The Verdict #31

Isn’t January a wonderful time for new comics? I mean, check these books out!



Abbott #1 (BOOM! Studios)

Saladin Ahmed made a splash last year with Black Bolt, the first ever series starring Marvel’s Silent Inhuman King. It’s only natural that he also makes a big splash with his first creator-owned comic. Joined by artist Sami Kavela, Ahmed gives a great 70’s set crime story that quickly dives into the supernatural.

Elena Abbott is one of the finest reporters in Detroit, and a single black woman who’s unafraid of expressing herself in person and on the page. With tensions between Detroit’s black population at a high, she is tipped off to a violent crime against a police horse that’s being blamed on the Black Panthers. As we go through Elena’s day, we learn more and more about her, culminating in a brush with the supernatural that took the life of a lover. Later that night, Elena receives a call from her ex-husband, a cop who’s found a killing that’s not normal, leaving Elena facing the supernatural again.

Ahmed creates a vivid and full-lived in world. This version of Detroit, 1972, feels exactly how I imagine Detroit really was in that era. The world building is just fantastic in this issue. Even without the supernatural twist, this would be a story I want to read month to month. The backdrop of racial tensions makes that supernatural twist even more interesting though. Ahmed stops short of making this a blacksploitation story, which makes it even more interesting, because it feels so real. Elena is a captivating protagonist. She is fully formed when she first appears on page three, her personality and history clearly creating an impact, even if we the readers don’t know it yet. She demands attention as she walks across the page.

Part of that is also Kavela’s work. He captures his lead character wonderfully. So much of selling the character comes from her body language, and it’s fantastic throughout. He also is able to create the supporting cast wholesale in the same way. It’s a fully lived in world and it’s great. Color artist Jason Wordie adds a lot to that, capturing the look of 70’s fashion and film in his palate.

A great start to a series you should absolutely check out.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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All-New Wolverine #29 (Marvel Comics)

At the heights of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s Daredevil run, I once saw a reviewer talk about an issue using the term an embarrassment of riches. He meant it in the sense that the series was just so good that it was a foregone conclusion that the individual issues would be very good, so it wasn’t getting talked about. That review comes to my mind often when I consider reviewing certain books for this column- that series is good it doesn’t NEED a review. Well, All-New Wolverine is one of those series, and this issue was so fun that I think it needs to be mentioned.

The Orphans of X- a group who have all had personal tragedies indirectly due to the X-Men- have started their plot for revenge with the hardest X-Men to kill, the Wolverines, and generally speaking, they’ve succeeded. Old Man Logan, Sabretooth and Lady Deathstrike are dead. They’re closing in on Daken, Wolverine and Gabby. It’s only a matter of time. However, Laura has recruited the same weaponsmith who is proving to be their undoing to be their salvation. Murumasa forged the blade that could kill a Wolverine. Now the three children of Wolverine are helping him forge armor and a shield that could protect them from that blade. In a stunning fight sequence, the trio fight off the Orphans, until Daken sacrifices himself to help them stop the group.

Tom Taylor has crafted a Wolverine saga that should stand among the greatest runs the character has seen. He’s crafted Laura Kinney into a remarkably engaging protagonist. She’s evolved into a fierce yet compassionate hero. Although the individual Orphans of X are still sort of ciphers, the organization as a whole has been a remarkably effective threat. Meanwhile, Laura, Daken and Gabby are some of the most entertaining characters in Marvel’s stable right now. One of the best things Taylor does is make Laura and Daken truly feel like siblings. There’s a familial bond between the two that I haven’t seen anywhere else, and it just makes the issue sing.

Juann Cabal is a superstar in the making. He adds an incredible amount of tension to the story, making the conflict a lot more powerful. The fight with the Orphans is excellently laid out and put on the page, especially the full page reveal of the samurai-style Maramasa armor. He also is able to change pace very well at the end of issue, shifting from an action movie to a spy thriller. The way he lays out and crafted the story also made the 21 pages feel significantly longer in a very positive way. Color artist Nolan Woodard does a great job as well, adding some very effect color effects, and his use of blues in particular are incredibly well done. Pick up the issue if you haven’t to see what I mean.

This is the best Wolverine comic Marvel has put out in a long time, and there’s no short hairy Canadians in sight.

Rating: 8 out of 10

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Redneck #9 (Image Comics)

It’s a testament to a well-crafted story when you can go into an issue without a clue what’s going on and thoroughly enjoy yourself. Donny Cates and Lisandro Estherren have accomplished that here with the next chapter of Redneck.

Bartlett Bowman and the boys have found themselves face to face with a rival clan of vampires, led by the vicious Father Landry. When the law shows up, Landry throws the Bowmans into cellars and closets while they deal with the sheriff and his deputy. Both lawmen are dispatched brutally, while Landry taunts Bartlett that he’s killed JV Bartlett, the clan’s patriarch.

Although I had to google a couple names, this was a remarkably accessible issue, even for the middle of the storyline. Cates is not afraid to put his protagonists through the wringer, which is exactly what the Bowmans experience. Bartlett has his fangs pulled out. Perry is in psychic turmoil. The boys are terrified. Each character is in extreme danger, and it drives the issue forward really well.

