Black Knight: Curse Of The Ebony Blade (2021-) #1 by Simon Spurrier

Black Knight: Curse Of The Ebony Blade (2021-) #1 (of 5)Black Knight: Curse Of The Ebony Blade (2021-) #1 by Simon Spurrier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve got to admit that the Black Knight isn’t a character I’m hugely familiar with, but I have enjoyed the few appearances of the character that I have read…and this is no exception. The character was the highlight of Jim Zub’s Empyre: Avengers mini series and so I was interested to see what Si Spurrier would do with him in a solo series.

And the answer is…some pretty terrible things. Which is kinda’ perfect.

The Ebony Blade, which is the Black Knight’s mystical sword, works by drawing on the darkness within him…which runs in direct conflict with Dane’s attempts to be a better person…and Spurrier uses that juxtaposition to great effect here. Not gonna spoil what happens, but things get a little intense and Dane loses his head…

There’s also a young researcher who visits Whitman’s castle to discuss all things Arthurian with him…and she discovers that there’s a little more to those legends than her academic research has revealed.

The art is strong, and if you can find the Peach Momomko variant cover then you’re in for a real treat.

Definitely looking forward to seeing where this series goes.

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Cable (2020-) #9 by Gerry Duggan

Cable (2020-) #9Cable (2020-) #9 by Gerry Duggan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really, really want to see Nate and Esme go on a double date with Quentin and Phoebe. But I digress…

“I’ll say this for you Summers men…you sure know how to turn a day off into a chore.” Pretty much the best summing up of Summers men ever.

Duggan and Noto pick up the pace this issue as Nate hyper focuses on the search for Stryfe. Unfortunately, nobody knows where is, not even the demon N’Astirh who Magik has chained up in Limbo while tiny demons play I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) on recorders to him.

Ultimately he concludes that the only person who can find Stryfe is his older, dead self. Although we know he’s not dead…he’s just somewhere…or somewhen.

We also get a restatement of Krakoa’s policy when it comes to the resurrection of clones. As in, they don’t get resurrected. What this will ultimately mean for young Nate only time will tell. But it’s probably not good…

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Excalibur (2019-) #19 by Tini Howard

Excalibur (2019-) #19Excalibur (2019-) #19 by Tini Howard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everybody, needs a body, everybody needs a body, right…Betsy back alright!

I actually toyed with writing this entire review to the tune of Everybody (Backstreet’s Back), so be thankful that I decided not to.

Anyway, the Captain Britain Corps has been working hard to track down Betsy Braddock’s consciousness, which has been bouncing around the multiverse since her body was shattered in X Of Swords, and they’ve finally caught it. It’s always fun when the Corps appears and I particularly like this new Betsy Braddock incarnation of it. Including, and perhaps especially, the goose.

This issue manages to both be a lot of fun and also a deep dive into the complex relationship between and history of Betsy Braddock and Kwannon. Because it ultimately falls to Kwannon to put Betsy back together again. Which involves her first welcoming Betsy into her own mind, which isn’t exactly easy as Betsy had previously, albeit unwillingly, inhabited Kwannon’s body…for, like, all of the nineties and beyond. Significantly, Kwannon also gets a new costume here, one that has shades of the classic Psylocke swimsuit, but is at the same time infinitely classier and, if it sticks around, will be instrumental as establishing this Psylocke as a character in her own right, rather than just Betsy’s “sexy” new/old body. The history of Betsy/Psylocke/Kwannon is deeply messed up and I welcome this attempt to address that.

And, finally, there’s the thing that happens at the end…which I won’t say too much about as I don’t want to spoil it for people. But I’d completely forgotten about that character and there are some interesting ways they could take them being on Krakoa in.

The art is gorgeous and the cover, by Mahmud Asrar is epic (gotta love how he draws Betsy as Captain Britain). This continues to be one of my favourite X-books.

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Alien (2021-) #1 by Philip Kennedy Johnson

Alien (2021-) #1Alien (2021-) #1 by Philip Kennedy Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set after the events of Alien and Aliens, this book sees the estranged son of a retired Weyland-Yutani security chief steals his access codes and, along with a group of fellow anti-corporate activists, uses them to break into what they believe to be cyber warfare facility…but is, in fact, a bio-weapons lab. And if you’re familiar with the Alien franchise, you know what that means.

I’d worried that this book would leap straight into man vs alien action, and eschew the slow build up and character moments that characterise the best entries in the movie series, but thankfully that’s not true. The xenomorph only really appears in flashbacks, and all we really get is a little face hugger action at the end…and that’s exactly as it should be. The main focus is on Gabriel Cruz, the aforementioned retired security chief, who’s plagued by nightmares of unspeakable bio-mechanical horrors…which seem to be inspired by an incident from his past…which possibly included the death of his other son. Many questions are asked but, given that this is just the first issue, inevitably answers are in short supply.

There’s a creeping sense of dread throughout the issue, and the use of a Bishop series android actually adds to this. It’s a familiar face for fans, but also not quite the character we know.

Larroca’s art is Larocca’s art. Personally I preferred his art before he started heavily using photo reference, but I only found it to not quite work on one early double page spread. Your mileage, no doubt, will vary. But the fact that his Bishop looks exactly like Lance Henriksen is a plus as far as I’m concerned. Mostly the art gives the book a cinematic feel, but I can understand people not liking it.

Overall this is an outstanding start to the series and to the new Marvel era of Alien comics.

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Power Rangers #4 by Ryan Parrott

Power Rangers #4Power Rangers #4 by Ryan Parrott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe it’s because I’m tired, or maybe it’s because I haven’t read any of the previous Power Rangers series (yet), but this issue really failed to grab me for some reason.

I think a big part of it is that it relies on you having read the previous series, and one of my criticisms of this book has been that it’s not very new reader friendly. So, I’m still not 100% on who Drakkon actually is, and I certainly don’t know anything about this planet he was trapped on? Imprisoned on? And why there are giant glowing beasts that are apparently manifestations of the morphing grid…?

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll catch up in time…

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Non-Stop Spider-Man #1 by Joe Kelly

Non-Stop Spider-Man #1Non-Stop Spider-Man #1 by Joe Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kelly’s writing is fast paced and frantic, as befits a comic that bills itself as “non-stop” and Bachalo’s art is dynamic and expressive. I love Bachalo’s art but it works better on a character like Doctor Strange than here. Well, no, it could work brilliantly on Spider-Man, but on a Spider-Man book with a more gothic feel…

Anyway, I picked this book up purely because my retailer has a spare copy and I was intrigued because I love Bachalo’s work. I won’t be sticking around, not because it’s bad but because I’m getting too many comics as it is.

Oh, there’s a short at the end about Baron Zemo taking out Hydra cells that are basically just poseurs. It’s surprisingly fun. Not sure why it’s here though.

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Star Wars: Bounty Hunters (2020-) #10 by Ethan Sacks

Star Wars: Bounty Hunters (2020-) #10Star Wars: Bounty Hunters (2020-) #10 by Ethan Sacks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, the cover’s really nice. Mattia De Iulis definitely deserves some credit for that/

As for the rest of the comic…I think I’ve banged on enough about Valance. He’s not interesting. He’s a cliché on legs. He is, quite literally, a remnant from a cheesy late seventies sci-fi comic. And, in a book about the bounty hunters from Star Wars he is taking up space that could have been filled by one of the bounty hunters that’s actually interesting…and from the movies.

But, hey, it is what it is, and while this issue was basically Valance does John McClane, it was reasonably entertaining. Also, while the writing isn’t great, I suspect a lot of the problem with this book is the art. Villanelli’s art is superficially very nice, but his story telling is lacking, and as such it’s very hard to tell what’s going on during some of the fight scenes.

With the upcoming War Of The Bounty Hunters meaning that this book will take a more pivotal role in Marvel’s Star Wars line, we can only hope that there’s some significant improvement in the coming months.

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Champions (2020-) #5 by Eve Ewing

Champions (2020-) #5Champions (2020-) #5 by Eve Ewing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Originally envisioned as the final issue of a five issue limited series, this issue draws the first arc of this Champions series to a close. It neatly wraps up the Kamala’s Law/C.R.A.D.L.E. plotline, exposing that Roxxon are behind it all in a bid to use people’s fear to both make money and also take out a major thorn in their side. It’s perhaps a little too neat of a wrap up and it feels slightly rushed, but overall it’s very satisfying, and I’m glad that the whole “the Champions are public enemy No 1 and on the run” thing isn’t being dragged out too long.

I’m excited to see where they go from here, especially with the new creative team of Danny Lore (whose work I’m not familiar with) and Luciano Vecchio (who I worked with on Pete Rogers’ outstanding The Interactives graphic novel from Markosia).

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X-Force (2019-) #18 by Benjamin Percy

X-Force (2019-) #18X-Force (2019-) #18 by Benjamin Percy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This issue tended towards the dark, which X-Force has always done, but without the flashes of humour that have made that bearable in previous issues. It just felt relentlessly grim, and while X-Force has, I’ll concede, been getting progressively darker, this felt a little too grim for my tastes. There was none of the sweet tenderness that we’ve seen in the interactions between Quentin and Phoebe in the past either.

I can’t help but think that some of the shift in tone is down to the change in artist. Brown’s art is by no means bad, and GURU-efx do their usual sterling work on the colours, but Cassara this is not, and that’s a shame. Where Brown does shine, however, is in the twisted visions manifested by Quentin’s doppelganger.

Still, a perfectly decent issue, which gave us some answers as to exactly what’s been going on in this book, but just not as good as recent issues, sadly.

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S.W.O.R.D. (2020-) #4 by Al Ewing

S.W.O.R.D. (2020-) #4S.W.O.R.D. (2020-) #4 by Al Ewing
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This continues to be excellent and I’m very much looking forward to it being able to get on with doing what it does without also tying in to King In Black. But Ewing and Schiti have done an excellent job of tying in to King In Black and using it to further their own plot.

Manifold is the real revelation of this book so far. Last issue was magnificent and this issues fight with the Knull possessed Cable showcased exactly what Manifold is capable of.

And, on my, Frenzy! So good to see her back and kicking ass, and also good to see her time with Scott Summers in Age Of X referenced.

Fabian Cortez continues to be unable to catch a break, but it was amusing to see his pony tail survive where his face didn’t. Don’t worry, he’ll be back…and it seems that Magneto has plans for him…because that’s always gone well in the past…

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