REVIEW: Dead Kings #4 smacks readers in the face...and it’s great

By Zack Quaintance — For those of us who have been reading and enjoying Dead Kings, the promise of giant mech-based battling has been looming large since the start of the first issue, which dedicated its second and third pages to a full splash of mechs (one shaped like a bear, another wielding a laser sword…

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Comic of the Week: Martian Manhunter #4

By d. emerson eddy — I often spotlight a comic starting a new arc, launching with a new #1 issue, standing alone as a contained story, or ranking as the finale of  a series. I do this because it's easy to talk about a jumping on point or a finished arc as a whole. It gives you a good amount of material to write about in order to entice readers into the world that the creators are building. It's not as easy to pick …

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REVIEW: Electric Warriors #4, a surprising character dies

Electric Warriors #4 is out 2/13/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Since its start, Electric Warriors has had one of the most interesting concept of any DC comic in recent memory. A six-issue miniseries, this book is set in a future timeline called the Cosmic Dark Age, which takes place after Jack Kirby’s Great Disaster, which eradicated civilized society on Earth and gave rise to characters like O.M.A.C and Kamandi. This time period is, essentially, a bridge between that age and the far more utopian future belonging to the Legion of Superheroes. In Electric Warriors, planets no longer war with each other...instead they send representatives—the titular Electric Warriors—to battle in tournaments organized by the Gil’dishpan aliens that settle militaristic conflicts by proxy. As an extra (and poignant wrinkle) Earth is the only planet with two champions—human and anamorphic—because its population, as usual, can’t get along.

On the surface, the entire system seems like a better one than actually going to war. In Electric Warriors #4, however, the plot picks up on a cliffhanger leftover from Electric Warriors #3, and we start to see what that story implied—that the logistical workings of this battle system are far more sinister than the surface representations of them imply. Essentially, the organizers of the peaceful system are taking the fallen and butchering their bodies for amusement at drunken parties for the galaxy’s elite.

This plot concept was hinted at in #3 and is fleshed out further here in Electric Warriors #4, and I absolutely love it as a smart bit of misdirection. On its surface, this miniseries looked to be another mediation on Earth not being able to find unified peace, with a question about whether violence for some negates the luxury of peace for the vast majority...and now it pivots every so slightly to become a treatise on class warfare, implying as it does that forever war is waged for benefit to and amusement of the .1 percent. It is, in other words, never the hands of the truly privileged that end up with a society’s blood on them, no matter the system.

It all makes for a compelling comic, one that reads exceedingly well in monthly issues. In addition to these larger overarching themes, writer Steve Orlando is spinning a rich narrative here, complete with characters keeping secrets from each other, characters having affairs, and a gentle union between characters to solve a mystery, a mystery we as an audience know the answer to (Firestorm is the Lord Preceptor). This is Orlando telling his best superhero story (with the possible exception of his fill-in run on Wonder Woman) since his breakout work on Midnighter a few years back, and he’s armed with the absolutely stunning creative team of imaginative artist Travel Foreman and colorist Hi-Fi.

The last bit I’ll say—without tipping into spoiler territory—is that this issue features a surprising death, a true rarity during an era of superhero comics where market forces and corporate interests make so many plot twists impermanent and telegraphed months before they occur. This book being set in a relatively unexplored era with all-new characters gives it liberties that feel utterly refreshing. It’s not to be missed.

Overall: With its fourth issue, Electric Warriors remains one of DC’s best comics. This issue packs a surprising death, more insight into what’s really happening with the story, and a deepening of the already rich dynamics between characters. In an era where superhero comics can feel staid and predictable, Electric Warriors is anything but. 9.6/10

Electric Warriors #4
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Travel Foreman
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

REVIEW: Electric Warriors #3 features killer pivot for refreshing mini-series

Electric Warriors #3 is out 1/16/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Electric Warriors #3 is a surprising comic, which is entirely in keeping with how this book has been since its start. I found it to be somewhat of a surprise when it was announced by DC just prior to this year’s San Diego Comic Con. With the publisher in recent years mostly playing it safe with series (aside from the ill-fated New Age of Heroes line, which it pretty clearly got cold feet over before it even launched). Electric Warriors, however, was an original idea set in an under-utilized era of DC continuity—Earth post Jack Kirby’s Great Disaster but pre Legion of Superheroes.

