Graphic Novel Review – Locke and Key Volume One: Welcome to Lovecraft

Graphic Novel Review: Locke & Key, Volume One: Welcome to Lovecraft

CollectingLocke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft #1-6

Original Release Date: 2008

Publisher: IDW Comics

locke and key

Characters: The Lockes (Tyler, Kinsey, Bode, Nina), Sam Lesser

Writer: Joe Hill

Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 8

Art – 8

Captivity and Length – 9

Identity – 10

Use of Medium – 8

Depth – 10

Fluidity – 7

Intrigue/Originality –10

The Little Things – 9

Overall awesomeness – 8

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In the wake of Halloween, I found it only fitting to review one of the best Horror/Mystery comics of all time, Locke & Key. Having read it for the first time before reviewing it, there was a lot of hype for these books to live up to, as it has garnered quite the cult following amongst avid readers – yet, at the same time, not many comic book readers I know read the series. What I will try to give you is my opinion from the point of view of a person that just loves good stories, whether they have pictures or not. If being connected to previous comics or superheroes is a must for you, then I can already tell you that this will not be the book for you. Sometimes, you need to let go of all you came into reading with and just experience something new.

welcome to lovecraft

Welcome to Lovecraft introduces us to a family recovering from tragedy. The Lockes have just moved across the country to Keyhouse, a large manor that they used as a summer home in Lovecraft, Massechutesetts. This is all fallout from when the father in the family, Rendell, was shot in the face by one of his students, also a classmate of Tyler’s, Sam Lesser. At first, it seems like just another crazy murder, but as we find out, Keyhouse is more than it appears to be. Bode, the youngest of the family, finds out that you can turn into a ghost by walking through a certain door. No joke, he dies and becomes a spirit – at will.

bode ghost

The story can be a bit difficult to follow at first, especially since most of the first issue shoots back between flashbacks and the present day, but it becomes easier once the backstory has been built. While it is innately a horror book, there is plenty of humor to keep the mood light when people aren’t being murdered. Bode’s time as a ghost crosses the genre from horror to fantasy, as he experiences the spirit state with child-like naivety, and is one of the best parts of the book. We also get a good chance to bond with the new characters, a nod to some great writing of internal monologue from a family that has just had their father murdered. But, like in any great horror story, something that starts out cute and innocent turns out to be the doom of them all. Bode’s innocent friend Echo ends up having a mystical connection with Sam, Rendell Locke’s murderer. And he is coming back for more.

echo
I frequently found myself wondering what the hell was going on, not because of bad writing or story-telling, but simply because I had never experienced anything like this before. The writing made me love the good guys and hate the bad guys, although at one point you can’t help but have sympathy for the pawn, Sam Lesser. The art in Locke & Key is very straight-forward and portrays the people in the story with proportional figures and adequately gross horror scenes. Gabriel Rodriguez hasn’t won any awards yet, but he does a fantastic job of portraying what the story is trying to narrate.
mary on the rag
At the end of the day, I challenge you to find a better horror graphic novel out there. The depth of fantasy and story-telling elements help to balance the violence and terror in the story, engaging readers but never making them too afraid to connect to the reverie of what is happening. There are keys that let you go through different doors all over the world, a plot point that I couldn’t wait to be explored in future chapters. Locke & Key is proof that not all great comics need capes and cowls, but rather just a great story and the right artist to paint the picture.
keys

General Reception: Locke & Key has found quite the cult following among readers. It’s a fun ride, and legitimately frightening in the art and story-telling aspects. Take your chances on the critically acclaimed series that has an Eisner Award for Best Writing attached to it. They’ve even tried making a television series of the book; a trailer can be found below. FOX axed the series (no surprises there) in 2011, but Locke & Key has since been revived by Universal and a full-length film is in development.

Related Books: After finishing Welcome to Lovecraft, I would recommend jumping right into the second book, Head Games. Other good horror comics on the market right now are: The Wake by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy, The Walking Dead (although I don’t consider this a horror series anymore) by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard,  American Vampire by Scott Synder and the Dark Tower series by Stephen King.

