Venom #1 – Review

Immortal Hulk scribe Al Ewing teams up with fellow British comic veteran Bryan Hitch to weave an all new, exciting saga in VENOM!

Venom #1

Written by: Al Ewing

Artwork by: Bryan Hitch

Published 10/11/21 by Marvel Comics

A NEW ERA OF VENOM STARTS NOW! OR MAYBE IN THE FUTURE!

Immortal Hulk scribe Al Ewing teams up with fellow British comic veteran Bryan Hitch to weave an all new, exciting saga in VENOM!

After the events of King In Black, Eddie Brock is now the god of the symbiotes and is able to transfer is mind through any symbiote he wishes to complete his new intergalactic duties whilst he resides back on earth, ll. In the meantime, Eddie’s son, Dylan has taken up the mantle of Venom aswell as getting into multiple brawls at school: threatening his place there. To make matters worse, Dylan barely sees his father anymore since he’s out saving the universe up in space. So when he finally gets to have some time with his dad again, you’d think it’d be a happy occurrence but instead, Eddie gives Dylan a call after they had a disagreement except that this wasn’t the same Eddie. He tells Dylan that the one in his house is NOT his father and that he should meet the REAL Eddie at a motel some other place in town.

After this we cut to Space. Where our new god of the Klyntar investigates a ship that’s possibly been taken over by some skull looking robbers. Eddie’s got with him a group of four symbiotes (assigned the names John, Paul, George and Ringo [ha ha]). Everything goes just swell until Eddie gets a telepathic message from “George”. Once he traces the message to its source he finds the crew of the ship, Slaughtered, with George stood on top of them with red eyes. He then says he brings a message from the future and that he won’t have a seat on the throne for much longer before crumbling to dust.

Now we return to earth. Dylan packs his things and makes his way to the motel with sleeper (another symbiote that has taken the form of a cat). Eddie sits in his room and questions himself. He thinks that if he can go anyWHERE he wants, why can’t he go anyWHEN? And so in a split second, he slips through time and space, and us faithful readers get some epic glimpses of what’s to come this volume. We see images of Kang the Conqueror, a venom hand where the fingers are…candlesticks? And a new character that looks an awful lot like Toxin called Bedlam. Very cool stuff.

As Dylan approaches the motel it EXPLODES as the police (?) Attack and VENOM IS UNLEASHED. The art in this sequence is really great, when I heard Bryan Hitch was going to be on the book I was worries it wouldn’t be quite a fit but I was totally wrong, it. Is . Awesome! In particular this super-sweet double splash pictured below. As venom continues to battle the police, Eddie is fine as he shifted through time before the room exploded. He ends up in a beautiful place with purple trees and red mountains. A voice appears, it tells Eddie not to talk, it would be impossible whilst his atoms reform and introduces himself as Meridius, welcoming Eddie to his “garden” at the end of time.


VERDICT

So wow, this is a lot to unpack. Dylan Brock is now venom, Eddie is protector of the universe, not only that but he is currently confronted by an unknown being at the end of time itself. When I put it lime that it sounds crazy, which is good because I don’t want to read a venom comic book that isn’t crazy. I had a lot of fun reading this book and I got a certain feeling, it’s like that feeling you get from a movie like fight club or a game like the last of us, you just don’t want to leave! It’s so interesting that you just want more, and unlike those pieces of media, Venom comes out every month. It features solid writing with just the right amount of angst and fantastically intricate artwork. Buy it! It’s good!


Reviewed by Leo Brocklehurst on 20/11/21

Alien #4 – Review

This is very much a comic that takes place in the same universe as the early Aliens but it isn’t a story that is chained to their lore; the references are there for lovers of the franchise but they are like sprinkles of connection rather than heavy investment.

Alien #4  

Written by: Phillip Kennedy Johnson  

Art by: Salvador Larroca 
Released: July 2021 
Published by Marvel Comics

This first foray into the Alien universe for Marvel has had many a critical eye from its considerable fan base.
I’ve found the issues so far have been limited in true horror scares as they focussed well on a more action based theme. This issue is well written and the lettering flowed to compliment the pace and developing many a possible twist. The central theme finds a good blend of characters descending into the bowels of the infested depths of the Epsilon station Alien hive.  

