REVIEW: Life and Death of Toyo Harada #5 works toward a thoughtful ending

By Nick Couture - Writer and Godfather of the Valiant revival, Joshua Dysart, along with Cafu and Kano on art, Andrew Dalhouse on colors, and Dave Sharpe on letters, continue to reach for a crescendo with Life and Death of Toyo Harada #5. It’s an issue that lets the story breath a bit while revealing key moments from Toyo’s past. Over several years of development, Dysart has written a character that fits in perfectly with the likes of Magneto or Vader, and that is no small feat. All that’s missing is an iconic costume, though that black suit is killer.

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Why Matt Kindt’s XO Manowar is Valiant’s Best Run Ever

By Toren Chenault — When I started reading Valiant Comics, my first title was XO Manowar by Robert Venditti and Cary Nord, launched in 2013. It follows a Visigoth prince named Aric of Dacia, who is as headstrong and stubborn as a hero can get. But he’s also got a lot of heart. When his people are captured by an alien race, Aric steals a sentient alien suit on their ship, becoming a superhero. Yes, this comic is exactly as cool and crazy as it sounds. Since that issue…

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Why I Love Black Superheroes

By Toren Chenault — Black History Month is a time to celebrate. I love being black, and I love everything about my culture. And I think it’s important to celebrate culture, no matter who you are. I also love comic books and am in the process of writing my first comic. As a future comic creator and as a black male, I think it’s important to acknowledge the strides we’ve made in the comic book industry when it comes to diversity. See, we still have a long way to go, though. In fact, it saddens me the low number of black writers and artists I see in mainstream comics today. But there are creators like myself that are working night and day, creating wondrous new worlds, hoping to change that one day.

Today though I want to focus on some of my favorite black characters in comics. Most will be superheroes, some will be from smaller companies, but each has touched my soul in a special way. Representation matters. It isn’t just a catchy phrase you should say on Twitter when you’re feeling empathetic. It really does matter. It’s just a great feeling to see yourself in a comic. So, welcome to a special “Why I Love” about black superheroes and black characters.

In this piece I want to spotlight these special characters but also let you know where you can find them currently in the comics. It can be easy to miss things, and we shouldn’t shame others for not knowing what’s out. So, if you didn’t know a certain character was still around, don’t feel bad. This piece is here to help. First up is a DC character who doesn’t get as much love as he deserves—Mr. Terrific.

Mr. Terrific by Alex Ross.

Mr. Terrific

A lot of the heroes and characters on this list defy stereotypes when it comes to black characters. Not every black character should come from violence or be inherently “tough.” Black people, like all humans, are complex. Michael Holt, aka Mr. Terrific, is a good example of that.

He’s a hero born from tragedy, like most are, and he’s a hero who lives with enormous guilt. Mr. Terrific has always been a favorite of mine because of his combination of style and intellect. Not only does he have multiple, multiple Ph.Ds (I think 14 to be exact), but he’s one of the coolest looking characters in the DC Universe. One of the first images I ever saw of Mr. Terrific was the single portrait legendary artist Alex Ross did for the JSA comic. The spheres floating around him, the black “T” on his face, the red, white, and black jacket that says, “Fairplay”...I was hooked. And after reading things like JSA, he became one of my favorites. Sometimes, writers who aren’t black tend to make their black characters too cool. They’ll rely too much on that aspect of the character and let it overtake their personality. Mr. Terrific is the blueprint for how to balance this. The perfect combination of swag and smarts.

Where is he now? Mr. Terrific is one of those characters I don’t think DC Comics as a company understands exactly how awesome he is. He still has an insane amount of untapped potential. He hasn’t been around too much in recent years, but you can currently find him leading his own team in The Terrifics. It was a part of the New Age of Heroes launch, and it currently remains one of my favorite titles at DC. Written by Jeff Lemire, the comic has been a good developmental series for Mr. Terrific. It dives into his loneliness and his past, and it also showcases just how much of a smart, capable leader he is.

Cyborg from  Teen Titans.

Cyborg from Teen Titans.

Cyborg

I literally grew up on the DC Animated Universe. I didn’t have money or any way to read comics weekly growing up, so the DCAU was my education on the DC Universe. And what an education. Cyborg came from that era, and when I saw him on Teen Titans, he became one of my favorites.

Once again,moving past the tropes of the black athlete, Cyborg is another highly intelligent person in the DC Universe. And his backstory is one that hurts. I remember an episode of Teen Titans where he was talking with Starfire about being judged for being different. And he wasn’t talking about being a robot. Cyborg deals with the negative stereotypes of being a large black man and a machine. That’s something I can’t fathom. I actually tear up while writing this because he was such an inspirational character for me. He helped me embrace everything about myself, not just what society told me was important. No matter how people viewed him, no matter how down he got on himself, Cyborg was always one to look life in the face and say, “Booyah!”

Where is he now? I’m going to be honest, I haven’t been a fan of the way Cyborg has been handled in the comics in recent years. He was promoted to the Justice League during the New 52 reboot, but I think with that came the disappearance of some important character traits, as well as history in the DC Universe. But I enjoy good content when I can get it, and that’s exactly what the more recent comic, Justice League Odyssey, is. Cyborg is currently on a cosmic adventure with Starfire, Jessica Cruz, and Azrael. Oh, and Darkseid is involved too. It’s a cool series so far, and just like with The Terrifics, it highlights some of what makes Cyborg a great character.

Blue Marvel and Spectrum.

