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Comics

House of Slaughter #1 – Spoiler-Free Review

House of Slaughter #1  has arrived just in time for Halloween! This first issue had almost half a million copies pre-ordered, which are monster numbers for an indie publisher. Why? This new series is a spinoff of the popular Eisner-award-winning horror series, Something is Killing the Children (SiKtC).

Not standing on its source material alone, it boasts a killer team: The world comes from James Tynion IV, who has had an excellent year with Department of Truth, Wynd, Nice House on the Lake, a strong Batman run, and the launch of his successful substack The Empire of the Tiny Onion. Co-creator and writer Tate Brombal gained a lot of attention last year for his work on Barbalien: Red Planet. He put a lot of care into his portrayal of LGBTQ+ POC, which will be very important for this story. He’s joined by artist Chris Shehan, a rising star who just did The Autumnal. (You can read our interview with Chris here!) Rounding out the visual team are Miquel Muerto and Andworld Designs, who also worked on Something is Killing the Children, bringing the colors and lettering style over so that the universe feels consistent.

With such a stellar team, I had high hopes going into House of Slaughter #1, and I wasn’t disappointed. The terrifying world of SiKtC is still in the background of this story, but it strikes a super different tone that’s more the Magicians than the original series. This feels very character-focused, comparatively, and seems like it’s setting up a tragic romance more than the straight horror of the SiKtC. The protagonist of House of Slaughter is a character we saw in the first arc of SiKtC, but here he’s much younger and still trying to figure out who he is. We get nods to the previous series, with characters showing up, but I think you could still read this as an entry point into the universe or read it concurrently if you aren’t caught up on the other series.

Although there’s less gore in this compared with the original (so far), the art and storytelling will make you care deeply about the characters, which can be an effective setup to tearing your heart out later. Overall, with its stellar team and strong character focus, House of Slaughter #1 is a perfect start to what will probably be one of the best comics of the year.

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Books

What If a Fish: Spoiler-Free Book Review

The first time I visited my dad’s side of the family in Mexico, I was exhausted after a long day of flying. While my dad was catching up with relatives, my tia took me into the kitchen. She showed me lots of different foods and I said “okay” to all of them, thinking this was an either/or situation. I was wrong. She put one of every kind in front of me; a feast for twenty people. I was so confused, tired, and embarrassed that I picked up a whole roma tomato and ate it, while she looked at me horrified with a face that said “I didn’t know Americans ate tomatoes like bears!”  Growing up half-Mexican meant that a lot of things got lost in translation like this. 

September 15th through October 15th is Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month.  I like using this month to celebrate my heritage, because if there’s anything I got from the Mexican side of my family, it’s knowing how to throw a good party.  And while I think we should support Latinx/Hispanic works all year, I also think setting aside time to be intentional about the things I read and the conversations I have is good. Which brings me to this excellent book, Anika Fajardo’s What If a Fish

What If a Fish is about Eddie Aguado, a half-Colombian eleven-year-old in the Midwest. He’s at an age where people around him start getting confused. They start asking questions like “If you’re Colombian, why don’t you speak Spanish?” and they’re not sure where he stands in relation to his Latinx/Hispanic identity. Some people start saying racist things to him and some people question whether he even counts as another race or ethnicity. Sometimes those are the same people. This leads Eddie to question his own relation to Colombia, a country he’s never visited, connected to him through a father he barely remembers. As he’s struggling with this, Eddie gets the chance to go to Colombia, where he learns to connect with his culture in his own way. 

Anika Fajardo’s protagonist perfectly captures the awkwardness of being a mixed-ethnicity middle-schooler. Eddie goes on a journey to Colombia and finds that connecting with his heritage is complicated, messy and joyful. What If a Fish is a treat for mixed-ethnicity readers like myself, who might share the confusion of being an outsider in every culture, but it’s also an opportunity for all readers to see Colombia in a new light. Eddie’s mixed-ethnicity gives him the perspective of a foreigner, without the limitations of being a tourist. While struggling to pin down what it means to be authentically Colombian, Eddie gives a much more authentic view of the country than curated hotel stays or exported stereotypes of Colombianos. This makes What If a Fish a perfect read for Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month, or any other time of the year.

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Uncategorized

After The End: An Interview With David ‘DB’ Andry

Last week Vault Comics announced End After End, their first series of 2022! The team behind this new 10-issue series looks really fantastic! They’ve worked on some of our favorite comics, with Resonant’s DB Andry and The Plot’s Tim Daniel on writing, Money Shot’s Kurt Michael Russell on colors, The Autumnal’s Jim Campbell on letters, and Vault newcomer Sunando C. doing illustration! We got a chance to chat with David Andry about Vault’s first isekai, which we’re super hyped about! As usual, our first question was about food.

What is your favorite pandemic snack or comfort food?

Well, considering I’ve eaten it 3 times in the last 4 days I’m going to have to say fried chicken. Actually, if you count nuggets and strips, it’s pretty much every day this last week. Needless to say, since the pandemic started my clothes have gotten tighter and tighter. 

What do you want to tell us about End After End?

First of all, I want to tell you to read it! But really, if you liked Resonant or The Plot, Tim and I are bringing the same character focus and heart to this book. Sunando is bringing a grit and realness to fantasy that I don’t think we’ve ever seen before in comics. This is fantasy, but from ground level, not way up in the clouds. Kurt will bring his expected magic and Jim’s letters will elevate the whole thing. This is the first of many projects Tim and I are working on together and I think we’ve elevated each other’s work and I’m really excited for people to check End After End out! 

Is this a series I can give to friends who may have never read a comic? 

Absolutely! Sometimes fantasy can be daunting for a new reader, with tons of back story and rules of magic. Not here! You can think of this as a war comic, just happens to be set in a fantasy world. The main character, Walt, is thrown into this world, knowing nothing about it, so the reader gets to learn about the world as Walt learns. There is tons of action to keep readers interested and some really engaging characters. 

It sounds like there are strong themes of finding the thing you’re meant to do in End After End. Do you have advice for people trying to find their purpose?

It’s never too late. That’s something that I have to keep reminding myself as someone who is coming into writing professionally later in life. It’s never too late. If you start today, you’ll be further along than you were yesterday. 

You’re collaborating with Tim Daniel on the writing of End After End. How did this collaboration come about? How is the process of writing this as a team different from how you wrote Resonant?

First of all, Tim is the best, let’s just get that out of the way. We’ve been friends for over 10 years, he’s been supportive of my writing career from the beginning. He’s read my scripts, helped design covers for my self published comics and always been there with advice. He definitely helped get Resonant in front of Adrian Wassel so I could pitch it. Last year, Tim just messaged me and said let’s do something together. We scheduled a phone call and after about 5 hours we had the bones of End After End laid out. It was amazing! We just flowed together, riffing off each other’s ideas like we’d been working together forever. We naturally fell into a rhythm of writing together and we really hit the ground running and haven’t slowed down since then. It’s such a better experience than writing solo, 2 brains are better than one and all that. It’s really been an easy experience and we are way more productive than each of us would be by ourselves. 

Tell us about the visual team on this! What can we expect from artist Sunando C, Colorist Kurt Michael Russell, and Letterer Jim Campbell?

You can expect excellence! Sunando and Kurt have already been collaborating on character design and color schemes. Sunando is bringing such an unique quality to this story, imbuing it with his own cultural touchstones. He’s really a true partner in the creation of the End After End. Tim and I have even gone back and rewritten parts based on the designs and look of the characters he’s created. With Kurt and Jim on the team, I promise this book will be visually stunning. 

You included your dog Busy as Fern in Resonant, resulting in one of the best comic covers of the year! Will we also see Busy in End After End

I’m pretty sure I can convince Sun to sneak her in a panel or two. But be on the lookout for Sun’s cats…

The second volume of Resonant is out in November, what is it like to see your first comic series from Vault completed and on your bookshelf? Was there anything that surprised you about the process of going from an idea into books?

It was pretty awesome, to be honest. It’s been a dream since I was twelve years old and to see it come true was mind blowing and surreal. It’s surprising how much work and how much stuff goes on behind the scenes for a book to get onto the shelves. The Vault team deserves so much credit…and probably long vacations. 

You’ve earned the reputation as the comic book industry’s physical therapist. Your Twitter threads on healthy habits for artists and people sitting at desks all day have been really popular and helpful! How did those come about?

I kept seeing post after post from artists complaining about hand pain, neck pain, shoulder pain. And I work exclusively with people who get hurt at work. So many times, working with people with repetitive strain injuries, a small change can make a big difference. I figured, if I can’t work with each of these artists individually, I’ll just give the general information I typically give to all my patients. It was very popular! My first ‘viral’ post! Some day, I’ll get a booth at a con that is just PT advice and I’ll be the most crowded booth at the show.

What’s next for you? How long is End After End intended to be? Will you ever return to the world of Resonant? Do you have any other projects in the works? 

End After End will be 10 issues, many of them more than the standard 22 pages so we are giving the reader plenty of bang for the buck. Next will probably be another project (or 2) with Tim. I do have a solo project that has been in the works before Tim and I started working together, so you may see that toward the end of next year. I would love to do more in the world of Resonant, nothing on the books right now, but I’ll always have my chirpers handy.

To get your hands on End After End, talk to your local comic store before December 20th! 

Categories
Comics

The Autumnal Review: Horror that Packs a Pumpkin Spiced Punch

The perfect comic to pair with a pumpkin spice latte and a giant scarf has been bundled up into a paperback book! The Autumnal is a beautiful and horrifying story about Kat and her daughter Sybil who head to Comfort Notch. This fictional small town has a vibe between Stepford and the village in Midsommar, but with Jason Wordie’s gorgeous fiery colors earning Comfort Notch the title of America’s Prettiest Autumn.  Kat is a bit out of place rolling into town with her stuff in a bag, sporting a rocker look and a neck tattoo, but she inherits her recently-deceased mother’s house and sets up her life there with her kid.

I really like reading about Kat, who has a lot of dimension as a character. Some protagonists in horror make such dumb decisions that it can bring you out of a story, wondering how anyone so stupid would have made it to adulthood. Not Kat, however. That isn’t to say she makes good decisions. She makes a lot of really bad ones during this series. From the first pages, we get the sense that her life has been absolutely filled with poor choices, so when she does something boneheaded you want to scream BE BETTER but like, you get it. It’s consistent with her as a person. And because of this, it’s very easy to get invested. Kat is flawed, but you root for her and want her to grow and have good things happen to her and stick it to those judgemental townspeople.

If you told me Daniel Kraus had written comics for the last two decades, I would believe you. The Autumnal is perfect horror, but also does an excellent job of being a comic. The pacing is spot on and there’s a good combination of dialogue and visual storytelling. I was shocked to learn this was Kraus’s first comic! 

This is brought to life by a phenomenal visual art team. There are a lot of details like leaves falling across the pages and easter eggs referencing other Vault works that add whimsy to a comic that goes to some dark places. Shehan shows incredible range in The Autumnal, capturing strong emotions, large crowds, pretty nature, sexy times, horrifying moments, and lighthearted scenes. Wordie’s colors and Jim Campbell’s creative lettering are a perfect fit for this series, following the emotional highs and lows of Kat’s and Sybil’s story. If you’re wondering how all of these fit into a single comic… It’s the perfect time to pick it up and sit under a nice tree with this book.

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Comics Interviews

Chris Shehan’s Interview

Chris Shehan has had a busy year! After wrapping up the prettiest horror story you’ll ever read, The Autumnal, it was announced that they would be the artist for the upcoming House of Slaughter. Somehow, between all of that, they’ve also drawn variant covers for some of our indie horror faves The Plot and The Last Book You’ll Ever Read. We got a chance to ask Chris for details on these projects, and some other important questions, starting with:

What is your favorite sandwich?

My favorite sandwich to eat is a BLT with avocado. Hard to beat. Favorite sandwich to make is grilled cheese. I go all-out and make a special event out of it.

Your next work, House of Slaughter, is out next month (FOC is next Monday, September 13th)*! What do you want to share with us about that?

For anyone who may not know, it’s a spin-off of Something is Killing the Children. It’s a little bit of a prequel following some stuff that Aaron Slaughter was up to before we see him in SIKTC. There’s some back story and more lore and mythology to the world crafted by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera. I won’t say much outside of that, but I’m really enjoying working on it.

* Final Order Cutoff is the last day local comic stores can put in orders for a print comic book and have it guaranteed that they’ll get a copy. Publishers use the numbers they get on that day to determine how much of a comic they should print, and if you decide you want one after that, they might have sold out. So, if you want House of Slaughter #1, tell your local comics store before next Monday!

Is this something new readers can pick up if they haven’t read Something Is Killing the Children?

I believe so, but I think the added context of Something Is Killing The Children will really help fill out the world for the reader. Plus, it’s one of my favorite comics, so I honestly would recommend it whether I was working on a spin-off or not!

Can you tell us about getting signed onto this project? Is it true that it started with fan art? What happened after that?

I’m not actually sure how it really started, but James Tynion IV had helped get the word out about The Autumnal when we first started promoting that, and I assume my work on that had led to being considered for House of Slaughter. But I did do Erica Slaughter fanart that James liked, and I like to think that helped! As I was finishing the final issue of The Autumnal, I was contacted by Boom about the project, and as a SIKTC fan, it was hard to say no!

How does it feel to have drawn a $2000 comic? Can I ask how variant covers** work from an artist’s perspective since you’ve had comics with variant covers and drawn variant covers for other comics?

Oh wow, I didn’t even know that was a thing. I’ve only very recently started learning about the way collectors use comics as a form of art collecting and/or investing. I’m honored people find value in comics, but I don’t fully understand it. As for how it works for me, I’m generally just asked to draw a cover or variant for my usual rate. With exclusive retailer variants, I might do some profit-sharing, but honestly, my rep handles those deals, and I try to just focus on drawing. I’m fascinated by it, though.

** Variant Covers are comics where the cover of an issue is drawn by a guest artist. The interior of the comic is the same! Sometimes publishers will make variant covers generally orderable, so you just have to ask your local comic store to get a variant cover for you. Other times, they’re sold as incentive bundles, where your local comic store is only allowed to order one copy of the variant for every x copies of the regular comic they order. Different stores will have different policies on getting these incentive covers for you or how much they charge for them, so if you’re interested in one of those, you should ask about your local store’s policy!

How is working on House of Slaughter different from working on your most recent project, The Autumnal? How do these compare to your guest covers for The Plot? What is it like to add to an existing IP? Do you approach it differently?

I’m much more careful when working on something that already has an established fan base. I try to find a balance of bringing my voice to something while matching the voices that came before so that what I do can exist, believably, in that world. I’m very nervous for this book to come out. I do hope that the fans love it. I’m having fun working on it. My guest covers on the plot were less nerve-wracking because I had The Plot co-creator, Tim Daniel, art-directing those covers from start to finish. That gave me a lot more confidence.

What kinds of things did you enjoy drawing the most in your projects? What were the most difficult or challenging things to draw?

I love drawing emotional character moments more than anything else. The most challenging things to draw are crowds of people.

Who are your influences? What artists are you seeing doing cool things right now?

I have so many influences at this point it’s hard to list them all. Lately, I look at a lot of Mike Mignola, Yoji Shinkawa, and Ashley Wood. Artists who are doing cool things right now are people like Martin Simmonds, Jason Shawn Alexander, Werther Dell’Edera, Sally Cantirino, Josh Hixson, Matteo Scalera. I can go on and on and on. It’s a great time to be making and reading comics right now, honestly.

Some fun details showed up in The Autumnal—references to other Vault comics! How did those come about?

I like Easter eggs! Some stuff was simply just Easter eggs. I put myself as an “extra” in everything I do. My dog also showed up in The Autumnal. And the crossover between The Autumnal and The Plot was Tim Daniel’s idea, and I loved that. I like the idea that they exist in the same universe, and I’d love to see The Autumnal references in other Vault Nightfall titles.

Do you have a list of dream projects that you would love to work on?

First and foremost, I’d love to write and draw my own big epic story. I’ve been sitting on a great one, and I’ve already got designs and art for it, so it’s just a matter of finding the right time to pitch it. The right place is Vault Comics. I can’t see doing it anywhere else. After that, I’d love to do some Batman, something in the Hellboy universe, maybe a short Spider-Man story, and as much creator-owned stuff with great writers that I can manage. The Autumnal was a delight, and any other creator-owned I’ve done with other writers is very special to me, so I’ll likely never stop doing that.

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Uncategorized

The Many Deaths of Laila Starr – A Miniseries Review

Last month, I read the fourth issue of The Many Deaths of Laila Starr while sitting in my friend’s car zooming down a highway. She was telling me her boba order when I turned a page and made a sound that was two parts anguish and one part shock. My friend asked what happened, and I sadly shared that a building had died of grief, and it was very tragic. It turns out I don’t have the skill that Ram V does to make someone care about a collapsed empty building, but I certainly tried while blinking back tears in the passenger seat.

Laila Starr #1 (Written by Ram V, illustrated by Filipe Andrade with color assists by Inês Amaro, and lettered by AndWorld Design) / Source: Boom! Studios

The Many Deaths of Laila Starr depicts a lot of deaths. Profound deaths, tragic deaths, accidental deaths, natural deaths, abrupt deaths, vengeful deaths. Laila Starr spent eternity as the God of Death, but it wasn’t until she lost her job and became mortal that she understood the concept. She says in the second issue, “I’ve just learned today that those are different things… Dying and going away forever.”  For such a heavy topic, The Many Deaths of Laila Starr mixes the profound melancholy moments with lighthearted fun and gorgeous art. Filipe Andrade’s illustrations capture expression and postures in exaggerated and playful ways. The character Bardhan absolutely looms over this young kid, Darius. Bardhan, from the perspective of an eight-year-old, is whimsical and surreal. But Darius sees more humanity in Bardhan than any of the adults employing him to tend their trees. 

Laila Starr #2 (Written by Ram V, illustrated by Filipe Andrade with color assists by Inês Amaro, and lettered by AndWorld Design) / Source: Boom! Studios

We check in on Darius’s life as he grows up through a series of encounters with Laila Starr, with both becoming very different people as time passes. His destiny is to put death out of a job since he is predicted to invent immortality. At first, she seeks him out to try to convince him not to do that. She’s not very good at recognizing him, however, and seems to say the things that cause him to get closer to this task. As we barrel towards the end, we experience the many highs and lows of human life, set against a backdrop of beautiful sunset hues.

We might wonder if we’ll see more about this from Ram V and Felipe Andrade. Well, the answer is no. 

Ram V, Laila Starr’s writer, asnwering a question about the comic’s future. / Source: Twitter

I saw this tweet before I read the fifth issue, but that still didn’t prepare me for the emotions I felt reading the last piece that ties everything together. It was excellent, perfect, and definitely an ending. If you want to know why you’ll have to check it out! You should do this anyway because it already belongs on every end-of-year ‘best of’ list.

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Comics

Human Remains #1: Spoiler Free Review

Human Remains might be the scariest Vault series to date, and not because it’s the goriest Vault series to date, which it totally is. Seeing some guy get ripped apart by a giant skeleton bug in the first few pages isn’t even the thing that made me anxious. Instead, it was this face he made like “What have I done?” right before the unspeakable horror appeared. 

In Human Remains, the world has been under attack from scary monsters appearing out of a void to rip apart anyone being too emotional. Everyone is trying desperately to keep their emotions bottled up, with varying degrees of success. There are parallels here to living under the threat of COVID, of course. Peter Milligan perfectly captures the anxiety and stress of what happens when A Very Bad Thing has been happening for a really long time. It also captures the small moments that keep us going despite The Very Bad Thing, even though these might be used as tools to break our hearts later on in the series. The introductions to the characters (even the ones who die immediately) are brutally intimate as they confront the other issues in their lives, compounding the horribleness of the time after the life-forms arrived. 

All of that is to say, Human Remains is really really good. You pick it up and won’t be able to look away from this emotional jackhammer of a story. A lot of horror stories will keep their monsters hidden because what you imagine is probably worse than anything they could portray. Not here, though. The monsters are every bit as terrifying as the atmosphere would have you believe. Having full knowledge of this threat leads to everyone walking around the comic book world looking very tense and ready to lose it on the next guy that mansplains something to them in a meeting, but also knowing that losing self-control for a moment would be bad for everyone around.

As a last note, I think this comic would be well served to have a trigger warning at the beginning. There’s a portrayal of domestic violence⁠—it’s only one page in the first issue but I think it’s the beginning of a storyline that’s pretty dark, and even by itself could be pretty upsetting to readers with previous trauma.

* Credit to Bobby @EmperorBojira for this great word

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Uncategorized

Barbaric #3: The End (For Now!)

This issue opens with Soren presenting the first actual threat of the series to Owen.

In the physical matchups so far, our tanky protagonist unleashed his axe and made quick work of any adversaries, but Soren presents a different type of challenge.

First of all, he doesn’t really want to kill her, having decided maybe not all witches are bad after hearing her backstory in the tavern last issue. And second of all, her magic isn’t really something he can slice his way out of. The fake out of him almost dying would be convincing, but we already know that Moreci has big plans for this series next year. That gives Owen quite a bit more plot armor than we’d normally expect for a final issue, and as expected this resolves pretty quickly. It is really interesting getting to see a variety of Soren’s powers in this issue, leaving me wondering just how strong she is. 

Credit: Michael Moreci/Nathan Gooden/Addison Duke/Jim Campbell (Vault Comics)

From there, the energy of the comics picks up and we get the full force of the action comic we were promised. The trio slash through the bad guys in their path on their way out of the crumbling castle. Nathan Gooden’s art and Addison Duke’s colors really shine here. Instead of feeling repetitive as they hack up their adversaries, they mix it up with variations in color, design, and the relative sizes of their opponents to keep it fresh. 

This issue hits a lot of the same nostalgic notes as your favorite pop-culture adventurer stories: Buffy, Indiana Jones, The Legend of Zelda, or any of the Final Fantasy games. A big boss battle happens, and just as it seems like all is over, there’s a big reveal that the boss is actually a bigger boss! And also, the heroes have to hurry because everything is falling apart; they have to fight their way out of the dungeon as it collapses behind them! All of this happens while we get a lot of montages of the characters just destroying everything in their path in a really satisfying way while neatly wrapping up the story and teasing the next arc. 

Credit: Michael Moreci/Nathan Gooden/Addison Duke/Jim Campbell (Vault Comics)

The series as a whole is in a really good place going into 2022. We have a strong cast of characters, really great art, hints at meaningful character development to come, and solid writing that understands and leans into its genre. I look forward to the second arc!

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Anime

Dive into The Aquatope on White Sand – Review

For a brief few weeks, it seemed like a future full of glamorous travels was in reach, but… I think I’m going to curl up and stay inside for a bit longer. If like me, you’re still dreaming of that perfect beach vacation, watching The Aquatope on White Sand might be the next best thing. 

from Aquatrope on White Sand

This cute escapist anime is about a young woman who has just quit pursuing her dream of being an idol. At the airport, she calls her mom who, in a tactless attempt at being supportive, helps our protagonist Fuuka realize she isn’t ready to go home. She kind of buys a ticket to anywhere and ends up in a beautiful beachside town in Okinawa. She finds a place to stay, picks up a job at an aquarium, and makes friends with the welcoming locals. I think this is also a romance, but as in most portrayals of women and their girlfriends, it’s communicated in a very ‘Sappho and her friend’ manner. Meditative and cute, Fuuka has experienced a ton of character growth just six episodes in while exploring how to rebuild her identity after giving up on her dream.

Fuuka the main character from Aquatrope on White Sand

These touching moments are set in front of the most beautiful backdrop of beaches and the aquarium at the center of this story. The cute animals are at times metaphors for the problems our protagonist faces, in the form of penguins and tropical fish like the coral blenny. There is also peripheral magic to the town–there’s a tiny deity hanging around, unseen by the characters, a sense of fate that Fuuka was somehow meant to be here, and the characters experience occasional fish-induced visions.  

A penguin from the Aquatope on White Sand.

Overall, Aquatope is a beautiful, calming escape of a beach vacation in a small town with a strong character-driven storyline and cute penguins. You can find it on VRV/Crunchyroll.

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Comics

X-Men #1 Review – Are You the #1 For Me?

I’ve been reading comics for about three years, but I’ve always been a bit intimidated by the long ongoing series with lots of history. As part of Gatecrasher’s ongoing ‘Is __ New Reader Friendly?’ series, I’m a pretty good candidate to review X-Men #1: I’ve never read any X-Men comics and the last (and only) movie I saw from the franchise was the 2009 Wolverine movie.

The comic begins with the first of three villain introductions. All three of these are mostly motivated within the space of the first comic, and are probably some of the most accessible parts of the story. There was only one panel that made me feel like I missed something in the first few pages, when one of the villains is shown watching the news and learning something about Mars. It wasn’t immediately clear what the villain saw on the news, but it seemed like a reference people who read previous comics would pick up. Ultimately, this confusion about Mars would continue later, but it wasn’t totally necessary information to know what this villain’s whole deal was.

From there, we entered the main story, and the general gist was easy to follow. Overnight the X-Men made a home base that doubled as a giant tree, explained as the result of someone pouring billions of dollars into real estate to make this happen overnight and an army of lawyers to defend them from anyone who complained after the fact. I’m not sure even billions of dollars could expedite New York zoning laws, but I guess if we have superheroes, we can have our fancy treehouse too. The comic has a cute graphic that has faces and names, but I was still a bit slow to realize Cyclops = Scott = Mr. Summers.

The dialogue here referenced a lot of things I didn’t have context on. It definitely didn’t seem like it was to catch up a new reader, more to connect the current story to previous events, for people who had more background than me. There were two topics I was a bit confused on which related to events before this comic: Mars, which was claimed as ‘Arakko’, and Krakoan politics. After reading the whole comic, I’m admittedly a bit lost on these still, despite the comic making a clear effort to catch a new reader up on these. These seem important to figure out because they will probably motivate a major storyline.

The last part of the main story was a big monster fight. This was accessible and easy to follow. The labeled names, in the beginning, helped a lot, but we also got to see the characters use their powers and call out to each other a lot, so it served as a good introduction to the heroes in action, including some callouts to other allies in the universe who aren’t part of this story. From there, we get a lead-in to the two remaining villain stories I mentioned above, which were again accessible because I think this was introducing these characters to the long-time readers as well.

In all, the main story was easy enough to follow for a completely new reader. The dialogue felt at times like a series of inside jokes that weren’t meant for you, but it only seemed to affect the main story in one case, so if you want to keep reading you might want to Google what’s going on with Mars.

Final Verdict: Not New Reader Friendly