Is that Mark Wahlberg or Gabe Cruz on the cover of this issue with a poorly painted Bishop sandwiched between two Aliens? The covers and variants of them to date have been pretty solid but this one really isn’t my cup of tea. The veins on the foreground Alien are just a little too veiny in their phallic tones where the original art of H.R.Giger’s Aliens were more subtle in their sexual inferences. The hand placement on the foreground creature reminded me of a frozen Bela Lugosi which was entertaining but looked more tame than frightening. 

There wasn’t much in the way of claustrophobic tension that I would have expected in entering the Alien hive. As the main plot point of the issue, the livestock originated ALPHA sample is depicted well but like the cover just doesn’t have the crescendo and fearsome factor of other Alien art such as the early Dark Horse Comics heavy black ink work. 


There are big strides in this issue to push the story forward. Despite being a bit lighter on action than previous issues, there is a flowing momentum that helps elevate the danger the characters are in. Bishop’s functional android personality makes a great contrast with Cruz’s sombre and battle worn soldier disposition which helped me feel invested in the story. I really enjoyed the interactions between them especially in light of the early plot build of them being in a counselling relationship from issue #1. 

What could have been big reveals were a little flat in what could have been a seminal fright moments for a Marvel taking the franchise by the scruff of the neck first arc. There are still many directions this story could take and overall I think Marvel may be feeling their way into stories and the genre for the future. It really is a tough fan base to please. They certainly have the clout to attract fans, writers and artists to collaborate on some great work moving forward. 

This is very much a comic that takes place in the same universe as the early Aliens but it isn’t a story that is chained to their lore; the references are there for lovers of the franchise but they are like sprinkles of connection rather than heavy investment. Johnson provides us a more psychological and historic trauma insight into Cruz’s past life and how it affects him in this present rescue mission. 

Marvel titles garner wide attraction and new generations may find their way into the joy of the Alien franchise through this new branding. Some older fans may be quick to criticise this story arc finding it a bit short on its teen + promise. I expected a little more horror out of it. One thing is sure with a month between issues there is no shortage of historic material to keep us rolling in Alien stories.  


Verdict

An expansive story for an ever expanding Alien universe. 


Reviewed by Taz Maz

Detective Comics #1044 – Review

An issue filled with physical horror that explores the darkest depths of what makes Gotham such a lost soul. Corruption and darkness are the bedrock upon which it is built.


Detective Comics #1044

Writer: Mariko Tamaki (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 2) and Stephanie Phillips (Foundations Part One).

Art: Dan Mora (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 2) and David Lapham (Foundations Part One).

Colours: Jordie Bellaire (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 2) and Trish Mulvihill (Foundations Part One).

Letters: Aditya Bidikar (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 2) and Rob Leigh (Foundations Part One).
Released: 26/10/21
Published by DC Comics

Mayor Nakano remains trapped in the sewers with a host of hatchling parasites belonging to Hugh Vile. The only thing that can save him: Batman, of course! But he’s kept out from a wall of fallen rubble that might bring the whole world down on their heads if he begins to move it. Clock’s ticking Batman! What are you going to do? Meanwhile, Bat-woman makes a play to end the reign of terror by Nero XIX, back at City Hall.

Mayor Nakano remains trapped in the sewers with a host of hatchling parasites belonging to Hugh Vile. The only thing that can save him: Batman, of course! But he’s kept out from a wall of fallen rubble that might bring the whole world down on their heads if he begins to move it. Clock’s ticking Batman! What are you going to do? Meanwhile, Bat-woman makes a play to end the reign of terror by Nero XIX, back at City Hall.

As I mentioned in my review for Detective Comics #1043 that the introduction of Nero XIX could be the lead into something bigger, imagine my frustration when that whole subplot is wrapped up by Bat-woman in a couple of pages, making the whole thing seem like an afterthought. So the real story here is the relationship between Batman and Nakano. Nakano has done everything he can to rid Gotham of vigilantes. But could the events of this particular issue be the turning point in getting Nakano on team Batman? Well, it might if Nakano actually survives the attack against him by Vile’s newborn parasites. And what a disgusting attack it is too! Seriously, it’s something right out of a horror movie, which is quite up my street really.

The real question is how much life does this Vile parasite storyline have left in it? We see that these same eggs, that burst forth these pesky critters to attack Nakano, are also present in the morgue, which means that even if Batman kills all of them down in the sewer, there’s more waiting for them up top. One can’t help but draw a correlation to real-world events. Is Vile’s parasite actually written by Mariko Tamaki as a way of addressing the fear of Covid? A virus that spreads, mutates, and seems unwilling to die. An obvious comparison, sure, but it definitely adds more relevance to the villain that has been plaguing Batman for months now.