So, yes, I was surprised from the moment this book came into existence. I was not, however, surprised at the excellent story writer Steve Orlando and artist Travel Foreman started telling. There was rich commentary about Earth and its divisive ways, a compelling familial imposter sub-plot, and all kinds of nods to obscure characters, alien races, and concepts from old DC Comics. The plot trajectory seemed pretty straight forward: the two champions of Earth would come apart before coming together and realizing it’s all one planet and as such we should all be one people (thereby making an excellent statement about the current divisive politics sweeping the planet and fueling the rise of authoritarian governments).

In Electric Warriors #3 the trajectory I had envisioned changed. A lot. I won’t go into spoiler territory, but just know that this book is probably not what you first expected it to be. It may still arrive at the lesson I mentioned above (in fact, I for one am betting on it), but it seems to be taking a wholly unexpected (and delightfully more complex) path to get there, one filled with suspense and surprises.

Indeed, at the halfway point for this six-issue mini-series a picture has emerged of a tight and clean narrative with a lot to offer both casual and long-time DC Comics readers. Orlando is really at his best here, equal parts brutal in the action and thoughtful with the characters and twists. Travel Foreman, of course, is an other-worldly imaginative talent clearly reveling in the freedom being afforded to him by playing in an obscure Big 2 timeline and era.

I don’t think I’ve heard nearly enough chatter about this book, but it really is something special...and refreshing, an original concept from a Big 2 publisher, filled with new characters who can change, and learn, and grow, and ultimately die. It’s not too late to jump onto this train. At the very least though, I highly recommend making a mental note right now to catch up on this book in trade. Here’s hoping it factors into (or, even better, helps pave the way) toward whatever Brian Michael Bendis is currently gearing up to do with the Legion of Superheroes.

Overall: The only things more imaginative and brutal than the action on the page here are the twists in the plot. A surprising turn in Electric Warriors #3 has me seeing this already-solid comic in a new and more complex light. If you’re not reading this book, you can’t complain that the Big 2 don’t try enough new ideas. Get on it. 9.2/10

Electric Warriors #3
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Travel Foreman
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as
BatmansBookcase.

Top Comics to Buy for January 16, 2019

By Zack Quaintance — This was an interesting week for comics, in that many of the best creator-owned books coming out were well into their runs or midway into their first arcs. There are, of course, some interesting new #1 titles (there always as are, as that’s where the money is at, and all), including Adventure Time: Simon and Marcy, Black Widow, and Invaders. There’s also Marvel Comics Presents #1, which is the one I’m personally most interested in.

Still, great creator-owned books like Black Badge, Gideon Falls, Lodger, and Wic + Div all seem to be caught mid-arc. So, we’ve done what any good comics recommender would...read the issues and sorted them out and come up with some recommendations—even if there aren’t any good jumping on points to be had, except for Isola (more on that in a moment). We hope you’ll find it all helpful!

And now, onward to the comics!

Top Comics to Buy for January 16, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Babyteeth #14
Writer:
Donny Cates
Artist: Garry Brown
Colorist: Mark Englert
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Price: $3.99
So, hey, welcome back, folks. How about that issue 13, huh? I told you it was bananas. Anyway, look, I'd like to be able to tell you this one is easier or nicer somehow, but real-ly...have any issues of this book not been insane and weird? Would you even believe me If I said it was? No. You wouldn't. So, yeah, this issue is more of all that. Plus: BETRAYAL! (Dramatic music cue!)
Why It’s Cool: This issue really teases out writer Donny Cates’ abilities as a humor writer, which were last seen this directly during his first Marvel work on Doctor Strange and Thanos. Meanwhile, artist Garry Brown also gets some great chances to shine here in what is the first issue back after a bit of a break, using his design skills to also get in on the humor tip. It’s not all laughs though—this issue also raises some pretty stark questions about the devil and God, and, by extension, about our concepts of good and evil. Basically, this is the first issue in a while that really makes good on the immense promise Babyteeth had at launch way back when, so much so it makes me absolutely elated I stuck with this series.

Black Panther #8
Writer:
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Kev Walker
Colorist: Stephane Paitreau
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
"THE INTERGALACTIC EMPIRE OF WAKANDA: THE GATHERING OF MY NAME" Part 2 For years, the Maroons have lain dormant, planning the next stage of their rebellion. At last, it is time to strike - with a treasure hunt for unstable Vibranium! And with the Black Panther once again in their ranks, they're certain of victory. But what will victory cost? When the chips are down, will the Maroons rise to heroism, or are they doomed by the trauma of their past?
Why It’s Cool: Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates just keeps getting better and better at the comics game, and while his best work may be taking place over in Captain America, his current bonkers intergalactic arc on Black Panther is really no slouch. It’s a bit hard to make out what exactly is going on here—my guess is something funny with a wormhole...thank you to the Shuri title for the tip—but the imagination involved with the story is absolutely off the charts. Kev Walker also returns for another issue, which I’m all about because I thought Black Panther #7 was stunning.  

