Travelling Man's Blog

Review: Monstress Issue 1 by Travelling Man
November 18, 2015, 9:00 am
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: , , , ,

monstressWritten by Marjorie Liu

Art by Sana Takeda

Letters by Rus Wooton

Edits by Jennifer M. Smith

Published by Image



In the wake of a horrific war between the Cumaea, a group of witches and the Monstra, decried as monsters, an uneasy peace has fallen. In the middle of that, Maika Halfwolf, a young woman missing an arm and every answer goes looking for what’s missing.

She is not alone when she does.


This is one of the best fantasy stories you’ll read this year. It stands side by side with Kai Ashante Wilson’s astounding Sorcerer of the Wildeeps and Alter S. Reiss’ phenomenal Sunset Mantle as a fantastic piece of worldbuilding, character work and the start of a massive, gripping story.

But this has something the two novellas don’t. The art of Sana Takeda. There’s a very definite cinematic feel to the issue and a lot of that is down to Takeda. The detail here is absolute but never overpowering and each one of the characters registers as a real, fragile human. In some cases that heightens the awful sense of doom pervading the book, a doom that can be traced directly to Maika.

Liu’s script is astounding, dense, elegantly packed with world building and pulling no punches. It orbits Maika like planets round a sun and from the first page to the last it’s a book defined by her actions. Liu talks about the origins of the character in the back matter but even without that you can see the rage coming off her in waves. Maika is a survivor, a woman who has had everything taken from her including the reason why and she’s no longer prepared to tolerate any of it. Her plan here is as simple as it is borderline suicidal and a lesser writer would have had Maika not see that. Liu makes sure she’s painfully aware of it the whole time, and that doesn’t slow Maika down at all. She’s driven, focused and disturbing even before you get to her secret.

That’s where the book’s brilliance comes through, more so even than in the subtle scripting details or beautiful art. This entire, vast first issue is both a complete story and a prologue. The forces that oppose Maika, and the ones that she can barely control, are vast, active and coming closer. The war that’s coming may dwarf the war that she survived.

Monstress pulls no punches and gives no ground, much like its lead. It’s complex, dense, involving writing which trusts you to catch up. You will too. Heart-breaking, beautiful and unique. Better still, it and Maika, are just getting started.

Review: Sam Wilson, Captain America Issues 1 and 2 by Travelling Man

captain america sam wilson 1Written by Nick Spencer

Art by Daniel Acuna

Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna

Cover by Daniel Acuna

Published by Marvel



Two issues in this is the most interesting thing that’s been done with Cap in years. That isn’t to slam any of the writers who came before Spencer either. Cap’s book has quietly been home to some serious narrative experimentation since the epic-scale novel that Brubaker’s run formed.

This though, is different. In every way. All of them brilliant.

Sam Wilson is Captain America now. Sam Wilson is also penniless. And on the outs with SHIELD. And has a support team consisting of D-Man (The fact Spencer has successfully rehabilitated D-Man is MEDAL WORTHY) and Misty Knight. Oh and he’s flying coach.

Across these two episodes we find out why and it’s fascinating and realistic and actually very funny. Sam isn’t Steve so where the previous incumbent was politically neutral Sam…isn’t. He speaks out, he gets slammed for it and suddenly Captain America is being attacked for being partisan. It’s a subtle, clever character beat that speaks to the difference between the two men and also folds the inevitable criticism of the turn into the book itself. It’s clever without being snippy, referential without getting lost.

It’s also really nicely paced. The reason for Sam’s loss of SHIELD contacts, and, more importantly, his feud with Steve makes perfect sense. These are two men who know each other very well and have huge mutual respect. But this is a divide they don’t want to cross and may not be able to. It’s a much better take on Old Man Steve than we’ve seen in other books and gives this one a far more even political keel than the right wing have claimed it has.

sam wilson 2Oh and it’s gorgeous. Acuna’s work is tense and furrowed like Sam himself but open and spacious when needed. It reminded me of Ron Garney’s definitive run with the character and there’s definitely the same sense here. A slightly more than human soldier doing the best he can and failing a lot. But that’s the point and also why Sam has his glorious supporting cast, both of whom have never looked better.

Subtle, character driven, funny and heartfelt this is a book that embodies its lead character. Heart on its sleeve, heading for a fight and staring it down. I know who my money’s on.

Review: The Vision Issue 1 by Travelling Man

visionWritten by Tom King

Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Colour art by Jordie Bellaire

Letters & Production by VC’s Clayton Cowles

Published by Marvel

The Vision has taken a job at the White House. The Vision has built a family. The Vision has decided to experiment with being human.

The Vision may soon regret that decision.