The story is bookended with a piece that Deb Donavan is writing about the filth in Gotham’s water supply and a scene in which that filth makes its way to the surface in the final pages. Filth can only be kept hidden for so long. Water is a symbol of purity. But here in Gotham, it’s as dirty as the city itself!

I love the lore that surrounds Arkham Asylum. The asylum itself has always felt like a character in its own right, in much the same way The Overlook Hotel does in The Shining, or the Bates Motel from Psycho. So the back up story here, ‘Foundations’, is a welcome one that will hopefully offer something new to the pantheon of stories that have focused on this house of extreme darkness.


Verdict –
An issue filled with physical horror that explores the darkest depths of what makes Gotham such a lost soul. Corruption and darkness are the bedrock upon which it is built.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 05/11/21

The Amazing Spider-Man #76 – Review

This issue was another brilliant instalment in the Beyond saga, the writing tight and witty and the artwork fresh and vibrant.

The Amazing Spider-Man #76

Written by: Zeb Wells

Artwork by: Patrick Gleason
Published by Marvel Comics

Released on 13/10/21

Beyond continues here! Welcome back to the Amazing Spider-man, although at the moment, he’s not really living up to that title…because he is in hospital, so…not amazing. What IS amazing, however, is this issue! Let’s dig in

After the events of last issues cliffhanger, Peter has been hospitalised and is in really nasty shape after being in a radioactive-ly charged explosion in an encounter with the U-foes. The story begins with Aunt May talking on the phone to Peter, telling her what shape he’s in or so we think until May puts the phone down – realising it wasn’t Peter at all and we cut to Ben ending the call as he waits outside Peter’s bed in hospital. The doctor is stunned by the radiation poisoning Peter has contracted asking if they were on drugs (by the way, for the record, I always thought Spider-man had some sort of poison ivy esc. Tolerance to radiation, it was never stated but I just figured since he’s been Spider-man this long and hasn’t had cancer from the spider bite he’d be somewhat immune? Guess not. Maybe there’s a difference in ionising radiation to your standard radiation?).

Following this, Mary Jane runs into the hospital asking for Peter as Ben disappears and Peter starts convulsing! We hear him talk about a danger inside of him, we heard it at the end of last issue and we hear it throughout this one too. It obviously points to the radiation but that’s obvious, so I’m wondering if there’s some sort of deeper meaning? We’ll just have to wait and see i suppose.

Moving on from that, we see that Ben disappeared back to his penthouse in the beyond tower with his girlfriend Janine. His supervisor tells him he needs a contractual rest to which Ben states he needs to check up on Pete but is instead tasked to finish off the u-foes.

We then switch back to the hospital, where MJ and May are by his side. At this point in the story, Peter is conscious and talking to his family about the u-foes attack and Aunt May has some problems with the doctor and goes and presumably rips him a new one. Switching to Ben once more, he’s being suited up with the help of heroes for hire Colleen Wing and Misty Knight. I really felt like this scene is the beginning of beyond’s possibly sinister intentions, something I gather we’re going to be seeing a lot more of in upcoming issue’s.

Ben, before his supervisors have time to react, tells them to give him one hour before swinging to the hospital yet again. Ben runs into MJ who berates him for what happened to Peter. She eventually calms down and gets a chance to talk to Pete for a minute. Although bitter at first, Peter ends up giving him his blessing as Spider-man and they make good before Ben leaves, once he does though, Peter (in a moment I nearly laughed out loud at) checks with MJ that Ben is gone and when she says yes, he replies with “Because I can’t feel my body”. Once again, he begins to convulsed whilst Ben, oblivious, goes on the hunt for the U-foes with a new lease of Spider-life as Peter goes into a coma.


The U-foes are found conversing in a building when Ben bursts in, taking out vapour and X-ray. In fear, calls out Spider-man to which Ben closes the book with an awesome line. “Hell yes, SPIDER-MAN”.



This issue was another brilliant instalment in the Beyond saga, the writing tight and witty and the artwork fresh and vibrant. I can’t see this book slowing down anytime soon and I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on issue 77! Stay tuned!!!



Review by Leo Brocklehurst on 20/10/21

Justice League #67 – Review

Green Arrow and Black Canary facing overwhelming odds in the form of multiple (!?) Deathstrokes is exactly the sort of high-concept, action packed, crowd pleasing scene we might expect from Justice League.

