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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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Year Zero #1

Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Ramon Rosanas
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Cover Artist: Kaare Andrews

Year Zero is the fifth miniseries from creator-emphatic publisher AWA. From writer Benjamin Percy (Green Arrow, X-Force, Wolverine) and artist Ramon Rosanas (Astonishing Ant-Man, Mighty Captain Marvel), Year Zero blends a hefty dose of Stephen King’s The Stand with a sprinkling of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead.

Beginning on a research base in Antarctica, the story works its way around the globe as it explores five unique individuals from backgrounds differing as much ideologically, theologically, professionally, and economically as they do geographically. The only thing they have in common now is that the majority of Earth’s inhabitants have been infected with a disease, and they must rely on themselves to figure out how to prevent this from being humanity’s “final chapter.”

Percy’s writing gives each character a unique voice, further distinguishing them from the others. Meanwhile, Rosanas’s art is full of detail, giving each locale a distinct look and rarely allowing a panel’s background to be filled with simply a solid color. Even when they are, Loughridge’s colors lend a particular palette to every location, giving yet another layer of distinction between the characters and their settings.

Year Zero #1 offers a promising introduction to a five-issue miniseries that takes a global approach to a pandemic apocalypse from the eyes of a few individuals. Although the timing of the subject matter is an unfortunate coincidence (the book was originally due out April 1st, with an appended letter from the writer dated March 3rd), the series seems like it will focus much more intently on the characters than the pandemic surrounding them. If you haven’t gotten sick of that p-term yet, and you’ve enjoyed any of the other work from these creators, this book is worth checking out.

Review by Andrew Fellner

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Venom #1

Writer: Donny Cates
Penciler: Ryan Stegman
Inker: J.P. Mayer
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

So, if you haven’t heard Marvel just rebooted…again. Get ready to see a lot of Marvel number
ones in the coming months, including Doctor Strange, Deadpool, The Immortal Hulk and the
recently launched Avengers title by Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness.

Regardless of your feelings toward this reboot/relaunch/whatever-you- want-to- call-it, the new
Venom title is one you don’t want to miss. In conjunction with the thirtieth anniversary of the
iconic Spider-Man nemesis’ first appearance, the new Venom comic is both a love-letter and the
start of a brand new story.

As Eddie Brock struggles to control his alternate ego while holding down his reporter job, he
soon encounters a mysterious ex-military operative. Here, Eddie learns new details about the
origins of the Venom symbiote, details that could change everything and bring about powerful
new enemies.

Despite my skepticism about the whole Marvel relaunch, I was intrigued by this title solely
because of the creative team. Donny Cates has become one of my favorite comic writers over
the last year, with horror titles like Redneck and Babyteeth. Since joining Marvel, he’s not only
been able to provide fantastically entertaining revamps of Doctor Strange and Thanos, but also
give these books a darker and edgier aesthetic.

The same is true of Venom. Cates and the brilliant Ryan Stegman deliver a tour de force in this
comic, combining supernatural horror with a character-driven narrative. This first issue sets up
an exploration of the legacy of Venom, from Eddie Brock to Flash Thompson to other possible
hosts. As Eddie wrestles with his inner-demons and encounters new foes, the storytelling is a
culmination of internal conflicts and bombastic action sequences. Coupled with the griminess
and cinematic touch of Frank Martin’s colors, this is one to dazzle both longtime Venom fans
and newer readers.

Time will tell if the Sony-produced Venom movie in October will thrive or flop, but regardless
Marvel fans have this gem to indulge in.

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Doomsday Clock #1

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics

It’s finally here. Ever since the mouth-dropping twist at the end of the Rebirth one-shot, DC fans
have been waiting to see how exactly Watchmen would merge with the main DC universe. The
answer will be explored throughout Doomsday Clock, which is a 12-issue series written by Geoff
Johns and drawn by Gary Frank.

