Star Wars: Darth Maul #1

Star Wars: Darth Maul #1

Darth Maul has finally returned in comic book form in this 5 issue miniseries from Marvel. One of the opening concerns with his one was the lack of Marvel’s consistency with their short Star Wars runs. Some are phenomenal, some are extremely lack luster and to do a disservice to Darth Maul fans everywhere is a dangerous game. With that in mind, I went into this comic book expecting Marvel to impress me, because if they didn’t at least meet my expectations, as they must do with all of their Star Wars comics, I’m going to be fairly disappointed. In the wake of a mixed bag of great and not so great star wars comics, Darth Maul’s uprising during the time of The Phantom Menace is a time period rarely explored in any Star Wars medium and Maul is a fan favorite, so there’s a lot of potential here, but also a lot of room to fail.

Darth Maul #1 takes place early in Maul’s apprenticeship with Palpatine, whose plan to overthrow the government and become the Emperor is still in very early works. Unfortunately for Maul, this means a lot of waiting in the shadows for the opportune time to strike, but this completely goes against Maul’s vicious and violent nature. He seeks challenge and the hunt, and without it he feels he’ll go insane. In order to sate his hunger, Palpatine sends his apprentice on various low key but bloody missions, keeping the Sith’s leash short enough to pull if Maul gets too out of hand. However when a new lead arises, Maul learns of a young Jedi vulnerable and exposed, he immediately takes the opportunity to prove himself to his ever meticulous and unimpressed master. Maul sees this as his one true chance to exceed his master’s expectations, and as a challenge to himself to destroy his first Jedi, one who he hopes will be of many.

Darth Maul #1 offers a new and often unexplored look into the Star Wars universe. Young Darth Maul is canonically completely unexplored, The Phantom Menace’s story line is barely touched and the Sith viewpoint, especially behind the scenes is always a treat. There are a lot of aspects to Darth Maul, and while we get to see so much more of him outside the first movie in The Clone Wars and Rebels TV shows, he’s still a character shrouded in mystery. In this first issue, we get to see a young, savage sith apprentice hungry for battle and for blood and it’s pretty convincing. The art is beautiful, the comic feels like Star Wars, and the writing up to this point is top notch. While this first issue wasn’t a mind blowing page turner by any means, Darth Maul shows a ton of promise, and is easily working up to be one of the best, if not the best 5 issue Star Wars series that Marvel has put out so far.

(4.5 / 5)

Man-Eaters #1

Man-Eaters #1

I cautiously approach this comic book for a number of reasons. Comic writers can get weird. Visions and ideas that are off the wall and wholly original simply because they’re completely oddball are a breeding ground at Image Comics. If it’s clever or funny, or outrageously violent or niche Image will let you publish it, and if it succeeds, it’s a win for everyone involved. Man Eaters is out of my wheelhouse. There’s no superheroes or spaceships so I’m automatically out of the loop, but I’m always willing to give a new comic book, especially one getting some community buzz, a read. I’ve spent some time with Image classics in this area like Rat Queens and Paper Girls, and enjoyed them, but both are set within often typical fantasy worlds I can latch onto. Man-Eaters is an utterly ridiculous modern world setting, and that’s just not my forte. So here we go. Strap in for this one.

As it turns out – there’s a new mutation going around out there and somehow it seems to manifest in cat poop. Anyone that’s cleaned a litter box, pet a cat, touched someone that’s pet a cat, and any little thing related has come into contact with this highly mobile mutation. Any girl that has it turns into a giant ferocious cat on her period. Yup. They turn into man-eating kitty cat killers when they’re menstruating and they’re nigh unstoppable. Luckily, the government has created preventative medical treatment that essentially stops woman from menstruating altogether, and hopefully stop the mutations from ever happening. Big cat killings are way down, and while it seems the efforts to stop these big cats from coming out have been mostly successful, there are cases of slip ups, and sometimes it’s simply unavoidable. Our main character Maude is a fairly typical 12 year old girl. Her dad is a CSI working under the authority of SCAT (yup), the organization made specifically for counter-big-cat-events. They’re the big wigs around here and they have the superiority complex to prove it. That’s not really Maude’s problem though, at least until it happens and she becomes one of those 1 in 100,000. Transformation incoming?