Blue Marvel and Spectrum

These next two heroes I included as a pair because black love in comics is important. Each is important by themselves, but together, they represent something amazing that we need in comics. Blue Marvel is Adam Brashear (created by black comic creator Kevin Grevioux) and Monica Rambeau is Spectrum. They have some of the coolest powers in the Marvel universe. Blue Marvel is a literal antimatter reactor and Spectrum does what her name suggests. She can become any form of light on the electromagnetic spectrum. My love for them came from Al Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort’s Ulimates. In that comic, they were part of a powerhouse team with Carol Danvers, T’Challa, and America Chavez. It was a series filled with cosmic craziness, cool concepts, and beautiful art.

That series starts with Blue Marvel holding a holographic representation of the element Neutronium as he talks about its complex nature and how it relates to the multiverse. It’s still one of my favorite openings of a comic, and it did a good job setting the stage for what was to come. The pair have a natural attraction to each other, and I love it because it always comes off as genuine. There’s a scene in the story where Blue Marvel is studying Spectrum’s powers. He’s talking about how magnificent and wonderful they are. Of course, he’s speaking in terms of science, but to him science is beautiful, so Spectrum is beautiful. I guess that begs the question does he only love her because of her powers, but I don’t think that’s true. Monica Rambeau is one of the most respected, hardworking people in the Marvel Universe. And I think Blue Marvel recognizes that. Her magnificent powers are just a plus.

Where are they now? We were bound to get here eventually, to characters who haven’t been too active as of late. Marvel is sitting on two of their most powerful cosmic characters right now, and I don’t know why. Ever since The Ultimates ended, Blue Marvel and Spectrum have been scarce. I’m hoping they show up in the new Avengers weekly No Road Home. Still, this doesn’t take away from these great characters and their beautiful relationship.

Miles Morales is becoming a break-out star thanks to the new film Into the Spiderverse.

Miles Morales

I’ve always liked Miles Morales. But in recent years, I’ve become fond of the character. He’s this generation’s Spider-Man and has grown tremendously since his creation. He’s an Afro-Latino hero, and that’s important to his character. I’m not Latino myself, but I recognize the importance of not erasing that side of who he is. Neither side of his ethnicity is more important, and they don’t take away from each other.

Like many others, my love for Miles has intensified ever since his film, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse came out. It was an authentic, masterful film with tons of heart and action. They made Miles relatable and really drove home the fact that he’s just a good kid trying to do the right thing. He likes art, music, has style, and is still growing as a person. He’s forced to grow up exponentially when he gets his powers, and I loved going on that journey with him—both in the movie and in the comics. Miles continues to be one of the brightest spots for Marvel in recent memory.

Where is he now? There’s plenty of Miles content today, and it’s all amazing. There’s his own title being written by Saladin Ahmed and drawn by Javier Garron. And then there’s Miles on his team, the Champions, and they have their own title, too. Written by Jim Zub and drawn by Steven Cummings. If you loved Into the Spiderverse, but don’t know where to start with his comics, these are perfect as they both had new #1s recently.

Livewire #1.

Livewire

If you’ve read any of my pieces before, you know that I’m a huge fan of Valiant Comics. And within the last two years one of their characters has had the best development in all of superhero comics. Her name is Amanda McKee and she goes by Livewire. An extremely powerful technopath, Livewire debuted in 2011 as a side character who’s loyal to her teacher. Now, she’s a fugitive who led an uprising across the Valiant Universe. She’s become one of my favorites in all of comics, and Valiant has done a tremendous job developing her since her debut.  

Livewire, like most of the other heroes on this list, defies stereotypes and expectations of black superheroes. Especially black women. Livewire has been Toyo Harada’s most trusted student, leader of Valiant’s super team Unity, and she brought together a group of psiots called the Secret Weapons.

Where is she now? I recommend going back and reading the original Harbinger series where Livewire first debuted. Then you can find her in titles like Unity and Secret Weapons. But now, she’s the star of her very own title. It’s being written by talented writer Vita Ayala and the art is being done by the amazing team of Raul Allen and Patricia Martin. It’s one of the best titles not just at Valiant, but in all of comics right now.

Valiant’s  Divinity.

Valiant’s Divinity.

Divinity

Now we’re on to possibly my favorite black superhero in comics today. Abram Adams is Divinity, and he is the most powerful character in the Valiant Universe. That right there means a lot to me. Not only that, but I relate so much to Divinity. His origin is one of circumstance and tragedy. He was left on the doorstep of the Russian government and was trained to become an astronaut. Abram wanted to go to space, though. His obsession with knowledge and learning drove him during his training. And it was that exact obsession that led to him interacting with a cosmic energy that turned him into a God.

Writer Matt Kindt and artist Trevor Hairsine worked on the original Divinity trilogy. And in it, Divinity narrates about life being like a big book. And how he always wanted to see all the pages, reading it all at once. Once he got his powers, he could, but he lost a piece of himself. He lost his wife, his daughter, and everything he was before. There’s a quote from Divinity #4 that is one of my favorite pieces of writing ever.

“Abram Adams was an astronaut. An explorer. A husband and a father. Once I was all of these. But now—now I flip through the life of Abram Adams like the worn pages of a dog-eared novel. Wondering at the meaning. And savoring the best parts.”

If you enjoy science-fiction and want new black superheroes, please read Divinity.

Where is he now? Divintiy hasn’t been around too much recently, but he is a newer character. Kindt and Hairsine worked on Divitniy I, II, and III, and then they worked on its sequel comic, Eternity. Divinity also showed up in Harbinger Wars 2. I’m sure he’ll be around in the future of Valiant.

