Fun-Size Roundtable: The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1

Thank you everyone for coming here on such short notice. We are gathered here today to— Hey, you in the back with the headband, quiet down! Damnit, where was I….? Right. We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of Trigger Keaton, a man loved by— HEY! Stop throwing tomatoes at me! The casket’s over there!

You know what, I’m skipping the rest of this script. You know why we’re here. The first issue of The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton, written by Kyle Starks and illustrated by Chris Schweizer, is out today. I’d like to thank the five panelists gathered here today for actually responding to the invitation, even if one of you scoundrels keyed my car. But I digress, let’s hear what each of you have to say about a man we all tolerated at best, and loathed on average.

Jimmy Gaspero

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1. Credit: Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer.

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton is about an extremely unlikable action star whose former TV sidekicks team up to investigate his murder. Starks never misses an opportunity to showcase Keaton’s terrible behavior, but the character never feels too exaggerated or over the top. This isn’t a caricature, so when the TV sidekicks are introduced it’s understandable that they have complicated feelings about the death of Trigger Keaton as they attend his memorial service. The sidekick introductions are smartly done with names and sidekick number, along with panel inserts giving a glimpse of an article or TV Guide entry for the TV show they were in with Keaton. They are all very different and the characterization work is strong, but also Schweizer’s design for each character makes them stand out in their own way.

The biggest takeaways from The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton are its sense of humor and action scenes. Terry Komodo is brash, obnoxious and probably the only former sidekick with anything nice to say about Keaton, so there’s plenty of comedy to be mined there, but Paul Hernandez has a subtler, dryer wit and this comes across too in the panels. The opening panels provide some action for Schweizer to show off a little (the “SPIN KICK!” and “LEG SWEEP” SFX are great too), but the end fight scene is tremendous both in how dynamic Komodo looks fighting, but also the movement and anxiety in Hernandez attempting to avoid the fight.        

Overall, this was a fun first issue that was funny, with great action and a compelling mystery at its center that fans of Rock Candy Mountain and Assassin Nation are sure to enjoy.

Bobby Varghese Vinu

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1. Credit: Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer.

While this is an interesting premise, the first issue seems to move at a rather fast pace to the detriment of the story that’s being told. It can be rather jarring with certain scenes, and it disrupts the story’s flow at times. However, not all is imperfect.

The supplementary material for this comic is fascinating as while it is a recounting of an incident involving the man, it adds to this issue’s depiction of who Trigger Keaton is, which is all too relevant when considering the behaviour of certain people in Hollywood towards those they deem “lesser.” There’s also potential here for character exploration with his former “sidekicks:” the actors who he burnt bridges with thanks to his attitude. Even as a posthumous character, he still lives through the protagonists

And the art is excellent. There’s a sort of vintage pop culture aesthetic with the colours used by Schweizer, which is very cool and fitting for the story being told. It blends well with the cartoony linework used by Schweizer, giving me the impression of a late night cartoon on Adult Swim.

Elle Worthy

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1. Credit: Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer.

Trigger Keaton was Bonafide Pictures’ cash cow, having had a contract with them for an unheard-of twenty-five years. This security gave Keaton the freedom to act without regard to others or even his own wellbeing. In a not so surprising turn of events, Keaton, “the world’s most unlikable action star”, is found dead in his trailer. With the police uninterested in looking deeper into what they have prematurely deemed a suicide, it’s up to those he’s scorned the most to get to the bottom of the mystery.

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton finds a ragtag group of Keaton’s former and most current onscreen sidekicks gathered at a publicity event after the discovery of his body. They will need to set aside their personal biases and issues to work together.

This was a visually pleasing story to get into. It had a lot going on without being too busy. I really enjoyed the title cards introducing the Six, as well as the panels highlighting their Hollywood connection to Keaton along with the fallout attached to their projects. I was especially entertained by Sidekick No. 6, Miles Nguyen, Keaton’s most recent on-screen partner. I got big Phoenix Wright, over-the-top, wannabe detective vibes from him and it just worked so well with the rest of the crew. 

This was a great first issue that definitely reeled me in for the rest of the series. 

Bethani Lynda

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1. Credit: Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer.

There’s something about comics that makes the medium a prime breeding ground for legendary asshole characters, and Trigger Keaton is determined to sucker-punch and leg-sweep his way into that pantheon. It helps that he’s doing it in a book that’s incredibly warm, funny, and fully committed to its nutty premise.

There’s a lot to love here, from the clear personalities of each sidekick to the wonderful character acting. I was able to read this issue on my phone without having to zoom in to parse what was happening (though I still did anyway, the art’s just too delightful). Schweizer’s style won’t be for everyone, but he deserves the attention of anyone who cares about cartooning. Lovely colors, too!

Starks has a great ear for dialogue and which writing style is appropriate for which situation. Whether it’s a tawdry celeb profile, a TV guide listing, or a canned speech to the press, everything sounded right to me. It’s that kind of attention to detail that makes for a great crime farce, and I am definitely along for the ride.

Logan Dalton

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1. Credit: Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer.

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1 is a joke-dense action comedy ride from writer Kyle Starks and artist Chris Schweizer. Using press clippings and flashbacks, they construct one of the most unlikable characters, period, kill him off, and then set up a stone-cold whodunit. Keaton is a lot like how I imagine Chuck Norris to be like when the cameras are off. However, Six Sidekicks isn’t just a mystery, but a multi-genre feast drawing on Trigger Keaton’s long career on television shows you’re more likely to see on some random local channel at 3 AM than getting big reunion specials on HBO Max.

This is a comic that can go from a heartfelt anti-suicide PSA to a no-holds-barred street brawl, with Starks and Schweizer playfully blurring the lines between fact and fiction. Each of the six sidekicks have a distinct personality that draws on different Hollywood archetypes from the failed, recast child star to the child star with a career in another field, the professional athlete who’s crossed over into acting, and more. They’re introduced in a funeral scene that feels more like reading through the guest list of a flyover state comic con, but it’s an effective way to introduce a large ensemble cast and get to the fun ass kicking bits.

The upcoming Stuntman War teased at the end of the issue does seem like a distraction rather than a compelling plot point, but I really wanna get to know this motley crew a bit more. On a craft level, I also want to continue to bask in the comedic alchemy of Kyle Starks and Chris Schweizer because a well-placed beat panel or reaction shot can make a funny line a laugh-out-loud one.


Re-Re-Rebirth of The Cool: Static, Icon, and Rocket Bring Milestone Into the Modern Era

When Milestone Comics debuted in 1993, it felt like the entirety of comics up until that point had just been the opening act. Sure, the predecessors, your Claremonts, Simonsons, hell, even Kirbys, were great in their own rights, but Hardware, Icon, Blood Syndicate, and Static were a four-note chord that was unlike anything that had come before. Their diversity, both on and off-panel, and authentic storylines and characters, set a bar that even now, almost thirty years later, mainstream comics struggle to reach. Far from the public perception of Milestone as just “the Black comics,” the books, often referred to as the Dakotaverse, were largely intersectional in nature with honest portrayals of topics from gang violence, to disability, to class privilege, to trans rights, all with some of the industry’s best and brightest behind them. 

While the comics themselves didn’t last long, with gradual cancellations from 1995 to 1997, Milestone lived on with the much-loved Static Shock cartoon, before having the comic characters brought into the DC Universe proper in 2008. Previously, with the exception of a brief crossover, the relationship between Milestone and DC had been more about licensing – DC handled distribution, but Milestone owned the rights, able to publish whatever they wished as long as DC didn’t object. For the most part, everything went smoothly in that regard – while Milestone touched on topics that made DC uncomfortable, they recognized the need for most of the stories to be told. Unfortunately, much like the initial run of the imprint that created them, Milestone’s characters vanished from DC far too soon, with little more than occasional cameos in the Young Justice cartoon, and a best-forgotten Static Shock run at the beginning of the New 52.

While there were yearly announcements that hinted we’d be seeing more Milestone “soon,” nothing concrete took form until the surprise, limited-time digital release of the 17-page Milestone Returns #0 during last September’s DC FanDome: Hall of Heroes event, after legal issues with the rights were resolved. The book served as an introduction to the new “Earth-M,” reintroducing classic characters such as Rocket, Static, and Icon, along with the characters who comprise the new hero, Duo. This Re-re-rebirth of the Cool, bringing back some of the creatives who made the original Milestone so iconic, was supposed to usher in a new era of digital-first comics in the universe, bringing the characters and the world into the modern day. However, in what I can’t help but think of as a truly amazing instance of C.P.T., the digital comics were all delayed by months, so that physical releases could come out the same day, with the exception of the expanded Milestone Returns: Infinite Edition #0. This “extended cut” was released digitally on 2/26/21, with a physical release on 5/26, and adds an additional 24 pages teasing the stories yet to come. 

The biggest change here is the updated take on the Big Bang, the source of most of the universe’s superheroes. In the original Milestone, the Big Bang happened when the police used experimental chemical weaponry in the middle of a gang war  – here, perhaps to be more topical, the chemicals were unleashed during the meeting of a Black Lives Matter protest and counterprotest. The exact circumstances of the Big Bang were an important point of nuance in the original Static stories – the fact that at his worst, Virgil found himself strapped up in the middle of a gang war played a big part in his desire to do the right thing, and stop Bang Babies who threatened the peace. Without that, we’re either going to lose that shade of grey, and that motivation for him, or, and hopefully this isn’t the case, BLM is going to be equated to the gang war. At best, it seems that Static will be overly sanitized. At worst, it’ll portray a peaceful protest for the right to be treated like people as something to be looked down on, a sin that warrants police escalation. While police brutality is clearly a part of both incarnations of the universe, I can’t help but worry, especially in today’s climate, whether it will be portrayed with the honesty it needs.

All that being said, it feels good to pick up a comic with the Milestone logo again, and I’m certainly hoping that my misgivings will prove unwarranted! Milestone is an imprint with a lot of potential, and I’m looking forward to seeing how some of the talented creators that have been brought on will leave their mark on the industry. With how widespread the superhero genre is today, Milestone’s return has the opportunity to bring a spotlight to diverse creators and characters that might otherwise fall by the wayside, and tell stories that are screaming out to be told. And hey, even if it doesn’t reach the heights of the early nineties, it might get people to check out those older comics! Either way, one thing’s for certain: it’s gonna put a shock to your system.


Fun-Size Roundtable: Everfrost #1

GateCrashers HQ:

       We’ve made an incredible find in the ice north of Ward Precinct close to where the Ennio’s skull is located. I was shocked at how well preserved it is considering the harsh conditions here. It’s an ancient form of serialized, visual story-telling called a comic. I hope you’re sitting down when you read this because it’s not on a datapad; it’s actual paper. Paper! How it wasn’t destroyed by all the Branq in the area remains a mystery.

       This comic is titled Everfrost #1 by Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, and Jim Campbell. It tells the story of Van, a scientist trying to use the offspring of the dead Ennio to find a way off-world, with the help of her companion, Eight. At the same time, there are tales of the troubles between the Warlords of Ward and the Bloom. There’s much more to it and I’m giddy with the possibilities of studying this ancient text.      

In order to ensure speedy results, it was necessary to recruit some members from Project Yeti. This is the team studying the mysterious Pragg and you can read all of the previously published reports here. I have also drafted two recruits from Astounding Tales, Jake and Ray, and you can pick up what they’ve been working on here and see a free preview here. Once assembled, my team was in a position to analyze Everfrost #1 and report back immediately. Below I leave you with my team’s findings.

Katie Liggera

Everfrost #1. Credit: Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, Jim Campbell

Sci-fi genre comics require work. The writer’s work hinges on their responsibility to create a future/dystopia immersive for readers, also providing essential constituents to parse the lore wrapped up in these plots. Illustrators must work to manifest the writers’ script visually, adding layers of tangible details. Everfrost #1 does the work of a sci-fi comic in that the necessary rudimentary elements are present. But the comic overworks itself by stuffing an abundance of information into one single dense issue. As a reader, I felt I was working hard to understand Ryan K. Lindsay’s multi-latticed, in media res storylines. The enormity of ideas percolating, while innovative, felt overwhelming.

Van Louise and Eight’s story should have remained this first issue’s sole focus. Foul-mouthed primate companions always add levity to comics wavering tonally. I wanted to know more about Eight and loved his cheeky dynamic with Van. I primarily found myself invested in Van and her backstory. Masterful flashback sequences enhanced characterization. The close-up focus on only Van’s eyes tearing up immediately following the memory of her family’s deaths was poignant. Sami Kivelä and Lauren Affe’s artistry elevate moments like this grandly.

Lindsay’s prose-style writing is beautiful. The art, lettering, and design of Everfrost #1 all stunningly capture the story’s atmosphere. Hopefully, the scattered plot will find an even ground with further issues. And the more Eight in the comic, the better.

Jodi Odgers

Everfrost #1. Credit: Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, Jim Campbell

From the first page of Everfrost, the creative bond between artist Sami Kivelä and writer Ryan K. Lindsay is as evident as it has been throughout their numerous previous projects. While Kivelä’s gritty realisation of Lindsay’s intricate visions is a dynamic that I personally relish, it can be occasionally nebulous. There is a lot of information thrust upon the reader, and a host of ideas that will, no doubt, be explored in some way as the series goes on. This makes the issue a very good litmus test – either you will be intrigued by the prospects of escaping a planet by spawning eggs from a decaying dead god, clone children, class war, and crystal beings that have a deeper connection to the universe, or all of this coming at you at once will help you realise that Everfrost just isn’t your cup of branqblood soup.

Ray Griffith

Everfrost #1. Credit: Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, Jim Campbell

Everfrost is a wild Sci-Fi ride with a lot of ideas.

Maybe too many of them.

We’re whisked from one splendid visual to the next with wicked abandon – characters are introduced at a breakneck speed, often with dialogue that strains the word balloons as it struggles to provide context. Flying dragon creatures and slow-witted ice giants provide wonderful flavor, but the plot has a lot of threads that don’t come together in this first issue – the initial conceit, that scientist Van Louise needs to use the corpse of an eldritch abomination to gestate a way off world, is put to the side as she and her primate companion investigate mysterious miniature clones – and that’s before the android spider woman. If the threads laid down in Issue one come together, it could be amazing, but I can’t lie, without further context it’s hard to say if this is the beginning of brilliance or just a mess.

Jake Cohen

Everfrost #1. Credit: Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, Jim Campbell

The art in Everfrost is fantastic. The last page of the comic is a gorgeous splash page. Everfrost has great character designs that are both creative and communicate information about the characters. I particularly enjoyed a creepy antagonist that becomes a cyborg due to a beheading. This may remind X-Men fans of The X-Tinction Agenda’s villain Cameron Hodge.

The art design and the textures of the technology are creative and interesting, yet familiar enough to let you know what genre the story is taking place in. The art is terrific and the dialogue and narration was serviceable, but unfortunately, I never felt that they were in service of each other. Jim Campbell did a nice job conveying the volume of speech with how bold or light the lettering was. 

Everfrost is a genre piece. It’s mostly sci-fi and space opera with some splashes of fantasy like a battle with dragons, axes, and robot drones. In the tradition of the space opera genre the protagonist of Everfrost has a cool animal/alien sidekick, a monkey with a very long prehensile tail.

The dialogue and narration are sometimes clunky and a lot of the world building is provided through exposition. The exposition dumps and world building don’t add much context to the story. The narrative felt a bit like when someone pitches a story, but they spend most of the time explaining lore and world building before telling you the plot or most importantly, what the story is about.

While having its flaws, Everfrost does transport the reader to an intriguing universe that I would be interested in visiting again.

Rob M. McDonald

Everfrost #1. Credit: Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, Jim Campbell

Everfrost is a very good looking puddle: it covers a lot but not in any amount of depth. It is what I imagine the inside of JJ Abrams’ brain looks like. Zingers! Dead Gods! Environmental catastrophe! Robots! Talking Monkey! Dragons?

There is a very contagious disease amongst indie comics at the minute: an inability to tell a story across a single issue. I can’t imagine this will tell a story over two or three issues, either. It wants you to buy in and trust the creators over the long term that you are jumping into an ocean and not about to break your ankles. It may well be the case. This issue just gave me a headache. The dialogue is clunky at best and the narrative jumps so far without telling us anything really. Just slow down.


Comics Television

The Surprising Awesomeness of Superman and Lois

Superman and Lois is great. I’m going to lead with that, no well-thought-out poetic discussion on how Superman is my favourite character (he is). No long drawn-out rambling on my relationship as a fan to Superman, or rants about how certain writers or directors don’t understand the character. I just want people to give this surprisingly great show a chance. 

As someone who generally has very mixed feelings towards the CW, I entered Superman and Lois with very low expectations, however, they were blown away by what I saw. Superman and Lois follows Clark Kent and Lois Lane as they try to balance raising two sons (Jonathan and Jordan), both unique with their own struggles and needs, as well as the couple’s responsibilities to the world, all the while dealing with emerging threats. The show is connected to the ArrowVerse, however, it seems quite separated in its own way, first and foremost there’s been a lot of money spent on it to look good, like HBO-level good. The action is great and the CGI is solid. 

Then there’s the drama; as the family makes big changes to their lives, the boys navigating their adolescence and growing pains, Clark being Superman, and Lois exploring big stories within and without the community they’re now a part of. Everything about the drama works extremely well, carried by compelling performances from the two leads, Tyler Hoechlin and Bitsie Tulloch. The kids are kids but they’re not unnecessarily annoying and angsty, their struggles with being the son of the most important and powerful hero is very understandable, as well as just trying to fit in at school. 

The family has good chemistry and play-off each other well. Lois has a lot of agency and her skills at juggling being a reporter and mother are fleshed out. Then there’s the heart of the show, Superman, my personal favourite hero. I was not a fan of how he was portrayed in Supergirl, but in this show, there’s much more respect for him and his honesty in his struggles, and figuring out what is best for himself, his family, and the world. It’s a blast to watch. Clark is great at being superman but interestingly, he’s struggling at being a great father though he’s giving it his all. Just four episodes in and I can say with confidence that the show so far is a great one, and I hope others join in on the fun.

By Bolu Ayeye.

Comics Film Television

The Undoing of WandaVision

The below article contains spoilers for WandaVision.

WandaVision is one of the best shows of the year. It follows Marvel’s Wanda Maximoff and The Vision as they navigate life through a strange world of various sitcoms from across the ages, from the ’50s to present-day mockumentaries. A well-acted drama with a huge budget and a very intriguing and engaging premise, WandaVision was well on its way to being my personal best show of the year. That was until the very last episode where the awesome setup and conflicts didn’t pay off that well. I would even say the show shied away from the greatness it was showing.

Marvel had done an awesome job crafting an intriguing mystery, all the while creating a compelling drama about grief and loss. The only problem was closing the deal. The downside of the Marvel mold of filmmaking reared its head, the company had gotten so used to having a clear good and bad guy that they brought upon themselves a major problem come the finale. The show had an awesome villain, Mephisto. Just kidding. No, the great big bad of WandaVision was Wanda herself, not Agatha, not Hayward, Wanda. And this had amazing potential, the only issue was the writers and the show itself didn’t seem to realize it, or, they did realize and tried to cast others in a more negative light and walk back on that choice.

They had us with “Agatha All Along”, except It wasn’t. Agatha was maybe right, her only flaw was trying to steal Wanda’s powers (well, and threatening her kids), but Wanda kidnaped hundreds of people and tortured them for weeks. Should Wanda really be in charge of such power? In the final episode the directing, writing, and narrative choices seem to make a concerted effort to state that If there was a villain, it was not Wanda. But the truth is, no matter how we slice it, Wanda was the one who kidnapped an entire town and traumatized them.

Having Hayward be a sneaky villain makes no sense. The United States government wanting a powerful weapon like Vision is incredibly on-brand, no need to be sneaky about it. And more importantly, Wanda taking over the town pretty much gives him carte blanch, his being sneaky and duplicitous makes no sense. Lastly, and sadly for me, the biggest victim of these story decisions was sadly Monica Rambeau. Monica was a pretty cool and interesting character. Initially our guide into this world, who was trying to figure things out right alongside us, the audience. But after a while, she became fixated on Wanda and not the many victims in The Hex. Even when it became clear Wanda was the cause of it all, she didn’t have any wariness of her. It was particularly odd of Monica to absolve Wanda. How does Hayward stealing Vision’s body make him a bigger villain than Wanda? I still like Monica but hopefully she gets treated better in future instalments of the MCU. Regardless, wandavision is a great show but that last episode held it back from becoming a truly fantastic entry in the MCU.

By Bolu Ayeye.

Comics Television

Invincible – A Review

The hit 2003 Image comic Invincible by Robert Kirkman has been adapted into an animated series by Amazon Studios, starring a star-studded voice cast of Sandra Oh, Steven Yeun, Zazie Beats, J.K. Simmons, and more. 

The show stars Mark Nolan (Steven Yeun) as he tries to live up to the superhero legacy of the world’s most powerful superhero Omni-Man, who comes from an alien race called the Viltrumites (a thinly veiled superman pastiche), who as the show goes, on is revealed to be not all he seems. While Mark is excited that his power have started to emerge, he discovers being a superhero isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be (much like Spider-Man), he still has to balance personal relationships and his responsibilities as a high school student. It’s fun seeing him try and juggle all this.

The cast of characters are likeable and have great personalities. From mysterious government agencies that monitor and regulate heroes that both Mark, Omni-Man and other heroes work with, Mark’s mum, Debbie, to his regular human friends and his colourful and growing cast of super-villains; who range from somewhat comical to frighteningly powerful, clever and dangerous. Watching Mark trying to navigate them all is a rewarding, but very stressful journey filled with highs and lows and a shocking but amazing season finale to cap it off.

Season 1 ends with an awesome world expanding montage that gets us geared and excited for the future (the show is already renewed for a 2nd and 3rd season) and I am super buzzed about it. The show has great drama but also brutally awesome action. The superpowers on display are awesome, but it shows just how devastated regular human beings would be if they were exposed to them. Heck, even super-powered beings get the short end of the stick when dealing with powers, and if you’re squeamish about blood and gore this show might not be for you.

The show isn’t perfect, sometimes time moves too fast. Some of the animation at times isn’t smooth, and environments can feel a bit bland at times, but it doesn’t necessarily hold Invincible back from a great and memorable first season.

Amazon has carved a niche with darker and more mature superhero shows. If you loved The Boys and Spider-Man, this is the perfect show for you.

By Bolu Ayeye.


The Blue Flame #1 (Spoiler-free Review)

Review by Jimmy Gaspero Jr.

The Blue Flame opens with an homage to Silver Age science fiction/superhero stories to introduce the reader to Sam Brausam aka The Blue Flame. Not just a fun throwback, it gives the sense that this story is going to attempt to get at something fundamental about the superheroes that have played such a large role in popular culture since, at least, the Silver Age. Sam is described as an ordinary, blue-collar Everyman, but he finds himself in strange circumstances in Outer Space, with both Sam and the reader not quite sure what is going on, which instantly helps connect the reader to Sam.

After Sam learns the reason he’s been called to this planet, the story shifts to Sam’s life on Earth. Sam is shown at work, shoveling snow, and driving what I think is a late 70’s model Mercury Comet. It’s all a bit mundane, and that’s the point. Everything shown about Sam on Earth reinforces the idea that he doesn’t have superpowers, he’s not a billionaire, he wasn’t gifted with godly power jewelry.

This issue also introduces the Night Brigade, a team of Sam’s fellow vigilantes. None appear to have superpowers and it’s reminiscent of Watchmen, except the Night Brigade all feel like decent people.  The personal relationships among the Night Brigade are not perfect, but are genuine. Christopher Cantwell’s dialogue quickly endears the Night Brigade to the reader. The mundane side of vigilantism continues as various members of the Night Brigade discuss testifying at a trial and how they will afford to repair their damaged truck. There’s such a sense of camaraderie, respect, and light-hearted humor that later events are a massive tonal shift.

Credit: Christopher Cantwell, Adam Gorham, Kurt Michael Russell, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (Vault Comics)

The design of Sam’s suit and logo, along with The Blue Flame logo (by Tim Daniel) is incredible. The Blue Flame suit and helmet are sleek, but functional. I was reminded a little of The Rocketeer and The Great Machine from Ex Machina, but with a strong Mega Man influence.

Adam Gorham’s artwork is stunning in the opening cosmic sequence, but no less remarkable later on as he employs inventive panel layouts and inset panels that keep the story visually interesting. Kurt Michael Russell colors everything so beautifully. The colors, especially for the Night Brigade, are bright and vibrant without being brash or too bold. The cold grayish white of a snowy day, the yellowy green of working in a boiler room with artificial light, the cool blue of the evening. Sam’s life looks like a happy one.

Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou is an exceptional letterer. His font choices fit the story so well and are never stagnant as can be seen when Sam sings while he shovels or how he conveys the quickened speech of the radio DJ. Another interesting technique is the irregularly shaped speech bubbles he uses for the aliens in the opening sequence.

For Vault Comics’ first foray into superhero stories, this is a compelling narrative that has set up some very interesting questions combining an Everyman vigilante with a cosmic dilemma. It’s an incredible creative team and if it isn’t yet on your pull list, it should be. 

The Blue Flame #1 is available in all good comic stores and digital storefronts May 26th.

Comics Film

A Rogue’s Guide to The War of the Bounty Hunters

Starting in May, and continuing from there, Marvel will be launching their first line-wide Star Wars comics crossover; War of the Bounty Hunters. Picking up some time after The Empire Strikes Back, the crossover follows the hunt for Han Solo’s carbonite-frozen self by various parties from all over the Galaxy Far Far Away.

The crossover, shepherded by writer Charles Soule, will be following various threads throughout each separate series. The War of the Bounty Hunters mini-series will follow the main plot, Boba Fett’s attempts to protect Han and ensure delivery so he can collect his reward. The main Star Wars series will center on the Rebellion’s efforts to locate and rescue Han. And Darth Vader, Doctor Aphra, and Bounty Hunters will each follow their respective players as they get engulfed in this war.

Now, if that sounds like something you’ll be interested in, allow me to give you a rundown on the major players, presented from a unique in-universe perspective.

<<From the Archive of DATA CORRUPTED>>

<<Recording of conversation between Falleen Bounty Hunter Zuuban Gruztar and unknown individual, Mos Eisley Cantina, Tatooine, 2 years post-Endor>>

<< Subject sits in a booth at the Cantina, one leg propped on a table. A long scar across his face. The data files are transcribed from a conversation regarding individuals involved in the War of the Bounty Hunters >>

So, you want to know about the War of the Bounty Hunters, eh? Well, first you need to know what was going on before it kicked off, and to do that I’ve gotta start with the man at the center of it all; Boba Fett. He’d been on assignment for the Empire, hunting Han Solo, y’know, the smuggler. After catching up with him at Cloud City, Solo got frozen in carbonite for transport to Jabba’s. There was some sort of deal arranged there, I don’t know the specifics. Anyway, Fett was escorting him, and turns out, a lot of folk wanted to catch up with the pair of them. Honestly, he’s an alright Bounty Hunter. Man of few words. But hey, most Mandos are. Well, what’s left of them after the Empire’s Great Purge of Mandalore.

One of them hunting Fett was Princess Leia, one of the Rebellion leaders. Never met her myself, always tried to stay away from royalty, and besides, the Rebels tried to avoid using Bounty Hunters as much as possible. They had Rebel covert ops for that. Now, Leia, she and Solo were a “thing” if you get my meaning? They’ve got a kid and are pretty happy now as far as the holovids say, but back then, it was a dark time. The man she loved had been captured and was gonna be sold off to the Hutts. She was trying her best to get him back but she had a Rebellion to lead and get back into fighting shape.

Then there was the big guy, the man in black, Vader. Other than failing to capture some high-value target at Cloud City for the Emperor I don’t really know what was going on with him before the War. There were rumors of course, some personal mission to Naboo against his master’s wishes. Apparently, this put him in the Emperor’s bad books. So there was a test. Vader had to regain loyalty. Now like I said, I don’t know for definite this happened, but apparently, he ended up on some ancient Sith world with Ochi. Side note, don’t meet Ochi, he’s an ass. But anyway, whatever happened there, by the time they got back, Vader was in the Emperor’s good graces once more, ready to do his master’s bidding. I’ve only ever crossed paths with his kind once, the dark brooding beam-sword-wielding types. That’s what happened to the Ol’ charmer. 

<<At this point of the conversation, Zuuban Gruztar pointed to his face. Closer analysis reveals lightsaber burns>>

Now Doctor Aphra, what a gal. Never trust her with anything, absolutely nothing, you hear me? But still, what a gal! She’d been doing some work for the Tagge family, under duress, I might add, after getting one of them killed. The good doctor was on the hunt for some fabled experimental hyperdrive, from back in the High Republic days. She’d gotten one of her old flames, Sana Starros, to help her out but they’d gotten into trouble with the Unbroken Clan syndicate. Because of course Aphra would end up running afoul of yet another group of fraggin’ criminals. Bad, bad business if you ask me. But yeah, like I said, stay away from Aphra, she’ll get you killed.

And then there was Valance. “Ptoo.” Gah, I hate that cyborg. He’d been on the trail of Fett for some time but had had no luck. Cause he’s bad at his job. So you know what he did? He recruited Dengar. DENGAR! Hahahaha. He was so desperate was our Valance that he captured, then recruited the worst Bounty Hunter imaginable. It’s a shame Bossk was busy on Malastare, at least then there’d have been one competent person to try and track Fett.

So there you have it. That’s what was going on before the War, but you want to know exactly what went down don’t ya? Well, get a fresh drink kid. Get comfy. It’s a doozy, I’ve not even mentioned Durge yet…

<<Recording ends>>

To follow the adventures of these characters in War of the Bounty Hunters, check out the following books, available at all good comic stores and digital storefronts starting May 5th:

  • Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters – Alpha #1 by Charles Soule and Steve McNiven (05/05/2021)
  • Star Wars #13 by Charles Soule and Ramon Rosanas (05/12/2021)
  • Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #12 by Ethan Sacks and Paolo Villanelli (05/19/2021)
  • Star Wars: Darth Vader #12 by Greg Pak and Guiu Vilanova (05/26/2021)
  • Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #10 by Alyssa Wong and Ray-Anthony Height (05/26/2021)
  • Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters #1 by Charles Soule and Luke Ross (06/02/2021)

Fun-Size Round-Table: Beta Ray Bill #2

Whosoever holds this keyboard, if they be worthy, shall possess the power of the Critic. But here at GateCrashers, everyone and anyone is worthy of this power in our weekly Fun-Size roundtable! Every week, you can join us here as our Warriors Five (to Seven, numbers may vary) ponder pensively about one of the many books hitting store shelves. This week’s comic is Beta Ray Bill #2, written and illustrated by Daniel Warren Johnson, colored by Mike Spicer, and lettered by Joe Sabino. Now let’s hear what our roundtable of critics have to say about it:

Bobby Varghese Vinu

Beta Ray Bill #2 – Credit Marvel Comics, 2021

I was first introduced to Beta Ray Bill through Walt Simonson’s iconic run on Thor and there’s something about Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer’s Beta Ray Bill that has the Simonson coolness that keeps me engaged. The artwork here feels like an evolution of Simonson’s pencils. There’s design-porn abounds and there’s colour to every character and every moment.

There is a consistent sense of motion, whether that be the fight scenes, like Skurge defending Bill and calling him his wingman in a heartwarming moment of comedy, or something quieter like Odin and Bill having a conversation about the latter’s desire to restore his original form. The motion in this comic is always present, no matter the scene. Nothing is static. While the story is interesting, regardless of whether the premise of Beta Ray Bill wanting to “fix” his looks has been told before, it doesn’t matter to me. This is a comic that exudes cool. For me, the plot doesn’t matter. I only care about that addictive sense of motion that helps the story “pop”.

Dave Shevlin

Beta Ray Bill #2 – Credit Marvel Comics, 2021

Folks, I DESPISE this comic. How, after so many years and so many stories of Bill accepting and loving himself, do we reset the character and base an entire mini on the old, tired “I’m a horse faced monster and I hate myself” trope?   You could say Daniel Warren Johnson is “beating a dead horse” with this, as the only thing he seems capable of doing as a writer is rehashing this ancient, already-resolved plot point while making CONSTANT horse jokes about Bill.  How all these alien races know what an Earth animal like the horse is, I couldn’t tell you.  No respect or proper characterization is given to anyone.

If all this isn’t bad enough, the plot takes a turn into Bill taking dangerous and possibly sinister methods to acquire power, which is a plot done before and better in the Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter miniseries.  Then we have the last page: Skuttlebutt, Bill’s longtime sentient battleship, acquiring a sexy female body, because of course she does.  Please stop taking every female AI and giving it a robot body with banging tits and ass.  This really sums up the entire book at this point: it’s embarrassing, it’s tired, it’s rote, it’s all been done before and overall, it makes an entirely TERRIBLE comic.  The one positive in this book?  Mike Spicer’s colors.  Hardly anyone is doing it better than him right now in the coloring game, and his work is phenomenal throughout.

Alexandra Iciek

Beta Ray Bill #2 – Credit Marvel Comics, 2021

My engagement with Asgard/Thor books is often touch and go — I’m nowhere near as in touch with the history as I am with, let’s say, X-Men. As such, I’ve gone into Daniel Warren Johnson’s and Mike Spicer’s Beta Ray Bill run with far less context than your average Thor die-hard. 

I have surprisingly loved this series so far! 

Issue #2 of Beta Ray Bill has a wicked sense of momentum to it — the issue weaves through various settings, emotions, and action scenes virtually effortlessly. Spicer’s colors add a certain dimensionality to Johnson’s art, furthered by Joe Sabino’s dynamic lettering. If the creative team keeps this level of quality going for the rest of the series, Beta Ray Bill may emerge as one of the best books of 2021.

Tyler Keeling

Beta Ray Bill #2 – Credit Marvel Comics, 2021

Back in December when they first solicited a Beta Ray Bill book spinning out of the then-ongoing King in Black event, I was both worried yet excited. It seemed like a boring event, but the solicited tie-in series all seemed like a lot of fun. Then came March and Beta Ray Bill #1. I immediately took to Twitter to complain about the gross mischaracterization of Bill and how immediately exhausted I was by the book. Now we sit here, a month later with issue #2 out, and I find myself even more upset with whatever this book is trying to be.

I have been trying to parse what this book is attempting to say — Is it trying to carry a message about self-love and acceptance? Or is it trying to be a whimsical action book with a main character trying to find himself after a major traumatic event? Either way, nothing about it is landing. I find myself wondering if Johnson initially wanted to write another character but was denied and instead “Replace All”‘d whatever character he had his heart set on. That being said, Johnson’s art, Mike Spicer’s coloring, and Joe Sabino’s lettering all look incredible here, and are the standout pieces of the issue. Between that and the bar fight scene, I largely liked this issue more than the first. Sadly though, that’s not enough to save whatever car crash is going on here.


Beta Ray Bill #2 – Credit Marvel Comics, 2021

I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about Beta Ray Bill but have always liked him as a character, because he’s just Peak Weird Superhero in a way that I absolutely love. Going into this, I genuinely didn’t even know he was a cyborg, or that he isn’t just like… always a horse?

Anyway, I liked this issue a lot more than the first, but I have a lot of questions. Mostly, buddy, are you okay? I feel that between the whole emasculation vibe I get from Bill’s insistence that he needs to become humanoid again to fuck Lady Sif (you won’t bang him? Seriously? You’re probably grimy as hell and your cooch undoubtedly smells like old bear skin and musty beer) and the very horny Odin and even more horny Skuttlebutt android at the end, this guy is really trying to work some shit out that should probably be done through a therapist?

Skurge is absolutely delightful, and the bar fight scene is definitely a highlight. Overall, I love the line art, coloring, and lettering; the visuals for this book are incredible! I just, uh, have a lot of trepidation on how this Fellowship-heads-to-Mt. Doom adventure mixed with the clunky “finding myself/accepting my inner beauty” thing is going to play out.


Fun-Size Round-Table: Radiant Black #3

Comics critique often feels like it has a barrier of entry around it. Where do you start? It’s important to us here at GateCrashers to provide a platform and help to usher in a more welcoming era of comics criticism. To this end, we are launching a new weekly column where a small team with intersecting viewpoints will discuss a comic issue that warrants discussion. The teams will be changing every week but you’ll see many familiar faces return over time. The idea is to have critics both seasoned and new offering their unique takes, for a broader, more holistic view of a comic rather than a single critic’s opinion. You may have seen our Fun-size reviews on our Twitter – this round table is a natural evolution of that. We are very excited to bring you this content every week, starting here. This week’s comic is Radiant Black #3, written by Kyle Higgins, art by Marcelo Costa, letters by Becca Carey, and edited by Michael Busuttil. So now I turn it over to our team of critics to tell you how they felt about it:

Radiant Black #3-Image Comics(2021)
Radiant Black #3-Image Comics(2021)

Vishal: I’ve not been convinced by this book – the first two issues didn’t do anything particularly interesting, serving instead as generic origin and villain setup issues for a generic superhero. It doesn’t help that I’ve got very little interest or experience in Tokusatsu. But this issue really turned it around for me – Kyle Higgins is clearly tapping into something genuinely personal, turning it into a story that I don’t know anyone else could write. The struggle of writer’s block is something I found genuinely relatable and compelling, and the slice-of-life heroism amidst that set the character and series apart from the generic superhero content we’re getting elsewhere. If the rest of the book is this good, Image could have a new Invincible on their hands, or potentially something even better.

Radiant Black #3-Image Comics(2021)
Radiant Black #3-Image Comics(2021)

Ritesh: The most immediate thing about Radiant Black I noticed upon publication was its presentation and design. It was so, very clearly, a modern Post-Hickman superhero book, and so I assumed there was a formal awareness in the text. Not experimental (for neither is Hickman), just…formally aware. And this issue is probably the most aware it gets so far, with the prose and tinkering around of prose. But weirdly enough, the sort of modern formal design sensibility is at odds with the book here, as the way the book does thought-balloons almost feels rather dated? Not that thought-balloons automatically are (see their prominent use in manga), but here, it felt weirdly retro to me. Perhaps it’s because it’s more a ‘realist’ rather than ‘expressionist’ text, but maybe also because they feel ‘tacked on’ to the artwork rather than integrated, part of the image. Part of why that Hickman-esque design works is because of that integration, the marriage of imagery and text into one seamless whole.

Radiant Black #3-Image Comics(2021)
Radiant Black #3-Image Comics(2021)

Sean: So I’ve been writing about The Multiversity lately and it’s gotten me thinking about where superheroes ought to go next. There have been many answers as of late, largely predicated upon the assumption that the superheroes ought to be inherently good. That there is no need for the core ideas of the superhero to change. This has led to works like Commanders in Crisis, Archenemy, and Radiant Black which, while not inherently bad works in and of themselves, don’t necessarily lead towards new directions. At most, taking what’s already within the genre and gesturing to something new.

In much of the hype for Radiant Black, there were comparisons between it and the tokusatsu form of superheroes. But, given the three issues currently available, the practice seems to be more in line with more traditional superhero stories. There’s as much Green Lantern as there is Kamen Rider. It could very well be that the story hasn’t hit its stride yet. There are some ideas I quite like (a superhero using social media to help people, for one). But overall, I don’t think this series is doing it for me. Maybe I’ll come back to the series when the trade comes out.

Radiant Black #3-Image Comics(2021)
Radiant Black #3-Image Comics(2021)

Reagan: I would like to preface this with the fact that I forgot that I had read the second issue until I sat down to write this.

Radiant Black is good in the moment, it just isn’t particularly memorable nor do I find myself thinking about it as I go about my business. Maybe that’s a consequence of the slow-pacing or maybe I just don’t vibe with the book in the way others do. Regardless, Radiant Black just feels forgettable in a way that some of the other books coming out now don’t. It’s the kind of book that I would let fall to the side in favour of others.
Loathe as I am to compare them, Image has two books coming out right now that they’re marketing with comparisons to Power Rangers. One of them is this, the other is Home Sick Pilots. Both of them are bad comparisons but that is a conversation for elsewhere. It’s strange how despite their supposed similarities, one book can grab my attention and make me think about it weeks after I’ve read an issue while I forget that I’ve even read the other one in the first place.

Radiant Black #3-Image Comics(2021)
Radiant Black #3-Image Comics(2021)

Lan: To the book’s benefit, Costa’s art keeps improving every issue.  The colours feel full and expressive in this issue.  Carey’s lettering, while not particularly novel, does a great job at conveying the feelings in our protagonist’s thoughts.  As for the plot itself, it’s hard to write it off while feeling that it will most likely read much better in trade as a complete arc.  The series seems to be leaning away from the Tokusatsu influences it boldly wore during its original marketing, and is leaning into the slower, more methodical pacing of books like Ultimate Spider-Man and Invincible, to more of a benefit than a detriment.  With time, I can see a lot of the character groundwork being done in these early issues pay off down the line.  But I would also like to see Radiant Black kick some ass, please.