REVIEW: No One Left to Fight #2 is a feel-good comic set in an intriguing world

By Nick Couture — Good vibes. Bright colors. Hangin’ with the buds. This feels like No One Left to Fight at its core. It’s a pleasant romp through a gorgeous world heavily inspired by Saturday morning cartoons and anime. No One Left to Fight #2 smartly allows the relationships and dialog to take center stage as we learn more about Vale and the complex relationships with his friends.

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Comic of the Week: No One Left to Fight #1 asks, what happens after the big battle?

By d. emerson eddy — There's been an interesting resurgence of stories recently that endeavor to tell the story of what happens after the happily ever after (or the opposite) at the end of a tale. Basically, filling in the what's next after the end of a story. Not as a sequel or a deconstructionist take on a particularly genre, but an attempt to explore what happens once the big fight, the big world-saving struggle, is over and there's seemingly a jarring absence of purpose. No One Left to Fight #1 embraces that literally in its title, as we're treated to the beginning of the story of what happens when a hero who has saved the world countless times realizes that there's no one left to fight.

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Comic of the Week: Last Stop on the Red Line #1 is an intriguing mix of crime and horror

By d. emerson eddy — There are many different kinds of horror. Some horror stories are straightforward monster tales, with a slasher out to get you. Others are more insidious, doling out terror via psychological means. Recently, there has been a push towards mixing the sub-genres, working through ideas and themes that are common across them, and presenting a more cerebral kind of horror, utilizing the things that go bump in the night to make you think about more of the existential terrors in your everyday life. Last Stop on the Red Line #1 appears to be one of those things.

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Top Comics to Buy for May 8, 2019: Black Hammer Age of Doom #10, Vault Comics, and more!

By Zack Quaintance — This is a nice week for new comics, one in which the releases are mercifully a bit smaller in volume. This can perhaps be attributed to Free Comic Book Day taking place on Saturday. Publishers wisely got as much of their product as they could on shelves last week, so the hordes of FCBD attendees could scope it out and (hopefully) buy it.

Nevertheless! There are plenty of great choices for our Top Comics to Buy for May 8, 2019. This week’s group is headlined by…

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REVIEW: She Could Fly - The Lost Pilot #1 is a great continuation of a dynamic comic

By Zack Quaintance — She Could Fly, a four-issue miniseries that ran last year via Dark Horse Comics’ Berger Books imprint, had a somewhat tidy ending. At least in terms of the emotionality of its story arc. The premise of the book was very very good from the start: a mysterious woman flies through the sky randomly for weeks (like, legit flies), captivating the nation before one day bursting into flames. The series then follows the world’s reaction as filtered through a set of adjacent characters, including a…

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REVIEW: Calamity Kate #1 is one smooth debut

Calamity Kate #1 is out 3/13/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Calamity Kate #1—from Magdalene Visaggio, Corin Howell, Valentina Pinto, and Zakk Saam—has a fantastic first page. You’ll see it should you decide to read this comic (which, I think you should), and you may have already seen it in previews, but I still want to take a moment to talk about how much I liked it here. The creative team does an excellent job pulling the audience’s gaze down through a set of five page-spanning horizontal panels, each one of which unveils a new detail about the titular heroine, Calamity Kate.

It gets the always tricky business of info dumping out of the way in a quick burst, in a way that doesn’t bog down its narrative once it gets going while still telling us most everything we need to know about our character, where she’s at now, and what she seems to want out of life. We learn she’s leaving alone, she’s been eating takeout, her dark apartment is covered in posters of monsters, she was married, she’s been divorced, she has swords, she has a leather jacket. Then at the very bottom, we get her mind state: I’m not dead, far from it.

By page three she’s jumping, teeth gritted and sword drawn at a giant monster, we know pretty much everything we need to be oriented as an audience, and the only reasonable reaction becomes, hell yes, let’s do this!

The intro was perhaps what stood out to me most, but the rest of the comic goes on to be great too. Between this book and Morning in America, writer Magdalene Visaggio continues to make a strong case that she’s one of the best (and most complex) dialogue writers in comics right now. When her characters talk to each other, there’s always a sense that what’s being communicated is a great deal more than what’s being literally said. You can feel strains in friendships, complex histories, and tiny agendas. It makes for well-realized characters and tons of additive interactions.

And it’s not always about the interactions. Sometimes the lines crackle with interesting juxtapositions (this one jumped out at me, I packed up, left my job, left my apartment, and drove west in an old continental and started hunting monsters). Another bit of very solid writing here is how the emphasis of the plot stays on Kate’s emotions. The opening was about her loneliness, first and foremost, with the book (wisely) waiting a bit longer to establish that she’s a famous monster hunter in a world where monsters have become a too-common disaster, not unlike wild fires or mass shootings. It’s a bold move, and it pays off excellently, grounding a genre story in the feelings of real people (my favorite).

