Fearless #1

Fearless #1

Comics have been in a bit of a summer lull these past few weeks. Big comic events from DC and Marvel are a bit out of season at the moment, focusing in on a series or two each instead of big universe scale events. Indie companies additionally have just felt a little lackluster with their new releases as of late. As such, I’ve been sort of patiently waiting for the next issue in my subscriptions to drop and that’s never amazing from someone always looking to try new stuff. One shots and limited series do have a tendency to fill that void however and seeing Fearless hit the shelves certainly piqued my interest. “The fiercest ladies of the Marvel Universe Unite!”. Ok, sure, I’m in. I have absolutely no idea what kind of story this is going to bring or how serious it’s going to take itself, I’m just hoping for a fun ride and to see some female superheroes kicking ass.

To my own surprise, Fearless #1 doesn’t really have a cohesive story throughout. It’s in a short story format focusing on a few different heroes across the Marvel universe. Despite the “unite” aspect of the comics advertising, there’s very little uniting happening in this mini series’ first issue. The stories themselves are kind of all over the place in terms of tone and story. The first half or so focuses on Captain Marvel, Invisible Woman and Storm respectively. These stories are a bit more serious, focusing on the difficulties of being a female superhero in the spotlight, and with Captain Marvel specifically, her role as a leader among the superhero world as someone who doesn’t really want to be. Storm’s little comic is about her forceful removal of some deforesters trespassing on government protected grounds, which is interesting enough.

The second half kind of devolves into this strange reality show with a bunch of overly beautiful internet influencers and successful photographers. It’s quirky and reminds me of something I would probably enjoy reading from Image or Boom! Studios, though the story completely fails on the superhero part it was supposed to be delivering on. Which is a bit jarring actually. Jarring to the point where I don’t really understand what they were going for in the context of what the comic was supposed to be. And things only get weirder as it leads into a Jessica Jones short that I’m sure fans of the character who are basically begging for good JJ content weren’t very happy to see. I’ll avoid any major details on that part.

It’s pretty rare that I speak negatively of a comic book I review, and I don’t necessarily want to show this comic book in an all bad light. The first half specifically is at least somewhat enjoyable and has an interesting take on what it means to be both a superhero and a woman in the Marvel world. I would have enjoyed if they’d gone all in on this theme and ran with it, but instead the second half really devolves into something totally different, and I really don’t think it’s good. The short story format of the comic doesn’t really help it either, especially in the way it’s advertised. But a short story comic book is very forgivable if its good. This just falls short of that I think, and that’s super disappointing considering the material they’re working with. There’s totally room in the comic book world for this kind of comic to exist. This just isn’t the way it should be done.

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Ashe #1

Ashe #1

As League of Legends comes up on its 10 year anniversary and still holds the title of most popular MOBA video game on the market, it’s interesting to look back at its history as someone who’s been following it since the beginning. There have been quality improvements all across the board from gameplay reworks to visual updates, but perhaps the largest overhaul in recent memory is their work on game lore. League lore used to be pretty trash-tier to be completely honest with you. Bios on each of their many playable characters were often pretty lacking in both quality and length. Tropes and badly written stories were abundant. However, we’ve seen quite an overhaul in the past few years as characters have gotten more robust, professionally written backstories and lore moments. Music videos, short stories and comics are only some examples and they’re often high quality deals. League’s collaboration with Marvel on this Ashe comic is no joke. It’s being supported heavily by Riot Games (League developer) and is being touted as a long and full comic mini-series. Good comics have come out of this company in the past but a collaboration with Marvel is something exciting for the comic book world and for League in general. Also who better to give it to than Ashe, one of the original and most beloved characters in the League of Legends lineup.

The lore behind Freljord is fairly set in stone in the League of Legends universe. It’s one of the first factions to have existed within canon and has been the location of origin for quite a few of the game’s playable characters. Ashe is the warmother of the factions largest Horde, but her comic takes place long before and when she was much younger. Her mother Grena is the current warmother within this story and Ashe must deal with her own inevitable future as the leader for her people and her mother’s obsessive nature when it comes to destiny and prophecy. The reality of her situation becomes quickly clear as we’re hinted toward Grena’s past of marching members of her people to their deaths on wild goose chases and thirsts for knowledge. However, there’s little doubting both her mother’s skills in battle as well as her tactical ability on the battlefield, so many follow Grena for those reasons and loyalty alone, and while Ashe loves her mother and admires her strength, Ashe’s kinder heart and stronger grip on reality has driven somewhat of a wedge between the two. This first issue sets up an opening for Ashe to evolve as she’s forced to make difficult a myriad decisions. 

