Review of Magnus Robot Fighter #0

Magnus Robot Fighter 0 Gabriel Hardman
Gabriel Hardman

Magnus Robot Fighter #0 by Fred Van Lente & Roberto Castro

For this issue, Van Lente takes a break from the ongoing story of Magnus in order to do a bit of world-building. He does this by switching perspective from the Robot Fighter to a combat-bot, Turing-Thinker Designate Gunbot-856. The reader is introduced to the gunbot immediately before a raid on a female robot fighter (who incidentally seems to share some traits with Magnus). Despite having the appearance of generic cannon fodder, 856’s narration quickly lends him a recognizable voice. He may have been built for battle, but that does not mean he is not capable of introspection. He muses on what the point of all this conflict is. 1A unleashes another robot fighter, the human does massive damage, is taken down, the robots rebuild, until another robot fighter appears. It is as if life is simply a single repetitive loop. What Van Lente does skillfully in these introductory pages is take these familiar observations and make them fresh again through changed circumstances.
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Review of Star Trek #35

Star Trek 35

The 2009 Star Trek film’s reboot of Star Trek continuity gave storytellers the opportunity to explore the franchise’s characters and history with a clean, fresh slate.  Comics publisher IDW has taken advantage of this opportunity to present the new adventures of beloved characters on the comics page.  Star Trek #35 does something surprising, using a character from the old continuity (the seemingly omnipotent alien known as “Q”, played in the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series by actor John de Lancie) to disrupt the status quo of the new continuity.

The first chapter of “The Q Gambit” is a delight; writer Mike Johnson has a gift for dialogue, and the conversations between Q, Captain Kirk, and Ambassador Jean-Luc Picard ring true for those characters.  Johnson’s script is intriguing, with Q hinting to Picard that the new timeline created by the future Mr. Spock may have set in motion a series of events that will ultimately doom it.  Q appears to Kirk in the new timeline and promises to test Kirk’s belief that “there is no such thing as a no-win scenario” before sending the Enterprise through time and space to a location that should be exciting to Star Trek fans.  Artist Tony Shasteen neatly captures the likenesses of all the characters, and the artist’s depiction of Q’s manipulations of time and space are exciting and entertaining.

Star Trek #35 is accessible to new readers, but longtime Star Trek fans are more likely to appreciate the characters and plot of this comic.  This issue was a great beginning to a story arc that promises to blend the old with the new in an intriguing fashion.

Review of Doc Savage #7

Doc Savage 7 Alex Ross

In Dynamite Entertainment’s Doc Savage comic, writer Chris Roberson examines the limitations of a pulp hero in the modern world.  The 1930s scientist/adventurer/hero Doc Savage’s adventures continue into the present (thanks to a life-prolonging drug), and his inventions and network of agents have helped millions of people around the globe.  But the truth about Savage’s methods to rehabilitate criminals (techniques that might have been acceptable in the 1930s, but are very controversial in the 21st Century) have come to light, and for the first time Savage finds himself facing intense public distrust.  If that wasn’t bad enough, some of the criminals that Doc reformed revert back to their old habits, and use Doc’s technology to threaten the planet.

Roberson’s script for issue seven ties together adventures and characters from earlier issues and delivers an exciting issue that explores how social mores and heroes evolve over time.  Artist Bilquis Evely – with a bright palette provided by colorist Daniela Miwa – neatly depicts all the action and emotion that the story requires.

The comic is accessible to new readers, but readers that have followed the series from the first issue will more fully appreciate all the dots that Roberson has connected in this issue.

Review of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #6

Turok 6

Dynamite Entertainment’s alternate history adventure series Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #6 sees Turok reunited with his parents’ tribe in the American West on the eve of a Mongol invasion.  Turok learns a lot about his people and the reasons his parents left the tribe, but is soon caught between loyalty to his tribe and his affections for his friend, the Mongol princess Altani, whose father’s dinosaur-riding army is about to attack Turok’s tribe.   Only Turok can teach his people how to ride dinosaurs and defend themselves from the Mongols, but will he?

Greg Pak’s story is an interesting exploration of a reluctant hero who wants no part of the conflict in which he is now a central figure.  The characters are compelling and interesting, and even new readers will have no problem sympathizing with Turok and Altani.  The art by Takeshi Miyazawa – with colors provided by Luigi Anderson – deftly depicts the action of riding dinosaurs as well as the emotional character moments.

If you aren’t reading Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, I respectfully suggest that you should.