Corin Howell, the artist for the series, is also having an ascendent year as a creator, having drawn other notable books like Girl in the Bay and Dark Red. On Calamity Kate, Howell is joined by colorist Valentina Pinto, and the result is what in my opinion is her best artwork yet. The lines are clean and sharp as all get out, and the visuals oscillate seamlessly from anguished quiet moments of honesty to a woman combating scaly drooling creatures with a katana. It all slows super well, and the flourishes really pop, driving the action and big emotional beats in equal parts.

Overall: A really well-done first issue, Calamity Kate is a tight and well-told story with a solid concept and great characters. Come for the famous monster-hunter living in Encino premise, but stay for the quiet look at honesty, friendship, and feeling alone. 9.0/10

Calamity Kate #1
Writer:
Magdalene Visaggio
Artist:
Corin Howell
Colorist: Valentina Pinto
Letterer: Zakk Saam
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

REVIEW: Astro Hustle #1 is a colorful and sexy space opera romp

Astro Hustle #1 is out 3/6/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Astro Hustle #1 from writer Jai Nitz, artist Tom Reilly, colorist Ursula Decay, letterer Crank!, and publisher Dark Horse Comics is the latest entry in already-crowded science fiction comicbook market. It’s a cosmic story, rather than the sort of sci-fi that hems closer to near-future or body horror or any other number of relatively more feasible concept. Within the broader segment of space-faring sci-fi comics, it’s more of the madcap variety, versus something more realistic, like, say Relay, a favorite of ours around these parts.

What’s perhaps most noticeable about this comic from the cover art on is the lush and vibrant color-palette deployed by Ursula Decay over Tom Reilly’s linework. This series is only four issues, so it may be around long enough to carve out this title, but if I had to guess, I’d say there’s a somewhat significant change that among its sci-fi comic breathern, Astro Hustle #1 could come to be known as the colorful one, at least as it pertains to the artwork.

The story is perhaps another matter. The sense of humor and the pacing of the action are both perhaps more like Wasted Space (another major sci-fi comic favorite of this website’s) than anything else on the shelves, although Astro Hustle lacks the philosophical bend of that book. One of the more distinctive story interests in Astro Hustle is a definite and apparent interest in being sexy, although Lion Forge’s Infinity 8 probably lays a more direct claim to the title of sexiest sci-fi modern sci-fi book (jeez, there are a lot of sci-fi comics!). Indeed, right on the first page this comic has major shot of booty and one lover summoning another (both of them scantily clad) to bed. It doesn’t work out well for them, but it does set a bit of a tone.

The final quality that works to set Astro Hustle apart somewhat from the horde of sci-fi competition is a 17th or 18th century aesthetic, distinct and shinier than the one to be found in the soon-to-conclude Cemetary Beach (seriously, there are a ton of sci-fi comics these days...and all the ones we’ve named here have launched within the past 12 months!). I thought the character and vessel designs in this book were among the top-tier most imaginative, so much so that I intend to finish the rest of this series based on the merits of the visuals alone. They’re interesting and eclectic, and I really don’t think I can get enough of them.

Anyway, so those are the elements I found (relatively) unique to Astro Hustle. The question for a review then becomes, how well do they all come together? And, perhaps more importantly, is this comic worth picking up amid the sea of other science fiction titles vying for consumer dollars and the all-important free reading time? For the first question, the seemingly-disparate elements at work in Astro Hustle do cohere nicely. Nitz’s script is confident in the way it calls for them all to exist in the same world together—the pirates and space lovers and oppressive robots—portraying it all in a way that never once begs a question about whether they can or should all exist. It’s effective.

As for the second question, well, I think it depends. I’ll be reading the entirety of this series (to be above aboard, I’ve read Astro Hustle #2 and Astro Hustle #3, and the series keeps improving), and I have no issue recommending it in full to someone looking for a fairly uncomplicated space opera romp. The introduction to the book’s protagonist is a little less than ideal (it comes almost halfway through the first issue), but once you get yourself oriented within this world, it’s hard not to find it charming.  

Overall: Astro Hustle #1 is yet another solid entry in an already-crowded sci-fi comics market. Colorful and kinetic and even a little bit sexy, this book should offer a great time to folks in search of a relatively uncomplicated space opera romp. 8.0/10

Astro Hustle #1
Writer:
Jai Nitz
Artist: Tom Reilly
Colorist: Ursula Decay
Letterer: Crank!
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Top Comics to Buy for March 6, 2019 - Die #4, The Green Lantern #5, and more

By Zack Quaintance — At the risk of sounding repetitive, this first Wednesday of the month has really morphed into a monstrosity of great new comics. So much so that I’ve once again extended our usual top five picks to six. Hey, more content’s a good thing, right? Anyway, I could have also easily extended it to seven or eight or nine. It really pained me to cut great titles for this upcoming Wednesday like Doomsday Clock #9, Immortal Hulk #14, and Justice League #19.

But I figure pretty close to most everyone has their mind made up about those comics at this point, so why not shed some light on lesser-known books that are still in their early stages? I’m thinking specifically here of the creator-owned comic Self/Made, which continues to shock me with the high quality of both the its stories and ideas. It’s really turning into something special, the type of book I find myself reading toward the top of the stack each week and coming away shocked at where the story seems to be headed.

Anyway, on to the comics!

Top Comics to Buy for March 6, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Die #4 (
read our full review!)
Writer:
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Stephanie Hans
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"FANTASY HEARTBREAKER," Part Four-Our heroes reach the civilization of Glass Town and do what heroes have always done upon reaching civilization. As in, go to the pub. As it's DIE, you can guess people don't exactly get happy drunk.
Why It’s Cool: We’ll have a more detailed and thoughtful review of this comic later this week, but let me just say here that this is the best issue yet of a series that has been fantastic from its start. This is the smoothest and most immersive issue of Die so far, which I attribute to the previous three issues having done such great work toward familiarizing us with these well-realized characters. With so much of that work behind the story now, the creators are free in this comic to really hit some deep (and troublesome in the best way) emotional beats. Don’t miss this issue; don’t miss this book.

Age of X-Man: Prisoner X #1 (of 5)
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artist: German Peralta
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
ENTER THE AGE OF X-MAN!
In the Age of X-Man, when you break the law, you aren't sent to just any prison. You're sent to the Danger Room...a penitentiary filled with the roughest and meanest mutants that don't fit into X-Man's utopia. They each have a reason for being there. And they're all ready to kill each other.  But that's about to change, because the newest prisoner just arrived...Lucas Bishop!
Why It’s Cool: It’s a great combination of concept, creators, and character, with those respectively being the well-conceived and intricate Age of X-Man alternate universe, writer Vita Ayala (one of our favorite rising stars within the industry), and Bishop, always an underrated (if convoluted) X-Man. Seriously, Ayala has just been doing fantastic work lately, be it their superhero book for Valiant Livewire, the creator-owned Submerged, or the installment of the recent Marvel Knights mini-series that focused on T’Challa. These have all just been stunning comics, and we’re expecting nothing less from the Prisoner X miniseries, which follows Bishop into the underbelly of what is shaping up to be an Orwellian faux-utopia of an alternate universe.

Green Arrow #50
Writers:
Collin Kelly & Jackson Lanzing
Artist: Javier Fernandez
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Andworld Design
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99
Spinning out of the events of JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE and HEROES IN CRISIS! When a black ops organization discovers Green Arrow's long-held secret-a mysterious weapon in the form of a box, given to him by the Justice League-they'll deploy their top undercover agent: Black Canary! On opposite sides of this festering secret, Green Arrow and Black Canary will clash as only two lovers can-by aiming straight for the heart! A mystery six months in the making, the box that can destroy the Justice League will be opened...and the Emerald Archer's world will be forever changed. This extra-sized anniversary issue of Green Arrow's life isn't just ending...it's burning to the ground!
Why It’s Cool: This if the finale of one of the quintessential Rebirth books, and it’s also what is quite possibly the last book headlined by the Emerald Archer that we’re likely to get in sometime, what with DC Comics very public intent to keep its publishing line at the slightly reduced level we’ve seen in recent months. The writing team of Kelly and Lanzing are perhaps the best choice for this job too. As I believe Kelly outlined fairly recently online, the duo had a fairly elaborate plan for a 50 issue run that would get to the core of one my personal favorite characters. We’re obviously not getting that, but look for them to give us a truly epic send off that packs in as much action and as many of their ideas from that outline as is feasible. Savor it, too, I know I will. Also, we’ll (sort of) get an answer to the question from No Justice, the natural one that came up when J’onn gave Ollie a box he said was capable of stopping the entire league...

The Green Lantern #5
Writer:
Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
"Blackstar at Zenith!" Hal Jordan has abandoned the Green Lantern Corps to join the Blackstars! But to do so, he'll need to convince their leader, Countess Belzebeth, and pass an initiation test. Which means he must survive a series of trials on the vampire planet Vorr, whose entire population wants to feast upon him! It's cosmic goth at its bloodiest...with a cliffhanger that's even bloodier!
Why It’s Cool: This run has been fantastic from start to finish, and this issue keeps it going. As promised by the creative team before the book even launched, The Green Lantern has been a series of quisi self-contained space cop procedurals. This issue builds on all that has come before while telling yet another compelling story built upon some of the key qualities and continuity bits that define Green Lantern. Also, as anyone who follows artist Liam Sharp will surely attest, the detail and imagination in the artwork he’s previewed for this comic has just been astounding, somehow even better than the tremendous heights he’s reached in earlier chapters. Think about it too long, and it will blow your mind as thoroughly as Morrison and Sharp seem hell-bent on doing.

Self/Made #4
Writer:
Mathew Groom
Artist: Eduardo Ferigato
Colorist: Marcelo Costa
Color Flats:
Mariana Cali
Letterer: A Larger World Studios’ Troy Peteri
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"THE 'TA-DA' MOMENT": Amala has made it to our world-and she is distinctly unimpressed. What's a girl with a new robot body and some pent-up rage to do? Paint the town red.
Why It’s Cool: Simply put, because this is the best comic I’ve read in I don’t know how long that rushes head first at the central questions of life itself. That’s maybe being a little dramatic, but this really has quickly turned into a story with a lot to say about creation. In this issue, we also get some really clever interplay between characters that’s analogous to that between child and parents, plus a tour de force visual journey through a near-future version of Sydney, Australia, along with the now-standard breakneck plotting that’s come to define the book. This is yet another major surprise from Image Comics in the past year or so that more readers should be talking about. I get that you might not be familiar with these creators, but you’re doing yourself a disservice by sleeping on this book.

Top New #1 Comics

Others Receiving Votes

  • A Walk Through Hell #8

  • Batman #66 (read our full review!)

  • Blossoms 666 #2

  • Cemetary Beach #7

  • Doomsday Clock #9

  • The Dreaming #7

  • Eclipse #13

  • Giant Days #48

  • Immortal Hulk #14

  • Justice League #19

  • Killmonger #5

  • Paper Girls #26

  • Red Sonja #2

  • Uncanny X-Men #13

  • Vindication #2

  • Young Justice #3


Check back to the site later this week for reviews of Astro Hustle #1, Batman #66, Uncanny X-Men #13, and more!

See our past top comics to buy here, and check our our reviews archive here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

ADVANCED REVIEW: G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward’s Invisible Kingdom #1

Invisible Kingdom #1 is due out 3/20/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Invisible Kingdom #1, the new comic coming next month from writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Christian Ward, is perhaps the next evolution of the ongoing creator-owned sci-fi comic boom. A complex and weighty piece of work, the book uses Ward’s unique (and absolutely stunning) brand of psychedelic space art in tandem with Wilson’s ideas about societal foundations ranging from religion to commerce to forge ahead into new thematic territories. It’s not alone in doing this—Wasted Space and Relay both come to mind as close cousins to this comic—but in its debut issue, Invisible Kingdom seems to offer a new and perhaps more realistic sort of take on this genre.

Realistic is maybe not the right word, given the aliens and intergalactic travel and all of that, but there’s a level of intellectual seriousness here that makes this book stand out from other space epics. To be sure, there are plenty of serious sci-fi comics on the racks today, so that’s maybe also not the best word. There’s actually a panel on the second page that can maybe get this point across much better than I can struggling here with prose. In it, a crew on a space ship are attempting a trick maneuver in the service of some sort of cargo delivery and in weighing the merits of a tricky move, one character notes, But your company-sponsored liability insurance won’t cover—

There’s always that character on distressed sci-fi vessels, the C-3PO who’s fretting is designed to remind the audience exactly how implausible the heroics of braver protagonists are. That character, however, is usually exclaiming some sort of bonkers world-specific jargon or a quick throwaway joke. In Invisible Kingdom, that character reminds us of the ever-looming presence of economics. The book doesn’t apply this plausible lens to just economics, either.

Within its intriguing and aesthetically-powerful world, it gives us similar glimpses into religion, governance, and the way different species react to/treat one another. The end result is a relentlessly thoughtful comic, as well as a sense of narrative confidence that makes it easy to trust these uber talented creators from the book’s earliest pages.

Also, I’ve peppered compliments to Christian Ward’s artwork throughout this piece, but, and excuse me for this, I don’t think I’ve come anywhere close to doing Ward’s contributions justice. The best comics are such an alchemy of creative collaboration it can be tough to evaluate individual elements. This is certainly one of those books. Everything comes together seamlessly, and the end result is greater than the sum of its pieces. Ward’s artwork, however, is—to borrow an Internet phrase—next level good. There isn’t a bad-looking segment, page, or even panel in this entire comic. On the contrary, there are actually several that left me absolutely stunned (that word again!) when I passed over them.

The colors, the character designs, the facial expressions, the panel sizes and composition...it’s all so mind-bendingly luscious and just plain good. Ward has long been a talented psychedelic artist, lending massive talents most recently to Marvel’s Black Bolt. This book, though, has the trappings of a sequential art masterpiece. And for every smaller, detailed panel with a green-skinned character gritting their way through a challenge, there’s a subsequent splash that could be framed and hung on a wall somewhere in a hip loft apartment.

Story-wise, this is an advanced review so we have to tread carefully here, but I think it’s okay to divulge that there are a pair of plot concerns: one related to joining a religious order and another to embezzlement. This is a dense first issue that has to work hard at world-building, so the characters are a bit lightly-defined at the start. That’s OK. Comics like this need to progress further to, to set up world rules and concerns before they can really show us who are central figures are, what they most care about, and why. We do get some great philosophy here and there, enough to draw us into the story further. My only real regret is I’ve read this book so far in advance, it’s going to be a painful long wait for Invisible Kingdom #2.

Overall: Invisible Kingdom is a heady comic you’ll want to read twice to get a better grip on its ambitions and ideas. Fortunately, the artwork in this book is so vibrant and imaginative, immediately re-reading will feel less like a redundancy and more like a second helping of an impossibly-spectacular visual treat. 9.5/10

Invisible Kingdom #1
Writer:
G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Christian Ward
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics - Berger Books
Price: $3.99
Release Date: March 20, 2019

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

ADVANCED REVIEW: Black Hammer ‘45 #1 expands this growing universe into a new genre

Black Hammer ‘45 #1 is out 3/6/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Black Hammer ‘45 is something wholly new for the burgeoning Black Hammer Universe at Dark Horse Comics, created slowly over the course of the last few years by writer/artist Jeff Lemire and a host of talented collaborators. Indeed, this is the first comic in a stable that now numbers roughly half a dozen, including the ongoing main story, a host of minis, a one-shot, and Quantum Age, which I don’t even know the scope of—ask me, it can and should run two dozen issues.

Black Hammer ‘45, however, marks the first of these comics that (at least in its first issue) has very little to do with superheroes. It is also the first of these books in which Jeff Lemire is not named as the lone writer, having only a story by credit instead. The actual writing of the comic falls to Lemire’s good friend Ray Fawkes. The art, meanwhile, is provided by another of his friends, Matt Kindt, who like Lemire is a writer slash artist of considerable talent and renown. This comic, in other words, has a mightily talented—if a bit insular—pedigree to its creative team, and that much is evident in its pages. Readers will find no shortage of craft nor ideas in this book. It looks and reads as wonderfully as one has come to expect.

The genre, meanwhile, is a step outside the superhero fare that has largely marked the Black Hammer Universe to date. See, Black Hammer is an extended homage as filtered through Lemire and his collaborators’ sensibilities. We get characters that are at once recognizable and novel, reminding of us old favorites while simultaneously pushing into new (and often more somber) territories, be it an approximation of James Robinson’s Starman or a facsimile for the Legion of Superheroes.

Black Hammer ‘45 is that same sort of homage, yet it pushes outward from the superhero genre, instead drawing its inspiration from Golden Age World War II comics, perhaps most specifically from The Blackhawks. Although, like all of the Black Hammer books, other influences find a way of creeping in. Those range from the real-life story of the Tuskegee Air Men to stories about steampunk mechs. There’s a lot, and it’s all good, and like the rest of these books, it all coalesces into something fresh and unique.

This debut issue itself is also well-crafted, everything from Matt and Sharlene Kindt’s artwork to the way flashback pages looked yellowed and old (even in the advance review PDF...I imagine in the physical copy the effect will be even more noticeable). Fawkes rights it well, too, doing a nice balancing act between action in the past and present, and also finding interesting ways (ways that I won’t spoil) to connect to other parts of the ongoing Black Hammer narrative.

Overall: Fans of the main Black Hammer series will be thrilled the book is branching off into new and interesting territory. Jeff Lemire has said he loves his Black Hammer books because they allow him to do pretty much any kind of comic he wants. This book is proof positive of that. 8.8/10

Black Hammer ‘45 #1
Story By:
Jeff Lemire & Ray Fawkes
Writer: Ray Fawkes
Artist: Matt Kindt
Colorist: Sharlene Kindt
Letterer: Marie Enger
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.99
Release Date: March 6, 2019

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.