Electric Warriors #3
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Travel Foreman
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
The revolution starts now! Inceptor accidentally digs too far into the memories of the Electric Warrior from Gil'Dishpan and uncovers a conspiracy at the heart of the Covenant. The planet games are meant to bring profit and keep the various peoples across the galaxies in check, rather than encourage peace and cooperation. If Inceptor can convince the other Warriors of what he's learned, it might just spark the revolution that will free a galaxy.
Why It’s Cool: Simply put, Electric Warriors is the Big 2 comic right now that not enough people are talking about. It’s an impeccably-told future-set tale with a savage sci-fi concept. This issue pushes that concept a step further by—well, I won’t tip into spoiler territory but I will tell you that you should without question be reading this book. Especially if you fancy yourself any sort of DC Comics continuity buff, or even a hardcore DC fan.  

Isola #6
Writers:
Brendan Fletcher / Karl Kerschl
Artists: Karl Kerschl / Msassyk
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
Olwyn has returned from the land of the dead, but did she return alone? The journey to Isola continues...NOW BI-MONTHLY!
Why It’s Cool: Isola is the best-looking comic coming out today (with apologies to The Dreaming), and this is the start of a new arc. The first trade is out there at the super reasonable $9.99 Image introductory price. It’s also a fairly decompressed comic, which means that with $10 and an afternoon, you can get caught up for this new jumping on point. And trust me when I tell you it’s very much worth. Not only is the art absolutely stunning, but the world is well-built and the characters compelling. The narrative is also paced with a rewarding rate of revelation, doling out enough to stay interesting without ever tipping into overly wordy dumping of exposition.

Superman #7
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Ivan Reis, Brandon Peterson, and Jason Fabok
Inker: Oclair Albert
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
It's the moment you've been waiting for: the shocking return of the son of Superman! A year spent traveling the stars changed Jon Kent. Are parents Clark and Lois ready for the all-new, all-different Superboy? Secrets are revealed, a new look debuts and Superman's world is changed forever!
Why It’s Cool: There’s a reason that Brian Michael Bendis dueling runs on Action Comics and Superman made our Top 5 Comics of 2018: they’re both really really good. Action grabbed me right away, but I must admit it took just a tiny bit longer for Superman to really reel me in. Now that it has, however, I just can’t get enough of this book. Superman #7 is another fantastic installment with top-tier art and a plot that keeps the pages turning. It also has something that Bendis is proving himself impressively adept at: a new iconic moment largely shaped by logical ways in which the rest of the city, Earth, or galaxy would come to view someone as powerful and benevolent as our guy Clark Kent. These are exciting and special superhero comics, and I feel lucky to be reading them in real time as they come out.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Adventure Time: Simon and Marcy #1

  • Black Hammer Director’s Cut #1

  • Black Widow #1

  • Invaders #1

  • Marvel Comics Presents #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • A Walk Through Hell #7

  • Amazing Spider-Man #13

  • Black Badge #6

  • Catwoman #7

  • Conan the Barbarian #2

  • Detective Comics #996

  • Gideon Falls #10

  • Hawkman #8

  • Ironheart #2

  • Lodger #3

  • Middlewest #3

  • Supergirl #26

  • Venom #10

  • Warning #3

  • Wicked + Divine #41

See our past top comics to buy here, and check our our reviews archive here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.


REVIEW: Martian Manhunter #1 is a twisted reinvention of a great DCU character

Martian Manhunter #1 is out 12/5.

By Zack Quaintance — Martian Manhunter is a character that the writers of superhero comics (especially in recent years) seem conflicted about how best to portray. Is he a former member of the Justice League? A current member? Some kind of willing governmental operative? These are ideas that in recent years have been put into play. What remains unchanging, however, is that The Manhunter is one of the most powerful heroes in the DC Universe, of a tier with Wonder Woman and Superman, and, furthermore, ol’ J’onn J’onzz has a compelling backstory in many ways more motivating, tragic, and formative than even Superman’s (although, suffering is relative and so is one’s response). MM is also forever in control of the same powers. Among other things, he is strong, telepathic, regenerative, and capable of shape-shifting, which is perhaps fitting given how pliant his role in the DC Universe has become.

