This week’s lead review for Wednesday Comics is ALL AGAINST ALL #1, the start of an ambitious new series from Image Comics. In addition, the Wednesday Comics Team has a rundown of the new #1s and finales from non-Big 2 publishers, all of which you can find below … enjoy!

All Against AllAll Against All #1

Writer: Alex Paknadel
Artist: Caspar Wijngaard
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Publisher: Image Comics

After a breakout run on the series Home Sick Pilots, artist Caspar Wijngaard has a new title with Image Comics, this time pairing with writer Alex Paknadel. In the debut issue of their new sci-fi series All Against All, the creators set up a striking post-apocalyptic future where an alien race now uses the Earth as a science experiment for their galactic forever war.

The brief synopsis above doesn’t do justice to the scope or nuance of this book, which features everything from scathing commentary on the  military industrial complex, to environmentalism and philosophical musings on the nature of sentience and humanity. The alien race, The Operators, are parasites who use other living organisms as their tools and weapons. When a team of scientists turn their attention to Earth, they begin to study the nature of the planet’s most fearsome predators. The results make for host bodies that cause chaos. The primal urge to kill simply takes over.

The opening pages follows the lead scientist as he muses on the primitive life on earth and condemns and pities their inability to think or even feel pain. When attacked by these predators he cowers in terror until the danger is gone. As he does so, he comes face to face with the only living human being on Earth who, to the doctor’s shock, speaks. This opening scene effectively sets the major themes of the work, particularly its damning portrayal of paternalistic colonialism. The Operators consider themselves above other creatures and cannot comprehend different beings existing with a sense of self.

As rich and compelling as the story is, it is elevated and brought to life in jaw dropping style by Wijngaard. The artist’s neon rave palette gives the book an otherworldly, dreamlike quality, emphasized by the painterly use of color and line. It’s fitting for the wildness of this version of Earth. Under Wijngaard’s pen even the grotesque is beautiful, and there’s no shortage of severed body parts and alien gore. Wijngaard draws the reader in to marvel at the mayhem and brutality, as if to affirm that these are creatures worthy of dignity even in death.

At the start of a new sci-fi story it is easy to bog down a narrative with lengthy exposition.  Paknadel avoids the trap and expertly sets up the world and context for this alien race through natural dialogue and by letting Wijngaard’s visuals speak for themselves. Every panel, every facial expression and movement, is a visual feast. All Against All manages to execute on all of the small details even as it explodes with imagination and visual extravagance.

Helping to keep the characters unique and adding to their expressiveness is letter Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, who blends his word balloons and captions perfectly into Wijngaard’s expressive, loose style. Using individual colors for different characters and avoiding  traditional word balloons is risky, but it pays off here and enriches the look and feel of the issue.

By the end of the issue, seeds are planted for a major ideological clash between the alien creatures, even as they are hunted by the most dangerous predator on Earth: the last human.

Anyone craving something different in their comic diet, or who simply loves the medium, should be checking out this issue. It is one of the most confident and stunning debuts of the year.

