COC Spotlight: Don’t Pass on The Mantle

I just recently finished reading issue 5 of The Mantle, which was put out by Ed Brisson and Brian Level through Image Comics. This book deserves a spotlight for a number of reasons.

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One of the things that really piqued my interest in this title and made me pre-order this book is that it is the first superhero comic I’ve seen from writer Ed Brisson. I had previously enjoyed his Image series Comeback and have heard good things about sheltered as well so I thought I’d see how he wrote a superhero tale.

While I am not too familiar with Brian Level’s art, the previews that were released before issue 1 came out looked amazing. Throughout the series he often shows a few different styles to differentiate the different time periods of the wielders of the Mantle.

This story and the title relate to the idea that before issue 1, there have been various people with the power of the Mantle. This power has been transferring from host to host for decades and needs a new host when the previous wielder dies.

Unfortunately, we find out that none of the previous Mantles died of natural causes. In fact each new Mantle not only receives incredible power limited only by their imagination, they also receive a nemesis called the Plague who can find them anywhere and has a sole purpose of killing each new hero.

Bummer.

Luckily, each new Mantle is clued into their new status by a group of super humans who possess their own unique skills that pale in comparison to the Plagues super strength and ability to decay things. Their only way to fight back against this incredible foe is to prepare the new hero for the coming battle.

At the times where we see flashbacks Level’s art really shines in depicting comic book styles that were prevalent in the time periods depicted. From golden age to silver age to nineties style, he really captures the era.

The fight scenes are energetic and the smaller character moments really shine and do an amazing job of depicting our heroes’ plight.

One part of the creative team I have yet to mention is Jordan Boyd. His colors enhance Brian Level’s ability to tell the story and enrich every scene especially the ones that are other worldly in nature. His colors often perfectly set the mood and helped me to really experience the atmosphere and emotions of our heroes.

His work is the finishing touches on a beautiful product.

So what is the verdict on Brisson’s first superhero series?

In one word amazing! These first 5 issues show great world and character building that makes me want to pre-order any other tales that this team sets in this universe.

One character, Necra, opens up a terrific landscape where the current Mantle can meet with all that came before. This was a highlight of the series for me and a wonderful concept. While the Mantle is the title character, I would love to see more stories showing the history of the team that seeks out and aids each new wielder.

Do yourself a favor and buy this book. There are twists in the story that you won’t find from most publishers as well as some brutal moments. I tried to remain as spoiler free as possible because you really need to experience this story.

If you missed these issues in floppies and your LCS doesn’t have any on the shelf, make sure to pre-order the trade. You won’t be disappointed and I’m sure that you will be just as interested as I am for future stories of these characters.

Buy the trade. Put it on your mantle. This is a work of art by a team that meshed perfectly to bring you this story.

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COC Spotlight: Battling Boy and the Fall of the West

Where do I begin with this very special Creator-owned Comics Spotlight? I think that I’ll start out by gushing over my love of the Battling Boy universe that Paul Pope has created. The story is incredibly fun and has more of a pulp vibe than your usual superhero comics.

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This story started with a one-shot featuring the death of Haggard West that was played up as the final issue of a long-time ongoing series. This was a clever way to promote the Battling Boy graphic novel and the character of Haggard West has influenced the whole series to this point.

The story has spun off from the first Battling Boy title to give back story to the character of Aurora West. She appears as a second protagonist in Battling Boy as well as being the daughter of Haggard West who was trained her whole life to take over hero duties for her father.

Her story started with the pocket sized graphic novel, The Rise of Aurora West. This story established that Aurora had begun to use her father’s training to look into the death of her mother, Rosetta.

This story continues this week in the Fall of the House of West written by Paul Pope, JT Petty with art by David Rubin. It is worth mentioning that the book is in black and white and that the art is perfectly suited for the world established in Battling Boy.

The characters are all expressive and depicted in a way that is visually distinctive. It sometimes reminds me of the art in Chew and it is refreshing to see a young woman like Aurora looking like a teenager instead of a smaller version of adult super heroines.

While David Rubin is doing an incredible job on art, JT Petty is working with Paul Pope on crafting this backstory for Aurora. The writing is incredible and helps to dig deep into the mystery that plagues our main character. Who killed Rosetta West.

The writing and art also work well together to paint a picture of what Haggard West was like in life and his inability to deal with the death of his wife. It also shows us that despite training his daughter to be a hero, the loss of his wife pushes him to be over protective of his daughter.

I don’t want to spoil this story as I think it deserves to be read and experienced, but I will say that this story looks at what it takes to be a hero and the lies we tell ourselves and others to avoid harsh truths. It also shows the difference between two generations of heroes in our father/daughter duo.

At the end of the day, the two Aurora West books depict a tale of the heroes journey while also setting up and solving a mystery. The story does pay off the mystery set up in the first book so I recommend picking them both up at your LCS or through an online service like DCBS or instocktrades.

If you can track down the Haggard West one-shot and get a copy of Battling Boy it will likely increase your enjoyment of the Aurora West books, but I don’t believe they are necessary. However, I recommend at least picking up Battling Boy since there will be a new book at some point showing the continuation of that story as opposed to these prequels.

That’s it for this spotlight, but more will be coming as I will try to have a new post up each week by Thursday at the latest. Thank you and feel free to message me with any books you would like to see get the spotlight.

COC Spotlight: SuperMansion and The League of Funny

For today’s Creator-Owned spotlight, we will switch from comics to cartoons(I had to make the COC acronym work).

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Without further ado, let’s take a look at the new Robot Chicken style animation that Crackle has to offer with SuperMansion. This show was created by Matt Senreich and Zeb Wells and keeps me coming back for more every Thursday.

This show centers around a fictional group of superheroes known as the League of Freedom. The team is government funded but usual finds itself on the chopping block for budget cuts. Many of the episodes center around the Bryan Cranston voiced Titanium Rex trying to herd the other cats (some literal) on his team in order to impress the government looking to retire his team.

His team consists of the man out of time American Ranger voiced by the hilarious Keegan-Michael Key, grim and gritty gadget using Black Saturn by Tucker Gilmore, Heidi Gardner as the aforementioned feline Cooch, Tom Root as the debt-ridden strongman Brad, and Zeb Wells as the artificial Jewbot formerly known as Robobot.

This original series uses some familiar comic book archetypes but the creators add fun twists to each hero to show how messed up they are. As a result, hilarity ensues.

As of yesterday, episode 5 was released on Crackle, and since every episode is free, you have absolutely no reason not to give it a watch. This show is as well put together as Robot Chicken and has the same sick sense of humor.

I don’t want to spoil this for anyone  but some of the funny moments include a 1940’s minded American Ranger having a chance encounter with the President, Black Saturn stalking a supposedly reformed villain, and the mutated feline Cooch trying to earn her GED.

The more I think about it, this show is so funny because of the way the writers mix the mundane everyday life with these over the top super characters. Whether it be an education setting, a conference, or a trip to the supermarket, there is no limit to the hijinks the team can get into.

Episode 6 comes out next Thursday on Crackle. I’ll be there. I recommend you all catch up so you can experience every episode before then.

COC Spotlight: the First Rule of Survivors’ Club; Let’s Talk about Survivors’ Club

Ah, lovely October. The weather is getting cooler (hopefully), everything tastes like pumpkin, and everyone is looking for good horror.

That’s right, in between mainlining as much pumpkin spice as I can, I love to fill my quota for good horror leading up to Halloween.

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The talented Bill Sienkiewicz

With that in mind, I picked up Survivors’ Club from Vertigo. The creators on this new series feature Lauren Beukes and Dale Halvorsen on writing, and Ryan Kelly handling art duties. It also has Eva De La Cruz on colors, Clem Robins as letterer, and cover art by Bill Sienkiewicz.

Let’s get right down to the meat and potatoes of why this series is seriously scratching my Halloween horror itch.

First of all, this is a great first issue that does everything it needs to set up the series and hook readers. It lays out a nice mystery while simultaneously introducing us to some of the key players.

The heart of this issue lies with Chenzira, a woman who had a past encounter with an arcade game that strikes me as a more sinister take on the Last Starfighter (80’s movies at their finest) back in 1987. The people she has gathered are all listed on a chess club they were never a part of and have each survived one form of horror movie scenario also during 1987.

Through the issue we only really discover that Chenzira fought an evil arcade game and another character named Simon who may have needed the help of an old priest and a young priest, and whatever gets pea soup out of furniture.

The rest of the club has a flashback alluding to their experience when exposed to the mystery of the series which is depicted in an amazing looking splash page showing each characters reaction to a new online game that may be evil. Kelly really knocks this scene put of the park.

There is one other character, who was on the list but doesn’t join the others. He is the only other character in the book who you get a longer view of in this issue and perhaps sets up another mystery for later in the series.

The end of the issue also has some nice twists and turns that have me hooked for coming back with issue 2. The team does an amazing job in creating this creepy new world hearkening back to the 80’s horror of my formative years. I thank them for that.

The writing is really engaging and each character comes off as unique if not a little messed up. As I mentioned this story is amazing and while I have never read stories by either writer, I will be sure to keep my eye out in the future.

The art really sells this story as well. From Kelly’s facial expressions, to the unique qualities of each characters features, it helps to show us what personality each character has.

The coloring by De La Cruz also works well to make it seem like these characters are in a horror movie while reading. I also noticed some scenes, especially some of the more shocking or surprising seem to have a hue or tone to all the images, which really grabbed and held on to my attention.

Clem Robins helps round out the team by using some creative caption boxes to emphasize certain aspects of scenes. This team really gels well together and the final product turns out gorgeous for their efforts. You also have to give credit to Sienkiewicz for an eye catching cover that stands out at the shop.

If you are a fan of old horror movies and looking for a scary tale leading up to Halloween, head to your LCS and pick this up.  I avoided many spoilers and there is a lot more to this book that you need to experience for full effect.

Marvel’s Black Knight: I’ll Take Swords for a Thousand

As I mentioned in my last post, I would be discussing my love of the Black Knight today. For those of you thinking this is about the Martin Lawrence film, you may want to leave now to avoid disappointment.

At this point, it would be fair to point out that I have never gravitated toward the big heroes or the most popular ones either. I also seem to have an affinity for awesome helmets, which brings us to today’s subject.

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That's one fine helmet

Dane Whitman, aka, the heroic Black Knight. Whitman was introduced in Avengers 47 and would fight the Avengers in issue 48 due to one of those classic misunderstandings. Dane inherited the mantle of Black Knight from his villainous Uncle Nathan Garrett who had been an Iron Man villain. With his dying words Garrett asked Dane to do good to make ammends for all he had done to tarnish the Black Knight legacy.

I now own issue 48 but this all happened 20 years before I was born and well before I got into comics. No, my love of the Black Knight begins in K-Mart of all places.

Years into my collecting days, I was at K-Mart with my mother when I noticed a comic book section near the book and novel racks. Now, I know the 90’s get a lot of flack for gimmicks, and foil covers, and the speculator market, but I’ll tell you that one issue caught my eyes. This one:

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Ooooo shiny

Full disclosure, this was my first Avengers comic I bought. This issue may have been well into the Gatherers arc, which the Black Knight played a big role in.

What can I say about this character. He wore a cool Avengers style leather jacket and his design was awesome. From the amazing helmet I previously mentioned to the dark color scheme and striking red bird in circle logo. And what of this knight’s sword. A lightsaber!

If you read my previous post on the Force Awakens, a lightsaber was more than enough to excite this Star Wars fan. But what of the story? In this issue, the character is shown as a competent leader and respected member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes despite just being an average man with a sword.

He also did something this issue that I respected even though he wasn’t completely under his own control. He lashed out at Cap as the cover shows.

I know a lot of people love Steve Rogers, but as I mentioned earlier, I never gravitate toward the big guns. Also Cap has that Superman quality I don’t care for. You know, where everyone acts like they worship him and defer to his leadership.

It’s ok, I learned to like Rogers during Brubaker’s amazing run, even though Bucky will always be my Cap. (sorry Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers)

In this issue Dane fights Cap while mentioning that he lords over everyone as mister high and mighty. He basically vocalized all that I thought of Cap at the time. As a result, I was back at K-Mart often and ended up collecting the rest of the Gatherers arc.

Through the years I have collected all Black Knight that I could from Heroes for Hire to the excellent Captain Britain and MI:13. But more importantly, I have pre-ordered the new Black Knight series by Frank Tieri and Luca Pizzari. It is worth noting that Tieri previously wrote Black Knight in the New Excalibur series which I also bought at the time.

The image at the top of this post is from issue 1 of the new series and I strongly recommend you order this series from your local comic store (lcs) or online subscription service. While the lightsaber is gone, Tieri will be writing a story about the most famous weapon of the Black Knight, the cursed ebony blade, and how Dane Whitman is addicted to its power as shown in the recent Original Sins issue 2 short story he wrote.

Luca Pizzari has reworked the classic design into a new take and the story will take place on a medieval style environment, Weirdworld, as introduced in Secret Wars. The art looks great and I can’t wait to see Pizzari cut loose in an environment far different than the regular Marvel U.

This new series presents a world of opportunities (pun intended), and will be able to tell edgy stories with a character that is not one of the marquee players of the Marvel Universe. I can’t wait till November as I am sure much like the Black Knight and his cursed blade, I will be addicted to this new series.

Check back here in November for my thoughts on issue 1.

DC New 52: What Went Right

I’m gonna go a little mainstream this week after some time off due to a story I recently ready for the first time, and how it relates to a current book on my pull.

The New 52 was an interesting idea that shocked me when it hit. I was so used to the DC heroes and all the stories that I’m not sure I was ready for the change. Looking back, DC has received quite a bit of flack for it, but it did get quite a bit right.

The best success has been on the Bat-Family of books. I myself read and enjoyed the entire run of Nightwing and have even enjoyed the transition to the Grayson title.

Dick Grayson actually factors largely into this post. Grayson has always been one of my favorite characters and was alwaysy favorite Robin due to the fact that he was the one on Batman the tv show and the animated series. However, the coolest part was how he grew out of the role and became Nightwing.

Without further ado, I believe the character that DC fixed and made one of my favorites with the New 52 is the Red Hood. Jason Todd is probably at the bottom of most people’s list of Robins. For me, I only knew him as the Robin that Joker killed. By the time I was getting into Batman, Tim Drake was established, and Todd seemed more like a plot device.

The fact that he was beaten by a crowbar and blown up by the Joker completely solidified Joker as the arch enemy and a very dangerous villain for the Bat.

When DC decided to let Judd Winnick bring Todd back from the dead as a villain, I thought it was an awesome idea. I read and enjoyed the Red Hood arc, but the animated movie did so much more to make me look into this character.

I looked into this character in reverse though. I ended up buying the Under the Red Hood trade and Red Hood The Lost Days. Since then I also tracked down most of Jason Todd’s Post-Crisis appearances and this weekend I finally read A Death in the Family.

The book was interesting and after reading it I went and read the sixth trade of Red Hood and the Outlaws. At this point I realized that I may now like this character more than Dick Grayson.

I am currently buying singles for Red Hood Arsenal and am enjoying this depiction of Jason Todd in current stories. After his initial appearances when he was resurrected, I feel that DC lost their way with him. Some stories like when he dresses as Nightwing showed that they had no idea what to do with him.

However, with New 52, he has been a fun character who has patched things up with the rest of the Bat-Family between Death of the Family and Batman Eternal. His interactions with Roy Harper have been fun and it is now even more so in Red Hood Arsenal.

The character is a fun action movie star now. He still kills villains but is certainly more heroic in nature. He can be written in emotional scenes or just kicking butt and it’s made for a more rounded character.

Jason Todd has grown out of the shadow of the Bat and is his own hero in the way that Grayson grew out of Robin. And his look is amazing. My only caveat is that I prefer the Rocafort New 52 design with a helmet similar to the animated version over the current Medri design.

The bottom line is that if you are looking for a fun big two book, this is the one. The characters are not the big guns so more risks can be taken and Lobdell’s scripts do provide some laughs.

Later this week there will be a new post about a book coming out from Marvel which has a special place in my heart. Check back here for a piece on my love of the Avengers’ Black Knight.

Valiant Entertainment, Amazing Entertainment

Forget the idea that they are putting forth a “valiant” (pun intended) effort, since their relaunch in 2012, the new era of Valiant has been knocking it out of the park.

I just finished reading Book of Death: The Fall of Ninjak and Ivar, Timewalker issue 8, and realized I have done a great disservice by not covering this publisher previously.

I recently told a podcast host how good the series have been when he had showed interest in one of the series and had to message him to chime in. The truth is that of all the publishers and revivals in recent years none have been as consistently good as Valiant. They also have proved that they can survive in the current market.

Today I recalled a recently attempted revival of the old Atlas/Seaboard comics from a few years back. It came, it releases some issues, and it quietly disappeared. In all honesty, it left me disappointed.

But why did it fail and Valiant managed to thrive? Is it because the Valiant characters were fresher in the mind of the comic buying market? Were the characters inherently better? As a fan, I would say yes but that isn’t why they continue to succeed.

The truth is they attacked the comic market with a genius plan that should seem a simple path to success. This company which is headed up by Dinesh Shamdasani (Valiant Uber Fan if you’ve seen the birthday cake picture), assembled a front office team including people like Fred Pierce and Warren Simons to put together a publishing plan.

It all started with a slow release of 4 main titles from the stable of characters starting with X-O Manowar, then moving from Harbinger to Bloodshot and Archer and Armstrong. Each book came with a top quality artist and writer with the sole purpose of creating good stories to attract readers. This was aided and abetted by a different tone and flavor for each series and even the incentive of variant covers if comic readers added the title to their pullbox.

However, the two most important things they did that should be no-brainers are the aforementioned great stories, and more importantly a consistent release schedule. Nothing kills growth and momentum more than missed deadlines, release dates, and long lags between issues.

Valiant has consistently met the deadlines and kept new issues on the shelves and the Valiant brand out there. Their presence and love of the material at comic conventions shows them retaining the old fanbase while earning new fans with the way they reach out to potential new readers and make their line accessible.

To sum up, if you are an aspiring creator, look toward Valiant to see how it is done. Hit deadlines and tell great stories and you can make it. It will be hard and you still might fail, but your odds are better if you do those two things. Valiant has proved that for 3 years running.

And finally, do yourself a favor and pick a Valiant series to check out. The quality won’t be beat and they will have a genre type you are looking for. Harbinger is a personal favorite of mine and I can’t recommend it more.

Disney D23 or “Oh Boy(ega), what a tease

I have been absent as of late due to some brutal bronchitis that has turned me into a rattled breathing, coughing till it hurts mess. I apologize to whoever may check this blog out. But I am finally on the mend and hope to have more regular content coming at ya.

So what could possibly get me off my deathbed more than Star Wars and all the goodies Disney has been sending our way lately. In the last week we got our first look at Mark Hamill as Luke and I am a huge fan of that character.

But this official poster was something. It punched me right in the brain and really made me connect some dots.

I have been desperately trying to avoid spoilers but my excitement for this movie has made me read certain sites. One rumor I recall that likely came from Make Star Wars was that Domnhall Gleasonay be Skywalker’s son who was on the opposite side of his father.

This new poster though makes it look like John Boyega’s Finn is carrying the Skywalker family heirloom from the trailer, which spoiler alert, was last seen falling down cloud city with Luke’s severed hand.

We also know that Finn starts out as a stormtrooper. Could this be the source of the rumor? Does Finn escape the First Order and meet his destiny to fight for the rebellion as Luke once did.

Who knows? Honestly, this is just speculation and I could be completely wrong. But if he is Luke’s son. If he is, then this is a genius move by JJ Abrams and crew.

The misdirection had everyone looking at and thinking that Daisy Ridley’s Rey would be the Skywalker either by Luke or Leia. And who knows, maybe she is. Maybe they’re cousins looking for the last Jedi. But this misdirection came from so many angles. People suggested that Finn was Solo’s son based on a reveal in the Marvel Star Wars series. We thought Rey was a Skywalker. People don’t always like how Abrams plays things close to the vest, but his methodology for these teases must be drumming up excitement in Star Wars fans.

All I know is that I have been all in since the first tease. I am beyond stoked to see what the new players bring. And my confidence in this production has never been higher.

The Force will be with you… Always.

COC Spotlight: Do We Really Have to Leave Megalopolis

Maybe the title of this Creator-Owned Comics Spotlight should be Leaving Me Wanting More.

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After a recent move, I have been looking for a new comic book store to call home. While trying out a couple of different locations, I found Leaving Megalopolis on the shelf. This great book is written by Gail Simone with art by Jim Calafiore. Colors were provided by Jason Wright and the letterer is Dave Sharpe.

The truth is I had missed the boat on this book because I hadn’t been familiar with Kickstarter at the time this book was crowd funded. For those of you not in the know like I was, Kickstarter allows various creators to help get funding from the public (crowd funding right) to help on production costs for their work.

I had heard about this book after the fact on various podcasts, but the opportunity didn’t arise to get my greedy hands on it until I stumbled on it in this shop. And man it was worth every penny.

Like just about everyone else, I really enjoyed Simone and Calafiore’s run on the Secret Six from DC. Watching these two collaborate on any project is like watching your favorite band throw a reunion tour. It scratches that itch you have and is certainly a performance to remember.

What can I say about this story? It is a wonderful look at what humans will do to survive in a war zone. For the citizens of Megalopolis, the end times are nigh and they are living in an apocalyptic setting.

And what of the dangers lying around every corner? These poor souls aren’t faced with slow moving zombies or a super rabies virus. Instead they are at odds with their former superhuman protectors who once made Megalopolis the world’s safest city.

Super speed death attacks, scooped up by flyers and given the swan dive of doom, and super strength feats of killing are the norm for those stuck in the city.

The creative team wastes no time showing us the destruction in Megalopolis as well as the dangers thatvawait our main characters. The focal point of the story is Mina, who becomes the leader of a group of survivors even though she seems reluctant.

She tries to come off as rough and uncaring but her icy exterior melts as she looks to protect a battered teenager and picks up other survivors along the way. The story also flashes back to Mina’s backstory to show how she became the type of person who distances her self from others and the many hard times she has faced in her life up to and including the current crisis in the city.

The writing and art in this story do an amazing job of showing how people struggle to survive in a city gone mad. It draws us in with concern for our main characters and shows how they come together as a group in order to survive. However, it also effectively uses the story and pages to show another group. While this group did manage to come together, the methods they employ for survival are a stark contrast to our main group a highlight the heart these characters truly have.

Thanks to the efforts of Simone and Calafiore, this story has great world building without losing any focus on character building. The visuals are stunning as the designs for the super-heroes are really cool and distinct.

But what would the art look like without the colorist or the script be without the letterer. The art and designs really are complemented by the colors used by Jason Wright. His use of earthier colors and tones in the flashback sequences to Mina’s past are provide a nice contrast to the colors employed in the city scenes. And the city absolutely looks like a war zone from the darker hues that seem to permeate through the current day events down to the details of the dirt and grime all over the devastation.

Dave Sharpe also does a tremendous job with his well placed lettering. The word balloons and caption boxes are easy to follow and never diminish the art. He also shows his chops in sections where the lettering is a call back to the style we see on the front of covers or in intro pages to comics we are all familiar with.

In closing, this book has a fantastic journey with a real poignant ending that really needs to be read. There is also a great 14 page story at the end this time with the whole team minus Gail Simone further expanding on this world. In short I would love to visit Megalopolis again with this creative team, though it probably wouldn’t be a good time to live there.

COC Spotlight: Bloodstrike, Covenant, and a Detachable Penis.COC Spotlight Now with Twice as Much COC

Hot on the heals of my origin story (and in its honor), I gift to you twice the comic book offerings than usual. That’s right it’s SDCC week, and with the big show comes a bigger COC than usual.

As I shared last week, I am a big fan of Rob Liefeld’s work since Brigade issue 2 cemented my fandom for comic books. That of course had the unintentional effect of making my wife despise the man. Just kidding. She thinks the amount of energy he has and enthusiasm is awesomely ridiculous.

On to the meat of this week’s spotlight. This week Image released two works from Liefeld in Bloodstrike #1 and Covenant #2.

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Cover by Rob Liefeld

What can I say about Covenant other than I was not initially interested in a bible based story when issue 1 was solicited. However, after reading some interviews with its creator, I realized this would be more of a heist story. And what has been stolen? None other than the Ark of the Covenant and since I grew up on a steady diet of Indiana Jones, why not give it a shot.

After two issues, I’m glad I have this book a chance and can see what Rob means when he says that the bible characters are like the original superheroes. It also doesn’t hurt that the creative team on this book are doing tremendous work together.

As I mentioned this is a Liefeld book. Rob is listed as the creator and writer in the credits and has done a really good job establishing the protagonist, Samuel. Despite 9 years of Catholic schooling and a healthy dose of church going, I wasn’t at all familiar with this character. This book on the other hand has provided me solid insight into who he is and his motivations.

Now let’s get to the art. Who is Matt Horak? To be honest, going into this I knew Horak about as well as I knew the character of Samuel. But like That character, I am greatly enjoying Matt’s story (see what I did there).  The action is really well done and I have had no problem following the story. Characters are expressive and there is a great scene that shows the power of the Ark. He aslo knocked a scene out of the park of a feverish older character Eli where the details on his sweat soaked face were incredible.

All in all both writing and art have improved from the first issue. Both were very good last time around but there is less need for expository set up and Horak seems like he is the type of artist that will continue to improve with each page. Keep your eyes out for his name in the future.

The final members of the creative team are Chris Eliopolous on letters and Jeremy Colwell on colors. Both of these guys help to make this a very good looking finished product. The coloring enhances the art and really makes certain scenes look incredible (again check out that Ark scene). And the lettering is clear and for my money Chris Eliopolous is one of the best and really helps add to the emotion on the page when necessary. His sound effects look great as well.

This team is working perfectly together and have really sold me on continuing to pick up a book I was initially going to pass on. This is another reason I am excited that Colwell and Eliopolous are back with Liefeld on our next book.

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I snagged this amazing Dan Fraga cover

My dear reader, make no mistake when I say that Bloodstrike was preordered without hesitation. A book about soldiers continuously brought back from the dead written and drawn by Rob Liefeld? Yes please. The book that is leading up to the Brigade relaunch that was funded by Kickstarter? Try and stop me from getting it. No really. Try.

As I mentioned I like the man’s work. And this story has him taking it to a place that I haven’t often seen. This book is graphically violent, has curse words and some nudity here and there. Finally the fact that this issue has a COC Spotlight is completely fitting. If you’ve read it you know.

This issue starts off with the character of Operative Alpha chained to the wall with his intestines dripping out (all right just half of him is chained to the wall). Right off the bat this is a fun new take on these reanimated soldiers and the trouble they find themselves in while clueing new readers in on what this series is about. Alpha has already been killed a few times and resurrected by Project Born Again. However without the Project finding Alpha who is on an off the books mission there won’t be any regeneration.

This issue starts off in the blood soaked present with Alpha doing his best to free himself from his current predicament, but how did he get there. Liefeld then flashes the story back to 15 hours earlier where Alpha or “JT” as he is referred to by the villain, is on a lone mission infiltrating a stronghold while slicing and dicing his way to his objective.

This issue is action packed and shows how Rob Liefeld has a tight grasp on keeping the action fluid. And what about the reveal from the villain that this Bloodstrike operative’s initials are JT while having some previous relationship to the villain, Tragedy Ann.

Interestingly enough, the solicits mention Alpha as a mystery man character from Extreme’s past who is new to the program and the story reveals a connection to Tragedy Ann who bears quite the resemblance to Vogue of Youngblood. Drop me a line of you think you know Alpha’s identity based on this info.

Bloodstrike 1 was a fun ride as we see some old favorites like Bloodwulf, and some other characters from the Bloodstrike of old who have some really cool designs. Fans of old will love to see these old faces.

There’s also a bit of male on female and female on male violence in this issue, which warrants the mature label. However, I have never seen Bloodstrike as a group of “good guys.” These are mercenaries working for a paycheck so their morals aren’t always in the right place.

Mixed in with the violence is also some dark humor which works well in the framework of the story. The best example is during a scene where a character from the team is regenerated and Liefeld presents a neat visual right before a funny reference to a popular children’s toy. Honestly, the visual, dialogue, and distress I would feel as a man made me laugh. And a bit uncomfortable.

At the end of the day, I can’t recommend this enough providing you have the stomach for a book that isn’t about shiny heroes. If you can handle the uncomfortable scenes you have to give it a shot.

This book is about protagonists that aren’t very nice, a ruthless villain who is intelligent and powerful, and an epilogue that sets up another formidable female adversary looking to bring Bloodstrike down.

If this is the direction Rob wants to take his Extreme books in leading up to the Brigade relaunch, I am really going to enjoy the ride as I suspect other fans of his work will as well.

Does this issue take risks? Yes. Will it possibly alienate some readers who shy away from graphic violence, language and morally suspect actions from the characters we are reading? You bet it could. But I have come to expect nothing less from Image and this book is from one of the guy’s who started it.

For me, I enjoy this and feel it is in a similar vein to the movie Shoot Em’ Up or John Wick. Unstoppable characters are coming together for epic action. Brigade can’t get here fast enough and this is an amazing lead up.

I urge you to check it out, but if you’re on the fence, check back here where we will be covering each issue in a spotlight for the first arc.

You can also look forward to other spotlight’s as we will be looking at Leaving Megalopolis for our next installment by the talented team of Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore.