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Mann’s World #1 Review

Writer: Victor Gischler
Artist: Niko Walter
Colorist: Snakebite Cortez
Letterer: Andworld Design

“Mann’s World” begins as a tale of four best friends on a guys’ weekend to a resort planet that has everything from a pool to scenic views to big game hunting…only the big game on this planet are alien creatures. Just in the first issue, we as readers learn more about all four of our main characters, including their flaws. These flaws lead them to get on the bad side of the locals, working class people who despise the resort that controls their planet. Very soon, the hunters become the hunted. It will be interesting to see how each of the main characters addresses their flaws as they are forced to survive on a foreign planet where both the local wildlife and the local people would rather see them dead. With gritty art and fleshed out characters, “Mann’s World” is a must- read for any sci-fi fan.

Review by Jennifer Ricano

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Writer: Dan Watters
Artist: Steve Beach
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Tom Napolitino
Cover Artist: Kai Carpenter
Cartographer: Jared Blando

It’s been ten years since the last god fell, bringing peace to the realm of Cain Anuun. But now, as echoes of dissent and pain sound throughout the kingdom of men, their champion and queen, Cyanthe, has set out in secret to see the land for herself. Aided by her handmaiden, Nykeo, Cyanthe travels to a distant village at the foot of the marshlands. There she’s taken in by a kind couple with many children, none of them their own. Orphans are common in this place – as are the ghosts. Lost children, still searching for a home. And when a boy goes missing in the night and Cyanthe and Nykeo go looking for him, they must face the creature lurking beyond the village and the secret that brought them there.

A standalone one-shot expanding upon Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s The Last God universe, Songs of Lost Children is a tight, tense horror just right for the time of the year when the air takes a chill and the shadows grow long. Writer Dan Watters (Coffin Bound, Lucifer) pulls more out of a moody monster story than you might expect and manages some deft twists of character that hint at the larger world beyond without requiring prior knowledge of the mythos.

On the note of prior knowledge, it’s here I must confess my bias. The book is drawn by friend and collaborator Steve Beach (The Witching Hour, Lost Boys of the U.S. Bremen), and frankly I’ve been waiting to get my grubby paws on a copy ever since I heard he got the gig. Even so, I won’t recuse myself from saying the art is exquisite. Gothic and painstakingly precise, Steve’s devotion to detail and keen sense of storytelling are on full display –heightened further by the colors from Dave Stewart (Basketful of Heads, Gideon Falls). Adding hues to Steve’s pages, whereon he often makes a zen-like practice out of fitting as much black ink as inhumanly possible, is no easy task and has felled many a talented colorist. But Stewart more than rises to the occasion, and together they’ve crafted a visual style that makes me yearn for more from the duo.

Dark, rich, scary, and fun, Songs of Lost Children is just the right Halloween treat for your pull list’s sweet tooth. But be warned: this book bites back. Pick up a copy at an Ultimate Comics location near you.

Review by Cliff Bumgardner

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Rorschach #1

Writer: Tom King
Artist: Jorge Fornes
Colorist: Dave Stewart

Rorschach is dead — has been for 35 years. So what does it mean when a man dressed in the oh-so-familiar fedora and mask makes an attempt on a presidential candidate’s life? Therein lies a tale rife with conspiracy theories, high-stakes political intrigue and moral quandaries that are anything but black and white.

Tom King wisely chooses to move the world of Watchmen forward rather than back, showing us what it looks like in the present day. He makes no attempt to ape the structure and style of Alan Moore’s masterpiece. Instead, King borrows the world and builds on it, taking Moore’s ideas to their logical conclusions in an updated context.

Likewise, Jorge Fornes’ style is completely his own. He nails the pulp noir style with heavy shadows and elegant line work, setting the scene for what is sure to be a mystery full of twists and turns. Yes, Rorschach is dead. But in the hands of this talented and passionate team of creators, the world that produced him is alive and quite unwell. Just as it should be.

Review by Harrison Stewart

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Devil’s Red Bride

Writer: Sebastian Girner
Artist: John Bivens
Colorists: Iris Monahan
Letterer: Jeff Powell
Publisher: Vault Comics

In 16th Century Japan, we follow a young woman named Ketsuko during two time periods: the “present day” and three years prior. Ketsuko takes the place of her brother to lead their clan into battle, but he is the one to take the credit once the fighting is done. In the present day, we learn that Ketsuko is quite possibly the last of her clan right as she is set to begin a journey through the mountains. Three years prior, we are in the midst of an important battle between Ketsuko’s clan and a rival clan that, in the present day, has taken over much of Japan. On top of being a great warrior in disguise, Ketsuko has another secret: there is a voice only she can hear that is asking to be let in. While the source of the voice is not revealed, the context from the rest of the issue leads us to believe that it is a devil speaking to Ketsuko.

This issue does a wonderful job of setting up the two journeys that we will see take shape across time while also leaving us with some questions. There is definite gore and violence in this book, but it is done in such a way that it doesn’t turn the average reader away. I personally am not a fan of gore or violence, but the inclusion of such in this book did not hinder my enjoyment. I felt that this story was Mulan-esque with a horror twist and I am very interested to see where this goes.

Review by Jen Ricano

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Stillwater #1

Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist/Cover: Ramón K. Perez
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Letterer: Rus Wooton

We begin our story with a rather disheartening introduction to Daniel, our main character. After losing his job and getting into a nasty bar fight, he receives a mysterious letter claiming his recently deceased great-grand-aunt has left him an inheritance he must collect from the town of Stillwater. His best friend, Tony, tags along for the ride and they quickly realize that Stillwater is not your average small town. To quote Tony: “Yeah, this is deeply into horror movie territory now.”

The people of Stillwater are keeping a big secret and they become suspicious and closed off when two strangers roll up into town. After witnessing a traumatic event and being further confused by the outcome, Daniel seeks answers the people of this strange small town are not willing to give. The townspeople turn on the two outsiders and Daniel and Tony have to face the consequences of their trespassing. No one is allowed to know the secret of Stillwater, that, within its borders, no one can die. At the very last moment, just when we think all is lost, a mysterious woman arrives and, while she doesn’t save the day, she does buy Daniel a bit more time.

“Stillwater” is a wonderfully written and illustrated mystery that I have personally been looking forward to since its original solicitation. After reading the first issue, I am desperate for more and eagerly await issue two. I highly recommend this to fans of Image’s “Family Tree,” IDW’s “Sleeping Beauties,” or AWA Upshot’s “Grendel, Kentucky.”

Review by Jen Ricano

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Big Girls #1

Writer: Jason Howard
Artist: Jason Howard
Letterer: Fonografiks

In the latest series from Image Comics, readers are introduced to a post-apocalyptic world where men are literal monsters and the only people capable of stopping them are “Big Girls.” In issue one, readers meet Ember, a Big Girl tasked with protecting the “Preserve” – a safe haven for people from the monstrous giant men that threaten their very survival. This issue does an excellent job at world building, integrating pertinent information into the flow of the story. The characters are three-dimensional, each with their own motivations for what they do. Despite the borderline fantastical aspects of this series, the characters themselves are very human. Readers will see Ember question the morality behind what she and other Big Girls are tasked to do every day, as well as the effects her job has on her psychological state. This first issue ends with a twist that hooked me personally and makes “Big Girls” an easy add to my pull list. Jason Howard is both the artist and writer for “Big Girls,” ensuring a cohesive relationship between the art and the story. This series is perfect for fans of “Saga” and “Decorum,” as well as anyone who likes seeing strong female characters.

Review by Jen Ricano

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Amazing Spider-Man: Sins Rising Prelude

Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Guillermo Sanna
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Joe Carmagna
Cover Artist: Ryan Ottley and Nathan Fairbairn

Amazing Spider-Man: Sins Rising Prelude is a one-shot from current Amazing Spider-Man writer, Nick Spencer. Spider-Man mostly sits out of the frame in this one, however, as Spencer tells the life story of one of Spidey’s darker villains, Sin Eater. While the intention is to inform readers about the primary antagonist in Spencer’s upcoming ASM arc, this book can be read on its own without much context or future commitment.

On the surface, this looks like another ASM book from Spencer and Ottley. However, flip open to any random page and you’ll think you’ve opened Bendis’s Alias or a Brubaker/Phillips book. The images are stark, and when you take a closer look at the words they don’t make the book much happier. Spencer leaves behind most of the lighthearted humor readers are accustomed to from his Spider-Man dialogue and favors a tale that’s closer to a grim crime thriller than a superhero story. It certainly shows off his versatility as a writer, considering how well he’s able to do both.

Despite Ottley’s work gracing the cover, the interior art team has a style significantly less cartoony than Ottley’s typical stuff. Sanna tends to use thick lines and zooms in on the details important to the story, doing a lot with a bit less. Bellaire follows that example by using only a few muted colors on most pages, emphasizing the grittiness of the book’s tone. It combines well, and though jarring at first compared to the recent ASM arcs I’ve read, I really appreciated its use to tell the story.

This book is good to read for anyone who is eager for the upcoming Sins Rising arc of Amazing Spider-Man. However, it also steps out of the superhero comfort zone and uses a lot of mature subjects and a bit of surrealism to give the tortured backstory and recap of a villain that hasn’t been seen since the ’80s. If any part of the previous sentence appeals to you in the slightest, this comic is worth picking up. While the book certainly encourages readers to continue on to ASM, it isn’t required to appreciate the story.

Review by Andrew Fellner

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Wynd #1

Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Michael Dialynas
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar

In the idyllic setting of Pipetown lives a young boy named Wynd. He’s your average youngster – bright, curious, and just a little rebellious. But Wynd is different, and that’s dangerous for him. He’s got magical ancestry, as evidenced by his pointed ears which he must hide in order to remain undiscovered. According to the kingdom’s Blood Laws magical creatures and people with magical abilities, no matter how slight, are outlawed – and the offence is punishable by death. If Wynd is found out, it could spell some serious bad news for him and those who harbor him.

Oakley, Wynd’s friend, works for the city’s engineering corps and is the order to Wynd’s chaos. She makes sure he’s up and ready for the day, and that he’s got on pants, but the calm before the storm can only last so long. Thorn is the son of the gardener at the palace, and also the young prince’s friend and confidante. His good heart and optimistic nature make him a very likeable guy, but is he perhaps too soft for the harsh realities he is to face? Prince Yorik is moody – no surprise given the royal pressures he’s under. He is burdened with knowledge he wants to share, but can he trust anyone enough to do it? Who knows what’s in store for the future? Will Wynd and his best friend Oakley be able to live their lives as normal? Will Thorn and Prince Yorik weather the courtly conspiracies that threaten the kingdom? Friendships and loyalties will be tried and tested as we read along in the next issue.

For fans of Middlewest and Once & Future, prepare yourselves for a new adventure! The award-winning creative team of James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas make for an excellent pair to guide us into this bright new world. Beneath the whimsy on the surface lies a very intricate and intense story that is bound to have readers on the edge of their seats. Bright colors and a cheery design belie the dark themes in store for us as we continue into this world. Grab a copy and dive in today!

Review by Megan Goble

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Dark Nights: Death Metal #1

Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Greg Capullo
Inker: Jonathan Glapion
Colorist: FCO Plascencia
Letterer: Tom Napolitano

The world’s gone mad. Perpetua, the DCU’s creation goddess and big bad of Scott Snyder’s recent Justice League run, has chosen the Batman Who Laughs as her champion. And with her power, he has remade the entire universe in his image: a warped, bat-centric nightmare. This book is brimming with surprises, not the least of which being the fact that it actually works. A lesser writer may crumble under the weight of spinning one cogent narrative out of every major event from DC’s continuity. But not Snyder. He’s just here to rock our faces off.

Joining him in the tried-and-true duet is fan-favorite Greg Capullo. Whatever insane, out-of-control, nobody’s-ever-done-this-before idea Snyder can throw at him, Capullo is able to capture with stunning detail. Whether depicting an army of Batmen or the depths of Hell itself, Capullo’s art boasts bravado few other artists could even dream of. And he’s tearing into this one like he’s got something to prove.

Dubbed as the “encore,” Dark Nights: Death Metal feels like the culmination of decades of storytelling. It touches upon enough story threads to make your head spin. But to the patient reader, this book serves as a much-needed explanation for events both past and ongoing. Slather on a healthy serving of pure comics fun and you have yourself a recipe for the ultimate DC event title. 

Review by Harrison Stewart

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Birds of Prey #1 (2020)

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Penciller: Emanuela Lupacchino
Inker: Ray McCarthy
Colorist: Trish Mulvihill and John Kalisz
Letterer: Steve Wands

This first issue of the new DC Black Label book, Birds of Prey, has violence, drugs cartel, old flames, and grudging new friendships. It’s a whirlwind story revolving around our three heroines, Black Canary, Huntress, and Harley Quinn. They each have a past, and some deeds catch up quicker than most.

Black Canary is out of the game for good, or is she? After a late night call from an unexpected source, she’s pulled back into the fray once again. Huntress and Detective Rene Montoya have a contentious relationship, both trying to protect Gotham from their own angle. Montoya is tired of doing things by the book, but Huntress has her reservations about Montoya’s intentions. Harley’s out of prison and looking to do some good for once; no more joking around. Trying to tread the righteous path, she stumbles headlong into something that might just work – a partnership with Huntress, Black Canary, and a Gotham City police officer. Together these unlikely allies have to follow the thread of violence back to its source and save Gotham any way they can.

With splashy action panels, bright colors, and clean line work, this issue really pops. It’s action packed, with danger seemingly around every corner. Buckle up for a wild ride from start to finish, and hang on tight!

Review by Megan Goble