August 2022 comic books review

Grimdark covers an immense range of content. It’s as much a style and aesthetic as it is a genre, or subgenre. The morally ambiguous underpinnings of grimdark, its penchant for the brutally violent and the blackest gallows humor, can be found across an impressive spectrum of media.

Like comic books, and right now in the world of comics there are more stories being told than possibly any other time before. So some of Grimdark Magazine’s writers enamored with comics have taken it upon themselves to start a dialogue and share their thoughts on what they think are the hottest, most exciting grimdark comics coming out from comic publishing houses big and small.

Cover for MoonknightMoon Knight: Black, White, and Blood #4 (MARVEL)

Paul Azaceta (W/A), Christopher Cantwell (W), Nadia Shammas (W), Alex Lins (A), Dante Basianoni (A)

The final installment in Marvel’s most recent run of Black, White, and Blood books, we get an unflinching—even momentarily heartbreaking—look into the harrowing psychology of Marc Spector, aka Moon Knight. Each of the book’s three stories are their own kinds of brutal examinations into the inner world of the titular character, illustrated in stark, limited palettes to gorgeous effect by some seriously talented artists. While the entire limited series has been fantastic, this issue is an excellent finale that drives home Moon Knight’s recent rise in popularity.

Read Moon Knight: Black, White, and Blood #4

Cover for Predator #1Predator #1 (MARVEL)

Ed Brisson (W), Kev Walker (A)

With Marvel securing the publishing rights to Predator, this one has been a long time coming and the fandom has been eagerly awaiting its arrival. Thankfully, it was worth the wait. An original story set in the world of Predator, it’s a bloodthirsty scifi romp set in the not-too-distant future following the trail of a protagonist on a quest for vengeance against the alien that took everything away from her. A real page turner, with white hot action and stunning art, the new Predator series is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Read Predator #1

Sword of Azrael #1Sword of Azrael #1 (DC)

Dan Watters (W), Nikola Cizmesija (A)

What’s not to love about a half-mad vigilante possessed by what may or may not be an avenging angel? Azrael’s long been one of the more broken, intriguing characters from Batman’s menagerie of antagonists and accomplices, and Sword of Azrael shines the spotlight on him in what comes swinging hard into the ring straight from the first page. It’s a murder mystery, an esoteric conundrum, and a psychological thriller all rolled up into one fantastic, bloody good time.

Read Sword of Azrael #1

Punisher #5Punisher #5 (MARVEL)

Jason Aaron (W), Jesus Saiz (A), Paul Azaceta (A)

The most recent incarnation of Punisher was met with a heaping helping of controversy before it ever hit the shelves thanks to, of all things, a logo redesign. That being said, Jason Aaron is at his best when he’s working on a singular character study and here in the pages of Punisher we get one of the most stark and horrific glimpses into the man behind the skull and his secret origins. It’s bloody, it’s awful, it’s as grim and as dark as you’d ever expect it to be and every issue ends entirely too damn soon.

Read Punisher #5

Ghost Rider #5Ghost Rider #5 (MARVEL)

Benjamin Percy (W), Cory Smith (A)

Speaking of old series given new legs, the most recent run of Ghost Rider has been a consistent treat that’s giving us Johnny Blaze at his lowest in episode tales of terror and the infernal. It’s murder and mayhem, demons and the deranged, an overarching supernatural conspiracy to solve the mystery of Johnny’s lost time, but overall it’s a hell of a good read (pun fully intended). The format for this issue, basing the whole thing around a race, was brilliant and kept the action moving at a breakneck pace that made it impossible to quit turning the pages or catch your breath. Get a hold of this series now, and hold on for dear life.

Read Ghost Rider #5

Death Dealer #4Death Dealer #4 (OPUS)

Mitch Iverson (W), Stefan’s Martino (A)

When I discovered that Death Dealer was going to be getting a new comic series I was through the roof excited. Frazetta’s creation could well be the visual ideal of everything that is grimdark, but more than that the world and the legendary surrounding the character are the best kind of fantastical absurd. It’s everything you love about fantasy and grimdark turned up to eleven, and the comic series takes that ball and runs wild with it. Each issue is unflinching, unapologetic, and shows no mercy with the brutality, the gore, the over the top outrageous nature of the titular character. It’s an incredible good time, and I dearly hope the new Death Dealer series sticks around for a while.

Read Death Dealer #4

Immortal Red Sonja #5Immortal Red Sonja #5 (DYNAMITE)

Dan Abnett (W), Alessandro Miracolo (A)

As a huge Dan Abnett fan as well as a massive Red Sonja lover, I was very eager to get into the Immortal Red Sonja. Here, the comic is a somewhat peculiar combination of Arthurian myth as well as Sonja. Frankly, I feel that is a bit of a mistake as the Hyborian Age is 10,000 years in the past even if it does have Aquilonian knights. However, it’s still quite fun as poor Sonja is stuck with some magic chain mail that she is cursed to wear like a D&D artifact. It’s also intelligent, which is an interesting thing since it’s across her chest. Somehow even more perverse than the chainmail bikini. In any case, she is trying to get rid of the curse with the help of a semi-comatose Lancelot. Lots of fun twists and turns as well as a great cover. I also like the chainmail belly shirt look even if it’s no less silly than the chainmail bikini.

Read Immortal Red Sonja #5

BarbaricBarbaric (VAULT)

Michael Moreci (W), Nathan Gooden (A)

Barbaric is a straightforward barbarian-style romp with the bonus of great humor and excellently drawn pages. It is entertaining and can be easily enjoyed on the second or third pass-through.

Barbaric stars Owen the Barbarian. A whoring and murderous bandit who ends up under a witches curse to make amends for his bloody past. Instead of a voice in his head or a friendly familiar to act as a moral compass, it is his bloodthirsty ax. The ax steals the show in this series with its witty banter and ways in which it would like to do damage.

“Henceforth, you live in servitude, and all the world is your Master. Any cry for help, any haven under siege, any beggar in distress you must aid.”

The irony of this story is that a weapon that can be used to cleave apart skulls and is dripping with bloodlust now needs to be checked by a barbarian, basically doing deep breath mantras to stay calm. But when he lets go, the gore and the sparks fly. Because sometimes, folks need to have their ass kicked, and Owen is delighted to help in that regard.

Because Barbaric does not tread any new material, as a matter of fact, it plays on some of the existing tropes for this kind of storytelling; this could have been hackneyed. But because of the level of humor and the inability to take itself too seriously, Barbaric is just plain fun. It is a leisurely afternoon read full of excellent graphics with an entertaining plot.

Vault, the publisher of the comic, is churning out quite a few delightful titles; it is the publisher to watch right now. Barbaric is the title for you if you are in the mood for an amusing story to crack a beer and kick back to. I will certainly be continuing it in the future with the series, beer in hand.

Read Barbaric

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Phoenix Reviews was a GdM reviewer between 2020-23 who loved graphic novels and comics. They have chosen to depart the internet in search of a happier life balance, and requested their profile be hidden.