More by the writer: It helps when your writer is actually a novelist. And it helps when that novelist is the son of the King of Horror, Stephen King. Joe Hill has written several award winning horror books and short stories, among them: 20th Century GhostsHeart-Shaped Box, and his best-selling novel that was just published in April 2013, NOS4A2 (Nosferatu, get it?). While he has written a couple of other one-shot comics, he has been almost exclusively dedicated to Locke & Key since its inception in 2008.

More by the artist: Like Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez really hasn’t done much else in terms of big projects, although he has drawn a number of other IDW comics, including: Transformers and CSI. His style actually reminded me a little bit of Chris Burnham’s Batman: Incorporated, a style that I feel did not work as well for Batman as it did here.

*Screenshots taken directly from comic book using Comixology app. Credit to IDW Comics for the images.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

Graphic Novel Review – Daredevil: Volume One

Graphic Novel Review: Daredevil: Volume One

CollectingDaredevil #1-13

Original Release Date: 2011-2012

Publisher: Marvel Comics

cries for help

Characters: Daredevil

Writer: Mark Waid (Indestructible HulkKingdom Come)

Artist: Paolo Rivera for issues #1-3 (Marvel’s Mythos) and Marcos Martin for issues #4-6 (Batgirl: Year One, )

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 7

Art – 9

Captivity and Length – 9

Identity – 9

Use of Medium – 10

Depth – 7

Fluidity – 10

Intrigue/Originality – 8

The Little Things – 10

Overall awesomeness – 8

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In the heyday of Marvel Comics, comic books were just plain fun to read. Fans were immersed in new, fun subject content. It was less about making money and more about sharing fantastical ideas with the rest of the world. After a long stagnancy in the market due to super-saturation of content, Marvel looked  to renew interest and create a buzz by rebranding itself with Marvel: NOW! However, the reason for a Daredevil reboot was under quite different circumstances. Coming almost a year earlier, the Daredevil reboot shows our hero coming out of retirement.  We start off with Daredevil about to crash a wedding of a crime lord’s younger daughter, who is in danger of being kidnapped by The Spot, one of Marvel’s more obscure villains. The rest of the story is riddled with undistinguished bad guys and it’s not really quite clear who he’s fighting until several issues in. It’s an interesting choice, but they’re really just there to serve the purpose of Daredevil’s comeback.

Cockblock - Daredevil style.
Cockblockin’ – Daredevil style.

Where Daredevil succeeds is in its consistency in writing and detail. While not the most mind-blowing series debut, Daredevil: Volume One is humorous and filled with action and reflection. Mark Waid does a phenomenal job of keeping readers engaged with clever dialogue and suspenseful action scenes that have you always worried just who is going to make it out alive. Another great choice that Waid made is to focus more on Matt Murdock, the person. Murdock has been “outed” as The Daredevil multiple times throughout the writing history, and Waid deals with it in brilliantly original manner by making it a running joke throughout the book. When you think about it, how could it not be? A blind lawyer is the masked superhero, Daredevil. It’d be like saying Christopher Reeves really was Superman (RIP Christopher Reeves). Murdock definitely shines through as a lawyer, although his outed identity has made it increasingly difficult to use his skills in the courtroom. Without giving away too much detail, Volume One has Murdock spending just as much time in a suit as in one suit as another and it definitely pays off.

secret identities

Of course, there are plenty of moments in the book that remind you that this is Daredevil. You’ll frequently see Murdock jump off of buildings, save children from fires, and take on hoards of bad guys without flinching. One of my favorite scenes is a confrontation that he has with Captain America. Not only does Murdock hold his own against the Super Soldier, but he schools him in the process, taking a ride on his shield to show Rogers just how bad-ass he can be. It doesn’t even take three issues for readers to understand just what kind of man Matt Murdock is, making hardcore fans and newbies alike fall right into the story without trying to figure out who they’re reading about.

Surf's up, Cap.
Surf’s up, Cap.