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that this was the most comfortable read of my life. It’s weird and way too quirky for me, but I can’t tell you it was bad either. Man-Eaters is incredibly clever and self-aware, and without those elements at their maximum this comic book simply doesn’t work. Some of the current event jokes are perhaps a little outdated. A 12 year old asking for Minecraft money in 2018 is only like a 5 year old reference. If you aren’t making Fortnite jokes when you’re trying to be hip you’re probably off track a little bit. That being said there’s still some great laughs to be had here, and the creative team really lets loose with their nutty ideas. It’s violent, over the top, and wonderfully constructed. There are literally medical diagrams of changes that occur in the human body upon becoming exposed to the mutation, and articles talking about the outbreak, and PSAs talking about prevention and what to do in a kitty cat crisis. It’s absurd and totally respectable. Readers into these quirky Image comics will find something really cool here I think, and I hope it impresses.

 

(3.5 / 5)

Guilds of Ravnica

Guilds of Ravnica

                                                           

Ravnica is a vast, worldwide cityscape—a patchwork of grand halls, decrepit slums, ancient ruins, and layer upon layer of stonework structures. Of the world’s countless civic centers, one looms large above all others: the City of Ravnica, a metropolis so vast that its name has long since become synonymous with the entire plane. It is here, amid mazes of streets and towering gothic spires, that Ravnica’s guilds vie for power and control.

Standard and Modern formats have some nice additions with Guilds. Additionally, drafts, as expected with new releases, are getting some hype. Keep an eye on the store calendar if you want to participate in any of our many MTG events throughout the week. We’re pretty excited about Guild of Ravnica. Full Art Planeswalkers rule!

Guilds of Ravnica product is for sale at the store in booster packs, booster boxes, bundles, planeswalker decks, etc. etc. You know the drill.

Heroes in Crisis #1

Heroes in Crisis #1

Tom King seems to have really found his stride with the DC Comics world. He’s been given a lot of work recently, and it seems people respond well to his work. When DC canceled the 12 issue comic series Omega Men there was a massive outcry from the community, and King was able to finish the series. DC seems to have realized he has a dedicated following that won’t waver through thick and thin. The name sells now, similarly to Lemire or Snyder, and that’s enough for DC to give King this big ‘Crisis’ event – which is a very powerful term in the DC comics world. Heroes in Crisis screams Identity Crisis, a grounded 2004 comic book series centered around a more emotional, human level story. I consider Identity Crisis to be one of the best comic books of all time, and DC’s best comic book of all time. It’s hard to hold a flame to it, but if anyone can bring the sheer intensity and the weight of Identity Crisis, it’s Tom King. However, if anyone can totally fail to meet my expectations and create something far too clever for its own good, it’s also Tom King. Heroes in Crisis is promising in theory, but as long as King is as crazy as he is, I’m always skeptical, but I’m also always ready to be impressed by his work.

The first issue of Heroes is a bit of a mystery. Harley Quinn and Booster Gold are duking it out, why? Not so sure. These characters have some kind of unknown connection and appear to be blaming each other for a similar event that occurred sometime before. Said event was bloody, but that’s truly the extent of our current knowledge. Meanwhile the trio of Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman are traveling place to place and finding, unbelievably, the bodies of various superheroes of renown, including Wally West and Arsenal. Considering there’s no way these characters are just dead, something particularly weird is going on. As it turns out – all dead heroes in question were receiving treatment from a group called Sanctuary, a hidden hospital created by the leaders of the Justice League to treat super heroes that had been traumatized during their heroism. Somehow, someone infiltrated Sanctuary, killed its purveyors and all of the heroes involved. Somehow, Booster Gold and Harley are connected, but still alive. So the question is raised, who did it?