This is CHILLING. From the opening, precise narration to the final panels, King has done something unprecented. His script folds the most science fictional Avenger of them all into an American Beauty-esque look at what happens to families who have it all and how little that matters. This is the classic American novel, filled with aspiration and ambition and emotional disconnection and robotic children. It’s brilliant and weird and terrifying.

It also unfolds with the calm of a live dissection. We meet the Visions, their neighbours and get a sense of what’s coming. We also see them try and fit in, and what happens when that choice clashes with their fundamental programming. Virginia, the Vision’s wife is incapable of not learning and her functional imprisonment at home not really doing anything is already starting to chafe. His kids bicker and fight with strength that could destroy houses while wondering if they’re normal and knowing they aren’t.

And, like every panicked, beaten down father in history, the Vision just keeps working and hopes it all goes away.

It’s clever, subtle, measured and horrifying stuff. And Hernandez Walta’s art shows you everything. There’s feral, desperate emotion bubbling up in all four Visions and when it breaks out it’ll be savage. As a result every page is clenched tight with threat and the naturalistic, bright colour choices made by Bellaire only heighten that. Likewise Cowles’ lettering delivers the overarching narration especially well and ratchets the tension further.

This is an astounding, bizarre debut and a book you absolutely need to read. Unsettling, tragic and unputdownable.

Review: Ms Marvel Issue 19 by Travelling Man

ms marvel 19Written by G.Willow Wilson

Art by Adrian Alphona

Colour art by Ian Herring

Lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel


There’s a reference in the letters page to ‘season two’ of the book and I can’t wait, because this is one of the best titles being published in the West right now. Seriously, if you want the sense of underdog joy, community and good natured heroics that Spider-Man embodied in the 1960s, then you need to be reading this. If you don’t, you need to be reading this anyway.

Because as season finales go, this is so perfect it could almost be a series finale.

Every dangling plot thread (With one notable, delightfully slobbery exception who we’re assured will be back) is tied up here. That, for completists, will be enough. But each one is landed with genuinely extraordinary humanity and kindness. This is a book about a group of people facing the end of the world with nothing they can do about it. But they live in Jersey, and the fireworks, as ever, are in New York. So they’ll deal as long as they need to. Even if it’s forever.

Every page here is beautiful. Alphona’s art is the most expressive it’s been and in an issue built entirely on character interactions it’s never looked better. There’s subtlety and intelligence behind each character, a sense that everyone is a real, well rounded person facing the end of the world in the best way they know. Herring’s colour work is just as impressive, especially in the final panels and Caramagna’s exuberant lettering lands every careful, precise syllable and the emotion behind them all.

But it’s the writing you remember, and the characters. I teared up three times in this issue, and it wasn’t even due to massive, colossal events. Rather it was the love that Wilson so clearly has for these people and the fact she takes such great care to not let anyone get left behind. Kamala’s parents get a perfect signoff, her occasionally forgotten best friend is reintroduced in a way that’s sweet and genuine and hilarious and, best of all, Kamala and Bruno have The Talk


That Talk.

If the book was going to fall down anywhere, it’s here. But there’s no petty drama, no people acting stupid for the sake of plot. Just two clever, compassionate teenagers on the last day of their lives telling each other the truth and being absolutely okay with the truth being complicated. It’s not just sweet natured it’s inspirational. A gentle, clear eyed, clever end to the first volume of a series defined by those three factors.

And humour.

And Doom Dogs.

But I digress. This is an amazing sign off for an amazing book. Please, if you bemoan the lack of joy in superhero comics, pick up the trades and introduce yourself to Kamala. Because she really is here to save the day.

Review: Art Ops Issue 1 by Travelling Man
November 16, 2015, 9:00 am
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: , , , , , ,

art ops 1Written by Shaun Simon

Art and cover by Michael Allred

Colours by Laura Allred

Letters by Todd Klein

Logo design by Steve Cook

Published by DC/Vertigo


Regina Jones is the best there is at what she does. What she does is protect, and if needed, extract, art. Any art. Or any part of it. Because art is alive and intelligent and something is hunting it. Something that only Regina, her team and her traumatised son Reggie can stop.

Have you ever found something which feels like such a perfect concept you’re amazed no one came up with it before? You have now.

Art Ops is part of the traditional Vertigo refresh that comes every time a bunch of series finish, like Unfollow. And, like Unfollow, it’s as close to perfect a first issue as you’ll get. Simon wastes no time, laying the premise out in a glorious, high tension opening and then proceeding to blow it apart for the rest of the issue.

That’s the joy of it. What you learn at the top of the issue is actually only the beginning. As it goes on, and you meet Reggie and his magnificent, awful, feral injury you get an idea of just what this world is really like. Simon never loses sight of his characters, never gives any of them anything besides clay feet but also keeps things clipping on. It feels, almost, like the start of a new season of a really great show. The world’s established but there’s everything you need to jump aboard here too.

That’s helped immensely by the art. Allred and Allred always do amazing work and this is no exception. The poppy style fits the subject matter, the smart ink and colour choices keep it from getting too whimsical and Todd Klein’s lettering has a nice punch to it.

All of that combines to create art, of course. As feral and clever and interesting as its premise but with the added feeling of confidence and a vast world opening up in front of you that only comes can really bring. Ludicrously ambitious, ludicrously clever and ludicrously good

Review: Squirrel Girl Issue 1 by Travelling Man
November 15, 2015, 9:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

s1Written by Ryan North

Art by Erica Henderson

Trading Card art by Joe Morris

Colour art by Rico Renzi

Lettering by VC’s Clayton Cowles

Cover by Erica Henderson

Published by Marvel


Doreen’s back! As is Koi Boi and Chipmunk Hunk! Or is that Chipmonk Honk! It is now!


There may not be an odder superhero book on the shelves right now. There’s certainly not one more exuberant as Squirrel Girl returns and runs headlong into the most terrifying danger she’s faced so far;


Plus also a Nazi robot from (sort of) space.

North’s gleeful scripting is in full force here, right down to the notes at the bottom of each page. Doreen is endlessly chirpy and up and clearly a little weirded out by being a New Avenger. She’s also deeply uncomfortable about Mom visiting and the tension between her and Nancy over that would drive a full issue of a normal book. Likewise, the glorious reveal that Nancy and Maureen, Doreen’s mom, actually get on like a house on fire.

But weirdly, this is a book where Brain Drain is the star.

Go look him up, I’ll wait.


I KNOW RIGHT?! A Nazi vacuum tube robot is the star of the book! In a very odd way. North uses BD as an exploration of the sort of hero Doreen isn’t. She and Nancy screw up and they realize they have and they fix it. In doing so, they expand the supporting cast, set up a new dynamic for the series and do something genuinely very sweet. This is a book where no one gets left behind and this issue reminds you of that.

It also reminds you just how phenomenal Erica Henderson is. The art here is always fluid, always crammed full of the same energy as Doreen and always a joy to read. The book’s comic timing is baked into script and art alike and Henderson lands every joke the art is required to perfectly. She’s helped by Renzi’s bright, cheery colour scheme and Cowles’ lettering too.

All of which combines to make this the most cheerful, oddest book about Nazi supervillains and food courts you’ll read this year. Doreen’s back. She still kicks butts. She still eats nuts. And now she backup.

More backup.

Also more buttkicking. And nuts. And fun too. Especially that last one.


Review: Codename Baboushka Issue 1 by Travelling Man
November 14, 2015, 9:00 am
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: , , , , ,

baboushkaWritten by Antony Johnston

Art by Shari Chankhamma

Letters by Simon Bowland

Published by Image



Countess Annika Malikova is Russian money embodied. She’s young, beautiful, rich, rarely out of the papers. She’s also, quietly, the most dangerous person in any room she’s in. And now, someone has noticed…

Johnston is one of the best comic creators of his generation. Start with this and The Fuse, the space police procedural he co-created with Justin Greenwood that they and Chankhamma produce and make your way through everything with his name on it, he’s that good.

You can see why here too. The script is as pared down and highly skilled as the book’s lead. No panel is wasted, no beat makes it on the page without earning its slot. Even better, the potential cheesecake element of a series like this is acknowledged, sidestepped and put flat on its back by a gloriously simple piece of narrative Aikido. You’ll know it when you see it.

Plus it’s FUN. Annika and Gyorgy, her minder/muscle/father figure are a charming double act and for all their training, Johnston and Chankhamma make you worry for them. Annika is a highly skilled assassin but she’s also a little rusty and only as good as the half second edge her training gives her. This issue takes that half second and rides it all the way through a highly creative, white knuckle action sequence that only serves as the warm up bout for the main event. It’s taught, smart action comics and it looks amazing.

Because make no mistake, Chankhamma is going to make waves here. Her art has the same sort of clean lines as Paul Duffield’s but, like its heroine, is very light on its feet. The book is graceful, fight scenes flowing with kinetic ease and character beats laid out with a cinematic eye and precision of touch that shows both creators at the top of their game. It’s a beautiful, brutal book and Bowland’s lettering ties everything together with the consummate ease his work is known for.

Tough, graceful, clever storytelling that’s always got an exit strategy, Codename Baboushka is great work from great creators. Find it, and see professionals at work, on the page and behind it.

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