Four Letter Nerd

Category - Comics

4LN Comic Review: Darth Vader #1

Series: Darth Vader
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inks: Cam Smith
Colorist: David Curiel

Summary from Comixology: “The most fearsome villain of all time returns with an all-new series! When Anakin Skywalker fell, both to the pull of the dark side and to the blade of Obi-Wan Kenobi, he rose back up, more machine than man. Having lost everything that was once dear to him, the former chosen one must take his first steps into a darker world…as Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith!”

This is a series I have patiently been waiting for since it’s announcement some time ago. If you have been reading this site for any amount time, you would know that Charles Soule is one of my top 5 current comic book writers, and if he writes something I’m going to pick it up. His work on Poe Dameron has been fantastic, and his mini-series Obi-Wan and Anakin was a refreshing look at the characters set between Phantom Menace and Clone Wars. It’s been a few months since we had a Darth Vader book (Kieron Gillen’s book ended in October of 2016), but this is already shaping up to be the most interesting book in the ongoing Star Wars series.

In the first issue of Charles Soule’s run on Darth Vader, we pick up immediately where Revenge of the Sith leaves us. Darth Vader is awaking from his surgery and operation that added his new armor, and in his rage he throws Emperor Palpatine into the wall and this sets Palpatine into a rage and he attacks Vader, forcing Vader to come to the realization that he no longer has his lightsaber, which Obi-Wan takes after his battle on Mustafar and later gives to Luke in A New Hope.

The first arc will more than likely focus on the story of how Darth Vader got his iconic red lightsaber, and this first issue goes into great detail explaining the significance of the red kyber crystal, and that alone is worth the $4.99 sticker price. I would love to go into more detail about that, but don’t want to risk spoiling anything.

Along with Charles Soule’s fantastic work, Giuseppe Camuncoli makes a triumphant appearance on a Star Wars book and his art style matches perfectly with a story exploring Vader’s quest for his lightsaber. Giuseppe Camuncoli has worked previously on other Marvel books such as The Amazing Spider-Man and Superior Spider-Man. His artwork is a little bit more animated compared to previous Star War books, but it works great with the story. I think one of the most memorable scenes of Darth Vader #1 would have to be towards the end of the issue when Vader is on a planet in the Mid Rim and he experiments with the different lenses inside his helmet and we see the planet through Vader’s eyes and it’s a truly unique view of the character.

Personally, I can not wait to see where this story is going to lead to. So much happened between Revenge of The Sith and A New Hope that there is almost an endless amount of stories to tell. Nineteen years have passed and in that time, Darth Vader went from an unknown Sith to the most terrifying Sith Lord in the Galaxy, and I can’t wait to see the horrible things Vader has done in the unknown. Be sure to head down to your LCS and pick up a copy of Darth Vader #1. This is the perfect book for any Star Wars fan or any comic book fan, it’s also a great jumping on point because if you’ve seen Revenge of the Sith, then you will be able to follow this series without a single hiccup.

Also, the issue has an extremely dark minimalist bonus comic by Chris Eliopoulos and Jodie Bellaire that pretty much consists of Darth Vader killing everyone he has an interaction with. It was much darker than I expected and it even had me laughing a few times. It is definitely worth the short read, you’ll enjoy it.

Music Pairing:

John Williams, Imperial Death March because come on, it’s a Darth Vader book. What did you expect?

4LN Advanced Comic Review – GWAR: ORGASMAGEDDON #1

Series: GWAR: ORGASMAGEDDON
Writers: Matt Maguire and Matt Miner, with additional story by Bob Gorman
Artists: Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, with Marissa Louise & Doug Garbark, and Taylor Esposito
Publisher: Dynamite

Summary from Dynamite: “From the depths of outer space to the frozen wasteland of Antarctica, punk rock and heavy metal’s most shocking and blasphemous band of intergalactic blood spewing alien monsters has returned to kill everything and respect nothing in the pages of GWAR: Orgasmageddon! Banished to the past by the cold and calculating Mr. Perfect, the heroes of GWAR trample through time like a deranged Bill and Ted on bath salts – antics ensue as they stomp and smash and shape human history to what we accept as our current reality. Co-written by GWAR themselves and Matt Miner (Toe Tag Riot, Critical Hit), GWAR: Orgasmageddon is a love letter to comics, grindhouse movies, and heavy metal – sure to appeal to the most die-hard fan and the comics fanboy/fangirl intrigued by the prospect of social awareness drowned in geysers of blood and alien goo.”

When I first heard about the GWAR comic I was incredibly excited. I immediately reached out to co-writer Matt Miner for an interview, which you can read here, so I could learn more. All the artwork that was initially presented was fantastic and promising, but it wasn’t until Matt was kind enough to share a review copy of the first issue that I realized just how unfathomably jealous 15-year-old me would be of 32-year-old me.

The story of ORGASMAGEDDON is pretty straightforward. GWAR travels through time and hilariously fucked up shit happens. I could try to speak in professional tones about this comic, but would that really make any sense? When period jokes and multiple violent beheadings are involved, professionalism (outside that of the editing that goes into making the book look nice and shiny) pretty much goes out the window. And thank GOD, er… GWAR, for that.

Comics that take themselves seriously and strive to make a legitimate point are great, and I certainly appreciate their candor. But, too often comic creators try too goddamn hard, expecting readers to be enamored with whatever inflated concept they’re shoveling and they get unreasonably resentful if their ideas aren’t praised, or aren’t praised to the level they think they deserved.

I got off on bit of a tangent there. Sorry. My intent is not to do the whole “this is good because this is bad” thing. That’s shitty and doesn’t actually compliment the thing being refereed to as “good.” My point is just to convey that the biggest part of what I loved about ORGASMAGEDDON #1 is that it doesn’t expect anything of the reader other than to be entertained. For decades now, GWAR has been using their brand of performance art to influence audiences and relay social concepts that go completely unnoticed on the surface. Mostly because they’re strategically buried beneath dick jokes and fake blood, but trust me, they’re there.

