Kid’s Critique: Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point #1

Editor’s note: After more than a year immersed in the new reality of the pandemic, my pre-teen son, Callum, has finally been inspired to write another comic review. He’s eager to hear what you think of his latest musings.

Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point #1 
“Zero Point, Part One”
Writer: Christos Gage
Pencils: Reilly Brown
Inks: Nelson Faro DeCastro
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Andworld Design
Cover Artists: Mikel Janin (regular)/Donald Mustard & Kenneth Rocafort (variants)
Editor: Katie Kubert
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US/$5.99 US

I found out about this comic a couple months ago on YouTube, and I have been dying to get my hands on it. Now that I have it, I want to review it. This comic caught my interest because I play Fortnite regularly, and I love to play it. I also got it because there is a free Fortnite cosmetic code in the comic. When my dad suggested that I should review it, I loved that idea, so I decided to do it.

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The End of the World As He Knows It

Geiger #1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Gary Frank, Erik Larsen & Jason Fabok
Editor: Pat McCallum
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I’d heard something about Geiger in passing a while back, so when I caught a glimpse of it among the new releases this week at the comic shop, I grabbed a copy. I’ve followed writer Geoff Johns’s career for a couple of decades now, and for the most part, his work either managed to entertain and really resonate with me. But what really piqued my interest was his decision to delve into a creator-owned property outside of DC Comics, even as his creative career has been wholly linked to that comics publisher and other-media adaptations of its characters (and continues to be, as far as I can tell). Geiger is the kind of story that works better outside of the confines of a shared super-hero continuity despite boasting of the conventions of the genre. Ultimately, Geiger is a solid read, diverting and riveting when it opts to embrace a thoroughly dark tone, but the storytelling here feels like a patchwork of influences, a Frankenstein’s Monster of pop culture.

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Burnt-out Ends of Smoky Days

Brzrkr #1
Writers: Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt
Artist: Ron Garney
Colors: Bill Crabtree
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover artists: Rafael Grampà (regular)/Rafael Grampà, Mark Brooks, Lee Bermejo, Dan Mora & Jonboy Meyers
Editors: Eric Harburn & Matt Gagnon
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $4.99 US

If Brzrkr goes down in comics history for anything, it will be as a massive marketing success. This is far from the first time we’ve seen a celebrity-driven comic, but I don’t think a property intended as a launching pad/pitch for an other-media pet project for an actor or singer has ever caught the marketplace’s attention like this one has. Maybe it speaks to the star power of Keanu Reeves, or perhaps the delays in the release of this title helped to drive a level of anticipation we haven’t seen before. But I suspect it’s a combination of factors, not the least of which is the speculator-driven collectability side of the industry that’s become so prevalent in recent years. Collectors out there hoping to make big bucks from the proliferation of exclusive variant covers likely won’t see the windfall for which they’re hoping. There’s going to be so many copies of this comic out there that the chances of any significant value increases ought to be remote. But there’s a more significant question that I want to answer here…

Is this comic any good?

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They Do Need Those Stinkin’ Badges

Scout’s Honor #1
“The Seven Laws of Doctor Jefferson Hancock”
Writer: David Pepose
Artist: Luca Casalanguida
Colors: Matt Milla
Letters: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover artists: Andy Clarke (regular)/Maan ouse (variant)
Editor: Christina Harrington
Publisher: Aftershock Comics
Price: $4.99 US

Smaller publishers appear to be enjoying some growth in support in the last year or two, which is always encouraging, as this is the territory that fosters more comics outside the dominant super-hero genre. And it serves as the training and proving ground for new talents. Unfortunately, the boom in the marketplace outside of Marvel and DC titles appears driven, at least in part, by value speculation. Mind you, there’s some logic to it, since these comics are ordered in lower numbers than their mainstream counterparts. But what’s really important is whether these books pay off in terms of storytelling, both visually and conceptually. The high concept here – the notion of Scouting as the basis of a paramilitary peacekeeping organization in a post-apocalyptic future – is an interesting one. As I read the issue, though, despite the novel premise, the plot beats felt a bit predictable. It’s a fun, action-packed story that explores a patriarchal, exclusionary organization even in a far-flung future, but the twists the writer tries to weave into the story felt more like straight lines.