Estherren’s art really sells the horror. The facial expressions alone are worth the price of admission. He also draws some brutal violence. The flow of his art rally sells the impact of some of these blows. His creepy children too… they’re hard to describe outside of just chills.”

Buy this book. Now I’m going to go hunt down the trade…

Rating:7.5 out of 10

The Verdict: Buy



Ninja-K #3 (Valiant Comics)

I love ninjas. They’re just fun. Even though I thought renaming Valiant’s ninja superspy title Ninjak to the slightly more awkward Ninja-K was a little cheesy, it really has worked. Revealing MI-6’s Ninja Programme has deepened the Valiant universe, and the character of Colin King. Plus, it gives us all the ninja action we could want.

Colin has found himself face to face to the assassin who has torn through the ranks of MI-6’s retired Ninjas- Ninja-C. The two face off in a bloody and brutal fight, which only pauses for C to tell Colin his history. This leads to Colin discovering much of his life had been manipulated by the program, and an offer- help take down the agency that had manipulated them both.

First of all, the opening fight of the issue was fantastic. Christos Gage’s script paired perfectly with Tomas Giorello’s art. The fight is a thrill to read. It was fast, inventive, and really advanced the plot well. Gage also keeps up some wonderful banter through it, without slowing the issue down until the duo call a momentary cease fire. The remainder of the story, which was split between present day art by Giorello and flashback art by Roberto de la Torre, would be jumping the shark in any other story. Here, though, Gage sells it. Colin has been through so much that the revelation that he’s been manipulated all along is fantastic.

It’s a brisk, fun issue that any Valiant fan or action movie fan would love.

Rating: 7 out of 10

The Verdict: Buy



The Flash #39 (DC Comics)

First all, take a look at that cover. That is just a perfectly executed comic book cover, capturing a brilliant moment between the longtime foes. Joshua Williamson and Carmine di Giandomenico kick off the next big Flash storyline in a big way this issue, dealing with multiple plot threads and character beats that have been hanging over the book for a few months.

Barry Allen and Iris West start the story with a heart to heart, long overdue for these two longtime friends-maybe-more. After beginning to reconcile, Iris asks Barry to show her a day in the life. Meanwhile, Dr. Karver, one of the big wigs of Black Hole, is being transported by Central City police, accompanied by Kid Flash. The chinese Flash shows up just in time to see Karver murdered. In the course of Barry’s day, suddenly the entire city slows, and Barry comes face to face with the Negative Flash, Raijin the Lord of Lightning and their master- Grodd!

Williamson uses this issue as a bit of a “perfect starting point.” It succeeds very well at that too. There’s a great introduction about lightning, a key theme in the Flash, followed by an introduction to Barry Allen himself. It’s exposition heavy, but done in a way that it’s not heavyhanded. It keeps the plot moving, which is incredibly important for the Flash. The segue into the threat of Grodd is perfect too, taking advantage of the modern caption boxes instead of thought balloons to get very unsettling. Steve Wands, the letterer, deserves a lot of credit for his work this issue on the caption boxes. They help Williamson’s story sell the building dread.

Di Giandomenico has grown a lot as an artist since jumping on this book. I enjoyed his past work, especially on Marvel’s All-New X-Factor, but his linework here has just grown leaps and bounds. It’s tough for some artists to capture the visual of superspeed on the page, but he hits it perfect. I also love that Barry is perpetually surrounded by lightning. It looks great. Color artist Ivan Plascencia pairs great with di Giandomenico’s line art. He really makes the Flashes pop on the page, and the lightning effect around each of them in particular looks great.

If you’re a Flash fan, or even interested in the Flash, pick this issue up.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

The Verdict: Buy if you’ve never tried the Flash before.



Saban’s Go Go Power Rangers #6 (BOOM! Studios)

Ryan Parrott and Dan Mora’s “Ultimate Spider-Man” take on the Power Rangers has unexpectedly become one of my favorite ongoing comics. The duo have created a fun superhero book, and, alongside its sister book “Mighty Morphin”, really elevated the Power Ranger concept.

While the Rangers deal with teenage drama (including the great blossoming feelings between Jason and Trini), Rita’s plan using Kimberly’s Matt to destroy the Rangers continues. In this case, the Putty impersonating Matt is attacked by Goldar, and the Rangers intervene, with near-tragic results. This causes one Ranger in particular to begin to doubt their place on the team, and another to suspect something strange is going on with Matt.

Parrott’s story deserves the comparison to Ultimate Spider-Man in all ways. It’s not just an update to a well-beloved concept, but it feels very real. The teenage drama isn’t melodramatic, but realistic. I loved how neither Jason or Trini knew how to approach their growing feelings. The new supporting cast members, like Matt or the crew of mean girls, flesh out Angel Grove a lot more, where in the original show the only non-Rangers to get screentime were Bulk, Skull and Ernie. Billy’s insecurities and Zack’s suspicions are all sold really well.

Dan Mora is another artist who will be a superstar in the very near future. He shifts from school yard hand wringing to superhero action to sports under the Friday night lights all with equal skill. It’s a consistently good look, and Mora really does a great job with what Parrott gives him.

If you’re interested in a superhero book outside the big two, pick this series up. It’s a lot of fun.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

The Verdict: Buy (whether it’s this issue or the first trade!)


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