ORGASMAGEDDON keeps that notion alive. Matt Maguire, who’s worked in the band for many years, and Matt Miner script the story in a manner so that it hits the sweet spot of being a perfect depiction of the band’s faux-mythology, relentlessly funny, chocked full of cartoonish gore, and still, ever so subtly, conveys a point or two. But I might be over-analyzing it. (“might be” = definitely am)

If you, like myself and many other GWAR fans, struggle with a short attention span, ORGASMAGEDDON has you covered. The plot moves quickly and there are shorts at the end that give you a little extra gore for the fun of it. You literally cannot get bored reading this book.

The characters are… well, they’re GWAR, plus a few others thrown in. My favorite is Mr. Perfect. When you see him, you just know what he represents, but in the interest of being self-aware (which this comic has in spades) it’s eventually addressed. Hilariously, I might add.

In addition to the top-notch writing, ORGASMAGEDDON has wonderfully comic-booky art with just the right amount of detail and beautiful colors. While its all really lovely as a total package, honestly, I think the color work is my favorite part of the art. It blends well and really pops out at you.

GWAR fans are sure to love ORGASMAGEDDON because that’s what Bohabs do. They love GWAR. But even if you aren’t familiar with their music, this book is still a super fun read for anyone who just likes violent comics with toilet humor. Which, lets be real, is most of us.

ORGASMAGEDDON hits comic shops this Wednesday so make sure you head out and pick it up!

Music Pairing-

Oh like you didn’t know…

4LN Movie Review: Wonder Woman

Since I was a kid, I have always loved the character of Wonder Woman and the story of Diana Prince, a beautiful princess who gives up all she knows to journey into man’s world and do her best to save man from himself. I remember being a little kid and my Aunt would babysit me and she would turn on the Linda Carter Wonder Woman show and we would eat ice cream and watch this show for what seemed like hours. This was my very first exposure to the character and my first taste of comic books. It wasn’t until Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and the rest of the Dark Knight Trilogy until I truly fell in love with superheroes, but Wonder Woman leads the groundwork for that passion. I can proudly say I’ve read every Wonder Woman comic over the last 5 years and was even lucky enough to interview a creative team working on the Wonder Woman comic, Meredith and David Finch.

I have spent years waiting for an incredible DC movie, and even longer waiting for a Wonder Woman movie, and I am beyond excited to say that Wonder Woman is the movie I’ve been eagerly anticipating, and the one that DC desperately needed. Batman v Superman & Suicide Squad left a lot to be desired from most fans and had quite a large amount of controversy surrounding them. But, Wonder Woman offers a new slate that was desperately needed. I believe if this Wonder Woman film premiered before Batman/Superman, DC wouldn’t have had as many problems as they have been having.

Wonder Woman is the first major film for director Patty Jenkins, who previously has directed a few TV shows, and the 2003 film Monster with Charlize Theron, which she won an Acadamy Award for in 2004.  Along with an academy award, the film also grossed over 4 times its budget making it quite the success, and showing that Patty Jenkins knows what she is doing. After watching this movie, I seriously couldn’t think of better director for this film.

I’m going to do my best to keep this a spoiler-free review, but be warned that there may be spoilers following this section

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Official Synopsis from IMDb: “Before she was Wonder Woman she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.”

From the moment this film starts, it doesn’t feel like your typical superhero movie, it’s 100% an origin story, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s an action-packed World War I movie, it’s about the innocence that’s lost by war, and it’s a film about true heroism. We are used to murders in alleys, bites from radioactive insects, super serum experiments, and aliens coming to Earth. The only superhero film I can compare this to is Thor, considering he leaves/is kicked out of Asgard and ends up in a small New Mexico town. But, there is something inherently different about Diana leaving Themyscira to journey into man’s world. There’s more valor and honor to it.

Patty Jenkins, along with screenwriter Allan Heinberg and producers Zack Snyder and Geoff Johns, did a fantastic job representing the difference between Paradise Island and the war-torn Europe. From the minute that Steve Trevor’s plane crashes on the island and German’s follow him into Paradise, we see the tone shift and colors change from bright and vibrant to dark and gritty. One of the biggest problems with Batman/Superman was the over saturated, gritty look of the film. Wonder Woman uses that darkness but also brings it to life in a way that the Batman/Superman team was never capable of.

One of the most unique and beautiful things about Wonder Woman is how Diana Prince looks flawless and the iconic Wonder Woman suit is 100% the focus, especially during battle. The color isn’t washed out or faded. If anything, Wonder Woman sticks out like a sore thumb when the battle rages in No Man’s Land and this makes her even more of a badass. While everyone around her is depicted in shades of gray, she’s brightly colored with reds, blues, and golds; as Wonder Woman should be.

The battle scenes are truly wonderful in this film, and it feels more like a Great War movie instead of a superhero film. Over the past year or two, I’ve talked with my fellow 4LN writer Stephen about how I fear the comic book movie bubble will burst soon. He always points to movies like Winter Soldier and Ant-Man because they are essentially just comic characters inside of genre films instead of strictly superhero movies. I can completely understand that now.

Diana has an innocence about her that makes the character unique compared to other caped crusaders, and this movie does an incredible job showing that innocence and its eventual loss caused by the horrors of war. At one point before Diana, Steve, and the rest of the crew make it to the front lines they pass a group of wounded, bloodied soldiers and you see the expression on Diana’s face drastically change. Gal Gadot sold that scene with nothing more than her eyes, similar to Johnny Depp’s work in Edward Scissorhands. There are quite a few times in the movie where Diana wants to save people but she must sadly come to the realization that not everyone can or will be saved in a time of need.

