Category: Reviews

Troy’s Toys but with Comics: Wicked Academy

WickedDivine_09The Wicked & The Divine #9

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson

Image $3.50

KIERON GILLEN IS A JERK!

He’s not really. I’ve met him several time, if anything he’s the complete opposite. But man, this issue of The Wicked and the Divine ends on a bummer of a cliffhanger.

Gillen’s pacing has been incredible throughout the series. The previous issue of #WicDiv ended on saucy note, and this issue lead up to believe sexy times were instore for everyone. That couldn’t be any farther than the truth, as we’re instead treated to a few reveals, some heartbreak, and some choice dialogue by KG once again.

Surprising no one, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson are still in top form with the art for this book.  McKelvie reminds us just how good he is by giving a trio of familiar supporting characters a new look, and it’s gorgeous. McKelvie excels at designing and redesigning character, so I shouldn’t be surprised the end results are as good as they are, but I’m impressed time after time.  Wilson remains equally important, as his choice in colors for these character really give them a visual style that helps win the reader over.

Wicked and Divine volume 2 continues to be a consistent and stellar read. The WicDiv fandom has come to expect certain things from a Gillen/McKelvie/Wilson project, and they deliver in usual  fashion again with this is, despite its being quite brutal at times.

 

 

 

STK666956Gotham Academy #6

Brenden Fletcher/Becky Cloonan/Karl Kerschl/Mingue Helen Chen/Msassyk/Serge Lapointe

DC $2.99

Guys, I’m not sure if I get this message across in my reviews, but this is the BEST time to be reading comics.

Gotham Academy wraps up its first arc, and it’s delightful. It’s funny that arguably the most light hearted of the Bat-titles, this is the book that has Batman come off as a villian. Obviously he and Croc has a history that says otherwise, but a teenager with mom issues may see the Bat in a different light. Batman’s extended appearance doesn’t detract from the feel and tone of the book though, as it shakes things up a bit and takes the book in some interesting directions. The most  shocking being the tease of the addition of a established Bat-character who’s presence is welcomed and makes a ton of sense.

Karl Keschl gets some help on the art end of things from Mingue Helen Chen and style wise it couldn’t be better. While it’s not as bright & colorful as Keschl’s art, it’s definitely beautiful in its own way, channels the same animation vibe, and fits the narrative quite well. Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher are in top form, writing very believable kids & a very rich and interesting world. In the span of 6 issues, these  5 kids have been given an impressive amount of depth in such a short period of time, and it kills me I’m going to have to wait until June before we re-visit this world again.

Gotham Academy #6 is another great installment of the best Batman book no one’s reading. Hopefully the new addition to the cast will get the book some new readers, because I would hate to see it end after the next arc.

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Troy’s Toys But With Comics: Mark & Eve & Alex & Scott & Emma Edition

Invincible_118Invincible #118

Robert Kirkman/Ryan Ottley/Jason Howard/Jean-Francois Beaulieu

Image $.25

CHRIS FACT: If you offer a comic that I have the SLIGHTEST interest in for under $1, I will buy it.

Invincible is a book I’ve read for a long time. Like 104 consecutive issues long. It was also a book that got a little too gross for my liking and jumped ship. But for a quarter, I was willing to pick it up and see what Mark and the gang were up to these days. For the record, Invincible 118 is definitely NOT the perfect jumping on point for new readers. There’s a 6 page recap of the series, and that’s HELLA intimidating if your new to the series. But if you’re a lapse reader like myself, it’s pretty good issue to jump back in on and not be too lost.

Robert Kirkman is still going strong on this book, mixing drama with some much needed but slightly juvenile humor, which is needed because this book gets GRIM in the last few pages. TRIGGER WARNING/SPOILERS: There’s a sexual violence discussion that while handled well, kind of comes out of nowhere if you’re not caught up on the book. I applaud Kirkman for taking some story telling risks and actually pulling it off, but I’m not sure if that’s going to win him any new readers.

Ryan Ottley, one of my favorite artists today and one of the things I miss most about the book, has started inking himself, and it’s a bit jarring. His art looks a little looser, and more Erik Larsen-esque. It’s not bad mind you, it’s just took me by surprise. On colors we have  Jean-Francois Beaulieu who uses a brighter palette than John Raunch did, but still isn’t on FC Plascencia level. In his and Raunch’s defense, it could be a printing issue, but without a digital copy of the book, it’s hard to say.

 

Invincible ends on a solid cliffhanger, hoping to keep anyone new to the series on. For me, it’s not enough to get to start buying the title again, but it was a nice to revisit the book. I applaud Invincible for being a super hero book where there’s some consequences for the cast’s actions because there’s no status quo, I just have no desire to stick around.

 

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_3_32_TextlessUncanny X-men 32

Brian Michael Bendis/ Chris Bachalo/Tim Townsend

Marvel $3.99

I’m sure Brian Michael Bendis isn’t the type of dude who googles his own name and reads reviews of his comics. Dude has better to do with his time. But man, it really does feel like Uncanny X-men 32 addresses all of my complaints with the book in a single done in one.

The end of AXIS is finally addressed in this book as Cyclops’ brother Havok joins the cast. Bendis’ take on Alex is fun, although you’ve have to be caught up on Rick Remender‘s runs on Uncanny Avengers and AXIS to understand why he’s currently the way he is. Alex acts as the stand in for the reader, and helps us get caught up on what went down at the end of the last issue and the beginning of this one. There’s a bit with Scott and Emma that made me MAD as of fan of those readers, but speaks of Bendis’ talents. He managed to get some strong emotions out of me with this comic, something he hasn’t done with this book in some time. Bendis has a pretty good track record with done and ones on this title, but this is easily one of his stronger issues on this run.

Chris Bachalo and his army of inkers provide to supply this book with some fine art (that cover is especially good), although the 2 different colors and some odd photoshopping when it comes to the background hurts it in places. It doesn’t ruin the book in any way, but it certainly pulled me out of the experience a few times. But when it’s good, it’s good, especially when it comes to that Scott and Emma confrontation. Again, a great scene that hurt me oh so much.

As we approach the end of Bendis’ Uncanny X-men run, it’s nice to see the writer continue to take the X-men in some interesting directions while writing some excellent comics. His run on Uncanny has been a little uneven in place, but issues like these overshadow the weaker issues. Uncanny X-men 32 may be the best yet, setting the up the end of  this volume of  UXM on a interesting foot.

 

 

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Troy’s Toys but with Comics: SEXCASTLE

SexCastleCoverSEXCASTLE

Kyle Starks

Image $15.99

Reviewed by Chris Troy 

“Nurse, this baby was born mean!”

Comics Alliance contributor/upcoming X-men ’92 writer Chris Sims first brought Kyle Starks‘ brilliant SEXCASTLE to my attention via a an article/Kickstartr plug on CA. The panel that sold me on the book is below, edited because language, but the important thing about this page remains unaltered:

Sexcastle03-393x630

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last panel is arguably the best line of comics dialogue in 2015/the last 10 years/since Ben Grimm declared it was “Clobberin’ Time” for the first time.

Once SEXCASTLE was fully funded, Image Comics, who has also given us comics with sex in the title such as SEX and SEX CRIMINALS, picked up the publishing rights, and unleashed Kyle Starks insanely rad comic on the masses last week. It’s a tribute/parody of classic ’80s/90s action films, which is nothing new to comics, but so over the top it feels fresh. Sexcastle definitely pays homage to the works that inspired it, but it also laughs at them, and encourages others to do so as well.

fistburger006SEXCASTLE is the tale of Shane Sexcastle, once the world’s greatest assassin, now an ex-con who ready to start life over in a small town. Of course that sort of plot doesn’t make for the most action packed action comic, so Shane’s vow to give up violence is short lived, and his legacy of brutality* catches up to him once he messes up some locale. This ends in hella punching several characters that bear resemblance to a lot of action film icons, and all of them dying terrible and hilarious deaths. Oh and an actual bear. Sexcastle isn’t exactly the most serious of comics folks.

What Sexcastle is however, is arguably the most quotable comic in some time. The dialogue is a blend of action movies and Chris Onstad‘s Achewood, meaning a lot of dumb things are said in clever and hilarious ways. There’s jokes everywhere in this book, and all of them stick their landing mostly because they’re played straight, and rarely acknowledged. I’m honestly surprised the book isn’t labeled as an action-comedy, but then again I suppose there’s nothing funny about violence. No, that’s a lie, comics violence can be hilarious, especially when GUNCHUCKS are involved.

Sexcastle01Starks’ artwork is simplistic, and honestly that’s for the best. Like I just said, there’s a ton of graphic violence in this book, and this book would probably turn me off to it a bit if it looked too realistic. The cartoony style works in the comic’s favor, as does having the book being printed in black and white with some gray-scaling. Even the hand penned lettering is often hilarious, featuring sound sound effects like ONG-BAK’D, PANTIED, and a bunch of others words I can’t post here.

SEXCASTLE, while chock full of good morals, is definitely not for the children. BUT it’s arguably the best comic release of the year. Yeah, I know, Scott McCloud released something not too long along, and technically this was first released in 2014, BUT MCCLOUD’S FOR NERDS** AND SEXCASTLE DOESN’T ACKNOWLEDGE SUCH LAME CONCEPTS AS TIME! To paraphrase The Simpsons, BUY SEXCASTLE OR GO TO HELL!

 

 

 

*Shout of to the Misfits!

** Not personal Scott McCloud, but this book owns harder than both The Raids and Dredd combined.

 

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Troy’s Toys But With Comics: #BatgirlofBurnside Edition

So in case haven’t sold a large  small portion of your humanity to the internet like I have, you may have missed this week’s Batgirl controversy. The Outhouse has a good summary of the insanity if you care to catch up on it, and I agree with DC‘s  decision to recall the cover. Sadly, there’s a loud internet minority that doesn’t agree with me, but I really don’t give a toss about their whacks opinions.

As fate would have it (“or maybe it’s a CONSPIRACY?!” says that one guy on Facebook no one really likes), not only did this month’s issue of Batgirl drop this week, but the Batgirl: Endgame tie-in issue dropped as well. Since Barbara is once again in the spotlight, I’d figured I’d cover both issues in the column, because it makes or better narrative or something.

batgirlendgame1BG40cover-copy_5488f03771edf2.26063680Batgirl: Endgame #1

Cameron Stewart/Brenden Fletcher/Bengal

Batgirl #40

Cameron Stewart/Brenden Fletcher/Babs Tarr/Maris Wicks 

DC $2.99

Batgirl Endgame wasn’t what I expecting, but delightful none the less. Taking place before the events of Batman #40, but after Batgirl #40, the one shot sees Babs helping out with some evacuating while dealing with the ( HERE LIES SPOILERS) The Joker plague that infected Gotham.

The comic is impressive on 2 major levels. It’s a silent issue of sorts, which ever since G.I. Joe #21, is nothing new, but still an hard feet to pull off. What separate this silent issue from past ones is the clear use of Emojis, thus making it the MOST 2015 of comics. The other things that wow me was the art of Bengal, who has the not easy task of being the first artist to draw something related the series since Babs Tarr. This France-based artist delivers some gorgeous and really expressive art, and successfully manages to tell a emotional story without the use of any dialogue.

The story, by series regulars Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart, itself is fairly straight forward, and a tad on the fluff side, but let’s be real, there’s only so much you can do with a editorial mandated tie in. Upside, it’s a simple one-shot (unlike the Death of the Story arc from a few years back), the gets to see Batgirl be a creative and triumphant hero, which is nice when dealing with Joker related stuff. It’s a solid alternative to the pretty grim stuff that’s been going with Batman proper, and shows that Barbara can be triumphant and stay true to her character even in the darkest of situations.

With Batgirl #40 we have a story in a very modern setting with a some retro plot elements. The previous issue gave us the reveal of the first arc’s big bad, and we get it’s origin with this issue. It’s a bit disappointing in my opinion, as SPOILERS a rogue AI based on Batgirl’s brain patterns is something  straight out of Wargames. I do appreciate it being  an analogy for the Batgirl’s ongoing struggle with her identity, but I thought it was a little ham fisted. That being said, I REALLY dug the last few pages of the issue, and I’m hyped to see what June will bring for this title and the upcoming Black Canary title.

 

Even though I wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of the book’s plot, Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr and Marius Wicks’ visuals are still gorgeous. Tarr’s facial expressions, beautiful character designs & outfits and brutal yet clean fights scenes combined with Wicks’ crisp colors palette are still the main reason to buy this book. And while Stewart and Brenden Fletcher’s script wasn’t as strong as i’ts been in the past, they do drop some interesting hints about the possible future of some of the cast members.

 

Batgirl #40 is a bit uneven, and Batgirl Endgame is a bit of light read, but I wouldn’t call either comics bad. They’re fun books, with visuals that aren’t afraid to try new things. They both feel fresh, which is appreciated and welcomed, as I rather see comic try and fail then stick to  a proven but tired formula. Batgirl is a book that embraces the changing comic book medium, and that makes it a must read.

 

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Troy’s Toys But With Comics: Duck Puns Edition

howard_the_duck_1_coverHoward The Duck #1

Chip Zdarsky, Joe Quinones, Rico Renzi

Marvel $3.99

I love the fact that we now live in a world where the box office success of Guardians of the Galaxy means Chip Zdarsky gets to write a Howard the Duck book drawn by Joe Quinones.

Howard the Duck is the latest off-beat Marvel book that’s unsurprisingly amazing. Joe Quinones has been drawing a number of beautiful covers for years, so this book looking as good as it does is expected. And Zdarkseid (Mandatory misspelling of Chip’s pen name=GET) has been one of the funniest dudes in comics as of late, so Howard being a laugh riot also isn’t shocking.

What I wasn’t expecting was this creative team to build a narrative that spans from the original Howard the Duck #1 all the way to the GOTG post credit scene. It’s the opposite of the recently relaunched Ant-Man, embracing Howard’s weird history, not to mention the recently concluded She- Hulk series, yet presenting in a way that easy for new reader to pick up. I would say it’s the best Howard I’ve read since creator Steve Gerber’s last run, but I’m sure there was also a mini series where Howard turned into a MODOK, which is also pretty great.

I can’t ever recall wanting a Howard the Duck series, but now that I have one by this specific creative team I kind of love it. It looks great, it’s funny as hell and there’s enough content in the first issue that warrants a re-read. Howard the Duck #1 is not unlike Squirrel girl#1 where Marvel has given us super hero humor book by some top-self creators. Also if anyone at Marvel is reading this, a Zdarsky-penned “Self-loathing Spider-Man” series is something I want now.

 

portrait_incredibleSpider-Gwen #2

Jason Latour/Robbi Rodrigues/Rico Renzi

Marvel $3.99

I’ll be honest, I was willing to trade wait Spider-Gwen even with the first issue being quite superb. But then Scumbag Matt Murdock made an appearance, and suddenly I was $4 poorer.

Spider-Gwen continues the trend of excellent talking animal comics by Marvel this week, as Spider-Ham plays a unexpected, but none the less important role in this issue, which sees both Stacys deal with their respected Spider-Gwen related problems. Having both Stacys take point this issue gives it a unique perspective, as Father/Daughter relationships are rarely explored in super hero comics. We also get to see more of this reimagined Marvel universe characters, and a background Easter egg promising an interesting take on one Felicia Hardy. In a way it hits a lot of the same beats the first issue did, while continuing to develop the characters and move the story forward. This continues to be Jason Latour‘s finest Marvel work to date, especially with the dialogue sounding and flowing as well as it does.

Visually, Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi continue to provide stellar art for this book. Each character is boiled down to a specific characteristic (Murdock’s always sleazy, Frank Castle always looks determined, Spider-Ham is VERY much a pig) under Rodriguez’s skillful line work, and the heavy use of pink and green against the darker backgrounds of this book still make it look slick as hell.

Spider-Gwen #2 is pretty much more of the same of what we got from issue 1, which is fine. The first issue was rad, as was this one. Between this and the newly relaunched Spider-Woman, we have two awesome alternatives to Amazing Spider-Man, with each book offering something fresh and fun.

 

 

 

 

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Troy’s Toys but with Comics: Sassy Spies Editions

Yes, yes, I’m well aware Spider-Woman isn’t a spy anymore, but she’s still in Secret Avengers for the next 2 months so it works.

 

635544611181339292-SpiderWoman-coverSpider-Woman #5

Dennis Hopeless/Javier Rodriguez/Alvaro Lopez

Marvel $3.99

NEW STATUS QUO! NEW COSTUME! NEW ARTIST! 5TH ISSUE IN!

Spider-Woman, not unlike Spider-Gwen, is done with Spider-Verse nonsense, done with the Avengers, done with Greg Land, and is hitting the streets with a new mission and a new slick look courtesy of Kris Anka. Writer Dennis Hopeless is now free to tell stories without having to worry about tying into Amazing Spider-Man, and the book’s all the better for it.

 

Land is replaced by former Daredevil colorist/Fill in Artist Javier Rodriguez, who reminds everyone that he can draw and color the hell out of a comic 5 pages into this issue. Rodriquez definitely picked up some tricks coloring Chris Samnee over the years, which explains why is layouts are so good. And of course, the coloring on this book is surreal. The way Rodriquez colors the rain almost make those panels feel 3-D. And man, that new costume looks amazing on Jessica. Inking him is Alvaro Lopez, who knows where to thicken his black lines and where to keep them thin. He’s a fine match for Javier.

 

Hopeless staying aboard on the title is A-O-K with me, as he’s a smart writer with a knack of coming up with unique premises on corporate comic characters. Jessica struggling with going solo is an interesting predicament for a super hero, and it’s a cool challenge for her to overcome. And the addition of Daily Bugle mainstay Phil Urich is neat, and gives Jessica a great character to interact with. Also Hopeless appeals to my loves of the recently completed Superior Foes of Spider-Man and brings in several Z-list Marvel villains for Jessica to harass.

 

Spider-Woman #5 is not unlike the Bab Tarring of Batgirl, which is fine because that was a smart move, and it’s certainly now working for J-Drew.   Between this, Silk and Spider-Gwen, you’d think the comics world would be sick of female Spider-ladies, but not that’s far from the case. Each one of these titles brings something to new to medium, and all of them are good comics.  Spider-Woman #5 is a VERY good comic that should have been a #1. I know the book got a nice sales boost launching and tying into Spider-Verse, but THIS is the debut issue the creators and characters deserve.

 

stk665635Grayson #8

Tom King/Tim Seeley/Mikel Janin/Jeromy Cox

DC $2.99

This issue sees the end of season 1 wrapping up, as the book goes on hiatus for 2 months due to DC moving to the west coast and not replacing them with robots like I did (Hence I spell all good like always). In terms of endings, I don’t think this could have been any better.

Issue 8’s cover is pretty spot on, as SPYRAL finds a traitor in it’s ranks, and it’s up to Agent Grayson to save the day. It brings the cast of mostly new characters together in a fun and creative way, and ends on a brutal note. It’s spy comics done right, which has been this creative team’s MO since day 1, so this issue being as great as it is doesn’t come at that much of a surprise. Tom King and Tim Seeley deliver another fine script with some choice dialogue and neat twists, and Mike Janin and Jeromy Cox make the whole thing looks so pretty. Even when things get dark and violent, which says a lot about how I judge beauty.

Issue 8 is an issue that wraps up some plot-lines, starts new ones, and sees one of Dick Grayson’s student name each of his butt cheeks. It’s another great installment of comic that has been a crazy fun ride, and this slight break will make me miss it a ton.

 

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Troy’s Toys But With Comics: Jeff Lemire Debut edition

Welcome to the article where I know I’m going to spell Lemire as “Lemiere” at least twice and not notice it until it’s pointed out in the comments section/Twitter.

Jeff Lemire, who’s had a big week, is a writer who’s stuff I haven’t touched in awhile, but I definitely liked is work in the past. His run on Animal Man was quite good, he did a pre-Flaspoint/New 52 Superboy book that was equally bizarre as it was charming, and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read of his creator owned stuff. This week, Lemire launches his new Indie book under Image, and relaunches my favorite Marvel comic (that’s yet to be completed).

Descender-01-6b1c3Descender #1

Jeff Lemire/Dustin Nguyen

Image $2.99

Ever since Saga took over comics, Image has had no shortage of comics involving space, children, crime or a combination of all three. Most of those book has also been amazing, so no one complains about it because otherwise the alternative is going back to Spawn or Witchblade.

As every review of Descender will tell you, Sony Pictures ponied up a ton of money to secure the films right to the comic, despite the fact it was still a month away from hitting the stands. Created by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen, it is a GORGEOUS looking book, and  it reads like Chris Nolan directing a Pixar movie. If that’s now something you want in your life, I wouldn’t hold you breathe, also welcome to the nightmare that is being me. But yeah, Nguyen’s water colors look great, and Lemire’s writing is spot on. Despite this being another comic about a young boy by Lemire (see Blankets, Superboy, parts of his new Hawwkeye series,  Sweet Tooth), he introduces a weird  cast that’s helps suck you into this world that he’s co-created. It’s a surprisingly charming book, despite some really dark plot points and themes.

I went into Descender with a good feeling, and I ended up liking it a lot more than I was expecting. Robots and space are often my jams when it comes to media, and Descender uses them to tell an exciting new story I’m eager to read more of.

 

All-New_Hawkeye_Vol_1_1_TextlessAll-New Hawkeye #1

Jeff Lemire/Ramon Perez/Ian Herring

Marvel $3.99

Here we have the other great looking Jeff Lemire comic to debut this week. Sadly, I am not as happy with it as I was with Descender.

All-New Hawkeye is not a bad comic, but it just didn’t wow me like the yet to be completed Matt Fraction/David Aja book did. That book had a mission statement from day one (Show what Hawkeye does on his day off). This one starts off mostly set in the past, and cuts to the Hawkeyes doing some avenging in the present. While I appreciate Lemire taking the book in a new direction, it still needs a hook. All I got from it was “Hey, the previous Hawkeye series got Marvel a ton of buzz and acclaim, let’s keep this book going.” Hawkeye volume 1 issue 1 felt like a cool new indie book, where as ANH feels like more like a really good cover band messing up my favorite song. Lemire’s attempt to capture Clint and Kate’s banter is appreciated, but it’s something he needs to work on. It felt colder and nagging than it did humorous and playful.

Visually, Ramon Perez and Ian Herring couldn’t be better replacements for David Aja & Matt Hollingsworth. Perez’s art is the best thing about this book, and his painted illustrations for the flashback material are gorgeous. And when paired with Herring for the modern stuff, we get some solid action scenes, with Herring doing his best to ape Matt Hollingsworth flat color pallet. It works for the most part, because while Perez isn’t as strong as the veteran Aja, Herring’s bold colors help complete the visual experience. All New Hawkeye is a great looking book, and I’m glad Perez and Herring are able to deliver on the art end of things like Aja, Annie Wu and the other Hawkeye volume 1 artists before them.

In the new creative team’s defense, it was an almost impossible task to make me fall in love with this book like I did with the previous volume. Following up to that creative team is a huge  challenge, and they definitely tried to do their best with this issue. I have faith that Lemire can escape Fraction’s shadow sooner rather than later, but I’ll admit, it felt weird to read a Hawkeye comic that I didn’t fall in love with immediately. I hope that’s something that doesn’t happen again.

 

 

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Troy’s Toys, But With Comics: Rapid Fire Edition

Here lies Chris Troy, what died of emotions related to Parks and Rec ending.

Aside from the best show wrapping up, hella fine comics dropped this week, including an issue of Secret Avengers I refused to review because it would just be me gushing about how self-aware and insane the issue is. So instead, I’ll talk about these 2 non-Marvel book, in an effort to to distract myself from this Johnny Karate-less future.

WickedDivine_08_300_462The Wicked + The Divine #8

Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie/Matthew Wilson

Image $3.50

This may be hyperbole, but this is probably the best use of color in comics I’ve seen in the last 5 years.  Matthew Wilson absolutely delivers the good in Wicked and the Divine #8, in which our lead character attends what can be best described as a “God Rave”.  It’s as psychedelic as one would imagine, and Jamie McKelvie’s simple yet expressive layouts are enhanced tenfold thanks to Wilson’s brilliant colors. This is Wilson’s “Pizza Dog issue” moment, which I mean that he deserves an Eisner for it, and that I’ve made my weekly Matt Fraction reference.

And it’s not like the other contributors are slacking in any capacity. McKelvie is incapable of drawing a bad comic as far as I’m concerned, giving us some really interesting layout and panel placement and Kieron Gillen‘s script and dialogue is wonderful as per usual. But Matthew Wilson really flexes his creative muscles and busts out a Tron meets Andy Warhol color palette, and we the reader are richer for it. The book not only embraces the fact that comics are a strictly visually medium, but it grabs you by the throat and screams it in your face with it high intensity use of color. Of course, you can make an argument that Gillen and McKelvie set up Wilson to deliver such a performance, but I feel his colors make the issue.

Long story short: The Wicked + The Divine #8 is an $3.50 tab of acid that’s well worth the trip. As someone who’s never done acid, I hope that analogy works, because I don’t know any better way to describe this comic.

GOTHAC_Cv5_545d116f223cc7.03502535 Gotham Academy #5

Becky  Cloonan/Brenden Fletcher/Karl Kerschl/Msassyk/Serge Lapointe

DC $2.99

If you’re a fan of quirky (And excellent) comics, Gotham Academy #5 is a book you need to read. Aside from always gorgeous visuals from Karl Kerschl and his talented team of colorists (Msassyk and Serge Lapointe ), this month’s installment involves a man bat, a lizard man, hidden tunnels, a school dance, intrigue AND a shout out to one of the best moments of Batman: The Animated Series. Dense doesn’t even begin to cover it, and it’s impressive how much this creative team crams into a single issue month after month.

Gotham Academy continues to use elements of Bat-Lore in interesting and unique ways, and it’s hard not to compare it to Harry Potter or Wolverine and the X-men. But like those works, it’s a fun as hell read, and you can tell Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher are really having a blast working with Kerschl and company. And their fun means a slick looking book with some great character moments, which is all I want from my #TEEN romance, spookums and mystery comics. Granted this month’s issue is heavier in Bat-stuff, literally, than past issue, it’s uses those elements to it’s advantage, so it seem natural, not forced.With the Batline being so good over the last 6 months, it’s hard to claim that Gotham Academy is the best book coming out from DC these days. But man, it’s a discussion worth having.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Troy’s Troys, But with Comics: Back, with my friend Gwen edition

DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK! No for real, don’t, I’ve only been gone for about a week, also I may have used this joke before.

Sorry for the sudden disappearance, but I had a move on my hands, which meant, me, my wife, our dumb cat went from Brooklyn to Queens, care of the Tracksuit Bros from Hawkeye. The snow did not make things easier by the by. But I’m back, chock full of new comics to talk about, and I’ll eventually get back to Toy Fair coverage. Give me a week and we should be good*.

 

*Citation needed.

Spider-Gwen-1-Cover-Robbi-Rodriguez-720x1112Spider-Gwen #1

Jason Latour/Robbi Rodriguez/Rico Renzi

Marvel $3.99

Spider-Verse is old, busted and bloated, Spider-Gwen is the new hotness.

When Spider-Gwen made her debut back in the Edge of Spider-Verse mini, I thought it was too much of a  (great looking) tease that played it a bit too safe, which sucked for me at the time. Then that particular issue went through several reprintings, giving Gwen that Babs Tarr Batgirl hype, so here we are 4 months later, looking at the relatively Spider-Verse free debut of Spider-Gwen’s ongoing. Editor Nick Lowe credits the fans excitement for the character for  the birth of the book in the debut issue’s letter section, and it’s a good to Marvel to see listening and giving the fandom what they want with this book.

spider_gwen_1_1Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi do some amazing work with this issue. Rodriguez’s layouts and energy put a fresh paint of on this familiar yet different Marvel Universe. His style is the child of the exaggerated expressions you see from Erica Henderson‘s work combined with the sharp lines and “dirt” you see from Sean Murphy.  His line work is loose, and when paired with Rico Renzi’s bright color palette, it makes for a superb visual experience. Between Renzi’s Gwen and Jordie Bellaire’s Moon Knight, Marvel’s making an impressive case for characters to have more white in their costumes. Also, I hope that doesn’t read as a Klan reference. Gwen’s costume grabs your eyes when it’s on the page, and its demands you attention, making it the focus of the panel, despite her positioning within. And the graffiti element leads to some really fascinating use of colors, which looks fantastic in digital. It’s Spider-Man meets Jet Grind/Set Radio, which is my jam, and makes the book worth it for the visuals alone.

Jason Latour‘s script is great too. Now free to tell his own story that’s not limited to a single issue tie in, Latour is free to flesh out Gwen’s world and cast more. His Gwen has her share of bad luck, but it’s way different than the type Peter Parker’s dealt with in his various incarnations. Which is great, because powers aside, Spider-Gwen really feels different from Spider-Man on every level. Additionally, Latour does a nice job of adding several established Marvel characters to the world with some neat twists, obviously planting the seeds for future story. And the situation Gwen’s dad is now faced with is really interesting, not to mention what’s going on with her band mates. It’s a surprisingly dense read for a 20 page comic, even with a cliffhanger ending. The pacing is great, and Latour has really stepped it up from the EoSV one shot.

Spider-Gwen #1 is another great debut from a company that’s been on fire with female lead books as of late. Latour, Rodriguez and Renzi come out swinging with this debut, and I mean that with fists, not webs, ugh, never mind, just buy it, this review has died via wordplay overdose.

 

 

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Troy’s Toys But With Comics: Squirrels and Seals Edition

saga-25-wraparound-cover-b8d91Saga #25

Brian K Vaughan/Fiona Staples

Image $2.99

Yay, Saga‘s back, time for another comic to destroy me emotionally yet again!

I kid, because as far as Saga goes, Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples produce an entertaining comic that doesn’t make everything hurt this time around. If anything, it sets up the 5th volume of the series quite nicely, and uses the 3 month vacation to age the book in real time.

While I could point out how BKV & Staples continue to produce the best comic on the market with the greatest of ease, I much rather point out that tiny seal person Ghüs has joined the cast on the regular, and I’m clearly thrilled about that. Also I’m saying this now guys, if something bad happens to him I will drop this book and cry myself to death. Tiny seals with accents are one of my jams, and I need a Lucky the Pizza Dog type pledge that this little fellow won’t be killed off.

Seal deals ( kill me) aside, issue 25 is pretty great on ever level. Fiona Staples art is incredible, and it’s cool to see her experiment with colors at the beginning of the book, as well as later one when there’s a need for much yellow. We’re also treated to more wonderfully bizarre characters designs, a thing that I am a fan of.

BKV makes great use of the large cast in new surroundings, fleshing them out in tiny, clever ways. Vaughan has a way of making even the evilest of his characters sympathetic, as if you need more proof of his talents. He also teases several things that will be happening in the nearest future, so I may have to go ahead and take that nothing hurts statement back soon.

A quieter return than what we’re use too, Saga #25 is a delight start for the story’s next chapter. I’m excited to have my heart broken again and again over the next few months.

portrait_incredibleThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2

Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi

Marvel $3.99

Note: While there is some Iron Man related shenanigans in this issue, there is zero surfing in this comic. The cover is full of LIES.

But that’s okay. After a super delightful debut issue, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2 continues to impress. Doreen attempts to join some college clubs, talk to a meghunk, oh and break into Stark Tower to stea  borrow an Iron Man suit so she can go to the moon and punch Galactus. Aka cementing it’s legacy as the best new Marvel comic of 2016.

Erica Henderson continues to impress me with every page of this comic. Her facial expressions  and body language really add an extra shot of comedic value to Ryan North‘s hilarious dialogue,  showing off how in sync these two creators are. It’s a dialogue heavy issue that lives and dies by it’s jokes, and luckily for us the reader, North and Henderson nails each and every one of them. Rico Renzi completes the package, making Henderson’s art crisp and bold, like a fine animation-esque quality salad. That’s a valid comparison yes?

Failed analogies aside, Squirrel Girl is rad and you should buy it to support fun and good looking comics. It’s a great read that super self contained, and the chances of a purple planet eater getting punched in the face remain high.

 

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Troy’s Toys But With Comics: Secret Criminals Edition? Yeah I guess that works

I would read a book called Secret Criminals FYI.

SECAVN2014012CVR-659x1000Secret Avengers #12

Ales Kot/Michael Walsh/Matthew Wilson

Marvel/$3.99

Secret Avengers #12 can be best described as “Nextwave meets True Detective“, which is the best description for any comic, and I don’t care if you disagree with me.

I love it when Marvel has a book that features fairly iconic characters and allows it to operate under the radar. Like MODOK drunk texting Deadpool (complete with the use of the word “Bae”), or Hawkeye dropping the phrase “Resident Terrorist Sex Horror Advisor”, which is something we’ll probably not be hearing in a movie anytime soon. There’s also a killer gag involving ring tones, which only proves that I’m a big fan of phone-based jokes apparently. It makes for a fun read, and it’s nice that not everything has be average Disney XD viewer friendly.

But this book isn’t all jokes mind you. Spider-Woman and Maria Hill find themselves in a bit of a pickle, and their interactions ring true to their characters. Ales Kot‘s Maria Hill is a no-excuses workaholic, and she bounces off his equally determined but more sarcastic Spider-Woman quite nicely. We also have Kot writing Black Widow and Lady Bullseye in a cosmic horror setting, which is something I didn’t know I wanted, but glad I’m now have. These character interactions are a key part of which I enjoy this title so much, as Kot has a gift for dialogue. His jokes hit hard, and there’s so much subtext in some throw away lines that it warrants multiple re-readings. It’s a smart book wrapped in some crazy circumstances, beautifully illustrated by Michael Walsh and Matthew Wilson.

Secret Avengers remains one of the craziest and surreal books Marvel’s been putting out for the last year. If this is the final incarnation of this book, I’ll be glad, because it will be an hard act to follow up on.

SEXCRIMINALS_10Sex Criminals #10

Matt Fraction/ Chip Zdarsky #10

Image $3.50

Chip Zdarsky draws hella genitals in this issue, be warned if you’re squeamish. Also if you’re squeamish, what’s wrong with you, Sex Crimz is not for you.

A Tinder’s worth of crotch pics (or Grinder I suppose) aside, this is another brilliant installment of Sex Criminals. Writer Matt Fraction has never shyed away from discussing the importance of mental help, and he’s handling of Jon seeing a therapist is nothing short of inspiring. Sex Criminals has always managed to channel genuine human emotion despite it’s lewd premise, and this issue is proof of how good it can be.

Chip Zdarsky is a funny dude, no one is surprised by this statement. But ol’ Zdarkseid manages to use sound effects in a particular way this issue that had my dying as I read it. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but if it is, it’s fantastic. His timing and structure couldn’t be any better for setting up these little sound effect gags, and the use of all lowercase letter had me dawing as well as loling. And yeah, I just used “Daw” and “Lol” as actions, what of it?

There’s also  a bit in this issue that is very Scott Pilgrim esque, only with a lot more genital talk. I didn’t think I could love this series anymore than I have bee, but(t) here we are. Also is you think the last 200 words were mastubatory, let me make you aware of the fact that Hawkeye drops next week and it will get worse.

 

 

 

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Toys Toys But With Comics: Teen Hi-jinks Edition.

Hey look at that, some reviews, but on time! We live such a brave new world!  Also this is totally not me trying to get as much writing done before the Super Bowl as possible, no no no.

 

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_3_30_TextlessUncanny X-men #30

Brian Michael Bendis/Chris Bachalo/An army of inkers

Marvel $3.99

 So here’s the thing. I know it’s in fashion to be a pretty pretty internet hate machine and smack talking big 2 comics to show your indie cred is a trend. But even with that being the case, I’ve tried avoiding going that route, and praise Cape Comics  when they do things right.

But man, it’s hard to stay positive when a comic is all kinds of bad, especially when a comics is disappointing enough to make me consider dropping the series.

I applaud  Brian Michael Bendis for taking some risks with Uncanny X-men with this current arc, despite it being drawn out like no one’s business. Last month’s cliffhangers were crazy, and there’s some follow up to it this time that would be really neat if they actually stuck. But between upcoming solicits, Bendis himself putting future covers online, and the decompression mentioned earlier, a lot of the impact of these events is lost. Also quick side note: this book was solicited as a book that deals with the repercussions of AXIS. This arc began during Original Sin, and is still going on. There’s zero crossover with AXIS (or OS come to think of it), and feels more like an issue of Doctor Who with all the timey whimey nonsense. I know Chris Claremont was a master of the long game and was also guilty of time travel shenanigans, but he did it early enough in the X-men history where it was still fresh. It feels cliche and tired here, nearly 30 years later.

 

This mostly talking heads issues wastes Chris Bachalo’s talents. Bachalo is a skilled and kinetic artist that gets to stretch his muscles a bit with some brief action scenes but it’s the kind of dialogue heavy issue that’s better served by a Kris Anka (who did a dope job on the cover). That being said, the book still looks good, but not good enough for me to recommend on visauls alone, especially with the inking and the coloring being all over the place.

Ultimately this book is the worst type of bad by just being boring. Bendis’ mutli-MccGuffin balancing act isn’t working out for my tastes, and if this ship doesn’t steer itself right with the next issue, I’m afraid my time with Uncanny X-men is done for the foreseeable future.

 

GalleryComics_1920x1080_20150121_GOTHAC_Cv4_5490db710bf4f8.47907702Gotham Academy #4

Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, Msassyk/Serge Lapointe

 DC $2.99

Man that last review was kinda rough. Let’s focus on a good comic now, yes?

Gotham Academy #4 is a hoot. A hoot that involves one of the leads painting D&D monsters in art class, which I adore, and  I don’t even play Dungeons and or Dragons.

What I like about this book is aside from looking AMAZING month after month, is that is operates far enough outside of the DCU where it’s not affect by whatever crossover or event is going on that month, but is close enough to remind you that it’s still a Batman-related book. This month does that by giving 2 REALLY cool shout outs to the classic Batman: The Animated Series, as well as the monthly Bruce Wayne cameo.

Fun easter eggs aside, the book also effortless blends TEEN romance, school, and spooky mysteries, which are my favorite type of mysteries. It’s reminds me a lot of what Marvel was going for in the mid 2000s with The Runaways, which is a good look.  Combined with the gorgeous visuals, it reminds me more of a Japanese Role playing game than a Batman comic. It may not be for everyone, but it’s nice to see DC make an attempt to go after the same market who would also be reading something like Ms Marvel (aka people with great tastes).

 

Gotham Academy is a fantastic read month after month, and it really deserves more of an audience. Word on the street (Twitter street that is) is that sales for this book aren’t so hot, which is a shame because it’s a great little book that’s truly all ages. If you want something that’s fun and a visual delight, I can’t recommend this book enough.

 

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Troys Toys But With Comics: The Very Very Very Late Edition

Between the annual Video Game and Musics Festival known as MAGfest and the annual blizzard that never was in NYC last night/today, my column almost didn’t happen. Forunately for you and my bank account, someone else is currently using my TV/WiiU, so I GUESS I can write about comics.

portrait_uncannyLegendary_Star-Lord_Vol_1_8_TextlessLegendary Star-Lord 7&8

Sam Humphries, Freddy Williams III, Paco Diaz, David Curiel

Marvel $3.99

Legendary Star Lord double shipped this month, as Marvel books tends to do that from time to time. Not to mention the Black Vortex begins next month, and I’m sure Marvel needs all their ducks in a row for that.

Issue 7 sees the X-men’s Kitty Pryde join the cast full time, as she attempts to liberate her captured sorta boyfriend from big bad Mr. Knife. Issue 8 sets the sage for the Black Vortex, adding a relatively new character to the story, as well as dealing with the Star-Kitty romance that’s been a thing since the book kicked off. It’s the calm before the storm, and giving the reader a chance to catch their breath before the SPACE PUNCHING starts.

I’ve said it multiple times before and I’ll say it again- Star Lord RARELY brings anything new to the table, but it consistently entertains. Issue 7 has an incredibly smart and well executed action scene that sees Kitty Pryde use her powers in an interesting way, and hearkens backs to Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-men run. You can tell Sam Humphries is having fun with this book, given the book’s tone and dialogue. Freddie William’s III art is a little sloppier than looser than series regular artist Paco Diaz, but it’s serviceable none the less.

I’ll be taking a break from Legendary Star Lord now that it’s crossover time, but I’ve really enjoyed the 2 installment we’ve gotten this month. It’s been an entertaining read that genuinely captures the feel of Chris Pratt’s Star Lord, but fits nicely into the proper Marvel 616.

wickeddivine_07The Wicked and the Divine #7

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelive and Matthew Wilson

Image $3.50

One of the “perks” of following writer/ War Hammer 40k enthusiast Kieron Gillen on twitter is to see him toss out some of the worst puns I’ve ever seen on the internet. Spoilers: this is the month that bleeds into Wic+Div and it’s the best/worst.

We also get to know Woden, the Tron Legacy looking god a bunch more and get to see Laura attend Fantheon, which is not unlike a Comic Con but for gods. Yes I had several NYCC flashbacks while reading this, thank you for your concern. Woden is very much more of a Lucifer type of character, but less of a trickster and more of a jerk. I’m very found of this character obviously

The creative team nail the look and the feel of the convention spot on, continuing to remind us that these gods are very much rock stars. It’s very much like Phonograms, but with a murder mystery wrapping. It feels very genuine, even in a fantastic setting, and helps the reader connect to the cast, especially if they’re familiar with being super into a fandom. This book may be tumblr-baiting to a degree, but it’s so enjoyable that I don’t care.

Reviewing Wick+Div issue by issue is rough, as it’s like reviewing a song from an album one track on a month to month bias. But it’s paced well enough that you feel satisfied with ever issue, and are left dying for more.

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Troy’s Toys, but with Comics: Lo, there shall be an ANT-MAN REVIEW

So hey, I was wrong and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl wasn’t the only major Marvel debut last Wednesday. Apparently the dude no-long-directed-by-Edgar-Wright has an all new on-going, written by a guy who’s recent Marvel work I really like. So I dropped the $5 (ugh) on Scott Lang’s solo debut, as he’s a character I really came to like under Matt Fraction & The Allred‘s run on FF!

ant-man-1-cover-mark-brooks-109067jpg-d18f1dAnt-Man #1

Nick Spencer/ Ramon Rosanas/Jordan Boyd

Marvel $4.99

As a dude who’s spoken out against $5 comics plenty of times in the past, I struggled with buying this book a lot. On one hand, it’s a double sized issue with a cool creative team, but on the other, it’s a $5 book that exists solely because a movie is dropping in 7 months. and Marvel wants to cash in on that. Also I had a gift card, so it was free in a way.

Nick Spencer is the given the uneasy task of creating a new reader book in a post AXIS world that succeeds for the most part. Much like Hawkeye before him,  Spencer’s Scott Lang is a lovable every man Avenger who sometime makes poor life choices. Anyone familiar with Spencer’s work on The Superior Foes of Spider-Man  knows he can do humor well, and Ant-Man is proof of that. The difference being it’s not as slapstick-y as SUP FOES was, and that Scott Lang is a pretty likable dude, more so than say Boomerang.

gnny1vxbknhirjh4mo7gQuick side note, a familiar face from SUP FOES makes an appearance in this book, and is just as delightful here as they were in said book.

My problem with the book is that in making it new reader accessible, it strips away a LOT of character development Scott went through in FF!/Fantastic Four. His “lovable loser” shtick is a tad bit out of place with the way he’s been written as of late, and given what’s gone down with Cassie as of late (see Avengers World), having her comes off as his normal teenage daughter is incredibly odd. Not to mention Tony Stark’s behavior is slightly more aggro due to what’s been going down in AXIS/ Superior Iron Man, but there’s not even a footnote explaining it. I understand that this has to appeal to people who are getting into the character because of the movie hype, I just wish it didn’t ignore past continuity so much.  Also where in the hell is Darla Deering (Miss Thing if you’re nasty)?!?

ant-man-1-interiorContinuity beef aside,  Ramon Rosanas & Jordan Boyd kill on the art side of things. The team remind me a lot of Chris Samnee and Javier Rodriguez‘s work on Daredevil, only not as refined as those veteran creators. That being said, Samnee and Rodriguez are also doing some career defining work on that book, so the fact that Rosanes and Boyd are even comparable to begin with says a lot. It’s an incredibly clean looks book that hits all the right emotions notes when it needs to.

All in all, Ant-Man #1 has a lot to offer to new readers. It’s a good comic,  possibly a great one if you’re not as hung up as recent Marvel continuity as I am. It’s a nice introduction to Scott Lang to wider audience, even with the absence of Paul Rudd aka America’s Best Friend.

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Troy’s Toys But with Comics: Spies like Us Edition

First and foremost, happy 2015 Forbidden Planet faithful! There were all of 7 comics released this past week,  none of which I pull,  so we’re going to take a look at 2 books that dropped last week instead. Then I’ll finish my “What I like dug” over the next few days, just in time for the first New Comics Wednesday of 2015. Aren’t schedules fun?

GRAYANN_Cv1_540f47df5c1c08.60705222Grayson Annual #1

Tom King/Tim Seeley/Stephen Mooney/Jeremy Cox

DC $4.99

I want to like this comic more than I do.

I’m doing my best to not be an old man and start ranting about how Annuals should be saved for big stories like were in my day. Hell this annual was originally solicited as such, promising us the New 52 origin of Helena Bertinelli. Which we get, sort of, for all of a page.

The rest of the book is dedicated to several new characters, one who’s supposedly really good at what he does, and we get a lot more focus on said new character than we do on Helena, as well as a Irish Folktale. Which is different, but not exactly the most compelling stuff in the world.

While the book isn’t bad ( Tom King and Tim Seeley‘s script is okay, Stephen Mooney‘s art is serviceable, and Jeremy Cox‘s colors remain excellent), it’s not exactly required reading at $5. It does nothing for the over all narrative of the series, even  thought there’s some cool stuff sprinkled throughout the issue.

December was not the best month for Grayson in my option. Between the annual and issue 5, the book feels like it’s stuck in neutral. Hopefully January will see a proper return to form for this book and it’s creative team.

background (1)Secret Avengers #11

Ales Kot/Michael Walsh/Matthew Wilson

Marvel $3.99

And once again, Secret Avengers is espionage comics done right.

The final arc of Secret Avengers begins with this issue, and properly raises the stakes. The mysterious world of TLON has began to appear in “our” world, the secret mastermind behind the whole ordeal begins to make his presence known and now it’s up to MODOK and his allies to save to the day. It’s Cosmic Horror meets Archer (wordplay?) at it’s finest.

And speaking of F-I-N-E (#segue) Michael Walsh & Matthew Wilson continue to be at the top of their respected games with this book. Between the storm in Venezuela and the various action pieces on the Hellicarrier, Walsh and Wilson continue to do some interesting and beautiful things with format, design and panel layouts. They do Ales Kot’s script the justice it deserves, being able to convey the emotion needed for the Hawkeye/Coulson confrontation, as well as providing some awesome fight scenes.

Kot also deserves some praise for the way he’s been handling Agent Coulson and his PTSD in this book. Hawkeye, Maria Hill, and Black Widow may be normal human comfortable with some of insanity that goes down on the reg in the 616, Phil Coulson is not, and is affected by it. It’s something that could be handled poorly in the wrong hangs, but Ales Kot writes Phil and his condition properly, which makes for a compelling and a emotionally invested read.

Secret Avengers continues to be one of the strongest offerings from Marvel month after moth. It’s weird, violent and funny, and every so often, it has something smart and endearing to say.

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