The PQ Archive: Space Battle Lunchtime #1 Immediately Throws You Into The World Of Galactic Cooking Competitions

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


SBLT-1-MARKETING-Preview-1-e83afWriting and Art by Natalie Riess

Published by Oni Press

Ever since the advent of Iron Chef, the reality competition cooking show has been a cornerstone of television in the 21st century. Shows like Master Chef, Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, and The Great British Bake Off among others have proliferated the airwaves and have put a certain sort of sport into the art of cooking. Space Battle Lunchtime sets its story in that realm, but adds the element of “in SPACE!” to the mix.

Space Battle Lunchtime #1 follows Peony, a baker working in a cafe called Dozens when a frog woman named Zonda comes to pick up coffee. After she receives a call about needing a replacement for something, she recruits Peony to be a competitor on a show called Space Battle Lunchtime and immediately beams her up as soon as she says yes. No backstory. No issue worth of lead up. Just jumping right into the concept. In most cases, that can be a bit jarring for a comic, but the way it is set up here, it really does work and actually puts you in Peony’s shoes of being immediately thrown into a galactic cooking show.

The aesthetic of this story might actually be the most darling part of it. Riess’ art is full of soft lines and bright colors that remind of a shojo romance story more than a sci-fi book. Which works well to its advantage, giving it a distinct sort of look over other sci-fi books. Not to mention that the alien designs seen so far are super cute and bring a major draw to the next part of the story. Well, that and wondering how Peony’s going to make it through the first round as an Earthling unfamiliar with the show.

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Besides making you crave carrot-cherry cake, Space Battle Lunchtime #1 does a great job dragging you into the world without too much fuss. Between the writing not standing in the way of itself and the darling art, the world created by Riess promises to be a lot of fun. That is, if Peony can make it past round one.


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The PQ Archive: The Wicked + The Divine #19 Is A Turn For The Epic

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


tumblr_o6mfzkAJHN1tuoa2wo1_1280Written by Kieron Gillen

Art by Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson

Letters by Clayton Cowles

Published by Image Comics

There are so many things that can be used to describe what happens in this particular issue of The Wicked + The Divine. Many of the expletive laden. For now, let’s paraphrase a line from the recently departed Prince: there’s a thief in the temple tonight, and her name is Ananke.

For months outside of the comic, Gillen has been hinting about a larger role for Minerva, the youngest member of the Pantheon who will be dead before she turns 14. In this issue, it comes into play as she is revealed to be a chess piece in Ananke’s grand plan. What exactly that plan is, no one knows yet, but it lends credence to the theory that the Pantheon might be a pre-determined group. Especially with Baphomet now claiming that Ananke was the one who killed Inanna, not him. By the end of the issue when Ananke confesses to Minerva being her ‘fatted calf,’ you might actually believe him.

Of course, being an issue of WicDiv, more questions seems to be raised than answered. Not just to Ananke’s grand scheme, but just as to why Laura is alive. No… not Laura. Persephone. Both Ananke and Persephone make a point as to say Laura isn’t here anymore and that only Persephone remains. This whole thing has some “There is no Dana, only Zuul” vibes going, and not just because she is “the Destroyer.” It wouldn’t be surprising if that was purposeful on Gillen’s part, but even if it wasn’t, it still gets the point across that something isn’t quite right with this particular return.

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Despite all of that, it still seems that the most tragic character in this particular part of the story though is Dionysus. Even in just a few pages, we see the burden he’s been carrying of trying to give people just one good night is starting to catch up with him and that he may be getting his own “F**king Tara” treatment from his followers because of it. Not to the same level, but then again, not yet. Despite only being in the comic a few times so far, Dio is easily one of the most complicated characters in the story despite his outward “party boy” appearance. It’ll make seeing how he interacts with the chthonic ones going forward into the rest of ‘Rising Action’ super interesting.

On the art front, McKelvie and Wilson are still killing it, especially in terms of the action scenes. The fight scene that’s the crux of this issue is an art delight, giving the reader those moments where art and color is in perfect synch with each other. Whether it’s Babd the Crow Woman, the delightfully joyous face of Gentle Annie or the way Amaterasu’s eyes glow as she focuses in on her rescue target, the devils of this issue are certainly in the details, and no one on the team certainly slouches to get it done.

While no one question is quite answered yet, the second issue of ‘Rising Action’ lays the cards out on the table. Between the little things that make the issue and the big action scenes, it’s shaping up that this arc may be what takes this comic into truly epic territories as something of a civil war breaks out among the gods over what comes next and the fate of their own.


