Graphic Novel Review – Captain America: Winter Soldier

Graphic Novel Review – Captain America: Winter Soldier

Collecting: Captain America (vol 5) #1-9, 11-14

Original Release Date: 2005

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Character: Captain America, Nick Fury, Bucky Barnes, Black Widow, Agent 13 and Red Skull

Writer: Ed Brubaker (The Man Who LaughsFataleVelvet)

Art: Steve Epting (CruxVelvet)

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

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

When the second Captain America movie (check out our review of the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier here) came out, you didn’t think we’d let you watch the film without getting an in-depth look at the graphic novel, too. The story of the Winter Soldier is a relatively new one, coming out just under a decade ago, but it’s one of Cap’s most iconic stories. The actual Winter Soldier story arc spans issues #8-14 (minus issue #10, which is a tie-in to House of M), but there is a lot of necessary back-story in the first volume that build up the suspense to Winter Soldier. Also, while the concept of the movie is the same, the meat of the book is far different from the film, so don’t come in with any preconceptions of what will happen – just enjoy the ride!

they call him bucky

By now I’m sure you all know that Bucky, who was Cap’s kid sidekick until his apparent death (in Avengers #56, but like all Marvel characters, Bucky has been ret-2conned multiple times), is the Winter Soldier. This soldier was a tool for the Soviet Union, and was literally “put on ice” to complete special assignments. This might be old hat to us, but ten years ago, this was jaw-dropping. The shock factor of a cheerful kid sidekick becoming the deadliest weapon in the world was unprecedented. Winter Soldier does a solid job of alluding to the shock factor; there are numerous flashbacks and dead drops to buildup what is, in essence, a stand-off between Captain America and the Winter Soldier.

bucky nooo

Like the movie portrays, this is not the same Captain America you recognize from the war days. He is no longer a gimmick, or war propaganda; he is a super-soldier with the feeling that he is being played with. It’s a demon that Cap struggles with throughout the book, and  What makes Brubaker’s writing so great is he is fully ready to let Cap fall into one of his darkest places (not too dark, but really dark for Steve Rogers). The theory that Bucky was chosen as a symbol to inspire young men to join the war effort was just a cover-up. Bucky was actually the most ruthless weapon the Allies had; he did the gruesome deeds that Cap couldn’t. It’s a brilliant rewriting of a character to fit not just the story, but the times that the story is released in. This fact also sheds new light on just who Captain America is – not just the guy who punched Hitler in the face, but the one who sanctioned the actions that a Bucky, a child, could take in the name of freedom.

bucky secret

The issues are so well-paced. We begin with what looks to be the typical villain arc when Red Skull creeps around and secures a Cosmic Cube (an item capable of turning wish into reality – similar to Loki’s scepter, hmm…  However, we’re quickly in the middle of a murder/mystery and forced to play catch-up like the dunces we are. I mean, if Nick Fury can figure out the riddle, I know I can’t. Speaking of Fury, his role in Winter Soldier is significant. While Cap is definitely the one taking the lead during the mission, none of it would have been possible without Fury’s keen eye (pun intended) and S.H.I.E.L.D. resources. That being said, Steve Rogers isn’t inept in any way; he puts the hurt on everybody in his way – often. The characteristic way the shied bounces off of and into foes very enjoyable to look at on paper.

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Ed Brubaker’s Captain America: Winter Soldier is one of the best written books about Cap out there, and it’s almost ironic that a story that deviates from what was considered canon has the most identity with Steve Rogers. The ending fell a bit flat, but we do get some closure to the arc, and the aftermath of what happens here echoes through the series for years to come. The mirror image of Captain America and the Winter Soldier also creates dialogue among fans and casual readers alike (Note: Winter Soldier mentions and includes other figures like Falcon and the Invaders. If you want to dive deeper, those are good places to start). Any comic book fan should pick this up and read it – it’s simply the American thing to do.

All media credited to Marvel Comics

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

 

Graphic Novel Review – Persepolis

Graphic Novel Review – Persepolis

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Collecting: Persepolis Original Graphic Novel

Original Release Date: 2000

Publisher: Pantheon Books

Character: Marjane Satrapi, her family and friends

Writer: Marjane Satrapi

Art: Marjane Satrapi

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

Storyline – 7
Art – 7
Captivity and Length – 6
Identity – 7
Use of Medium – 7
Depth – 7
Fluidity – 7
Intrigue/Originality – 9
The Little Things – 9
Overall awesomeness – 7

Chances are, unless you or your family were personally affected by the Islamic Revolution in the late 1970s, those of us under thirty probably don’t know more about it than what we saw in Ben Affleck’s Argo. The revolution to get the Shah out of power was a difficult one, but it was one of the people. It was a fiery revolution by a people that had been oppressed, culminating in Black Friday, which ended up with nearly 100 dead. The revolution ended with the Shah being outed, and it also gave Marjane Satrapi the ammunition for writing Persepolis.

