Who doesn't love a good slasher?
Monarch #1 (w: Rodney Barnes, a: Alex Lins)
Publisher: Image Comics
On its surface, this is a story about kids surviving a horrific alien invasion.
At its heart, this is a story about the difficulties of finding love and peace in a harsh world full of violence and hate. It's about the things that the world shapes us to be in the face of all that. How refusing to let go of isolated moments in our life can destroy us. Monarch is a story about hope as much as it is a story about the lack thereof.
It's a cool book and I'm wary to say too much about the story itself to take away any of the impact. The art is wonderful and shockingly visceral. The characters are sweet and their pain resonates with the reader. Barnes and Lins have hit on some magic with this one. Go pick it up.
Harrower #1 (w: Justin Jordan, a: Brahm Revel)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
A nice, straight-forward slasher that seems to be setting up some significant beats dealing with PTSD, loss and conviction.
Harrower takes place in the town of Barlowe, New York: a town gripped by superstition. Legends in this town tell of the Harrower, an avenging spirit sent to punish the wicked. On Halloween night, as all the adults prepare to attend the Harvest Gala, Jessa and her friends are preparing for a night of high school debauchery. However, this particular Harvest Gala feels especially grim, being the ten year anniversary of a massive tragedy that rocked the town. We don't know much about what occurred, but Jessa lost her brother, and others in the town also lost young family members. As all the preparation builds, we see a police officer attacked by the Harrower himself. The officer admits to wanting to reveal some sort of secret and blaming others in the town for his demise. His son, Carter, discovers the body and decides to take his father's mission into his own hands.
As I said, Harrower delivers a nice, recognizable slasher premise. Halloween night, small town, teens out to get murdered. What it provides to enhance the experience are hints of a deep web of corruption among the adults in the town and a very upsetting betrayal toward the end of the book. There is something happening - some secret behind the Harrower that will hopefully provide a very shocking reveal down the line.
This is a great book for slasher fans or people who like a good "teens getting picked off one by one" horror story. For people who need more, I feel confident that this can please them too, whether it be for the folklore elements or the general sense of intrigue.
The Finder #1 (w: Christos Gage, a: Tomas Giorello)
Publisher: Bad Idea Comics
This book is a bit more actiony than what I typically prefer, but I really dig the overall premise. I am an absolute sucker for superheroes with very subtle powers, and the Finder fits the bill.
The story follows the eponymous Finder, a woman with the power to find anyone by resonating with something they cherish, as she carries out her duties of finding a kidnapped superhero, First Responder. We learn over the course of their interaction that this world is made up of two types of powered individuals: natural powers like the Finder, and scientifically enhanced powers like First Responder. The first category of hero make up the Ground Crew, a group of heroes who perform less than glamorous duties in order to set the stage for the enhanced heroes, known as Frontliners, to claim their glory or to clean up afterward. The Frontliners themselves are mainly government pawns, enlisted and enhanced by government units to perform bombastic tasks in order to grab media attention and whatnot. It's a really fascinating world, especially for anyone who likes superhero content like The Boys and such.
The story itself is a little bland. A lot of cliché action movie badass-ering, silly lines about being too tough for their own good, etc., etc. I did like the characters and the design of the world, just some of the dialogue felt a bit too "Vin Diesel movie" for me.
Anyway, cool book overall with some great art. Dialogue choices aside, I highly recommend.
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.
Honorable Mention Highlights: December 2021
Refuse x Last Resort Double Shot
One side is a beautiful, near-wordless journey of a woman utterly isolated and striving to get back to her world. The other side is a tongue-in-cheek exploration of how ridiculously exploitative capitalism is, and the complications of being surrounded by, well, yourself. It's a huge book being a double-shot and all, but definitely worth a pick-up.
Gotham City Villains Anniversary Giant
I don't have to say a whole lot about this book. You know why? Because the first story is by Danny DeVito, detailing how The Penguin and Catwoman fell in love, cured COVID-19, and saved the world. See, that's enough.
This book is zany, and fast, and honestly a little disorienting (but in a good way?). While many books struggle to gain speed in the first issue, this one feels almost like they put too much into the opening chapter, but with tech meeting ancient civilizations meeting an entertainingly diverse cast, I think I'm into it.
One-Star Squadron #1
If you aren't Batman or Tony Stark or Oliver Queen, it's unlikely your superhero-ing can serve as a moneymaking endeavor. That is, unless you team up with an agency that helps you live a secure life with a plan (and maybe a pension). I always appreciate a story talking about the mundane surrounded by the fantastic. And what's more mundane than paying taxes?
Lunar Room #1
I think this has a lot of potential to be a cool magical Neo-Noir story, but the first issue didnt entirely hook me. I like the world and the mystery thats building, but the characters were a smidge on the cliche side. Still, werewolves and magic in a gritty city underbelly, could appeal to the World of Darkness crowd and those adjacent.
No Holds Bard #1
SHAKESPEARE AS BATMAN. I love the concept of this, but the delivery is a bit ho hum. It is too aware of the joke instead of just letting the concept be funny on its own. Still, i had fun on the ride, even if there was an occasional eye roll in the mix.