Everyone that was cast in this movie was a phenomenal pick from Gadot as Diana, Robin Wright as Antiope, Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Danny Huston as General Lundendorff and finally Elena Anaya as Doctor Poison. It’s no secret that Marvel has perfectly cast several times and there are many actors from their films who completely embody their respective characters, but I am excited and proud to say that DC has that now in Gal Gadot. She IS Diana Prince. She stole the show in every scene she was in during Batman/Superman and she is equally as mesmerizing in her own solo film. Along with Gadot, Lilly Aspell plays the young Diana and does an absolutely incredible job with her deliveries of comedic lines and her bravery and mischief that you would imagine the daughter of a queen having. The chemistry between Chris Pine and Gal Gadot was absolutely fantastic and captured the dynamic of their relationship in a fantastic way. Watching their relationship unfold felt just like reading one of the origin stories from the comics.

DC has always been asking the question of, “What if Superheroes existed in our world?” They’ve not done the most compelling job of exploring that idea up until now. With Wonder Woman, what they do instead is move outside of the box a little and use their characters to ask, “What if the Greek gods existed in our world?” and that is truly what makes Wonder Woman a unique superhero movie. Trevor and his crew completely understand that Wonder Woman is “not of this Earth,” but does that mean that gods such as Zeus, Aries, and Hera could also exist still? Or maybe they always have existed… With such a simple question DC will be able to easily continue and turn Wonder Woman into a franchise. Frankly, It’d be a crime if they didn’t, seeing as to how they’ve already laid solid groundwork for it here.

I don’t have to tell you that seeing a Wonder Woman is a must. Even if you’re unreasonably skeptical, deep down you know that it is as good as everyone says, and then some. The biggest concern for a lot of people was whether or not Wonder Woman would be a mess like the few DCCU films before it. The greatest failure therein would be to see such an empowering female character flop on the big screen. You can rest assured that worry dissipates within the first 10 minutes of the film. So, you have no more excuses. Get your ass to the theater right now and watch the best damn comic movie this year.

4LN Advanced Comic Review – SECRET WEAPONS #1

Writer: Eric Heisserer
Art: Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín
Publisher: Valiant Comics

Summary:

The government has dispatched Amanda McKee – the technopath codenamed Livewire – to investigate the ruins of a secret facility formerly run by Toyo Harada, the most powerful telepath on Earth and her former mentor. In his quest for world betterment at any cost, Harada sought out and activated many potential psiots like himself. Those who survived, but whose powers he deemed to have no value to his cause, were hidden away at this installation. But Livewire, having studied Harada’s greatest strengths and learned his deepest weaknesses, senses opportunity where he once saw failure. A young girl who can talk to birds… A boy who can make inanimate objects gently glow… To others, these are expensive disappointments. But, to Livewire, they are secret weapons…in need of a leader. Now, as a mechanized killer called Rex-O seeks to draw them out, Livewire and her new team of cadets will be forced to put their powers into action…in ways they never could have imagined…

SECRET WEAPONS works on multiple levels.  We will get into the main two levels – story and art – shortly, but on a personal level, the book’s setting is my favorite part.  SECRET WEAPONS takes place in downtown Oklahoma City near Bricktown, a place I’ve been many times.  While I am a Nashville native, OKC and surrounding areas is home to almost all of my family.  Seeing Livewire and the psiots she is working to protect roam streets that I’ve personally driven is pretty awesome.  I’m sure New Yorkers are tired of it, what with 98% of the Marvel universe rampaging through NYC, but as a son of two Okies, I love seeing it represented in comics.

SECRET WEAPONS looks and reads beautifully.  It is written by Arrival screenwriter Eric Heisserer, who is also the screenwriter for the upcoming Bloodshot and Harbinger films.  It appears that this might be his comic book debut, and it’s damn fine.  The characters are unique, and the odd powers the psiots exhibit (making inanimate objects glow, talking to birds, etc.) lead to some really good comic relief when the story gets dark.  Heisserer is joined by Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín, who go the extra mile to deliver some truly beautiful art.  Allén has such a unique style that almost resembles a type of pop art, and Martín’s colors are beautifully vibrant. One of the coolest things about this book is the work Heisserer and Allén put into making the setting authentic.  Each of the major locations are modeled after real-life landmarks in Oklahoma City, and that attention to detail sets this book apart.

If you’ve never picked up a Valiant title before, this is a good place to start. The creative team hit a home-run with all facets of this book. SECRET WEAPONS hits the stands on on June 28th, so tell your shop to order you a copy or two!

An Introduction to Comic Book Binding

It’s been a long while since we’ve provided you, our fellow nerds, with a primer.  The purpose of this series is to take an in-depth look at specific sub-genres of nerd culture, and today’s article does not stray from that premise.  Without further adieu, let’s take a look at art of comic book binding.

History

I’m going to ask you to bear with me over this next paragraph, because we are going to have a tiny history lesson.  Unlike some of our previous primers, bookbinding goes back a long way.  Remember hearing about Johann Gutenberg in history class?  Well, he is responsible for creating the movable type printing press, which allowed for faster printing.  Faster printing meant more books, and more books meant more focus on the art of bookbinding, which really took off in the late 15th century.  Also happening in the 15th century: the Aztec and Inca empires were at the height of their power. Fun fact: initially, books were shelved with the spines facing inwards, and the title inked onto the edge of the pages.  It wasn’t until Jean Grolier commissioned beautiful bindings with with lettering on the spine that they began to shelve them spines out, as is the custom now (stay tuned for my next primer on watching paint dry!).

Look, I know this might be boring for some of you, and possibly jarring since you are here to figure out if you want to get your DOOP collection professionally bound, but we really take book-bindings as they are now for granted. You’re right, though… it’s time to move onto the next portion of this primer.