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Persepolis, which I believe is named for the city where the 2,500th Persian Empire anniversary took place in (an extravagant celebration held by the government in a local city where people were visibly starving), is about the Islamic Revolution – and the fallout from it. The whole story is told through the eyes and ears of a young Marji. The losses that she and her family suffered bleed through the pages and you feel genuinely shocked that things like this could have happened. These were the days before YouTube, Facebook and camera phones (a la Arab Spring), so its horrors were able to be kept under much tighter wraps.

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Satrapi’s character is brazen and unashamedly flawed. From “playing” revolution with her friends to realizing that her family was actually in danger when Iraqi scud missiles begin hitting her surrounding neighborhoods, Marji is always growing. She stays retable throughout the whole book, acting out like a pre-teen girl does, sharing relationships and reacting the way a girl does. Sometimes, almost to a point of awkwardness, Satrapi shares the most intimate details of her story.

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The transitions also fall a little flat. On one side of the coin, I can see how skipping around from subject to subject without much pause reflects not only her state of mind, but also the state of life they lived in. On the other side, though, that style can’t bode well for a 150+ page graphic novel. Numerous characters I can’t even remember the names of were introduced, just to be executed, imprisoned or tortured panels later. There are at least two characters who definitely impact Marji’s growth. Mrs. and Mr. Satrapi are held in such esteem by their daughter. The upper-class Marxist intellectuals are Marji’s rock. They are fair, and take the time to explain the ways of the world to her, and subsequently us. Ultimately, the violence in Iran forces her parents to take drastic action that sets up the second book.

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The sarcastic tone of the book and hilarious coming-of-age adventures carry it through the murder and mayhem. It’s refreshing, because it demonstrates that women all over the world aren’t too different. Satrapi might not be a war hero or a martyr like her uncle, but she’s a hero to more people all over the world for her honest portrayal of revolution, tyranny, love and loss.

All media credited to Pantheon Books

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

 

Graphic Novel Review – Incognegro

Graphic Novel Review: Incognegro

ALL BLACK EVERYTHING

Collecting: Original graphic novel, Incognegro

Original Release Date: 2008

Publisher: Vertigo (DC) Comics

incog cracker shit

Character: Zach Pinchback, the Incognegro

Writer: Mat Johnson

Art: Warren Pleece

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

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

hush_rating_79

I won’t lie – Incognegro has been sitting on my shelf for years now, purchased solely off the amazing pseudonym given to the main character. It wasn’t until we started #AllBlackEverything that I knew this book had to be reviewed for Hush Comics. Growing up, I found myself enthralled with the book Black Like Me – I actually wrote a book report on it for every year of High School. Black Like Me, written by John Howard Griffin in the 1960s, documented the experience of a white man who disguised himself as a black man in Texas. Incognegro is the exact opposite approach – a very light-skinned black journalist disguises himself as a white man and documents lynchings that go on in the south. Mind you, this book is set only thirty-forty years prior to Black Like Me.

incog disguise

The idea of being a light-skinned reporter infiltrating lynchings in the South is down-right terrifying, and it hooks readers right in. Incognegro follows a very linear story. Zane Pinchback is a syndicated journalist in New York who writes under the name “Incognegro.” His column is quite popular, and he has agreed to go on one last excursion before his promotion – to save his own brother from being lynched. His friend Carl has decided to tag along with him. Together, they must infiltrate the South and rescue Zane’s brother, Pinchy, from certain death. It’s a wild ride from start to finish, and tells a complete story.

incog my job

Incognegro can be humorous at times, but most of this book is brutal and fast-paced. It reads like a movie plays, and the story is benefited by the entertainment factor. The graphic images speak volumes for the mistreatment and cruelty that black people endured. However, as Incognegro, Pinchback details his strategy for hiding among the lynchings, it seems as though it’s turned into a game of not getting caught. It breaks the tension at times where the shock of the photos can be hard to swallow. Mat Johnson has a lot to invest in the story, too; he is a very light-skinned black man and a self-described scholar of African-American literature. He’s actually the man on the cover of the book.

incog wife

I can’t help but feel that Incognegro was written with a huge chip on the its shoulder. Every white man in the book is vilified and the dialog is a flurry of racial slurs and stereotypes. For being a book set to these times, I feel that the guilt was laid on a bit too thick. The degree of black and white extremes of race relations in Incognegro is challenged only by its artwork. I especially enjoy how the art reflects the transition from day to night. In the end, this was a well-written piece, but I feel as though the uninformed would take away more negatives about whites than focusing on the heroics of the main characters. There are definitely lessons to be learned, and I would recommend this to not only those who like a good story, but those interested in learning more about the heroics of undercover journalists in the 1930’s.

incog new york

All media credited to Vertigo/DC Comics

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

Graphic Novel Review – Fables Volume One: Legends in Exile

Graphic Novel Review: Fables: Legends in Exile

CollectingFables #1-5

Original Release Date: 2002-2003

Publisher: Vertigo (an imprint of DC Comics that has published works such as Sandman100 Bullets and V for Vendetta)

im prince charming

Characters: Bigby Wolf, Snow White, Prince Charming, Beauty & the Beast, lots more!

