Comic Book Reviews (Week March 1, 2023): I Hate This Place Issue 6, Phantom Road Issue 1 & More!

I Hate This Place Issue 6 review
I Hate This Place Issue 6 (Image: Image Comics)

Welcome to my comic book reviews for this week (March 1, 2023). I will be covering I Hate This Place Issue 6, Phantom Road Issue 1, MMPR/TMNT II issue 3, and more.

Hmmm. February wasn’t really exciting for me as far as comic book releases were concerned. Here’s hoping March fares better and the current week was the only dull one. I was only interested in checking out a handful of comic books. And as a comic book reader, that was disappointing. Hey, comic book industry! What’s good?

Anyway, let’s begin by talking about I Hate This Place issue 6 from writer/co-creator Kyle Starks with art by co-creator Artyom Topilin. Beginning the next arc in the story, the current issue had Gaby and Trudy face three dangerous men from Trudy’s past. Yes, the ranch was still haunted. And I still don’t know what’s really going on. But Trudy’s religious extremist family members still posed a very serious threat to our leads.

Trudy’s father (named Joseph) and her two cousins weren’t playing around. These men would be ready to kill you in the most violent manner if you decided to defy Joseph’s preachings or not comply with his wishes.

The latest issue featured quite a long flashback sequence as it introduced readers to the establishment where Joseph was lording over his cult, how he wasn’t a fan of Trudy being a lesbian, and why Trudy just had to run away from such an environment.

With Joseph and Trudy’s cousins getting to experience the supernatural stuff happening at the ranch after sunset, I’m looking forward to seeing how Joseph will handle such a situation. I mean, it won’t be the first time a religious bigot linked zombies and ghosts with religious resurrection and the end of times.

Does it have obvious queer characters? Yes.

Recommendation: PICK IT UP!

Phantom Road issue 1 review
Phantom Road Issue 1 (Image: Image Comics)

Phantom Road Issue 1

From writer Jeff Lemire with art by Gabriel H. Walta and colors by Jordie Bellaire, Phantom Road issue 1 offered a very enticing debut as it introduced us to our lead truck driver named Dom and the sci-fi stuff he found himself in. I’m not the biggest sci-fi fan out there, but there’s just something about Lemire’s stories that work for me. Perhaps it’s the focus on the emotional element? Dom did have some family-related issues he seemed to be running from. Also, I could be wrong, but he’s also giving off some queer vibes.

The art did a lot to elevate the material. I could feel Dom’s loneliness as he drove on the highway and kept his distance from most people while visiting a pitstop. The atmosphere also visually changed once Dom encountered a stranger on the road and decided to touch a mysterious object.

Having read the first issue, I’m ready to see what happens next!

Does it have obvious queer characters? No.

Recommendation: Pick it up!

MMPR TMNT II Issue 3 review
MMPR/TMNT II Issue 3 (Image: BOOM! Studios and IDW)

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Issue 3

From writer Ryan Parrott, MMPR/TMNT issue 3 was definitely much-anticipated by the fandom due to a certain promo image that teased a huge development. And I’m glad to report that the issue more than delivered. We have seen the Turtles become Rangers, and now it’s time for the Rangers to become Mutants!

I couldn’t help but laugh at Jason’s comment about how he was worried about getting tiny arms during the transformation process due to carrying the T-rex Power Coin. I’m looking forward to seeing the Rangers becoming more skilled at their newfound abilities. Kimberly better learn how to fly!

As for the other narrative beats, I guess Casey’s still a good guy? Hmmm. I’m still not sure. And I think that speaks to Parrott’s skills at maintaining the mysterious air around Casey. At least Shredder’s much more open about his motivations when it came to why he seemed to have sided with the good guys.

The finale is going to be awesome. I can feel it.

Does it have obvious queer characters? No.

Recommendation: PICK IT UP!

Specs issue 4 review
Specs Issue 4 (Image: BOOM! Studios)

Specs Issue 4

From co-creators David M. Booher (writer) and Chris Shehan (illustrator), issue 4 of Specs offered a conclusion that, while satisfying, also made me go, “Uh! That’s it?”

Don’t get me wrong. The overall story was interesting. However, I was still expecting something more to happen, especially after how the previous issue had Kenny meet with a whole lot of victims that took their wishes a bit too far.

At least Kenny coming out to his best friend Ted and even confessing his love for him was handled well. I do feel that Kenny’s quite a strong young character for not allowing his feelings to cloud his judgment and using the magical/cursed spectacles to make Ted fall in love with him.

Does it have obvious queer characters? Yes.

Recommendation: Pick it up.

Trick Pony issue 1 review
Tricky Pony (Image: comiXology Originals)

Trick Pony

I was provided with a free digital copy of Trick Pony for review. The opinions I have shared are my own.

From writer Greg Lockard (Liebestrasse) and artist Anna David, Trick Pony ended up being way more emotional than expected. I knew the premise dealt with gay rodeo star Jimmy Thomas going back home and confronting his past along the way, but I wasn’t ready for how the story unfolded, especially when it came to the art style being used.

With Jimmy deciding to make a trip back home on horseback (his ride is named Emmylou) after an injury during his show, the story featured a whole lot of flashbacks that helped flesh out Jimmy as a character. Kudos to Lockard for maintaining an engrossing pace and making the flashbacks fit perfectly with Jimmy’s journey in the present. The past and the present informed each other.

And of course, major points to David’s artistic skills with how Jimmy’s emotions were visualized in a surreal manner. The line between reality and hallucination got blurred real quick. And it all worked great to really immerse the reader into Jimmy’s complicated headspace. He sure was a dreamer.

Seeing a story about a queer cowboy not being burdened by homophobia was a refreshing take. One might argue how “realistic” such a story would be, but hey, I was here for it. Such a creative decision allowed the narrative to focus more on Jimmy’s inability to let go of his past love (with a boy named Zeke) and how it impacted his lack of meaningful relationships in the present.

Taking homophobia out of the equation, in my opinion, also helped make this story feel more relatable to a wider audience. I do think many readers will be able to understand what Jimmy’s going through. Trying to get over your first true love is tough. Heck! Some never manage to get over it.

Fortunately, while emotional and very self-reflective (sometimes we are our own worst enemy), Trick Pony is a queer story that has a happy and hopeful conclusion. And we all know that’s rare to see when it comes to stories about a queer cowboy.

Also, I don’t know if that’s what the creative team was going for or not, but the vibe felt very The Wizard of Oz-ish to me, with Jimmy trying to find his way home (following a road) and encountering certain surreal characters and challenges along the way.  

Does it have obvious queer characters? Yes.

Recommendation: Pick it up

Which comic books did you read this week?

Let us know.

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.

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