What really sets Daredevil apart from other books is it’s particular detail to everything. The manner in which his super-skills (I call them skills, not powers, because I consider him a human still, as opposed to characters like Captain America who have been genetically altered and are less “human;” it’s definitely a compliment to Daredevil) are portrayed on page is unlike I’ve ever seen. Not even the great Ben Affleck could depict super-sight as well as Rivera and Martin do. Murdock constantly comments on the things people eat, smell and sound like, using it to help his career as both a lawyer and a masked vigilante. One of the coolest things I’ve seen in comics, though, is how everything he hears is a resounding onomatopoeia. It’s detail like that found in the picture below that makes you really understand the sensory overload Daredevil has to go through constantly.

noises

While seasoned fans will appreciate the continuity of all the events that had Murdock disappearing at the end of “Shadowland” and poising a comeback in 2011’s Daredevil: Rebirth. the events of Volume One can, at times, be lost on the casual reader. While Waid does try to bring readers up to speed with short back-stories and off-hand insight, it doesn’t quite feel like a fresh start. It’s going to be a struggle with any character that’s been written for almost fifty years, but Waid does a pretty good job of keeping the focus off the big villains and plot twists, and instead focuses on immersing the reader in character insight and building the foundation of a more enveloped story to come. It’s a thoroughly entertaining book and I would recommend it to anybody who isn’t afraid to jump into the deep end with a character they might not know to well.

no fear

General Reception: Daredevil is regarded as one of the most consistently good books Marvel has in their line-up. Along with HawkeyeDaredevil does a very good job of balancing super-hero time with secret identity depth. It’s a unique quality seldom found in superhero books and it does the subject matter justice.

Related Books: If you like Daredevil, a great place to start is Daredevil: Yellow by Jeph Loeb and Daredevil: Visionaries by Frank Miller

More by the writer: Mark Waid has been around for a while and done some great work, but it wasn’t recently with Marvel that he’s gotten the proper respect he deserves. And now he’s pumping out great issue after issue with Daredevil (one of the few series that was not canceled with the Marvel NOW! reboot), and Indestructible Hulk. For some of his back-catalog, he and Alex Ross wrote the legendary Kingdom Come, an epic tale about DC’s heroes coming out of retirement to put the new generation of super-heroes in their place. He also had his hand in pretty much anything with the Flash’s name on it during the 1990’s and wrote the DC series 52, specializing in obscure characters and their emergence after the Trinity (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman) disappeared. The list goes on from there, but it needs to be said that this guy is a comic book legend and his whole catalog is worth exploring.

More by the artist:

Paolo Rivera actually won an Eisner Award for his work on issue #7 in Daredevil and has done covers for over twenty different Marvel titles in the past five years. His most accomplished work was the Marvel Mythos six-issue mini-series, in which Rivera hand-painted the entire run. Mythos is considered a great starting point for its subjects (which include Hulk, Ghost Rider, Spiderman, X-Men, Captain America and the Fantastic Four), and are no doubt a must-have for any new fans searching for origin stories.

Marcos Martin gained a lot of popularity for the beautiful art in the Batgirl: Year One story, using a dark and edgy style that portrayed Batgirl as a capable character and no longer Jim Gordon’s daughter. Martin also drew for Doctor Strange: The Oath, in which he has to solve the mystery of his own murder from beyond the grave. Pretty heavy stuff. On the creative side, Martin also helped create Breach, a Dr. Manhattan/Captain Atom ripoff that was canceled after eleven issues… so there’s that.

*Screenshots taken directly from comic book using Comixology app. Credit to Marvel Comics for the images.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

Graphic Novel Review – Saga: Volume One

Graphic Novel Review: Saga: Volume One 

Collecting: Saga #1-6

Original Release Date: 2012

Publisher: Image Comics

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Characters:  Alana, Marko, Hazel, Prince Robot IV, The Will, Izabel, The Stalk

Writer: Brian K. Vaughn

Artist: Fiona Staples

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 8
Art – 10
Captivity and Length – 10
Identity – 10
Use of Medium – 8
Depth – 7
Fluidity – 9
Intrigue/Originality – 9
The Little Things – 10
Overall awesomeness – 10

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 Imagine if The Hobbit, Firefly and Star Wars had monkey sex and left a wet spot in the form of a comic. Saga is one of those rare gems that comes once a generation. Writer extraordinaire Brian Vaughn, of TV’s Lost, and comics, Y: The Last Man is paired with Fiona Staples, total hottie and penciler of books like North 40 and Jonah Hex. The result is a space opera like none you have seen before. If you can envision what all of your 5th grade, overly sexualized pictures would look like if they had space ships and laser pistols, you’d have Saga.

