Elephantmen 2261: The Death of Shorty #1 (comiXology)

EM 2261

CREDIT: Comixology

Rating: 5/5 – Elephantmen Lives On in Digital Comics Format!
By ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

I was really sad when Richard Starkings ended the run of Elephantmen at Image comics, it was always one of my favorite series (for a previous review of the series, look here).  Imagine my glee when I saw that he was continuing to tell stories in his Elephantmen Universe, but now as a direct-to-digital comic via “comixology Originals”.  I’m not particularly enthused about reading digital comics as a rule, but when that’s the only option and the comic is something I think I’m really going to like, then I drag myself out of my reading spot on the couch and sit in front of the computer screen.

This is going to be a 5 issue series. On comixology each issue is $2.99, and it looks as though the collection, once it is complete, will be $6.99.  Fortunately, due to their relationship (aka “being owned by) Amazon, this is also available on Amazon’s “Prime Reading” for Prime members (which I am) for free, so I was able to read this issue at no cost.

Issue #1 was a nice companion story to the existing Elephantmen comics, but I think it can be read and enjoyed on its own.  If you have read the existing comics it adds some new insight about the war and we get to see Yvette again, which I enjoyed.  And lest I forget, the art by Axel Medellin was superb, as always. Great panel-to-panel storytelling and really emotive characters whose eyes communicated what they were feeling. Not easy and certainly not something that has been mastered by every comic book artist.

I went in expecting a story purely set in the war time, but Starkings masterfully segued to current time and set this up as a first installment that read satisfyingly on its own but also left me wanting to know “what happens next?”. Everything an installment of a comic should be.  I’ll be back for part 2!  If I had to pay for this, I’d personally wait and read the $6.99 collection.  There is no “having the 1st printing” thing to massage my collector’s mentality when dealing with a digital comic.  If you are an Amazon Prime member, this is  a no brainer.  Go hit your “Prime Reading” and search for “Elephantmen 2261”.

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

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Batman: White Knight #8 (DC)

BatmanWK

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 5/5 – White Knight or Dark Knight?
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

We are now at the end of what could be one of my favorite Batman stories out there. Over time there have been many different variations and alternate universe stories around the DC Universe. In a sea of Batman titles, Batman: White Knight rises to the top. In only 8 issues readers are provided with action, drama, comedy and maybe something disturbing to help you not sleep at night.

The concept of this story is as follows: during a heated battle between the Joker and Batman in a medication factory, Batman ends up losing his cool and starts shoving random pills down The Joker’s throat. These pills seem to be the cure to The Joker’s mental disorder, and revert him back to his less insane self, “Jack Napier”. Jack goes on to legally rip apart Gotham and start a task force to bring Batman in, finding all the dirty little secrets hidden away, and proceeds to expose them…well, almost all of them.  The name drop of Jack Napier for Joker pays homage to Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie where Jack Nicholson portrayed the disturbed comical criminal. Murphy shows his true Batman fanboy background throughout the series.

Writer/artist Sean Murphy, along with colorist Matt Hollingsworth, gives us this side story of an angrier and out of control Batman. Things go like normal, Batman comes in heavy trying to keep the public safe, everything reads like a normal day in the life of Bruce Wayne, but something is different. Murphy brings rationality and some realism into the story. What most people notice is how Batman causes destruction at times while saving the day, but what happens after all this? Who answers for the destruction by this vigilante, how much does it cost the city, and how does all this weigh on Bruce’s mind? Murphy takes the approach of an analyst and spreads it across 8 delightfully tantalizing issues. Early in the story we find out how Harley Quinn has changed over the years, that she didn’t just start dressing different, she is different. The original Harleen Quinzel ended up leaving an abusive Joker, and in his loss, Joker took some “end of her rope” lookalike and just started treating her like a new Harley. Joker let it sink so far down, that even in his rational state of mind as Jack, he had no clue this had happened. The story goes on to explore Bruce’s family connection to Mr. Freeze, Bruce’s actions pay an ultimate price for his actions towards Alfred, a different spin to Jason Todd’s death is surfaced, and much more.