The last major revelation was that Dr. Manhattan had tampered with the space-time continuum
and created the New 52 timeline. Doomsday Clock starts off in the Watchmen universe, taking
place about eight years after the events of the iconic Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons story. I’ll go
ahead and say that if you haven’t read Watchmen in a while, you may want to refresh yourself
before going into this book.

That said, this first issue offers a lot of potential for the series as a whole. Beyond being a love-
letter to the source material, it provides an interesting look at this world as it inches closer and
closer to annihilation. We see a character from the original story posing as Rorschach,
Ozymandias apparently seeking to redeem himself and Dr. Manhattan is still missing.
Meanwhile, all hell has broken loose across the globe.

The only tie to the main DC universe comes at the end of the issue, but we still have 11 more
issues to get the answers we’ve yearned for for the last year and a half. After the fairly
underwhelming crossover The Button earlier this year, this book is a worthy follow up to both
Rebirth and Watchmen. Geoff Johns returns to comics writing with a bang, and with art by the
amazing Gary Frank this is one of the biggest collector’s items of the year.

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Deadman #1

Title: Deadman
Written, Drawn and Colored by Neal Adams
Letterer: Clem Robins
Publisher: DC

 It’s a pretty big deal to have a comic in 2017 written and illustrated by the legendary Neal Adams. The man who helped revitalize characters like Batman and Green Arrow in the 1970s alongside writer Denny O’Neil is back with a bang. His newest work brings back one of the weirdest and most interesting characters in the DC universe.

Not unlike the equally psychedelic Mister Miracle book by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, Deadman #1 is about our hero coming back from the dead and the mystery surrounding his assassination. In order to discover the full truth of what happened to him and the connection to the League of Assassins, Boston Brand will need the help of Batman, Zatanna and Doctor Fate.

Back when Deadman was first created in the 1960s by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino, Adams played an instrumental role in popularizing the character. The first arc he contributed to as a penciler also dealt with Brand coming back from the dead, so it’s only fitting that he’s helming the new reboot.

It goes without saying that this is a gorgeous book from start to finish. Adams’ bombastic and wildly surreal style coincides perfectly with the story’s supernatural elements. Not only that, but it’s a compelling narrative as well. Even if you haven’t read the last Deadman miniseries, Adams does a nice job making this one an easy jumping-on-point, with little ties to anything else going on in the DC universe right now. Now if Warner Bros. and DC could just get Guillermo del Toro to make a Deadman movie I’ll be really happy.

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Goosebumps: Monsters at Midnight #1

Title: Goosebumps
Writer: Jeremy Lambert
Artist: Chris Fenoglio
Letterer: Christa Miesner
Publisher: IDW

Earlier this year, horror icon R.L. Stine made his first foray into comic book writing with Marvel’s revamp of Man-Thing. Though the book sold pretty terribly, this reviewer adored its B-movie flare and gorgeous visuals. I would even go so far as to say it was one of the most fun titles I’ve read all year, and you should definitely pick up the trade when you get a chance.

Now, IDW returns to Stine’s most iconic series, just in time for Halloween. Goosebumps: Monsters at Midnight brings together everyone’s favorite creatures and settings for an all-new adventure. Writer Jeremy Lambert and artist Chris Fenoglio capture the nostalgia of the classic Goosebumps books and tv show, while also delivering an easy jumping-on-point for readers who are new to this universe.

The story follows Mia and Ginny as they stay in their grandmother’s bizarre, mothballed house for the summer. As boredom quickly creeps in, the mischievous kids find themselves thrown into a world of terror when they stumble upon the town’s eery library.

It’s as straightforward a premise as can be, but that’s the beauty of Goosebumps. Stine’s universe revels in the corny, the creepy and the weirdly supernatural. What really makes this comic is Fenoglio’s wonderfully cartoonish style. All of the characters are ridiculously exaggerated, which coincides perfectly with the book’s tone; and it’s the kind of story kids and adults can both enjoy. When you feel like taking a break from binge-watching Stranger Things this weekend, pick this one up and come by any Ultimate Comics location this Saturday for our Halloween party!

