Category Archives: Reviews – Image

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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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 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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