The main elements of the series for me were an upset impostor Harley Quinn thinking she can take the Joker’s place, Batman’s out of control antics and family issues, and Jack Napier’s push to take Gotham into the palm of his hand. Everything is on the table, and though it ended with issue 8, the final pages left me as a fan hoping things will continue one day.  From my personal perspective, everything I have ever questioned that stopped me from reading Batman comics over the years, Murphy and Hollingsworth supplied a response that turned my opinion around.  This is definitely a favorite Batman comic I can look at and appreciate, and wish it was more than a limited series.

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

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FCBD 2018 Avengers/Captain America #1 (Marvel)

FCBD Avengers

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 4/5 – Marvel’s “Fresh Start” Kicks Off Here.
By ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

It’s been a while since we’ve posted any reviews and it’s 100% my fault, lots of “real life getting in the way”.  Free Comic Book Day was this past Saturday, Marvel is doing a “Fresh Start” on a lot of their books trying to regain the momentum they lost with 2017’s “Legacy” campaign that didn’t go over too well with retailers and fans, and well get a fresh start on posting reviews here at ComicSpectrum as well!

This Avengers book was one of 12 “Gold” level FCBD books this year.  The Gold books must be ordered by every retailer participating in Free Comic Book Day so chances are you would have seen any of the Gold books at any comic shop you went to that was celebrating FCBD.  There are an additional 38+ Silver level FCBD offerings that are optional for ordering so they may not have been ordered by your shop and you may not have seen them, though the two LCS’ that I visited last Saturday both ordered all the available books.

As in past years, the Marvel Gold FCBD book was split into 2 stories.  The lead off story was a look at the new Avengers run by Jason Aaron with art by Sara Pichelli (though the art on the new Avengers comic in shops has art by Ed McGuinness).  I enjoyed the setup that has Odin speaking to the Black Panther about the HUGE coming threat that will be the focus of the new Avengers comic.  I love Pichelli’s art and am a bit sad that she will not be the artist on the ongoing Avengers book since I’m not a huge McGuinness fan.  That said, artists tend to swap off most “Big Two” super-hero books every story arc, so maybe we’ll be seeing Pichelli on the Avengers book before long.

The second story focused on the “Fresh Start” for Captain America.  This is one where I was personally thinking no fresh start was needed since I have been loving what Mark Waid and Chris Samnee have been doing on Cap since they extricated the character from the depressing mess that was Secret Empire.  The constant renumbering to new #1 issues and the regular rollover of creative teams is something that is a staple of super-hero comics, so it’s not surprising.  The new Captain America #1 is written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine and current writer of Black Panther, with art by Leinil Francis Yu.  The sample story we get here seems very politically charged and has a definite message it’s trying to get across.  If you like super-hero comics that are more on the serious/”relevant” side, then this will be your cup of tea.  For my own part, I look at them for escapism so I’ll be avoiding this Cap reboot… but I’ll continue to read the material Coates does for the Atlantic.

In any given month, Marvel is usually the #1 publisher of comics sold to comic shops in North America.  They just had a HUGE box-office hit with Avengers: Infinity War, so it’s no surprise that people going into comic shops on FCBD walked away in massive numbers with a copy of this free comic.  While it’s not the same team that we see in the movies I think the setup was compelling in the Avengers story and may hook readers to want to check out “what comes next”, especially since the new Avengers #1 is already on the stands and smart comic shops may have done something to sell customers a copy of that #1 issue to go along with this free issue.  I’m not convinced that the Captain America story will be as compelling an entry point for large quantities of new readers.  It will be compelling to some, but I walked away from it sort of depressed and not feeling like I really want to dive into more.  That’s not a judgement of quality, it was very well done, just my personal feelings in coming away from the Cap story.  Ironically, previous to reading this FCBD comic I was NOT planning to read the Avengers series and I was looking forward to Cap.  This comic flipped both of those decisions and now I’m getting Avengers #1 (it’s in my “to read” pile right now), and I’ll be avoiding Cap’s fresh start.

