Dark Horse July 2016 cover
Credit: Dark Horse Comics
Credit: Black Mask Studios

Kim & Kim #1
Written by Mags Visaggio
Art by Eva Cabrera and Claudia Aguirre
Lettering by Zakk Saam
Published by Black Mask Studios
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Black Mask Studios has had some hits from their 2016 class of creators, and Kim & Kim #1 marks another stand-out debut. This reads like Broad City in space, following the adventures of Kimiko “Kim Q.” Quattro and Kimber “Kim D.” Dantzler as they cope with the emotional morass of early adulthood against the backdrop of their careers as intergalactic, punk rock bounty hunters.

This is a flat-out fun book, elevated to something special by how immensely relatable Visaggio makes the Kims even amidst the outlandishness of shape-shifting octopi. For every sprawling fight scene that sends Kim Q. through a window, there’s a quiet moment where the Kims hash out issues deeply familiar to anyone currently in or reflecting back on their early twenties — money issues, strained familial relationships, where the next paycheck might come from. Kim & Kim #1 is a book about two bad-ass women flying a Volkswagen van through space to chase criminals, but they’re fully realized characters you’ll wish you could hang out with.

Visaggio brings a great deal of skill and heart to the dialogue throughout the book. The conversations feel natural and never forced, and occasional expositional lines of internal dialogue provide tidbits of helpful context from Kim Q.’s past without feeling out of place. Visaggio handles these interjections with a deft touch that improves the pacing of a scene without risking a reader getting bogged down in an information dump.

A quiet moment with the two Kims where Kim Q. references being a trans woman is particularly reflective of Visaggio’s character-crafting ability, and the strength of her dialogue: Vissagio includes the reveal in a scene that could be any two friends, anywhere, on any world, in the kind of conversation we all remember having with our own friends in times where we’d like to forget the pressing responsibilities of adult life for an hour or two. It’s not the focal point of the issue and doesn’t dominate the Kims’ conversation. Instead, it’s a small and valuable part of a larger scene that provides a great deal of insight into who the Kims are and into their friendship

Kim & Kim #1 is as beautifully illustrated as it is written. Eva Cabrera’s style makes Kim & Kim feel a little like a crossover between Tank Girl and  magical girl manga, and with colorist Claudia Aguirre they are the perfect team to bring two glamorous hard-hitting women like the Kims to life. Cabrera’s action sequences are fast-paced but never too frenetic, and even in quiet scenes like the Kims’ heart-to-heart, she helps elevate the tenor of the dialogue through body language and the way she frames shots within each panel. Aguirre’s color work is vibrant and rich, making Kim Q. and Kim D. perfect pops of brightness in scenes where they’re surrounded by mundane civilians. Kim D.’s hot-pink, painted-up rifle in particular is a small touch that perfectly captures the spirit of the book. They’re awesome at what they do, and manage to keep a firm grasp on who they are despite the dangerous nature of their line of work.

This is an impressive first published outing from Mags Visaggio, and the entire Kim & Kim #1 team have put together a book that will be a fun ride for anyone who needs a little more adventure in their lives. A hard-hitting, unapologetically girly and foul-mouthed tale, Kim & Kim #1 is a great summer read that packs as much heart as it does punches.

Credit: Titan Comics

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen #1
Written by George Mann and Cavan Scott
Art by Alessandro Vitti, Ivan Rodriguez, Tazio Bettin, Nicola Righi and Enrica Angiolini
Lettering by Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Published by Titan Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Titan Comic’s kicks off the road to July 9’s Doctor Who Comics Day with a bang in Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen #1. Barreling through its story like a Whovian bullet train, writers George Mann and Cavan Scott deliver an anthology-inspired first issue that is firmly slotted in the television canon that fans are most familiar with. Along with a kinetic art team that are more than comfortable handling the scale and visual lunacy that comes along with the series, Supremacy of the Cybermen #1 is a team-up that fans have been clamoring for and a story big enough in scope to be called an event.

While the titular Doctors don’t actually meet in this debut issue, writers Mann and Scott provide the readers with almost mini-episodes starring Doctors Nine through Eleven with the gruff Twelve providing the issue’s bookends that are positively saturated in Gallifreyian lore. Mann and Scott handle each Doctor wonderfully along with their plucky companions, including the comic exclusive characters Gabby Gonzalez, Cindy Wu and Alice Obiefune, throwing each Team TARDIS into situations ranging from the dire to the ridiculous and pitting them against a myriad of classic Who monsters like the Silurians, the Sontarans, and the titular Cybermen, who have grown more powerful than the Time Lords could have ever imagined.

