990’s run of the title, I just had to pick up this legacy relaunch. Thoughts of the guest appearances and critical “family first” storyline made the old Spirits of Vengeance a much remembered event. This time around we still have familiar faces, but things seem to take a while to pick up.

After 3 issues, Spirits of Vengeance still seems to be lacking something. Johnny Blaze, Blade, Daimon Hellstrom, and his sister, Satana Hellstrom are all out to save the world from Hell and Heaven waging war on earth. Between issue 1 and 2, there seemed to have been a good amount of time lost. Not weeks but maybe days. When an gap like this happens in the Marvel Universe other comic titles will sometimes fill in the blank spaces, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here (at least I couldn’t figure out what comic, if any, filled the gap). Issue 1 was a great start to this comic, old characters that are not routinely seen appear. By issue 2 I was a little lost, but things started leveling out by issue 3.

A silver bullet was found in issue one, it’s important for some reason; by issue 2 we discovered the silver bullet is made from the silver that was paid to Judas for turning Jesus Christ over to the Romans. The reason behind the bullet is pretty good, but other than the dark humor and slightly interesting story, the comic failed to gather the intensity for me that I remember from the previous “Spirit of Vengeance” title. Writer Victor Gischler had a good basic story idea and good dialogue, but it fell short on keeping me highly interested. So far, it’s been 3 issues of building a weapon that can kill higher beings such as angels, that’s it. Now we will be supplied with several issues of people using that weapon for a heaven and hell war.

The art is by David Baldeon and his style seems to vary depending on what scenes he’s illustrating (with violent action seeming far more chaotic). It almost seemed to me as if two completely different artists were illustrating the comic, which can be a positive or negative depending on the perspective and art appreciation of the reader.

A war between heaven and hell has been brewing for a long time, Spirits of Vengeance focuses on the possibility of something that could turn the tide of that war and what kind of impact it would have. I had problems with both the writing and art and cannot imagine this becoming a top seller for Marvel, but there is enough going on to keep devoted fans of the characters on board.  If you’re a big fan of Johnny Blaze, Blade, or the Hellstrom siblings you’ve probably already checked this out.  If you’re not a pre-existing fan of these characters, you may be better off finding older comics featuring them in the back issue bins instead of starting here.

Reviewed by: Adam Brunell
) By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

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The Mighty Crusaders #1 (Dark Circle Comics)

CREDIT: Dark Circle Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – Relaunching the Crusaders…Again?
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Just how many times have the Crusaders been reintroduced or re-launched? It seems as though every few years there’s a new Crusaders book, usually published by Archie Comics, but by some other publishers as well. It all started back in the 1940s when MLJ Comics was publishing superhero comics starring the Shield, Black Hood and more. During the Silver Age, these characters were relaunched with some new characters like the Fly, and then again in the 1960s with the Mighty Comics imprint where the Crusaders as a team first appeared to compete with the Avengers and Justice League.

Since then, they were licensed by DC and published under the Impact Comics imprint in the 1990s, and again by DC in 2008. Archie Comics got them back and attempted to relaunch the characters with a digital imprint in 2011, before officially relaunching as a print series again in 2014. Got all that? I may be missing some relaunch efforts, but these characters have never really caught on, although I’ve personally enjoyed some of the mini-series Archie has been publishing with these characters these past few years like The Shield, Black Hood, and Hangman. These mini-series definitely had a more mature feel and it seemed as though that was the tone Dark Circle was going for, but surprisingly this first issue of the Mighty Crusaders doesn’t have that feel at all.

In a story by writer Ian Flynn with art by Kelsey Shannon, this issue does a really nice job of introducing new characters to the Crusaders. The Shield, Jaguar, the Comet and more are introduced through a multi-page fight with Dino Rex. Flynn gives us the origin of the characters acknowledging their long history while moving the story forward by assembling this new team. The art is bright and cartoon-like which works for the tone of this story, but really differs from the other Dark Circle series mentioned above. I would be comfortable giving this issue to my nine year old, so in a way it seems out of place with what’s come before from this imprint.  This seems to be targeted as an “All Ages” book, or perhaps is specifically targeting younger readers, but it also gives the Dark Circle imprint a schizophrenic feel when taking The Shield, Black Hood, and Hangman into account.  Maybe going back to “Red Circle” for an all ages book may have been a good idea.

If you’ve never read any comics with these characters, you may enjoy this first issue as it is fun, solidly written and has some stand out art.  But it failed to hook me and make me want to read more, especially since it feels disconnected from what I’ve read just a couple years ago from the Dark Circle imprint. So it is not that there was anything particularly wrong here, it was just a drastic change in direction from what I had come to expect from Dark Circle.  I hope this series lasts longer than it has in the past and it finds the right audience of younger readers.  Unfortunately, I won’t be back to find out.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
) By Fans who Love Comics for Fans who Love Comics


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Quarry’s War #1 (Titan)


CREDIT: Titan Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Max Collins’ Marine Sniper turned Hitman Transitions to Comics
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

Titan Comics’ ‘Hard Case Crime’ imprint continues to impress me with their latest offering, “Quarry’s War” by award-winning crime author Max Allan Collins.  Collins’ Marine sniper turned mob hitman has had a long history that I was completely unaware of until I read the backmatter in this issue.  He has starred in 13 novels, a short story, and has had one season in live action on Cinemax.  Now he’s debuting in comics.