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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.

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Batman: White Knight #1

Title: Batman: White Knight #1
Sean Murphy
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Todd Klein
Publisher: DC

I love a good speculative story, and Sean Murphy’s new miniseries Batman: White Knight offers a fascinating take on the Batman mythos. Featuring a reformed Joker as the protagonist and Batman as the deranged psychopath, this comic has the potential to stand alongside iconic elseworld tales like The Dark Knight Returns and Superman: Red Son.

The debut issue sets up the backstory as Batman’s violent methods and vigilantism are called into question by Gotham’s citizens, after he nearly kills Joker while the GCPD stands by. Murphy uses this as an opportunity to draw parallels between this scenario and the problems our society faces with police brutality and race relations. Add to that a drug which Batman shoves down Joker’s throat, which thus provides a catalyst for his reformation.

It may sound a bit heavy-handed, but Murphy does a great job producing a gripping narrative, and weaving in the political themes naturally. Ultimately this book is a character study from Joker’s point-of-view, examining what would happen if he were reformed and whether or not Batman exhibits a sort of co-dependency toward their conflict. The writing is a sort of poetic noir, while the art combines the grit of Brian Bolland’s style with the best aspects of the classic animated series. A splash page of Jack Napier (Joker’s original alias) in his room even features images of the cartoon designs from the 90s.

White Knight is a must-read for any Bat-fan. Balancing superior storytelling with a provocative socio-political message, Murphy knocks it out of the park once again.

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Harley and Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica #1

Title: Harley and Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica #1 (of 6)
Written by Paul Dini and Marc Andreyko
Art by Laura Braga, Tony Avina, and Arif Prianto
Published by DC Comics

Riverdale, the CW’s sexy soap opera take on America’s iconic teens, comes back next week, and DC is getting in the mood by sending two of their most popular characters out of Gotham for a visit!

Hiram Lodge, the richest man in Riverdale, wants to build a combination university and shopping center, but the only available real estate is the protected Sweetwater Swamp. To promote his plans, he’s got his daughter, Veronica, arranging a Heroes and Villains costume gala with the begrudging help of classmates like her nemesis, Betty Cooper. Even worse, the only costumes left on the rack are going to mean these two have to spend the evening as one of crime’s most iconic couples!

Meanwhile, in Gotham, Poison Ivy is livid about the ecological destruction Lodge has planned, and Harley Quinn sees a field trip to Riverdale as a great way to effect change… and maybe dodge a few loan sharks. But when the thoughtful Powerpoint about environments fails to sway the mogul, it’s on to Plan B – let’s hit the gala and kidnap Lodge’s daughter!

This comic is a ton of fun, showing that the team understands both the oddly timeless mythology of the Archie gang and the violence just under the humor of the Gotham Sirens. But it’s also a great example of the range of female friendships. Harley and Ivy can criticize each other, but deep down, they’re together forever, and they like it that way. They may not keep each other out of trouble, but they know they can face anything they get into side-by-side.

Betty and Veronica? They’re stuck together, too, but they’re too focused on their differences to really coexist. For decades, the Betty-Veronica relationship has dipped too far into the love triangle, fighting over Archie in unflattering stereotypes. But since Dan Parent brought the line into modern times a few years ago, and since Mark Waid gave the property the realistic upgrade that paved the way for Riverdale’s onscreen adventures, writers have found much more interesting stories in this pair as frenemies. They don’t hate each other, and they aren’t waiting for Archie to pick one. They just know each other well enough that the opposite parts stand out.

I think this miniseries is set up for a fun romp – we’ll get an issue or two of the supervillains enjoying quaint Americana, and once Harley and Ivy kidnap someone (inevitably the wrong kid), we’ll get the sweetest teens over their heads in Gotham’s muck. But I think this book is going to truly shine if it can keep up the comparisons of these two female friendships.

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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