Justice League #67

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis (Justice League), Ram V (Justice League Dark)

Art: Phil Hester – Pencils, Eric Gapstur – Inks (Justice League), Sumit Kumar (J.L.D.)
Colours: Hi-Fi (Justice League),
Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Justice League Dark)

Letters: Josh Reed (Justice League), Rob Leigh (Justice League Dark)
Pubished by DC Comics
Released 14/9/21

Green Arrow and Black Canary facing overwhelming odds in the form of multiple (!?) Deathstrokes is exactly the sort of high-concept, action packed, crowd pleasing scene we might expect from Justice League. David Marquez and Alejandro Sanchez really deliver with this kinetically charged cover; it’s a crazy piece of choreography and the sort of thing that can only really work in comics.

‘United Order: Part Four’ opens on two contrasting scenes: a moody, Bourne-esque sequence as Leonardo Lane/The Daemon Rose nurses his wounds and gathers his thoughts following his near-deadly encounter with a Deathstroke imposter; meanwhile, the Justice League and The United Order are locked in a mighty battle with the nigh-incalculable might of Synmar Utopica (a Superman analog gone awry from the farthest reaches of the Galaxy).

Even with the recent addition of Black Adam and a new ‘mega power’ from another world, Naomi, the Justice League has been struggling to contain the mighty alien threat. Following his escape from the United Order, he raced to attack Earth and draw out Superman. In the process, the Hall of Justice has fallen. Incredibly, Synmar Utopica seems indomitable, even with the added might of various alien heroes from across the galaxy. His power grows ever stronger, feeding off the might of his opponents. This leads to Batman and Superman resorting to drastic measures…

This Justice League story has been quite high concept and high impact so far, and this chapter is no exception. Just as with the previous story written by Brian Michael Bendis, there are a large number of characters in play, and each gets their own ‘title card’ introduction. This is a great idea for those not familiar with all characters and certainly comes into its own when dealing with members of the United Order. There’s a fair amount to keep track of as more characters enter the fray and yet this remains a title which seems geared toward accessibility, inclusion and popcorn entertainment.

It’s occurred to me while reading previous issues that perhaps Bendis is writing for a younger, or at least newer audience, one accessing comics by way of the DC cinema and TV offerings. Certainly Justice League has been working on this level thus far and has even had tie-in covers with the recent ‘Zach Snyder’ cut of the Justice League film. With an approach that courts mass appeal, Bendis writes huge battles and set-pieces punctuated with classic, comic book style dialogue throughout this action packed issue.

His words are paired with some high intensity art from Phil Hester and Eric Gapstur, coloured here by ‘Hi-Fi’. There’s a bold, slightly angular style which calls to mind some of the DC animated series while also having a tone all its own. Hester’s distinctive renderings are emphasised with sure-handed inks and high-saturation colours. Each art team working on this title thus far has brought its own stamp, and these guys are no exception. It’s a busy story, with some crowded sequences, but they convey proceedings with confidence and skill.

Moving from the high octane, interstellar antics of the main Justice League story to this issue’s instalment of Justice League Dark, we find an entirely different proposition. This story has been phenomenal, so far; lurking in the shadows of the main title, waiting for the unsuspecting reader…

Any comic story that opens on a wide black panel, empty aside from a quote from Algernon Blackwood (a British writer of supernatural stories, admired by many, including H.P. Lovecraft, for those looking to delve further!), is looking to do things a little differently. The JLD are in pursuit of Merlin (yes, the Merlin of Arthurian legend) and hope to stop him from achieving his goal of tapping into some ancient dark power.

We join the action in Atlantis, a city under siege. While John Constantine plays for time with Merlin, Aquaman, Zatana, Etrigan and company fight to defend Atlantis’ borders from multiple sinister threats raised or summoned by Merlin. It’s an action packed episode for this run, almost atypically so, having been at times more cerebral and deeply atmospheric in the past. No matter the pace, however; Justice League Dark delivers on every page, every issue.

With Ram V, at the helm, this run has been immensely enjoyable. Often clever and surprising and unfailingly engaging, Ram V’s story has been a joy to follow. With a motley crew facing down one of the greatest magical beings in this or any other existence, there have been many memorable moments. I’m happy to report that this time out is no exception. Further, Ram V seems to collaborate with some outstanding teams, and the guys working on the art and lettering this issue (as with all previous ones) provide some truly excellent, jaw dropping panels.