Choosing a Bindery

Deciding whether to get your comic books professionally bound is a big decision.  I imagine a good sized portion of the comic community cringes at the thought of someone cutting the spine off a book and stitching it to a bunch of its comic book brethren.  Having said that, comic book binding is great for collectors like me that don’t intend to sell their books, want to keep them easily accessible, and don’t consider short boxes home decor.

I decided to give binding a shot because I have four short boxes filled with modern era Valiant Comics sitting in the back of my closet next to an expired fire extinguisher, assorted batteries, and our winter coats. A one-of-a-kind hardback book (that I helped design, no less) filled with some of my favorite comics was just too good to pass up.  After doing some research on the Google, I decided to go with Herring and Robinson Book Binders. Herring and Robinson is a family owned library bindery that began business in 1920. Before I decided to pull the trigger, I gave them a call to learn about the binding process.  They graciously answered all my questions during my initial phone call, and stayed in touch via email throughout.  Ultimately, it was their customer service that won me over.

Prepping Your Books for Binding

First and foremost, it’s important to decide which series or event you are binding.  For my first foray into binding, I chose my X-O Manowar collection, which included issues #1-50, two #0 issues, and two annuals.  Once you choose your books, it’s time to get them into the order you want.  While each volume could be up to 2 1/2″ thick, I decided to break my collection into two volumes so the gutter loss would not be as bad.  The first volume would include issues #1-25, and the second volume would include #26-50, with the #0’s and annuals put in according to when they were released.

Now comes the hard part… if you want to take away some of the thickness, or you find it more aesthetically pleasing, you can remove the ads throughout the comic as long as it doesn’t include any of the actual panels. While yes, you are technically cutting into a comic book which could be considered blasphemous, it’s for the greater good.  I decided to remove the last few pages of each book, because these usually contained previews for upcoming Valiant titles, which I didn’t need.  To do this, I simply grabbed my trusty Wrath of the Eternal Warrior box-cutter, and cut just to the right of the center line to avoid the staples.  Some binderies also prefer the buyer to remove the staples prior to sending, but Herring and Robinson don’t require this.  Once the pages are removed put the issues back in the correct order, place some comic boards on the top and bottom to protect the pages, and wrap them with a few rubber-bands.

I have included some photos of how I prepped my books below.  They are not for the faint of heart…

The Eternal Warrior always wins

 

Placing Your Order

Herring and Robinson provides a myriad of options for customizing your book.  You can have double lines, single lines, die-stamps, lettering, and choose the placement of everything. Then you have to choose the type and color of the binding, and the color of the lines and lettering, add a ribbon or headband, it’s… let’s just say you have a lot to think about .  I spent a lot of time figuring out exactly how I wanted the spine to look.  I eventually settled on double lines at the top and bottom, sans-serif lettering, the buckram material in royal blue with silver lettering.  Herring and Robinson provides the following order form, that has a diagram of the spine and front cover, so you can show them exactly how you want it to look by sketching it out.

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Now, pack the order form in with your books, make sure it’s well protected, and ship it off to Herring and Robinson.  The wait begins.

The Final Product

Their website says it will take 6-8 weeks for the order to be completed, but after only 4 weeks I received my invoice and tracking number.  I’m not going to lie, when I saw that my package was out for delivery and my mailman was running later than usual I stared out my window like Michael Scott stares at Toby.  The wait paid off when I pulled these beautiful books out of their package:

For a price tag of around $30 a book, I ended up with two beautiful, one-of-a-kind books that will look great on my nerd shelf.  The quality of these books is mind-boggling.  They are solidly constructed, and feel great to the touch.  But, is comic book binding for everyone? Probably not.  There are those that cringe at the thought of ravaging their comics with a razor blade.  Those of you, like me, who don’t plan on selling your collection, want to be able to display them proudly, and can make it through the prep, comic book binding is definitely worth it.  I am beyond happy with how my first foray into bound comics turned out, and I will definitely be sending more over the next few months.

4LN Comic Review – Eternal Warrior: Awakening #1

Writer: Robert Venditti
Art: Renato Guedes and Ulises Arreola
Publisher: Valiant Comics

Summary from Valiant Entertainment:

It is a time before civilization…

On the brink of carving out victory in the most violent battle of his life, Gilad Anni-Padda suffers a devastating injury. He awakens weeks later in a strange land, nursed back to health but with no memory of his past. A tribe has shown him compassion in an age of cruelty, and he will return their gift in kind. Now the real violence will begin…

New York Times best-selling writer Robert Venditti (Hal Jordan & The Green Lantern Corps.) and acclaimed artist Renato Guedes (BLOODSHOT REBORN) lead a celebration of the Eternal Warrior’s 25th anniversary here with the second of four standalone specials honoring the most famous Valiant tales ever told!

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Gilad Anni-Padda, the Eternal Warrior, Fist and Steel of the Earth is a farmer, and a poor one at that.  The warlord that struck the blow that took his memory is cutting a swath across the earth destroying everything in his way, and he won’t be stopped until he has the head of the Eternal Warrior atop his throne of bones.  Now Gilad must reclaim his memory, reclaim his mantle, and get to work.  If that doesn’t scream “EPIC” at the top of its lungs, I don’t know what would.

Robert Venditti’s Wrath of the Eternal Warrior is a great 15 issue run that dives into the mythos of the character’s ability to raise from the dead. Now, with Awakening, Venditti is going traveling to before to the turbulent era before human civilization.  The first 8 issue Eternal Warrior is the series that brought me into the Valiant world, so I always look forward to another adventure, and this issue did not disappoint.

The story stands on its own and provides a really cool tale about the Eternal Warrior’s past.  The tone is dark, and there is a really great interplay between that tone and the bright palette used by the color artist Ulises Arreola.  The artist Renato Guedes has worked on everything from the X-Men to Superman, and his work on this issue perfectly captures the violence of the era.  The action sequences are visceral, the characters are unique, and the desolate landscapes are beautiful.  I would love to see Guedes do more work for Valiant in the future.

