Spec Fic Comic Book Review: Cold Iron Issues 1-3

It’s been a while since our last comic book review, so this time we’re tackling something a bit newer. 

Cold Iron is a Comixology original from a great team of artists and writers. This “supernatural thriller” had its first issue hit shelves in May of this year, and it was followed up by issues two and three soon after. 

While this genre is something that’s pretty over-saturated, from TV shows to novels, Cold Iron was a quick, fun read. Let’s dive a bit deeper. 

Cold Iron Background

Like we mentioned, Cold Iron had a star-lineup working hard to get this comic book out on the market. 

The writer Andy Diggle has gained some renown in the comic book scene with his work on The Green Arrow and Hellblazer. And the artist, Nick Brokenshire, has worked on all kinds of projects, including Star Wars and The Once and Future Queen. Diggle and Brokenshire have been friends for a long time and worked on projects in the past, but Cold Iron was a labor of love for both of them. 

Diggle revealed the history of his interest in Celtic and faery stories in a press release from Comixology. “The Isle of Man is a magical place, and holds a very special place in my family’s heart. From neolithic burial sites to Celtic stone circles and Viking castles, the island carries a sense of the ancient in its very bones. I learned at an early age that it’s always considered advisable to acknowledge the Other Folk when crossing the Fairy Bridge on the Port Erin to Douglas road.”

So there’s obviously a personal connection to the lore and story of Cold Iron, and it shows. The story, which is only a 4-issue limited release, is full of rich history and ancient beings. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know it was only a 4-issue story arc until I started writing this blog. There seemed like so much more that could come after issue 3! 

cold iron issue 1

Hold Your Horseshoe Tight

Cold Iron takes place on the Isle of Man, as you might have guessed, and it follows Kay, a young woman who dreams of being a world-renowned musician. Her boyfriend wants her to work at a local restaurant, but Kay’s feisty and defiant, and wants to forge her own path. 

All that changes when Kay encounters Mona, a young girl stranded in the countryside, who is seemingly from another time. Thus kicks off the wild, scary journey through the woods back to town, where Kay and Mona run into a goat-headed man, the stuff of legend. 

Mona is apparently the bride of an ancient Celtic king who resides on the “Other Side”, and she’s managed to escape into our modern world. As such, the devious creatures of the Other Side inveigle and trick, trying to bring her back to the king. But that’ll only happen over Kay’s dead body. 

Kay’s world goes sideways after that first encounter with the supernatural, and her dreams of being a famous songwriter seem all but distant as her grandmother helps her load cold iron into shotgun shells and keeps the horseshoe close. 


Andy Diggle and Nick Brokenshire had very little space to create their world, but they still succeeded in fleshing out the setting and conflict within a few short issues. While the Celtic lore and fae mythology is a pretty popular subject for supernatural or paranormal stories, Cold Iron doesn’t seem like a copycat or contrived in any way. 

The story and the art work together to create both an idyllic, pastoral place, and a dark, creepy island of ancient myths. While reading the first few issues, there were times I felt chills, which is a hard thing to accomplish in the New Jersey summer heat. 

Despite the interesting story and unique take on the ancient faery-world trope, I definitely felt like there wasn’t enough Cold Iron. I was expecting at least a 6-issue run, but the 4-issue release is just a taste of what could have been done. 

I hope that in the future, Diggle and Brokenshire get to continue telling stories in this world, which feels like a combination of the Folklords and Monstress. I’d rate Cold Iron as a 8/10. It’s fun, easy to read, and unique. But, it’s too short, and I felt like some of the conflicts needed more time to develop. 

But, I’m interested to read the last installment, which should be out within the next week or two. You can read Cold Iron on paper from Dark Horse comics, or you can read the digital version on Comixology. 

Sci Fi Comic Book Review: Star Wars: Doctor Aphra Vol. 1

Personally, the most interesting Star Wars content doesn’t come in the form of a movie, TV show, or video game.

Peak Star Wars is the comic books. That’s right, the comics.

Specifically, Doctor Aphra. She’s such a neat character, and one that really can’t be captured fully on the big screen. If you’ve never read a Star Wars comic book before, then you’re in for a treat with Doctor Aphra vol. 1!