Verdict:

Justice League is a title to be enjoyed either by jumping right in and embracing the feeling of not knowing entirely what’s going on, or you can choose to backpedal through a few back issues and play ‘catch-up’. It pretty much works either way, and chances are good you’ll find things to enjoy, as Bendis and the team bring some big-moment super hero story beats to the page. Justice League Dark, meanwhile, can similarly be enjoyed either way but almost certainly would reveal its best version when read in its entirety. It’s a really special title, and one I hope gets a collected edition in the future.


(Recommended by DC for readers 13+)

Review by Andy Flood, 09/11/21

Detective Comics #1043 – Review

Jason Todd leading a Suicide Squad-like team of undead supervillains? Sign me up for that one!


Detective Comics #1043

Writer: Mariko Tamaki (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 1) and Matthew Rosenberg (What the #!$% is Task Force Z: Finale).

Art: Dan Mora (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 1) and Darick Robertson (What the #!$% is Task Force Z: Finale).

Colours: Jordie Bellaire (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 1) and Diego Rodriguez (What the #!$% is Task Force Z: Finale).

Letters: Aditya Bidikar (Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 1) and Rob Leigh (What the #!$% is Task Force Z: Finale).
Released: 28/09/21
Published by DC Comics

Mayor Nakano puts some heated negotiations with Simon Saint on hold in order to catch a breather. But once he sends everyone home for the night a group of armed men storm the building and attempt to kill him. He escapes, with the aid of the Batman, only to find himself caught in a situation that might prove to be much worse.

This issue doesn’t have a right lot of plot going on. Instead, writer Mariko Tamaki presents us with a prolonged action set piece, in which Mayor Nakano shows why he was once a cop. He’s a man of action, not one to shy away from a fight, and quite willing to get his hands dirty. He proves to be much tougher than the typical bureaucrats that have sat in Gotham’s mayoral office over the years. Anybody remember Mayor Armand Krol?

I do struggle in placing the story that is running in Detective Comics right now neatly alongside the stuff that is going on over in Batman. I just mentioned Mayor Krol. But back in the days when Krol was mayor (that would be the mid nineties folks!), we had at least 4 monthly Batman titles and I had no problem keeping up to speed with where each one of them was in the main overarching story. I appreciate that James Tynion IV has the story that he wants to tell and Tamaki has hers, but I feel as though they’ve not been organically woven together into the current “Fear State” epic that has currently taken over the Batman line. If you take them both at face value then it seems to me that characters have the uncanny ability to be in two different places at once as convenience seems fit.

It’s a shame because the Hugh Vile storyline (yes, that’s still going on) feels like a major storyline that deserves to be held in its own vacuum. But it’s suffering as a result of needing to fit within the greater world of everything that is going on with Fear State. There’s so many balls right now that are being kept in the air that it’s hard to know which ones are genuine game changers and which ones are just passing through. Take the men that storm Nakano’s office for instance. The impression given is that Simon Saint has no idea who they are. So who are they? Where did they come from? Do they have something bigger planned? And did they really need to be introduced in the midst of everything else that is going on?

The back up story gets us ready for what is sure to be a bonkers ride in the new Task Force Z monthly. Jason Todd leading a Suicide Squad-like team of undead supervillains? Sign me up for that one! It features some nice art work and some particularly nice colours from Diego Rodriguez.


Verdict –

Heavy on action but light on plot, Detective Comics #1043 is mostly concerned with the character of Mayor Nakano, showing us there is more to him than your average bureaucrat.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 05/11/21

Star Wars #17 – Review

The showdown between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker continues in another beautiful balancing act of an issue by Charles Soule and Ramon Rosanas…

Star Wars #17

Written by: Charles Soule
Art: Ramon Rosanas
Released: 29/09/21
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The showdown between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker continues in another beautiful balancing act of an issue by Charles Soule and Ramon Rosanas.

‘The Chase’ of the title that graces the stunningly put together cover of #17 makes up the first, frenetic half, which sees Luke and Vader’s…well…chase finally coming to a head in truly cinematic fashion. Ramon Rosanas’ work continues to be absolutely top notch, with each beat of the action rendered in expansive, eye-catching panels, that flit between widescreen and a page-stealing, taller style – Rosanas may as well be drawing in IMAX at this point, and it works so well for the flagship title in Marvel’s cinematic fleet.