Conclusion

There were a lot of heroes I didn’t get to. But then again, there really aren’t that many. I mean a couple of things by that. The first being that I didn’t include a good portion of characters. There’s Nighthawk, Black Panther, Vixen, Luke Cage, Sam Wilson, Moon Girl, Mosaic, John Stewart, Static, Steel, Misty Knight, and Black Lightning. There are all amazing characters who bring something different to the table. Both in terms of powers and representation. But there’s a bigger problem with black superheroes.

There still aren’t enough.

And I’m not even asking for more. Especially from big companies. As a fan of comic books and superheroes, logically I wouldn’t mind seeing more black characters from companies like Marvel and DC. But, as a black man living in America in 2019, I understand the realism of companies who profit mainly off heroes who look like Batman and Spider-Man, not constantly creating black superheroes. Yes, things like Black Panther and Into the Spiderverse exist, and both are amazing, amazing feats of cinema, but one or two films won’t fix an institutional problem we have in comic books. What’s the solution? More representation behind the scenes and us, fans and smaller creators, supporting each other.  

I love black superheroes. Because I get a chance to see myself in them. It’s just cool to see someone who looks like you do something awesome. Sometimes, that’s all minorities want. That’s really all anybody wants. There doesn’t have to be a deep message all the time. Just someone who looks like you, doing awesome stuff. And in this article I wanted to emphasize the role we as fans play in supporting black superheroes. Support Marvel and DC when they put out good content like the comics and characters I described up top. But also focus elsewhere. Valiant, Image, BOOM! Studios, and even Dark Horse are all starting to showcase black characters more. Try to get out of your comfort zone and venture into other titles. But also, support up and coming black creators. Where publishers don’t shine, independent creators flourish. There’s a bevy of black creators today making their own worlds, universes, and characters. It can definitely feel overwhelming sometimes. Trust me though, good content is out there, but we have to support it in order to see more.

Toren Chenault, a native of the Cincinnati area, currently lives in Michigan with his girlfriend. A graduate of Michigan State University, he is a long-time superhero fan who counts Captain Atom, Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel, Daredevil, Divinity, Nightwing, and XO Manowar among his favorite heroes. Mystic Man is his first book. Buy it now here, and check out more of Toren’s Why I Love series here.

REVIEW: Livewire #3, Amanda McKee faces a far greater danger than anything physical

Livewire #3 is out 2/13/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Three issues into its run, Livewire is now among my favorite superhero comics (right up there with Bendis’ Superman and Immortal Hulk). This book just has such a great combination of honest characterization from writer Vita Ayala, kinetic and clear artwork from Raul Allen and Patricia Martin, and distinct yet connected chapters. Indeed, all three issues in this series so far have had different conceits, with clear thematic throughlines fostering a sense of unity.

Livewire is, in other words, a fantastic monthly comic. Livewire #3 sees our heroine still depowered, on the run, and known pretty much the world over as a war criminal. See, in this past summer’s Harbinger Wars 2 event, Livewire essentially turned off all the electronics in the United States to save her team from slaughter and oppression at the hands of malicious actors within government. This action, which seemed justified on its surface, had the end result of killing a horrific number of innocent people, from folks with pacemakers to hundreds on commercial planes.

In this issue, Livewire escapes to a safehouse before being hunted down by Pan, whom she has known since childhood under Toyo Harada within the Harbinger Foundation (readers needn’t know this bit of continuity to enjoy the series). The majority of this book is consumed by de-powered Livewire and Pan in combat, but the fisticuffs take a backseat, so intense is the discourse between the characters. Allen and Martin’s artwork is among the best in comics right now, and it makes for engaging activity as the argument between the two characters steadily raises the emotional stakes.

Pan and Livewire have a sibling relationship, and they spend the issue arguing as siblings do. This sort of complex discord between siblings is familiar territory for Ayala, who has told similarly-compelling stories about brothers and sisters in some of their best comics, particularly in their series with Vault Comics, Submerged. It’s all in here—the resentment, the rehashing of the past, the accusations of favoritism, the struggle to reframe history—all the well-worn maneuvers from real life sibling rivalry appear, compelling as can be.

What really makes Livewire #3 a white knuckle read, however, is the emotional threat poised to the lead character. In issue one, we saw Amanda McKee run through her status quo on the run, in issue two we saw her suffer physically at the hand of oppressive captors. In this issue, we see her honestly face down the severity of what she’s done in full, forced to do so by Pan’s accelerated empath abilities, which can essentially transfer memories from one person to another. Livewire, as we know, is a hero who believes in her fight and good intentions. That core component of her identity faces down a major threat here.

What Ayala does that’s so impressive is use this setup—the hunt, the character history, the transferred memory, the fistfighting—to illustrate the price for aggressive actions, asking whether regardless of how righteous or justified one feels, if aggression is ever the answer. In other words, can you be as right to fight back as Livewire was, and still find yourself suffering culpability for damage beyond your perception? Fighting a winning fight, even when you’re 100 percent correct, is still fighting, and maybe the nature of aggression is such that we can never truly anticipate how it afflicts the world.

That’s what I took from Livewire #3, and it’s an especially poignant point these days, when the difference between being right and productive has been so thoroughly muddied.