Some Background

Chelli Lona Aphra is an archaeologist/treasure-thief with a shoot-first, ask questions later mentality. Doctor Aphra’s first appearance was in the third issue of the Darth Vader comic book series in 2015. In that story, she worked for Vader as a rogue recruiter until he attempts to kill her. Aphra manages to escape, but has to remain undercover because the Empire thinks she is dead.

She appeared throughout various Star Wars comics until she got her own series in 2016, the Doctor Aphra series we’re looking at today.

Doctor Aphra vol. 1 was written by the character’s creator, Kieron Gillen, and was illustrated by Salvador Larroca. Gillen is well-known for his work in the video game community, as well as for working on Uncanny X-Men, and Young Avengers.

Larroca is kind of a veteran when it comes to comic book art. He’s worked on Ghost Rider, Iron Man, Ultimate Elektra, and a number of different X-Men comic books. His detailed style along with Gillen’s character-driven storytelling make Doctor Aphra a perfect fit for the Star Wars universe.

Under Gillen and Larroca, Doctor Aphra ran for three volumes, and was picked up by writer Simon Spurrier and various artists for another four volumes. The series ended in 2019, but was picked up again in 2020 under Alyssa Wong and Marika Cresta for another 5 volumes, the tail-end of which has yet to be released.

About the Characters

One of the best parts about Star Wars has to be their characters. While they tend to lean toward certain character archetypes—the rogue, the stout Imperial, the idealist, etc. –they make up for it with giving the characters unique quirks and memorable traits.

Doctor Aphra, for example, has the grit and guile of Han Solo, but she’s far less noble. Her interests are always centered around personal gain, and her morals are much more pliable than those of the classic Star Wars heroes.

Aphra’s often accompanied by her two assassin droids –000 (also known as Trip or Triple Zero) and BT-1—as well as the gladiator Wookie, Black Krrsantan, who also appears in The Book of Boba Fett TV show.

These four, along with a Aphra’s father, Korin, and a few other recurring characters, make up the crew of the Ark Angel II.

As usual, the combination of characters revolves around a human—Aphra—but the story isn’t hindered by the focus on human characters. While Krrsantan doesn’t get as much recognition in the first volume as I think he should, generally the whole thing is very balanced.

Doctor Aphra Vol. 1 – The Story

If you’re a fan of pre-Republic Jedi history and an intense race against Imperial forces, then Doctor Aphra is the comic book for you.

The story starts off directly after Vader attempts to murder Doctor Aphra, and she’s laying low from Imperial Stormtroopers. After a brief encounter with a loan-shark, Aphra attempts to sell the newest relic she’s stolen for enough money to pay back her debts.

Little does she know; her doctorate has been revoked and her credibility as an archaeologist is ruined. At that moment, her estranged father shows up and asks Aphra and her crew to go on a quest of the Ordu Aspectu, a faction of the Jedi order that died out long before the Galactic Civil War.

Doctor Aphra begrudgingly agrees to help her father, but little does she know that there are life-changing things in store for her and her crew.

The Verdict

As far as Star Wars stories go, I felt this one was simple, but with enough complex elements and emotional encounters to make it worthwhile.

Not everyone reads comic books hoping to get life advice or timely wisdom, but Doctor Aphra vol. 1 is a powerful lesson of duty, forgiveness, and loyalty.

Overall, I give the first volume an 8/10. The characters are fun and quirky, and the story is neat and fast-paced. There were times when I felt I was being bombarded with irrelevant lore about the old Jedi and the Ordu Aspectu, but it wasn’t terrible.

I look forward to seeing how Gillen’s Doctor Aphra different from the later version written by Spurrier and Wong.

If you like this comic book review, check out some of our others below!

Moon Knight Review: Episodes 1-3

Leading up to Marvel’s new TV series, Moon Knight, I was pretty hopeful. Finally, we were getting the opportunity to see a new character, and one that hadn’t gotten much attention previously, too!

After reading a few of the Moon Knight comics in preparation for the show, I was intrigued by how different Moon Knight was from other Marvel superheroes.

