Tag Archives: Comic Art

Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters #4 – Review

STAR WARS: WAR OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS #4
Reviewed by Nathan Harrison

Written by: Charles Soule

Art: Luke Ross with David Messina

Colours: Neeraj Menon with GURU-eFX


Released: 15/09/21

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Though issues of their own title have formed part of the wider narrative of the War of the Bounty Hunters event, the main characters from the excellent Bounty Hunters series have been (mostly) conspicuous by their absence in the titular mini-series that acts as the linchpin of the 34-part narrative. That is, until now, and it was certainly worth the wait.

The focus of the series has understandably been on the heroes of The Skywalker Saga, but the ongoing story of the cyborg bounty hunter, Vallance, and his connection to Han Solo has been a truly compelling one. Finally seeing this play into a narrative which, despite not actually featuring him, is all about Han pays true dividends here. Seeing Vallance and Dengar tussle with Boba Fett is a punch-the-air moment, especially as it is depicted in the dynamic style of Luke Ross and the bright, characterful colours of Neeraj Menon. This title is where the disparate parts truly come together, not just from a narrative perspective, but visually also, as the approach to every character is brought under the umbrella of one incredibly skilled team.

Like all the best final acts of any Star Wars story, this lead-up to the conclusion jumps between sets of characters at the drop of a hat, whilst keeping the reader engaged with each thread of the events. Soule is the master of the balancing act – between swathes of characters all in different places, in altogether different situations, and between plot and pace. The plot drives forward inexorably and without any awkwardness or ham-fisted exposition, yet action and fun are still placed firmly at the forefront. This issue goes from the aftermath of the Scoundrel’s Ball to the surface of the planet Jekara, to the depths of space filled with swarms of ships in the blink of an eye without missing a beat. Soule’s impressive pacing must be a challenge for any artist, but it’s one that Ross and Menon rise to with aplomb, imbuing every distinct scene with oodles of charm.

All this flitting about leads to a corker of a final page, which sets the stage for an epic final battle as various chickens come home to roost, with major implications for the final throes of the narrative.


VERDICT

As the core mini-series of this massive event nears its conclusion, it’s great to finally see some more major players enter the fray as things hot up for a final showdown that’s bound to pop right off the page. After many, many issues across 5 titles, the majority of the pieces are in place thanks to Soule’s continued uncanny ability to perfectly blend plot and fast-paced action. Roll on issue 5!


Review by Nathan Harrison 25/9/21

Spawn #321 Review


Spawn #321
Reviewed by Leo Brocklehurst

Written by: Todd McFarlane 
Artwork by: Carlo Barberi 
Published by Image Comics
Published: September 1, 2021

The brand new installment of Spawn is a pretty interesting read, it adds some suspense to the ever building war, shocks the reader with a disturbing story and ends in a VERY intruiging manner.

The story begins with spawn arguing with Matt (Spawn’s friend/assistant) and Jessica (she-Spawn) about the safety of their hideout. Spawn fears that the base is no longer secure as villains seem to come and go as they please whereas Matt and Jess believe their sanctum is still suitable and question Al’s methods at which point he storms out in a rage and goes on the prowler for a man called Paul with some very shady connections.

Once Spawn catches up with Paul and interrogates him he finds himself wandering into the basement finding a startling discovery of a young lady trapped with her baby. Spawn places his hand on the woman’s head and witnesses the atrocities committed by Paul, plagued with anger spawn lashes out and seemingly causes nation wide blackout? The blackout seems to be some sort of supernatural happening as the last page reads that “No one will be able to light a fire”. Which obviously is impossible unless Spawn caused everybody to lose there sense of intuition.

The issue calls this the “Blackness” so it must become the books next storyline which could be really awesome and become a sort of every man for himself night war that could last for a few issues, in all fairness, spawn could use a good, long story line to break up the serialised story structure its had for the past few issues which leads me to a little bit of a problem with this issue.

