Darkness Visible #3 (IDW)

DV3

CREDIT: IDW Publishing

Rating: 4/5 – A World with ‘Demons’ Inhabiting Willing Human Hosts.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Darkness Visible from IDW Publishing seems like a ‘flying under the radar title’, I don’t hear very much talk about it, but it’s a solid read and the 3rd issue of the series is the best yet, providing critical backstory about how the world of ‘today’ with demons riding around inside human hosts came to be.  We discover that the roots trace back to World War II in this flashback issue.

The world writers Mike Carey and Arvind Ethan David have set up is one where the Shaitan, an extra-dimensional race that may or may not be the ‘demons’ associated with many religious depictions of the ‘bad place’ in their afterlife, want a foothold in our dimension.  The only catch is that they need to have a willing human host that they ‘possess’.  The demons are immortal and they grant that immortality on their human hosts.  Unfortunately for the hosts, the demons are the more dominant partner in the bargain, reducing the human consciousness to a secondary role of being the ‘rider’ with the Shaitan in control.  Issue 3 takes the reader back to WW II where the demon queen, inhabiting Lady Caroline Vivian since 1853, make a deal with Winston Churchill to provide hosts for Shaitan who will in turn help Britain win the war against Nazi Germany.  The details of the bargain and the results as the next few years pass are the crux of this issue’s story, so I won’t spoil them here.

The art in this issue, by Livio Ramondelli, has a different feel from that of Brendan Cahill who did the 1st 2 issues, but that feel approriate given the flashback nature of this issue and will help set this apart from the rest of the story when it is ultimately collected in a single volume.  Cahill has more traditional comic book ink lines defining the figures in a sharper fashion.  Ramondelli, also handling his own colors, has a softer and somewhat diffused look in his final art that lends a nice atmosphere to the story.  Ramondelli’s art is solid, but I had a bit of an issue with the faces of the human characters, this is an area where he will likely improve over time as he does more work with human characters (he’s done a lot of work on Transformers comics) .  While I mention it as a critical review point for the art, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the issue, his storytelling is otherwise solid

If you’re a fan of alternate history stories with a fantastical element mixed in to provide the divergence point, Darkness Visible should be right up your alley.  I was suitably impressed with issue #3 and I believe it can be read as a standalone story, or as a precursor to buying the 1st 2 issues to see the story that has been set up in the present day, following that with issues 4 and beyond.  I enjoyed the 1st 2 issues but #3 kicked it up a notch by providing this excellent exploration of the backstory that resulted in the world we were dropped into in issue #1.  This isn’t a comic that will jump off the rack at most readers, but it’s well worth tracking down or asking your local shop to order for you if you like these kinds of stories.

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

ComicSpectrum ComicBookRoundup  Follow ComicSpectrum: ComicSpectrum Twitter ComicSpectrum FB

Posted in IDW | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beautiful Canvas #1 (Black Mask)

Rating: 5/5 – Hitwoman With a Crisis of Conscience Hits the Road.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

** Spoiler-Free Advance Review **
If you like comics that make you think…and after you think you may still be scratching your head thinking “What did I just experience?” then you should give Beautiful Canvas a try, out from Black Mask in June.  It’s rare that I review something well in advance of it’s “on sale” date, but writer Ryan K. Lindsay sent me an advance review copy and I loved it.  This made me want to give people an opportunity to not miss out on this gem.  Black Mask has been putting out some great comics, but they are not stocked in-depth at very many comic shops.  Beautiful Canvas is in the April Previews on page 290.  You can order the normal cover by interior artist Sami Kivela (on the left above) with Previews code APR171370, or the alternate cover by Christian Ward (on the right above) with Previews code APR171371.