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Future Tense

The Next Batman #1

“The Next Batman”
Writer: John Ridley
Artist: Nick Derington
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Ben Abernathy

“Future State: Outsiders”
Writer: Brandon Thomas
Pencils: Sumit Kumar
Inks: Sumit Kumar & Raul Fernandez
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Steve Wands
Editor: Dave Wielgosz

“Future State: Arkham Knights – Chapter One: Rise”
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Jack Herbert
Colors: Sabe Eltaeb
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Paul Kaminski

Cover artists: Ladronn (regular)/Olivier Coipel & J. Scott Campbell (variants)
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $7.99 US

Despite the two-month duration of its “Future State” branding event, DC has managed to generate a lot of interest and hype in this slate of new, fresh takes on its familiar properties, and if The Next Batman is any indication, it could prove to be a creative success as well. The writers deliver a trio of accessible stories with novel interpretations of iconic names. All three stories are set in Gotham, and it seems greater collaboration among the editors overseeing these stories could have made for more consistent depictions of a dystopian Gotham City, each of the segments entertained. If this book (and others in the “Future State” line) proves to be a commercial success, I suspect we’ll see more of this future backdrop in the months and even years to come.

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Teed Off

Taskmaster #1
“The Rubicon Trigger, Part One”
Writer: Jed MacKay
Artist: Alessandro Vitti
Colors: Guru e-FX
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Joe Caramagna
Cover artists: Valerio Giangiordano (regular)/Nick Bradshaw and Mike Henderson
Editor: Chris Robinson
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

I’ve always appreciated Taskmaster as a villain, as his “photographic reflexes” abilities have always proven to be clever in the hands of skilled writers. That proves to be the case with Jed MacKay’s take on the mercenary as well, so what we get is a fun, action-oriented romp that celebrates the connections throughout the Marvel Universe. I think the book, unfortunately, is hampered by a couple of factors that seem beyond the creative team’s control: bad timing, obviously, and a disconnect between the tone of this story and how it’s being marketed to its potential readership.

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Scar Issue

Batman: Three Jokers #1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist/Cover artist: Jason Fabok
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Mark Doyle
Publisher: DC Comics/DC Black Label imprint
Price: $6.99 US

It comes as no surprise that DC is inundating its readership with so many Joker-related comics over the past year. Given the financial and critical success of the Joker film starring Joaquin Phoenix, it stands to reason the publisher wouldn want to capitalize on that boosted profile. While I haven’t delved into the “Joker War” event in the main Batman titles or some of the other Black Label books featuring the Clown Prince of Crime, I was anticipating this limited series. I was thoroughly impressed with Geoff Johns’s work on Doomsday Clock, as it represented a huge leap forward in the complexity of his plotting and maturity of his characters, and as such, I was hoping for more of the same from Three Jokers. Sadly, this book doesn’t boast the same kind of strength. It has its cool moments, but it feels rushed.

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Of Gods and Monsters

Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Tom Scioli
Publisher: Random House/Ten Speed Press imprint
Price: $28.99 US/$38.99 CAN

My introduction to comics came in the late 1970s, and I was a DC kid from the start. As such, my first exposure to the work of Jack Kirby probably didn’t come until I saw his covers on the Super Powers comics tying into the toy line featuring DC heroes in the mid 1980s. I wasn’t impressed with Kirby’s style, as I was far more enamored of the work of such artists as George Perez and Jim Aparo. It was only later in life that I came to understand the depth of Kirby’s influence on American comics as a whole, and today, I can clearly see that influence at play in Perez’s dynamic and bombastic action scenes, for example.

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Genre Splicing

Pulp original graphic novel
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist/Cover artist: Sean Phillips
Colors: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $16.99 US

At first glance, this book seems as though it’s Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ foray into the Western genre, and to a limited extent, it is. But it’s most definitely not limited to that. The title refers to the broader umbrella of genres that were featured in the pulp fiction of 1930s America, just before the emergence and rise of comics. The creators bring together a Western outlaw and the urban anti-hero that would arise decades later and combine them into a compelling protagonist. While the plot and characterization are engrossing, the title and the two-pronged approach to the story belie the fact that this is an experiment in and commentary on the notion of genre in general.

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A Mouthful of Dollars

Chu #1
“The First Course, Part 1 of 5”
Writer: John Layman
Artist/Colors: Dan Boultwood
Letters: Comicraft
Cover artists: Boultwood (regular)/Rob Guillory and Boultwood (variants)
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I was a big fan of Chew when it debuted several years ago, and I wasn’t surprised at its success, given the novel nature of the central concept. I have the entire run in my collection — but truth be told, I haven’t read them all. One of the drawbacks of being a rabid comics fan is that one tends to acquire more than one can read in the span of a week, so the latter part of Chew is waiting for my perusal. So since it had been some time since I ventured into this weird world of police procedures and peckishness, I was concerned this followup, spinoff book might prove to be somewhat inaccessible.

I needn’t be worried. Layman delivers a delightfully welcoming read. It will please fans of Chew while also entertaining those who are new to the premise. And the art from Dan Boultwood is wonderfully consistent with that of original Chew artist Rob Guillory while also boasting its own distinct look.