Ultimately, Eternal Warrior: Awakening is a clinic in how to do a one-shot.  The creative team works well together setting an intense tone for the book, and it makes me pray to the Valiant leadership that more Eternal Warrior is on its way.  Eternal Warrior: Awakening hits the stands this Wednesday, May 10, 2017.  Make sure to track down a copy with the veracity of Alpha Hyamm.

Check Out A Sneak Peek At Eternal Warrior: Awakening #1 Below!

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4LN Comic Review: Jean Grey #1

Series: Jean Grey
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Victor Ibáñez
Colorist: Jay David Ramos

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Summary from Comixology: When a teenage JEAN GREY traveled through time and arrived in the present, she learned the terrible fate that befell her predecessor: Possessed by a cosmic entity called the Phoenix, Jean was trapped in an endless cycle of life and death. Determined to escape that future, Jean set out to write her own destiny. But now, she’s visited by a premonition that the Phoenix is coming for her…and in this new ongoing series by DENNIS HOPELESS (ALL-NEW X-MEN, SPIDER-WOMAN, X-MEN: SEASON ONE) and VICTOR IBANEZ (EXTRAORDINARY X-MEN, STORM), she’s going to fight tooth and nail to escape becoming its next victim!

The X-Men franchise has been having some turbulent times lately. The cinematic universe has been suffering heavy criticism, and Marvel/Fox have been fighting for rights for the characters, and for a while, the comic book community was  left in limbo about whether the X-Men universe would come to a halt as Marvel tried to strongarm the rights to the characters. But, as of right now, Marvel Comics is celebrating a renaissance with the X-Men. Books like X-Men: Gold and X-Men: Blue are capturing the classic feel of X-Men books, and know with Jean Grey launching into a solo series, we can continue with that classic feel, but also enjoy a new “millennial” take on the character.

Similar to what Sam Humphries is doing with Green Lanterns, I can see Hopeless really making Jean Grey his own. This issue starts with Jean in Kyoto Japan with a “Bamf thingy” named Pickles (think of a baby Nightcrawler). Jean and Pickles are enjoying some noodles when out of the blue comes a pretty gnarly wrecking crew that consists of three super strong and super invulnerable super criminals. Along with fighting these super bank robbers, Jean must also deal with the struggles of coming to terms with who/what she becomes with the power of the Phoenix, and even though she’s not “our” Jean Grey, she is still Jean Grey, so will the Phoenix still be her destiny?

My favorite part of this issue was actually the first two pages, and I mean that in an extremely positive way. The first two page of this series actually did a fantastic recap of the life and death(s) of Jean, and it had a call back to one of my personal favorite comic covers, Uncanny X-Men 135. Hopeless seems to have a great connection with Jean and it seems to be a very promising start to a new series based on a beloved character.

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Victor Ibáñez does a great job keeping this book bright, bold, and entertaining. There were a few moments where I audibly laughed because of situations Jean found herself in, and Victor did a fantastic job bringing that to life. Victor Ibáñez also did a fantastic job blending classic X-Men images with current comic book artistic styles. Ibáñez also did a first-rate job at capturing the angsty feeling of a teenage Jean Grey.

When you go out to your LCS tomorrow for Free Comic Book Day, be sure to pick up Jean Grey #1, especially if you are anyone who loves the X-Men franchise. This is a great start to a fun story and has a lot of promise for the direction it’s heading in, and it will be enjoyable to see Jean rise from the ashes of her past self.

Music Pairing: 

At one point in the issue, Jean uses her powers to give someone a near death migraine. As someone who suffers from chronic migraines, that was really not cool to do. That sh*t really hurts.

4LN Comic Review: Redneck #1

Series: Redneck
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Dee Cunniffe
Colorist: Lisandro Estherren

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Summary from Comixology: “The Bowmans are VAMPIRES who have quietly run the local barbecue joint in their small town for years, living off cow’s blood. Their peaceful coexistence ends as generations of hate, fear, and bad blood bubble to the surface–making it impossible to separate man from monster! Critically acclaimed writer DONNY CATES (GOD COUNTRY) and artist LISANDRO ESTHERREN serve up the tale of a DIFFERENT kind of family just trying to get by, deep in the heart of Texas.”

I am a huge fan of vampires. Of all the horror characters, and classic monsters, vampires have always been my favorite. I think that may have something to do with the Hugh Jackman Van Helsing movie. Once I saw that, I became fascinated with the bloodsuckers. I absolutely loved True Blood, I shamefully read Twilight, and Scott Snyder’s American Vampire is a comic I am constantly recommending to new readers. I used to play Magic; The Gathering almost daily, and I had a mono black vampire deck that almost ruined friendships. When I heard that there was a new vampire comic coming out from the same guy who did God Country, I knew I would instantly love the series. And I do.

Living in the south, this comic was almost instantly relatable for me. The characters we are introduced to might be vampires but they could easily be your next door neighbors or friends you run into while grabbing groceries. Our main vampire in the story is named Bartlett Bowman and he was born the same day in the same year as the state of Texas declared its independence, December 29th, 1845. Barlett was at The Alamo, he was in the civil war, and he was everywhere between then and now. His family has lived in the town of Sulphur Spring since before it was even a town, and Bartlett believes that he’ll still be around long after the town is razed from the earth. Sticking with the southern feel of the book, Bartlett has a family feud with another local family named The Landrys; Think Hatfields & McCoys, but Vampires & Mortals.