Ms. Marvel: Beyond the Limit #1
I didn't know I needed Ms. Marvel to have her own Spider-esque web of multiverses - but now I do! Giving her a new story to help those unfamiliar get acquainted before her new show hits, I'm excited to see a very multi-faceted tale all about Kamala(s).
Apache Delivery Service #1
This book has a lot going for it - minimalist storytelling, an emotional time period and setting, a diverse cast with a broad experience, and evocative imagery. It's not a "nice" book, but it has potential to be an impactful one.
A King's Vengeance #1
Tonally dark, ultra-violent Adventure Time. This book lays out a fairly basic concept and then delivers with some dope art and cool character design. Nifty book all around.
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Weekly Pull Highlights: December 15, 2021
What's real and what's a fabrication? That's exactly what we're piecing through this week - whether it's the grey area between dream and reality, rumors and the truth, or the fiction of a book and the real-life happenings of our world.
I mean, they did say they were a bad idea, right?
Weekly Pull Highlights: September 1, 2021
Despite the ongoing battle Chris is fighting with Bad Idea comics & their vast array of gimmicks, we've got not one, but TWO books from them to cover this week, plus an excellent modern spy tale based on a true story.
Honorable Mention Highlights: Summer Break 2021
Ordinary Gods #1
Wow, okay, this book is cool. Very fun world building, solid concept. It doesn't break too much ground beyond the "hey, you're a reincarnated hero and I'm here to save you" trope, but the action is intense and shocking and the characters are well done. This is a seriously fun book. It's going to fill the void Sacred Creatures left.
We Don't Kill Spiders #1
A viking murder mystery with necromancy?!? Yes please! These book drips cool, both with Schmalke's interesting use of color pallet and with his very unique Viking character in Bjorn, our investigator. I was super stoked for this to come out and am very pleased with the result!
The Lot #1
Gee wiz, finally something out of Bad Idea that I can actually recommend. The Lot is exactly my kind of B Horror movie but with a twist: the characters are not actually complete douchebags. A freshly hired CEO for a Hollywood studio, her assistant and her famous actress friend from college unlock the secrets of a haunted and possibly demonic studio lot left shuttered for 50 years. It's black and white, it's wonderfully dark and photo real, and it's just an incredibly good time all around.
M.O.M. Mother of Madness #1
MOM is an important book in a lot of ways. For one, it's another product of a celebrity bringing their ideas to the medium, an important trend for better or worse depending on who you talk to. Second, it's steeped in social topics that are important to keep in the forefront of our minds. The struggles of women, the dangers of capitalism, the shakiness of childcare and guardianship programs, and many many more pieces of our culture are on display here. The team does a good job lampooning these things in a way that feels believable and leaves the reader thinking "well, yeah, that's messed up." I really like this book.
It's a book about a cat imagining it's in a hardcore action/crime thriller. It's cute and funny, especially if you're a cat owner who can absolutely relate to what's going on. #LongLiveCinnamon
Moon Knight #1
This feels like a simultaneous return to form for this character as well as a promised expansion of his mythos. Moon Knight has always had some really cool stories to tell and I am WAY on board with the complex narrative Jed MacKay seems to be weaving at the moment.
Superman and the Authority #1
A unique take on the "alternate Superman" type of story that doesn't see Superman as a broody tyrant or evil unchained bruiser, but rather a pragmatic and altruistic-by-any-means kind of hero a la Batman. Morrison does has a fascinating team story building here. It's definitely worth checking out.
Campisi: The Dragon Incident #1
I didn't know how to feel about a story pitched as Mafia Messenger vs Dragon, but I gotta say this book is a ton of fun. It fits nicely into the pocket of campy enough while still being creative and I ique. The characters are fun and Campisi is particularly likeable.
Tales Told in Technihorror #1
This was a really cool concept book with some neat little snippet stories. This is like the comic version of the two-sentence horror stories and I dig it. None of the individual stories where particularly mind bending, but they were fun and fit the whole B-Movie Theater type theme they have going on.
Peter Pan meets Land of the Lost. This book I a fun, approachable adventure story for people who like their islands a bit less deserted. The map on the back of the book promises some pretty cool world building, so there is a lot of room for stories here.
Dark Blood #1
A story knee deep in some of the darkest points of American history, Dark Blood focuses on a WWII vet struggling with racial tensions back home and having to make the choice of living in fear or reflecting that fear outward. Kind of a disjointed 1st issue with a lot of action but not much information or development, but seems like a heavy, intriguing story all the same.
The Last Book You'll Ever Read #1
I think I would have liked this book better if it were about books or media being blamed for the horrors of society, but alas. I suppose it can still come to that, but at the onset it seems to be about a broody E. L. James by way of Wednesday Addams writing a book that unintentionally (?) send people into a bath salt rampage. Something about her "revealing the darkness" and "people aren't ready to hear that" and whatnot feels a little arrogant, but the concept is still neat enough and Leiz is quickly becoming an artist I'm going to keep my eyes on.
Small town folks are the most endearing kind of weird.
Weekly Pull Highlights: March 3, 2021
This week is just a giant station for all the hype-trains that have come into town! From Keanu being Keanu, to Skynet meets Ultron, to Wolverine in his absolute best form, there's some really interesting stuff in stores this week.
Cover B Podcast
Chris & Tee host this weekly comic-focused show, providing insight on new comics, entertainment news and more.