Luke’s lack of confidence in his own abilities continues to pervade his every move, and Soule writes it convincingly. In his element, swooping above Jekara in his X-Wing, Luke confronts Vader’s taunts head on. However, when faced with the prospect of finally ending the life of the man who he’s recently found it is his father, he is less sure of himself. Soule makes the switch between each state of mind natural and completely understandable. Luke’s inner turmoil has been a key focus of the run so far, as he progresses as a Jedi and a pilot while constant flashbacks to the traumatic events of Empire continue to haunt him.

The second half of the issue is an altogether less action-packed affair, which only serves to further show the dexterity and versatility of this team. Soule and Rosanas move from semi-mute action scenes with near full-page panels, to dialogue-heavy character moments in the cramped confines of the Millennium Falcon, reflected brilliantly in the tightening of the visual focus.

The particulars of the situation that Lando, Leia, Chewie and Lobot find themselves in allow Soule to do something for a second time that was impressive enough the first time around. In a quiet, intimate moment between Lando and his beloved former ship, Soule gives new life and relevance to an element of the somewhat patchy Solo: A Star Wars Story. While certainly not as big as the return of Q’ira (and her upcoming continued adventures in next month’s Crimson Reign mini-series), it’s a nice moment that comes as a real surprise and will certainly raise a smile for those who enjoyed elements of what was otherwise a movie about the origin of Han Solo’s bits and bobs!

This moment leads wonderfully into a real change in Lando and the other characters’ perception of him, which is the first sign of the pieces being put in place for where everyone is as a character by the time Return of the Jedi rolls around. Here’s hoping this isn’t a sign that this consistently brilliant run is nearing its end!


VERDICT

Soule and Rosanas’ winning streak continues unabated in this latest issue which manages to be both thrillingly epic and beautifully small. Soule never neglects character, even in the most action-packed of moments and that skill is used to full effect here, allowing Rosanas to flex all his artistic muscles throughout.


Review by Nathan Harrison

Action Comics #1035 – Review

There are some huge moments within this issue, and the team have delivered some pitch-perfect work here. It’s a gripping and satisfying end to an excellent story…

Written by: Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Superman), Sean Lewis (Tales of Metropolis)

Art: Daniel Sampere (Superman), Sami Basri (Tales of Metropolis)
Colours: Adriano Lucas (Superman), Ulises Arreola (Tales of Metropolis)
Letters: Dave Sharpe (Superman & Tales of Metropolis)
Published by DC Comics
Released – 28/9/21

The sixth and seemingly final part of the ‘Warworld Rising’ saga brings us a cover depicting ‘The Goodbye!’, words which can be read in a number of ways, as we see Superman leaving not only Lois and Jon but the Justice League too, if the headline on the paper at Jon’s feet is to be believed. In the wake of events during the stand-off between Atlantis and the surface dwellers, this is not too surprising. It’s a great cover from Daniel Sampere and Alejandro Sanchez, capturing the emotional departure of Superman perfectly.

Reading on and we’re straight into the action as Jon and Supergirl take on Thao-La while Superman whisks Lois to safety. The ensuing explosive battle is complicated further by Mongul’s ongoing insidious interference and eventually leads to Clark seeing this particular nemesis face-to-face.

As Superman and family have a brief respite to recover from the events set in motion by Mongul, discussion turns to what happens next, both within his family and with his ‘other family’, the Justice League. The League visit the Fortress to check on all concerned and confirm that, as things stand, they cannot accompany Superman to Warworld. Batman and Superman share a quiet word, alluding to a second team (this further outlined in Batman/Superman and The Authority #1) while Bruce expresses concern for his friend, Clark.

What follows for the rest of this final chapter are emotional scenes of farewell as Clark says goodbye to Jon and then Lois ahead of his departure for Warworld, with his backup team being fully revealed on the closing page.

In writing this series, Philip Kennedy Johnson has always done an incredible job of balancing plot and character development with spectacular action scenes. We have a huge amount going on each issue and yet never feel overwhelmed. He’s a talented storyteller, juggling a good number of characters, settings and events and weaving a cohesive whole as he goes.

Meanwhile, Dave Sharpe has always supported and enhanced the work of each writer on both main and back-up titles through clear, clever and effective lettering and this issue is no exception. It’s always a pleasure to read when Mr. Sharpe is helping guide our way.