Review of Legendary Star-Lord #1

Star-Lord 1 Mahmud Asrar
Mahmud Asrar

Legendary Star-Lord #1 by Sam Humphries & Paco Medina

While Rocket Raccoon comes out blasting in the first issue of his solo title, I am sorry to report that Peter Quill stumbles out of the gate. The issue opens with a brief flashback to the funeral of Peter’s mother, before leaping back to the present. Quill is at odds with Badoon bounty hunters, who have come to collect the price on his head. Naturally, they drop in on him while he is in the middle of what looks like a robbing a precious stone from an orphanage. From there, Quill must find some way to wiggle his way free, while clearing his name. In its essence, it is a one-and-done story built around introducing Star-Lord to new readers.

Or should I say the new Star-Lord, aka the trouble with this issue?
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Review of Rocket Raccoon #1

Skottie Young

Rocket Raccoon #1 by Skottie Young

I went into this issue kind of blind. My main reason for buying it was the character. As a big fan of the DnA Guardians of the Galaxy era, I am fond of Rocket. Plus, I always enjoy some Skottie Young art. Skottie Young the writer, however, I had no prior experience with. Also, I shall confess, I was a little unsure about how well Rocket could hold down an ongoing monthly book. He is great in a team setting, but would he wear out his welcome in a solo environment? Well, based on the first issue, my concerns were unfounded.

Young begins the book with Rocket sneaking into a space ship. The first dialogue in the story involves two guards debating the believability of a show based around a living planet. As with other instances of humor throughout the issue, none of jokes feel forced or arch. Indeed, there is an easy-going rhythm to the story, which is reflected in the art as well. Young is obviously enjoying himself, populating the issue with whimsical asides and light-hearted action. This is the most fun comic I have read so far this week. It is also lovingly crafted art-wise. As to be expected, Young fills the pages with imaginative detail and priceless facial expressions.

Finally, and most importantly, Young has a great handle on Rocket’s personality. Having given up on Bendis’ Guardians book after a few issues, I am happy to have at least one way I can still enjoy part of the team. Actually, the Guardians do cameo in this book which leaves me wanting to see Young do more with them as well. The conversation between Rocket and Star-Lord is particularly delightful. (Bonus points to Young for coming closer than anyone else in making Angela not look like the embarrassment that she is. Maybe it has something to do with keeping her blurry and in the background?).

Overall, a fantastic first issue. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next . . .


Review of East of West #13

Nick Dragotta

East of West #13 by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta

This issue begins with a bang. Literally. Hickman flashes back to the conclusion of issue #10, when The Ranger killed Cheveyo. From here, the issue splits into two threads, one following Death as he rushes off to confront The Ranger, while the other plotline lingers with Crow and Wolf. Cheveyo was Wolf’s father, and the son feels obligated to stand vigil over his father’s body as a powerful spirit force comes to claim possess of the dead man’s soul. (When Crow looks concerned, you know real trouble is a brewin’). Crow and Wolf have always intrigued me as characters, and I enjoyed their time in the spotlight this month. Hopefully, this issue is setting up plot points which will allow continued focus on this pair in the future.

Intercut with these mystical happenings is the confrontation between Death and The Ranger. The struggle between these two characters is expertly rendered by Dragotta. Throughout the issue, Dragotta varies the panel size and arrangement, giving a real sense of movement to the images. The variety of page layout has the effect of keeping the reader on their toes and, therefore, feeling the tension of the fight. As always, Dragotta turns in some fabulous art. For the final page, he presents the reader with an image on such a large scale that it dwarfs Death and the Ranger. It also brings the chapter full circle, tying into the fallout from last month’s rather unsuccessful peace conference.

All in all, this was a fantastic issue, definitely the best of the arc so far. I know some readers thought that the narrative got bogged down among politicking the previous two issues. While I disagreed, it did feel good to have the pace ramped up again. Either way you approach it, though, this is a terrific reminder, if anyone really needed one, of why East of West is such an outstanding series.


Review Of Black Kiss XXXMas In July Special

Black Kiss 2 XXXMas in July Special One Shotby Howard Chaykin

There are few comics that have come out of Image in the last few years that have been as polarizing as Howard Chaykin’s Black Kiss II. A relaunch of one of Chaykin’s alt comix black and white series of the 1980’s the comic was confusing and gross for what was probably a majority of reader that hadn’t read the original series that made a habit out of picking up every new Image series before realizing they were reading a porn comic about two vampires that looked like hot blond twins with the exception that one had a dick. Worst the comic itself felt somewhat aimless and more of an exercise in Chaykin pushing the limits of making a porn comic about vampire twin sisters with one that has a dick without ever really going anywhere with that. That being said when you read close enough without getting distracted from the craziness you can almost see a comic that is vehemently anti-misogynist as the two protagonist punish shit bag dude’s that treat women as sex objects as opposed to  human beings. Black Kiss XXXMas In July Special manages to get all the Black Kiss things right without some of the short comings that the series suffered from by doing a tight one shot that focuses on the horror aspect of the story while serving up some much needed catharsis with what is essentially a literal revenge porn. In it we are shown a young girl being given over to be gang raped from her father as payment to a bunch douchey Ivy League frat boys. After that it becomes a pure revenge narrative as the young girl grows up to be a vampire while we watch her and her trans sexual doppelganger exact revenge on her attackers throughout the 20th century. It manages to function as both a thrilling revenge narrative while commenting on how men can subjugate woman through power structures and rape culture while giving the people what they want with these dudes getting mutilated in all the ways they deserve. Chaykin’s art here is his art; all the people look like you’ve seen him draw them before but the details and scope of his scenery are absolutely gorgeous. His writing is haunting, insightful but most importantly focused as the story progression feels natural and earned. Black Kiss XXXmas In July is a smart, entertaining and utterly horrifying examination of sexual abuse that is worth reading if you have the stomach for it with content that makes other Image books like Sex or Chaykins own Satellite Sam feel like Figment but in a medium that has been guilty of objectifying woman for decades this installment of Black Kiss is a strong subversive counterpoint for that.

Review Of Moon Knight #5

mkby Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey
So this is the penultimate issue for the creative teams run and if you were expecting some type of resolution or over arching theme to emerge you have clearly been reading the wrong book. Good news for you is that there is literally every other comic from the DC, Marvel, Darkhorse or Image that follows that formula on some level. Bad news for everybody else because this comic is amazing and part of that is because the narrative is so condensed. I’ve come to regard Ellis’s style here (along with what Kot does on Zero & Secret Avengers) as a form of hyper compression that stands in stark contrast to the decompressed style that’s become the norm for most comic stories. There’s nothing wrong with decompressed story telling in and of itself and it takes a master writer to pull off what Ellis does here but that’s the thing; Ellis is a master. In this issue we essentially get Ellis and Shalvey doing The Raid as Moon Knight takes out a building full of thugs who kidnapped an innocent girl. Ellis’s dialogue is sparse and sharp as we learn about Marc Spector using a weapon to mutilate someone in Egypt and then see him count the floors as goes up the stairs kicking everybody’s ass. This is where Shalvey comes in because the way that he illustrates Moon Knight kicking said ass is an amazing display in showcasing action panels with just the right amount of detail against negative space while you see Moon Knights movement from panel to panel like your watching a movie. It’s all at a lightning fast pace and then they hit the brilliantly profound “It’s not a mask; it’s your face….Smart girl”  moment at the end and it’s like time stops and we’ve learned everything we need to know about these two people in three panels that most comics can’t do in multiple issues. Moon Knight continues to be a revelation and while I’m sad to see Ellis and Shalvey leaving after issue six, I respect their decision, trust in their vision and most importantly have loved every minute of it. It’s been precise, flawlessly executed and borderline perfect. This run is like sit your grand kids on you knee and tell them about it special and truthfully I’m just happy to be watching it in real time.

Review of Sex #14

Sex 14
Piotr Kowalski

Sex #14 by Joe Casey, Piotr Kowalski & Chris Peterson

Sex confession time: I had never much cared for the Alpha Brothers. This pair of operatives, Cha Cha & Dolph, have been hanging around the edges of the narrative not really doing much. Sure occasionally they may kill someone, or perform sexual acts on each other, but they haven’t done much to advance the story. Hell, I could never even remember which one was which. They just seemed to be hanging out, putting in time until the writer was ready to ask them to do something of significance. Honestly, they were boring and gratuitous (not sure which is the worse fault actually). All that changed this issue.

The bulk of #14 is a flashback eight years ago to when the Brothers were high-level lieutenants to mob boss Sergio. Sergio’s son has been kidnapped by a rival organization, and the Brothers have been sent to retrieve him. They find the son bound and gagged in a closet, yet, they tell his father that it was the son who single-handed defeated his kidnappers. This false story, in order to make a weak son look stronger in his father’s eyes, is one piece of the Brothers’ scheme to gain control of not only of Sergio’s criminal empire, but other territories within Saturn City. Watching this plan fall into place piece by piece is fascinating. In the process, the reader gains a fuller idea of who these characters are. There is even a sense of nostalgia when the narrative returns to the present day, a suggestion that the thrill of the game is not the same for The Brothers as it used to be.

One of the less remarked upon aspects of this series has been the role of the past. All of the main players are strongly linked to who they used to be. The most obvious example of this is Simon Cooke, formerly the Armored Saint. Yet, others such Anabelle, Keenan, The Old Man and The Prank Artist are repeatedly referring back to the past. In one way or another they are all defined by Saturn City under the time of its hero, The Armored Saint. Simon is not the only person to find his life less grounded without the Saint in it. With these observations in mind, it is not surprising that some of the best issues of this series have been ones that contained glances back in time. It is also a theme with which any reader can relate. After all, we may try, but we can never completely outrun who we used to be.