Category Archives: Reviews – Image

Better Red Than Dead

Shanghai Red #1
“Chapter One: Life Among the Rats”
Writer: Christopher Sebela
Artist/Colors: Joshua Hixson
Letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Cover artists: Hixson (regular)/Tyle Boss (variant)
Editor: Andrea Shockling
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I was fortunate enough to get a chance to look at a preview copy of this comic book for review purposes. Here’s how good it is: upon its release, I bought the first issue at my local comic shop and added it immediately to my pull list. Shanghai Red (a reference to the main protagonist) is a dark and grisly piece of historical fiction, but it’s absolutely riveting. It reads a little like what might arise if director Quentin Tarantino were asked to deliver a spin on Pirates of the Caribbean. Mind you, there are no pirates here, only sailors and slave labour, and the inherent conflict that would arise from such circumstances. This may very well be the best comic book I’ve read in weeks, and what’s truly surprising is that it flows from the talent of creators who are completely unknown to be.

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Witch Hunt

Witchblade #6
Writer: Caitlin Kittredge
Artist/Cover artist: Roberta Ingranata
Colors: Bryan Valenza
Letters: Troy Peteri
Editor: Eric Stephenson
Publisher: Image Comics/Top Cow Productions
Price: $3.99 US

While not the first comic to come from Image founder Marc Silvestri’s Top Cow Productions, Witchblade was its most successful property. It spawned its own little corner of the Image universe and even had its own short-lived, live-action television series. I was never a fan, though, as Witchblade seemed emblematic of the “Kewl” 1990s super-hero comic: superficially edgy fare the real purpose of which always seemed to be the prominent presentation of tits and asses. Objectification was job No. 1 with Witchblade comics in the past, so when a relaunch debuted this year, I was curious to see if Top Cow would stick with that sexist cachet or try to evolve. The good news is that the latter proved to be the case, but unfortunately, the plotting is rather clichéd, offering some loose-cannon-cop tropes dressed up with super-hero and supernatural elements.

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Enter Stellar

Stellar #1
Writer: Joe Keatinge
Artist/Colors/Cover artist: Bret Blevins
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

It’s been a while since I read a comic written by Joe Keatinge — his Glory revamp with Sophie Campbell was great — but what really drew me to this comic was the artist. Bret Blevins was a mainstay of super-hero comics in the 1980s and 1990s, with work on such books as New Mutants, Strange Tales and Superman Adventures. In recent years, I believe he’s been working in animation, so seeing his name on a creator-owned title grabbed my attention. Blevins has always had a more unusual style, and he uses it to great effect here with this sci-fi epic. Stellar is a genuinely mature and challenging science-fiction story that will appeal to fans of European comics fare.

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Castling

The Last Siege #1
Writer: Landry Q. Walker
Artist: Justin Greenwood
Colors: Eric Jones
Letters: Patrick Brosseau
Cover artists: Justin Greenwood (regular)/Nick Dragotta (variant)
Editor: Branwyn Bigglestone
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Medieval stories — either with sword-and-sorcery elements or now — are from a genre in which I generally don’t have a lot of interest. I haven’t watched a moment of Game of Thrones, for example, and similar fare, such as Conan stories, rarely hold my attention. Nevertheless, I decided to give The Last Siege a glance when a digital preview made its way into my little corner of the world. This story features a number of traits that normally turn me off from such material, from stilted dialogue to reflect the time to hardships and violence that make it next to impossible to relate to the characters. But there was something to the plot and script here that clicked for me. The blend of politics and crude opportunism honestly put me in mind of the political climate in western society today, and specifically in the United States.

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Gravity Fails

Skyward #1
“My Low-G Life, Part One”
Writer: Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colors: Antonio Fabela
Letters: Simon Bowland
Editor: Rick Lopez Jr.
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Normally, it’s characterization that makes or breaks a comic-book title for me. If I can relate to the characters, if they really feel like they live and breathe beyond the two-dimensional confines of the page, that’s often what resonates with me. Skyward offers some strong characterization, but with this first issue, it’s the premise that grabs the reader’s attention. The notion of a world that loses its gravity is presented as both a horrific tragedy and a heaven-sent miracle, and both perspectives are true. What makes this presentation of such an immense idea work, though, is how focused it is. Writer Joe Henderson takes us into just one small corner of a world without gravity, with a small cast of characters — which just happens to include a pivotal player in the story.

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Tech Support as Life Support

Cyber Force #1
Writers: Matt Hawkins & Bryan Hill
Artist/Colors: Atilio Rojo
Letters: Troy Peteri
Cover artists: Marc Silvestri and Atilio Rojo
Editor: Elena Saldeco
Publisher: Image Comics/Top Cow Productions
Price: $3.99 US

I wasn’t a fan of the original Cyber Force series back in the early 1990s; like most of the other fare from Image Comics in its infancy, it was all about Kewl super-hero action, with ridiculous large guns and extreme violence. It was supremely popular with many readers (and notably collectors), but creator Marc Silvestri’s style wasn’t for me, and neither were the characters. When I learned Image and Top Cow Productions were relaunching the property and reinventing it in the process, it piqued my curiosity. I was pleased to find writers Matt Hawkins and Bryan Hill (who have impressed me as late with their Postal one-shots) offer a much more grounded take on these extreme characters. The plot and character reactions here feel a little familiar, but the execution is solid and much more inviting than the original book.

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Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright…

Isola #1
Writer: Brenden Fletcher & Karl Kerschl
Artist/Cover artist: Kerschl
Colors: Msassyk
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

All I needed to know about Isola to add it to my pull list was that it was being illustrated by Karl Kerschl. I knew it would be a lovely book — and it is — but his and Brenden Fletcher’s story of myth and magic is much more compelling than I expected. The creators only give us the tiniest of tastes of the fantastic world they’ve created here, but it’s rich and full of promise. It feels as though Isola has the potential to be to fantasy and fable what Saga is to science-fiction. I have no doubt this is going to be the comic that next month sends readers scrambling at the last minute to grab a copy of an all-too short supply, as it could easily fly under the reader of my regular mainstream comics readers. Giving your retailer a heads-up about it would be wise — not out of any kind of collectibility, but because you really don’t want to pass up a chance to read this comic.

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Ghost Storey

Infidel #1
Writer: Pornsak Pichetshote
Artist: Aaron Campbell
Colors/Editor: José Villarrubia
Letters: Jeff Powell
Cover artists: Campbell (regular)/Jae Lee (variant)
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Promotional material from Image Comics about this new release suggests that this comic book marks the first time that Pornsak Pichetshote — a respected editor in the industry, formerly with DC’s Vertigo imprint — has written one. That’s actually a mistake; Pichetshote penned Flashpoint: Green Arrow Industries #1, published back in 2011. Given the strength of the characterization and plotting in this new project, I think maybe I might have to go back and look at that one shot from DC Comics. Pichetshote offers a riveting story that blends the ugliness of bigotry with the supernatural scars of murder. He achieves a tremendous balance between grounded elements and surreal ones, but it’s really the former aspects of the book that will ultimately win over readers.

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Bursting into Song

Oblivion Song #1
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist/Cover artist: Lorenzo De Felici
Colors: Annalisa Leoni
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Oblivion Song reads a bit like what might have unfolded had the entire town of Hawkins been sucked into the Upside Down in Stranger Things instead of just Will and Barb. But whereas Stranger Things was very much about atmosphere and character interaction, Oblivion Song, due to its more ambitious premise, is much more sociopolitical in its approach to storytelling. There are strong characterization elements as well, but the book, while boasting several strengths, is definitely most interesting thanks to its focus on the effect on the world outside the monstrous, surreal realm where the more action-oriented moments take place. This was a strong debut Issue, and writer Robert Kirkman continues to demonstrate that he’s a novel, skilled and intelligent storyteller.

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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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