To no surprise, Tom King’s style and tendencies show all over this comic book. It’s cryptic, people talk in riddles, and its incredibly stylized in its writing. When it comes to these stories, especially mysteries and psychological thrillers, King’s methods do shine. However, Identity Crisis was not only a beautifully dramatic and emotional story, its first issue alone sets up something that feels massive in scale but completely contained at the heart. Additionally, Identity Crisis made things feel real in ways that comic books usually don’t. Characters talked like people talked, they interacted like people interact, with or without superpowers. Heroes in Crisis already struggles to feel these ways by being wholly uninterpretable due to King’s proneness for the ambiguous and being extremely pattern-logged and stylistic in its dialogue. This is King’s signature writing method, I don’t think that’s terrible. However, issues going forward are more deterministic of the quality of this comic than I’d hoped, and that’s never a major win in my book. Heroes in Crisis has a hopeful, but questionable start. I’m eager to see where it goes, though ever skeptical.

(4 / 5)

Batman: Damned #1

Batman: Damned #1

   Amidst all the absurd controversy surrounding Batman: Damned, DC’s first ‘DC Black Label’ comic book and similar controversies with other comic books, we forget everything else about them. Brian Azzarello is a phenomenal writer with a big track record. I have no doubt that when offered a limitless medium to write a Batman comic book, he couldn’t refuse. This comic book has really fallen into a dark hole all over the internet, and for how much I’ve heard about the comic’s scene in question, I know very little about the comic book itself and what it entails. I wasn’t going to review this comic. Most elseworld Batman comics don’t interest me, even if they’re good. There’s a massive over-saturation of them on the market and while they all might offer something new to the plate, I’m just not that into Batman as a character. That being said, this comic book deserves to be reviewed fairly, and while I’m sure Azzarello isn’t particularly bothered by the uproar that’s surfaced around this first issue, I think it’s unfair how it’s been received and how its been flying off the selves for the wrong reasons. Kudos to the creative team for doing something brave, but I’m going to review this comic as I would any other.

   Batman’s injured, and an injured Batman is a desperate Batman. That makes for a pretty dangerous vigilante. Alfred is off the grid and all his tech is down, so Bruce is stranded, barely functioning on the streets with no backup, and in his desperation he’ll take down anyone and anything that gets in his way as he limps back to the Cave. John Constantine, our dark DC comic mascot, comes to save Bruce nearly dead in an alleyway. We soon learn the Brit is our narrator, but we’re still a little foggy on why exactly he’s here. Formalities aside, Bruce learns soon after that The Joker is dead, thanks to Constantine’s knowledge about Gotham and his apparent near omnipotence of current events. The Bat’s not so sure, and despite his injuries he’s out to find out exactly what’s going on in the city as it seems to be tearing itself apart. Constantine and friend’s hanging around Gotham is cause enough for concern, but patternistic killings around the city cause Bruce to begin to unravel something perhaps too big even for him.

   There’s a couple of noteworthy things about Damned #1. The writing and the art coexist beautifully. DC has a hard time sometimes making something R rated. It’s a path they keep traveling down unnecessarily, especially with their animated movies, and they seem to chalk an R rating down to heads exploding and lots of swearing. I think that’s lazy and terrible. Azzarello does a really respectable job of making something heavier themed without trying too hard. This is a ruthless Gotham and an experienced Batman. On top of that, the Justice League Dark with all their underbelly methods are sticking around. There is room for these kinds of mature themes in the Superhero comicverse, and this is how they should be. The story itself is interesting, though a little too cryptic and stylized for my taste. It reminds me a bit of a Tom King style with its psychological drama and mysterious writing style. The comic often flashes back to Bruce’s past, and it never breaks pace. All of these things come together to make a pretty enjoyable story and set up an interesting elseworld DC universe. This comic didn’t deserve the ridiculous controversy around it, but I’m glad it’s selling at least.

(3.5 / 5)

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