Though the writer’s attention to character and voice have always been a highlight of Titan Comics’ output, its the anthology format that gives Supremacy of the Cybermen #1 its raw temporal energy. This first issue hits the ground in a dead sprint and zooms through each story so fast that you may be left breathless once its momentous cliffhanger hits. While the intensely fast pace may prove a negative mark for some readers, Mann and Scott take a novel approach to the multi-Doctor story, opting to cast each Doctor and group of companions in separate stories instead of trying to jam them into a single adventure, which can be done well as we saw in Titan’s last event Four Doctors. However, by taking the long way around, this debut issue is a breakneck paced yarn that hits hard using a combination of fan-favorite monsters, a firm handle on characterization, and an inspired use of the television show’s established canon.

On the art front, Supremacy of the Cybermen brings the triple-threat of Alessandro Vitti, Ivan Rodriguez and Tazio Bettin, all tied together with the rich colors of Nicola Righi and Enrica Eren Angiolini. Vitti starts us off with sketchy character profiles that evoke Giuseppe Camuncoli, complete with craggy lines and heavy-inked volcanic backgrounds. Ivan Rodriguez’s rounded lines and detailed, James Stokoe-esque backgrounds make up the majority of the issue and really hammer home each character’s charm and weird visual flair of the mini-adventures — his prehistoric jaunt with Eleven and Alice is a particular standout. We end on a pair of well-known planets with Tazio Bettin, whose hazy pencils, along with the muted colors of Righi and Angiolini, give the finale a decidedly classic Doctor Who comic strip vibe to send readers out with a serious wow moment. Though a single artist would have given this debut a more concrete visual look, Supremacy of the Cybermen #1 is still in good hands dividing up its art duties.

With a lightning-fast pace, an epic scope, and a script that takes full advantage of what makes each modern Doctor fun and compelling, Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen #1 is the series in its purest and most entertaining form. While I would have loved even the tiniest hint of the Ninth Doctor taking shots at his more foppish regenerations or possibly even finding a kindred spirit in the rough and tumble Twelfth Doctor, the creative team have only just begun, starting this event off with a metric ton of promise. As Titan Comics prepares for its latest Doctor Who Comics Day, they have another crowd-pleaser on their hands with this latest multi-Doctor event series.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Bounty #1
Written by Kurtis Wiebe
Art by Mindy Lee and Leonardo Olea
Lettering by Nate Piekos
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

One of the most frequently repeated rules in comics is simple: Every comic book is someone’s first. It’s a simple but important reminder that accessibility is crucial in sequential storytelling, giving creators more opportunities to win converts, rather than burying prospective readers under a mountain of dense continuity.

It’s an easy rule in theory, but a difficult one in practice — but even so, it’s rare for a first issue to get so mired in its own internal continuity. And unfortunately, that’s the problem that Kurtis Wiebe and Mindy Lee suffer from in Bounty, a beautiful but nearly impenetrable debut that demands a lot of faith from unsuspecting readers.

On paper, Bounty seems to be hitting the zeitgeist of comic books, with its Babs Tarr-esque cartoony artwork and plucky pair of bounty-hunting heroines — it’s such a no-brainer that Dark Horse isn’t even the only publisher to print such a story this week, thanks to Black Mask’s Kim & Kim coming out on the same day. But Bounty makes the fatal misstep of focusing so much on its futuristic world-building, it doesn’t take the basic steps necessary to flesh out its characters. Sisters Nina and Georgie are ostensibly the leads of this book, but beyond standard tough-girl quips and a perfunctory sense of sisterly protectiveness, Wiebe doesn’t give readers much a reason to root for (or even really remember) his leads before throwing in a bunch of new associates — many of whom are masked, giving new readers zero context of what they’re getting into.

Unfortunately, without a solid foundation of characterization, Wiebe’s breathless amount of details winds up compounding this book’s problems. Structurally, there’s a bit of a Firefly vibe to Bounty, with Georgie and Nina’s initial failures leading to a bigger group of characters eking out a hardscrabble life. Sounds simple, right? But Firefly took great pains to make its characters fun and relatable — and Bounty goes too little, too late. Because we don’t know who these characters are before Wiebe literally drops them into the story, we’re treated to page after page of action sequences (which doesn’t even have one of the main heroines involved) before we get even a slight sense of names, personalities or special skills. Wiebe later gives us a fun sequence featuring the crew busting each other’s chops on their spaceship, but after we’ve already learned about bounty hunting economics and ranking sites, there’s so much dialogue so late in the game that it’s easy for your eyes to glaze over.

This is a huge shame, as Mindy Lee seems like she’s a very talented artist with tons of potential to grow. The comparisons to Babs Tarr are going to be inevitable, but Lee acquits herself well with some great expressiveness from her characters, not to mention some downright beautiful design work — if there’s anything you’re going to remember about Bounty, it’s Lee’s sense of style, including a digitized bounty hunter being dropped into a beautiful alien fishbowl, or the colorful armor that Nina and her brother-in-law Alan wear as their alter-egos, Redhawk and the Sparrow. Colorist Leonardo Olea, however, takes a little bit of getting used to, with his rendering occasionally muddying up Lee’s artwork — once the book gets going, however, he figures out the right balance between shadows and light, and delivers a moody, high-contrast futuristic setting.

Sci-fi as a genre has endured because of the exciting and compelling worlds authors have created, using the world outside their window and introducing one important twist. But a book like Bounty isn’t quite sure what it wants to hinge its success upon. While Mindy Lee’s artwork is a clear highlight of the book, there’s no high concept to sell this book, no characters to engage with an audience, no greater message to galvanize underserved readers. It’s difficult to imagine a comics professional like Kurtis Wiebe — particularly one who has created such fun characters such as the ones in Rat Queens — working on a book with no hook. But right now, that hook seems to be underdeveloped on the printed page. Every comic is someone’s first — but Bounty seems to be cashing in on readers it hasn’t earned yet.

Credit: Oni Press

Super Pro K.O.! Vol. 3: Gold for Glory
Written and Illustrated by Jarrett Williams
Published by Oni Press
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Super Pro K.O. Gold for Glory follows the continued adventures of Joe Somiano, a young wrestler who left college to chase his dreams of championship gold and has finally hit the big time with the titular Super Pro K.O. wrestling promotion. Though this volume picks up several months into Joe’s tenure with the company, we find him still struggling to learn the lingo and find his place amongst the roster — a problem, thankfully, new readers likely won’t share. Williams’ pacing and storytelling skill make it easy to pick up on the most critical details of the previous volumes even if this is your first introduction to the world of S.P.K.O., though the story and Williams’ artwork will leave you itching to pick up the first two installments.

Williams is a self-professed pro wrestling fan since childhood, and his love for wrestling and for comics as a medium shines through in every page. Pro wrestling comes with its own entrenched vernacular, some of it more intuitive than others — “burying” someone is straightforward in any context, “midcard” or “heel” maybe less so — and Williams does a stellar job of providing enough context for the language in the story that it’s easy to follow along without Williams having to provide a glossary or explicit explanations on each page. References and gags that will be immediately familiar to longtime wrestling fans are given just enough context to be easily understood for newcomers as well.

Super Pro K.O. Gold for Glory perfectly captures the flamboyant spectacle of live pro-wrestling events and the emotional toll of trying to make it as a new player in a competitive industry where bad apples can be replaced with hungry new talent at the drop of a hat. Though the story is centered around Joe Somiano’s quest to become a contender for the S.P.K.O. Heavyweight Championship, Williams manages to weave thoughtful, well-developed storylines for the substantial ensemble cast throughout the book. Beloved luchador El Heroe (who features in his own comic book series, in a fun meta touch) serves as a mentor to Joe, but is given his own opportunities to shine instead of existing only to push Joe from teaching moment to teaching moment. Even the reigning champ Crown Jr., the embodiment of everything it means to be a campy, villainous heel in the ring, is a fully-fleshed out character with thoughtful motivations both outside of and just for continuing his title reign.

Even if you’re not necessarily a fan of pro wrestling, Jarrett Williams’ talents as both as a storyteller and as an artist are undeniable. Williams captures the frenetic pace of a main event match with ease, giving top-rope jumps and moves across the ring an impressive sense of distance and speed without panels becoming visually overwhelming. The energy of the crowd is palpable with each big fight, and the relative “emptiness” of the page in quieter or more dramatic scenes allows them to pack more punch. Fun details are scattered throughout with no opportunity for a fun reference left untouched, from crowd signs you could spot at any wrestling taping to the small details of Crown’s impressive memorabilia collection.

While Super Pro K.O. Gold for Glory is a guaranteed delight for wrestling fans of all ages, fans of any capes comic will likely have a great time as well. There are a lot of structural similarities between comics and wrestling, from familiar archetypes to the drama of a long-standing feud between two unstoppable forces culminating in incredible brawls. Williams has done a deft job of capturing exactly what puts the entertainment in “sports entertainment” in a stellar graphic novel that will might even convince you to give wrestling a try. It is possible to enjoy Gold for Glory without reading the previous two volumes, but Williams’ work is consistently great across all three — if you’re willing to give this title a shot, you may as well go for glory and pick up all three.

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