The Flash #17

The Flash #17 (DC Comics)

In past editions of this column, I’ve spoken about enjoying this take on the Flash. Writer Josh Williamson has given probably the best written Barry Allen since the character’s return all the way in Final Crisis. However, I didn’t expect how much better the book would get when Williamson brought seminal villains the Rogues into his story.

With series artists Carmine Di Giandomenico, Davide Gianfelice, and Neal Googe, WIlliams wrapped up the Rogues Reloaded arc with a battle between Barry and Leonard Snart, then the entirety of the Rogues.

Williamson writes our hero and his villains as true rivals. It’s not cartoony though. It really feels like there’s history between them, and not just “he’s the good guy and they’re the bad guys.” While it stands on its own, it also sets up some fantastic future storylines. The trio of artists fit together really well. I don’t like artist jam issues, but their styles fit together so well that it’s noticeable but not distracting.

Rating: 8.5 out 10

The Verdict: Subscribe

 

Aquaman #17

Aquaman #17 (DC Comics)

The last time I picked up Aquaman, I ended up calling it a pass. Dan Abnett’s story was keeping the hero out of the action, and it just didn’t work. This issue, however, is a complete turnaround. With artists Scot Eaton and Wayne Faucher, Abnett tells a captivating thriller, and makes one of Arthur’s little exploited powers.

Aquaman addresses the UN general assembly, but something attacks him telepathically. This leads him to a college lab, where he has to fight off several possessed young people, then the source of the attack, Warhead, an experimental war-android.

Abnett does some smart things here. There are two separate halves of the story that don’t feel separate. If Arthur hadn’t been at the UN, he wouldn’t have encountered Warhead. To go with that, though, Abnett uses Aquaman’s telepathy to his full advantage. Unlike Marvel, there are only a small handful of telepaths in the DCU, so exploiting that ability as the crux of the story is a smart move. It’s a threat that only Aquaman, and maybe the Martian Manhunter, could detect and defeat.

Scot Eaton is a one of the most reliable artists in comics. Unfortunately, his work doesn’t go beyond being a part of the DC house style. It looks good, but it’s not “wow” inducing.

Rating: 7 out of 10

The Verdict: Buy

 

Violent Love #4

Violent Love #4 (Image Comics)

Frank Barberie and Victor Santos weave a fun crime noir story in this book while also giving us one of the best looking issues I’ve read in a long time. As Rock, Daisy and CHarlie rest and recuperate, the La Juara crime family prepares to come after them.

Santos is the star here, with a vibrant old-school story that reminded me of classic comics romance and crime comics, with a heavy dose of animated style similiar to Darwyn Cooke or Elsa Charterrier.

Barberie tells a story of budding romance with two deeply scarred and flawed characters in Rock and Daisy Charlie adds a classic jealous jilted lover subplot as well, all culminating in a clashing of everything we see throughout the issue in the final moments. Ultimately, it’s all very fun, and a series to watch.

Rating: 8 out of 10

The Verdict: Subscribe

 

 Horizon #8

Horizon #8 (Image Comics)

Horizon was announced as an interesting twist on the alien invasion story- instead of aliens invading Earth, the story was flipped. In Brandon Thomas and Juan Gedeon’s series, Zhia Malen is a soldier on a desperate mission to save her planet from being invaded BY Earth. To fight the invasion, she goes under deep cover on Earth to save her world.

In this issue Zhia is in a desperate race against time as a snowstorm moves into Chicago, and as she is succumbing to injury. Thomas takes a back seat here, writing a sparse but thrilling chase story, while setting aside any real character or plot movement. It’s an action story through and through, and it made for a fun introduction to the series for me as a reader.

Gedeon has the challenge of turning an encroaching blizzard as a villain, and he does a great job of it. The weather is a looming threat to Zhia the length of the story, all while she races through the city. It’s extremely engaging, and enough to make you want to come back for more.

Rating: 7 out of 10

The Verdict: Buy

 

Darkness Visible #1

Darkness Visible #1 (IDW Publishing)

Renowned writer Mike Carey makes a return to comics with this fascinating IDW series, about a human race forced to live side by side with demons. With co-writer Arvind Ethan David, and artist Brendan Cahill, he builds an alternate London full of the possessed Shaitan, humans who have bonded with demons in exchange for power and beauty, and the normals who find themselves opposite them.

Detective Danny Aston takes a night off to see his daughter Maggie’s school play, but the night takes a turn when a Shaitan gang robs a bank. Although the robbery goes wrong, Danny is still able to capture one of the demons. Danny’s life changes, however, when the ambulance he’s being transported in afterwards is driven into the Thames.