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Striking the Wrong Chord

Dark Nights: Death Metal #1
“Death Metal – An Anti-Crisis, Part 1: It All Matters”
Writer: Scott Snyder
Pencils: Greg Capullo
Inks: Jonathan Glapion
Colors: FCO Plascencia
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Cover artists: Capullo & Glapion (regular)/David Finch, Francesco Mattina, Stanley “Artgerm” Lau, Doug Mahnke and Capullo & Glapion
Editor: Marie Javins
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

Given the success of a key villain introduced during the Dark Nights: Metal event, it wasn’t surprising when DC announced this sequel. There were elements from the first limited series I thoroughly enjoyed, but the execution was scattered, and the cosmic aspects of the plot weren’t clearly delineated. While the story looked and seemed cool, it was a cluttered, confusing capsule of chaos. It should come as no surprise that this followup project falls into the same pattern, and honestly, I can’t fault DC or the creators for it. The first was a resounding success; why would they shift gears with the sequel? Like the first Metal event book, Snyder and Capullo populate this title with novel concepts and new takes on familiar characters, and on that level, it’s a bit of fun. But it fails to establish any real suspense. Dark Nights: Metal really changed nothing about the DC Universe, save to inject a new, popular villain into the mix. The various spinoff titles fell flat. The main purpose here seems to be to offer a multitude of variant covers re-imagining icons of the super-hero genre as members of a metal band.

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Extra! Extra! Bleed All About It!

Bury the Lede original graphic novel
Writer: Gaby Dunn
Artist/Cover artist: Claire Roe
Colors: Miquel Muerto
Letters: Mike Fiorentino
Editor: Dafna Pleban
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $19.99 US

I was keen to read this book, as its focus on journalism – and specifically crime reporting – is of great interest to me personally and professionally. This is my first exposure to the work of writer Gaby Dunn, and there’s an undeniable edge to her plotting and characterization. Unfortunately, there’s also a profound lack of logic to it as well, robbing the story of plausibility and credibility. While the noir atmosphere, both in the story and art, is palpable and entertaining, I just couldn’t buy into the protagonist’s journey here. Her dumb luck, her implausible access, her determined destruction of every relationship in her life — little of it worked for me. There’s a powerful and engrossing yarn to be told here, but it’s one that calls for a more complex and finessed execution, as opposed to the ham-fisted hammering it gets here.

Creepy Crawlers

Giant-Size X-Men: Nightcrawler #1
“Haunted Mansion”
Writers: Jonathan Hickman & Alan Davis
Artist: Alan Davis
Colors: Carlos Lopez
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Davis (regular)/Ben Caldwell (variant)
Editor: Jordan D. White
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

I was blown away by Jonathan Hickman’s retooling of the X-Men franchise with House of X and Powers of X, with the injection of world-building, politics and sociology. But when I checked out the first issue of the relaunched X-Men series, I didn’t find the same level of inventiveness and complexity. As such, I decided not to delve into the various new X-related titles coming fast and furiously from Marvel. But when I saw that Alan Davis was contributing to this related one-shot, my interest was re-engaged. Davis’ art is stunning, of course, but I was also keen to see him reconnect with Nightcrawler, a character with whom he was closely associated from his run on Excalibur years ago. Unfortunately, this one-shot really never rises above the level of hum-drum, and at this price point and with these normally spectacular talents involved, I expected a lot more.

It’s a Nice Day for a Weird Wedding

The Ludacrats #1
“I. The Fine and Ludicrous Institution of Matrimony. Also. Murder.”
Writers: Kieron Gillen & Jim Rossignol
Artist: Jeff Stokely
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Chrissy Williams
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

After I began to draft this review, providing an advance look at this new title from Image Comics, Diamond Comic Distributors announced it was halting shipments of new comics to stores following this week. That means it’ll be well beyond April 1 before many will get a chance to see it (a shame, as April Fool’s Day would have been perfect timing for this title’s release). Though it may be some time before comics enthusiasts can get their hands on this book, they’d do well to remember the title. This stands out as incredibly unique, an exuberant belch of creativity and a celebration of taboos and poor taste, all dressed up for a murderous prom.

Kid’s Critique: Hex Vet: The Flying Surgery

Editor’s note: It’s been two years since my son, Callum, has posted a review on this site, but in this time of self-isolation and cancelled, we decided it was a great time to do some writing. Feedback and comments are welcome.

Hex Vet: The Flying Surgery original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Sam Davies
Editor: Bryce Carlson
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Kaboom imprint
Price: $9.99 US/$11.99 CAN

I think that this book is a nice mix of magic and veterinary medicine. The story elements go together very nicely. I also think I will read it again because it is so original; it’s almost like a whole new genre! If it were in the real world, it would be pretty cool. I like to think of it as an explosion of themes. And I liked how the characters said things; it was pretty good too.