To me this all makes for a unique character, loaded in equal parts with gravitas and narrative potential. His long list of capabilities and specifications is perhaps part of the reason writers spent the New 52 trying him in various roles, looking for a fit. One thing that’s immediately clear in Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo’s Martian Manhunter #1 (first of a 12-part maxiseries) is this book will alleviate confusion over J’onn’s current backstory, motivations, and problems, showing us his daily life before and after coming to Earth...while also being unafraid to twist what we think we know about the character. It’s that fearlessness I find most compelling.

It’s just such a welcome dual re-invention and elucidation for a great character, and it’s one being told by an eager and capable team. The results here are strong. This first issue certainly doesn’t lack ambition. Rossmo’s art is almost revelatory, as pliant and amorphous as the shapeshifting character himself. It really made me think of MM differently, giving me a better understanding of how it must feel to maintain a constant and unnatural bi-pedal shape, which to my mind serves as a metaphor for J’onn’s entire life on Earth. Rossmo’s linework here is also quite versatile, depicting hardboiled detective scenes as well as blobby martian love-making sessions. It’s nice to see, a break with DC house style used to reflect qualities of the central character and story, much as Mitch Gerads’ recent career work did for Mister Miracle. Indeed, this issue leaves one with the sense that Rossmo and Rossmo alone was meant to draw this story, lest it suffer reductions in power and scope.

Orlando meanwhile has been at the top of his game in recent weeks. His Electric Warriors #1 was one of the top new #1 comics of November. Martian Manhunter #1 is similar, in that it is very much of the DC Universe, just executed in a way that has perhaps not been done within any of the publishers recent titles. The script and plotting for this issue checks all the narrative boxes—we know who our hero is, what our hero wants, and why he has been called to action—while also plunging us into a compelling mystery. I won’t go into too much detail, but the story also enables Orlando to write scenes that play to his regular thematic strengths: swaggering antiheroism, hidden truths, and secrets that put one’s family in jeopardy. I highly recommend this comic for all fans of the Manhunter, plus also DCU readers looking for a powerful story unafraid to delve into spaces that are hauntingly off beat.  

Overall: Orlando and Rossmo are the creative team Martian Manhunter has long deserved, and the debut issue of this 12-part maxiseries is a great one. Simply put, this is a book bent on telling readers who J’onn J’onzz is right now and why, and it’s going to take us through one hell of a mystery to get there. 9.5/10

Martian Manhunter #1
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colorist: Ivan Plascencia
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

REVIEW: Holy #%@&! Electric Warriors #1 is a good time

Electric Warriors is out 11/14.

By Zack Quaintance — Whoa. This is an unreal book, like a neon fever dream in the head of the world’s foremost DC continuity scholar. Electric Warriors #1 by Steve Orlando and Travel Foreman is, quite simply, unlike any other Big 2 comic in recent memory, so unique is it in concept and tight with execution. We’ll get to both concept and execution in a moment, but let me first note this is a series I unabashedly recommend to all superhero fans, as well as most space opera and sci-fi readers, with extra points for those (like myself) with deep interest in DC continuity.

Okay then, let’s start with the concept: Electric Warriors is wisely set after Jack Kirby’s Great Disaster, a cataclysmic event of global proportions which eradicated civilized society on Earth-AD (according to one DC wiki). Earth-AD is essentially the normal DC Earth we know, with the AD standing for After Disaster, which means that Electric Warriors is set in an alternate DC future, one in which the galaxy is starting to get its sh*t together, presumably en route to more enlightened times that will later be home to The Legion, the United Planets, etc.

In this timeline, Earth is a somewhat late-comer to a burgeoning and (relatively) peaceful galactic order that averts war between major powers by having them all submit one champion (an electric warrior) who does combat powered by seeds that electrify their skills and abilities. All great cosmic powers have one champion, one, except Earth, which riven by tribal divisions insists on having two, one evolved animal and one human. This speaks to some powerful anthropologic notions about our civilization while at the same time extrapolating our long long history to a logical extreme. Essentially, Electric Warriors posits that even after an apocalypse and subsequent enlightened ascent, we still can’t get along, not entirely.

So that’s the concept, and it’s strong. I know the way I’ve explained it might seem convoluted, but upon reading the comic, it’s not at all, which is a credit to the work of Orlando and Foreman, and to the second facet of the book I’d like to discuss, it’s execution. First, Foreman’s artwork is stellar, used here to great effect to differentiate this story from usual DC superhero fare via a futuristic aesthetic, glowing and urgent and sharp. Foreman is as visionary an artist as is found in superhero comics, and he’s in full command of his formidable powers here.

Second, Orlando grounds this story so well in entirely new characters. His creations are dynamic and complex. Orlando is a writer perhaps most associated with revenge, but that signature thematic interest is absent here. Instead, characters are motivated in one case by duty and another by self loathing. Those motivations aren’t dwelled on much, which serves this complex narrative well, instead making brief appearances as catalysts to actions. Add in a major (and thrilling) reveal at the very end, and this is Orlando’s best work all year, perhaps even better than his recent run on Wonder Woman, all of which I liked quite a bit.

While DC fandom has largely focused on forthcoming runs like Grant Morrison and Liam Sharpe’s The Green Lantern, G. Willow Wilson and Cary Nord’s Wonder Woman, and Kelly Sue DeConnick and Robson Rocha’s Aquaman, Electric Warriors has flown under the radar. I have a strong feeling that’s about to change.

Overall: Today is a major day for new comics, but if you take a chance on one new book, make it Electric Warriors. This is part one of a six-part miniseries with vast potential to be something truly special. Fans are going to be talking about this comic tomorrow. 9.5/10

Electric Warriors #1
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Travel Foreman
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase. He also writes comics and is currently working hard to complete one.

REVIEW: The Unexpected #6 Moves Toward an Early Finale

The Unexpected #6 is out 11/7.

By Zack Quaintance — Despite plans for additional issues (one of which already had a cover started by Yanick Paquette), The Unexpected will be ending in January with issue number eight, making it the second book (following Immortal Men) from DC’s New Age of Heroes publishing initiative to be concluded. This, obviously, is not ideal, given the initiative started this same year. I’m certainly disappointed. I’ve said this on Twitter before, but I’ll repeat it again: I can see myself years from now talking comics somewhere and insisting that the New Age of Heroes was actually really cool, and it could have even been great if it had all been handled a bit differently.

I won’t go into what my thoughts on that here (track me down in a decade for the full brunt of it), because this is, after all, a review of The Unexpected #6, but I do think the impending finale of the book is a lens this comic should be viewed through. With all that in mind, this issue features more of what I’ve liked so far about this series: big time superheroics (SPOILER: this one features a million trapped souls badassedly erupting from the villainous Synn as he battles Hawkman, thereby tearing the former apart), complex character drama, and a whole lot of swagger. Knowing that there are only two installments left, however, does change my perspective on all that.

Whereas before I’d been viewing this book as a story building towards a permanent team dynamic, it now feels like a mini-series about a particularly intense few days in the lives of our leads. Really, I think that may be for the best. For a few issues now, The Unexpected has shone brightest during combat (which has been all but constant), never having even a few spare moments to clearly establish situations where the heroes of the story could have quiet moments together. Now with the end in sight, it doesn’t have to concern itself with any of that; The Unexpected is free to be a combination of a street fight and far out multiversal Grant Morrison sensibilities, which is an interesting combination, to be sure.

What I liked best about The Unexpected #6, though, was the manifestation of a couple of long-simmering twists I always suspected were coming. To discuss these even further would be to reveal a bit too much about the issue. Here’s hoping the final two installments of this story are brimming with madcap action sequences.

Overall: The Unexpected #6 is yet another continuation of the one large set piece that this book has become. With the end now in sight, the story starts to maybe prematurely wrap things up for its heroes. 8.0/10

The Unexpected #6
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Ronan Cliquet
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase. He also writes comics and is currently working hard to complete one.

REVIEW: Dead Kings #1 Turns Its Anger Toward Failed States

Dead Kings #1 is due out Oct. 24. Variant cover by Michael Gaydos.

By Zack Quaintance — Dead Kings #1 sees writer Steve Orlando telling another angry retribution tale, one heavy with grit and swagger in which we get interactions like this one: Bartender: I don’t know that name… Anti-Hero: I’ve punched a lot of faces to get here. I think you do. That’s all very telling about the type of world Dead Kings #1 inhabits.

Plot-wise, this story takes place 30 years after a techno-magic war in a place that must have once been Russia but is now called Thrice-Nine, which the book’s preview text describes as a dirty folklore world that limps along, degenerating into a place filled with paranoid and poison. Indeed, we definitely get all of that. Hell, most (if not every) interaction here is brimming with both of them.

Really though, Orlando writing an angry revenge story that promises violence to come is nothing new. Not after his most recent creator-owned book, Crude, or his breakout DC hit, Midnighter. What I find interesting here is the cause of the anger. In Midnighter, the anger was inherent to the titular character, an effect of his status as an embodied weapon. In Crude, the anger came from repression of self, both from one’s family and from one’s society. It’s only one issue so far for Dead Kings, but my early sense is that the anger and violence in this story will be driven by the failure of nation states, by the peasants who have been abused and marginalized by the namesake Dead Kings.

There are, to be sure, also some familiar themes from Orlando’s past work in play too, themes very much evocative of the recently-concluded Crude, specifically that one of the main characters is out to save a lost twin brother persecuted for loving another man. There aren’t really diminishing returns though. Dead Kings is pretty heavily steeped in both the gritty and the fantastical. I mean, this is a story that on one of its first pages has a kaiju-sized steam-powered bear mech.

Matthew Dow Smith and Lauren Affe are a well-suited art team for this story, too, with their work lending the proceedings a punk aesthetic through every frustrated or pained face (and there are a lot of them). The visuals here are equally as capable of action, and based on some of the outsized splash pages at the start, my sense is that the best is definitely yet to come from all involved.

Overall: A gritty first chapter that seems to promise outsized adventure and fantastical warfare to come. There’s a lot to be said about the way states fail their peoples from generation to generation, and this might be the book we need right now to say it. 8.0/10

Dead Kings #1
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Matthew Dow Smith
Colorist: Lauren Affe
Letterer: Thomas Mauer
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

REVIEW: The Unexpected #5 by Steve Orlando, Ronan Cliquet, Jeromy Cox, & Carlos M. Mangual

The Unexpected #5 is out 10/3.

By Zack Quaintance — The first line of this comic is Hawkman saying, You two are trespassing on my past. Which is objectively awesome and also fitting, because if The Unexpected #5 were an episode of Friends (bear with me here), it would be the one where Hawkman joins the team. This joining is a great move for a couple of reasons. One, it gives Steve Orlando—an absolute ace with DC continuity—an opportunity to write a long-time character he hasn’t written before, and two, adding a familiar hero to our compelling newbies gives this story a new layer as it pushes forward into (sorry) unexpected territory.

That unexpected territory is actually something we’ve seen recently—Hawkman’s involvement in Dark Nights Metal and the dark multiverse, where he was enslaved by Barbatos with the help of Mandrakk (I think). One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about The Unexpected is how it seems almost deliberately tasked with expounding upon the ideas from the event it grew out of, more directly than any of its brethren from the New Age of DC Heroes line (which seems to be fading...fast), and we definitely get more of that here, as Hawkman explores his resultant trauma. It’s a compelling hook, and The Unexpected #5 drops it right at its start.

The story then does a great job of giving us motivations for Hawkman to join our team, be it solving the mysteries behind his own life (see the excellent ongoing Hawkman solo comic for more of that) or behind Nth metal—the material that literally makes up one of our main character’s heart—or behind the battle with Onimar Synn, who Hawkman explains is one of Thanagar’s seven devils. Simply put, The Unexpected continues to have one of the most complex and engrossing storylines in all of the DCU.

This is also an outrageously comic book-y story in the best possible way, featuring scenes in the Castle Frankenstein, a villain who absorbs an underling’s soul and then conjures a dragon, and a scene in which gravity gets upended. From its start, The Unexpected has been a journey book, bouncing between twists rather than building toward any sort of repeatable status quo, and this issue again keeps a constant state of flux, introducing new characters and variables.

Artist Cary Nord, who’s been aboard from the start and is off now to draw G. Willow Wilson’s forthcoming run on Wonder Woman, is missed, to be sure, but Ronan Cliquet is a more than capable replacement, an artist whose linework is clean and kinetic. Fortunately, Cliquet will also be on this book for the foreseeable future, assuaging the one concern I have about this issue: that the shelf life for The Unexpected (and indeed, all of the New Age of Heroes books) is limited.

Overall: The Unexpected #5 is a book set in a series of rapid moments, which inherently makes it one best not fretted about long-term. Basically, this story is a wild ride and I’m content to sit back and enjoy the fireworks. Of the New Age of DC Heroes books, The Unexpected continues to be my favorite. 9.0/10

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by  night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.