Further guiding us are the excellent panel layouts, which hold some of the most striking art you could hope to see in a superhero title. Daniel Sampere conveys super humans in really effective ways, with dynamic poses, judicial use of exaggerated anatomy and clean, confident line work. The end result is stunning, especially when paired with gorgeous colour work from Adriano Lucas. This issue in particular is a stand-out one for Mr. Lucas, as he takes the spectrum and makes it his own, using light to reinforce the emotional impact of each scene.

There are some huge moments within this issue, and the team have delivered some pitch-perfect work here. It’s a gripping and satisfying end to an excellent story.

Replacing Midnighter as the backup story is ‘Tales of Metropolis’. Our first tale is ‘The Guardian’, brought to us by a team who seem ready to have a lot of fun. In this opening story, they mine the rich vein of urban myth and folklore and emerge with something very much of the present day. We join Jimmy Olsen in detective mode, with trench coat to boot, as he investigates stories of kids getting involved in something called the ‘Cloud Game’ and subsequently going missing.

It’s clear something dark and dangerous is afoot, and so he enlists the help of Guardian. As more kids fall prey to the high-tech ouija board and the malevolent villain Dismember, Olsen and Guardian race to save them and stop the situation from getting worse.

This is a strong opener for Tales of Metropolis. The story is fast paced and well written, with convincing dialogue and a good sense of character from the pen of writer Sean Lewis. Olsen’s narration via internal monologue works well here, serving to take us down those mean streets of Metropolis with him as he searches for the missing kids.

Art is dynamic and expressive, with a clean, well executed style which renders the characters in a really pleasing way. As I look at Sami Basri and Ulises Arreola’s work, I see some hints of manga/anime influences blended in with a distinctly modern western style and, especially when considered along with the colours, the art could easily be the basis for the look of another run of animated shorts (Tales of Metropolis was a series of animated shorts featuring some of said city’s more notable characters). Basri’s characters are lively and engaging, and each panel has gorgeous and vivid colours from Arreola, making for a great first outing.


Verdict

Here’s an issue where we see the close of one story and greet the start of another. It’s an easy recommendation, as the closing of Superman’ story contains some unforgettable and classic moments. Meanwhile, the new Jimmy Olsen and Guardian tale has plenty to offer and feels both a contrast and compliment to the lead story. Action Comics remains a really nice title in the DC lineup. If you haven’t done so before, consider jumping on board, as new storylines begin.

(Suggested ages 13+ by DC)


Review by Andy Flood, 26/10/21

Star Wars: Boushh #1 – Review

Boushh is certainly tough and knows what he is doing, but it’s his personal background and how the cruel laws of his home planet of Uba have shaped him into who he is that make him a truly engaging character

STAR WARS: BOUSHH #1

Written by: Alyssa Wong
Art: David Baldeon
Colours: Israel Silva

Released: 15/09/21
Publisher: Marvel Comics


The massive, line-wide War of the Bounty Hunters narrative has rumbled on for several months now, with characters, major plot points and events spreading and intersecting across all the ongoing Star Wars titles. The slight outliers, however, have been the one-shots that have been thrown into the mix. While the stories of Jabba the Hutt and 4-LOM & Zuckuss have certainly depended on the happenings of the main series, they haven’t had the biggest impact on the overarching tale. Each has been fun, but not much else besides.

The same sense of playfulness runs through Alyssa Wong and David Baldeon’s Boussh #1, but while it may still be another title that has little impact on the core mini-series, it is an essential read in its own right. Wong and Baldeon deliver an action-packed, emotionally driven, self-contained narrative that brings to the fore everything that makes this event’s focus on the seedier side of the Star Wars galaxy so appealing.

Making one of the many bounty hunters that litter the Star Wars universe (and filled the toy boxes of many a child of the 80s) stand out can’t be an easy job – each of them is appealing in their own way but, no matter how badass a writer might try to make them, they will always be eclipsed by the man himself, Boba Fett. Wong takes a slightly different approach here. Boushh is certainly tough and knows what he is doing, but it’s his personal background and how the cruel laws of his home planet of Uba have shaped him into who he is that make him a truly engaging character. Wong has done a sterling job of making us care not only for Boushh but for his entire crew of exiles who, in just a few short pages, are convincingly positioned as a sort of family who could probably carry their own ongoing series (especially if Wong were at the helm).