BC1-Page1 excerpt

Excerpt from Page 1 of Beautiful Canvas #1 (used with permission of Ryan K. Lindsay)

So, what’s it all about??  I’m going to give away LESS than the blurb in the Previews catalog.  I read the comic before I read the solicitation and I’m glad I did.  There were several discoveries that I made along the way that gave me real “What the….?!?” moments as I caught on to something in Lindsay’s story that are given away in the solicit!

Beautiful Canvas is a story about hitwoman Lon Eisley (seen on the right above).  She’s very good at what she does, and what she does can be kind of messy (believe me, I cropped the image from the comic to create something that was as “safe for work” as possible).  It shows a small sample of Sami Kivela’s gorgeous art.  On her latest job for a billionaire, Lon ends up having a problem finishing the job.  Want the details spoiled?  Go read the solicit.  Suffice to say that she ends up on the road and on the run from a really bizarre hit team sent after her that tugs the story out of the straight crime genre into…something else.  You’ve got to see it to believe it.  More important that the “What?” is the “How?” (and maybe the “Why?”) but those are answers for issues past #1 and I’m really interested in figuring out exactly how some of the really off-the-wall things in this issue fit together and play into the larger story.

Lon is haunted by some of her past actions and seems to be trying to ease her conscience by traveling the path her decisions in this issue set her on.  We see these regrets in the form of a visualization of her inner thoughts, displayed for us on the page, and it helped me understand her better.  There is a complicated aspect to the pieces of the story fitting together.  Not all the pieces are there yet, but the pattern seems clear.  Lindsay inserts the statement “You’re overthinking it” into the issue (and on the back cover), and I tried to take that to heart.  There’s a lot to think about in this issue and there’s that fine line between thinking and overthinking.  I’ll stop dissecting the story and just make note of the elements that seem…odd.  I’ll let these resolve over the course of the series.

Sami Kivela shines on the art.  He takes a scene I’ve seen hundreds of times and makes it sublime; I’m talking specifically about page 4, where Lon enters a house to carry out a hit and Kivela’s staging of the scene, page layout with the inset panels, and the discrete moments in time he captures on the page really emphasize the artistry involved in telling a comic story.  The choices combine to make a mundane storytelling page something that really impressed me.  And he doesn’t stop there, there’s a lot more story to tell and Kivela’s page layout, camera angles, and the way scenes are cropped to place the emphasis on specific elements were amazing throughout.

Beautiful Canvas is not for the squeamish, there is language and graphic violence.  Aside from being a story about a hitwoman, we come to find that her boss is FAR worse.  There are some very twisted aspects to what makes the billionaire tick and I have a feeling we’ve only scratched the surface in issue #1.   Beautiful Canvas gave me a lot of things to think about (while being careful not to overthink) especially in light of the last panel revelation.  I’ve got a LONG wait in front of me before I read #2.  If you want to read #1, make sure you go to your local shop and ask them to order Beautiful Canvas #1 from Black Mask: Previews code APR171370.

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

ComicSpectrum ComicBookRoundup  Follow ComicSpectrum: ComicSpectrum Twitter ComicSpectrum FB

Posted in Black Mask | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Unworthy Thor #5 (Marvel)

Thor

CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 5/5 – The Whisper That Made Thor Unworthy is Finally Revealed.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

Issue 5 of the Unworthy Thor was released this week; it’s been a very long road of enigma and action. The Odinson became unworthy back in Marvel’s “Original Sin” event in 2014, and wasn’t seen for some time. During his time of hiatus Jane Foster rose to be a Mighty Thor, but there was always something in the comics pointing out that the Odinson was nowhere to be found. 5 months ago readers found out where the old Thor was and what he was doing, he was a prisoner looking for another weapon of power, that weapon happened to be the Ultimate Thor’s hammer from the Ultimate Universe. One thing stood between Thor and the Ultimate Mjolnir, and that was The Collector.

It’s been a wild and exciting ride to say the least. If there is one thing that Writer Jason Aaron can do well with his stories, it’s to tease and throw you a curveball. Since 2014 readers that followed the fall of Thor have wondered, “What was the whisper?” Nick Fury said one simple thing and Thor became unworthy, but what was said was so small in print that you couldn’t make it out. The time has finally come to know what was said….so I would recommend picking up the latest issue of Unworthy Thor to find out just what it was. Thor took those words to heart, so much to heart that it ran with him all the way to the very end of this series. Aaron provides an extremely emotional and powerful story with an intense ending. Thor fans will either love it or hate it, but a different kind of Thor will rise with the Ultimate Mjolnir in hand, and Odinson will be changed forever. Through this series the art alone has been a big factor in making this series pure gold for me.  Artists Olivier Coipel, Pascal Alixe and Kim Jacinto have delivered colorful, powerful and extremely emotional art through this entire run.

I now know what was whispered to Thor to make him unworthy, and it makes perfect since as to why Thor would think himself unworthy because of it. It speaks volumes for Thor, and if what was said had this much of an impact on him, the Odinson obviously is wrought with self-esteem issues. I found this whole situation to be an emotional ride from start to finish, and Thor has become a much stronger hero and person because of it. Now, what will this new Thor bring to the Marvel Universe? Is he bringing a war with him, and who are the combatants?  So many questions have been answered just to leave more mysteries in its wake.  I look forward to seeing Thor’s continuing tale unfold.

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

ComicSpectrum ComicBookRoundup  Follow ComicSpectrum: ComicSpectrum Twitter ComicSpectrum FB

Posted in Marvel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cadmus #1 (Antarctic Press)

Cadmus1

CREDIT: Antarctic Press

Rating: 4/5 – If You’re a Fan of Greek Mythology, Look for This Comic!
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

Cadmus #1 was a pleasant surprise for me at my local comic shop this week.  It’s a book I completely missed noticing in Previews, even though I spend a few hours looking though it each month, so I’m glad it’s a comic that my local shop stocked so I could buy it off the rack.  If you’re unfamiliar with the story of Cadmus (like I was) this comic presents a pretty straight retelling of the myth, with a few differences, from the version that I subsequently looked up online before writing this review.  But the thing with myths is that there are numerous versions floating around after several thousand years.

Sam Beck is both writer and artist of this tale that brings Cadmus, founder of Thebes, to colorful life in the 17 pages of this comic adaption of the myth.  Beck does a nice job setting the stage with a family tree and text page prologue that sets the stage for the story, before diving into the story with the inciting event of Zeus abducting Cadmus’ sister Europa.  The events of many years are compressed into the 17 pages of the comic ably illustrated in a very clean art style that I found very well suited to the story.  I liked his page design and was particularly fond of the scroll work he added to the top and bottom of each page.  I had a bit of an issue with how the story flowed near the end, it seemed rushed, but there’s only so much that can be done in 17 pages.  Beck did add in 4 pages at the back with bios of characters and one key item, the Necklace of Harmonia, that is featured in some versions of the myth but didn’t make it into the main story here.  Another thing that Beck could have added that would be of help to some readers would be a pronunciation guide to various characters and places.  Eric Shanower provides this in his “Age of Bronze” comics and that’s where I learned the pronunciation of most of the names presented here.

Cadmus is a tale of the times when gods walked the earth regularly interacting with humans; helping them, vexing them, in some cases marrying them, in others just leaving them with children out of wedlock.  If you’re a fan of Greek mythology, this is a must read comic.  It tells a tales that I’ve never seen before in comics, so is likely not one of the more common ones and I’ve read my fair share of tales of this type.  This comic is from one of the smaller publishers and is a niche topic, so it may not be on the rack at every comic shop, but it’s worth asking your shop to place a reorder for a copy if this sounds interesting to you!

