Written by: Robert Venditti
Art by: Diego Bernardo
Color by: Brian Reber
You have heard me say it a thousand times, “It’s not the hero that makes a great story arc but the villain.” There is no better way to get the readers attention than to introduce a new bad-ass villain to take on our seemingly unstoppable hero. X-O Manowar #26 feels like a tie-in comic that was written specifically for me. Grubby space bar on the out skirts of the universe, check. Over cocky bounty hunters looking to make an impression, check. High octane action with a morally ambiguous “villian type” check, and check.
Normally tie-in comics are poor attempts to shove in characters to a universal crossover event that are happening around their main story line. Robert Venditti decides to take a more reader friendly approach as he uses this opportunity with this Armor Hunters tie-in to introduce us to that books main villain,s The Armor Hunters and their leader Primary Reebo. This is how a tie-in comic should be handled. Don’t give us some jumbled mess that tries to force itself in the main event. Instead give us a story that still ultimately ties in to the main thread but does so in a way that expands the universe and characters beyond what the main story. What better way to do this than with a villain’s origin.
I must say this review may be a little biased as my favorite books are always more about the villain and their story, and this is no exception. I am already rooting for Primary Reebo and his crew as I move on from this issue and into the next Armor Hunters. Reebo is a great villain because he isn’t necessarily a “bad guy” but just a man out to make a buck and do the impossible. Venditti’s story has all the makings of a great villian origin and here is hoping that tread continues in future issues. The art by Diego Bernard is fantastic as panels are stuffed with great backgrounds and even better characters. Each alien is distinct and different and our settings range from bright and full of life to desolate nothingness. Brian Reber’s color is a standout as you turn from page to page. He uses the right amount of bright and vibrant colors to bring out character features and when things become dark and dreary so does his pallet.
X-O Manowar #26 is a perfect jumping on point for new readers and a great example on how to create and intriguing and worthwhile tie-in comic.
*Review by Casey Walsh
Written by: Louise Simonson
Art by: Derek Charm
This is the crossover event I spent my teenage years waiting for. Take four ultimate villains who are obsessed with conquering the universe. Each villain with the aid of the other three sends a robot to attack their arch-nemesis hero and through technological trickery, the heroes are teleported to a holding cell. Throughout this first issue in a universe spanning crossover arc, we get to see some iconic action typical of the usually main focus heroes. Samurai swords, alien transformation, super heroines and genius round out the cast of heroic powers and skills. One thing that is even more impressive about this, it is not a DC or Marvel crossover, but IDW, and Cartoon Network properties!
Super Secret Crisis is simple nostalgic fun. There is no need to be familiarized with who the villains or heroes (though if you’re a fan of them like I am, Power Puff Girls included, this hits you right in the nostalgia), the plot isn’t overly complicated; universe domination through control of their nemeses. The art isn’t too high level as it looks exactly like the cartoons it’s based off of. This comic was actually very entertaining with all the Cartoon Network shows finally living in the same world (which up until now has only been speculated at in forums and fan-fiction). It is a fast paced opening act to what I hope is a long series.
Just like the major publishers and their crossover events, (which is either poked fun of or given a head nod to in the title), there needs to be an unlikely hero, or heroes. This first issue cuts corners with story, no need to know why these villains are in an ongoing battle with various heroes, or their background. You just know they are rivals, and this is their big plan to negate the good guys from interfering. The next issue is set to be just as good as I was not let down by who shows up, and is teased to appear.
*Review by Cory Anderson
Written by: Jai Nitz
Art by: Greg Smallwood
“Sophomore slump” tends to hit many rookies these days as they reach their second season. Don’t expect that from this Dark Horse that had a great first run. In case you haven’t read any of Jai Nitz’s great supernatural thriller about a man who becomes possessed by vengeful spirits, this is will catch you up quickly.
The pace is set from the first panel when John and his friend Reggie leave a midday matinee showcasing two of the 80’s biggest action heroes. There’s foreshadowing, and then there’s this; John is a passenger in his own body while the spirits take their revenge on those who killed them. The benefit of this possession is that he gets to help those wronged, but it comes with the consequences of being the one sent to prison if he gets caugh.
Which is where this comic heads. John’s father passed this power down, before he died. Now, a prisoner at the Georgia State Prison is being possessed by John’s father, and he needs to break him out. With a killer like John, I’m hoping to see some of that Sly and Arnold action that started this modern day buddy, buddy killer. But the story has one last twist before closing this issue and it’s sure to keep you coming back.
The art could not be matched any better. Greg Smallwood adds those little details to make characters as memorable as their role in the comic. This isn’t a comic about talking ponies or caped heroes, it’s expect dark tones, rugged features and the beginning to a suspense filled prison break thriller.
*Review by Cory Anderson
Written by: Shane McCarthy
Art by: Casey W. Coller
Colors by: Joana Lafuente
Just in time for the new movie, this spotlight focuses on a relatively new cybertronian, Drift. All the cliché stories for samurai, ronin warriors apply to this Autobot; wandering warrior, looking for a purpose and having a change of morals. I recall seeing this character first enter the Autobot/Decepticon war in 2008 and finally we get to see how he earned his Autobot badge.
As far as the look of transformers, I would say this is something between the G1 blocky look and the Bayverse sharp edges. What is even more impressive about the character’s looks, is the artist’s story behind it. Coller talks in the post comic pages about the process he took to get Drift’s look right, including playing with toys. To further play on the ronin looking for a second chance cliche, Drift is clearly shown as white even in darkened scenes and areas, and the conflict with his soul’s turmoil (also the name of the lead Decepticon villain) is clearly metaphorical for good vs evil.
For readers new to the current series you won’t see Optimus or Megatron, but you will get to see a whole new look at how the universe, not just the world, looks at the cybertronian war. For someone who has read, watched, played or experienced anything with the Transformers tag, you know it is Autobot vs Decepticon; this spotlight informs you there is more to this war than the two main factions. Morale of the story; all you need is a new perspective, and even a ruthless Autobot killer, can change allegiances and earn a second chance.
*Review by Cory Anderson
Written by: Brian Reed
Art by: Sergio Arino
Color by: Michael Atiyeh
What do futuristic super soldiers have recurring dreams of? In this issue of Halo Escalation we get a good glimpse at the in-betweens of pan galactic war. Ships in space docks getting repairs and Spartan IV soldiers counseling each other about what they dream about. This iss what happens when there aren’t barrages of assault rifles in your face or energy grenades making craters in Blood Gulch.
I really liked seeing this side of Halo, really any war movie, book or show (real or not). Because with the casualties of war and complete decimation of an entire city’s population, there needs to be a re-birthing period. Seeing one of these surgically enhanced fighters, having emotional stress and the way he is in mental warfare with himself is really good character development. Even as they don’t fight using pistols and battleships they must come to grips with the hard learned lesson, you can always rely on your teammate, it’s not a task you need to take on alone.
The story and art are not extravagant nor are they lacking. There aren’t many panels that make you re-read pages for content or illustrations. However I must say, the panel where the Spartan IVs visit one of their childhood homes, and find a Master Chief action figure, was very cool. The content is very well thought out and the emotional turmoil isn’t over played. Very on point comic and the ending lets you know play time is over and it’s back to action.
*Review by Cory Anderson
Written by: Joshua Williamson
Art by: Manuel Garcia
Color by: Marta Martinez
Captain Midnight #12 comes as a respite in the series after the explosive last arc. A great time for new readers to jump on and enjoy this old fashioned adventure series and get caught up as the Captain, Jim Albright, catches his breath and contemplates his next move as he reflects on the events that cost him so much.
After losing his ally in Rick Marshall and thinking of the lives of soldiers who have fallen over the years while he remains young and strong weighs heavy on Cap as he seeks solace in a small town in Nevada. A great scene in a diner ensues and soon there’s an underlying uneasiness in this sleepy forgotten burg. Joshua Williamson has a great ear for dialogue and whether Cap is talking to a waitress or a mechanic the words flow naturally and convincingly. This first part of the new arc is easy to settle into as Williamson sets the table nice and clearly.