Overall: Livewire is a grounded book with high stakes, grand ideas, and terrifying threats, and in its pages, Ayala, Allen, and Martin are fearlessly addressing everything from Amanda’s intentions to her results to the impact of the wars she’s waged. This comic is, simply put, compelling stuff. 9.6/10

Livewire #3
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artists: Raul Allen with Patricia Martin and Scott Koblish
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher:
Valiant Entertainment
Price: $3.99

Check out our reviews of Livewire #1 and Livewire #2!

Check out more comic book thoughts in our reviews archive.

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 February 13, 2019

By Zack Quaintance — You know it’s a strong week for new comics when we expand our top choices to six slots and still have to bump Amazing Spider-Man, Superman and Thor (three absolute favorites in these parts) down to the Others Receiving Votes section. But hey, too many great comics is one of those good problems to have, and we vastly prefer that to the alternative.

This is a great week, really, for readers of all tastes. There’s another pair of new idea-dense comics from Vault, the continuations of some of the best superhero runs today, and a new series from one of the industry’s funniest satirists. It’s the type of Wednesday that reminds me why I invest myself so thoroughly in the weekly comics grind: there’s just no other medium that’s so urgent, profilify, or tonally and thematically varied. It’s a beautiful thing.

Now, onward to the comics!

Top Comics to Buy for February 13, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Wonder Twins #1
Writer:
Mark Russell
Artist: Stephen Byrne
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: DC Comics - Wonder Comics
Price: $3.99
Exiled from their home planet, alien heroes Zan and Jayna must navigate life as teens on Earth at South Metropolis High School, where they're even bigger outsiders than the typical awkward young adults. Under the watchful eye of Superman, the brother and sister pull monitor duty at the Hall of Justice as interns, while also trying to overcome the pitfalls of Zan's brash confidence and Jayna's shy but streetwise persona. If you think you know the Wonder Twins, think again-this book takes the form of the unexpected.
Why It’s Cool: Mark Russell is really at home with old Hanna-Barbera properties, making him an absolutely amazing choice to revive the old Super Friends characters, the Wonder Twins. Doing this property right is a tall order. There’s just so much that can go wrong, but Russell has shown a propensity in the past for taking those ideas—a serious take on The Flintstones, on Snagglepuss, etc.—and hitting them out of the park. This could be his finest work yet, playful and self-aware and relentlessly delightful. It’s a blast to read. DC Comics doesn’t make wry fun of itself often, and I wouldn’t really want them to, but when it’s done this well, it’s something really special.   

Criminal #2
Writer:
Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"THE LONGEST WEEKEND": Archie Lewis was the artist's artist in his heyday, although that's not what he's famous for. He's famous for being a nightmare to work with-and dangerous. So when an old assistant is forced to chaperone his one-time mentor to receive his lifetime achievement award, well... let's just say things don't go well. As always, CRIMINAL contains back page art and articles only found in the single issues.
Why It’s Cool: Has it been a month already since the excellent new Criminal series started? Wow, that went fast, but hey, I’m not one to complain that the best partnership in comics is back. The first issue was as immersive and authentic as one would expect from the Brubaker-Phillips all-time great crime comics pairing. This book, now on its eighth volume, just seems to get better the more its creators return to this world, the more they broaden and hone and expand upon the tone of these stories. This newest volume is no exception.
Read our review of Criminal #1.

Fearscape #4 (our review)
Writer:
Ryan O’Sullivan
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Colorist: Vladimir Popov
Letterer: Andworld Design
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
After the tragic events of the third issue, the villainous Henry Henry finds himself... No! The advertising copy provided here by the publisher will not do! The events of our third chapter (please refrain from calling them issues) are hardly tragic. Our brave hero bested two villains, yet his reward is to be libeled against in marketing copy? -HH
Why It’s Cool: There are more than a few creative types among those of us who read monthly comics obsessively (which is presumably the core readership of this website...though we’ve—shockingly!—not had it in our budget to conduct a focus group just yet). This is a book, meanwhile, that calls to and calls out creative types on their every last insecurity, unspoken jealousy, pretension, etc., mining it all for great fantasy/horror concepts. This issue might be construed as a turning point, and, like all those that have come before it, it’s an absolutely must-read comic.
Read our reviews of Fearscape #1, Fearscape #2, and Fearscape #3.

Friendo #4 (our review)
Writer:
Alex Paknadel
Artist: Martin Simmonds
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
Thanks to an obscure piece of legislation, Jerry and Leo are now above the law. As they rob big-box stores up and down the west coast with The Manufacturer's blessing, their violent exploits are livestreamed to millions of disaffected consumers who've been told "no" one too many times. Beginning to tire of their new status as folk heroes, Jerry and Leo's final heist takes a brutal turn when corporate assassin Zaj Xek the Cremator gets them in his sights.
Why It’s Cool: As with the rest of Vault Comics’ current slate—Wasted Space, Fearscape, These Savage Shores, etc.—Friendo is an unpredictable comic dense with ideas that have much to say about 2019 America. It’s also one of today’s best creator-owned comics, an ever-evolving story that goes to new and terrifying places every week. I’ve written this in all my reviews (and will likely do so again in the near future) but the real shocker with this story is how at first blush it seems like total sci-fi but then starts to seem increasingly likely as you delve into its horrors. Check back later this week for a full review!    
Read our reviews of Friendo #1, Friendo #2, and Friendo #3.