Carey and David build an interest world of humans and demons coexisting, while keeping the story from being too exposition heavy. The conflict between humans and demons is ages old, but they create a world where it’s more or less at peace, with just a few people taking advantage of the power the demons offer.

Cahill does a fantastic job with this world. While most demons are of the “Buffy” variety (humans with strange coloring and horns or appendages), a few really stand out, such as the beautiful woman whose nude torso is revealed to actually be a massive demon’s face. It’s very cool looking and very off-putting.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

The Verdict: Buy

 

 The Power of the Dark Crystal #1

The Power of the Dark Crystal #1 (BOOM! Studios/ Archaia)

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal has long-promised a sequel, the story of the world of Thra decades after the Crystal of Light was restored and the Skesis and Mystics were restored as one. Simon Spurrier has adapted the unproduced screenplay for Boom’s Archaia imprint here, with art by Kelly and Nicole Matthews.

As we’re reintroduced to Thra, a new player comes to the world, the fireling Thurma, sent to recover a shard of the Crystal to restore her world. Meanwhile, Jen and Kira have grown old and feeble, and the Gelflings have become greedy and cruel. Thurma comes to Jen and Kira to ask for their help, but their help could undo their world.

While the issue starts slowly, with lots of exposition and recap, Spurrier kicks it into speed midway through the issue when Thurma makes it into the palace. The only downside is that the much teased return of the Dark Crystal’s heroes doesn’t take place until the issue’s final moments.

The Matthews take Henson’s world and build on it, giving readers what the world of the crystal would look like without a budget. And Thurma is beautiful, her flames a living thing on every page.

Although I personally am not a huge fan of the original story, this is a very engaging addition to it, and it looks absolutely incredible.

Rating: 8 out of 10

The Verdict: Subscribe if a Henson or Dark Crystal fan

 

 Green Arrow #18

Green Arrow #18

Green Arrow Rebirth was one of my favorite Rebirth one-shots, but I wasn’t really able to keep up with the series until recently. In Green Arrow #18, Ben Percy and Eleonora Carlini reintroduce Roy Harper to Green Arrow’s life. The book is split in two- flashbacks to the first few months of their original partnership, and today. The present day portions are almost entirely focused on Roy, as he returns to the reservation he was raised on to combat a DAPL-style oil pipeline being built on the land.

Percy really makes the Roy/Ollie relationship shine. In the flashbacks, these are two kindred spirits and close friends. It’s only a few pages in the overall scheme, but it really does a fabulous job to making the duo a genuine partnership. That makes the final page a gut punch.

I’d never heard of Carlini before this issue, but she does a great job here. New 52 Ollie and Rebirth Ollie didn’t quite feel like the same person artistically until this issue I think. The action is great, and the characters shine through.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

The Verdict: Buy

 

 Divinity III: Shadowman and the Battle for New Stalingrad #1

Divinity III: Shadowman and the Battle for New Stalingrad #1

One of the best parts of the Divinity III event has been the supplementary one-shots focusing on familiar Valiant heroes in new settings. Scott Bryan Wilson and Robert Gill bring this story to life, as we see how Shadowman came to be in the thrall of the USSR.

Essentially Jack Boniface is one of the stalwarts of the resistance against the Soviet forces, and his alter ego Shadowman is its frightening secret weapon. When the Soviets attack what was once New York, Shadowman unleashes his undead forces in an epic but brutal battle.

Wilson gives us a fast paced story. Unfortunately, the ending is a bit rushed. Gill’s work is great, but awkward is parts, with torsos being too long, bodies contorting at odd angles, and backgrounds vanishing for entire pages. It’s a good story, but seems to suffer from being a bit of a rush.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10

The Verdict: Buy if a completist, otherwise pass.

 

 Harley Quinn #14

Harley Quinn #14

In the recent past, I’ve not the biggest fan of DC’s current take on Harley Quinn. She’s grating, over the top and frankly, crude. She’s clearly being written as DC’s answer as Deadpool, another character I don’t personally care for. When I got this issue in my inbox, though, I thought I’d give Harl another chance.

Harley and one of her gang fight a gang of aliens who bring a cocoon out of the ground. The cocoon hatches to find a naked being named Zorcrom. Harley soon realizes she needs to help stop the being before it does too much damage, alongside fellow hero Terra.

Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner give us a fun story, and it’s always fun to see their pet character, Atlee of Strata. They do lean a bit too far into the crude jokes (lots of penis jokes directed at Zorcrom), and it’s all very meta without breaking the fourth wall. Khari Evans and John Timms provide art duties. It’s good but not great, with some faces getting extra lines and some awkward panels. It changed my opinion of Harley a bit, but not enough to make me a fan.

Rating: 6 out of 10

The Verdict: Buy if Harl-curious.

 

 

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