I think my personal favorite thing about this comic is how it’s only issue #1, and it’s already painfully bleak. The artwork by Dee Cunniffe is dark and full of dark tones, and the use of a lot of blacks and dark blues. Cunniffe does a great job bringing this east Texas town to life, and it feels like a real place that you would want to drive through as quick as possible. Along with the town, Cunniffe, and Estherren do a great job with the character appearances as well as the main fight scene. In the fight, we don’t see much, but we can tell that major shit is about to go down, and it felt similar to the build up of the border crossing scene in Sicario. Along those lines, it was fantastic to see what happens to the vampires in sunlight and, unlike Twilight, they aren’t sparkling.

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If you love Vampires or just a good dirty, southern crime story, then this IS the book for you. Be sure to head to your LCS and grab this before it’s gone. I saw in a Facebook group that this is a hot book and going quick, so don’t sleep on this, you will regret it! Redneck is full of edge of your seat suspense that will leave you thirsty for more. It’s rare to find the first issue of a comic that grabbed my interest as much as Redneck.

 

Music Pairing:

Hunting Humans by The Misfits, because of obvious reasons. (Writers note: Misfits blow without Danzig. All hail Danzig!)

8 Valiant Comics and Bands You Need To Check Out Before Warped Tour 2017

About a month and a half ago, Valiant Entertainment and Warped Tour announced that they’ve partnered up on Warped Tour’s 2017 promotional artwork and marketing. Essentially, that means Valiant characters are promoting Warped Tour. And that’s f**king cool.

Valiant has put out some absolutely incredible series, and I honestly believe that no publisher has more respect and appreciation for their readers than they do.

If you are not familiar with Valiant, but you’re interested in checking them out, we’ve thrown together a list of some current ongoing books that you should pick up before Warped Tour kicks off this summer. Most, if not all, of these series are already available in trade collections so you can head down to your local comic shop and pick up a couple for pretty cheap. If you don’t have a comic shop nearby then click the Comixology link under each series below to get them digitally.

Along with the reading recommendations, you’ll also find some listening suggestions featuring bands who are playing on this years Warped Tour.

Enjoy!

X-O Manowar

X-O Manowar (2017) #1

Summary from Comixology: “Born under the oppressive thumb of the Roman Empire, Aric of Dacia learned warfare at an early age. It was amid such violence that he was abducted by an alien race. Forced into slavery, he survived where others perished. His escape would come from bonding with a weapon of immeasurable power: the X-O Manowar armor. With it, he returned to Earth…only to find himself stranded in the modern day. But that was a lifetime ago.

“Now, far from home on a strange and primitive new world, Aric has begun a new life. Liberated from his past, he tends to his crops. Free from war. Free from violence. Free from the armor.

“But the machinery of death marches his way once again. Conscripted into an alien army and thrown into an unforgiving conflict, the fury inside him finds voice as he is forced to embrace the armor once more. With it, he will decimate armies, topple empires and incite interplanetary warfare as he rises from SOLDIER to GENERAL to EMPEROR to VISIGOTH. They wanted a weapon. He will give them war!”

Listen to this while you read it!

Hundredth

PLAYING Warped 6.16 – 8.6

 

Faith

Faith #1: Digital Exclusives Edition

Summary from Comixology: “Orphaned at a young age, Faith Herbert – a psionically gifted “psiot” discovered by the Harbinger Foundation – has always aspired to greatness. But now this once ordinary teenager is taking control of her destiny and becoming the hard-hitting hero she’s always known she can be – complete with a mild-mannered secret identity, unsuspecting colleagues, and a day job as a reporter that routinely throws into her harms way!

“Well, at least she thought it would… When she’s not typing up listicals about cat videos, Faith makes a secret transformation to patrol the night as the City of Angels’ own leading superhero – the sky-soaring Zephyr!

“But flying solo is going to be tougher than Zephyr ever thought when she uncovers a deep-rooted alien conspiracy. Two-bit burglars and car thieves are one thing, but when the world needs a hero to stave off a full-blown extraterrestrial invasion, will Faith find herself in over her head…or ready for her biggest challenge yet?”

Listen to this while you read it!

Tillie

PLAYING Warped 7.26 – 8.6

 

Generation Zero

Generation Zero Vol. 1

Summary from Comixology: Listen to this while you read it! “If you have a problem… If your parents won’t help… And if your cause is worthy… Log onto network #ZERO…because Generation Zero is listening.

“Years ago, the children of the experimental strike team known as Generation Zero were taken from their families by Project Rising Spirit, a private weapons contractor, and raised to be psychic soldiers. After years of taking orders, they have fought for and won their freedom.

“Now, the world’s most wanted teenagers have pledged to protect each other tooth and claw, while using their extraordinary abilities to right wrongs for a generation without a future… To fight for kids, just like them.”

Listen to this while you read it!

New Years Day

PLAYING Warped 6.16 – 8.6

 

Savage 

Savage #1

Summary from Comixology: Fifteen years ago, the world’s most famous soccer star and his former supermodel wife –pregnant with their unborn child – disappeared without a trace. The world believes they are dead… But, in reality, their private jet crash-landed on a mysterious, unknown island ruled by by prehistoric creatures from another time… This is the story of how they lost their humanity.”

Listen to this while you read it!

Knocked Loose

PLAYING Warped 6.16 – 8.6

 

Britannia

Britannia

Summary from Comixology: “On the fringes of civilization, the world’s first detective is about to make an unholy discovery? Ruled by the Fates. Manipulated by the Gods. Commanded by Caesar. In the year 65 A.D., one’s destiny was not his own. At the height of Nero’s reign, a veteran of Rome’s imperial war machine has been dispatched to the farthest reaches of the colonies to investigate unnatural happenings? In the remote outpost of Britannia, Antonius Axia – the First Detective – will become Rome’s only hope to reassert control over the empire’s most barbaric frontier and keep the monsters that bridge the line between myth and mystery at bay. From comics mastermind Peter Milligan (X-Statix, Shade the Changing Man) and incendiary artist Juan Jose Ryp (NINJAK, Clone) comes a psychological journey into terror, temptation, and bloodshed in Valiant’s latest magnum opus.”

