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Link below to the Ultimate March Madness RULES, TEAMS, BRACKET and BATTLES!
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Tyler Jenkins
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
With its beautifully rendered pastel images and rich world-building, Grass Kings is the kind of comic that hooks readers from the beginning. Though the plot is fairly limited in this first issue, creators Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins still kick their rural mystery series off on a high note.
Opening the issue with a brief history of the town in which the story takes place, Kindt and Jenkins then shift to the present where we meet three brothers. The Grass Kings, as they call themselves, rule over a mysterious trailer park kingdom. Much like their own tragic lives, this town is filled with hopelessness and despair. Yet when a newcomer arrives, the eldest brother’s decision to take her in may prove dangerous for the kingdom he’s helped build.
I’ve mostly read Kindt’s Valiant and DC work, so it’s quite fascinating to see him take on an entirely original story. Though the text is mostly comprised of narration, with dialogue here and there, he nonetheless does a fantastic job of immersing us into this overtly grim world. Yet what really makes this such an invigorating read is Jenkins’ illustrations. Perfectly juxtaposing tight frames with gorgeously detailed splash pages, he provides an electrifying and cinematic experience. If you appreciate the brutality and neo-noir aesthetic of books like Southern Bastards and The Fade Out, this is the book for you.
– Kevin Schaefer for Ultimate Comics
Writers: Corey Kalman, Brockton McKinney
Artist: Devin Roth
Publisher: Action Lab Danger Zone
Amerikarate fuses self-deprecating comedy with B-movie action flare in a way that only this creative team can provide. It’s so far been described as a mashup between Footloose and every major action movie hero of the 80s, and rightfully so. Needless to say, it feels right at home with the plethora of other absurdist action comedies from its publisher Action Lab.
The premise of this comic is simple: Sam Kickwell is a US veteran and martial arts expert who stumbles into a town where karate is illegal. This is due to the fact that the town suffered a ninja attack years earlier, and no amount of anti-American villains who swing through town will change their minds. And accompanying Sam is his limbless brother Rick, who is without a doubt one of the book’s major highlights.
NC Comicon Creative Director Brockton McKinney is of course no stranger to the world of B-movies and absurd action comedies, having written comics like the fantastic Ehmm Theory and last year’s Gingerdead Man reboot. Bringing the same kind of kinetic energy and bizarre world-building to Amerikarate, he and co-writer Corey Kalman deliver one heck of a ride. The book is incredibly self-aware of its ridiculousness and in terms of where it draws inspiration from. 80s gurus will no doubt love its nostalgia, while readers who aren’t as well-versed in this era will still find the comic easily accessible and highly entertaining.
Likewise, Devin Roth’s pencils and colors perfectly capture the book’s absurdist feel. Roth executes a flawlessly cartoonish style, merging the aesthetic of a Rob Guillory comic with the flow and pacing of an 80s movie. Creating characters that are either abnormally large or abnormally small, and action violence that’s both unrestrained and overtly ridiculous, Roth is dynamic on all fronts here. If you like anything these creators have done before, get on over to Ultimate and pick this one up, and then get it signed in a few weeks at NC Comicon: Oak City!
-Kevin Schaefer for Ultimate Comics
Created, Written, and Illustrated by Jeff Lemire
Published by Image Comics
Something is wrong in Royal City. It’s not just that the factory is slowing down. It’s not just that Peter Pike had a stroke, right there in the middle of his potato salad. No, there’s something else, something around the edges. Something that’s not supposed to be there. Some… one. Who’s really not supposed to be there. And for the Pike family, things are about to get much, much worse.
This isn’t exactly a horror book, though there are supernatural elements so clever that I gave the book a second read (and yes, the twists all held up the second time). It’s not just a small-town soap opera. It’s… it’s nostalgia, it’s a poignant twist-up of memory and pain. This book is about going back to your home town, and Mom wants everything to stay the same and Dad’s a little clueless and your one sister is working on her stuff and your one brother is NOT working on his stuff and you don’t know if staying around would do any good at all and you sure as Hell don’t want to stay around but there’s nowhere else you can be from. It’s a debate between escaping the ghosts of your past and screwing up your courage to actually listen to those ghosts and maybe grow the Hell up a little bit. It’s that horrible choice where you have to move forward with your life but there is no right answer, not even digging in and investing in the world of your youth.
Jeff Lemire makes me cry with every collection of Descender, a wonderful emotional science fiction adventure. But this week, Lemire got to do a little Cameron Crowe by way of Tim Burton, and I didn’t cry, but I think I’ll call my dad.
-MATT CONNER for Ultimate Comics
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Leandro Fernández
There’s a certain aesthetic that defines The Old Guard, the new Image title from superstar creators Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández. Rucka describes the book in the opening narration as “a fairy tale of blood and bullets” about a group of mostly invincible soldiers. Yet while there are some high fantasy elements that pervade this comic, the overall look and feel resembles that of a hard-edged war story.
Much like Rucka’s other works, he opens with some poetic text in which one of the main protagonists describes her longing to die. It’s similar to how he began his recent Wonder Woman run, in that he’s able to draw readers in with monologues and sharply written prose. It’s subtle enough to where it’s not too wordy, and it provides a nice introduction to this world. From there the action gets going, as the heroes go on a rescue mission in the Middle East.
This is where Fernández’s pencils and Daniela Miwa’s colors merge together so effectively. Whether the issue delivers high-octane action or quiet moments of character development, each panel is a tour de force in and of itself. It’s no doubt a dense and somewhat ambiguous read, but regardless it delivers strong storytelling on all fronts. If you’re a fan of anything either creators have done in the past, I’d highly recommend picking this one up.
Kevin Schaefer for ultimate Comics
Written by Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV
Art by Steve Epting
Published by DC Comics
The original Batwoman was a character brought in to date Batman for a few issues back when parents got scared that he was kind of gay. So when DC revived the concept in the 52 series a few years ago, Batwoman became one of the most prominent gay characters in comics. Kate Kane worked the grim vigilante angle like Batman, but her background was military, not detective work. This led to a series uniquely her own and a fascinating character study.
In the new DC Rebirth continuity, Batwoman is a powerful figure on the team in Detective Comics, but after the events of the recent Monster Men crossover, she’ll be taking on a heavy solo mission. This prologue one-shot gets the reader up to speed, racing through plot points like her time at West Point, her run-in with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, her socialite years, and her love story with Renee Montoya. For the density of story beats, the book never feels rushed. Each moment gets a full page or two to breathe, and the dialogue in each scene cleverly dovetails the next one.
Batwoman matters. Batwoman means something huge in a time when national politics put the health of women and of the Queer community in a vulnerable limbo. So it matters that she gets a high-profile story. It matters that she gets a dedicated one-shot prologue. And it matters that some of the industry’s best Queer writers, Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV, are working on this together.
Come down to Ultimate Comics and get your copy today. Enjoy the action story, but appreciate the cultural context. And bring your copy to the Love Is Love (Queer Comics) panel at NC Comicon Oak City next month! I am happy to talk more about it with you there.
-MATT CONNER for Ultimate Comics