After a highly successful launch with their wave one books, TKO is back with their second batch of titles. As with the first go ’round the second ride around the block features their innovative approach to releasing their titles. Recognizing the mixed readership and the layered approach to both reading and collecting TKO decided to address and engage comic fans by giving them options in their purchases. Are you an old school collector or like to digest your stories a chapter at a time (or when you can)? Too easy, they’ve got a nifty box that houses the entirety of a title in single issue format. Do you just want the goods? Cool, nab the oversized trade and get it all at once. Are you a bit of both or a completist? Nab them both! If you’re worried about the creative teams you can rest assured that these books have some of the best creators working in comics today. Garth Ennis, Joshua Dysart, Dan Mcdaid, and Artyom Trakhanov are just some of the names that worked on the first wave of books. This second wave features creatives such as Ming Doyle, Jeff Lemire, Natalie Chaidez, Nik Virella, and Jordie Bellaire. There’s no shortage of “name” talent if you’re worried about looking into a new publisher and who is pumping out their stories. Worry not. If you’re paying attention as you read the books you’ll notice something VERY distinct about the lead/main characters. This isn’t a typical set of books getting released together/all at once. I’m not sure if it just happened to turn out this way or if it was on purpose. Either way it was refreshing to have TKO’s 2nd Wave of books all feature female leads. So let’s dive in …
Pound for Pound is up first. The team of Natalie Chaidez, Andy Belanger, Daniela Miwa, and Serge Lapointe deliver an aggressive and in your face revenge story. Boasting a very Tarantino-esque film vibe Pound for Pound sits firmly in the “Drive In” movie category for comics. There’s tons of action, over the top situations, and unapologetic violence that manages to tell a story along the way. As with the “grindhouse” type of flicks, this comic tosses quite a bit at readers and does so with the gas pedal to the floorboard the whole time. Were’ talking MMA fighting, cults, a drug infused orgy, cultural mythology, and of course the sweet car shots. It’s everything you’d expect from a USA “Up All Night” action movie. I do feel that the series would have been better served with a few more issues though. That cultural mythology I mentioned would have been much better served and much more effective had it not been an element tossed in like many of the others. A good chunk (if not the majority of) readers likely won’t get anything out of it other than what’s given in the dialogue of the book. With the setting and characters being where the mythology resides in real life, a real depth could have been given to the book here. That aside I don’t have any major gripes with Pound for Pound. I love that the lead is female but everything else about the story and style is just as it would be with a male lead. Very effective character building (for the style/approach chosen) and utilization leads the book to being more than just a page turning punch fest. As the story is closed out you get a very satisfying reveal that drives home the story that this book is telling underneath the eye catching action. That said, in the best ways the art does make you want to flip pages to see what’s next. What’s more is the art and overall look of things fits what this is very well. Given the setting and themes the color work is excellent. The lettering helps to accentuate narrative bits as well as lends to the action with some great SFX.
Pound for Pound entertains and delivers on both the action and storyline fronts. Overall 3.75*
The Banks from Roxane Gay, Ming Doyle, Jordie Bellaire, Ariana Maher, and Sebastian Girner is a multi-generational heist story that doesn’t follow traditional crime tropes. Yes, there’s some of what you’re used to but the veins running through and pumping the life into this family drama aren’t a paint by number recipe you find in way to many books in this genre. We’re given family drama and the kind of situations that (yes, a bit “comic’d” up) drive very real and divisive lines between us. Centered around a trio of African-American women (grandmother, mother, and daughter) The Banks plays out like a 1970s film in all the right ways. From the get go it is clear that the thieving livelihood is just the surface water of a much deeper well. Both the thick of the current day and the past that set it up are given equal due as things unfold into what is truly the heist of a lifetime. All grown up, successful, and powerful in her own right Celia (the daughter), ironically and completely lost on her, has wound up doing something that can do so much more damage than the thieving her grandmother and mother have done for their profession. Sitting atop an investment banking firm she’s a bit lost on reality and hypocritically alienates her family. As with all good crime tales though it all comes out in the wash. The family tragedy isn’t exactly what Celia has believed it to be and the truth sends her on a mission of revenge and reconciliation with her past. Facing the truth of just how much she’s like the women she’s from, Celia learns the hard lessons of understanding just how much of the same fabric runs through her despite how different her experiences have been. While the interaction between Celia and her mother steal the show in an overwhelmingly positive way I can’t help but feel grandma being pushed aside. Not only is there so much more to her but there’s so much more to both Celia and her mother that resides in the matriarch of the Banks family. It’s a minor nag due to the fact that The Banks delivers on the family drama and the criminal level. Getting a family/crime drama isn’t something new but The Banks has found a way to carve out its own place and firmly set itself apart from the rest of the genre. You’ll be in love with each flip of the page thanks to the gorgeous art and color work.
The Banks is an excellent book that serves familiar tropes with a welcomed fresh take. Overall 4.25*
Eve of Extinction from Sal Simeone, Steve Simeone, Nik Virella, Isaac Goodheart, Nik Virella, Ruth Redmond, Ariana Maher, and Maria Nguyen is third in line and for me and winds up as the weakest of the bunch. Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of good and some unique/lightly used elements that create the framework for something much better than what was delivered. That’s the issue here. The execution of it all was just underwhelming. What could have been a huge deal for representation was simply ignored. The reason it gets me as much as it does is because this has already been played out in the world of comics and pretty visibly to boot. On the surface it is innocent enough. A plague/virus rains down and affects men. There is zero mention and zero attempt to deal with transgendered men (or women for that matter). It simply isn’t addressed and presumably doesn’t exist in the world of Eve of Extinction. Making it worse is that you’ve got a scene taking place in a zoo (where we get a transformed animal) as well as some theorizing about it being the testosterone in men as the reason for them being targeted. Even with alarm bells signaling the creative team in their very own work they don’t do what needs to be done. That’s just not doable in today’s society. I hate that this is the case because outside of this sits a very nice, and for once realistic in its break neck pace, survival story. Stepping outside of things you’ll find a modge podge of different survival elements and safe tropes that are actually put together pretty well. The art is fantastic and really displays the “Thing” vibe of the monsters. There’s some anime inspiration with some of the action and depiction of the monsters too. Most of all it isn’t just a zombie redux but an actual transformation into a monster that takes place. Usage of the elements and SFX really help the atmosphere and help drive the mood in several places. There are times throughout where the art takes over (positively) and drives things. It’s almost enough to make you forget the big miss. Almost. I’m not going to ride the overbearing tone and act like there’s nothing in Eve of Extinction worth checking out. There is.
It’s too bad this book fails to grab hold of the promise that its premise has. There’s a pretty good survival/horror comic underneath the missed opportunity. Overall 2.75*
Sentient by Jeff Lemire, Gabriel Walta, Steve Wands, and Sebastian Girner closes out Wave 2 for TKO and it is the absolute class of the second set of books. This is a fantastic damn book. Sentient wads up a few of the time tested sci-fi tropes and fires a fastball right down the pipe for a perfect strike to kick off the series. Climate change making Earth uninhabitable? Check. Huge colonization spacecraft as a setting? Check. Tragedy due to radical? Check. Dire situation and the most vulnerable of us left alone? Check. Cut off from any and all help? Check. Only hope of survival from the least expected place? Check. It’s all there and yet we still get a completely new take on things. By the time the first issue ends we’re left with a “crew” of children 13 and under, all of the adults dead, a spacecraft in the Black Zone (zone in space with communication cut off from Earth and new home), and the ship’s AI left to care for everyone left onboard. Woven into this sci-fi tale is the story of family; where we find it and how we define it are at the core of Sentient. Left to themselves (and Mother, the ship’s AI) to survive the book focuses on three characters. We get wonderful character growth as the children all have to learn hard lessons about how tragedy and the actions of others shape us and those around us. It is a gripping look at both the intra and interpersonal perspective we all have to learn as people. I do feel that this could have been bolstered by giving more about the radical group behind the event that left the children space drifting on their own. Other than that there isn’t much more that this book could have put in. Visually it is very fitting of a Lemire written tale. It is aptly sci-fi and futuristic but is more tuned to depict the human story that unfolds. The entirety of the book is just so well done. It’s hard to find a new way to illustrate problems we face in real time. Sentient is an absolute new take on the irreverence through which generational action/inaction sets up the next set of problems for society and tosses the young into the deep end before the swimming lesson.
Masterful work of human struggle crafted with the tools of sci-fi. Overall 4.75*
And here’s the thing folks, you don’t have to take my word for it. TKO is proudly standing behind their work and offering you FREE FIRST ISSUES: https://tkopresents.com/pages/free-first-issue … yup! Click the link and you can get the first issue of EVERY TKO series FOR FREE so you can see for yourself just what I’ve been talking about. Treat yo’self and find your new favorite book.