The book went INSANELY quick, Spawn literally just had an argument and then found a woman in a cellar and then it ended. This would be fine for the trade but as a single issue it’s slightly incomplete which goes for the rest of the issues and it leaves me not as excited for the next issues as I think I should be. This issue doesn’t necessarily adhere to that however as I am pretty excited to see where the “blackness” leads.

Enough with the negatives though, this book is mostly pretty great. I don’t think the writing by the one and only Todd McFarlane will ever improve but that adds to the charm of the indie book and Carlo Barberi’s art continues to be astounding. It’s just so lively and fresh! It really makes the book so much more appealing and I hope he has a long tenure on this series.


All in all, this issue is quite uneventful, but Spawn continues to be intriguing and lures readers in with its brilliant artwork and ever building story arc.

7/10


Darth Vader #15 Review


DARTH VADER #15
Reviewed by Nathan Harrison.
Written by: Greg Pak
Art: Raffaele Ienco
Released: 25/08/2021
Publisher: Marvel Comics

One of the bigger flaws with Disney’s expansion of the Skywalker Saga on screen with Episodes VII-IX was the feeling of everything being rushed. Many plot points that could have done with some expanding upon were introduced with very little in the way of explanation and simply brushed aside as unimportant (see ‘Somehow, Palpatine returned’). The same could be said for a number of characters who were given very little development and backstory. 

While he didn’t appear in The Rise of Skywalker as a living, breathing part of the action, Ochi of Bestoon falls firmly into this category, his existence simply used as a way of progressing what little plot the film offered. What we do learn about him, a Sith devotee and the killer of Rey’s parents, is enough to make him an intriguing prospect for further investigation, something that Greg Pak has taken on and delivered brilliantly since issue 6 of his run. And now, in issue 15, Ochi gets his time to shine, as ‘The Assassin’s Choice’ sees his faith and loyalty to Vader put to the test.

Such a story requires a slight gear shift, which is a little jarring – the events here take place before those of War of the Bounty Hunters #3, which was released first. Once this slight frustration is put aside, however, what we’re left with is an issue that manages to progress the plot of the WOTBH event, at least from Vader’s perspective, whilst also serving as a fun diversion from the wider arc. Pak balances this beautifully despite the blistering pace of the issue, just as he does the interactions between Ochi and Vader. Ochi’s motormouth, almost nervous energy plays so well against Vader’s laconic terror and yet they both show the same level of skill, the same number of reasons to be feared – it’s a partnership that pays dividends, so here’s hoping that Pak doesn’t separate them any time soon. If Ochi’s fate in Episode IX is anything to go by, he’ll certainly be making waves amongst the Sith for some time to come. 

Raffaele Ienco’s artwork is as solid as ever – his consistency across this run has been something to behold, as is his consistency across single issues when moving from static conversations to all out action. In a title whose two main characters both wear face covering helmets, Ienco shows incredible skill in still managing to convey a sense of each of them, lending the right emphasis to the dialogue in the reader’s mind, as if he were in fact showing the features underneath, whether it’s Vader’s stoic near silence or Ochi’s talkativeness he’s approaching. The action scenes virtually pop out of the page, giving an astonishing sense of movement to Ochi’s fighting style whilst also allowing each panel to be simple to follow and understand. So many artists can create fast, frenetic sequences that are so busy that the reader has to force themselves to slow down to take in the detail, to the detriment of the pace they are trying to convey – this is a trap that Ienco never falls into as the issue zips by with every nuance intact. 

Every panel is eye-catching and the colours by Jason Keith gel wonderfully with Ienco’s lines, his use of various shades of red creating a cohesive look for the whole issue, whether Pak is progressing the plot or taking the reader into the heat of battle. 


VERDICT

Further insight into the relationship between Darth Vader and Ochi of Bestoon is expertly mixed with high stakes action to create an issue that simply has everything, right down to the stunning final splash page that seems designed to finally cement these two characters as an unstoppable duo. 


Reviewed by Nathan Harrison.


Action Comics #1034 Review

Action Comics #1034
Review by Andy Flood

Written by: Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Superman), Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad (Midnighter)

Art: Christian Duce (Superman), Michael Avon Oeming (Midnighter)

Colours: Adriano Lucas (Superman), Taki Soma (Midnighter)

Letters: Dave Sharpe (Superman & Midnighter)
Published by DC Comics
Released: 24/8/21

‘Attack on the House of El!’ is the dramatic tagline emblazoned on the cover of Action Comics #1034 and it’s paired with some equally eye catching artwork from Daniel Sampere and Alejandro Sanchez. Our gaze is first drawn to a high angle shot of Superman as he makes a shocking discovery then to two figures looming large in the shadows above; Thao-La, seemingly thrall to Mongul.

For those following the story so far, this will act as a clarion call to open up and read on, as events leading to ‘Warworld Rising Part 5’ have been building up to something big. Maybe that something big is starting to happen? We pick up with Lois facing off against the Warzoon, fanatical followers of Mongul. She is joined in the fray by Thao-La, who is still trying to cast off the influence of her tormentors. Things quickly descend into chaos.

Meanwhile, Superman still seeks to resolve mounting tensions between the surface dwellers and Atlantis. His chosen actions here will no doubt have consequences in the future… What follows is a frantic return to the Fortress once Superboy, Supergirl and Superman share the joint realisation that all is not well. What unhappy fate awaits them?

This issue, while having cover art from Sampere, features a new interior artist, Christian Duce. Immediately, his work dazzles with dynamic figures depicted in hyper-kinetic scenes of battle. Paired with the always excellent eye-candy colours of Adriano Lucas, this issue is a visual feast. While Duce retains the feel of Sampere’s work on previous issues, he leaves his own mark here with panel after panel of action and excitement. At one point, we even get a double page splash which is hugely memorable and entirely ‘Superman’. Sound effects are writ large throughout and the emotional impact of Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s superb story is shown to great effect in the close shot panels. It must have been intimidating to take over from Daniel Sampere, but Duce has done so with style.

Johnson’s writing on this series has been impressive throughout, controlling pacing with an expert hand and guiding us through quick fire events with a clear sense of where he is leading us. He knows when to let the action speak for itself while also being a fine judge of just how much to build the tension and suspense. There’s always a feeling of even more things to come, which is one of the elements that can be most enjoyable when reading comics.

As we rejoin Midnighter and Miracle Man in the recursive time loop events of ‘The Passenger’, we see them busting their way through Trojan’s complex. They wise crack as they go and trade on one another’s strengths and abilities as they tackle obstacles and crazy cultists. Their dialogue is great fun to read as they move from one crazy panel to the next.

This action-packed chapter is a great showcase for the talents of the creative team to shine through. Seeing great writing come together with bold, inventive art and create a unique experience for us readers is something I always look forward to when opening a new issue of a comic. The Midnighter team really deliver some great entertainment here and the mutual respect the creators have for one another’s input is always readily apparent.


Verdict

Action Comics reliably delivers two immensely enjoyable stories, both with a different feel, both equally cool. There’s page after page showing what super hero comics can offer and it will no doubt please fans both old and new. It is, once again, highly recommended. Now to look forward to both issue #1035 and the Midnighter Special, where his story concludes!


(Suggested ages 13+ by DC)

Review by Andy Flood, 07/09/21

King Spawn #1 Review


KING SPAWN #1
Reviewed by Leo Brocklehurst

Written by: Sean Lewis
Artwork by: Javi Fernandez, Stephen Segovia, Marcio Takara, Phillip Tan and Brett Booth
Published by Image Comics
Released – 25/8/21

King spawn number one has arrived! The most anticipated spawn book since 1992 is here and it sure lives up to the disturbing nature it’s famously set for the last 30 years. The book contains five stories, so guess what? That’s right, we’re going through them all, one by one. Strap in!

The first is a (slightly disturbing) story about some cultists who murder children. Yep. Spawn is caught in the midst of this discovers the existence of a man(?) Named Metatron and sets out to of course stop him. Little does he know that this horrifying series of events is bigger than he can fathom and next thing he knows…. Megaton is quite dead. Murdered, even (in a pretty gruesome fashion). Turns out the big man behind the whole kid killing thing is none other than new York’s own resident serial killer turned evil hell-being: Billy Kincaid! In case you aren’t in the know, Kincaid is one of spawn’s earliest villains. The story is particularly traumatising and involves the disgusting evil-doer parading as an ice cream man and terrifying children all around. Eventually spawn saves the remaining children and puts an end to Billy’s reign of horror (permanently). He was revealed to be alive about a year ago after being presumed dead for nearly thirty.
This stories art is pretty solid, Javi Fernandez delivers on some form fitting Spawn art, scratchy with a pseudo realism style and it works. Spawn looks great but there are sections where it looks a little like it was traced over 3d models but so did Szymon Kudranski and Jason Shawn Alexander’s work. Sean Lewis’ writing is as good as it can be and I didn’t notice any weird, awkward pieces of dialogue. Moving on!

The second story was the one I was most excited about. Its the return of HAUNT!!! The character (created by Kirkman and McFarlane) was completely forgot about almost a decade ago, he’s a priest who is bonded with a symbiote and sent on missions by his dead military brother, that’s the basic gyst anyways. So this new story didn’t give put too much but at least we know he’s still around. He’s pinned to a wall jesus style with knives by the redeemer and then told about his involvement with heaven and hell, its basically a nice little check up on the character with some pretty amazing art by Stephen Segovia. To the next one!

Nightmare is a story I won’t linger on too much. It’s kind of gross and disturbing and is very, very short. The artwork by Marcio Takara is usually very nice and bright but here it makes we want to run into the nearest wardrobe and lock myself in for a month or two.

The story focuses on a Spawn? (Not exactly sure which one). Killing a couple guys in a particularly non-pleasant fashion and then it ends. “Nightmare” was for sure the right title to choose for this section.
“the hero” is kind of weird. It involves an angel brutally murdering a bunch of gangsters. The child of one of said gangsters comes back to see all the dead men and the redeemer looking guy who tells the kid HE did it and that they are basically one. He also reveals the child’s father is alive. Father and son reunjte. Angel leaves. Spawn looms. The end. The artwork in this portion is sensational and illustrated by spawn vet Phillip Tan and looks stunning in the parts without decapitated heads.

The last story is a continuation of the gunslinger back up featured in spawn’s universe. It’s pretty damn solid and gets the reader pumped for the next ongoing spawn title coming in October (which will be available to pre order from this lovely website if it isn’t already) Brett Booth really knocks jt out of the park here.


Verdict

In summary, King Spawn is a grisly and disturbing read that any hardcore fan of the franchise will surely get a kick out of. It isn’t for everyone but it’s certainly fitting of the spawn title and dishes out some real entertainment any comic reader will appreciate.

8/10


Review by Leo Brocklehurst on 5/8/21

Detective Comics #1041 Review


Detective Comics #1041
Reviewed By Bryan Lomax

Writers:
Mariko Tamaki (“The Jury Part 1”) and Matthew Rosenberg (“What The #!$% Is Task Force Z Part 1”).
Art: Dan Mora (“The Jury Part 1”) and Darick Robertson (“What The #!$% Is Task Force Z Part 1”).
Colours: Jordie Bellaire (“The Jury Part 1”) and Diego Rodriguez (“What The #!$% Is Task Force Z Part 1”).
Letters: Aditya Bidikar (“The Jury Part 1”) and Rob Leigh (“What The #!$% Is Task Force Z Part 1”).
Released: 10/08/21
Published by DC Comics

Batman is called out by “The Jury”, a host of Gotham’s criminal underworld, led by Penguin, the Falcone’s and Mr Worth. But when he shows up to meet them, in order to answer for his “crimes”, he finds himself dealing with those who are unwilling to listen to reason. Batman is caught in a trap that might tether his very soul to that of another: Hugh Vile.

I would love to know just what information it was exactly that Oracle gave to the authorities in order to facilitate the release of Bruce Wayne. Mayor Nakano still appears to be clueless about Hugh Vile’s involvement in the whole affair, but surely that would have been the first piece of information that Barbara would have handed over! It only adds to my frustration over the sloppy handling of the story in the last two issues.

