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411’s Comic Reviews: The Batman Who Laughs #1, Cold War #1, More

November 23, 2017 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
The Batman Who Laughs 1

Hello and welcome to 411mania’s weekly Comic Book Review Roundtable! Each week we’ll be serving up a warm dish of reviews from Marvel, DC, and anything else that captures our interest. What did you pick up this week? Let us know in the comments.

Want to write a review? If you can write at least one review a week, consistently, email me at [email protected]!

Yesterday we asked, “Is DC’s Doomsday Clock Destined to Disappoint?”

Now on with the show!

Cold War #1

Review by Stephen Gustafson

“Panacea Cryonics offered its customers life after death by keeping their heads frozen until the day technology could rebuild them, free of disease and death. However, as these everyday people from the past are revived, they’re not handed the keys to a new life, but a gun, body armor and an ultimatum. They must fight in a war against unknown opponents for unknown reasons, to secure their place in a brave new world that doesn’t want them around.

From Chris Sebela, writer of Blue Beetle, Kiss/Vampirella and Evolution, and Hayden Sherman, artist of The Few and John Carter The End, comes the story that HAD to be told at AfterShock!”

When I first heard about Cold War, my interest was peaked from the start thanks to the premise. As a fan of Chris Sebela’s writing, I was comfortable that he’d bring a nice twist to the table and his interview leading up to it sealed it for me. On what readers could expect from Cold War he said, “I like to merge genres as much as I can without breaking any of them. I always wanted to do a war book, but it had to be different, had to bring something else to the table other than the traditional one side vs another. So this is my stab at merging war and sci-fi and horror and crime into one messed up package. It’s got big explosive visuals and world building, it’s got tons of mysteries layered one over the other and it’s got characters who aren’t just interchangeable action figures but real people who are trying to live through a nightmare that they paid for. I think it’s one of the crazier books I’ve written and I think fans of any of these genres will be into Cold War.”

Great ideas are one thing but did the first issue execute? Yes it did. Sebela managed to balance a number of genres, giving us a plate that offers something for just about everyone. While the plot may ring familiar to sci-fi fans, he puts enough spin and covers enough in the issue to set you up and throw you into a world that is both fantastic in its layout and terrifying in its possibilities. As with most AfterShock books, you’re getting a story that is just not found with the Big Two. A well thought out adventure that doesn’t insult the intelligence of the reader.

Hayden Sherman’s art is a big plus and evokes early Frank Miller. Don’t go crazy with that statement. Read the book and you’ll see what I mean. Sherman has a tall order in having to bring the intensity and various tones to life on the page. He makes it his own and truly delivers.

A solid first issue and one that has great potential as a series.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10

Doctor Radar #1

Review by Stephen Gustafson

“Paris 1920. A gentleman detective plays a deadly game with a criminal mastermind, Doctor Radar, while investigating a series of horrific deaths! An atmospheric masterpiece perfect for fans of pulp noir and deadly criminal masterminds!”

I just finished this book and just had to squeeze this one in. Titan Comics hits it out of the park with this pulp noir that perfectly captures the feel of 1920s Paris. With a story that runs over 30 pages, you’re given a weighty story that’s set just after World War II.

Writer Noel Simsolo and artist Bezian are a perfect match and waste little time or space in throwing you right into the story. Detective Ferdinand Straus may feel like Sherlock Holmes but he’s his own character who does what it takes to get the clues; including heading into the dark alleys to visit a brothel posing as a gay man in order to find criminal mastermind Doctor Radar. The not-so-good Doctor plays off Detective Straus nicely, making them ideal adversaries.

Bezian’s artwork captures all the nuances of the story and along with a colorful, fleshed out cast, just add to the fun. I’m looking forward to more Doctor Radar and seeing how Simsolo fleshes this world out.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10

Doppelganger #1 (of 4)

Review by Stephen Gustafson

“Timid computer engineer Dennis Zimmann gets his life turned inside out after a car crash leaves him with a concussion – and a demon. Believing that he’s hallucinating as a result of his head injury, Dennis’ grip on reality fully unravels when an evil version of himself begins to torment him.”

As a fan of Independent comics, I’m always looking for those books to give to fans to remind them of the potential and pure joy reading comics can be. Alterna Comics has been active in bringing new fans to the stores and Doppelganger #1 is a perfect example why. It was a story that I’m glad I went into spoiler-free and one that works best as a limited series.

The main character, Dennis, is very much an “everyman” who finds himself in a most extraordinary situation. Writer Jordan Hart gives us a Twilight Zone meets Tales From the Crypt edge that pulls you in and never lets you go. A great blend of edge-of-your-seat thriller and dreaded horror, you feel for Dennis and the life-altering spiral he’s stuck in.

Artist Emmauel Xerx Javier serves up the suspense as the story builds, his pencils notching the moments to a fevered pitch.

Doppelganger is a great, limited slice to the types of stories Alterna Comics puts out and should be on anyone’s pull list.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Dark Ark #3

Review by Stephen Gustafson

“Something vile is lurking just beneath the surface of the fathomless floodwaters. As the rivalry between the various factions of monsters heats up on Shrae’s Ark, an evil from below rises to threaten every human life on board the vessel.

From writer Cullen Bunn (X-Men Blue, Deadpool, Venom) and artist Juan Doe (AMERICAN MONSTER, WORLD READER) comes a sinister tale of biblical proportions that HAD to be told at AfterShock Comics. “

One of my favorite Aftershock Comics out there, Dark Ark lays out the biblical epic that you don’t learn in Sunday School and that the Bible didn’t cover: Noah built an Ark for all the natural creatures of Earth, but there was also an Ark for the unnatural ones as well.

Cullen Bunn and Juan Doe ratchet up the story and give us a murder mystery in the midst of chaos. Dark Ark Captain Shrae is caught in a dilemma and the stakes are high if he doesn’t choose wisely.

The book is filled with a plethora of supernatural and enticing characters that I hope get the spotlight as the story expands. Bunn keeps the action moving and the tensions high as tempers flare and threats are made at seconds notice. Doe’s style still fits the mood and I particularly enjoy his portrayal of Shrae, giving the keeper presence but also doubt in his actions.

Dark Ark lives and breathes on its stellar concept and I’m along for the ride till the end!

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

The Batman Who Laughs #1

Review by RobF

Of all the Batman tie-ins, The Batman Who Laughs is easily the most brutal and shocking. How did Batman become one of the most feared villains in the Dark Universe? Writer James Tynion IV, artist Riley Rossmo and colorist Ivan Plascenica present a terrifying Dark Knight who becomes his own worst enemy, literally.

The Batman crossovers have attempted to show different versions of Bruce Wayne pushed to the brink. This particular story may be the best of them all. If you ever wondered what a Joker-fied Batman looks like, read this book. The Dark Knight is finally pushed too far: children killed, hospitals destroyed and the murder of Commissioner Gordon. He does the unthinkable, killing the Joker. What he doesn’t know is that the Clown Prince of Crime had a backup plan: to make Batman his replacement. Slowly the Batman turns into everything he hates. Robin, Nightwing, the Justice League, and especially the Superman family suffer the consequences. Tynion is a sick and twisted man, and I would love to have a beer with him.

This story would not be as powerful without some killer artwork. This book needed some distorted, warped visuals and Rossmo makes it happen. Add the color palette of Ivan Plascenica and you’ve got one twisted tale.

The Batman Who Laughs is easily one of the best stories of the year and one I will not soon forget. In my opinion Batman was one of the most dangerous threat in the DC Universe. With no restraints he shoots to the top of the list.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10