Volume one is the trade version of issues 1-6, originally published in 2012. Once again, Image Comics pushes the boundaries, almost as often as they push back release dates, and gives us a comic worthy of fan-boy argument and minimum orders at your local comic shop.
The story follows two lovebirds born on opposite sides of a galactic war. Take away the horns and wings and Marko and Alana are Kirk Cobain and Courtney Love, or a less violent hipster version of Mickey and Mallory.
Plot Alert!
Our heroine, Alana is from a planet called Landfall and Marko is from a planet called
Wreath. The two planets have been at war longer than anyone can remember. They fell in love and had a mixed species baby. This baby is the reason why they are being hunted by both species.
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Our interstellar lovers begin their adventure with the birth of their daughter and our narrator, Hazel.  Its probably the most kick-ass birth ever in a comic. Immediately, they are confronted by an army of angry elk dudes and another group of guys that look like the cops from Demolition Man with wings.
If I sound a little gushy, it’s probably because Fiona Staples single handedly kept my faith in comics alive last year with this title.  Hell, she damn near created a whole new religion, fully equipped with sister-wives, Kool-aid flavored arsenic, and snake charming. So pardon me if I sound a little fanboy while reading my signed copy. This comic doesn’t answer the question, did Greedo shoot first? But it does stir a pot of middle school giddiness once you read a page or two.
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There is a post war, atomic era feel to Staples work. Saga is reminiscent of Dan Stevens Rocketeer epic. Vaughn’s humor compliments her sarcastic facial expressions and the book reads like a still frame sitcom.
Magic is a common weapon and spells are often cast to thwart enemies in this universe. But there is also a healthy dose of light-saber’esk swordplay.
The Will, a freelance bounty hunter hired to find our couple, looks like what Han Solo would have if he’d been played by Bruce Willis.
Our thrift-shop, Gluten-free heroes find themselves in more trouble than they can handle and end up befriending the half torso ghost of a dead emmo-girl named Izabel. Zoinks!
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I can only empathize with Mr. and Mrs. Staples having to explain to little Fiona why her art wasn’t suitable for the fridge. The opening scene in chapter four with Will walking through Sextillion is disturbing, but you won’t stop smiling all while trying not to feel guilty about it. There are plenty enough dicks and tits to make you feel like your comic should have come sealed in a plastic bag and sold behind a black curtain.
Overall the story is simple, but the humor is hard to deny. This book is vulgar, sardonic and voguish and I bet George Carlin would have loved it. Volume one has more than enough to keep the reader interested and in anticipation of more Superbad inspired notebook doodles of dicks and spaceships. Bravo for Saga.
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      Related Books: Saga Volume Two, and all comic Issues #1-13 

      More by the writer: Brian Vaughn is an official Bad-Ass. He has written for everything you like. The list is too long to do justice. It includes Captain America, X-Men and Spider-Man.  He has even crossed universes and written for the guy with the cape and cowl and the other dude with the green bling. Not to mention Y: The Last Man is one of the best titles of this decade and has won numerous awards. Oh, and then there is ABC’s Lost.

More by the artist: Fiona Staples is pretty much the best thing in comics right now. She has worked her way through the industry and is co-creator of one of the most popular titles on the market, Saga. She has done a ton of cover art for multiple titles, including, The Walking Dead, Red Sonja and Superman/Batman. Watch out comic-book heads! This inkstress is already making a big impact on the industry, and this is only the beginning!  Cue spooky villain sound track.

Written by John Soweto

Graphic Novel Review – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 1: Change is Constant

Graphic Novel Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (new) Volume 1: Change is Constant

Collecting: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1-4

Original Release Date: 2012

Publisher: IDW Comics

Reboot? Naw... Re-imagining!
Reboot? Naw… Re-imagining!