Listen to this while you read it!

Fire From The Gods

PLAYING Warped 6.16 – 8.6

 

Bloodshot: Reborn

Bloodshot Reborn #1: Digital Exclusives Edition

Summary from Comixology: “Bloodshot’s nanites made him a nearly unstoppable killing machine. His enhanced strength, speed, endurance, and healing made him the perfect weapon, and he served his masters at Project Rising Spirit – a private contractor trafficking in violence – very well.

“Now, Bloodshot is a shadow of his former self. He lives in self imposed exile, reeling from the consequences of his past life and the recent events that nearly drove him mad. But when a rash of shootings by gunmen who appear to look just like Bloodshot begin, his guilt will send him on a mission to stop the killers, even if it means diving headlong into the violence that nearly destroyed him.”

Listen to this while you read it!

Bad Omens

PLAYING Warped 7.4 – 7.24

 

Ninjak

Ninjak (2015- ) #1: Digital Exclusives Edition

Summary from Comixology: “For the first time, Ninjak’s past and future collide in the pages of an all-new ongoing series from New York Times best-selling writer Matt Kindt (Rai, Mind MGMT) and superstar artists Clay Mann (X-Men: Legacy, Gambit) and Butch Guice (Captain America, Action Comics)!

“Then: Meet inexperienced MI-6 recruit Colin King on his first mission in the field as he learns the basics of spycraft and counterintelligence, and develops a volatile relationship with his first handler.

“Now: Colin King is Ninjak, the world’s foremost intelligence operative, weapons expert, and master assassin. And he’s hunting the Shadow Seven – a secret cabal of shinobi masters with mysterious ties to his training and tragic past.”

Listen to this while you read it!

I Prevail

PLAYING Warped 6.16 – 8.6

 

A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong

A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong #1: Digital Exclusives Edition

Summary from Comixology: “GET SMASHED…OR BE SMASHED! Meet Armstrong: Since the ancient city of Ur, this immortal adventurer has spent the last 7,000 years drinking and carousing his way through history alongside some of the greatest merrymakers the world has ever known.

“Meet Archer: A sheltered teenage martial arts master and expert marksman that was raised for a single purpose – to kill the devil incarnate. Little did he know that this undying evil was actually Armstrong (he’s actually a pretty good guy…once you get to know him) and, since hitting the road together, the two have become great friends and even better partners.

“Now: Archer is about to set off on his most dangerous mission yet – a quest into the mystic reaches of Armstrong’s bottomless satchel to liberate his friend and comrade from the clutches of the mad god Bacchus! (Okay, so, Armstrong went into the satchel himself to get a bottle of whiskey that he kinda misplaced and got stuck. It’s like the Amazon warehouse of arcane treasures in there…and he doesn’t exactly have a maid service.)

“Imprisoned in Armstrong’s satchel for centuries, Bacchus now commands a legion of monsters, goblins and golems bent on escaping back into the world of man and enacting revenge on their captor… Can Archer single-handedly combat the godly embodiment of intoxication himself – and rescue his best buddy – without becoming lost amongst Armstrong’s endless repository of bizarre artifacts and historical oddities in the process?”

Listen to this while you read it!

Valient Thorr

PLAYING Warped 6.16 – 8.6

I Am The Villain Behind Marvel’s Sales Slump

What you are reading is an admission of guilt.  I take responsibility for my actions and, with sound mind and clarity present myself to you with no prejudice and no pre-conceived master plan. I am responsible for MARVEL’s slump of comic book sales, and MARVEL has no one but themselves to blame.

I take no pleasure in revealing myself as the villain.  I thought about it long and hard before I decided to make my actions known to the world.  In fact, I woke up this morning and had pretty much come to the personal realization that this would be something I would just keep to myself until I shuffled off this lowly plane of existence.  However, I have seen an increase in articles written by people who claim to be experts in this industry, with their 5K Twitter followers or the reach of their audience through one of the plethora<h3 “”=”” id=”yui_3_16_0_ym19_1_1491345529012_2727″> I Am The Villain Behind Marvel’s Sales Slump of comic book news websites, podcasts, forums or Facebook groups.  Even as you read this, you may think this is a clever piece written by a staff writer who wanted to take a fresh angle on a subject that everyone thinks they know.

All posers, amateurs and false.

This is the true story, and I share it, along with who I am and why I did what I did, with you today.

I am an average, unassuming middle age comic reader and collector.  In fact, short of my love for comics and the comic book industry as a whole, I’m quite boring.  If you are a comic retailer, I am both the man who comes into your store who has a pullbox with you out of loyalty or the man who wanders in off the street to spend money in your shop simply to help support it.  I will cherry pick your $1 boxes for that 1:25 variant you couldn’t sell and put it in the hands of a collector across the country.  I listen to your conversations, critique, and complaints in casual conversations and chime in with ease.  You’ll even find my name in the SPECIAL THANKS section of some MARVEL COMICS.  I have been both comic customer and retailer.  I am everyone and no one and where I once bought 20-30 MARVEL comics a month.  Now I don’t buy MARVEL at all, and I don’t sing MARVEL’s praises like I used to.

First reason:  MARVEL EVENTS.  I’m sick of them.  They have inconsistent artwork and are used as nothing more than a rinse-and-repeat cash grab.  They also often begin or end with the death of a long-time classic MARVEL character that I grew up with and have invested years of time and money of my life in coming to know.  They’re confusing, often unnecessary, sometimes late and numerous.  Back in the day, it might be a year between Events.  Now it might be every 3-6 months, and they bleed over, making it hard to tell when one ends and another begins.  So instead of not buying the crossover books and just buying the event limited series…now I don’t buy events at all.  I also echo this opinion to the friends in my network.