Livewire #3
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artists: Raul Allen with Patricia Martin and Scott Koblish
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Price: $3.99
On the run! Fleeing from more than just the law, Livewire's about to find out whether she has the strength to survive on her own in a world that hates and fears her, with only her memories of better days to rely on... but if she's not careful, even those can be snatched away by the mercenary hunting her down!
Why It’s Cool: We have loved both installments of Vita Ayala’s and Raul Allen/Patricia Martin’s new Livewire book so far, and the third issue is no exception. There’s something really special happening in this comic, arguably making it the best Valiant series since Divinity (last year’s Secret Weapons one-shots not withstanding). This issue is a sort of bottle issue that sees the central protagonist engaging in a nakedly honest way with an antagonist during a prolonged bout of combat. It’s a kinetic and poignant way to get across many ideas without slowing the story’s pacing at all, and I absolutely loved it. I won’t say much more past that for risk of spoilers.
Read our reviews of Livewire #1 and Livewire #2.

Magic Order #6 (our review)
Writer:
Mark Millar
Artist: Olivier Coipel
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Peter Doherty
Publisher: Image Comics - Netflix
Price: $3.99
This explosive miniseries climax is a high-octane magical battle of good versus evil, as the remaining Magic Order wizards make a last stand against Madame Albany and the forces of darkness. Family bonds are tested, blood is spilled, and black magic threatens life as we know it.
Why It’s Cool: Magic Order #6 marks the end of Mark Millar’s first full series since signing his landmark multimedia deal with Netflix, and it’s been one hell of a way to launch a partnership. Like *insert your favorite action film here* with wizards and witches, Magic Order is an exciting high-stakes take on magical tropes, illustrated beautifully by Olivier Coipel with Dave Stewart colors. Simply put, this is a gorgeous book with one of Millar’s always-sharp concepts at its heart, and we’re excited for the finale (and also wondering if there might be more story on the way in this world eventually…).
Read our review of Magic Order #5.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Age of X-Man: NextGen #1

  • Army of Darkness: Bubba Ho-Tep #1

  • Avengers: No Road Home #1

  • Hit Girl Season 2 #1

  • Marvels Annotated #1

  • Savage Sword of Conan #1

Others Receiving Votes

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.

Top Comics to Buy for December 19, 2018

By Zack Quaintance — December is a weird month for comics, given the disruption to shipping schedules and reading habits created by the holidays. This year, we saw publishers front load the first couple of Wednesdays to get more product onto shelves that are surely going to be browsed by a higher frequency of holiday shoppers.

And with Christmas on a Tuesday this year, the subsequent Wednesday has Diamond (comics lone distributor) giving its staff a week off. As a result, no publisher is releasing very many titles on the final Wednesday of the month. Ack! For the normal comics reader, this is all fairly dry discussion of what goes on behind the scenes. And who really cares about that?! All of us, but we shouldn’t, right? What we should really care about is the comics!

So, without further adieu, let’s get to this week’s releases!

Top Comics to Buy for December 19, 2018

*PICK OF THE WEEK*

Livewire #1
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artist: Raul Allen
Colorist: Patricia Martin
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Price: $3.99
ALL-NEW ONGOING SERIES! FOR THE FIRST TIME, LIVEWIRE TAKES CENTER STAGE!
Accomplice. Mentor. Savior. And now, Enemy of the State. Seeking to protect other vulnerable super-powered psiots like herself, Livewire plunged the United States into a nationwide blackout with her technopathic abilities, causing untold devastation. After choosing the few over the many, she must now outrun the government she served - and those she once called allies. With the whole world hunting her, what kind of hero will Livewire be...or will she be one at all?
Why It’s Cool: Livewire is easily one of the best Valiant characters to have never gotten her own series...but that changes this week. The publisher has also found the perfect creative team for this book, pairing rising star writer Vita Ayala (who has another book on our list further down) with one of our favorite art duos, Raul Allen and Patricia Martin, of Wonder Woman and Secret Weapons fame. For more, check out our Livewire #1 advanced review.

Captain America #6
Writer:
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Inker: Gerry Alanguilan
Colorist: Sunny Cho
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
"WINTER IN AMERICA" CONCLUDES...
...with a shocking turn of events that will send the Star-Spangled Avenger's life into a sudden dramatic tailspin you won't see coming!
Why It’s Cool: This first Captain America story arc from Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Francis Yu has been fantastic, a slow burn that alternates big ideas about what America stands for (both past and present) with espionage and action sequences. Coates has done his best comic book writing to date within the first five issues of this series, and we’re excited to see what the end of this first arc brings, especially with the preview text promising dramatic surprises (although, doesn’t it always?).

Cover #4
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Mack
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
Max is not having the best year of his career. Sales on his comics series are tanking, and his personal life is crumbling. Could it have something to do with his double life as a spy? Max learns the definition of "in too deep" as his worlds start to collide.
Why It’s Cool: This book is one of the best creator-owned titles in comics right now. We’ve written about it quite a bit in the past, but there’s just never been a look at what it feels like to be creator quite like this one. There’s also something really effective being done with tone here, via the way the aesthetic of the artwork switches depending on what’s happening. When a certain character comes into the protagonist’s life, for example, that character is met with an explosion of color; conversely, when the character flashes back to times in his life he maybe doesn’t remember so well, the figures take on an entirely different (and simpler) shape. Basically, every page of this comic is an utter treat, and we continue to strongly recommend it.