Aside from that though, writer Mariko Tamaki goes some way to winning me back on this issue. I like the motely crew of second string villains, led by Penguin, now referring to themselves as The Jury. Each one of these guys on their own probably doesn’t pose much of a threat to Batman. United, however, they may prove to be more than effective as a collective adversary. I think this is proven by the end of Tamaki’s story, in which Batman finds himself in quite the predicament, albeit one that reveals a rather interesting link to Huntress that has the potential to go to some exciting places.


One of the more interesting aspects of the current run of Batman comics is the fact that Bruce no longer has the endless wealth that he once had at his disposal. This means Batman has become more like a street rat, operating out of the sewers, without the security of his old bat-cave. This sometimes results in moments of humour, such as the one Tamaki gives us here, in which Bruce scares a woman carrying her groceries when he climbs out of a sewer grate.
These moments of Bruce struggling to live the life he once lived without the resources he once had also make me long for, perhaps a more valuable missing piece, Alfred Pennyworth, the father figure that Bruce is now lacking and yet sorely needs. Seeing him calling Oracle about business, inside a diner with public gawkers, is somehow one of the saddest reflections of just how far he has fallen from the ivory tower. Dare I say, he seems quite pathetic these days, when dressed in his civilian clothes!


Matthew Rosenberg’s B story, “What The #!$% Is Task Force Z Part 1”, is a really great start to a Deb Donovan adventure. It is filled with intrigue as the no nonsense reporter begins investigating the apparent disappearance of bodies from the Gotham City morgue. Rosenberg has a real knack for dialogue and the art from Darick Robertson is very easy on the eye. I’ve said before that I am really enjoying the Deb Donovan character. But, on the strength of Rosenberg and Robertson’s work here, I’d go so far as to say that, if these guys were assigned to a Deb Donovan monthly title, I’d be the first in line for a pre-order.


Verdict:


Mariko Tamaki shows us just how far Bruce has fallen and how, now more than ever, he is in need of allies. Backed up with excellent artwork from Dan Mora and Jordie Bellaire, she is able to give us a really great character study of Bruce Wayne/Batman, as he struggles to maintain the vigilante life-style without the resources he once had.

4/5


Reviewed By Bryan Lomax – 22/9/21

Alien #2 Review


Alien #2
Reviewed by Taz Maz

Written by: Phillip Kennedy Johnson 
Art by: Salvador Larroca

Released: April 2021
Publisher: Marvel Comics


Alien #2’s cover of a ghostly Alien (Xenomorph) super-imposed on our protagonist, Gabe, had me eagerly anticipating what kind of direction this new story was going to develop.

In the first issue we learned that Gabe had been cocooned by xenomorphs in the past and his experience had been instrumental in the ongoing research at the Weyland-Yutani Epsilon station.  Issue #2 Return to Epsilon Station opens with a time line summary of events that bring us up to speed with all things Alien up to this point.

Spoilers ahead!!!
The plot development by Phillip Kennedy Johnson is engaging and progresses at a good pace. It is recognizably Alien franchise in nature, yet has a more Weyland-Yutani focussed twist to its development. 
Gabe has to return to Epsilon station having only recently been forced into retirement. Danny, his son, has broken into Epsilon Station with his girlfriend the leader of some anti Weyland-Yutani extremists called the Minute Hand Movement. Gabe may be Danny’s only chance of escape from almost certain death, either as a result of a “catastrophic systems failure”, (a cover up to burn up everything and everyone on Epsilon Station), or at the mercy of a new xenomorph threat that Gabe has helped create and that Danny has released. 


Gabe isn’t given much of a choice when he first learns of his son’s transgressions. He would prefer to embark on the mission with five synths (androids). Instead he’s given two wet behind the ears, cocky and ill prepared human agents. The clock is ticking, it’s over 32 hours since Danny boarded Epsilon station. Gabe has to race to face the threat and bring home the company’s prized asset, the ALPHA EMBRYO.

Gabe’s interactions with the company’s agents cement him as a no nonsense salty dog who isn’t easily riled. The flashbacks to his past provide good character depth around his traumatic experiences at the claws of the xenomorphs. Gabe having to get back into the ring with a frightening foe was reminiscent of Ripley returning to LV426 in the face of trauma for the second Alien film. 
I really loved a beautifully choreographed xenomorph kill in the middle of this issue. A headstrong, naive and foolhardy agent rushes after a face hugger who attacks from a ceiling tile. Seeing the face hugger enter in this fashion and the impaled agent on an intercepting xenomorph tail is iconic Alien imagery. I recalled Bishop at the end of the Aliens film. The rib removal in this scene was a delightfully gory death on the back of a thrilling piece of action.

Having set up up a new experimental xenomorph outbreak in issue one, the story opens with a frightened girl and her grandpa bathed in emergency lighting red. Outside there is chaos and the sounds of what may be xenomorphs. We are propelled straight into the action. The sound lettering is consistently eerie throughout this issue. The overall feel is claustrophobic, atmospheric and tense. The terror of the girl trying to find comfort in singing to herself provided a nice touch of emotional investment I thought.


Salvador Larroca (Artist) captures the instant terror of what has been released on Epsilon station to open and close this issue well by capturing well the frenzy of xenomorph encounters. Once again GURU-eFX does an outstanding job bringing the art to life, the colouring uses the perfect pallet for terror, suspense and threat lurking just out of sight. The entry to the station for Gabe and the agents is cold and shadowy. The red of the alarms framing the xenomorph encounters at the start and ending of the issue add to the overall heart pumping action. Splendid job GURU-eFX!

Larocca’s Aliens are mostly tracings or copies and this makes some appear clunky, disjointed or misplaced in their framing. The tracings do give a certain consistency to their presence  There is however, so much good xenomorph art to compare Larocca to that he comes off a bit short. The tracings do leave me questioning his passion for producing Alien franchise art. Gabe is drawn inconsistently in facial features and this affects the frame continuity. I did however wonder if this may be deliberate, maybe as part of some sort of clever metamorphosis process linked to Gabe’s encounter with Aliens, a mystery illness we know little about or perhaps as a result of the experimentation he was a party to at Epsilon Station.

The lettering is perfect and flows so well that I found it a great page turner and an easy choice to subscribe for A#3 Reunion. The xenomorphs are out! There is plenty scope in this story and more twists beyond a race to save the day. Keep it rolling Marvel!


Verdict 

Terror, action and horror in equal measures are strung together entertainingly in this continuation of a tense and atmospheric Alien story.

Reviewed by Taz Maz


X-Men #2 Review


X-MEN #2
Reviewed By Nathan Harrison

Written by: Gerry Duggan

Art: Pepe Larraz

Colours: Marte Gracia
Released: 04/08/21

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Some of the best science fiction out there is the sort that can impactfully and economically tell a completely standalone main story whilst also effectively driving forward a broader narrative arc – see Doctor Who, Space:1999 etc. This certainly seems to be the approach that Gerry Duggan is taking with his new run on X-Men so far and it’s proving to be a masterstroke.

After cutting themselves off from the rest of the world in recent times, the X-Men are back to protect humanity from a multitude of threats sent one by one by the hideous and menacing Cordyceps Jones. This ‘monster of the month’ method of storytelling is an incredibly effective way of re-establishing the X-Men as superheroes rather than a small part of a self-interested island nation and brings with it echoes of some of the best Saturday morning cartoons of years gone by. Duggan’s little slips into Stan Lee style narration only heighten the nostalgia and should leave any X-fan with the widest of grins on their faces.

The art from Pepe Larraz continues to be outstanding and fits perfectly with the heroic focus of Duggan’s narrative. Every panel leaps off the page, from the busiest, chaos-filled action scenes to the quietest, zoomed-in character moments as Larraz shows once again that he is the perfect artist to draw Marvel books. Marte Gracia’s colours are similarly accomplished – the brightest moments seem designed to make eyes pop out of sockets and the darker, understated panels give just the right level of spook to the surprising returning threat the X-Men face this time around.

