Comica Obscura: Comic Bento #1 (Fight the Fight)

Dear You,

Hey everyone! Its been a while! Hopefully Cordell has been keeping you all busy. Without getting too much into the small stuff, I am writing to tell you all about the newest thing stealing all my money… Comic Bento Box (hereafter referred to as CBB because: reasons).

If you are the kind of person who is looking for a way to get introduced to comics, this is an amazing service! CBB is roughly $25 ($20 bucks with $5 for shipping) bucks a month to get 4-5 graphic novels from various companies in the industry all revolving around a central theme.

For the new collector, or someone who is just starting to break in to comics, this is the subscription box I would recommend trying out. For a lot of new comic fans, it can be extremely overwhelming to find a starting point, and more often than not you end up buying a lot of comics that fit the tastes of your friend more than your own. You will get access to stories and genre’s that you may not normally be interested in which, can help you find a new favorite a lot faster than you think.

In my day, I got extremely lucky finding Dream Strands Comics and Arcane Comics in my home town (North Seattle Area) who had owners and staff with similar tastes to me, and as much as I love having those connections I feel like my recommendations can stagnate; This is where CBB comes in for more serious collectors and comic book nerds.

I want to find stories to read between the Trade Paperback releases of my current obsessions (Saga, Deadly Class, and The Wicked and The Devine if you’re curious). And, as the resident comic hipster on this blog, its nice to see companies like Image  and Valiant among your requisite Marvel and DC comics in the box.

So how did it got? Reviews on the comics after the break!

This month’s theme was “Fight the Fight” and it came with 5 comics. These are the quick blast reviews of the comics, feel free to comment or message if you have more specific questions.

Superman Batman: Vengeance

This is a great example of a comic that I wouldn’t have picked up on my own. Traditionally, I am not the kind of person that finds much interest with Superheroes in general, but I love the team who worked on it so I gave it a go.

The art was superb, the writing was well put together, and the character designs were a ton of fun. The obvious parallels to beloved characters from another well-known universe worked out really well. And the ending made the whole story have a surprising amount of weight and it definitely added a lot to the overall arc.

However, the story hits a pretty insane clip about 2 chapters in, and honestly it gets incredibly overwhelming with introductions to other characters, a lot of action panels, and several obscured faces/uniforms meant to give you a shock, but really just muddied the waters of an already muddy story. As if the arc was written for a TV show first then ended up as a comic instead. Can books trigger epileptic fits? If so, steer clear.

If you can hang on till the final act of the story, the whole thing begins to make sense and it almost feels worth it, but you wouldn’t be blamed for packing it in… I did use the phrase “almost”.

Score: 5/10, Not terrible, not great. Middle ground.

Executive Assistant Iris

This was a comic that I’ve seen on the shelves from time to time, but no one ever seemed to know what it was about. All we could surmise from the back cover was that it is a story by the creator of Witchblade, so we know that it’ll have a lot of scantily clad girls who are impossibly “well-endowed”. Hence, I’ve never really bothered with it; however I am super glad that I finally got to read it.

The art direction and overall design are exactly what you would expect if you’ve read any of Witchblade or The Darkness but with much more sensible proportions (considering the source). However, the color scheme and line work has definitely been improved since the old days, and the writing is significantly better and more well thought out.

You’ve seen this story before, but this series started in 2011 so it was significantly less cliché at that time, and the “orphanage that also trains assassins” makes some really unique changes that have interesting effects on the girls as they get older.

Honestly, my only problem with this story was that it moves at the pace of an Uncharted game; meaning that set pieces are sometimes more important that character development. Outside of Iris, the rest of the characters tend to err on the side of “expendable”.

Score: 7/10Pretty good, minor but plentiful flaws. 

I wish I had more to say about this one. I’ve looked at other reviews to see where other writers have thought to say about it; suffice it to say that it is considered a “bonus” and is mentioned in the box’s flavor text that introduces the theme of the month.

Lets keep it simple: Great artwork, writing that feels like they paid attention to the source material, and a competent story. This is another one that fits in with the theme really well as it is full of some pretty great action and the art felt like it was not overly saturated, so you should have a clear picture of what is going on.

The bad? Well… did you ever see Highlander: Endgame? It was competent and felt like part of the universe… but it feels… cheap? This is one that I think I would like a lot more if I was not a fan of the movies, because the “cheese-y” factor of movies can become great for second viewings or sharing with friends. However, showing “b-movie” acting in a comic? Maybe that makes the writing brilliant.

Score: 6/10. Closer to Endgame than Highlander 2. Small Victories.

X-O Manowar: Enter Ninjak

This was another story that I’ve been circling for a while, but I never picked up an issue because on the surface it sounds pretty silly.

This is the story of a Visigoth who was abducted 1600 years prior; he was sacrificed to a semi-sentient suit of power armor that absorbs the souls of those who wear it; however, for some reason he can wear it and use its weapons, so he breaks out of confinement and returns to Earth only to find that the aliens have created a sort of Illuminati group that secretly is preparing the planet for something awful. So X-O murders them all.

Now, you can probably see why I ignored it for so long but I gotta say, it works out pretty damn well. Valiant proves yet again they can take stories from the 90’s that are so extreme they bleed energy drinks and skateboards, and can make them human and real regardless. This would be like successfully mashing up The Expendables and The Shawshank Redemption.

Honestly, it might just be that I was so shocked at how human the characters are, while still being superpowered badasses. X-O and Ninjak both have interesting dialogue, and their motivations are clear and explored equally, with enough silly parts to keep you grounded firmly in the 90’s action tropes. It’s rare to see this handled well, especially with characters from this era being mostly one-dimensional.

The thing that first worried me when I saw this comic however, is that it is the second volume of the series. Luckily, the series does a good job of spreading out the exposition and I never felt lost or that I needed a refresher.

Score: 8/10. Sleeper hit. Give it a read!

Daredevil: Season One

This comic was a nice surprise in the box, as it was hard covered and still wrapped in plastic. The collector in me always appreciates the simple things like that with these subscription boxes.

This story is one that you probably all know and love thanks to Netflix and Ben Afleck. However, it was nice to see an origin story that follows the more interesting parts of Daredevil’s life. Specifically, the point of his origin before he becomes a really well crafted character, and was still doing pro-bono cases in Hell Kitchen. I like to call these “Year 3” stories with all the training complete, but we still have a long way to go before the hero has everything figured out well.

The only real issue was that, since this was an homage to the early days of Daredevil, we are treated to a lot of those panels of a character talking to themselves and narrating the scene. I understand that this was needed in the Silver and Golden ages because the art was significantly more simplistic, but it was kinda silly to see Daredevil describing a scene and conveying emotions that you’d have to be blind not to notice… (see what I did there?)

All in all, this comic is the equivalent of doing an HD Remake of a video game. Its pretty and offers a nice handful of changes for fans of the classics, but it might be hard to win over the new crowd who doesn’t have nostalgia forgiving some of the old sins that came along as well.

Score: 7/10. More Myst remake than FF VII remake. Still not bad though.

Final thoughts?

Fight The Fight Bento Box: 33/50 or 66% Awesome
Total Savings this Month: I would have spent roughly $150 bucks buying my 2 favorites and all these comics by themselves. Instead it was $65 bucks.

I think this is certainly worth the money for all the good parts, but I will be interested to see what comes in the next one. Overall, I think it should say a lot that I’m willing to stick with it, and spending 43% less was pretty cool.


The Geeks on the Streets