Writer: Bill Willingham (Fables #1-present, Angel: After the Fall, Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure)

Artist: Lan Medina (Silver Surfer, District XVenom)

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

Storyline – 8

Art – 8

Captivity and Length – 8

Identity – 9

Use of Medium – 7

Depth – 7

Fluidity – 8

Intrigue/Originality – 10

The Little Things – 7

Overall awesomeness – 9

hush_rating_81

It’s been awhile since I’ve read Fables. Looking at my home library I’ve noticed I was missing my first volume along with others I’ve seem to have lost over the years. It was fun to pick it up after all this time. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. In many ways, it’s what I wish Once Upon a Time would be. All the characters are familiar, as they’ve existed in fairy-tales, children’s books and Disney movies over and over again. The concept of using characters that are now public domain (no copyright claims can be made on them) with an original story and a modern twist is something that had never been done before in the comic book world.

Fables follows the stories of characters from fairy tales and fables who have been exiled to the “mundane” realm of New York City. They were pushed out from their many lands by a villain only referred to as the “advisory” and must now coexist in secret from the “mundy” humans of New York City. Characters who cannot pass as human live on a farm on the outskirts of New York. If you think this story sounds a bit familiar, you would be correct. Writer Bill Willingham has blatantly expressed that his story, while not politically directed, is social commentary on the current Israeli-Palestinian state of affairs.

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What’s fun about Fables is that it plays with several different genres. In this volume, we observe a murder/mystery. We are first introduced to Snow, the Deputy Mayor of Fabletown, who’s having to deal with marital problems between Beauty and the Beast. Her course reverts when the two experience martial conflict. After all, it’s hard to maintain the magic of a marriage when you’ve been married for the past thousand years.

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At the same time Jack, rushes in to tell Snow that her her sister, Red, has had something horrible happen to her. He found her apartment in disarray and her blood soaking everything. Bigby (the big bad wolf) runs around New York trying to piece together the mystery while at the same time introducing the readers to the world of Fabletown and the characters who inhabit it. I find the way Willingham constructs the story both interesting and clever, and left me with quite a few chuckles. Even the panels have a few eggs that if you pay attention closely can make you laugh. Who doesn’t love a hairy man in a banana hammock?

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While enjoyed Legends in Exiles, I also found the dialogue to be a bit strained and hard to believe. I also felt Snow’s reaction were a bit all over the place (OUAT much) and the cheese were at times grating. As for the art, I felt it was well drawn comic for the most part, but, for a murder mystery, I thought it lacked the visual clues necessary for the reader to try and puzzle it together. I actually took me until the reveal of the plot, which carries on for an entire issue, that I was supposed to be playing detective along with Bigby, as a reader. Had I known the ride I was in for, I may have been more perceptive to the subtleties instead of just laughing along with the punch-lines. As a reader, you can now be prepared to be prepared with your pipe and monocles for a fantastical, quasi-interactive murder/mystery.

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Overall, I highly recommend reading Fables for anyone Jonesing for a spot of fantasy and who loves a good twist on their fairy tales.

General Reception: Fables is a highly acclaimed book, both critically and among casual readers. There has been an rise in stock for the series, as the series has been awarded fourteen (and counting) Eisner Awards. Talks of a television show have all but died (and then reincarnated in the spirit of Once Upon A Time), but a movie adaptation is currently in the works! Fans love Fables so much that Rochester, Minnesota held the first ever FablesCon in March 2013. In addition, a videogame has been developed by TellTale Games, the same geniuses behind the story-driven The Walking Dead series, and is called The Wolf Among Us, which I will buy as soon as this article is published!

Related Books: If you somehow manage to catch up to the 136th issue that hit shelves on New Year’s Eve, then you still have a plethora of spin-offs and side-stories to explore. And as an added bonus for those willing to purchase the collected versions (graphic novels) of Fables, there are almost always bonus short stories (with words!) explaining a bit of the Fables mythos to hungry readers. Legends in Exile included “Wolf in the Fold” which is of the Wolf’s time when he was fighting the Advisory. I enjoyed the short story and it adds nice origin story for Fabletown.

More by the writer: Bill Willingham is an interesting man. Most of his catalog consists of Fables, as he has impressively written the entirety of the Fables stories (minus a couple here and there). He has just recently came out with a series, published by Dynamite Entertainment, called Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure, which I can only assume is as hilarious and fantastical as his work on Fables. He’s also done an adult fantasy (image LARPing naked) book called Ironwood, as well as work on the earlier Angel comics for IDW. He’s nerdy in the best ways.

More by the artist: Rolando “Lan” Medina has been a quiet presence in the comic book industry, making his mark on everything from Cable & Deadpool to Punisher: MAX to Storm, the last of which Medina won a Glyph Comic Award in 2007 for, along with his Eisner Award for Best Serialized Story for Legends in Exile in 2003. His style is simplistic, but portrays the story well enough without distracting from it. Starting in April, you can find his art in DC’s new series, Aquaman & the Others.

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

Written by Jené Conrad

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

hush_rating_88

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.

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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.
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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.
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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

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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

hush_rating_87

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 – 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

hush_rating_92

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