How they gonna do that to Mr. Freeze, huh?
Gotham's missing a Batman in the new DC video game, but that's not the only thing this game is lacking. A very mid- experience; it has some high points in interesting crafting & crime-stopping, but some really low points in villain development and boss fights. Should you spend a lot on it? Probably not. But it might be worth a pick up on a steep Black Friday sale.
A tasteful memorial and a path to move forward.
There was a lot of speculation around how they would incorporate the loss of Chadwick Boseman and his rendition of T'Challa into the MCU, but it was done gracefully and with a lot of empathy. Beyond that, the movie itself is well done - great acting, beautiful visuals, and a solid story - even though there were some small but pronounced holes that could have made the film better with a little more fleshing out. More than anything, we're just proud the MCU has started to really figure out how to mix up the tone of their movies; we've come a long way from the Tony-Stark-ization of every character, and that's something to be celebrated, for sure.
Glasses that offer more than X-Ray vision...
Two Graves #1 (w: Genevieve Valentine, a: Ming Doyle, Annie Wu)
Publisher: Image Comics
I can't guarantee that I totally understand exactly what is happening in this book, but I find myself completely drawn into it. It's enigmatic in the ways that comic classics like Sandman are: cool and mysterious with emotions lingering just on the edge of the narrative, out of reach and building a strange tension. It's a dark book that ruminates on death at every corner, and in both tone and art style, it drips late '90s/ early '00s indie works.
A man with a smoky face and a young woman with a nihilistic streak are journeying to the east coast so she can lay her mother to rest. In the middle, we see them enacting vengeance for the dead, visiting people at the end of their life, and floating on a cliffside. We are unsure of the relationship of the two, and it seems they themselves don't truly know the nature of it. There are allusions to Greek myths, discussions of the nature of death and a general bleak romanticism permeated through the pages. The alternating art provides a unique flip-flopping of perspective throughout, giving the world each character exists in its own specific vibe.
From the title, I went in expecting another vengeance story in the style of a Brubaker title or a modern western like Undone by Blood. I suppose there is still room for this kind of story to develop, but the supernatural elements and ties to myth were a very nice surprise.
Specs #1 (w: David M. Booher, a: Chris Shehan)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
On the surface, Specs is a pretty straightforward "Kids on Bikes" story that flips the formula a bit by making the focus on things the kids themselves do instead of things happening in the world around them. In the '80s, two high school best friends are living their lives as outcasts. Our main character, Kenny, is struggling with his sense of identity as he navigates high school as a young gay man, a fact he keeps hidden from everyone around him, including his best friend, Teddy, who he confesses to being in love with. Meanwhile, Teddy is the only black student at his school, and his family appears to be one of the few, if not the only, black families in the town. The two deal with the expected amount of high school bullying that is common in these stories, but they stick together and do their best to defend each other. One day, Kenny receives a pair of wish-granting specs from one of those novelty ads found in an old comic book that belonged to his brother (who it seems has been kicked out of their home). They dive into the expected whacky antics of using the specs to get small amounts of cash, pass tests, win at video games, and many other silly 1980s shenanigans. They realize that the specs can't grant wishes too large, so things have to stay small. That is until the local bully, Skunk, comes at them with a knife and Teddy pushes a bit too hard.
Beyond that, Specs is a story about being disenfranchised in small town America. It's a story about what its like to get wins in a world that tries as hard as it can to keep you from success. Any win, however small it may be, feels magical or miraculous. It's a story about living under the weight of having to hide who you are, or the pain of not being able to hide who you are in a world that looks down on you for it. The struggles Teddy and Kenny have to endure are incredibly relatable to a lot of people, making their journey with the magic specs a fantasy deep from the hearts of those same people. David M. Booher is producing some of the finest queer stories in comics these days, and this is certainly not one to miss.
Knockturn County #1 (w: James E. Roche, a: Axur Eneas)
Publisher: Scout Comics
The first issue of Knockturn County consists of two stories under the premise of "Dr. Seuss but DARK." The first story plays out much as you'd expect: It's a story of drugs and murder and deceit all done in the cartoony art style and simplistic rhyme structure of a Dr. Seuss book. While it's fun, it's pretty generic as far as stories go. It's a noir tale about a cop falling for the girlfriend of a mob boss and ends about the way you'd expect. This story admittedly almost made me stop reading in that it was just too generic. We have seen so many "kids-focused IP but DARK" stories that rarely do more than just make the character do drugs and get naked. As such, I figured this book was going to just be another flash in the pan as many of its predecessors were. Then I got to story #2.
The second story in this book is about abuse, plain and simple, and while it is simplistic by nature in its structure, there is so much being said subtly about the ramifications of abuse and the effects it has on a child's mind. It was horribly dark and not an uplifting story at all, but it was an amazing use of a very specific storytelling style to portray something powerfully. It was fascinating to experience and I hope the rest of the stories in this series tackle equally as important subjects. This is published under Scout's "Nonstop!" imprint, so the next we'll see of Knockturn County will be a full trade paperback, which I definitely plan to pick up.
Just let people buy good books!
Orc Island #1 (w: Joshua Dysart, a: Alberto Ponticelli)
Publisher: Bad Idea
As with all Bad Idea titles, I am gonna preface by saying DO NOT BUY THIS THIRD PARTY YOU ARE OVERPAYING AND FEEDING INTO A SYSTEM SPECIFCALLY MANIPULATED BY BAD IDEA'S GIMMICKY STYLE.
Anyway, now that that's out of the way, this book was incredible. I am endlessly frustrated that some of the coolest, most unique stuff is coming out of a company whose sole focus seems to be making comics as predatory as possible for a laugh.
Orc Island is a familiar fantasy story in a lot of ways. A young street rat Half-Elf lives in a world of extreme economic disparity. The poor get to live in lower, filthy places called "shit alley" while the "High Patriarchs" live on floating temples of elegance and debauchery. One day, our main character, Cerrin Son Sion, is given the opportunity to earn some money fighting for the entertainment of the Patriarchs. He does a stunning job, though is nearly executed for saying some offensive things in the court. Having lost any opportunity to fight again, he is approached by a woman with a dangerous proposition: they are adventuring to Orc Island to collect skulls.
Again, a familiar fantasy premise of impoverished rascal is granted opportunity they never would have expected, but what sets Orc Island apart is two-fold. First, the bleakness of it. Cerrin is not a hopeful dreamer, he is a nihilist. His attitude and criminal actions are all in response to his no longer caring if he lives or dies. He isn't adventuring because he feels like he was made for more than what his life in poverty grants him, as many fantasy heroes do. He is adventuring because he feels he has nothing to lose. This unique and weirdly refreshing pessimism is then supported by Ponticelli's absolutely stunning art and character design. AT first glance, this feels like another "Fantasy but the Future" book in the vein of Shadowrun or the many books that take this approach. However, as you move through it, you see that while some modern or more futuristic styling exists, it all still remains archaic and magical. It's a very interesting style where everything feels so advanced and yet so medieval. The floating temples, for example, feel like many sci-fi vessels we've seen in the past, and yet they are effectively just slabs of marble levitating through the power of teams of sorcerers who are eventually driven mad from their service. Honestly, it feels very Warhammer 40K at times, just with less oil and cable. The characters are all brightly colored in various shades, and Matt Hollingsworth's colors make this elaborate magical world absolutely pop. I love the brightness as it works against the bleakness of the narrative. It's a dissonance that doesn't detract from the story but instead serves to enhance the mystique of the world we're experiencing.
There is a backing story by Mike Carey (w) and Kano (a) that is about Noah's Ark and is absolutely hilarious. I would be remiss if I didn't mention it as well and give it a big ol' thumbs up.
One day, if Bad Idea just stopped the gimmicks and printed comics, they would go down as one of the best publishers to exist in the industry ever. Unfortunately, we're already too into the gimmicks, so thus is life. If you're able to get your hands on Bad Idea books, I recommend. If you local doesn't carry them and/or hoards them until they're able to sell them online, pass and go find something else to read. Also, maybe report your shop to Bad Idea for giggles.