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

ComicSpectrum ComicBookRoundup  Follow ComicSpectrum: ComicSpectrum Twitter ComicSpectrum FB

Posted in Antarctic Press | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inhumans vs. X-Men #6 (Marvel)

IVX6

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 4/5 – This Battle of Genetically Altered Heroes Saved by the Art.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

Whether you were rooting for the Inhumans or X-Men, the battle has come to an end.  For now.  This spread out Marvel Comics event took two groups of genetically altered characters and pitted them against each other for one very good reason, survival. The Inhuman Terrigen mist was flooding across Earth and in the process it was saturating the atmosphere. If you didn’t already know, the mist activates dormant genes in some humans that have some kind of lineage with the Inhumans, but the mist is also a deadly poison to Mutants. Like usual, the X-Men are fighting for their very lives and the Inhumans are fighting for the survival of their people as well. One will die, and one will grow, and no one seems to be able to figure out a middle ground.

Writers Charles Soule and Jeff Lemire took a rather questionable Marvel Comics event premise, and created an interesting storyline. Artist Leinil Francis Yu brings captivating art panel after panel for this series, wide spread battle scenes and all.  Everything is on par with what I thought a great event should look like, I just wished the story was as great as the art supplied for it. The six issue series that spread into every Inhuman and X-Men comic title was short lived but left many points open for debate. All the Mutants came together; they all agreed that they will not die without a fight. Oddly enough, Emma Frost brought everyone together after Scott Summers was killed. Back in the “Death of X” series, Emma made everyone believe that Scott was killed by Black Bolt, and she is using that as her motivation and fuel to start the fire. Her plan works out perfectly, mutants are ready to fight and a plan is set in place to neutralize the Inhumans and destroy the last of the Terrigen mist. The good news is, the Mutants had a great plan, but they didn’t take the Nuhumans into consideration. The war between the two comes to an end, but not without mass causalities. This entire event felt scattered and the confusing at times.  If you were not on board, you didn’t miss much. Marvel has announced new X-Men titles to be released already, so that gives away that the Mutants don’t die out from the mist.

Friends turned on friends, new enemies and allies are made, kings and queens fall, and no one is truly happy in the end. This story died out for me about halfway through the event, with Marvel leaking new upcoming X-Men and Inhuman titles a little too early; it supplied readers with the outcome of this war. What readers couldn’t piece together till the end is just how far one powerful Mutant would go to make a point.  This entire event seemed setup to use all too familiar situations for a new story; Multiple Man dying again and again, a telepath controlling everyone’s minds for their own ends, and a big battle where all common sense and reason is lost. I felt like this event could have come out to be much more, but ended up as just another event that seemed to drag on with a bunch of filler crossover and tie-in comics.  That said, for fans of the X-Men and Inhumans franchises, there was still entertainment to be had in the art and some of the individual character moments.

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

ComicSpectrum ComicBookRoundup  Follow ComicSpectrum: ComicSpectrum Twitter ComicSpectrum FB

Posted in Marvel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Savage Things #1 (DC/Vertigo)

SavageThings1

CREDIT: DC/Vertigo

Rating: 5/5 – Jason Bourne Meets Seven in Vertigo’s New Thriller.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

Savage Things bursts out of the gate strong.  I’ll recap the 1st 3 pages, not really a spoiler since you’re going to hit these in the 1st 30 seconds of reading the comic:  We open on a boy watching a fire in a field (that appears to be one that he himself set).  He bikes home to find a man sitting on the couch with his dead parents (the man has killed the boy’s parents).  He asks the boy one question, “What would you do if I let you go?”  The boy’s answer, “I’d kill you.” Calmly stated, no trace of anger or emotion on his face.  “I think you’re going to like your new home.”   And we’re off…jump to 25 years later.

Justin Jordan (Luther Strode, Spread) has created a world where the US government recruits sociopaths as youngsters and trains them to be weapons.  Diabolical.  Effective.  Volatile.  The rest of the issue sets up the point of conflict for the series, which is set to run 8 issues.  It’s graphic and cryptic, and it causes the men who created the “at least they’re OUR sociopaths” program to sit up and take notice.  All the pieces are not on the board yet and it’s not completely clear what side every character introduced is going to end up on, but the story certainly grabbed my attention from page one and didn’t let it go until the end.  Artist Ibrahim Moustafa has a clean and realistic style well suited to the story and solid page design that varies to drive the pace of the story, but doesn’t go overboard on overly complex design which worked for me to keep the story rooted in an almost documentary-like reality well suited for an espionage thriller like this.  Jordan and Moustafa augment the present day action with flashbacks that build the backstory which are distinguished by a muted color palette provided by Jordan Boyd.

Savage Things pulls no punches and I have the feeling that by the end of this 8 issue series Justin Jordan will have taken us on a tour of the world-view of sociopath assassins, both those who have gone off the rails and those that have been reined in to serve the side of good.  I have the additional feeling that “good” in the context of this series is going to be a lot more of a grey area, mostly good in contrast to the very clearly delineated “bad”.  If you like thrillers with mysteries to be solved, clandestine government agencies, and action like you’d find in Bourne or Bond, then Savage Things is probably going to be right up your alley.  It’s a series that is, for me, right in the classic Vertigo sweet spot.  I loved this issue, the only negative for me is that this is an 8 issue series and not the beginning of an epic series like 100 Bullets.

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

ComicSpectrum Follow ComicSpectrum: ComicSpectrum Twitter ComicSpectrum FB

Posted in DC, Vertigo | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Power of the Dark Crystal #1 (BOOM!/Archaia)

darkcrystal

CREDIT: BOOM!/Archaia

Rating: 5/5 – The Long Awaited Dark Crystal Sequel is Finally Here.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

What a glorious moment being brought down memory lane. The Dark Crystal was an amazing movie of fantasy and adventure from 1982 directed by Frank Oz and Jim Henson.  The story took place in an unknown world that praised a crystal for its salvation. At one point the crystal was shattered and a fragment broke off, ripping its sacred but corrupt beings into two parts. While one half lived a life of wisdom and peace, the other became corrupt and turned the land into a nightmare ruled by an evil monarch. One day a hero came along named Jen who had been raised by the peaceful and wise beings that once were one part of the keepers of the land. Jen was from an extinct race and a prophecy came to say that Jen would make the Crystal whole once again.

Now let’s skip ahead a hundred years. This comic is the unmade sequel to The Dark Crystal outlined by Jim Henson, so devoted fans of the movie may want to jump on board. While the movie was never made, the story is now being told by Writer Simon Spurrier along with Artists Kelly and Nichole Matthews. Jen with his friend Kira brought peace to the land, they became the new leaders of the known world around them, and they established a government of their own based on peace and joy. But Jen and Kira must rest for long periods of time in order to stay healthy and living. While they sleep, a shadow of corruption has spread in their kingdom. A ritual to offer gifts to the crystal has started, but something is amiss over the horizon. A being not seen before has come to speak with Jen and Kira to request their help, but all this being is seeing is the negative side to this land. This new being seems to be an innocent, like Jen once was, and looking to save their own land from something similar to what Jen and Kira had fought a hundred years ago. The only issue is this stranger from another land believes the crystal will fix everything, but the crystal is already spoken for.

The Power of the Dark Crystal has started out to be a colorful and intriguing beginning to a possibly intense story. The art is vast and vibrant; the writing is so well done it’s as if I am back watching the first Dark Crystal movie being narrated by Joseph O’Conor. In the first issue we don’t get a lot of time with the original heroes, but there are appearances from other memorable characters from the movie.  This comic is the first issue of a twelve issue part story and is the sequel to the movie that devoted fans have been waiting for.  I’m excited and on board for this series!

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

ComicSpectrum ComicBookRoundup  Follow ComicSpectrum: ComicSpectrum Twitter ComicSpectrum FB

Posted in Archaia, Boom! | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment