Category Archives: Reviews – Image

Love Notion Undermined

Death of Love #1
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist/Cover artist: Donal DeLay
Colors: Omar Estévez & Felipe Sobreiro
Letters: Rachel Deering
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

It may seem fitting that this comic book about the challenges of looking for love is being launched on Valentine’s Day. But this is no romance comic. If you’re looking for a touching love story this week, might I suggest checking out Bingo Love, an original graphic novel also being released by Image Comics this week. Nevertheless, Death of Love #1 is timely in its release, but not because it’s Valentine’s Day. Instead, its relevance flows from how it touches on relationships, misnomers about the “Battle of the Sexes,” and the #MeToo movement. Writer Justin Jordan offers a spot-on portrayal of a pitiful and cowardly guy who feels the universe owes him love. I have to admit that one of the reasons I was so drawn in by the script was because of how much I saw myself in it — or at least a past version of myself. This inaugural issue of Death of Love isn’t about love but rather about fear. The more fantastic premise that reveals Itself by the end of the issue isn’t entirely clear, and on the surface, it would seem to sidestep the point of responsibility. But given the clear indications that the main character is His Own Worst Enemy in this story, I suspect the overall theme will return to a grounded and more evolved perspective.

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Alt Fight

Days of Hate #1
“Chapter One: America First”
Writer: Ales Kot
Artist/Cover artist: Danijel Zezelj
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Writer Ales Kot must have been nerve-wracked as he waited for this comic book to be released, wondering if the possible prophecies of his prose might come true, and I expect the experience will be a perpetual one throughout the 12-issue run. This story flows entirely from the socio-political upheaval in the United States right now and the emboldening of white supremacy in that country. Every day, there’s a new development in politics that would have been thought to be impossible in previous decades. But more than anything, I can’t help but wonder if the near-future Kot imagines in this story isn’t so much near but immediately impending. Days of Hate isn’t so much a piece of fiction, but a prediction if racism and the wealth gap are allowed to continue to grow, threatening to swallow what was once viewed as perhaps the most progressive and idealistic nation on the planet, rather than the shithole country many worry it’s in danger of becoming.

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Brought Together By Bingo

Bingo Love original graphic novel
Writer: Tee Franklin
Artist: Jenn St-Onge
Colors: Joy San
Letters: Cardinal Rae
Cover artist: Genevieve Eft
Editor: Erica Schultz
Publisher: Image Comics/Inclusive Press
Price: $9.99 US

Purely from a marketing perspective, this book has a lot going for it. The title is a striking one, evoking curiosity and bemusement, and the cute figures on the cover draws one in further as well. On top of that, the $10 price tag is an affordable and inviting one, so Bingo Love was poised to catch some eyes. But I suspect word of mouth would have been all these creators needed to attract an audience. This is a powerfully compelling and charming love story about being gay in America in the past and what it means to be gay today. It’s definitely a celebration of the progress in LGBTQ+ issues. But honestly, the story doesn’t draw its strength from that relevance and importance. Instead, it’s the touching and believable love story that grabs the reader and never lets go, along with the well-realized cast of characters. By the end of the book, this is a story about a family that adapts to the power and promise of love, putting happiness above prejudice and petty concerns.

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‘Raq and Roll

Rumble v.2 #1
Writer: John Arcudi
Artist: David Rubin
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Joe Sabino
Cover artists: David Rubin & Mike Mignola
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I came in this comic book cold, drawn only by John Arcudi’s name on the cover. I didn’t know what to expect. In fact, I had no idea when I read this issue that it was the launch of the second volume of the series, with a previous 15-issue run published from 2014-16. One might assume I was in over my head, bound to be confused, put off and/or disappointed.

But I wasn’t. While I’m still in the dark as to what unfolded in the first volume of the series, what I found here was an accessible and thoroughly intriguing myth tempered by populating it with regular people and irregular monsters that talk like regular people. The script is challenging but draws the reader in with its increasingly quirky characters and concepts. And if that weren’t enough, David Rubin’s exaggerated and unique artwork dazzles with his designs and unconventional panel layouts and perspectives.

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High in the Sky

Void Trip #1
Writer: Ryan O’Sullivan
Artist/Colors: Plaid Klaus
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Cover artists: Klaus (regular)/Sarah Suhng, Caspar Wijngaard, Alessandro Vitti & Mike McKone (variants)
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Image Comics is such a radically different beast than what it was when it launched a quarter century (!) ago. Them, it was home to creator-owned properties by some of the most popular talents in the industry, but it was basically a super-hero publisher, offering the same sort of fare as Marvel and DC. It’s finally evolved into what it was meant to be: a haven for creator-owned work across many genres, both crafted by the best-known writers and artists in the industry but also by new names. Void Trip falls into the latter category. Image has had such a solid track record as of late, it makes me want to sample all of its titles, but if there’s any problem with its publishing plans, it’s that it’s pumping out too many comics. Nevertheless, I like to try something new from Image from time to time, and I’m thoroughly pleased to chose to peruse Void Trip. This sci-fi comedy reads like someone took elements from the Star Wars franchise, threw them into a blender with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and hit purée.

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The Mage Runner

Mage, Book Three: The Hero Denied #0
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Matt Wagner
Colors: Brennan Wagner
Letters: Dave Lanphear
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $1.99 US

I have to admit I’m only a casual reader of Matt Wagner’s comics. I’m broadly aware of the two creator-owned properties for which he’s known – Mage and Grendel – but I’ve read only a few comics from the various runs of those titles over the decades. There’s no denying there’s a fanbase out there for this material, though, so Wagner’s choice to return to Kevin Matchstick and company isn’t surprising. What drew me to this comic wasn’t so much my past exposure to Mage or the strength of Wagner’s work, but the cheap price, to be honest. While entertaining and diverting, it manage to hook me, so I don’t know if I’ll be moved to seek out subsequent issues.

Creepy little monsters still lurk in the dark corners of the world, and a new generation of heroes has arisen to deal with them, heroes like the hover-boarding millennial known as “the Steeze.” The cocky, young champion encounters Kevin Matchstick and is determined to show the old-timer a thing or two, but it doesn’t take the experienced hero long to teach him a thing or two. Still, the Steeze struts away, confident he saved the day, but Kevin knows the new generation hasn’t even scratched the surface of nefarious threats out there.

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The Biggest Oozer

VariantSnotgirl #1
Writer/Variant cover artist: Bryan Lee O’Malley
Artist/Cover artist: Leslie Hung
Colors: Mickey Quinn
Letters: Maré Odomo
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

Bryan Lee O’Malley is, of course, best known for his Scott Pilgrim series of graphic novels from Oni Press from several years ago. I appreciated the Pilgrim and acknowledged the high level of craft that went into them, but I had difficulty in connecting with the slacker characters. I was well beyond the irresponsible, early-20s stage of my life that defined the Pilgrim characters. I related much more to the protagonist in his one-off Seconds graphic novel last year. With Snotgirl, O’Malley has crafted another immature, 20-something lead, but to my surprise, I found her much more fascinating. While she’s far from an admirable character, there are aspects of her character with which the reader can identify. It’s an unusual exploration of the Millennial generation, but it’s also an intelligent examination of a superficial and lost soul.

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War, What Is It Good For?

Princess at Midnight original graphic novella
Writer/Artist: Andi Watson
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $5.99 US

It’s coming on the three-year anniversary that my family moved into our first (and, we expect, last) house. We absolutely love it. It’s a four-bedroom home, and we only use two of them regularly (one for the wife and me, and the other for the boy). One is a guest bedroom, and that leaves one more. It’s my home office, or at least, it was always intended as such, but it’s only recently that I really set out to make that a reality. I assembled a new bookshelf and have been finally organizing all the softcover and hardcover books — mostly comics — and am working to make it a little haven for myself. As such, I’ve been unpacking a lot of books that have been sitting in boxes since the move three years ago, and I’m rediscovering a lot of interesting gems — books I hadn’t thought about in a long time and even some I hadn’t even read.