Manuel Garcia continues to do great art with colors provided by Marta Martinez. The dusty yellows of the desert town, the brighter oranges of the diner and the subdued colors of the flashbacks help establish a distinct setting without resorting to huge colorful transitions. Garcia’s penciling really excels with facial expressions that express exactly what Williamson wants to get across. A nice symmetry between writer and artist.
*Review by Enrique Rea
Written by: Brian Wood
Art by: Danijel Zezelj
Color by: Jordie Bellaire
In the final issue of the Sahara arc and like the other installments it is consistently compelling with a wonderful character in Mary. She has been the anchor in this story and it’s her strength and intelligence that is the difference in surviving the water convoy to Morocco. This is one of Brian Wood’s strongest works and that’s saying something.
The all-female tanker crew rolls along in the desert averting some tense moments thanks to Mary’s leadership and her quick thinking. Wood takes what could have been a predictable convoy in a post-apocalyptic world story and hands it over to his main character. Not only are the women looking to Mary for guidance and direction so is the reader. The reader is as dependent on her as anyone in the book. Mary is a riveting figure who rallies the women, bravely handles the male dominated command of the convoy with precision, and negotiates with the officials with the expertise of a Fortune 500 CEO. It’s not hard to root for Mary because she is most capable under difficult situations and the muse that drives Wood’s story.
The distinct look by artist Danijel Zezelj and colorist Jordie Bellaire create an exciting landscape with the clever use of colors, monochromatic in one scene, black and white in another. It lays the foundation for each scene and generates a sandswept foreground as the convoy ventures through the desert. It’s a difficult task to convey the appearance of sand storms but the execution is minimal but extremely effective.
The Massive is a great series but this Sahara arc is exceptional. Issues 22, 23 and this 24 are highly recommended. A satisfying ending to Mary’s story as the inspirational leader of this group of women is as compelling as any comic but without the need of superpowers or violence.
*Review by Enrique Rea
Written by: Matt Kindt
Art by: Matt Kindt
Without giving away too much this heartbreaking issue 23 of Mind MGMT races the pulse then drops a ton of bricks on the reader. Matt Kindt weaves a tight script of intrigue and action then enters an ethereal spiral of pathos and melancholy. Just your standard everyday perfection that creator Kindt has been known for with this mind bending series.
Things get chaotic for Meru and Lyme that lead to a climatic finish. It’s hard not to give it away but simply settle in and enjoy the ride and if you begin to get something in your eye it may be because of feelings.
*Review by Enrique Rea
Written by: Pat Shand & Chuck Brown
Art by: A. C Osorio
Color by: Omi Remelante Jr.
Andre Payne is still coming to terms with his new found powers. In the wake of losing his brother and being on the run from the cops and gangsters a lot has been weighing on the mind of the son of Zeus. Godstorm Hercules Payne #3 is an exciting action-packed issue that has become a gem of miniseries for Zenescope.
Gang leader Taylor has his sights set on Payne but his leadership is being questioned as the goddess Venus is pulling the strings behind the scenes. It’s cute to see Taylor feel his manhood threatened but hasn’t learned yet that Venus is not to be bullied and she quickly sets him straight yet again. There will be an inevitable showdown between Payne, Hercules incarnate, and Venus. Writers Pat Shand and Chuck Brown do a nice job of balancing Payne’s pathos with his genuine enthusiasm for his powerful transformation. Despite his questionable choices in the series Payne remains a sympathetic figure who wants to make amends for his mistakes and is now equipped to do so.
A.C. Osorio continues to do great artwork that is lively, kinetic and expressive. Omi Remelante, Jr. contributes some great color to accentuate the action and add some pop to otherwise slower scenes.
This 5-issue limited series continues like a frieght train to it’s explosive climax and Zenescope should be praised for it’s creative vision and inclusion of diverse characters. Even if it can at times seem stereotypical in its depiction of urban neighborhoods the flawed hero is redeemable and destined for greatness. Check out Godstorm Hercules Payne and make it part of your pull list.
*Review by Enrique Rea