Behold, Behemoth #1 (w: Tate Brombal, a: Nick Robles)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
A social worker and a child at the brink of the apocalypse.
After the death of his brother, Greyson finds himself plagued with visions. He's losing time and seeing horrible, dark things. He sees monsters and demons. He see himself fighting back, destroying his enemies. At the same time, a young girl he's responsible for checking on finds herself without a family. She finds herself caught in a web of violence and destruction. All the while, the world crumbles around them both.
This book is wonderful, no other words to say. It's another book with a unique look on apocalypse storytelling, similar to Last House on the Lake, that focuses as much energy on the actual ending world as it does on the ended world. It's a deep, dark and painful read. I love it so much.
The Ones (w: Brian Michael Bendis, a: Jacob Edgar)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
I'm gonna start by saying that I am not offended by the F-word. I use it plenty in my day to day, probably well more than I should. That said, someone needs to take that word away from BMB. I feel like every new indie title I read from Bendis is just panel after panel of F's. He is one of those writers that we've talked about in the past that likes to throw it into the middle of words and it just makes the whole bit of dialogue cringe and awkward. I challenge you, Bendis, to write ONE book with no F-Bombs. See what you can do, friend.
All f***ing-griping aside, this book was pretty awe-f***ing-some. This book follows a man creating a team of heroes in order to stop a great evil from consuming the world. The catch is that all the heroes are "chosen ones," or people with some form of prophetic or fate-determined heroism. The group itself is comprised of a series of familiar pastiches, from Superman to Buffy to a man filling the trope of "chosen one baby" who never did anything beyond being a baby who was a chosen one. It's a fun cast of characters, and Edgar's design for them is rooted in our familiarity but with just enough uniqueness to feel fresh and fun. I personally think this is some of Bendis's better character writing I've seen. The characters seem very unique from one another and there isn't a ton of Bendis's own voice draped over them, which is a trend in his writing that I know divides some people. So, F-Bomb addiction aside, I think this is a slam dunk for BMB. The overall "mission" of the group is a bit bland and not anything we've not really seen before, but I'm hoping that the fun cast of characters working together and perhaps some creative writing choices keep everything feeling fresh.
Nature's Labyrinth #1 (w: Zac Thompson, a: Bayleigh Underwood)
Publisher: Mad Cave Comics
It's like Cube by way of Squid Games, and I mean that in the best way. Sure, there are some beats from both that crop up, but it's issue one and those things are somewhat necessary for establishing the stakes of a story like this. It's forgiveable.
Nature's Labyrinth sees the winners of some kind of tournament from all over the world finding their way onto a cruise ship. They party and chat, drink and dance. Eventually, they are invited to dine with the captain, and then things take a sharp turn. When the drugs wear off, they find themselves on an island somewhere, split into small groups, and then the rules of the game are explained to them.
Again, it's nothing revolutionary, but there are some mysteries afoot that I always find compelling whenever we get a story like this. I think Thompson and Underwood have done a good job making an interesting cast of characters, and our main protagonist is compelling in a stoic action hero kind of way. We learn a small tidbit about her later that makes things even more interesting. The highlight of the whole thing is Bayleigh Underwood, who is just an absolutely delightful artist. I first experienced their work in Marvel Action Thrillers, and I truly hope to see them more. The art in this book is loud and fast-paced, with moment of action sweeping smoothly from panel to panel. Underwood's drastic choices in the anatomy of characters builds such a bizarre and almost absurd world, and I am stoked to see them design even more deadly traps deep in the labyrinth.
It's more than just weird sky punches.
I wouldn't say that the rock has brought something hugely new and different to the genre, but I would say he's helped create a super fun, action-packed popcorn movie that's definitely worth seeing on a big screen. Oh, and it DOES have some implications for the rest of the MCU so, you know, be ready for that.
Cover B Podcast
Chris & Tee host this weekly comic-focused show, providing insight on new comics, entertainment news and more.