Princess at Midnight is one of those falling into the latter category. I’ve always loved Andi Watson’s work, though when I think of his storytelling, it’s usually things such as Slow News Day and Dumped that come to mind, more mature, character-driven works. Still, Watson is an adept teller of stories about and for children, and Princess at Midnight, published by Image Comics in 2008, stands out as a charming example of that strength. It’s actually a surprising book, as it’s not about what one expects at first. It seems to be about a little girl’s dream-haven away from her annoying twin and her unconventional parents, but instead, it proves to be a political story that casts the little girl as the antagonist in her own story.

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Which Witch Is Which?

Last week saw the release of a number of impressive and strong samples of comics storytelling, and two of the titles I picked up, both debut issues for new series, had a lot in common: witches. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Wytches were both engaging reads delving into witchcraft, supernatural lore and the overwhelming challenges of adolescence, but they were also far from carbon copies of one another.

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Winds of War

White Death original softcover graphic novel
Writer: Robbie Morrison
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Publisher: AiT/PlanetLar
Price: $12.95 US

I see Image Comics released a hardcover edition of this graphic novel at the end of August. I didn’t pick it up, mainly because I already have a softcover edition of the book. Indy publisher AiT/PlanetLar originally published this creator-owned graphic novel back in 2002, and I was a devotee of AiT/PlanetLar books at the time. I’ve been writing comics reviews for a long time, and I recalled I already penned some thoughts about this book 12 years ago. Rather than write a new review, I found the original review, which I’ve reproduced below (with a couple of minor edits). When I was reviewing on TheFourthRail.com at the time, I wrote many more reviews each week and wrote in a much more brief format than I do today.

When I saw this solicited in Previews, I figured, ‘What the hey.’ I enjoyed Adlard’s art, and publisher Larry Young has a solid track record. I’ve been wanting to wade into more original graphic novels and collected editions lately anyway. Little did I know I was ordering one of the most amazing war comics I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Those who enjoyed and appreciated the craft behind Garth Ennis’s recent War Story one-shots will be awe-struck by the quality and vivid storytelling and characterization to be found in White Death.

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Exorcize Regimen

Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta #1
“A Darkness Surrounds Him”
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist/Cover artist: Paul Azaceta
Colors: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment
Price: $2.99 US

There are a number of creators whose new works I’ll check out no matter what, and both writer Robert Kirkman and artist Paul Azaceta are on that list. While they don’t necessarily reinvent the wheel with this new horror-genre comic, they blend misdirection, mood and characterization to deliver a solidly entertaining read. Kirkman always seems as though he’s in tune with the pulse of pop culture, and the possession premise at the heart of this new series ought to make the most of that paranormal trend that’s still prevalent today. I’ve never been terribly interested in the exorcism niche of the horror genre — I’ve never seen The Exorcist — but what held my interest here was the challenging construction of this inaugural issue as well as Kirkman’s decision to ignore cliché and convention specifically when it comes to the development of a key character.

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Voice Lessons

A Voice in the Dark #s 1 & 2
“Blood Makes Noise” parts 1 & 2
Writer/Artist: Larime Taylor
Editor: Dannty Donovan
Publisher: Image Comics/Top Cow Productions
Price: $3.99 US each

That’s right, I’m back after a long hiatus. The dormancy of Eye on Comics doesn’t stem from site issues, personal illness or some ’round-the-world excursion or anything. More pressing, everyday concerns seemed to trump my writing about comics, and honestly, I think I was a bit burnt out on it. But after writing yesterday’s review, I felt re-energized, and with the snow melting, I needn’t worry about snowblowing, wood-fetching or deck-clearing. What follows below is a review I had mostly written when the Big Break happened, so I’m behind a bit on the series. But don’t let that mislead you into thinking the comic book discussed here is one that should be overlooked.

I’ll be honest: the Top Cow brand isn’t one to which I pay much attention. Defined by its titles that represent the Kewl excesses of the 1990s (such as Cyberforce and The Darkness), Top Cow Productions has rarely offered a title that’s really held my interest (at least of the ones I’ve sampled over the past 20 years). So when I saw the promotional material in my Inbox for this particular Top Cow book, I didn’t expect much. Still, I decided to take a few minutes to “thumb through” a digital copy of the first issue. A few minutes turned into 30, as I drank in the first issue and then the second. And then I read a message from the writer/artist/creator in the back of the first issue. The broad concept cover blurb quote — describing A Voice in the Dark, as Dexter meets Strangers in Paradise — isn’t a bad description, but it really only scratches the surface of this powerful, character-driven sample of storytelling.

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Waste Management

Variant coverLazarus #1
“Family, Part One”
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist/Letters/Cover artist: Michael Lark
Colors: Santi Arcas
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I haven’t been watching advance solicitations as of late. Often, new titles will turn up on the shelves of my local comic shop and take me by surprise. “I can’t believe So And So had a new book out and I didn’t know” or “Wow, that comic is out already? I thought it was months away.” I was vaguely aware of the approaching release of Lazarus #1, but I had absolutely no idea what it was about, and I honestly, I didn’t care. It was a new comic by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, creators whose past works I’ve enjoyed, notably their previous collaboration on Gotham Central. I was eager to sample a new creator-owned work from them, and the notion they might disappoint never entered my mind. And they didn’t disappoint, but they did take me off-guard. I was expecting something else, something more grounded, something more rooted in or at least connected to the crime genre, given their previous projects. But Lazarus is, if described in broad terms, a science-fiction book, or, more specifically, a dystopian book. It’s certainly a smart book, and it has some strong messages.

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The Kids Are All Might

Jupiter’s Legacy #1
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Frank Quitely
Colors/Letters: Peter Doherty
Cover artists: Quitely/Bryan Hitch/Dave Johnson/Phil Noto/J. Scott Campbell/Christian Ward
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

While still boasting an over-the-top approach, Jupiter’s Legacy mercifully seems a bit more toned down in its more extreme approach to the super-hero genre than Millar’s other more recent super-hero satire/deconstruction projects, such as Kick-Ass and Nemesis. There’s a lot more subtext to be found here, as Millar isn’t really telling a super-hero story. The intent is clearly of a cultural and socio-political commentary on the state of America in the 21st century. There’s an interesting balance of hope and cynicism to be found here that allows Jupiter’s Legacy to stand apart from other “Millarworld” fare. Mind you, while the themes and ideas are engaging and thought-provoking, what the storytelling boasts in the way of subtext, it lacks in terms of subtlety. But that’s OK… who’s expecting subtlety from a Millar script? Also coming as no surprise is the strength of Frank Quitely’s linework. Though I wish his character designs included a more diverse array of body types, he imbues the cast with powerful presences and intensity.

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Don’t Look a Gift Horseman in the Mouth

Ghost variantEast of West #1
“One: Out of the Wasteland”
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist/Cover artist: Nick Dragotta
Colors: Frank Martin
Letters: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50 US

At my local comic shop, there’s a slightly unusual entry on my pull list: “Anything by Jonathan Hickman from Image.” I don’t need to know what a new Hickman creator-owned title is about; I don’t need to know who the artist is — I know it’s going to be something I want to read, and East of West continues that track record. It’s certainly an ambitious storytelling experiment. Hickman is no stranger to developing alternate histories in which to set his stories, but this transformation of America into seven separate nations seems particularly ambitious. But the story’s not really about an America moulded by prophecy, the Civil War and spiritualism. What this is really about is the apocalypse — or to be more precise, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I really don’t think the hero of the story has even presented himself yet, but I’m definitely captivated by the intensity of the plotting and characterization. Hickman plays around with genre to great effect, but it does make for a complex and challenging read at times. Fortunately, it’s a challenge well worth taking on.

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