What’s even more astounding is that Boushh isn’t even the best part of this book (though he comes a very close second). That honour goes to ruthless crime boss Domina Tagge, featured recently in Wong’s ongoing run on Doctor Aphra. She’s at once sexy and scary, a force to be reckoned with who would evidently do anything to maintain supremacy, as skilled of a talker as she is a fighter. Her dialogue drips with charm and malice and, in the moments where words aren’t required, Baldeon does just as good a job as Wong of imbuing her with a sense of self-righteousness and power – a raised eyebrow here, a half-smile there; every little detail is beautifully considered and skilfully conveyed.

Baldeon’s subtlety, quite rightly, goes out of the window for the more action-oriented panels. They have the vibrancy of work by Pepe Larraz and the eye-popping, cartoonish gorgeousness of the pencils of fellow Star Wars artist, Luke Ross and are wonderfully embellished with colours by Israel Silva. Burnished oranges leap off the page throughout the book, from Boushh’s tragic backstory to the humming plasma blade wielded by Domina Tagge, to the fiery backgrounds that compliment the book’s dramatic and satisfying conclusion.



VERDICT

While it may be part of a bigger story, Boushh #1 is a near-perfect standalone story, and we can only hope that this one-shot morphs into something much bigger in the future. A wish list for the attention of Marvel, Disney and Lucasfilm:

  • More Boushh
  • More Domina Tagge
  • More Alyssa Wong


Review by Nathan Harrison

X-Men #3 – Review

Duggan delivers another somewhat standalone piece here, albeit with another epilogue that shows that the story he is telling is anything but small…


X-MEN #3

Written by: Gerry Duggan
Art: Pepe Larraz
Colours: Marte Gracia

Released: 22/09/2021
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The X-Men have always spearheaded the weirder end of the Marvel universe (they’re not called ‘Uncanny’ for nothing!) and this has always been one of their greatest strengths. After a couple of issues that have been relatively straightforward as far as Marvel’s mutants are concerned (although excellent nonetheless), Gerry Duggan begins to lean into the bizarre for this third issue. Well, we say lean – dive headfirst might be more accurate. Electric elephants and robo-sharks, anyone?!

Duggan delivers another somewhat standalone piece here, albeit with another epilogue that shows that the story he is telling is anything but small. It’s skilfully balanced between moving the X-Men forward as the superhero team that they have once again become and reaping what they have sown following events stretching as far back as House of X/Powers of X. If Jonathan Hickman is the master of the long game, then Gerry Duggan is almost certainly his apprentice!

Until it’s quieter, continuity focused epilogue, this issue is essentially one big fight between the X-Men and the forces of ‘parasitic cockatiel’ The High Evolutionary, who turns up on Earth offering the mutants the chance to sterilise humanity, the greatest threat to the planet itself. It’s difficult to imagine what Xavier and Magneto’s answer to such an offer might have been in the early parts of Hickman’s run on the title; their actions were far from heroic at many points. But this team has very much cemented itself as a set of heroes from the get go, and the stage is set for a showdown that makes incredible use of the ever-impressive skills of artist Pepe Larraz. Every panel bursts with astonishing detail, but also big central focus points that leap out at the reader. This is an issue that’s worth a couple of extra read throughs – one to give justice to the pace that Duggan’s writing and Larraz’s broader strokes bring to proceedings, and another to take in every strange detail of the animalistic hordes that the X-Men face.

While the action itself is thrilling and The High Evolutionary makes for an intriguing villain, the route into the action does feel a tad rushed. It could have done with perhaps another page or two of lead in to dig a little more into the reaction of each of the mutants to the appearance of The High Evolutionary. While the standalone approach of each story month-on-month does work, in this instance it feels a little bit out-of-the-blue and the reasons for The High Evolutionary’s appearance on Earth are explained away all too quickly.

In contrast, the sub-plot of Orchis’ plans continues to be a slow-burn that leads to another excellent cliffhanger which hints at consequences aplenty for the actions of Charles Xavier over the past couple of years. The panels here are suitably moody and contrast in much the same way as the story at this point does to what came before – Pepe Larraz truly is one of the most versatile and talented artists in the Marvel stable.


VERDICT

Madness reigns in this third issue of Gerry Duggan and Pepe Larraz’s run and, boy, is it glorious. A slight misstep in the setup doesn’t detract from what is a simply eye-melting issue which foreshadows major upheaval both as a result of events way back and those that take place in this very issue. An issue of two halves, both of which are thoroughly entertaining.


Review by Nathan Harrison