Verdict: BUY

-Tim Rooney

Wednesday Comics Quick Hits

  • Archie Christmas Spectacular #1 (Archie Comics): For some, the holidays aren’t complete without a re-read of A Christmas Carol. Others need their annual viewing of Elf or Miracle on 34th Street before it feels like Christmas. There are no surprises, the end is always the same, but it’s tradition and nostalgia wrapped in a festive bow. If holiday tales featuring the classic version of America’s Favorite Teens fill that need, or if you have young readers ready for an all-ages gateway into the comics medium, this stand-alone is your cuppa cheer. Tom DeFalco provides the new story in an otherwise reprint collection, his name bringing fond auld lang syne of other tales to mind, like Spider-Man’s original alien costume saga. The jokes are corny, the surprises non-existent, but that’s the point. For some, this issue will be as much a comfort food as pecan pie and as pleasing as a Hallmark holiday film. For those seeking less traditional Archie fare, give Bob Phantom a read instead. Archie Christmas Spectacular #1 features stories written by Tom DeFalco, Bill Golliher, Dan Parent, and Ron Robbins. Pencils by Holly G!, Bill Golliher, Dan Parent, and Kennedy Bros. Inks by Bob Smith and Jim Amash. Colors by Glenn Whitmore. Letters by Jack Morelli. (Clyde Hall)
  • Blade Runner 2039 #1 (Titan Comics): Proceeded by 2019 and 2029, Blade Runner 2039 #1 shows the precision of a team that has had the chance to live in a world. In one part of the story, we follow Luv, a Nexus-9 model replicant (who you may remember from the Blade Runner 2049 film), as she continues her mission to hunt other replicants as part of the LAPD. While out on patrol, Luv gets the call from Mr. Wallace: there’s a retired Tyrell Corporation scientist who, at one time, operated a private lab. But, running in parallel, there is a woman bringing new eyes to The Ferryman, who is said to be at a boating colony out at the Hermosa Beach retaining wall. But, when she finds him, discovers that her journey has just begun. The story, written by Mike Johnson and Mellow Brown, is smooth and honed, easily moving between action, drama, and the trademark Blade Runner melancholy. The art, by Andres Guinaldo, and coloring, by Marco Lesko, make the world feel dense and worn down. Grey and blue tones with hints of neon, wet streets. Small details like cardboard boxes next to dumpsters, sushi posters over an outdoor dining space, and the way a collection of boats against a sea retaining wall look like a town that’s always existed, give the comic a sense of reality. The lettering, done masterfully by Jim Campbell, fits the world. Where there are people on tv-screens talking, the bubbles appear in subtly jagged lines, and when someone is being retired, the bubble’s tail snakes from their mouth like smoke. All these little details give Blade Runner 2039 #1 the world it needs to tell a layered and compelling story. (Michael Kurt)
  • The Blue Flame #10 (Vault Comics): The Blue Flame — one of the most emotionally complex takes on superhero comics I’ve ever read — comes to a conclusion this month, with a final chapter that feels inevitable. It’s also an issue fits the story perfectly, leading to a satisfying conclusion for an ambitious book. It’s also the type of finale that makes you want to re-read the entire narrative from the start to experience it’s full effect. If you didn’t read this one monthly, I strongly urge you to pick it up when it hits in trade. This series was written by Christopher Cantwell, with artwork by Adam Gorham, colors by Kurt Michael Russell, and letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. (Zack Quaintance)
  • Dahlia in the Dark #1 (Mad Cave Studios): Mad Cave Studios’ latest, Dahlia in the Dark, debuts with a huge reveal on its final few pages, promising to take readers on an exciting journey they are likely ill-prepared for. This is a lore-rich story, effectively presented by write Joe Corallo’s script with standout art and colors from Andrea Milana setting the noir-mood, and stellar letters from Micah Myers, giving just enough information to get the ball rolling while wanting answers about this world where humans share the Earth with magical neighbors. As we experience this setting through the tired and lonely eyes of down-on-his-luck protagonist Donny Dahlia, all is not as it seems. Readers will want to stick around to find out what got Donny to a low point in his life, what he can do to rise back up, and what exactly is in the box he’s hauling across the country, and why does everyone seem to want it? (Bryan Reheil)
  • Do A Powerbomb #7 (Image Comics): In the golden age of wrestling and wrestling comics, there stands a new champion, and it is Daniel Warren Johnson. As per his confessional letters column, DWJ has been keen to keep the readers guessing by blowing the well-worn tropes of family drama and wrestling fiction out the gate. There is no subtlety in a book where father and daughter fight God in heaven. This subtlety transfers to Rus Wooton’s lurid, loud, and intentionally chaotic hand-lettering that brings the tempo of its breakneck pace to a cacophony of cheers and gasps, mirroring reader reactions (ideally)! In previous issues, the Powerbomb world prioritized focal points by throwing vibrant-hued fighters in a drowned and drab world. But this mudpit operating table finale shines brightly thanks in part to Mike Spicer’s radiant golden glows and heavenly color mood. Now, firmly atop the growing heap of wrestling comics and year-end rankings lists, Do A Powerbomb stands crowned champion, and ideally your top 1-2-3 favorite issue this year. (Beau Q.)
  • Pandora #1 (Frank Miller Presents)Pandora #1 is an interesting book, especially on a structural level, with a dual narrative that interweaves. It’s also an ominous book, with sinister touches that spring from a 15-year-old protagonist living in a bordering house, where not all the borders are nice, to put it mildly. This lends the book an unsavory tension, a hunch that danger looms throughout. It’s a really well done book, but I especially enjoyed the artwork of Emma Kubert, illustrating a script  written by Anthony Maranville and Chris Silvestri, from a concept created by Frank Miller. I definitely recommend this one, especially for fans of urban fantasy who don’t mind a touch of horror. Worth noting here is that this first issue is double-sized with a price tag of $7.99. When this book returns and goes monthly starting in February, it will be standard length at a price of $3.99. (Zack Quaintance)
  • Gargoyles #1 (Dynamite): Greg Weisman teams with illustrator George Kambadais to reintroduce the urban fantasy science fiction world he co-created. It’s a solid book—particularly Kambadais’ colorful, expressive renditions of gargoyle, mutant, and human alike both in action and at rest. Weisman’s script is — while very exposition-heavy — charming, and skillful in introducing and juggling a massive cast. It doesn’t quite match the first issue of BOOM’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers (my personal gold standard for adaptation/continuation comics based on well-loved kids’ shows from the 1990s), but it is quite good — enough so that I’d gladly keep reading. Lettering for this one is by Jeff Eckleberry. (Justin Harrison)
  • Hexware #1 (Image Comics): The premise of writer Tim Seeley and artist Zulema Scotto Lavina’s Hexware is intriguing; an android exploring her own autonomy with witchcraft. A visual extension of this autonomy can be seen in Maurizio Clausi’s lettering which serves to illustrate Which-Where’s journey. The pacing can be slightly disorienting as the story moves in a back and forth rhythm from past to present, though the colors of Valentina Cuomo help to ground the reader in the moments we’re in; complimenting Lavina’s expressive and dynamic line work. The creative team has a very compelling story here and it will be interesting to see where Which-Where’s journey takes her. (Khalid Johnson)
  • It’s Only Teenage Wasteland #1 (Dark Horse): Some say the world will end with a bang, others with a whimper. Writer Curt Pires and artist Jacoby Salcedo think it will end with a punch thrown at a teenage house party. Issue #1 of their 4-part miniseries follows a group of boys squarely in the middle of the high school food chain as they navigate crushes, bullies, and an apparent apocalypse. Pires’ script is brisk and engaging; though the issue begins with a framing scene of protagonist Javi in obvious danger, you forget all about the impending doom as you get wrapped up in his life with his friends as they play video games and plan a party when his parents go out of town. Salcedo’s art does a lot of work in keeping the reading tempo quick: his intuitive, dynamic layouts and canny use of negative space keep the reader flipping pages so fast they get caught up in the mundane teen exploits. Colorist Mark Dale also shines (as does letter Micah Meyers), using subtle changes in the warmth and lightness of his tones to propel the narrative or slow things down to let readers focus on an important moment. You’re already hooked before you get to the final pages and remember: oh yeah, the world is ending. If this crisp, smart, and compelling first issue is any indication, It’s Only Teenage Wasteland will be a must-buy miniseries. (Jessica Scott)
  • Know Your Station #1 (Boom Studios): The first issue of Sarah Gailey and Liana Kangas’s scifi murder mystery gets the series off to an impressive start. After a few pages of exposition in the form of an employee training video, Gailey and Kangas get the story moving immediately, introducing readers to the series protagonist, Elise, and giving us a glimpse of what her everyday life about a space yacht for the super-rich is like before upending everything by issues’ end. Kangas and colorist Rebecca Nalty’s art throughout is superb, simultaneously capturing the mundane vibe of Elise’s job and the fantastical futuristic elements of life on a spaceship. Letterer Cardinal Rae’s work also goes a long way towards setting the mood of the story in a way that readers can hear in their mind’s ear. This is damn good scifi noir, and the multiple mysteries established will definitely have me back next month. (Joe Grunenwald)
  • Night of the Ghoul #3 (Dark Horse Comics): Man, it’s fitting this horror series from Scott Snyder and Francesco Francavilla (with lettering by Andworld Design) has an old horror movie central to its plot, because this ended up being a grandiose and cinematic comic story. It’s also chilling, powered by Francavilla’s sinister artwork and Snyder scripting that drives characters toward an absolutely terrifying conclusion. It’s not an exaggeration to say that there’s artwork in this comic that will continue to haunt you long after you’ve finished reading. See the cover to the right for a quick hint of those visuals. (Zack Quaintance)
  • Nocterra: Val Special (Image Comics): In this week’s new one-shot, Nocterra’s protagonist gets a detailed and compelling origin story courtesy of Scott Snyder, Tony S. Daniel, Francis Manapul, and Andworld Design. What I especially enjoyed about this comic was the way that the younger Val contrasted so thoroughly with her older self, really putting into context the scope and significance of the journey she has been on. While it’s not necessarily a jumping on point (you’ll still want to snag the trades and start at page one of this one), for those already reading and enjoying Nocterra, this book is essential reading, the type of additive one-shot that will make what’s happening in the main story all the richer. (Zack Quaintance)
  • Radiant Pink #1 (Image Comics): This issue marks another addition to the ever growing Massive-Verse line at Image Comics. Radiant Pink, written by Meghan Camarena and Melissa Flores, with art by Emma Kubert, colors by Rebecca Nalty, and letters by Becca Carey, follows Eva, aka Radiant Pink, as she balances the double-life of being a superhero. The struggles of maintaining a secret identity and a healthy work, life, superhero balance are a tried and tested source of drama in superhero comics. Here, Eva stretches that line as she utilizes her alter-ego to boost her online steaming presence. Having a superhero moonlight as a streamer feels topical and like exactly the kind of thing that would happen in the world today. This book has an enormous amount of heart. Eva is instantly likable and relatable, and there are some heavy emotional beats that land with force. Kubert’s art is energetic and dynamic, and Nalty’s colors are electric. Pink hues should be expected to steal the show, given the title, and they certainly do. With no required reading necessary before jumping in, and a lighthearted but earnest tone, this miniseries is off to a stellar start. (Alex Batts)
  • Rick and Morty Vs. Cthulu #1 (Oni Press): After accidentally screwing over some interdimensional sugar junkies, Rick returns home highly paranoid that something has already infested their house, only to find Jerry reading a book. Jerry doesn’t read books. The infestation has already begun! But that infestation is something else entirely – mythos molecules – Cthulhu! The Sanchez family dive into the world of H.P. Lovecraft to save the day, but what they find is too much for some of the adults in the room. Rick & Morty vs. Cthulhu was fantastic. I am a reluctant fan of Rick & Morty, but the comics have allowed me to dip in and get a small whiff of all the madness that somehow surrounds this property. The art, by Troy Little, and colors, by Leonardo Ito, effortlessly blend an accurate show-version Rick & Morty style with a fun interpretation of Lovecraft story worlds. With writing by Jim Zub and letters by Crank!, Ricky & Morty vs. Cthulhu Part 1: The Whispers in the Darkness has me hooked. They relentlessly rip on what a small town racist Lovecraft was, which I think is something the Rick & Morty IP lends itself to doing, while still maintaining the cosmic horror of Lovecraft’s work. In an essay at the end, Zub lays out the Lovecraft references, and gives context to some of the subtler mentions and places, but also gives some history about Lovecraft himself. It’s hard to talk about someone so iconic and beloved, but also terrible. But they pulled it off — from the immensity of the cosmic world, to the fragility of our psychological nature, part one of Rick & Morty vs. Cthulhu will be a good read for fans and anyone who wants to jump in to the property for the first time! (Michael Kurt)
  • That Texas Blood #20 (Image Comics): Christmas specials are strange creatures, often taking the form of one shots in which recognizable characters are caught with guards down. That Texas Blood #20 certainly achieves this be taking a step away from grisly murders and bat cults to look at Sheriff Joe Bob’s family on Christmas as his son narrates a story about a righteous mummy and a scheming vampire locked in a classic fight between good and evil. It captures the spirit of holiday one-shots by centering on a fun story that acts as a metaphor for Joe Bob himself and the bad people he faces in his line of work. Chris Condon and Jacob Phillips have a lot of fun in this issue and I hope to see more of these type of self-contained stories down the line. (Ricardo Serrano Denis)

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  1. I was going to say, are all of Frank Miller’s books going to be carrying a $7.99 price tag??

    But then you guys cleared it up.

    I’m definitely down for Gargoyles and Radiant Pink.



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