Before anything with the story it’s worth mentioning that the art for this comic is absolutely gorgeous. I’m unfamiliar with the artist’s (Nina Vakueva) work, and it seems like she’s done little in the mainstream comic world, but I think this is going to be a massive boost for her. This comic looks absolutely incredible. The story of Ashe #1 is interesting enough, albeit a little bland, and sets up a bit of a mystery going forward. I can’t confidently say that if you’re not a League of Legends fan you’ll enjoy this comic book at all. However, I think it at least holds up just looking at the art and the beautiful setting alone. The real treat with League lore is how much better it’s gotten over the years. These characters are interesting and worth investing him into when they previously weren’t. I think Ashe #1 is no exception to that change. While I don’t think that this issue was anything to lose your mind over, I left being okay with more, and that’s a win with comics I think.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Superman Year One #1

Superman Year One #1

Before I say anything else, let me just put out that I have no idea what this comic is really about or what its goals are, other than a Supes origin story obviously. I’m reading this solely out of an unavoidable urge to read and review a comic book I have already pre-judged to be garbage. Year One is a new series written by Frank Miller. I really do not like Frank Miller. I only kind of like his older work, and I really don’t like his newer work. His art specifically is criminally bad, and shouldn’t be allowed to be published by anyone with a functioning brain. His writing may have some redeemable qualities but I simply haven’t been impressed with anything he’s done in a long time. But wait, turns out Frank Miller isn’t doing the art for this comic book. Maybe the dream isn’t completely dead. Who better than John Romita Jr. to helm the art on this crazy new Frank Miller comic!? Seriously, if you asked me: “Anthony, if there’s one artist who could compete with Miller’s trash tier art style who would it be?” Well, I’d answer almost immediately James Romita Jr.. Which sicko at DC decided to pair these two together? These are 2 of my least favorite people in the comic book industry today, so what better than to read and review their new comic book about my favorite Superhero? I genuinely find most comic books I read to be at least passable. Some outliers exist here and there but come on. Read my reviews. I’m most often giving comics glowing scores and mentioning why some of the less than great things are balanced by the good. I’m not sure I can deliver that here. There’s a major uphill battle, and I’m not all that interested in winning it, so this comic has a lot to prove. Let’s jump in.

Superman Year One has a lot of storytelling in it, and it’s a very long comic at that. I don’t want to go into heavy detail, so we’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum. First off, this first issue doesn’t really follow the logical “Year One” branding. #1 follows Clark through the first 18 years of his life, from Krypton exploding to his high school graduation and a little beyond. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, I think they’re just a little trapped by the Year One labeling which is well known within the DC Comic world. I’m glad Frank Miller decided to not take that labeling too literally, and write the story he wanted to write. The comic is told in a somewhat strange third person classic storytelling type of way. It sometimes feels like a poem or a nursery rhyme like Twas the Night Before Christmas. Also, thoughts and feelings are accessed by the narrator on an individual character basis depending on the situation. The omnipotence of the narration only follows one character at a time which is a little strange. It’s a little hard to explain unless you’ve read the style he’s writing in. This style is particularly strange in the first 1/4th of the comic or so when it focuses on baby Clark Kent. The narration begins very simply and babyish with few words as Clark is learning and absorbing his surroundings with his adoptive family. This narration evolves and grows with Clark as he becomes older, even though the narration doesn’t solely take place within Clark’s mind. It’s very weird but it’s an interesting enough style. 

The beginning chunk of Year One follows Clark through the first few years of his life as he slowly comes into his own.  His adoptive parents can only look on as baby Clark sets the house on fire with his heat vision because his food is too hot, or runs way too fast in front of them, or jumps way too far away from them. It’s fun to see this much younger Superman utilizing his powers. Most origins have Clark developing this stuff much later on. Seeing a baby with god tier strength and super powered reactions to his emotions is pretty clever, and Miller keeps it from being over the top.  

The bulk of the comic focuses on Clark’s high school life. While he’s learned from a young age just how powerful he is, and how careful he needs to be in his everyday life, the high school drama he faces pushes his limits in ways he hasn’t before. So begins an internal struggle with how to properly utilize his powers. A gang of bullies practically run the school, and as they become more and more bold with their antics, Clark becomes more and more unsure how to properly handle the situation. He could easily annihilate these people pretty much by looking in their general direction, but obviously that’s not the Clark Kent thing to do. That’s what makes this character so endearing to me. These conflicts exist to form Clark Kent into Superman. It’s what Zach Snyder tried to show in Man of Steel and it’s what Miller is trying to show here. Superman is overpowered as all Hell. When pushing someone down could literally kill them without much effort Clark has to learn to put serious limitations on himself both physically and emotionally, and I think Miller does a really admirable job showing this aspect of Clark both in these high school situations and throughout the entire comic. 

By the time Clark graduates high school he’s ready to see the world. As his father has encouraged him throughout the comic book to use his powers for the sake of humankind, (a little pointedly at times, perhaps in direct contrast to Snyder’s take on Clark’s dad in Man of Steel) Clark heeds his advice in his own way and enlists himself in the Navy as an attempt to see the oceans of Earth, step one of his master plan to “know his planet”. Why can’t he supersonic fly his way around the world and see the oceans? Well that’s just not emotional enough. We’re given some tear jerking goodbyes from his parents and his girlfriend Lana that are kind of ruined by the weird narration style but well written nonetheless, and Clark begins his life changing journey away from home.

First and foremost, I think that this comic from a story only perspective is beautiful. I really really enjoyed the things that happened in this issue. I think executionally the comic has some faults, and I think specifically with dialogue there are some jarring moments. Additionally as always, Frank Miller’s weird political leanings and opinions rear their ugly head a bit here. I’m all for weird ideas and concepts I don’t really agree with in the content I consume, but it’s a bit too on the nose for me at times. I’ve said the same for things I do agree with. Again the narration style struggles to know exactly what it’s trying to convey at times, but I’ll stop rambling about that specific topic. To my own surprise, I think Miller wrote a really good story from beginning to end with this issue, and it’s by far the most redeeming quality.

The art is kind of difficult to give a clean review of as well. I can say confidently that this is the best Romita Jr. has to offer. Now, is that a compliment or not? I’m not really sure. When Romita isn’t drawing people I think his art is phenomenal. His backdrops and settings look so damn good. When Romita is drawing people they’re hard to look at. That being said, I think it’s easy to get used to in this comic specifically, and certainly not the worst I’ve seen from him. This comic did teach me that Romita can only draw one head size, as we constantly see young teenage Clark with a massive adult sized head on his skinny teenage body throughout the issue. That’s probably a little nitpicky, but my god in some shots it bothered me so badly. I’m stuck wondering what this comic book would have looked like with a different artist on the helm. While I think Romita’s style does cater best to this grainy country setting, I simply don’t like his art, even in this issue where it looks the best that I’ve seen.

While I’m going to reserve my judgments on issues to come in this series (I’m not sure how long it’s going to be), I think this comic book would hail as one of the best origin stories put to comics if it stopped right here and existed as a one off “first 18 years” kind of deal. Again, the story of this comic book is really good, but I’m afraid of where Miller is going to take it from here, and I’m even more afraid of how Romita is going to draw it from here. Year One #1 was slow and emotional and it didn’t care how long it took to tell you a story from beginning to end. It started great and ended beautifully. But alas, all good things must continue until they’re not good anymore. I adore Superman, but I’m just not sure I see myself continuing with this series. I’m simply satisfied with this, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for issues to come, and if they’re praised as much as this one was I might have to read anyway. Props to Miller though. He gets a pass from me on this comic.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Grand Moff Tarkin #1

Grand Moff Tarkin #1

While I should put myself onto a lengthy Star Wars comic review hiatus, I had to come out of temporary retirement when I saw a new Tarkin Age of the Republic comic book on the shelf the other week. Wilhuff Tarkin is one of my all time favorite Star Wars characters and all time nerdom characters. While he only appears in 1 movie as well as his CGI appearances in Rogue One, Peter Cushing’s role as the Grand  Moff is pure brilliance. Tarkin’s additional comics and books throughout the years highlight what the original Star Wars movie introduced: a strategically brilliant and ruthless military leader able to stand next to the ever intimidating Darth Vader with confidence. His wholehearted allegiance to the Empire makes him a fascinating character to watch and read, and I’m always excited to see more of him on the page or the screen, so here’s hoping Tarkin #1 delivers.

Interestingly enough, most of this short one-shot Tarkin comic takes place shortly before and shortly after the events of Alderaan’s destruction, even reconstructing the scene between Tarkin, Leia and Vader where Tarkin interrogated Leia and ends up destroying her home planet with the Death Star anyway. Tarkin compares much of his daily life with his early days, hunting and scavenging from a young age and learning to strive on his own, all callbacks to his recent Tarkin novel a few years ago. His crew is young and while loyal to the Empire aren’t exactly the military machine that Tarkin has proudly become. The destruction of an entire planet is no easy task to carry out. As Tarkin discovers hesitancy from many of his crew tasked with carrying out the steps necessary to actually fire the Death Star’s weapon, he questions their loyalty to the Empire. Despite them coming through with the weapons activation and doing their jobs, when Tarkin learns that one of his crew members was from Alderaan, he understands why there was a moment of hesitancy. It means little to Tarkin however. Duty above all else is Tarkin’s m.o., and anything less makes for a bad soldier.

I give some major props to this comic book for choosing this story to tell. There was a lot of directions they could have gone but they chose a very short period of time within the Star Wars universe and told a very tight knit, meaningful story. I don’t completely love Tarkin’s treatment of his men in this comic book, I always got the impression from other stories involving Tarkin that he was a fairly merciful military leader, despite his ruthlessness on the battlefield. He always gave off battle-hardened old man vibes to me and I think this comic takes away from that a little bit. That being said, stories are stories, and Tarkin’s character development isn’t exactly multiple movies or books in length. Overall, I think this comics choice of timeline and storytelling is really powerful, and it was an ambitious choice to go here instead of somewhere else, specifically before the events of a New Hope. Moreso, it really just makes me want more Tarkin stories. This character is great.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

DCeased #1

DCeased #1

What’s a DC comic book story event without a ridiculous name right? DCeased is the next big event for the DC mainline continuity, and it’s something that both Snyder and Capullo have been teasing these past few months as fans have watched their mysterious tweets and mentions of something stirring within DC. Something they’ve been calling their final Batman story together. To be honest, It’s been difficult to keep up with, especially with things like Doomsday Clock and Heroes in Crisis still steadily hitting shelves in a painfully slow but no doubt deliberate pace. I know very little about this new story going in, but naturally I hear the names Snyder and Capullo and I’m immediately on board. Their Batman run of 2011 is legendary, and I have no doubt whatever they’re cooking up hidden behind all this fluff will be glorious.

The first half of so of this first issue follows Darkseid, an evil god and one of the most powerful entities in the DC universe. His recent invasion of Earth is quickly answered by the Justice League, who bring his swift defeat at the hands of a not-so-happy-to-see-him Superman. Defeated, Darkseid retreats, though he’s already retrieved what he was looking for elsewhere. Cyborg, created by technology akin to the Anti-Life Equation, an extremely powerful and dangerous ‘thing’ Darkseid has spent his entire life trying to find was Darkseid’s target all along. Now kidnapped by the minions of Apokolips, Darkseid’s home world, they work tirelessly to tear the Anti-Life Equation from Cyborg’s cybernetic body. Though perhaps with some impatience and eagerness for the prize he’d spent so long trying to obtain Darkseid finds himself in a less than ideal situation, forcing the Anti-Life equation out of Cyborg and sending shock waves throughout the universe as a result. Though Cyborg is able to return to Earth during this time, his connection to the digital world causes a heap of trouble, as the now revealed Anti-Life Equation uploads itself onto the internet all over the world, festering as an incredibly malicious virus and in turn, a mind altering disease. Hundreds of millions across the planet become plagued with the Equation and lose their minds, going berserk and killing everything in their path. The Justice League is forced to move quickly, though as they’re forced to sever their connection to the web they find themselves scattered, unable to contact each other.

I’ll start by saying I didn’t expect zombies. I’m not a fan of them, but I suppose I should have known just by looking at the cover and reading the name. This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker though, and I’m always willing to give comics a shot, especially for DC. Disregarding the zombie element for a second, the style of this comic’s writing and the buildup to the end of the comic is pretty entertaining. The story obviously revolves primarily around Batman, but the Justice League which has now expanded quite significantly, now similar to the old JL roster, have their roles to play too, and it’s all handled quite well. The art is the comic’s primary weak point, but I’ve certainly seen worse, and I think the art direction is something that could grow on me after a few issues. We’ll have to see how this comic continues and how it ties back into Snyder’s storylines he’s stitching together, but to be honest, I hope the zombie stuff doesn’t last the whole run.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)
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