Second reason:  DIVERSITY.  I attended a MARVEL RETAILER SUMMIT at NYCC a couple years back, and Marvel was both praised and were praising themselves over diversity in comics.  And yes, MARVEL should be applauded for their progressive and aggressive stance on this issue.  BUT I feel it was too much too soon, and it’s not thought out well.  While characters like KAMALA KHAN and MILES MORALES are exceptional gems, MARVEL is slowing replacing (not adding, replacing) their cast with fresh characters that I have little personal investment in.  When DC relaunched their books under the NEW 52 banner, I stopped buying DC (except BATMAN…I don’t know anyone who dropped BATMAN) for the very same reason.  THESE WEREN’T MY CHARACTERS.  MARVEL was unique to DC because of their focus on down-to-earth, regular, every-day, conflicted alter-egos.  Now, I would be buying TOTALLY AWESOME HULK just because I love the HULK.  No.  I love BRUCE BANNER, who happens to BE the HULK.  Basically, I support the idea of characters who broaden religion, sex or ethnicity.  But it’s getting to where we’re seeing an “All-New, All-Different” line-up isn’t speaking to me as a long-time reader.  You took the chance that the prospect of having new, fresh faces in the shops to become readers would be more than the current readership.  That chance doesn’t seem to be working very well.  This hip, fresh approach isn’t appealing to old fogeys like me…and our opinions matter to other readers, both new and old.

Third reason:  VARIANT OVERLOAD.  What once was a fun and casual twist to collecting has now become the bane of a collector’s existence.  I now have short boxes that hold single titles due to the number of variations this company pumps out.  You can spend thousands of dollars as a collector just buying the same book over and over and over again…which I don’t think this gimmick was meant for that.  GWENPOOL, VENOMIZED, ACTION FIGURE, BABY, 1:1000s…there is no end in sight to the bottomless pit of money a collector or shop can lose.

Also, as a retailer, while these variants can be a way to make an insane amount of money, that only happens if DIAMOND doesn’t muck it up.   Case in point:  a few years ago, I ran a comic shop a few years ago and ordered 300 copies of a comic to qualify for a single 1:300 variant that I knew would sell.  When the book came out, DIAMOND didn’t ship the book.  When they were able to fulfill it, the window of hype and opportunity closed and cost the shop hundreds of dollars.  I blame MARVEL and DIAMOND for that.  So instead of buying new books…I spend my time wandering like a zombie into different stores just looking to buy a copy of a book I already have because I would rather have a 1:75 variant than take several $4 chances on books that might not be any good.  MARVEL’S STAR WARS #1 has over 100 different covers via MARVEL or various retailers all over the country.  I’ve seen comic shops with entire boxes of unsold product that were simply variations of the same comic.  You can browse MARVEL’s CLOSEOUT LIST sent to retailers every few months, and it will be littered with variants for a buck.  Everyone remember what happened to HASTINGS?  This is where the market is going if it continues.

Fourth Reason:  INCONSISTENT CREATIVE TEAMS.  I guess I’m old school, but I miss the days when a comic might have the same writer and artist on a title for years.  If I want that, I need to go to IMAGE.  That’s not a huge sticking point, but some of my friends still buy comics for art.

Fifth Reason:  CONSTANT REBOOTS and RELAUNCHES.  Retailers and collectors LOVE #1 issues.  It looks like a jumping on point.  But it’s not.  It’s just a way to sell more books.  Some MARVEL books even have a large “#1” printed that is larger than the actual issue number.  This is misleading.  Stop relaunching titles with new #1s.  It waters down the collectability and confuses readers.

Sixth Reason:  STAN LEE.  Marvel needs another Stan Lee.  Joe Quesada is a cool guy who knows comics and is an extremely talented man.  But he’s no Stan Lee.  As a kid, Stan made me feel good about every dollar I spent on a Marvel Comic.  When Stan would speak to me in the comics, that’s what it felt like.  He was speaking directly to me as if he and I, publisher and reader, connected on a personal level.  That kind of marketing is rare.  IDW, BOOM! and VALIANT seem to be the publishers that have figured this out…putting emphasis on the reader and making you feel good about the book you read.  That builds personal investment.  MARVEL has gotten a little lazy in this regard in the last few years, and Stan has evolved far beyond Marvel into a brand of his own.  Someone needs to come forward, step up and tell people WHY they need to buy Marvel and how that $4-$10 they are spending on a comic is a $10 well spent.

Joe Q:  we love you.  Step up, sir.

I’m sure there are a few others that I didn’t touch on here, but it really doesn’t matter.  MARVEL is scratching their heads and wondering “WHY?  We’re MARVEL!”  but the answer is in their own question.  Marvel made it easy NOT to buy them with inconsistent story-telling, false market buzz, self-hype and changing too much too soon…making it easier for me to plant seeds into the minds of my peers as to why they shouldn’t buy MARVEL anymore.  Beyond this sentence, I’ve made no reference to the MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE either, so the movies play little factor in my piece.

If it’s any consolation, this has come with a price.  I don’t sleep as well anymore knowing that I have been responsible for the woes of a company who has brought so much joy in my life.  Marvel can fill a room with retailers, send out press releases and fill the shelves with new #1 issues every Wednesday until the Badoon Invasion but until they decide to attack the issue on the reader level and not just on the retail one, this will continue to happen.  I don’t know if I have the answer as to how this can be reversed.  The ball is rolling so fast now that it might just need to play out on a grand scale and see where MARVEL lands in the big picture.  On my end, dropping $20-$30 bucks a week on MARVEL COMICS now seems like a waste of money to me and that’s terribly sad.

I wish I knew how much money I’ve spent on MARVEL COMICS my whole life.

Those days are gone.

*(rubs hands together)* You’re welcome.

 

(Editor’s note: this was written by a guest contributor who wishes to remain anonymous)