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.


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.



Fun-Size Round Table: X-Men #20

It is here.

There has always been discourse around the X-line of comics. Whether that be about the outcome of the X Of Swords tournament with character fates being theorised or about the (in?)famous X-Men election, the conversation has been never-ending. For those new to these characters, this is the era of X-Men comics they will remember 20-25 years from now. This is the era that invested them in the characters. 

It may be the penultimate issue, but X-Men #20, by Jonathan Hickman, Francesco Mobili, Sunny Gho, and Clayton Cowles, promises to be an issue with consequential moments. Seeds planted a year ago slowly come to fruition. If the cover is any indication, what implications will the creation of Nimrod have for Krakoa and the future of mutantkind? 

And what did the elusive and ever-changing Roundtable have to say about this issue? Let’s find out!

Alexandra Iciek

X-Men #20, Credit: Francesco Mobili, Sunny Gho, Clayton Cowles, Marvel

Despite having an outer-space reach, X-Men #20 tells a contained story with long-lasting consequences. Readers follow Mystique, as she attempts to destroy an Orchis base. However, as par for the course with Raven Darkholme, her motives lie elsewhere.

The issue suffers with the disjointed storytelling style that the current X-Men ongoing has become known for. That said, Hickman’s script maintains a tone that feels appropriately understated yet dramatic. The plot moves forward steadily, until it ends at a startlingly consequential conclusion. Given X-Men #20 is the penultimate issue of the series, it is anyone’s guess as to what the ramifications will be in the next release.

Francesco Mobili’s art manages to capture individual character expressions well. Sunny Gho’s colors notably contrast the nature-based resources of Krakoa with the technological density of the Orchis base. The art slightly falters in the final pages, but overall does well to keep up with the hushed atmosphere of the issue.

Blanton Matthews

X-Men #20, Credit: Francesco Mobili, Sunny Gho, Clayton Cowles, Marvel

Ever since House of X and Powers of X the new story of X under Hickman has been one of divergent evolution: humans into mutants, contrasted with humans into techno-beings, leading to the final conflict between what naturally evolved of man into mutants versus the created mechanical post-humans. Now we see the parallel more clearly as Mystique enters through a gate, darkly.

X-Men #20 is at its core a story of two wives—widows really. As the mutants of Krakoa have mastered resurrection, so too have the humans by way of Dr. Alia reviving her husband as Erasmus, who becomes Nimrod. She and Mystique act out of love for their late spouses, desperate to bring them back. Ultimately neither is able to do so.
The hatred and fear building in all the players here is exciting. When the thread of Mystique and Destiny began in X-Men #6, Matteo Buffagni’s smooth lines and heavy contrasts sold the romantic scenes very well, both in the flashbacks of the living Destiny and the final pages of Mystique toasting to her late wife. With Francesco Mobili, it’s different. Opening exactly as #6 ended, the thinner lines—as well as a subtly different approach to color rendering by Sunny Gho, who colored both issues—show us a harsher reality. This is a world without love; only people desperate to revive it.

Ed Escobar

X-Men #20, Credit: Francesco Mobili, Sunny Gho, Clayton Cowles, Marvel

Jonathan Hickman’s run on the main X-Men title has been characterized by an anthology-like nature, creating several plots designed to be fulfilled in the long term. This has been Hickman’s style at Marvel in general, but it also harkens back to the way that X-Men in the 1980s would set up plotlines far in advance. 

This issue follows the thread set-up in X-Men #6, and involves Mystique infiltrating the main ORCHIS base to ensure its destruction. Thematically, the issue slots in perfectly with the post-human conflict introduced in Powers of X.

For a deceptively simple story, it has a lot of ground to cover, but the pace is never an issue and it hits all the beats it needs to. Francesco Mobili’s art in the book does a good job of selling the stakes, and Sunny Gho’s colors work well to contrast Krakoa and the ORCHIS base. The issue’s impactful conclusion promises monumental consequences in the near future.

Reagan Anick

X-Men #20, Credit: Francesco Mobili, Sunny Gho, Clayton Cowles, Marvel

X-Men #20 is three things in one; a continuation, a conclusion, and a prologue.

In the space of one issue, Hickman furthers the plotline of Mystique fighting to get her wife, Destiny, resurrected while simultaneously closing the door on the chapter of this story concerned with the birth of Nimrod. At the same time, as these two feats are accomplished, Hickman guides us into what comes next. After continually being denied access to her wife, Mystique is ready to follow Destiny’s command and burn Krakoa to the ground, something we’ll see either come to pass or come to a screeching halt this Fall in Inferno.

Regardless of how this plays out, I’m excited to see what happens. It promises to be messy and I love mess.

Bobby Varghese Vinu

X-Men #20, Credit: Francesco Mobili, Sunny Gho, Clayton Cowles, Marvel

A notable theme in Hickman’s work has been the concept of the “great man” and how their belief in solving “everything” arises from an arrogance that harms everyone. True to form, we see that with Xavier’s and Magneto’s exploitation of Mystique when she goes to Orchis in a thrilling sequence of events to stop Nimrod, who is akin to the harbinger of death for mutantkind. Hickman excellently delivers on the implications introduced in House of X/Powers of X, with there being more to come.

But I do have a criticism of the art. Mobili’s pencils are serviceable at best and unremarkable at worst, with Gho’s colours elevating it. And the exploitation of Mystique can understandably upset some readers, especially with regards to the unfortunate lack of other wlw romances in the X-line, but this issue makes it clear that this is not the end of her story, which is reassuring.

Terrence Sage

X-Men #20, Credit: Francesco Mobili, Sunny Gho, Clayton Cowles, Marvel

One of the long standing plot threads of the new era of X-Men comes to a boil in this chilling 20th issue. Hickman once again charts Mystique on a mission of a love lost and attempts to be found again but will doom everything Krakoa has to offer. Francesco Mobili on art gives a colder, more uneasiness as we move to conversations between Mystique, Professor X, and Magneto and then later on the ORCHIS Station where all Hell breaks loose. The last time we focused on this plot line, it felt more akin to a ticking time bomb and Hickman promptly has reached zero as we reach a new shift in this specific narrative thread. 


Fun-Size Round Table: Fantastic Four: Life Story #1

To the CEO of GateCrashers LTD,

My apologies for not getting back to you sooner; our enquiries into the life story of the superheroes known as the “Fantastic Four” have taken far longer than we first anticipated. We have only now finalized their activities during the “Swinging Sixties” and are now hard at work investigating the team’s turmoil during the 70s.

Enclosed, you will find a copy of the comic we produced as a means of communicating their history in a way you will understand. We’ve named it Fantastic Four: Life Story #1. It was created by Mark Russell, Sean Izaakse, Nolan Woodard, and VC’s Joe Caramagna.

You will also find attached work by our best critics on the events depicted in this comic and hope it brings some clarity to the history of the Fantastic Four. We look forward to working with you in any future endeavours.

Yours faithfully,

Ethan Chambers,


Rob Secundus

Fantastic Four: Life Story #1, Credit: Marvel

I should love this; I love Mark Russell’s comics, I enjoy Izaakse’s art and Woodard’s colors, and I love the Life Story gimmick that recontextualizes sliding timescale continuity into real history. I would expect Russell to go wild with that gimmick, given his facility with political satire, but he’s weirdly restrained here, and as a result I don’t think the comic has much to say about either the FF or the 60s. It also seems to abandon parts of that Life Story gimmick; rather than retain the general events of the FF’s story as they were published, this is a story that imagines their first decade without Namor or Doctor Doom. The one brilliant thing for me is the centralization of Galactus and his reimagination as the Great Filter, the answer to Fermi— but that’s not enough to save what was ultimately for me a baffling first issue.

Katie Liggera

Fantastic Four: Life Story #1, Credit: Marvel

I am preface my thoughts by admitting that I don’t know much about the Fantastic Four’s comic origins, but I know a lot about Mark Russell. Historically, Russell excels in writing hilarious social satire in comics. I was unfortunately a bit underwhelmed by his moderated writing style in this comic, when I was hoping for more of his astute wit. Regardless, Russell is a comic book writer I enjoy 99% of the time. Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 still manages to reshape Fantastic Four narrative beginnings filtered through the lens of the highly popular 60s historical era in the smart and entertaining manner I expect from Russell. 

The issue parses the historical backdrop realistically, seamlessly weaving the setting together with the Fantastic Four’s presence in the era. I’ve also gleaned enough about FF over the years to understand some problematic portrayals of Sue. Fantastic Four: Life Story seeks to present Sue with an appetite for motivation and resilience during challenges. Depicting these character traits in Sue is refreshing. The issue pays homage to FF character roots while exuding their personalities in a short time frame. Despite the lack of satire I was hoping for, Fantastic Four: Life Story is intriguing enough to entertain and propel readers toward introspection. And the incorporation of Galactus is delightful.

Brandon Masters

Fantastic Four: Life Story #1, Credit: Marvel

For myself, I still fondly remember Mark Russell’s time on DC’s The Flintstones comic as a fantastic social satire. However, I was actually more excited to see how Russell would take the vast tapestry of Marvel’s first family and the thousands of comics they’ve been in, and craft it into something that’s a cohesive story set in real-time. Having read nearly all of The Fantastic Four at some time or another throughout their various incarnations, there was a small thrill that went up my spine to see how it would play out, with the world changing as the Marvel Universe grew out of the 1960s.

I was not disappointed. Not only was Russell able to craft a few one-shot throwaway issues into a long-running plot thread that made those same events feel organic, but the real world genuinely felt influenced by the rise of super powered heroes rather than the other way around. Little touches like the Fantastic Four appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show alongside the Beatles was a fantastic touch. Sean Izaakse is also in top form here, rendering the fantastical in a more realistic world. It still comes across with the old Marvel flair, but is a welcome reinterpretation.

However, this is coming from a long-time fan of The Fantastic Four. Those who aren’t as big a fan will certainly find the issue a little more dense to read, and the revelations of those referenced issues can come out of left field without the “ooooh” factor of the reference. Here’s hoping the rest of the comic holds up to the promise, but I have high hopes.

Ethan Chambers

Fantastic Four: Life Story #1, Credit: Marvel

While I know a fair bit about the Fantastic Four thanks to long nights on Wikipedia and through cultural osmosis, I’ve not actually read many of their stories. Especially not their earliest adventures, so getting to see these play out was fun, and thanks to Sean Izaakse and Nolan Woodard’s amazing work on the art.

However, there’s something about the book that makes it feel breezy, it rushes past what feel as if they should be major events. I think it comes down to Mark Russell’s attempt to look at the entirety of the 60’s in one single issue that makes everything feel a bit less than. Except, that is, for Galactus, and Reed Richards’ first encounter with the World Devourer, which is given the necessary pomp and circumstance to really let the moment pop on the page. I’ll be sticking around for the full story because it can easily get its story on the right track, and as mentioned, the art is fantastic, but right now, it’s a good book that should be, and excuse the pun, fantastic.

Sean Dillon

Fantastic Four: Life Story #1, Credit: Marvel

One of the stronger aspects of Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley’s Spider-Man: Life Story that the Fantastic Four counterpart lacks is focus. With Spider-Man, we largely looked at a singular moment from the decade being explored. Be it the protests of the Vietnam War or the Death of Gwen Stacy, there was always something within the comic to keep things glued together. In turn, the moments where we look back at what we missed over the rest of the decade are emphasized.

By contrast, Fantastic Four: Life Story opts to explore the whole decade, much to its detriment. There’s a sense with Russell’s efforts that they’re trying to cover far too much. Whole strands of the book that could have been explored in a whole issue are regulated to a single panel or an off-handed mention, if that. For example, Ben Grimm has a whole character arc that takes place largely off screen. What is focused upon feels rushed and underdeveloped. It’s a so-so comic. But with a bit more focus, it could have been great.


Fun-Size Round Table: X-Corp #1

From the desk of Daniel McMahon, GateCrashers CEO


Sending you this memo for this week’s Fun-Size Roundtable, since I will be OOO. X-Corp #1 is out and you know what that means: there is social media engagement to be had. X-Men are HOT right now, they’re printing money. Only way they could be selling more is if they slapped a Bat Symbol on one of them!

(Note: Look into acquiring rights for Dark Claw)

Anyway, BIG week for corporate so please keep buzzwords in mind. 

  • Synergy
  • Impact
  • Krakoa
  • Return on Investment
  • Crossover

Possible slogan for campaign: “That’s Mag-fu#$in’ Neato”

This one’s all about the business of Krakoa. Basically, Angel and Penance have been tasked with building out the corporate side of Krakoa.
It’s written by Tini Howard, illustrated by Alberto Foche, colored by Sunny Gho, and lettered by Clayton Cowles, with cover by David Aja.

Anyway, I left my review on your desk to show. I am off to Krakoa to secure GC52 press clearance for the Hellfire Gala. 

Ethan Chambers

For one of my most-anticipated books of the current Reign of X era, featuring some of my favourite mutants, X-Corp #1 ended up being just incredibly average. There’s good stuff in it; Angel and Monet are a lot of fun, Jamie Madrox seems to be getting some development again, and I’m a mark for corporate shenanigans. 

However, I found the story itself to be lacking, unfocused even, as if the team needed to get through as much story as possible before the Hellfire Gala next month. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the art either; it didn’t fit the vibe the book was going for. So yeah, X-Corp #1, it’s fine.

Colby E

…Well, I liked it.

Is X-Corp #1 a great comic? Not really. There’s three too many plots, a couple of the characters’ voices are off, the art feels blandly serviceable at best, and it’s frankly far too confident in itself for what’s on offer. But while the book definitely stumbles out of the gate, there’s good here too – the bones of the book’s world show for a wide world of stories, and Howard’s proven on Excalibur that once she gets pieces in place, her storytelling picks up considerably. The writing, while over-expository, keeps things humming and lands a few good gags. Most intriguing is that it’s a superhero comic with essentially no fight scenes – always worth a look, if only for the novelty. 

There’s no denying that this isn’t the best opening offer for a series with so much potential, but given time and space to develop, X-Corp might just be worth the investment.

Bobby Varghese Vinu

There’s a sort of aimlessness to this issue, as I do feel like the book struggles with showcasing how X-Corp would work in a world like our own, with its own set of businesses and practices. It seems more preoccupied with just showing what I like to call the “cool biz.”, which begs the question: What is this book about? 

What also bothers me the most about X-Corp #1 is Trinary. When Tom Taylor’s X-Men: Red came out, I was excited at the prospect of an Indian mutant, so imagine my disappointment when she was used as the team’s tech support character, a trope which falls prey to a disheartening stereotype that I’ve had to endure as someone who hails from India. She’s still tech support here, and there’s a bit of dialogue that makes it clear that this is a white person writing an Indian character. There’s no life to her character besides a bland artificiality meant to make her “interesting.”

So what are the positives? Well, the pencils are okay, but the colors do make me wish that there could be more life to it. The images have an artificial feeling to them, which I would like to think is intentional given the book is about a corporation, but I think this is just an oversight on the art as opposed to any deliberate meaning.

Maybe X-Corp will improve in the long run, but besides the David Aja cover (why couldn’t he draw the issue?) and the colors by Sunny Gho, this is a disappointing first issue.

Daniel McMahon

Ya’ know, really going against the grain here to say that I loved this issue. Sure, some of it is a little messy, but it feels like one of those montages of getting the gang together. I think there is so much here in the way of character dynamics being set up. Monet and Warren both have two sides to them and we get to see that on full display in this issue. I’m also a huge sucker for Jamie Madrox, so I was excited to see him. I loved this issue and am excited for more.

Simon Zuccherato

X-Corp #1 starts off with a musing on possibility, and it was an issue with a lot of them. I tend to enjoy corporate hijinks when done well, and so I’d been looking forward to this series for months. Alas, it took me around five full readings to get what was going on in this issue, and once I did, it wasn’t worth it. 

The only thing that our leads actually do that seems to matter is flying their base to Brazil to gain media attention, and when we’ve seen so many other things fly in the Marvel Universe already, it’s no longer impressive for the readers. I still think this book has possibility and potential. It just needs to pivot quickly and find its focus, lest it lose all the hype that’s been built up over the past year.


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.