Marc Spector was trying to reconcile his dark past, while his counterpart Steven Grant was just trying to live his life.

I was a bit skeptical about how the TV show would handle the character’s multiple personalities, but I have to say, Oscar Isaac’s performance has been spectacular thus far.

Here’s our Moon Knight review for the first three episodes!

(Spoilers for Moon Knight 2020 comic series and the first three episodes of the TV series).

Oscar Isaac Captures Steven Grant (and Marc Spector)

If you haven’t read our breakdown of the Moon Knight Comics (which you should read, by the way), here’s a quick recap of the characters:

  • Marc Spector is an ex-mercenary who was killed by in Egypt and brought back by the Moon God, Khonshu.
  • Steven Grant is a normal guy, and is one of Marc Spector’s personalities.
  • Mr. Knight is a superhero-ish consultant who resides in the Midnight Mission.
  • Moon Knight is the identity of Khonshu’s avatar, which is currently Marc Spector.
moon knight review

It’s a bit convoluted, but the show does a good job of keeping track of who is who. There’s a distinct shift in voice and tone when Oscar Isaac is portraying the characters. Steven is at a nerdy guy who struggles with insomnia, and when he speaks, he often poses statements as questions or rambles.

But when Isaac is playing Marc Spector, he’s much firmer and more confident, classic for an ex-merc.

The way the show has these two sides of Oscar Isaac’s characters interact is through the use of reflections. When one of the personalities has control of the body, they can talk to the other personality by looking at a mirror, shiny object, or still water. Visually, this provides a pretty interesting element. Whenever there’s a fight scene, there happens to be a reflective surface around, whether it’s broken glass, the hood of a car, or a polished dagger.

As the show progresses, we see Spector start to value Grant’s intellectual abilities and moral compass, and Grant starts to become more assertive. They take each other as rough role models, and with them inhabiting the same body, makes for a pretty neat character dynamic.

The Moon Knight Has Powers

For the most part, the Moon Knight of the comic books only has a few innate abilities. He’s tough, fast, agile, and gets resurrected when he dies (since he’s under Khonshu’s protection).

Marc Spector’s a fairly ordinary guy, you might say, kind of like the Batman of the Marvel universe.

But in the TV show, there is definitely a focus on the Moon Knight’s super powers, most of which come through Khonshu. Marc Spector is not only a badass, but he seemingly can’t die when wearing the suit. In the third episode, he’s impaled multiple times with spears, and gets up seeming no-worse-for-wear.

Plus, he acts as a conduit for Khonshu’s power, at one point he even helps alter the constellations.

The choice to add the super-power elements that are almost entirely absent in the comic books to the TV show just hints that there’s a larger plan for the Moon Knight. He’s on par to compete with the likes of Captain America and Spider-man at this point, and we’ll probably see Oscar Isaac’s entry into Marvel films soon enough.

What’s Up With the Plot?

At this point, we’re halfway through the Moon Knight mini-series, (all the shows on Disney+ keep getting shorter, don’t they?) and stuff is certainly heating up.

The TV show doesn’t focus on the origin story of the Moon Knight, instead it’s more about the journey Spector and Grant take in getting to know one another and inhabit the same body. At the same time, there’s a pretty ominous plot in the background with one of Marc Spector’s previous enemies working to unleash Ammit, an Egyptian god of judgement.

To be honest, this plot line is only secondary for me. Sure, it’s fine, but in six episodes can you really create an earnest conflict? The villain’s whole spiel is about judging everyone in the world based on whether they’ve committed evil or will commit evil.

It’s kind of frustrating that this kind of stock villain appears so often in mainstream media. The idea that the path to a more holistic society must be paved in blood is so overused and cliché. We know that genocide is evil, and after Thanos, Harrow just feels contrived.

For me, the real conflict is the moral dilemma that both Spector and Grant go through as a result of their actions. Grant is appalled that Spector’s a trained killer, and Spector starts to realize he doesn’t have to use violence for every problem. This evolution is definitely something to look out for as the Moon Knight show progresses.