Friendo #3
Writer:
Alex Paknadel
Artist: Martin Simmonds
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
It's time to request a clean-up on aisle seven as Leo and Jerry's attempt to rob a hypermarket goes stomach-churningly wrong. Luckily, a mysterious corporate benefactor is on hand to help them with a new mission and an offer they can't refuse. Meanwhile, the owner of the hypermarket chain is in no mood to put up with Leo and Jerry's antics. Enter 'Zaj c the Cremator', a brutal assassin with a predilection for bunny ear headbands. Leo and Jerry's lives are about to become a whole lot more complicated.
Why It’s Cool: Friendo is a series loaded with bleak near-future ideas...and it just might be one of the most prescient looks at the coming (or maybe ongoing?) fall of America as a major global power. This issue also takes a turn into new genre territory, although it’s certainly been foreshadowed in previous issues. In Friendo #3, though, there’s an added layer of dread-inducing aesthetics. Prepare yourself, because this is one intense and provocative ride, one that may hit pretty close to home for the vast majority of American consumers—er, I mean readers. (Read reviews of Friendo #1 & Friendo #2).  

Submerged #4
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Colorist: Stelladia
Letterer: Rachel Deering
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
Bound by chains of her making, Ellie sits in judgement before her most dangerous adversary. In order to break free and escape the Otherworld with Angel, she must dig deep within herself and use a weapon that has the power to destroy them all. Every secret of the Puente family will rise to the surface in the final issue of Submerged!
Why It’s Cool: Submerged has been a wonderful deep dive (sorry) into two separate thematic interests: family history and cultural mythology. In Submerged #3, the creative team did a fantastic job of upping each in almost equal measure. The end result has been one of the best-paced graphic stories we’ve read all year. We fully expect more of the same from Submerged #4.

Thor #8
Writer:
Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike Del Mundo
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
THE PRISON OF ANGELS!
After waging war in Hel, Thor finds himself a prisoner of the fearsome warriors of Heven. Can even the intervention of Valkyrie and Thor's deadly sister Angela help him escape the unescapable prison of angels?
Why It’s Cool: Every once in a while it’s important to take a step back and be grateful for the long-running books we sometimes have a tendency to take for granted. This week, we’re doing that with Thor #8. Jason Aaron’s Thor is currently the most impressive long-form run happening in all of superhero comics, and it’s not even close, really. There just isn’t another run that’s been this good for this long happening at DC or Marvel. This issue continues the march toward the War of the Realms storyline, which by all indications is going to be the finale for Aaron’s epic work on this character. Don’t miss it!

Top New #1 Comics

  • Defenders: Best Defense #1

  • Freedom Fighters #1

  • Hardcore #1

  • Klaus and the Crying Snowman #1

  • Witcher: Of Flesh and Flame #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • A Walk Through Hell #6

  • Amazing Spider-Man #12

  • American Carnage #2

  • Aquaman #43

  • Batman #61

  • Black Badge #5

  • Catwoman #6

  • Deep Roots #5

  • Extermination #5

  • Gideon Falls #9

  • Infinity Wars #6

  • Killmonger #2

  • Long Lost Book 2 #5

  • Middlewest #2

  • The Punisher #5

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. He also writes comics and is currently working hard to complete one.

ADVANCED REVIEW: Livewire #1 is a great start for Valiant’s newest series

Livewire #1 is out 12/19

By Toren Chenault — So far, 2018 has been a phenomenal year for comics. And it doesn’t seem to matter what you’re into. DC, Marvel, Image, AfterShock, BOOM! Studios...name a publisher, and they’ve had a hit this year. Valiant Comics is no different. Valiant Beyond is the new direction for the company, and as part of that direction comes a solo series for one of their most powerful characters.

Amanda McKee, aka Livewire, is an insanely powerful technopath who, just recently, shook up the Valiant Universe during the Harbinger Wars 2 summer event. Most characters now consider Livewire a villain, with very few still calling her a hero. As such, this is a series that comes at a crucial time for the character, and writer Vita Ayala and artists Raul Allen and Patricia Martin handle Livewire #1 with class, creating an emotional and introspective with a hook that makes you eager to learn more about Livewire.

This is Livewire’s first ongoing series. She’s a character who’s been featured in Valiant since its relaunch in 2011 and has subsequently gone through one of the best character arcs in all of comics, not just Valiant. She started off as a loyal student to billionaire and powerful Harbinger, Toyo Harada. Then, she became a superhero and team leader of a group called Unity. And recently, she became a resistance leader with her Secret Weapons team. But that came with a cost. Livewire, using her powers, turned off the power grid of the entire United States. And not everyone came out okay. This new series now serves as great jumping on point for readers as they learn about who Amanda is, while for existing fans, this book is about the the long-awaited fallout from Livewire’s actions in Harbinger Wars 2.

The highlight of Livewire #1 comes from Amanda’s characterization. She’s a weird person. She grew up isolated from the world and was indoctrinated by Toyo Harada. Over the years, she grew past that, but she still never had much of a social life or many friends. Livewire #1 dives into her weird personality and balances it with her love of her team, The Secret Weapons, who are essentially three kids that Livewire helped and trained to become better psiots. The relationship between Amanda and her team is a special one, and one that Ayala does a good job of showing.

But like all relationships, they have their bad times, too, and the emotional core of this issue comes from Amanda confronting her team for the first time since leading her resistance in Harbinger Wars 2. Amanda had good reasons for starting another Harbinger War, but sometimes ends don’t justify the means. To me, this is where the issue truly shines, because Ayala constructs the dialogue in a way that makes readers sincerely care about characters in the moment. There’s also just enough background so that new readers won’t be confused, but rather eager to learn more about Amanda’s past.

The art duo on this comic is the rising star team of Raul Allen and Patricia Martin. Allen and Martin both worked on Secret Weapons with Arrival screenwriter Eric Heisserer, so they’re not new to Valiant. Their comfort with the characters shows in the art. Bold, detailed pencils and bright colors are some of the ways their art shines. Secret Weapons to me, was structured like a movie. The panels were arranged in a way that made the comic feel extremely fluid. Livewire #1 boast those same qualities.

Every page in the comic seems to have a transparent blue sheet over it as Martin’s colors provide a calming effect. I could write for hours on the quality of this art and just how well done it is, but the last thing that I’ll say is how beautiful they make Livewire look each time we see her. She has a presence, and every time she appears on the page you feel as if something big is about to happen. It’s this awesome combination of Allen’s detailed panel work, well-defined pencils, and Martin’s soft blends of blue, pink, and purple, that make this comic work so well .

Overall: I expected this comic to be a hit for me. It has a lot going on for it. What separates this from most superhero comics, though, is that Livewire is such an interesting character, one who hasn’t been explored too much yet. There’s a moment at the end of the issue that made me tear up because of the depth with which Ayala writes Amanda. And I was not expecting that. Given how this first issue ends, we’re in for a long ride with Livewire. And I can’t wait to take it. 9.5/10

Livewire #1
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artist: Raul Allen
Colorist: Patricia Martin
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Price: $3.99

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

Toren Chenault, a native of the Cincinnati area, currently lives in Michigan with his girlfriend. A graduate of Michigan State University, he is a long-time superhero fan who counts Captain Atom, Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel, Daredevil, Divinity, Nightwing, and XO Manowar among his favorite heroes. Mystic Man is his first book. Buy it now here.

Top Comic Book Previews for the Week of July 30

By Zack Quaintance — Our previews feature is back after a week hiatus during our trip to San Diego. Last week we did, however, roundup our picks for SDCC 2018’s 10 Coolest Comics Announcements...so check that out if you haven’t already.

Anyway, no use in belaboring it...on to the previews!

*Preview of the Week*
The Sons of El Topo Volume One: Cain OGN
Writer: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Artist: José Ladrönn
Publisher: Boom! Studios
More Info: December 2018
This is a hardcover original graphic novel from legendary filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (Dune) and virtuosic illustrator José Ladrönn (Incredible Hulk) that continues the 1970 Mexican Acid Western film written, scored, directed by and starring Alejandro Jodorowsky himself. This sequel, arriving in stores December 2018, tells the story of El Topo—a bandit without limits and a man with no moral compass. But when his journey through the arid west brought him face to face with a series of rogue outcasts, he found enlightenment in the unlikeliest place and was forever transformed, becoming a holy vessel imbued with the power to perform miracles. This was a journey that took him far from his first born son, Cain, and brought about the birth of Abel.
Our Take: We love Jodorwsky (as much for his films as for his candid appearance in the all-time great art documentary Jodorwsky’s Dune), and while this presumably means an end to any chance of Jodo making a cinematic sequel to the first film, his comics are always imaginative and worthwhile. Oh, and the Ladrönn art is is just stellar.

Blackbird #1
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Jen Bartel
Publisher: Image Comics
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Oct. 3
An all-new ongoing series from fan-favorite writer SAM HUMPHRIES (Harley Quinn, Nightwing) and red-hot artist JEN BARTEL! In this neo-noir fantasy, Nina Rodriguez is positive that a secret magic world ruled by ruthless cabals is hiding just beneath the veneer of Los Angeles. The problem: everyone thinks she’s crazy. The bigger problem: she’s not crazy—she’s right. Can she unravel the mystery before the Great Beast catches up with her?
Our Take: Oooooo, shiny. Sam Humphries sensibilities and Jen Bartel’s art are such a wonderful fit, and look how nice it is washed over with all that neon. We’re not entirely sure what neo-noir fantasy means, but it looks like we’re in for some big magic fight in hella trendy LA. So, that’s cool.

Bone Parish #2
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Jonas Scharf
Publisher: Boom! Studios
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Aug. 29
As a drug made from the ashes of the dead continues to spread across New Orleans, the Winters family is forced to defend their turf from the encroaching drug cartels. But some mysterious deaths could threaten everyone in New Orleans...
Our Take: Cards on the table...we haven’t read Bone Parish #1 just yet, but it was one of those books that half our Twitter feed (roughly) turned out to tell us to read. So, we’re on board with that and we’ll get to it when we have chance, plus also this second issue, too.

Harbinger Wars 2 Aftermath #1
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Adam Polina
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Sept. 26
The power's back online and the fighting is over... but who are the real victors of HARBINGER WARS 2, and what was truly lost in the carnage? For those who survived the terrible onslaught - and who must now witness the devastating aftereffects of their actions - will there ever be peace again? As the seismic summer event of 2018 comes to a close, Eisner Award-nominated writer Matt Kindt (X-O MANOWAR, ETERNITY) sorts through the rubble of the most brutal confrontation ever felt in the Valiant Universe - and discover what lies beyond the bloodshed!
Our Take: It’s all in the solicit, isn’t it? Who ARE the real victors? We’ve enjoyed this event quite a bit (more than most Big 2 Events, incidentally), and what kind of savage would read and like an entire event and bail for the aftermath? Not us….not us.

Valiant High #4
Writer: Daniel Kibblesmith
Artist: Derek Charm
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Aug. 1
Save the last dance! Homecoming is here! For the students of Valiant High - the super-powered preparatory academy where tomorrow's heroes learn what it takes to save the world - that means that the biggest night of their young lives is almost upon them...and that the Immortal Enemy is finally ready to make his move! But as Faith, Colin "Ninjak" King, Peter Stanchek, and Amanda "Livewire" McKee try to stir unity amongst their classmates, can teamwork triumph over ancient evil? From rising star Daniel Kibblesmith (Lockjaw) and Eisner Award winner Derek Charm (Jughead), this side-splitting, all-ages reimagining of Valiant's greatest heroes is going out in style!
Our Take: Save the last dance, indeed! Like the Harbinger Wars 2 event serving as a refreshing alternative to Big 2 events, this 4-part series has been a refreshing proximation of Big 2 fun and irreverent character takes. Kibblesmith is pretty funny guy, both in terms of writing comics and on Twitter, too.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

REVIEW: Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome #1 by Peter Milligan, Robert Gill, Jose Villarrubia, Diego Rodriguez, & Dave Sharpe

Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome #1 is out July 25.

By Zack Quaintance — Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome #1 marks the first issue of the third volume of this series. I liked the last two volumes, but I’d somewhat forgotten just how good this book is. The answer, incidentally, is very very good.

Britannia is such an interesting conflux of two genres that don’t often meet: historical fiction and police procedurals. That setup is one of its strengths. Another arguably bigger strength is the attentions to both ambiance and character paid by writer Peter Milligan, obviously a student of mythology, the occult, and ancient Rome. 

The only discernible change from the first two volumes here (aside from plot, obviously) is artist Robert Gill has replaced Juan Jose Ryp. Ryp is one of the most intricate and detailed artists in comics, but Gill does his own thing here and does it well. It also helps the transition that it’s been more than a year since the end of the last volume. If you’re a returning reader just relax and enjoy...the book is as good as ever. If you’re a new reader, you can start with issue worry-free.

In fact, for Britannia newbies I’m fairly certain each volume stands just fine on its own. It’s been many months since the second Britannia book, and I’ve forgotten a lot that happened. Still, the creative team lies all the essential exposition out in a way that oriented me, and my sense is you’ll also be just fine if you’re totally new.

Britannia also stands apart from the rest of the Valiant Universe (no matter how badly I want the Eternal Warrior to show up). In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t set in it at all, although, admittedly, I may have missed an acknowledgment somewhere that it is. The reason I say this is because Britannia is grounded and realistic, mostly hinting at the occult and supernatural while leaving doubt as to whether it's entirely real. A good comparison might be Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott’s phenomenal Black Magick, which is set in the present day but uses mysticism sparingly as well.

The last thing it’s important to note is that while knowledge of ancient Rome perhaps enhances this book slightly, it’s not vital. Admittedly, my own knowledge of the Roman Empire is scant, and the only effect this has had on me is that when I finished the other volumes of this series, I went to Wikipedia to fill in gaps, which was kind of a bonus, one I hope will be useful for bar trivia someday.

Overall: I forgot how psychologically-complex and engrossing Britannia was until I started this new volume. This is a supremely well-executed comic, one I highly recommend to fans of both historical fiction and police procedurals. One issue in, it's just as good as its predecessors. 9.0/10

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

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

REVIEW: Quantum and Woody! #8 by Eliot Rahal, Joe Eisma, Andrew Dalhouse, & Dave Sharpe

Quantum and Woody! #8 is available July 18.

By Zack Quaintance — Eliot Rahal took this book over starting with Quantum and Woody! #6, following a five-issue run by writer Daniel Kibblesmith, who is (objectively) one of the funniest writers in all of comics. Basically, to use a cliche, Rahal had HUGE shoes to fill, humor-wise...which is why what he did with the first two issues of this run was so surprising and impressive.

Rahal didn’t try to match or outdo Kibblesmith’s jokes, or even to maintain a similar tone, really. There were hints of the goofy character dynamic that drives this franchise, but Rahal largely pushed it in new directions, writing a first issue that stripped the titular characters of their powers and made them prove themselves as heroes anyway, which they did in poignant fashion. Rahal then followed that excellent story up with a fever dream of an issue that delved deeply into our characters’ psyches.

Now, in Quantum and Woody! #8 he gets to the business of re-grounding the book a bit in this franchise’s signature tone—its humor—but because of the hard work he did as a storyteller in his first two installments, it's easy to be vested in the goofy moments. I’m not tearing up at Woody’s pithy one-liners (of which there are many), but I do care a little bit more about both of these heroes after what Rahal has put them through (and continues to put them through). I also really like how he continues to build on his first issues. This is a new arc and jumping on point, to be sure, but there’s a lot here for readers who are already on the book.

Joe Eisma’s artwork (with colors by the always-great Andrew Dalhouse) is also a great fit. For readers of his recent run on Archie with all-time great comic writer Mark Waid, this hardly comes as a surprise. Eisma is able to oscillate without strain between moments of heavy character reactions and action sequences or site gags—whatever the script calls for, he nails it. His work isn’t as intricate as some other Valiant artists, but Quantum and Woody! is a unique corner of the Valiant Universe, and Eisma expertly draws it that way.    

Overall: All three issues of the Eliot Rahal run on Quantum and Woody! so far have been vastly different yet equally as interesting and great. Rahal and his collaborators are doing a really impressive job drilling into these characters to find new ground for fresh stories. 8.5/10

For more about this Quantum and Woody! run, read our reviews of Quantum and Woody! #6 & Quantum and Woody #7.

Hear Quantum and Woody! artist Joe Eisma's recent appearance on the WMQ&A Podcast!

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.