While the bulk of the issue centres around the heroics of the team, its final few pages hint at a new and menacing threat, with ripples from events that took place right the way back at the beginning of ‘Head of X’ Jonathan Hickman’s tenure seemingly starting to spread. While the X books may have shifted from Dawn to Reign, it seems these two eras are not as distinct and separate as the marketing would suggest. Anyone in doubt about whether Hickman is still the master of the long game, watch this space.


VERDICT

The newest team of X-Men continue to cement themselves as the superheroes they should be in this second thrilling issue, which screams pure quality and class from its frankly stunning cover (if this isn’t used as the dust jacket for the inevitable omnibus, we riot) right through to its intriguing cliffhanger ending that throws right the way back to House of X; it seems consequences and new dangers are ahead for Marvel’s mutants. In short, this is exactly what a superhero comic should be.


Review by Nathan Harrison, 11/08/2021


Action Comics #1033 Review


Review by Andy Flood

Written by:
Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Superman),
Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad (Midnighter)
Art: Daniel Sampere (Superman), Michael Avon Oeming (Midnighter)
Colours: Adriano Lucas (Superman), Taki Soma (Midnighter)
Letters: Dave Sharpe (Superman & Midnighter)
Published 27/7/21Published by DC Comics

The first notable thing when picking up this issue is the new logo.  It’s been overhauled by Darran Robinson, who has done a great job of encapsulating (in his words) 82 years of history.  It’s a logo with a modern feel which still manages to echo ages past.  The cover title ‘Under Siege’ refers to some of the story to follow and pairs well with further clues reflected in the excellent cover art.

The cover is handled on this occasion by the team of Daniel Sampere (also interior artist) and Alejandro Sanchez (colours).  We have Superman in a determined pose, framed by Thao-La and a great depiction of Lois channeling strong ‘Ripley from Aliens’ vibes (foreshadowing a great scene she has later in the book).  All this is set against the backdrop of Atlantean preparations for war.  Anyone who has been reading thus far will know by now that tensions are mounting.  It’s another great cover for this run, promising a good read.

And it’s no empty promise; there’s a lot to take in during this issue, with events moving pretty quickly.  ‘Warworld Rising Part 4’ opens with scenes of espionage, as we witness two high-tech camouflaged figures infiltrate the crashed alien ship held by the Atlanteans.  It’s a really atmospheric sequence, which leads us headlong into a face-off now made considerably worse.  As the Justice League debate events and the best course of action (in itself making for some very cool pages), Jon and Lois are meanwhile trying their best to accommodate the refugee Thao-la as she struggles to adjust to her new situation.  Tensions soon escalate even further, as the surface forces of Earth and the Atlanteans teeter on the brink of war and the Warzoon attack Thao-La at the behest of Mongul and his cronies.

If this sounds like too much to take in, fear not; Phillip Kennedy Johnson has done a fine job of making sure we are never lost, instead providing us with a truly enjoyable thrill ride.  He delivers on the promises of both the cover and events of preceding issues while keeping multiple plates spinning in truly entertaining fashion.  The dialogue is superb throughout, often being highly emotive, and we are with both him and the characters every step of the way until the closing panel.

Daniel Sampere’s art is, once again, just what the book needs.  He gives us dynamic action, imposing superheroes and dark, mysterious bad guys.  He etches lines of tension into the character’s faces, and draws us further into the drama unfolding.  There are numerous occasions throughout this issue where a feeling of Sampere’s original pencils shine through, something I personally love to see, as the shading lines and contours are further enhanced by subsequent inks and colours.

And what colours they are!  Once again, Adriano Lucas treats us to hugely atmospheric palettes, always giving us a firm sense of place and expanding our levels of excitement.  The colours are bright and dynamic and support the story perfectly.

We have more excellent colours from Taki Soma as we move on to the Midnighter story in this issue.  Her choices are always fresh, and support Michael Avon Oeming’s  striking art in a hugely complimentary fashion.  The writing duo of Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad have written a story which showcases the strengths of the medium.  It’s high concept and has a touch of the bizarre yet the creative team work together so well that it entertains and impresses each and every time.

The pairing of Midnighter and Mister Miracle works very well here and introduces a comedic element that plays well through their dialogue as the action unfolds.  It’s another jam packed instalment, and the creative team here ensure that every panel pops and every line engages.  This Midnighter run feels very new and fresh and serves as a great companion piece to the lead story.

Dave Sharpe letters both stories again and, as ever, his work is clean, clear and well considered.  It really makes a difference when a comic is as easy to read as it is to look at or scan over.  Thank you, Mr. Sharpe!


Verdict

Everything about issue #1033 of Action Comics impresses, from cover to closing page.  We have two excellent companion titles to enjoy and are spoilt by a wealth of great art and storytelling.  It’s one of those comics which has you reading along thinking, “what happens next?” while feeling no small dose of excitement.  If you haven’t done so already, give Action Comics a try.  There’s a lot to like here.


(Suggested ages 13+ by DC)

Review by Andy Flood, 02/08/21


Star Wars: Jabba The Hutt #1 Review

Review by Nathan Harrison 27/7/21

Written by: Justina Ireland

Art: Ibraim Roberson and Luca Pizarri
Released: 21/07/21

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Since its launch earlier this year, The High Republic has proven to be the most exciting new Star Wars expanded universe initiative in a long time – Justina Ireland has also proven to be one its most talented contributors. Her middle-grade novel, A Test of Courage, was emotionally complex, touching, and full of the heroism and derring-do that was promised when the new era was announced. It’s fantastic then to now see her name of the front of a Marvel comic as part of an altogether different era of Star Wars.

Ireland grabs the opportunity to show her range by the horns as we see her take on the darker underbelly of the Star Wars galaxy – her approach to iconic characters like the sinister, snivelling Bib Fortuna, Boba Fett and, of course, the titular mob slug Jabba the Hutt is spot on, while her introduction of new bounty hunter, Deva Lompop, a badass, double-crossing feathered lizard woman, is impactful. She stands out as the real star of this book and is bound to do so again in her upcoming appearances in further one-shots. Any character who can effortlessly belittle a character like Boba Fett with amusing results is not to be ignored!

The approach to the plot is also skilfully handled. What initially appears to be a straightforward tale of bounty hunters on the job soon turns out to be the first hint of the back-stabbing intrigue that we could see in future instalments of the War of the Bounty Hunters event. Deva Lompop is the driving force behind this, but Ireland also shows how easily Jabba can pull the rug from under the feet of those in thrall to him – as much as Deva seems to be the sort of person who does whatever the hell they want, everything ultimately comes back to Jabba and a debt he is owed. This chink in Deva’s armour and her potential vulnerability makes her even more compelling, rather than her simply being a likeable but one-sided scoundrel.

Art is provided by Ibraim Roberson for sequences set in the main timeline of War of the Bounty Hunters, and by Luca Pizarri for flashbacks. Their styles differ enormously so the effect can be jarring when the action shifts from one timeline to another. Roberson’s lines are defined and dynamic, with every known element instantly recognisable and all new elements standing out as beautifully done. Every panel hums with detail. However, Pizarri’s art is not quite as accomplished, and a lot of the main characters are drawn in a rather odd way, Jabba especially – he resembles a giant bullfrog at points rather than the slug-like creature anyone would recognise. The proportions of Boba Fett’s distinctive helmet and armour are also a little off. That said, Pizarri’s art has a cartoonish charm of its own, which works best during the more action-oriented sequences.


VERDICT

One of Star Wars’ finest writers finally makes her debut at Marvel and does a stellar job in both having a lot of fun with characters we know and introducing us to one we don’t who is bound to have a bigger and bigger impact as the event continues. While the art can sometimes lack accuracy and there are no particularly interesting layouts, it’s hard to ignore the quality of the whole page panels dotted throughout that bring a sense of scale and drama to this intriguing and engaging character-driven piece.


Review by Nathan Harrison 27/7/21