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The PQ Archive: Faith #4 Brings The First Chapter Of Her Story To A Close

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


Faith-4-coverWritten by Jody Houser

Art by Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage

Colors by Andrew Dalhouse with Pete Pantazis

Letters by Dave Sharpe

Published by Valiant Comics

This is the final issue of the Faith miniseries, but have no fear! Our valiant and nerdy superheroine just got promoted to an ongoing series that’s coming out this summer! Even if it wasn’t though, this final issue gives enough closure and a happy ending to this part of Faith’s story.

The issue picks up where issue 3 left off, which is good because the previous issue felt like it left off in a weird place, so the explanation of who the Vine are is exceptionally handy. With Torque in their possession, it’s up to Faith, @X, Archer and TV star/alien Hadley Scott to save him and the rest of the Psiots who have been kidnapped over the course of the series.

The introduction of the Vine as the antagonists in the previous issue felt like a shoehorn villain in the previous issue since ‘aliens did it’ tends to be the superhero comics way of writing themselves out of corners, but this issue lets the plot turf out beautifully, with the extra twist of the Plantlings being a high powered Hollywood death cult actually making the ‘aliens did it’ excuse actually interesting.

Portela’s art is solid as usual, except for the one instance of him drawing a full moon when the dialogue says it’s nearly a new moon outside, but it’s an easy forgive with the way Dalhouse and Pantazis color the scene to reflect moonlight. The sequences by Sauvage are once again a delight though. With mixing up the sequences to be a scene from the fictional TV series “Night Shifters” and a flashback to Faith’s childhood along with the usual scenes in Faith’s head, Sauvage spectacularly does her job of breaking up the current reality of the series with the fantasy (and sometimes painful memories) of Faith’s inner world.

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Still, fantasy doesn’t always match up with reality and while this story does get a happy ending, some parts of Faith’s reality don’t end so happily or just keep going. Such is the way of life though and it’s refreshing to see Houser give this part such good closure while still not shying away from the realities of Faith’s world. It doesn’t make it all bad. Sometimes, happiness is just as easy as a coworker inviting you over for RPGs.

This particular issue is titled “Herstory” and it feels befitting. Faith is history in the making and while this part of her story is over, Houser, Portela and Sauvage did a fantastic job in creating the first chapter of it. #4 proved to be a solid finale, closing enough to wrap it all up, but leaving enough avenues to explore in the upcoming ongoing. Just what awaits her there, we don’t know, but if it’s just as fun of a trip as this story has been, there’s nothing to worry about.


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The PQ Archive: ‘Welcome Back’ #7 Is An Intense Meet The Parents Story

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


WelcomeBack_007_A_MainWritten by Christopher Sebela

Art by Claire Roe

Colors by Jeremy Lawson

Letters by Jim Campbell

Published by Boom! Studios

Man, however awkward it was for you to meet your significant other’s parents, surely it won’t beat out Mali meeting Tessa’s.

The issue opens where the previous one left off with the Sequels descending on Tessa, Mali, Lorena and Showtime, who amusingly tries to catch a stick Mali is swinging around. Instead of fighting the Sequels, the four end up making a run for it, escaping on a private jet found through Tessa’s contacts to her home of South Africa. Of course, she doesn’t tell anyone this detail until they get there.

This particular issue is less focused on action, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a war going on. Instead of Sequels against Sequels, it’s a more personal, emotional war between Mali and Tessa’s mother Jana. Along with being Tessa’s trainer, Jana is also the wife of a former president of South Africa, making Tessa powerful in more ways than one. Naturally, the parents aren’t too fond of Mali. For her father, it’s because of the gay thing. For Jana, it’s because neither Mali or Tessa did their job. There is a little bit of violence between Jana and Mali, but their war is more of that of words. The sad hopefulness of Mali versus the vicious realism of Jana. It adds another layer of emotion to this already heartbreaking and strangely hopeful series.

Hope is really what keeps this issue rolling along, even in the quiet moments Mali and Tessa share in bed that are beautifully illustrated by Roe. You want these two to so desperately get what they want and be able to break the cycle they’ve been trapped in since the beginning of time, but it’s so uncertain if they can. Especially without any losses to their own.
The unfortunately penultimate issue of Welcome Back doesn’t focus on getting to an explosive battle, but rather shifts to a personal battle with a hope for the future. Sebela and Roe do such a great job of showing that conflict and those quiet moments, showing why Welcome Back will be sorely missed when it ends next month.


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The PQ Archive: ‘Heartthrob’ #1 Is Figuratively And Literally About Matters Of The Heart

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


HEARTTHROB-1-RETAIL-CVRWritten by Christopher Sebela

Art by Robert Wilson IV and Nick Filiardi

Published by Oni Press

Heartthrob is a story about the heart, both figuratively and literally. It’s also probably the second book in the market right now to be a love story with a side of crime that could go wrong, but that’s really where any comparisons to Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals should end. Heartthrob exists to be something else entirely.

Heartthrob #1 opens with the story of Callie Boudreau, a young woman with congenital heart defects who is the recipient of a heart transplant in 1977. Since that was a relatively new procedure at the time with a lot of unknown variables, Callie only given about “five healthy years.” This was already after she uprooted her life from Chicago to move to Stanford, California to wait five years for a spot for her on the list, so Callie built a life while she waited. Well, “life” may be a strong word for it.

In most cases where this kind of story pops up, this is where Callie would gleefully quit her job and start living a life full of adventure and travel. Well, Callie does end up quitting her job, but the way she gets there is not exactly gleeful. Sebela uses a similar narrative technique that he does in We(l)come Back where a lot of the comic is spent on the focal character talking to the audience. Inside of that, we see that Callie is not the usual quirky romantic lead who is stuck in a life she doesn’t want until something traumatic happens to her, but rather someone who has never figured out what she really wanted until everything around her transplant seems to boil over. It makes her story more real and devastating, which makes you want to root for her even more.

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The other character at the heart of the first issue is Mercer, the charming con man that Callie starts to fall for after meeting him at the bar one night. To talk about his backstory would spoil one of the best twists in the first issue, but the way Sebela writes it, it never comes across as trite. In fact, Mercer might just be the best thing to happen to Callie in this issue where it seems like everything terrible happens to her when it seems like her life should be getting better. Their budding love story is sweet in a strange way, but also slightly worrisome with the way Callie admits to losing herself in her past lovers. That’s the hook for this series, even more than that final page.

The art by Robert Wilson IV is absolutely perfect for this series, with his expressive faces, bold lines, and the way he makes even mundane 70s fashion seem kind of fantastic. It’s no wonder Sebela had Wilson in mind from the inception of this series. Combined with Filiardi’s colors that bounce from greyscale to neon glow and that muted yellow tone that ran rampant in the late 70s in between, and this book’s art will make your heart race, pardon the pun.

Heartthrob #1 is a great introduction to a series that looks to be exciting and heart-wrenching, both figuratively and literally. Sebela has created a lovely and realistic protagonist in Callie Boudreau as well as a mysterious, loving and potentially dangerous love interest in Mercer. Only time will tell if he is dangerous, but that wait won’t be so bad between the writing and the fantastic art of Wilson and Filiardi. If crime and romance mixed together are right up your alley, Heartthrob #1 might just be the sweetheart of a comic you’re looking for.


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The PQ Archive: The Wicked + The Divine #18 Returns With Some ‘Rising Action’

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


The-Wicked-The-Divine-018-000The Wicked + the Divine #18

Written by Kieron Gillen

Art by Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson

Letters by Clayton Cowles

Published by Image Comics

Persephone is back, and to paraphrase the theme of The Phenomenal One, Ananke don’t want none.

After taking a three month break, The Wicked + The Divine returns with the start of a new arc titled ‘Rising Action.’ Which is an apt description based on this issue alone. Gillen describes it as “Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ video for five issues,” which is also an apt description. For some readers though, this issue might bring flashbacks to the team’s run on Young Avengers with its high paced action scenes. While The Wicked + The Divine has always been an explosive book (sometimes literally), the amount of action in this issue can sometimes be jarring. However, it does work to throw the reader right back into the story after the more quiet and emotional period of ‘Commercial Suicide.’ Not to mention rattling the cage enough to spread pieces to be picked up as the story moves along.

While the return of Laura as Persephone aka ‘The Destroyer’ is a major driving force of this issue, Minerva seems to be a central figure to the story. Opening on her 13th birthday, both the Underworld Gods, the Gods of Valhalla and her parents seem intent on using her for their own devices. While it remains to be seen if it stays that way for the rest of the arc, it reminds of just how tragic her character is. Destined to die before 14 and to be used and lied to by everyone around her. And you thought your early teens were rough.

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The art in this issue is gorgeous as usual, with McKelvie returning as the full-time artist after taking a break during ‘Commercial Suicide’ to focus on the final arc of Phonogram. While the more experimental turns were fun to see during that arc, it is nice to see McKelvie and Wilson back at the helm. Wilson especially brings the game hard with a level of ethereal color that while it doesn’t quite rise to the level of the living drug trip in #9, the way the pages seem to glow doesn’t seem possible. It’s especially complimentary to McKelvie’s updated designs for Laura and Sakhmet. Baal just gets a beard in the passing of time though.

While the tone of this arc will take some getting used to, The Wicked + The Divine #18 certainly makes a mark in driving the story forward after ‘Commercial Suicide.’ With fast-paced superhero action, questions being dropped along the way, and gorgeous art and color, it’s good to see the series back to its old ways.


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The PQ Archive: ‘Tomboy’ Is Less About Magical Girls And More About “Divine Intervention”

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


STK698821Written and drawn by Mia Goodwin
Published by Action Lab Comics/Danger Zone

The magical girl genre has proliferated in comics and animation a lot as of late as the generation that grew up with those shows has started getting into the industry. It has lead to a lot of interesting twists on the genre, such as the explorations of what happens when you give that power to people long past high school and struggling in life (Bee and Puppycat, Power Up) when you grow into a legacy of it (Steven Universe), or when you try and run from that fate (Zodiac Starforce, Help Us, Great Warrior!).

However, the magical girl as a revenge fantasy is something that hasn’t really been explored until Mia Goodwin’s Tomboy.

Tomboy is about Addison Brody, a normal teenage girl being raised by her father and grandfather, attending Catholic school with her best friends Nick and Jessica, and obsessing over the anime Princess Cherry Cherry. However, her relatively normal life gets turned upside down when Nick is killed by corrupt cops trying to protect pharmaceutical mogul Irene Trent. When she ends up on the same train as them on Halloween, the lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur for Addison as her beloved Princess Cherry Cherry tells her its time to “transform.”

When Tomboy was first announced, a lot of people in the industry were comparing it to the Batgirl of Burnside or Spider-Gwen, and on the surface, it’s easy to see how those comparisons could start. All three are stylistic stories about young vigilante women who are fighting against corrupt forces of their city. However, actually reading the series, the comparison really doesn’t hold up due to tone. Where Batgirl and Spider-Gwen are titles giving the characters a chance at having stories that don’t tie them down to their dark pasts, Tomboy is a story that relishes in darkness. The lines between fantasy and reality are constantly blurred as Addison is spoken to by the ghost of her dead best friend and an apparition of an anime princess. It doesn’t help that it’s unclear that her grandfather may actually be haunted by an angel of death or he could have suffered a similar mental break as well after the death of his wife. With the uses of ghostly Catholic and anime inspired imagery and revenge fantasy plot points, the series should probably draw more comparisons to properties like Puella Magi Madoka Magica or The Professional instead.

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Goodwin is probably known to most audiences as the original series artist on Princeless before Emily Martin took over starting with the second arc. The expressive and colorful style she had in that first arc still exists in this book, but with crisper lines and cooler colors. The more fantasy-driven pages are especially gorgeous, especially when Goodwin draws inspiration from Catholicism, which is a strong stylistic and story influence in this book.

The story itself is mostly fine, with there being a sort of strange gallows humor as Addy falls deeper into her mental state as she becomes more of a killer. However, it isn’t the psychosis that sometimes puts a wall up between the reader, but rather the story happening outside of that. A lot of the story that isn’t focused around Addison and her grandfather sometimes feels tacked on, even though the crime aspect is supposed to be a driving force behind the story. From the opening pages, it’s obvious that there’s a set up for an inevitable conflict between the Brodys and Trent’s forces, but the balance of a family coping with tragedy in different and violent ways and corrupt cops trying to stop them never feels quite right. Not to mention the confusion over just who and what Iris is anyway makes it even more confusing over whether this book is about a girl struggling with a disconnect from reality or if there’s more fantastical elements to the world than previously thought.

Tomboy is a book that is not easy to pin down. Influenced visually by magical girls, Catholicism, crime, and revenge stories, the book takes a darker route than other properties in the rising magical girl genre. While the first part of Goodwin’s story can sometimes be on shaky ground, her art more than makes up for it with expressive and distinct character designs and fantastic images that help immerse the reader into the minds of the characters as they struggle with a grip on reality. Only time will tell if Addison’s “divine intervention” continues to be effective though.


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