Welcome to the very first edition of Comic Crunch; where we round up a shortlist of comics that we’ve picked up off the radar, and we shed some light on the books with a quick very non-spoiler opinion of them.  In the end, we score and deliver a verdict of Most Must Have.  Over time we come into some books we intend on reviewing, but with limited resources, time constraints and reprioritizing, we don’t always have the time to review these books right away.

With Comic Crunch, we have the opportunity to cycle back to these projects at a smaller scale.  This time around, we have two books that came our way via our Facebook group, including one we’ve become familiar with here before.  Oak and North are both books that we were given earlier access to.   The other two books on today’s docket, Renascentia and Marvel’s Shadowland: Blood in the Streets, are books that I picked up at Wizard World this past August.   Without wasting any more precious time, let’s get into our takes on these titles.

OAK 

Oak Cover Art - Centered Title

Click The Cover Art To Read Oak Today.

This is the story your soul already knows. This is the tale the Earth needs you to tell. These are the words you’ve been waiting for, the battle cry to break the bad spell, spoken with love by the spirits of life itself. – Janice Erlbaum
Back after two decades, Al Diaz tells us the story of Oak’s resurrection.  In what is more of a rebirthing for the character we get a mirrored tale of reason and purpose, the value of life and freedom, the difference between consequences and mistakes, and that imperfection remain even in balance.  Quick to lay the building blocks of the new structural foundation, book one serves as a most necessary jump-on point, with several underlying themes to explore going forward with upcoming issues.  While the plots and general messages going forward are rolled adequately and promises a deep realm of issues for its main characters, supporting cast takes a back seat with their introduction being minimal, but clear that each character will be brought into scope as the current arcs plotline centers on them. We are left with some solid threads going into the next issue including an overall motive, developmental potential, the first consequences for the bad guys, hints at the good guys being forced to reconcile with regret in the coming days, and mysteries yet to set in. The strongest aspect of this title, however, is in the art. With a strong and bold color pallet rotating to the atmospheric conditions and time of day, the artist paints the pace. Smooth penciling and clear emotions, posture, and reactions help balance the load for character development and narrative.  Al engulfs you into the scenery making this a well balanced, well-paced, and comprehensive publication.   Book one cements itself as a must read, for an investment into an entrenching lore that is bursting at the seam to be unleashed. I would certainly recommend Oak to anyone looking for a meaty read to gradually sink their teeth into, as a savory flavor is coming from this titles foundation.

Al Diaz
Dmitriy Averyanov
Natasha Boyden
Raquel Torres

El : Capitan : Ink
Full Cycle Publications

Related: A Chat With OAK Creator, Al Diaz.

North

Click The Cover To Read North Today!

North is a title that came our way via our Facebook Group, when the writer of the book, Scott Sawyer promoted their first entry.  Mr. Sawyer was gracious enough to also give us a first look for our site.  Now we return to what slipped between the cracks in a title that not only embodies the existence of Comic Crunch but embodies existence itself.  When you read North, you are reading what appears to be a story of Identity.  Misfits finding their way through the world together.  Lost souls pulled to their true north.  We open to an ensemble introduction to the team through a series of quick and effective flashbacks, set against a perilous cliffhanger, in more ways than one.  The opening sequences to these characters each lay essential foundational components to a wide array of diverse and decisive personas.  The dialogue is straight to the point, yet witty and emotional nonetheless.  All of this goes down even smoother with the bold and bright color pallet that makes you almost taste the frigid air they breathe.  The art in this book quite literally paints the picture, with great panel layouts and smooth transitions.  In the end, the reader is left with much of many layers to chew on as you feed on the vines they’ve laid into book two. This is one of the more engaging and well-crafted titles I’ve read in recent years. I would be sure to follow the series into book two to see what they have to offer from what promises to be an epic adventure.

Scott Sawyer
Falk
Andrew Thomas

Novel Comics

 

Renascentia

Renascentia #1 works to lay the introduction of an ambitious sci-fi horror that promises intrigue and heartwrenching parallels to the reality we would come to expect in such a scenario.  The story is that of a mission for hope, turned corrupted by those that felt they were qualified to play with other peoples lives.   In the first issue, we see this story beginning to unfold through the eyes of a drone of sorts as it explores the aftermath of a human experiment gone wrong and the logs of the betrayed; each pulling you further into the stakes.   The book leaves us with the introduction of our protagonist who will have to venture a now desolate and barren spacecraft that once took a crew of hundreds to maintain, and battle through the only life force that seems to remain.  Hopefully, while doing so, the doctor can still save humanity.  If not by finding the said cure, perhaps by correcting the further damage that has been done.  Will the next book hold a direct confrontation with the antagonistic organism we see or will we find out just what went wrong with and how this antagonist came to be?  In the end, will we see that hope in “Sanctuary” proved futile due to the arbitrary actions that resulted in humans demise in the first place, or will the protagonist show that while most may fail by having too high of a self-regard, it only takes one mind and soul to change the world?  Regardless of what comes next, this book doesn’t rely solely on its storytelling to stand tall. The direction of the art in this book captures the fear that sits on the ship, with fantastic paneling and pacing set against a black and white granulate color scheme that screams chaos and sorrow.   I will definitely be looking to book #2 for further exploration with this title.

Big Boy Studios

 

Shadowland: Blood In The Streets

Shadowland was a sprawling event surrounding new york city, more particularly Hells Kitchen.  In this arc, we see Matt Murdock, aka The Daredevil, after he managed to return to the city as the head of The Hand ninja clan.  Murdock at one point kills one of his adversaries and sets a temple upon the city.  With everything we knew in question, several street-level heroes work their ways to the truth.  Blood In The Streets is a four part mini-series that puts international assassin Silver Sable, bionic-armed detective Misty Knight, benevolent mercenary The Paladin, and dark force agent The Shroud in each other paths, and eventually in the path of The Hand.  The biggest strength of this book comes with its inclusive plot that not only peels a layer to a larger scheme but offers a solid and direct tale that you can leave off at.  This series also gives you an immensely new depth to nearly a dozen characters that most readers have yet to know.  The narrative and fleshing is not only done so well for the book, but it allows the readers to be brought into the fold on a larger scale by making you aware of developments that you may have missed out on if you hadn’t been following the Hell’s Kitchen inhabitants for some time prior.  The story here in itself is particularly satisfying in relation to current television adaptations and just goes to show that even the smallest book can be a game changer.  For those who do continue further into Shadowland, you find yourself with a large yet contained event that changes the landscape of the Marvel Universe.   The second strong point comes with, as I previously mentioned, character interaction and development. This comes from two fronts.  First is with the storytelling that is done with leisurely and natural narratives.  Each character also has solo time that allows you to familiarize yourself with what each has to offer to the readers; both in general and during that point in time.  This, like most of it, comes about in a fluid and necessary plot line.  The art, however, is what really sells all of this.  It’s clear and dense with color appropriate to each personality, and it is set on a fantastic storyboard that allows for excellent pacing of the plot, narrative, and action.  While the book is very well done, there really isn’t a need for you to read this entry unless you are really looking to expand your connection to the lore and spend some time with these characters.  Blood In the Streets is one of a dozen branching mini-series’ and one-shots from the Shadowland event, but from what I can tell, aside from added entertainment value, the main series is the only run that would contain any real purpose.  That being said, while this is one of those books that doesn’t really need to be read for the arc, it does offer so much insight into the universe around them.  To recall, while this book is everything that it is supposed to be, and probably one of the smoothest reads I’ve ever had the pleasure of.  this book is not a “must read” by any means, this book is satisfying and chalk full of lore value; definitely one to not dismiss either.

Antony Johnston
Wellington Alves
Nelson Pereira
Frank Martin 
Dave Sharpe

Marvel Comics

Related: Comic Book Spotlight: The Defenders, Bendis, and The Sins of The Comic Book Industry.

 

The Verdicts

Oak:  This is the most promising series on the slate with much to come.  This book not only serves as a jumping point for the series but into comics as a whole. This book uses clear and defined art with engaging colors and expressions alongside coherent and clear storyboards and narratives.  The art shines and the storytelling shows much potential.

North:  The most mesmerizing title on the slate for sure, with pop culture references, smooth storytelling, and a beautiful pallet. Book one serves well as a lunch pad with a witty and comical narrative that is served around a simple and principal structure. This book goes down soft, yet strong.

Renascentia:  The most intriguing book on the slate comes in the form of a mind-boggling yet enticing sci-fi horror tease. With minimal narrative, the storyboarding tells you everything you need to know about the series going forward and leaves you questioning humanity and yourself.

Shadowland: Blood In The Streets could be the most rewarding book on the slate for well-invested readers, and yet still gives a nice niche in any readers belt with stellar art and direction, as well as some easy reading that warrants continuous tie-in discoveries.

Most Must-Have Rankings

North

North brings a smile to your face as you read the beginnings of something to cherish and goes down easy through comical storytelling and plenty of eye candy.

However, the book quite literally leaves you hanging on a thread that can either leave you reeling back for more or find you sliding off the series.

Oak

Oak holds the most potential going forward and could be your best investment without the need for extra reading going in and comes across as a well-painted telling of tales.

However, this book, in particular, deems an immediate follow up as it didn’t seem to have enough canvas and lacks the immediate satisfaction. While this book gives much depth, it is yet to be fulfilled and aches for a sequel.

Renascentia

Renascentia satisfies your taste immediately and leaves you with something to chew on even after you put it down.

However, as much as this story gives, it hides even more. With much intrigue, we get a minimal indication as to whats going and could be because the vision has yet to ferment.  Going forward, we have a high risk vs high reward scenario that wages on a vision we lack any focused scope on.

Shadowland: Blood In The Streets

Blood In The Streets serves readers well for niche times to help tie down vast universe it lies in with smooth and art and storytelling that leaves you thirsting for more of the Marvel Universe.

However, you soon remember just how much investment the Marvel Universe requires and for most this book doesn’t go beyond a Sunday read.