Posted on

Ragman #1

Writer: Ray Fawkes
Artist: Inaki Miranda
Colorist: Eva De La Cruz
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC

Even for longtime DC fans, Ragman is a pretty obscure character. He showed up on Arrow in season five and is set to return in the new season, but in terms of the comics he’s remained mostly absent for a while.

This new limited series by writer Ray Fawkes and artist Inaki Miranda provides a revamp of Ragman’s origin, and could potentially lead to a more prominent role for him in Rebirth. For now though, this is a nice self-contained comic perfect for the Halloween season.

Ragman #1 tells the story of Rory Regan, an army veteran who returns home to Gotham after a failed mission to raid an ancient tomb in an Israeli desert. During the mission, Regan encounters a supernatural force which eventually transforms him into the creature Ragman. As memories of these experiences and fallen comrades haunt him, Regan faces even more demons when a new evil shows up in Gotham.

I knew next to nothing about Ragman’s origin or mythos coming into this issue, and I found it quite enjoyable. The character first appeared in 1976, and Fawkes and Miranda do a great job capturing the tonal aspects of 70s supernatural horror, while also giving the book a modern context. This issue is part war drama and part horror fantasy, with both genres nicely balanced. Fawkes does an especially good job with the pacing, allowing the readers to get a feel of Regan’s character before showing him in the Ragman costume.

Likewise, Miranda and De La Cruz deliver a subdued, grim style that feels like a John Carpenter movie. There’s a great double splash page-spread about midway through which showcases Ragman and the villain with Gotham looming in the background. If you’re into anything to do with Swamp Thing, Constantine or Justice League Dark, you’ll love this comic.

Posted on

Marvel Legacy #1

Title: Marvel Legacy #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Esad Ribic, Steve McNiven and various others
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel

 Rebooting a long-established universe is a tricky business. On the one hand you want to imbue the story with plenty of mythology and cater toward longtime readers, but you also have to entice newer fans to give it a shot and make it an easy jumping-on point. Marvel Legacy #1 is admittedly less successful in the latter, but it remains a rich celebration of the Marvel universe that sets the stage for the post-Secret Empire era.

Now, there’s no denying that many of this issue’s story beats are based on DC’s widely acclaimed Rebirth one-shot from last year. Old characters who have either been dead or absent for a while return, generations of heroes collide and new cosmic elements are added to the universe which have the potential to alter everything from here on. Yet whereas the Rebirth one-shot revealed Wally West as the point-of-view protagonist a few pages into the story and told a more personal character piece, in this book Jason Aaron waits until the last page to reveal the narrator. The reveal itself is quite satisfying, as it serves as a kind of meta-narrative for how the Marvel universe has evolved in the decades since Jack Kirby and Stan Lee created these characters.

In terms of the story itself, Aaron opens in the Stone Age, where it’s revealed that some of the world’s greatest heroes have their ancestral roots here. Mjolnir and the Asgardian mythos play a big role here, which is befitting given how beloved Aaron’s Thor run is. The original Cap however only makes a brief appearance, as Steve finds himself wandering the countryside following the events of Secret Empire. Likewise, Tony Stark only gets a brief mention, stating that he’s been off the grid for a while. We also get glimpses of Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm wondering if the world still needs or remembers them, Deadpool apparently seeking redemption, Doctor Strange and Iron Fist conversing about dreams and the return of an iconic hero. If all this sounds overtly expository, it’s because this issue is the exposition of the new Marvel era. The only major character absent is Spider-Man, but the Spider-Man Generations book also came out today.

There’s little I need to do to convince you to buy this comic, especially if you’re a hardcore Marvel fan or are just interested in reading any of the new titles this fall. It may come across as a bit convoluted if you haven’t been following Marvel for a while, but nonetheless Aaron handles the material with the skills of a master storyteller. Couple that with the book’s team of superstar artists ranging from Steve McNiven to Ed McGuinness, and you’ve got yourself a nice collector’s item here. Pick it up this week at any Ultimate Comics location and you’ll get it for half off, as well as a free copy of the Marvel Previews magazine. Excelsior!

Posted on

Realm #1

Title: Realm
Writer: Seth M. Peck
Penciler: Jeremy Haun
Colorist: Nick Filardi
Letterer: Thomas Mauer
Publisher: Image

The Realm is possibly the best genre mashup book of the year. It contains orcs, dragons and
goblins reigning in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. If that doesn’t make you excited I don’t know
what will.