Collins splits the narrative in this issue between Quarry staking out a target for a hit in Chicago (July 1972) and a sniper mission in Vietnam (July 1969).  The story jumps back and forth between the 2 with the Chicago plot playing out on the even numbered pages and Vietnam on the odd ones.  Personally I found the jumping back and forth annoying so after a few pages I read the Vietnam story all the way through and then jumped back and read Chicago in one go.  Quarry is an interesting character, cut from the lovable rogue cloth.  Even though he’s a paid killer, that is what he was trained to do by the US Government, so it was his chief marketable skill upon returning from the war.  The art by Szymon Kudranski is clean and clear, but also felt stiff and a bit sterile due, at least in part, to the lack of background detail in most panels.  But the star of this comic are the characters and story.  The art doesn’t get in the way of that, so it’s doing its job.

If you’re a fan of crime comics that give you an insider’s POV, this should be right up your alley.  If you have read any of the numerous Quarry novels, you might well enjoy seeing him ‘brought to life’ visually in the comic.  It’s working the reverse way for me: I was unaware of the character and I really enjoyed the story here, so I just purchased the first few novels.  I’ll be giving those a read to learn a lot more about Quarry.  That, plus I’ll be back again next month for more of this story that’s fleshing out Quarry’s early days, both his time in Vietnam and his early days of working for The Broker as a hitman for the mob.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
)   By Fans who Love Comics for Fans who Love Comics

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Super Sons Annual #1 (DC)


Rating: 5/5 – Fun with the Super-Pets!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

If you put Krypto on a cover, that’s going to be a must buy for me! I love the golden and silver age feel of comics that he invokes whenever he makes his appearance. I’m still on the hunt for a first appearance of Krypto in Adventure Comics #210, but the prices for what can be considered a reoccurring, yet more obscure Superman character are still more than I’d like to spend. Even in low grade (around CGC 3.0), prices hover around one-thousand dollars. There is something special about the character though, and Super Sons Annual number one is a great example of why!

Not only does this annual star Krypto, but it teams up all of the Super-Pets including Titus (Damian’s Great Dane, for those not following recent bat-lore), Streaky and a couple more characters I don’t want to spoil. Writer Peter Tomasi and artist Paul Pelletier tell a fun and light-heared story that embraces the fun side of these characters without it ever feeling as though it’s a kid comic. There’s someone in New York who’s kidnapping local animals and before Superboy can get to it, Krypto takes it upon himself to investigate. While the Super Sons are in this issue, they play a small role to make way for the Super Pets.

Pelletier does a really great job of handling Superboy and Robin, drawing them at the age they should be, but he does an even better job on the pets. Krypto has tons of life to him, and so do all the other animals. The inks and colors do a great job of keeping the art bright, but fitting in right alongside any other issue of Super Sons. I may be bias with my affinity towards Krypto and the Super Pets, but this is a fantastic annual for both story and art. How can you go wrong with some great creators working on the Super-Pets? The answer is you can’t. Read this issue!

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
)   By Fans who Love Comics for Fans who Love Comics

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Sleepless #1 (Image)


CREDIT: Image Comics

Rating: 5/5 – A Rich Fantasy World Waiting to Be Explored.
By ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Sleepless is a new fantasy series coming to us from writer Sarah Vaughn (co-writer on Alex+Ada and Eternal Empire) and artist Leila del Duca (artist on the recently completed series Shutter).  The world it introduces to us is full of possibilities; lore, political intrigue, and perhaps a budding romance are all touched upon in this debut issue.

The story focuses on Lady Pyppenia (called Poppy by those close to her), an illegitimate daughter of the recently deceased king.  Her Uncle (her Father’s brother) is being coronated as King and from the interactions we see throughout the issue, this puts Poppy in a bit of a tenuous position at court.  Fortunately, Poppy is guarded by the ‘Sleepless’ Knight Cyrenic.  He seems very loyal and is a fierce fighter.  What’s the full story on being ‘Sleepless’?  Other than (apparently) never sleeping, the rest of the lore behind these knights is hinted at and I’m sure more will be revealed as the story develops in future issues.  del Duca’s art is a joy throughout the issue, from lush costume design to facial expressions that seem to tell the story behind the story.  She has created a moody world of lords and ladies, castles and catacombs, with danger lurking in a furtive gaze or at the point of a knife.

I’m a sucker for comics that present characters that I immediately fall in love with and care about what happens to them.  Vaughn and del Duca have done this with Poppy and Cyrenic.  I’m hooked and I want to find out more.  I want their backstory, I want to see their story moving forward, and I want to learn more about the world they inhabit.  Sometimes a #1 issue will be vague, not give out many details, and leave me feeling unsatisfied.  That did not happen here.  What is teased is just the right amount of information for me to have a solid feeling of what is going on and set the hook to keep me coming back for more.   Sarah and Leila can count on me being there as this tale unfolds.  While not a comic that delivers “super-hero action battles”, if you’re a fan of fantasy, intrigue, and romance reserve your copy of Sleepless #1.  It will be in your Local Comic Shop on December 6th.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
)   By Fans who Love Comics for Fans who Love Comics

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