Overall, I’d say that the first three episodes are pretty good. The fight scenes and cinematography are decent, and Oscar Isaac is certainly carrying the weight in this show. I wish that Marvel would take a new approach to villains, because the “final solution” era of villains is over, and frankly, was never that great to begin with.

To conclude this Moon Knight review, I give the first three episodes a 7/10.

Understanding The Moon Knight Comics: Who Is Marc Spector?

As you’ve probably seen already, Disney and Marvel are releasing a new miniseries on Disney+ called Moon Knight. The show stars Oscar Isaac as the titular character, with a March 30th release date.

For many of us, the Super Bowl commercial for the Moon Knight show was the first time we’ve seen the Egyptian knight character, but there’s a rich history of Moon Knight comics that the show will be based on.

Here’s everything you need to know about Marc Spector, Moon Knight, and his origin story before you watch the show at the end of the month.

The Origins of Marc Spector

While the trailer for the show makes it seem like the Moon Knight has some kind of super powers, what with the glowing eyes and the suit that forms to his body, he actually is an ordinary human.

Marc Spector used to be a Marine, part of the CIA, and a mercenary for the highest bidder. When another merc brutally murders an archeologist in Sudan, Spector steps in to save the archeologist’s daughter. During the fight, the other merc, known as Bushman, kills Spector at the feet of a statue of the Egyptian god Khonshu.

Miraculously, Spector comes back to life, believing he’s been resurrected by Khonshu, the god of the moon, to be a protector of the innocent.

There’s been a few different iterations of the Moon Knight comics, but they are almost unanimously centered around Marc Spector’s dissociative identity disorder. Spector uses a few different identities which he created—Steven Grant, Jake Lockley, and Mr. Knight—to go about his day to day, gathering information from all levels of society.

But other comics detail the psychic connection Spector has to Khonshu, which causes Spector to shift between four different personalities of the moon god.

Generally, Moon Knight’s powers are all human in nature. Spector uses the wealth he amassed as a gun-for-hire to create a Batman-esque lair with advanced technology. The one thing that might be considered a superpower is Spector’s ability to avoid death. He’s died multiple times, but is always resurrected by Khonshu.

The First Moon Knight Comic

Moon Knight first appeared in the 1975 comic Werewolf by Night #32, and later received his first series in 1980. The series was headed up by Dough Moench, who has worked on Batman comics and is credited with the creation of the Deathlok character, and Bill Sienkiewicz, whose work appeared in New Mutants, The Mighty Thor, and Daredevil.

Since the first Moon Knight comic in 1980, there have been 9 official volumes alongside plenty of side-appearances with the Avengers and other notable heroes.

In 2021, a new Moon Knight comic was released under the name The Midnight Mission, and it was written by Jed Mackay with art by Alessandro Cappuccio and Steve McNiven. The six-issue series portrays Marc Spector as a priest of Khonshu’s congregation, as well as taking on the form of the “defender of those who travel at night”.

moon knight comic

And with the new show coming out later this month, Marvel plans to release an anthology series titled Moon Knight: Black, White, and Blood in April 2022.

Check out this resource if you’re interested in seeing all the Moon Knight comics in order.

Oscar Isaac as Moon Knight

From the looks of the two trailers for Marvel’s Moon Knight miniseries, there are some changes in store for Marc Spector. We see him as an insomniac, fighting to control his dreams and discern what’s imagined from reality.

For the show, they clearly exaggerated Spector’s D.I.D., to the point where he lives as Steven Grant almost exclusively. In one scene, he answers the phone and is confused by a woman calling him Marc.

It’s unclear how true to the Moon Knight comics the show will be, but it will be nice to see a new Marvel character prepare to join an Avengers lineup, as presumably that’s what the show is setting up.

We’ll keep you posted on the Moon Knight TV series, and we’re certainly excited to see where it goes!

In the meantime, check out some of our other comic book content:

Back in Blaze: Ghost Rider 2022 Comics Start Off Hot

Ghost Rider fans certainly haven’t been lacking any new content in recent years. Every one or two years, there’s a new Ghost Rider appearance, mostly in comic books, including limited series like Revenge of the Cosmic Ghost Rider, and Mother of Demons. We even got to see a new live action Ghost Rider in the form of Robbie Reyes on the Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D TV show. And now, there’s confirmation Robbie Reyes will become a part of a new Avengers team in Avengers Forever #3, coming out March 2nd.

But it’s certainly been a hot minute since we’ve seen a clean slate Johnny Blaze, which comes to us as Ghost Rider Vol 10 by Benjamin Percy. As the first Ghost Rider 2022 comic book, “Breakdown” brings us back to old times with an eerie return to ‘normalcy’. Plus, this year marks the 50th anniversary of Ghost Rider, so bringing the story back to one of the original character was only fitting!

New Ghost Rider Volume in 2022

On February 23, the Ghost Rider issue 1 “Breakdown” was released, officially kicking off a new Johnny Blaze timeline. The tenth volume is headed up by Benjamin Percy, who has reached renown both inside and outside of the comic book scene.

He started off as an essayist, short fiction writer, and novelist. Some of his work includes The Ninth Metal and Red Moon. He’s had pieces published in many professional reputable journals, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Esquire, Time, Men’s Journal, and The Paris Review.

In 2014, Percy broke into the comic book scene with a Batman story, and soon came to write for Nightwing, Green Arrow, Wolverine, and X-Force.

This Ghost Rider volume is his first try at the supernatural motorcyclist, but with the help of artist Cory Smith and colorist Bryan Valenza, it starts off with a bang.

Ghost Rider 2022’s Blaze Character

As one of the fan favorite hosts for the Spirit of Vengeance, Johnny Blaze comes back to the page. When last we’d seen him, he was vying for the throne of Hell, but now he’s been transported to the sleepy town of Hayden’s Falls.

With a wife, kids, and a white picket fence, Blaze thinks that his life should be normal. At least, it seems normal to anyone looking in. But in the wake of a terrible motorcycle accident, his nightmares and hallucinations get worse, drawing him ever closer to the darkness he feels in his head.

This first issue of Ghost Rider is the perfect introduction for the fraught past of Johnny Blaze’s character. The whole first issue is a struggle for Blaze to find out what’s going on. We see the insomnia turn into psychosis into catharsis, coming full circle by the end.

And for readers that aren’t acquainted with the Ghost Rider story arc, “Breakdown” gives us a simple callback/summarization of Blaze’s past. The motorcycle wreck, the supernatural visions, all of it is reminiscent of the origins of Johnny Blaze.

Set Up For a New Jaunt Through Hell

It’s clear by the end of the first issue of Ghost Rider Vol. 10 that Blazes character is set to be pitted against some pretty terrible enemies, including the Night Magicians. These nasty guys have the power to brainwash whole towns for dark purposes, as we see in the very end of issue #1.

But even though we get a sense of the villain, there’s still no real confirmation. It wouldn’t be a Ghost Rider comic without a questionable performance from our anti-hero!

After reading the first issue, I wasn’t sure whether to pity or loathe Johnny Blaze. His predilection for violence and his poor coping mechanisms stand out, mainly as alcohol abuse. We find out by the end of the comic that most of Blaze’s memories are based on a lie, but his actions are still questionable at best.

Pick Up the New Ghost Rider Comic

All-in-all, I thought that Percy’s first attempt at Johnny Blaze’s Ghost Rider was admirable. He managed to capture the essence of the character while still giving us a unique take on him. I’ll definitely be looking out for the rest of the tenth volume, with the nest three issues already slated for release:

  • Ghost Rider Vol. 10, issue #2 – March 16th
  • Ghost Rider Vol. 10, issue #3 – April 27th
  • Ghost Rider Vol. 10, issue #4 – May 25th

Ghost Rider certainly represents something special in the Marvel universe, as it’s a mix of the mainstream superhero leagues, but it shows the dark side of power. Not many characters can handle the Spirit of Vengeance, and it shows that even though you might be influenced by evil, you can still put your power to use for the greater good. Morally, Ghost Rider might be one of the strongest characters, even though it feels weird to say that.

I hope that Percy can pinpoint that balance between good and evil in his new Ghost Rider comics, because that’s perhaps even more vital to the character than the flames and the chains!

If you liked this spec fic comic book review, check out some of our other comic book content!

We’re All Him: Comic Book Review, Rorschach by Tom King

When I first read the Watchmen comics a few years ago, I was enthralled with Rorschach. His character design, his principles, his grit—it all was so realistic, which isn’t something you often think when reading a comic book.

But Watchmen isn’t like other comic books, and the sequel, Rorschach, isn’t either. I thought it was only fitting we hop on the mainstream train for a while and do a comic book review of Rorschach, the 10-issue series by Tom King and Jorge Fornés.

Some Background for the Rorschach Comic

Rorschach was a serialized comic book series that lasted for ten issues from October 2020 to July 2021. It was written by Tom King, illustrated by Jorge Fornés, and colored by Dave Stewart.

Tom King is well-known for his work with Batman, Mister Miracle, and from his novel, A Once Crowded Sky. In 2018, he shared the Eisner Award for Best Writer with Marjorie Liu, author of Monstress.

Both Jorge Fornés and Dave Stewart have worked for Marvel and DC comics, most notably for Daredevil, Spiderman, Catwoman, and Captain America comics.

The Rorschach comics occur after the events of Watchmen, Doomsday Clock, and the Watchmen HBO series that aired in 2019. The story is set in 2020, right before a big presidential election where Governor Turley seeks to beat the 5-time president, Robert Redford.

Rorschach Never Dies

I was curious to read this series and do a comic book review on it because unlike some other comics that are merely FLASH and BANG, Rorschach has substance. Like, a lot.

Starting off, I was a bit confused about the concept for the series. At the end of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan vaporizes Rorschach for threatening to reveal the truth about Veidt. So, Rorschach—the original Rorschach—is dead by the time Tom King’s series starts.

But it quickly becomes clear that there are multiple people impersonating Rorschach, all of whom are vigilantes working to take down the corrupt powers that be and prevent another squid invasion.

comic book reviews rorschach

The whole premise of Rorschach’s—and the other Watchmen’s—survival was that Dr. Manhattan released their souls into the world to find new bodies and continue their work. But the Walter Kovacs’ Rorschach’s legacy extended far wider than his singular soul. He embodies the rebel, the anarchist, and the idealist.

Rorschach lives on in the hearts of those who need him, of those who believe in a better future, free from tyranny. But those people also see Rorschach’s darker side, including the blood on his hands.

King’s Rorschach takes that idea and runs with it. In many ways, the comic series is as much a political and ethical commentary as it is a hard-boiled detective story.

The protagonist, an unnamed investigator, slowly unravels a vast conspiracy that reeks in the wake of the world the Watchmen left behind. King’s grim vision of 2020 has even more bloodshed and filth than our own 2020, which is really saying something.

Leaving a Legacy

Comic book historian Bradford Wright stated once that the original Rorschach’s intentions were always “a set of black-and-white values that take many shapes but never mix into shades of gray.”

But King’s Rorschach believes in the black, white, the gray in between, and blood red. In many ways, this reflects the worldview we’ve all kind of come to accept (minus, perhaps, the blood).

In the past few years, we’ve seen the break down of American politics. Core principles of democracy that were once firmly black and white, right and left, have slid into the gray areas. We’ve all overlooked things we shouldn’t have, and we’ve all gotten worked up over things that, in retrospect, didn’t matter.

That’s the legacy that King’s Rorschach leaves us. At one point, one of the main characters, Wil Myerson, says “most evil is done by people who never made up their minds to be or do either good or evil.”

rorschach comic

And that’s the hard part. To see things as black and white as Walter Kovacs takes a keen sense of self, a set of values that don’t waver under external stress.

Thinking about my own life, I realized this is a lot harder to achieve than it seems. We’ve all told a white lie (which, in this color-coordinated analogy, is really a gray lie) because we felt the truth was irrelevant, or would hurt.

But that hurt is important. Given the truth, we can structure what’s right and wrong, what needs to be done, and what can be saved for later. So, while the original Rorschach might not live in all of us, King’s does. “Some people need masks. Some don’t,” as the book flap of the Rorschach anthology reads. Don the mask, or don’t. Either way, embracing Rorschach is as critical now as it’s ever been.

Comic Book Review of Rorschach: Conclusion

Despite paltry reviews of the 10th issue, I felt that Rorschach lived up to, and in some ways, far exceeded, my expectations.

King has done more in ten issues to flesh out a philosophy for Rorschach than Moore and Gibbon have ever done.

The art is fantastic, while grimmer than the original Watchmen comics, and I found myself unable to put the book down.

While Monstress might have been the first 10/10 I gave a comic book, Rorschach will be the second. It takes the comic book medium and uses it to tell a truly fabulous story, outlining in it’s pages a path forward for many of us who are confused or conflicted.

Spec Fic Comic Book Reviews: Monstress, Volume 1

In our first installment of spec fic comic book reviews, we discussed Folklords issues 1-5. It was light, fun, and colorful.

Monstress is the antithesis of Folklords. It’s dark, grim, and the pages are splattered with blood.

Now, if you’re a comic book fan, or even a fan of speculative fiction in general, you might have heard of Monstress. It’s highly acclaimed and the first volume, Awakening, has been out since 2015.

Some Background

The first volume of Monstress was written by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Sana Takeda.

Liu is well known in the spec fic community as well as the comic book scene. She wrote a few series of paranormal romance/urban fantasy novels, including the Dirk & Steele series and the Hunter Kiss series.

In terms of comic books, she sits up there with some of the most popular authors. She’s worked on Dark Wolverine, Black Widow, Star Wars: Han Solo, and a number of X-Men comics.

Takeda is also a well-known name in the comic book community. She’s worked on X-Men comics, Venom, Civil War II, and Ms. Marvel.

Monstress wasn’t the pair’s first collaboration, but it’s definitely the best received. Monstress has won numerous awards, including the Eisner Award, British Fantasy Award, as well as multiple Hugo Awards.

All of that to say, you’re in for a treat.

spec fic comic book reviews monstress

Pinpointing a Style

Monstress has a unique style, to say the least.

The Known World where Monstress is set is an interesting combination of Art Deco steampunk and deep arcane magic. The garb, weapons, and architecture seem to come straight out of a decadent Victorian steampunk world, while the dark magic has roots in Ancient Egyptian imagery.

While the combination might seem odd, it is executed masterfully. The art alternates between scenes of dark horror and grand, bright forests and temples. It makes for a unique experience.

The inhabitants of Monstress come in a few forms:

  • Humans – run of the mill humans, some of which are privy to magic powers
  • The Ancients – A race of master beasts. Some are angels, others are powerful animal archons
  • The Arcanics – A mixed race of human and Ancients, often with a mix of animal and human physiology
  • The Cats – Multi-tailed warrior poets (my personal favorite)

The Story

Monstress follows a seventeen-year-old girl, Maika Halfwolf. As she rises out of slavery, she seeks answers surrounding her mother’s death and the Old Gods she was hunting.

While reading the story, I never felt there were slow points. Every scene seemed balanced and the progression of plot was consistent.

From the very beginning, we’re thrust into the conflict, as Maika raises one of the most revered human cities with her bare hands.

That exhilaration carries on throughout the rest of the comic, and there is never a low point.

The chapters are punctuated by brief interludes where the four-tailed cat Tam Tam does some heavy-lifting in terms of worldbuilding. It does a lot to clarify elements from previous chapters and gives some insight into what’s about to go down.

Overall, I felt that the story was very well-paced, and that the art—altering between dark and light—really adds to the tone of the story.

Monstress Comic Book Review Conclusion

I’m definitely a fan of this dark, steampunky fantasy. Something about unexplainable arcane magic tickles my interest, and I’m going to keep reading. As of writing this, there are 6 books in the series, and it’s still ongoing.

I’m interested to see if the plot stands up over the course of so many books, but I have faith that it will.

I’ve had no complaints about Monstress volume 1, and it might be the first time I give something a 10/10.

If you have a comic or graphic novel you’d like us to check out, leave it in the comments! Spec Fic Comic Book Reviews is an ongoing series here at Signals, and we’re always looking for our next favorite book!

Spec Fic Comic Book Reviews: Folklords #1-5

I don’t often read graphic novels or comic books. I don’t dislike them, quite the contrary, I find them articulate and full of life. I just, forget about them, I guess?

But, I thought I’d give them another shot, and I decided to start off my journey with Folklords by Matt Kindt, Matt Smith, and Chris O’Halloran. And I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least.

Folklords is a five-issue (for now) comic book series that follows Ansel and his friends as they embark on a quest through enchanted forests and library fortresses, searching for the truth about the mysterious Folklords, the forbidden legends of their land.

Without any further ado, let’s kick off what might become a new series here, Spec Fic Comic Book Reviews!

Some Background

The first issue of Folklords was published in 2019 by Boom Studios, and received such a great response that Boom sold out of the first issue more than once.

The other four issues were released early 2020 and eventually compiled into an omnibus in July 2020.

Author Matt Kindt is no newbie to the comic book world, having written for Darkhorse, DC, and Marvel. He’s worked on many independent projects, as well as contributing to the Spiderman and Suicide Squad universes.

Artist Matt Smith brings Folklords to life with his distinct line art style, which he perfected in the Lake of Fire comics and the Barbarian Lord.

And finally, Chris O’Halloran throws in his splashes of color, bringing the vibrancy to a new level. In the past, he worked as a colorist for Black Panther and Hulk comics.

All in all, a legendary team came together to bring us Folklords, and it shows.

Pinpointing a Style

Whenever I start reading a new comic book or graphic novel, I like to take a moment to think about it’s style.

Because one of the great things about graphic novels, is you’re presented with the plot and characters, but you’re also visually presented with the setting. When you’re reading a regular novel, sure, the setting can be described to you, but in this format the author and artist have worked together to portray a vision, which you’re lucky enough to see.

Anyways. Folklords can best be described as the reverse Chronicles of Narnia with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Arthurian legend sprinkled in.

In C.S. Lewis’ seminal series, the characters from our world venture into the mystical fairy land of Narnia. But in Folklords, the main character, Ansel, is trying to understand his visions of our world. He even goes so far as to sew his own suit and tie and design gadgets like lighters and air horns.

The combination of the pure fantasy setting with tidbits of modernity thrown in really gives the story life, and it reminds me of my childhood. My brother and I would pretend to venture into Narnia or Middle Earth, dressing up in costumes and sword fighting in the back yard, as cars and power lines framed the background. That’s the nostalgia Folklords sparked in me, and I’m sure it brings up similar memories for other readers too.

comic book reviews folklords
Characters from Folklords,
image from Matt Smith’s Twitter

How Does the Story Stand Up?

So far, this review has focused on the art and the setting, which are both fantastic. But, what about the story? The plot? The characters?

Well, all those things are equally as impressive, but I’m not completely in love with them. Here’s why:

I read Folklords in an hour, all five issues in omnibus format. There’s a certain continuity that comes from reading comic books in this way, and I can’t tell if it’s better or worse than reading each individual issue.

For me, Folklords wasn’t balanced. The first issue, as with any introduction, provided some backstory and inkling of conflict. That’s fine, it’s to be expected. But after that, I felt that the story progressed too quickly.

Especially the fifth issue. The conflict seemed to come to a head far too quickly, and within a few minutes of reading, I’d reached the end.

I know there are constraints to the medium, required lengths and whatnot, but the vibrant world and characters passed by too quickly. There was certainly room to build out the conflict a bit more throughout issues three and four, but I understand the need for forward progression.

In Conclusion

At the end of the fifth issue, Kindt teases an addition to the series from another character’s perspective, which would really help to explain a lot of what happened in the fifth issue of Folklords.

But, as of writing this, there is no word on whether a Folklords issue six is in the works. I certainly hope there will be, because this world is worth revisiting.

To bring this comic book review to a close, I rate Folklords #1-5 an 8.5/10. The immersive nature of Kindt’s writing and Smith’s artwork got me excited to explore more of their work, and the premise of Folklords was a fresh take on so many tropes present in the fantasy genre.