Set years after these aforementioned creatures have laid waste to Earth and taken over, the last
of the humans must fight to survive. Among these is Will Nolan, an ex-military personnel who
now carries a gun in one hand and a sword in the other. As new threats emerge and a dark
sorcerer lurks in the background, what happens from here on in this story is anyone’s guess.

Creators Seth M. Peck and Jeremy Haun provide readers with a whirlwind of an adventure that
seamlessly combines sci-fi, fantasy, horror and western elements. It’s just as big and bombastic
as The Dark Tower novels (and significantly better than the movie), and also features the kind of
protagonist who you’d want to hang out with. Based on the first issue I think Nolan has the
potential to be the next Malcolm Reynolds.

Artist and co-creator Haun is no stranger to high-concept sci-fi. His and Jason Hurley’s book
The Beauty weaves together a futuristic sociocultural premise with high-octane action. Here, he
further demonstrates his skills as a multifaceted storyteller. Each panel builds perfectly upon the
next, and with the always stellar colors by Nick Filardi readers are in for a real treat. Go ahead
and add this one to your pull-list, as it has all the tenants of the next great creator-owned title.

Kevin Schaefer for Ultimate Comics

Posted on

Runaways #1

Title: Runaways #1
Writer Rainbow Rowell
Artist Kris Anka
Colorist Matthew Wilson
Published by Marvel Comics

The Runaways are back! Hulu is THIS close to launching the live-action adaptation, so Marvel is taking a popular Young Adult novelist and one of their best artists and getting the band of teenage heroes back together. And not a moment too soon.

About fifteen years ago, Brian K. Vaughan dropped jaws across the comic world with the original Runaways series: a group of teenagers find out their parents are a secret cabal of supervillains and team up to take them down. They were an instant hit, and teen witch Nico Minoru became a breakout star, going on to join mainstream superheroics on teams like the last two iterations of A-Force. But not all of the original teens made it out of the series. Gertrude, who preferred the name Arsenic, died in the arms of true love Chase. And this series starts out with him trying to fix that.

Most first issues of team books spend time introducing all the cast members; most first issues of new volumes spend time recapping the story thus far. Rainbow Rowell takes a very different approach: the only Runaways in this issue are Nico, Chase, and Gertrude. Nico is down on her luck, living in a crummy apartment and mourning the end of her last superhero adventures. When Chase shows up in a time machine with a dying Gert in his arms, Nico flies into action with her magic powers. But because her powers only let her cast a spell once ever, and because she’s done this for a few years, she can’t go to spells like, “Heal,” or “Stop bleeding and get up, okay?” So the tension of the issue comes from two friends trying to find creative ways to do the kind of surgery this girl needs.

No supervillains. No guest stars. No velociraptors or mutants or aliens or any of their other former teammates. And it’s absolutely perfect.

Rowell doesn’t waste time with a huge recap. You don’t ever need to have read a Runaways issue to get this. Nico’s powers are explained in the story when you need them to be, the dialogue reminds us that Gertrude was stabbed to death, Chase has a time machine, we don’t need more. It’s still nostalgic, and original series fans are going to eat it up. But if the series is just about sitting back and talking about how amazing the first volume was, it’s worthless. Instead, we get something new, built on a clear foundation but original, tense, smart. And Kris Anka’s art fits this tone seamlessly, keeping the readers interest up in an issue that’s largely two teenagers yelling to each other, in one room, about how to fix this enormous problem on the floor.

I’m on board. This is the most promising version of Runaways since the first issue, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

And I really want to get the velociraptor back on the team soon.

Matt Conner for Ultimate Comics

Posted on

Star Wars: Mace Windu #1

Writer: Matt Owens
Penciler: Denys Cowan
Colorist: Guru-eFx
Inker: Roberto Poggi
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel

As we edge closer and closer to The Last Jedi this December, Disney and Marvel continue to
put out a ton of Star Wars comics and other extended universe material. The latest spinoff book
to hit comic shops is Mace Windu, which is set between Episodes II and III at the start of the
Clone Wars.

The Jedi Council is caught in the midst of a crisis following the Battle of Geonosis. Wrestling
with their desire for peace while also knowing that they must protect the Republic, the Jedi
Knights must answer the call to become warriors. Chief among them is Master Mace Windu,
whose superior force abilities and experience make him the ideal person to help lead the newly
formed Republic army.

As Mace and three other Jedi set out on a covert mission to investigate separatist activity on the
jungle planet Hissrich, their plan is to go in and out quickly. Yet as tensions rise and the droid
army there discovers them, a fierce battle ensues.

Now, there is a very specific formula to the Star Wars solo character comics. With the exception
of Poe Dameron, which is an ongoing, each solo character book is a five-issue miniseries which
involves some sort of mission on a planet not featured in the movies. We’ve seen it with Darth
Maul, Princess Leia, Obi-Wan and Anakin and several other titles. Granted, it's a formula that
works and opens doors for creators to do fun spinoffs, but just don’t go into this comic expecting
it to shake the foundation of the Star Wars universe.

That said, writer Matt Owens does a nice job keeping the focus on Mace while also delivering a
fun action story. The exposition takes place on Coruscant as Mace talks with fellow council
members like Ki-Adi Mundi and Yoda. From there, Owens transitions to the Outer Rim as our
heroes set out on this mission. One of the Jedi accompanying Mace is Kit Fisto from the
movies, who’s basically the Aquaman of the Star Wars universe; and the two younger Jedi with
them are nice additions to this ensemble. One of them is a youthful, Ashoka-like padawan who
idolizes Mace, while the other is a quiet and meditative character who is quite intriguing as well.
Penciler Denys Cowan also brings his A-game here, capturing the mythic status of Mace as
both a great warrior and a wise leader. Between opening with a splash page flashback from the
Geonosis battle to an action-packed sequence at the end of the issue, the style here is appropriately cinematic.
Mace Windu is no doubt a solid title to add to your Star Wars collection, if for no other reason than Mace is the
coolest Jedi in the universe.

Kevin Schaefer for Ultimate Comics

Posted on

Elsewhere #1 Review

Title: Elsewhere
Writer: Jay Faerber
Artist: Sumeyye Kesgin
Colorist: Ron Riley
Publisher: Image

It’s always fun seeing a book that combines historical figures with a heavy fantasy/sci-fi premise.
In Elsewhere, the latest Image title from the writer of Copperhead, the story imagines what it
would be like if Amelia Earheart landed in a fantasy realm when she disappeared. The world the
famous aviator finds herself in is filled with bizarre creatures, dragon-like flying beasts and
various kinds of magic.

As you can imagine, this debut issue gets weird and wonderfully imaginative fast, and never lets
up. Rising star artist Sumeyye Kesgin delivers some amazing line work in her pencils, rich with
detail and nuance. Whether she’s drawing close-ups of the main characters or big, bombastic
splash pages, the tone and execution are just right. Coupled with the vibrant colors by Ron
Riley, the art in this comic is a visual spectacle from start to finish.

Likewise, writer Jay Faerber balances an enticing high-concept with effective storytelling. His
script gives readers a solid introduction to this world and the different species that inhabit it,
while also giving Earheart herself plenty of time to shine. By the end of the issue he's also able
to incorporate another historical figure in an interesting way. As long as you’re not a factual
purist and can have fun with stories like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I think you’ll find
Elsewhere to be a highly entertaining read with dynamic art and a strong protagonist. Plus, this
is a family-friendly adventure comic, which is a rarity for the company that publishes books like
Saga and Bitch Planet. Check it out Elsewhere at your local Ultimate Comics!

-Kevin Schaefer for Ultimate Comics

Posted on

Go Go Power Rangers #1 Review

Title: Go Go Power Rangers
Writer: Ryan Parrott
Artist: Dan Mora
Publisher: Boom! Studios

For most people, Power Rangers ended with the Mighty Morphin era in the 90s. I however watched the show religiously all throughout elementary and middle school, with Time Force and Lost Galaxy probably ranking as my favorite seasons. That said, 2017 has been a year of delightful nostalgia for the Rangers fan in me, with both the new movie and the comics published by Boom! Studios.

Go Go Power Rangers is the latest companion to Kyle Higgins’ ongoing Mighty Morphin series. Here, writer Ryan Parrott and artist Dan Mora take readers back to the earliest days of the original five Rangers (sorry Tommy fans, but he’s already had plenty of spotlight in Higgins’ book). This issue is set mere days after Jason, Zach, Billy, Trini and Kimberly receive their powers, and also chronicles their first encounter with Rita Repulsa.

Yet whereas the main Mighty Morphin series is pretty action-heavy and makes significant changes to the tv show’s mythology, this comic is more about the day-to-day lives of our heroes. What’s it like for a group of teenagers to suddenly become superheroes? How do they interact with each other at school? What other things are going on in their personal lives? These are the questions Parrott asks here.

Now, that’s not to say that this book is devoid of action. There’s a big battle set up here involving Rita and all of her minions, and Mora makes the scene where the team morphs into mission-mode big and bombastic. It’ll be interesting to see where the series goes from here, but for hardcore Rangers fans it’s another Boom! title to add to your pull-list. It’s Morphin Time!

-Kevin Schaefer for Ultimate Comics

Posted on

Astonishing X-Men #1

Title: Astonishing X-Men
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Jim Cheung
Publisher: Marvel

Astonishing is one of the most seminal X-Men titles in the franchise’s history. With iconic runs by Joss Whedon, Warren Ellis and Marjorie Liu, this title has a rich and expansive legacy associated with its name. Given how revered it is among fans, the new series by superstar writer Charles Soule certainly has much to live up to.

Fortunately though, this debut issue by Soule and artist Jim Cheung offers a lot of potential for the new era of Astonishing. Opening with a psychedelic action sequence in which Psylocke’s mind is being controlled by an unknown supernatural force, a band of mutants must stop her before she unleashes cataclysmic damage. Soon though, the team learns that the villain behind these psychic attacks is none other than Shadow King, and must venture into the astral plane in order to defeat him.

Whether you’re a hardcore X-Men fan, or you just really enjoyed the recent FX series Legion, this is the comic for you. With an all-star team lineup that includes Psylocke, Old Man Logan, Bishop, Beast, Rogue, Archangel and Fantomex, this might be my personal favorite title from the revamped X-Men lineup. It has action, a team of gritty mutants, one of the best X-Men villains of all time and a twist ending which will cause fans everywhere to rejoice.

Though there’s a lot going on in this first issue, Soule does a nice job juxtaposing its bombastic action sequences with some great banter among the team members. And while the artists will rotate for this book, Jim Cheung nails it here. Delivering a style and execution that coincides with the psychedelic aesthetic of the astral plane, he makes this comic feel like a trippy action movie with a dose of supernatural horror. In other words, he astonishes here.

Like the other recent X-Men titles, Astonishing is both highly accessible for new readers and longtime fans. If you’re craving more Shadow King and Old Man Logan after Legion and the Logan movie, this has the best of both worlds. Pick it up today at any Ultimate Comics location.

-Kevin Schaefer for Ultimate Comics

Posted on

Immortal #1

Title: Immortal
Writer: Rob Potchak
Artist: Owen Gieni
Colorist: Studio Makma
Publisher: Keenspot Entertainment

After being alive for more than 700 years, Immortal Elisa thinks she’s seen everything there is to see. She’s fought battles, trained other immortals and met an array of both mythological and historical characters. Now juggling a life in 1997 as both an unsuspecting librarian and a master of sword and sorcery, Elisa and her friends will discover adventures that are even new to someone as old as her.

That is the premise of the new comic “Immortal” from Keenspot Entertainment. Raleigh-based writer Rob Potchak delivers a world of wizards, swords and B-movie monsters in this book, which is beautifully brought to life by penciler Owen Gieni and colorist Studio Makma. Combining elements of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Highlander and a touch of Lovecraftian horror for good measure, this comic is a great love letter to pop-culture. As Potchak infuses his script with numerous sci-fi and fantasy references from the 90s, it’s clear he had as much fun developing this story as I did reading it. Here he’s merged a fun and outrageous concept with an interesting and strong protagonist.

Elisa is really what makes this debut issue what it is. While the pop-culture references and influences are an instrumental component, it’s her story that has me stoked for where this series will go. As a sassy and adventure-loving hero who also partied with Nostradamus years earlier, what’s not to like about her?

If you’re looking for a comic that’s an absolute blast to read, look no further than “Immortal.” This book has action, supernatural elements, great characters and a cliffhanger ending. Potchak has been doing signings all day at each Ultimate Comics location, and will be back in September at Greensboro Comicon. Be sure to bring your copy then and support a great local creator. Now if you’ll excuse me, this issue has made me want to go back and marathon a bunch of 90s sci-fi/fantasy movies!

-Kevin Schaefer for Ultimate Comics