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

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Bloodborne #1 (Titan Comics)

CREDIT: Titan Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – Comics Set in the Lovecraft-Inspired World of Bloodborne.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

I’m a big fan of the FromSoftware games Dark Souls and Bloodborne. Of the two, Bloodborne is my preferred title as I love the setting, monsters and H.P. Lovecraft inspired world and themes. Unfortunately, the games don’t give the player much in terms of a cohesive story. Both game worlds are purposefully vague, forcing the player to try his or her best to piece the story together by gathering items and reading their descriptions in the hopes of tying the narrative, gameplay scenes, and action together. Although I didn’t expect a clear and simple story with Bloodborne number one, I was hoping writer Ales Kot, a huge Bloodborne fan, would tell a more traditional story set within the Bloodborne Universe.

So far, this first issue hovers somewhere in between the two. While the story flows well, there’s still plenty of questions as to who some of the characters are, and how they relate to one another. This issue opens up with the familiar Hunter from the game walking through Yharnam, slaughtering monsters as he goes. He stops once he sees a small child, a pale blood. From there, more familiar faces from the game show up until the end, where I was left with even more questions, but slightly more confident than I was during my playing of the game that we may eventually get some clearer answers.

I really enjoyed the art by Piotr Kowalski, but unfortunately his panels didn’t always flow from one to another. There were a few times where the action felt as though it was missing some panels, or Kowalski missed the opportunity to lay his pages out differently to tell a clearer story. His full page splashes are wonderful though and the monsters are whet you’d expect from the game. I didn’t enjoy Titan’s attempt at the Dark Souls comic and dropped it after two issues, but I enjoyed this first issue of Bloodborne much more and plan to be back for at least a few more issues.

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

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The Brave and the Bold #1 (DC)

CREDIT: DC

Rating: 4.5/5 – Batman and Wonder Woman are Braver and Bolder!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas

It’s funny, although Liam Sharp has been in the comic industry for some time, only recently have I come to love his work. Sharp started drawing comics back in the 1980s with 2000AD and jumped around, working with all the major publishers and may be best known for a work I haven’t read, which is Vertigo’s Testament. Although I have read some of his Gears of War issues, and his Lord Havok and the Extremists books, they never stood out to me. It wasn’t until his recent Wonder Woman run with Greg Rucka that I really took notice.

Sharp’s art is beautiful and his pencils on a character like Wonder Woman really shine so I was ecstatic when DC not only announced that Sharp would be returning to Wonder Woman, but that he was also bringing back the Brave and the Bold! Brave and the Bold is a title I hold near and dear to my heart, and although it’s never had that long of runs since it’s heyday back in the Silver and Bronze age, those back issue bring fond memories.

This Brave and the Bold is a mini-series lasting just six issues starring Wonder Woman and Batman. Not only does Sharp provide the art, but he’s handling the writing duties as well. In this first issue the land of the faeries is full of unrest and conflict and the god Cernunnos needs the help of Wonder Woman to bring back peace and solve a murder. Meanwhile, Batman has noticed that something isn’t right within Gotham City that will for sure, although it hasn’t quite yet, tie into Wonder Woman’s adventure. The story has a few stutters as Sharp provides a bit too much exposition before getting to the action, but it does the job of getting you to want to come back for what gets set up by issue’s end.

It’s the art though, even if there weren’t any words, that would still make me come back. From the cover to the final page, Brave and the Bold is stunning. Sharp jumps between the fantasy and real world and although both look great, its the world of the faeries where Sharp’s pencils come to life. Castles, ruins, goblins and more fill the pages and the colors by Romulo Fajardo Jr. are a perfect match. I’ll also add that I love the logo design, incorporating the Batman and Wonder Woman symbols within the title. It’s is a nice touch that makes the cover stand out even more! Welcome back Brave and the Bold!

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

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Thrawn #1 (Marvel)

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 4/5 – Thrawn’s Initiation into the Empire, From the 2017 Novel.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Although I read and loved the Timothy Zahn helmed Thrawn trilogy that was published in 1992, I have not read the Thrawn novel that defines his origin that was released last year. Thankfully, Marvel has decided to publish a mini-series that will adapt the novel over the course of six issues. Writer Jody Houser will be adapting this story, who also happened to adapt Rogue One in comics form, so she’s definitely familiar with not only the material, but the format of adaptations as well. That experience pays off as I really enjoyed this first issue.

The story opens up with three pages that use a nine-panel grid to show Thrawn silently taking out a group of imperial soldiers on a hostile planet. From there, Thrawn makes himself known to the Empire and cunningly and openly works his way up the ranks. In this first issue I definitely got the sense that there was probably much more time and details dedicated to Thrawn’s initiation into the Empire, but Houser still managed to make it entertaining while not seeming as though the story was rushed. Throughout this first issue Houser balances the material to fit within the confines of a first part of a six-issue series.

The art by Luke Ross is a great choice and I almost wished he would have used more of the nine-panel grid throughout as it was such an effective opening. Instead, he uses a wide variety of panel layouts and page designs so that the story flow never gets stale or monotonous. My only complaint is with the colors. At times it goes from a dot pattern color shade, to smooth, and back again. It gives some pages an inconsistent feel, although never enough where it lessened my enjoyment of the total package. Although this is an adaptation of a novel, if you haven’t read it in book form, I’d definitely suggest giving this issue a try. I’m certainly glad I did.

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

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Young Monsters in Love #1 (DC)

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Great Creators, but a Hefty Cover Price.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Young Monsters in Love is a collection of short stories by a bunch of talented creators. Kelley Jones, Bryan Hitch, Paul Dini, Frazer Irving, Steve Orlando, and many more tell ten stories starring a wide assortment of characters from Batman and Superman (of course) to some surprising stars like I, Vampire, Etrigan the Demon, and even the Creature Commandos. As strong as some stories are, there’s more than a few that just missed the mark for me, but lets start with the good!

My favorite tale in this issue stars Swamp Thing and is written by Mark Russell and drawn by Frazer Irving. Swamp Thing has found love, but it doesn’t work out the way he planned and a tragedy occurs that makes Swamp Thing enact a dark yet clever revenge. Irving’s art is perfect for the story and the setting in Louisiana provides an eerie backdrop for Swamp Thing to fade into.

A close second is the first story of the book starring Man-Bat and Batman. Kyle Higgins and Kelley Jones team to tell a story about Kirk Langstrom struggling to free himself of the Man-Bat curse. Jones’ art stands out with its dark colors and his interpretation of Man-Bat is frightening! My only complaint with Jones’ art is I wish he would have also told a story around his cover art! I would have loved to have seen Frankenstein going up against Swamp Thing, but I’m glad we got the story we did.

Rounding out my favorites is a story titled “Be My Valentine” by Paul Dini and Guillem March. Deadman inhabits a young boy who’s being bullied at school. Instead of this being a simple revenge tale, Dini adds an extra layer to the story that makes it even more memorable.

I don’t want to spend too much time on the negatives, but some of the misses for me were the stories starring I, Vampire, Raven, and Etrigan. What you’ll have to decide though is if all these stories are worth the $10 price tag. For me, I wouldn’t pay cover price for this issue at a shop, my copy was heavily discounted because I ordered it from DCBS. Although I enjoyed more than half the tales in this book, I still don’t think the stories I loved were worth the hefty price tag.  This is a common trait of anthologies, I don’t know about your experience with them but I rarely like all the stories so I have to factor the cover price against the content that I enjoyed.  Because of that, I can only recommend this if you can find it for less than cover price at some point.

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

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