Characters: the heroes in a halfshell! Donatello, Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Raphael, Splinter, Old Hob, April O’Neil, Chet Allen, Baxter Stockman, Casey Jones

Writer(s): Kevin Eastman (original TMNT co-creator), Tom Waltz

Artist(s): Kevin Eastman, Dan Duncan

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 9
Art – 9
Captivity and Length – 9
Identity – 10
Use of Medium – 8
Depth – 8
Fluidity – 10
Intrigue/Originality – 9
The Little Things – 10
Overall awesomeness – 10

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If you grew up in the 80s and 90s like we did, you grew up loving the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While everybody might have a favorite picked out, No turtle was better than the other. And with a new animated series that’s actually worth something and a video-game to accompany it (review on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows by the end of September!), the heroes in a half-shell look to be making a full comeback, giving older and younger generations a subject to bridge them together. Change is Constant is both a love letter to original comic book series that started with two friends and $1,000 – co-creator Kevin Eastman was actually asked to come back to help launch the series. While older fans can relish in nostalgia, there’s enough surprise to keep even the most well-read fans wondering what is going on. It’s a growing trend in the industry right now that I love: re-imagining popular concepts in different mediums instead of just adding a modern and unrealistic spin on an already polished idea (ie – the opposite of Total Recall).

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 1: Change is Constant
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 1: Change is Constant

The new TMNT series has a distinctively science-fiction vibe, with the turtles’ transformation not being due to a freak accident, but rather a laboratory experiment. April O’Neil is a lab intern who actually gets the credits for naming the four turtles. The mutagen is being tested by none other than Baxter Stockman, the bitter black nerd with a chip on his shoulder. He’s employed by another legendary TMNT villain, but I won’t spoil that. You also get to meet Casey Jones, who along with April, are both high school students at this point. While their backgrounds differ from the origin story of the movie and the comics, their personalities feel very familiar to the past 20 years.

meet the turtlesoh the feisty one

Readers jump right into a gang fight between the turtles and Old Hob, a newly created character that has some personal hatred invested in the turtles and Splinter. A fight scene is always the best way to introduce a bunch of ninjas. Old Hob is a dirty player and a goon, but there’s more to his story than the writers let on to. As the main villain of Change is Certain, Old Hob is an important catalyst in the turtles’ development. He’s had a hard life, and he wants the turtles to pay for it both physically and emotionally. As his name leads on (Old Hob is a Middle English reference for a goblin or demon), Hob plays Devil’s Advocate between the humans and the mutants for his own benefit, or just to watch the destruction of others. He’s a great character in the making, and you can tell by the end of the story that his role is far from complete.

Pot Meet Kettle

My favorite thing about the new TMNT series is how it can feel like an adult book and a pre-teen book at the same time. The spot-on art of Dan Duncan pays tribute to the dark, Frank Miller-inspired days of the past, but the writing  can be hilarious and witty. I feel that this is a quality that makes all iterations of the Turtles accessible and why it can make a comeback in any generation. To expand on the art, this artist is pretty much brand new, being a TMNT fanboy all his life. Passion bleeds from Duncan’s work on every panel, and although it might not be the most beautiful artwork in the industry, you can definitely tell that Duncan channeled his inner-Eastman, conveying grit and emotion perfectly.

baby gangsters

One key element of the story is that the turtles do not start four-strong. From the very beginning, Raphael is alone, angry and afraid. But mostly angry. For a majority of the book, the other three brothers have to fight through old Hob and the rest of the city to find their lost brother. It’s a twist that tugs at the heart strings so hard, seeing the turtles missing their brother. There is some good that comes of it though; Raphael finds his own path, but it eventually crosses with that of a hockey enthusiast. The bond that Raph and Casey form in this world is much more friendship than it is hardcore rivalry.

It's party time.
It’s party time.

Long story short, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 1: Change is Constant is more than just a tribute, and more than just a reboot. The new TMNT series is all heart, and it has a brand new story to tell. Nostalgia runs deep, as does the passion of bringing back a franchise that had been buried deep in the closets of Hot Topic for over a decade. The art is crisp and fitting of the dark origins of the turtles. The personalities of all the characters shine through the pages, as even characters you’ve never seen before come to life. The turtles are back, y’all! Go, Ninja, go!

change is the only constant

Related Books: The original TMNT series is a great place to start, but if you loved this re-imagination as much as I did, check out Volume 2: Enemies Old, Enemies New

More by the writer: Kevin Eastman is the man who co-created TMNT, he also had a run with Heavy Metal Magazine. He split with co-founder Peter Laird and sold out, but was invited back to help re-introduce the franchise to a new generation. Tom Waltz is a senior editor at IDW that has worked on titles from GhostbustersSilent Hill, etc.

More by the artist: Dan Duncan is a brand new artist that started his career because of the turtles; what a dream to work beside the legendary Kevin Eastman. After drawing the first two books, he is currently an animator for Marvel’s new Hulk: Agents of S.M.A.S.H. television series.

*Screenshots taken directly from comic book using Comixology app.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

Graphic Novel Review – Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth

Graphic Novel Review: Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth

CollectingDeadpool: Merc With A Mouth #1-13

Original Release Date: 2009-2010

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth

Characters: Deadpool, Headpool

Writer: Victor Gischler (Gun Monkeys)

Artist: Bong Dazo

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 7
Art – 7
Captivity and Length – 7
Identity – 9
Use of Medium – 8
Depth – 7
Fluidity – 10
Intrigue/Originality – 7
The Little Things – 10
Overall awesomeness – 8

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For one second, let’s forget that X:Men Origins ever existed. Let’s pretend you have no idea who Deadpool is. He doesn’t have saber-arms like Baraka from Mortal Kombat, he doesn’t shoot frickin’ lasers out of his face. And above all, his mouth is definitely not sewn shut. Deadpool the comic book character is something very different. He’s an immature adrenaline junkie that hires out his mercenary services out to the highest bidder and talks a lot in the process. This can be an endearing quality, but it can also come off as juvenile and annoying. For better or worse, though, Merc With A Mouth is a Deadpool book the whole way through.

deadpool show time

Merc With A Mouth starts off with Deadpool taking a mercenary job to bring back a package to A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics), which Wolverine has described as “an organized group of international science-terrorists. You know, like one of those Japanese techno-apocalypse cults? They recruit the kinda brilliant geeks and brainy outsiders who want revenge for not getting any booty (New X-Men #143).” Deadpool heads off to the prehistoric Savage Land to retrieve the package, discovering along the way that the package is (don’t laugh) his own zombified head from an alternate universe. It’s a story that makes absolutely no sense, and it doesn’t have to. Deadpool has garnered a cult following and it’s not because of his cerebral storylines. He’s a loyal and simple fellow who loves random junk food (Fresca is choice in this book), but can still kick butt when needed. Deadpool is also a big fan of the ladies and violence, stealing the hearts of the inner sixteen-year olds in men and the women that find sixteen year-olds attractive in a horny dog kind of way

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Spanning thirteen issues, Merc With A Mouth is a high-octane ride full of violence and wiener jokes at the surface. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find lots of boob jokes. Dig even deeper though, and you will find clever writing that uses pop culture references to carry the bulk of its transitions and comebacks. It’s these little nuances that really break up the story. The satirical approach to everything from The Walking Dead to Star Wars makes it seem like Deadpool has a genuinely good time throughout the story, which is refreshing after reading so many books about internal struggle and the torment of having powers. In fact, each issue’s cover in the arc is parodied from an iconic film poster and references are made throughout the book. Still today, Deadpool pokes fun at iconic ideas and pop culture references by showing up on random Marvel Comics’ variant covers. Really, Deadpool is just around to have a good time. Along those lines, one should align expectations with that concept when reading the book.

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In terms of continuity, you’re kinda just gonna have to pick this stuff up as it goes. Unlike flagstaff characters in Marvel and DC, Deadpool’s continuity is all over the place. Basically, when reading Merc With A Mouth, if you feel like you missed something, it’s probably just because you did. The series that ties the closest into Merc With A Mouth is Marvel Zombies, but you don’t need it to understand the concept of this book, but rather to accept the ludicrous notion that somehow, Deadpool’s severed head is out there running amok. Notably, Merc With A Mouth also introduces some of the more memorable alternate universe Deadpools, Headpool and Lady Deadpool, as well as the Deadpool Kid (not to be confused with the kid Deadpool, Kidpool) and Major Wilson. One of my favorite things that Merc With A Mouth does with its presentation is that, on each issue, there is a one-page recap that is both informative and hilarious, helping readers kind of get an idea of what just happened in previous issues.

The main thing to take away from Merc With A Mouth is that not every comic book needs ground-breaking art or, hell, even a cohesive story. Sometimes all you need is an infallible character and a heap of charisma to make a story work. It’s a fun, thrilling ride of fourth-wall-breaking goodness. While the banter between himself (and the voices in his head) and the other characters can feel repetitive and forced, the book relies on its story’s frequent change of scenery and need to make fun of itself to really carry the story. You won’t be blown away by it’s storyline or art, but you will be thoroughly amused and entertained.

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General Reception: Merc With A Mouth is generally considered a good place to start for fans who would like to get to know more about Deadpool as a comic book character. While the Marvel: NOW! reboot is kinda of floating around with no real direction, this book has a definitive storyline that at least holds up true to the Deadpool character. However, a seasoned comic book fan can still pick up on the subtle references that newbies may not understand. I would recommend this book to anybody who would like to get into Deadpool or anybody who can read a comic book casually without the expectations of our  anything too great.

Related Books: Right after Merc With A Mouth ends, the Deadpool Corps storyline begins, comprised up of multiple Deadpools to save the word from Skrulls and other ridiculous baddies.

More by the writer: Victor Gischler returns to write the first two Deadpool Corps’ collected editions. He also writes the first 26 issues of the 2010 X-Men series.

More by the artist: There’s not too much out there by Bong Dazo, but his two favorite subjects to draw are Star Wars and Deadpool,

*Screenshots taken directly from comic book using Comixology app.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

Graphic Novel Review – Batman: Hush

Graphic Novel Review: Batman: Hush

CollectingBatman #608-619

Original Release Date: 2002-2003

Publisher: DC Comics

Batman: Hush brings in the whole cavalry.
Batman: Hush brings in the whole cavalry.

Characters: Batman, Hush, Catwoman

Writer: Jeph Loeb (Batman: Dark VictorySuperman/Batman #1-26, Spiderman: BlueHulk: GrayDaredevil: Yellow)

Artist(s): Jim Lee (X-MenSuperman: UnchainedWildC.A.T.S.), Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair (inker and colorist, respectively, that work with Lee)

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 10
Art – 10
Captivity and Length – 10
Identity – 10
Use of Medium – 9
Depth – 10
Fluidity – 8
Intrigue/Originality – 10
The Little Things – 9
Overall awesomeness – 10

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DISCLAIMER: I will start this by saying that Batman: Hush is hands-down my favorite graphic novel ever. It’s the second graphic novel I ever read and, ultimately, what inspired me to delve deeply into the world of comics. I have two tattoos dedicated to what this book means to me and it’s part of the inspiration behind our name, Hush Comics. That being said, I will try not to blow too much smoke up your butts, because if you haven’t read it for yourself, I don’t want to ruin the experience.

Batman: Hush uses the entire spectrum of the Batverse to tell a sophisticated story about the emergence of a new cerebral villain into the Rogues Gallery and explores the quasi-romantic relationship between Batman and Catwoman. Hush also marks the return of one of Bruce Wayne’s wards, whose previous death marked his greatest failure as the Batman. It spans the length of twelve issues to tell its story, twice as long as traditional six-issue story arcs; with a plot as involved as this one, this allows Loeb space to create a non-formulaic, dynamic graphic novel. This is also a book that both seasoned comic nerds and people new to comics can be receptive to. Hush does a great job of not making you feel like an idiot because every scene portrays the adequate background information to understand what is going on – something that is the exception more than the rule in comics nowadays.

I always feel that writers of Batman books have an automatic leg up because the Batman of the last twenty years always has the answers, always knows what to do, and the writer usually coasts on it. Jeph Loeb takes the task one step further and helps you identify with the man behind the mask. You realize that Batman has been through a lot of trauma and stress, and although he’s the most badass superhero on the planet on the outside, he still struggles with the same things we do: who to love, who to trust, etc. This vulnerability is accomplished by a steady flow of personal monologue that narrates each panel with Bruce’s (sorry, spoiler?) inner thoughts. Each character, and there are a lot of them, has a distinct voice and personality. Long-time fans will also take note that the cast is scripted quite well. Nothing seems out of place or character in the writing and there is enough suspense to keep the reader from knowing what will happen next. The new villain is cunning and knows just where to hit Batman to make it hurt. This type of strategical villain with a large cast hasn’t been portrayed this well since Bane in Batman: Knightfall.

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The artwork from the legendary Jim Lee is what really won me over here. Jim Lee, now co-publisher of DC Comics, constructs vividly detailed panels that range from small transitional fight scenes to full-page beauties like the one below (Kissing the Knight). Lee’s team, Alex Sinclair, color, and Scott Williams, ink, add to the already beautiful pencilwork. The team switches up colors and even mediums throughout the book when it suits the mood, helping the reader transition between scenes. All of Lee’s drawings are crisp and have an edgy yet realistic appearance. With so much detail spent on each panel, Jim Lee and his team guide the reader through a completely immersive environment.

DC Comics Batman Hush Kissing the Knight B&W

Batman: Hush can be viewed as a stand-alone story, but fits in the old Batman continuity pretty nicely. Since launching The New 52 in 2011, DC has pretty much abandoned any continuation of the Batman-Catwoman romance (except for two awful smut-filled issues of The New 52 Catwoman) and there hasn’t been an appearance of Hush in any titles yet. Don’t let this discourage you from reading though, as there is tons of dialogue and events that coincide with other milestones in past Batman publications. There are a few different books written with Hush as the main villain, most notably Hush Returns and Heart of Hush, but these do not boast the big time writers or artists that this book does, and the story feels a little forced in the romance department, but it’s still a decent read. Overall I’d say that while it reads best as a stand-alone story, there are enough bat-nuances to make you want to get deeper into the Batman lore.

General Reception: You will find Batman: Hush on DC Entertainment’s Essential Graphic Novels list and it’s for good reason. An all-encompassing story that spans all of your favorite Batman villains, sidekicks and introduces enough new elements to tell a tale that both seasoned veterans and comic book rookies can all the same. The characters’ dialogue and actions seem familiar without giving away any of the plot twists throughout the book. There are a ton of different transitions in Hush, giving each scene a distinct ambiance by Jim Lee and his brilliant art team.

Related Books: Hush ReturnsHeart of HushFaces of Evil/Hush Money and Batman Beyond: Hush Beyond (kinda). Hush also makes appearances in videogames LEGO Batman 2 and Arkham CityBatman: Hush has recently been repackaged in Batman: Hush Unwrapped, featuring the sketch-work of Jim Lee. I wouldn’t recommend buying this version first, but if you read Hush the first time through and fall in love with Jim Lee’s art like I did, it’s a sensible purchase. Published in 2011, Absolute Batman: Hush is a completely over-sized version of the original with all its glory. It’s loaded with extras but it’s pretty pricey, so I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are a big-time collector or really love the story.

More by the writer: In terms of Batman books, Loeb has written acclaimed mystery crime graphic novels Batman: The Long Halloween and its sequel, Batman: Dark Victory. Loeb has also written Marvel books in the color-themed Daredevil: YellowSpiderman: BlueHulk: Grey and Captain America: White. He’s also worked on Superman/BatmanHulk and Cable series.

More by the artist: If you’re looking for more recent Jim Lee work, look to the first two New 52 Justice League story arc and the ongoing Superman: Unchained. His most distinguished works are X-Men: Mutant GenesisAlpha Flight and WildC.A.T.S., the latter being a series that he created when he left Marvel to help create Image Comics with the likes of Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, and others.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib