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Hugh Likes Comics: Fence

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Fence #1
Written by C. S. Pacat
Drawn by Joanna The Mad
Colored by Joana Lafuente
Published by Boom Studios

Fance

The Skinny: The by the numbers sports comic calls to mind “Yuri On Ice,” but is coy in the first issue.

Fence is the story of scrappy young fencer Nicholas Cox. He’s from the wrong side of the tracks and hasn’t had the best training, but he’s got raw talent. He also has the luck to face fencing prodigy Seiji Katayama in his first tournament bout.
“Fence” is a teen sports comic about, obviously, fencing, that dutifully hits the story beats it needs to in the first issue without much fanfare. We get a lot of the main character’s back story, a very nice competition sequence, and a last page setup for the series, and it all works. The comic has a very pure shonen sports manga vibe to it. It reminded me most strongly of “Yuri on Ice,” but the text doesn’t feel completely committed to the idea yet. Although based on the queer fantasy trilogy that are C. S. Pacat’s breakout work, one shouldn’t be surprised.
Fans of this subgenre will find plenty to like, though, and Joanna The Mad’s art is clean and expressive, lingering on emotional scenes notes. Her figures are fluid and dynamic, and Joana Lafuente’s colors bring them out well.
Fence #1 is now available from Comixology or your local comics shop. Time will tell if this sports manga inspired book will stand out from the crowd, but this is a solid, if not surprising, introduction.

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Hugh Likes Comics: All-Star Batman

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All-Star Batman Vol 1: My Own Worst Enemy
Written by Scott Snyder
Penciled by John Romita Jr.
Colors by Dean White
Published by DC Comics

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The Skinny: Batman and Two-Face take a road trip in search of a cure for his condition, with horde of bounty-hunting assassins on their trail.

I’ve often heard it said that one of Batman’s greatest strengths as a character is his versatility. Batman, the theory goes, can be effectively put in any story and work. With respect to Mr. Chris Sims, the internet’s leading Batmanologist, I’m not sure I fully agree with that notion. While Batman can fit into a variety of roles, he’s still Batman, and including him changes the story. I’d posit the reverse is true. Batman doesn’t just fit into any story. Batman can make any story he’s in into a batman story.
But Snyder and Romita Jr. do bring something different to the formula with All-Star Batman Vol. 1. Taking Batman out of his environment is sometimes a dice proposition, but the creative Team pulls it off well. Harvey, the good half of Two-Face claims to have found a cure for his condition. But his evil personality isn’t going to go quietly. He has a secret data network, and if Batman reaches their destination, he’ll release every dirty secret he has on Gotham’s citizens. He’s going to prove to the world that everyone, deep down, is just as monstrous as he is. But he’s not going to stop there. He’s also pulled a lot of financial info, and if someone should kill Batman on the way, they’ll pocket the cash, too. Now it’s a race against a rogues gallery of assassins, bounty hunters, amateur criminals, and Two-Face himself.
The premise is mostly just set dressing for one big over-the-top fight after another, and it works, as a batman story. He faces an endless stream of B and C level rogues. We get to see a lot of these fights, and Snyder and Romita Jr. are clearly having a ball bringing back the likes of Firefly and Copperhead for cameos. Batman mentions a few of the battles that he had off page as well. And while the big reveal of a revamped KGBeast was a lot of fun, I’m a bit disappointed we never got to see Orca and her Death Cycle.
The trip is well-paced and has a nice, over the top conclusion of the sort you only get in superhero comics. While Romita Jr’s art style usually isn’t my cup of tea, he’s doing good work here, and the flashback sequences, to a time when Bruce and Harvey met at a children’s home look great, given a watercolor style from Dean White’s colors.
All-Star Batman Vol. 1 is a lot of fun, and it’s nice to see Batman a bit out of his element and on a deadly road trip. This is one of those comics that rewards long-time fans with a basket of easter eggs while still being accessible for new readers. If you’re looking to jump onto reading Batman in the modern era, this is a great place to start.
You can find All-Star Batman Vol. 1 at your local comics shop, or buy it digitally at Comixology!

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Hugh Likes Comics: Made Men

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Made Men #1
Written by Paul Tobin
Drawn by Arjuna Susini
Colored by Gonzalo Duarte
Published by Oni

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Frankenstein Revenge Noir. It’s a beautiful concept, and Tobin and Susini pull it off brilliantly in “Made Men.” The book opens with a bloodbath, a hit on a team of police officers. The whole squad is mercilessly gunned down. But the squad’s leader isn’t exactly who she says she is. She’s a Frankenstein, and after one of her grandmother’s recipes allows her to survive the bullets, she’s entering the family business to get revenge.
Tobin’s script goes off at just the right clip to toss us into this revenant revenge tale. Susini’s art is a perfect tonal match, gritty and visceral with just the right level of gore. Duarte’s colors are muted and lurid, exactly like the old school pulp the story evokes.
As a collaborative medium, a comic works best when the art and text either support each other completely, or diverge in interesting ways. “Made Men” does the former, and it is exquisite. We get some outstanding montages, as Jutte Frankenstein narrates on top of the gothic-noir art. If you’re a fan of classic noir or classic horror, this is a fantastic start to something you won’t want to miss. You can find Made Men #1 at your Local Comics Shop, or digitally through Comixology!
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Hugh Likes Comics: Dark Nights: Metal

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Dark Nights: Metal #1
Written by Scott Snyder
Drawn by Greg Capullo
Colors by FCO Plascencia
Published by DC Comics

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“Metal,” DC’s next big comics event, is equal parts spectacle and classic four-color nonsense. Normally, I can’t stand this kind of storytelling, but Snyder and Capullo are up to something that tugs at my nerdy heartstrings in just the right way.
Ostensibly a Justice League story, this is really a story about Batman. Batman’s membership in the organization has a notably rocky history. He quit to start his own band in the 80’s and in the 00’s Justice League cartoon, he was more of a consultant than a committed member.
“Dark Knights: Metal #1” brings in all that continuity and wraps it with enough bombastic spectacle to hold it together, at least until issue two.
The comic opens in an alien colosseum and pinballs the reader through a ravaged city, an impossible mountain, and a time-lost island with dizzying speed. The event attempts to bring in a bunch of characters who were shuffled off the rosters in one reboot or another, including Hawkman, Lady Blackhawk, and a last-page reveal that I won’t spoil here. Admittedly there is a lot of posing and speech-making about impending doom that gets a little tiresome, but there’s enough great stuff here to keep the reader going through the exposition about an ancient evil from ‘The Dark Multiverse’ that is using Dark Energy, Batman, and magnets I guess? to enter this reality.
But for all the talking and grimacing, the characters all feel on point, and the most important thing is that this is a comic in which Batman stunt-rides a velociraptor. Full stop. There are other fun surprises that I won’t reveal here, but it is some classic, old-school comic silliness that you don’t really need to be up on the latest continuity to enjoy. You can find “Dark Nights: Metal #1 at your local comics shop, or digitally via Comixology.
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Hugh Likes Comics: Magnus

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Magnus #1
Written by Kyle Higgins
Drawn by Jorge Fornes
Colored by Chris O’Halloran
Lettered by Taylor Esposito
Published by Dynamite

Magnus

I’ve never actually followed the adventures of “Magnus: Robot Fighter.” He’s one of those pulp heroes that I’ve seen on the periphery. He falls into a category with characters like The Shadow and John Carter of Mars in that I know they’ve been around, and are in some ways foundational to pop culture, but I’ve never sought his adventures out. Perhaps it is because the premise, while awesome, seemed a bit too simple. He’s a dude that fights robots. It all feels very 1950’s to me; the square-jawed hero putting up his dukes and wits against a clanking menace while the terrified damsel looks on.
Higgins and Fornes new reimagining of the character is quite different, but it still has a veneer of classic science fiction about it. This version of the character is Dr. Kerri Magnus, robot psychologist. While the character so far seems to have more in common with Dr. Susan Calvin than the original pulp hero, the original creator, (name) was purported to have been largely inspired by Azimov’s “I, Robot” stories, so perhaps this reimagining is just bringing the concept full circle.
Fornes’s art is quite good, although there were a few spreads where I had some trouble following the panel sequence. His depictions of New York in the far-off year of 2020, and the ‘Cloudworld,’ it’s digital mirror, are intriguing, and O’Halloran’s colors create an absorbing SF-Noir feel for the book.
Magnus is a book with giving some fresh ink and perspective to some classic SF ideas, and I can’t wait to see where the series goes, although the first issue is a bit slim, it leaves some tasty breadcrumbs I’m looking forward to following. You can pick up Magnus #1 from your local comics shop, or digitally from Comixology.

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Hugh Likes Comics: America

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America #1-3
Written by Gabby Rivera
Drawn by Joe Quinones
Published by Marvel Comics

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America Chavez is one of my absolute favorite superheroes. She’s tough, strong, brassy and bold. She gets the job done and never says die. All typical traits of a comic-book protagonist. But more than that, America is a Queer Latina here to save the world from another universe. One time she got arrested for fighting a shark TOO WELL. I love her, and Marvel is finally giving her her own solo series.
But where do you take a character who owns so hard and literally kicks holes in the universe? In this case college. But not just any school of higher ed will do for Ms. Chavez. After a tearful falling out with her girlfriend, she’s piling her stuff into Reb Brown’s old Captain America van and heading to Sotomayor University, premier learning institution to the multiverse. But what lessons will she absorb, and will she stay still long enough to learn them?
Novelist Gabby Rivera brings good work to her first comics outing. Her take on the character is interesting, and nothing like your usual four-color fare. The text is a bit cerebral, but by issue three, she has found her groove. America is a character whose powers and origins feel more Silver-Age DC than Marvel, despite how thoroughly modern she is in design and personality. Rivera threads that line in unexpected and gratifying ways, while giving America something more to do than just punch what’s in front of her.
I like Joe Quinones’ art, which is just as full of motion and energy as a heroine like America demands, even when she’s sitting in class.
America is a bold new comic, and in my opinion, exactly the sort of book that Marvel should be putting out right now. You can find it online at comixology.com, or in print at your local comics shop.

Hugh Likes Comics: Rocket #1

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Hugh Likes Comics: Rocket

Rocket #1
Written by Al Ewing
Drawn by Adam Gorham
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There are two ways to look at Rocket #1. On the one hand, this is the second “Rocket #1” to hit shelves this year, and it isn’t even June. Readers could lay that at the feet of Marvel editorial’s constant cycle of resets and reboots, in this case an attempt to catch the wave of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. On the other hand, it’s Rocket doing heists in space with Technet. Technet, you guys!
Technet is one of the lovely bits of obscure Marvel goofiness that just warms my heart. They are a wacky team of Space Mercenaries that served as antagonists for Captain Brittain and Excalibur in the late ’80’s. They all have unusual designs and strange powers, and are just about perfect for a Rocket book that pulls him away from the Guardians.
This comic works because it has a perfect voice and it knows how to use it. This is a beat for beat heist that doesn’t apologize for the over-the-top characters. It opens with Rocket drinking alone in a bar, when a dame in white walks back into his life. The fact that this is a space bar filled crazy aliens, and the dame is an anthropomorphic otter named ‘Otta Spice’ is treated as a given.
The layout and art really make this comic work. Each page is accompanied by a a column of spare prose on the left side that reads like a Parker novel. And the slick suit-and-sunglasses look for Rocket and his crew sells the genre conventions.
Rocket #1 could’ve just been another tie-in cash grab, but by so seamlessly blending archetypal genres, and bringing back some genuinely weird Marvel characters, Ewing and Gorham are starting something special. In the words of Technetter China Doll, it’s “Fun-fun-fun!” You can find it at your local comics shop, or digitally from Comixology.

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