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Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 11/1/17

By | November 6th, 2017
Posted in Columns | % Comments

There is a lot to cover on Wednesdays. We should know, as collectively, we read an insane amount of comics. Even with a large review staff, it’s hard to get to everything. With that in mind, we’re back with Wrapping Wednesday, where we look at some of the books we missed in what was another great week of comics.

Let’s get this party started.

Arya #1
Written by Jun Akimiya and Sofía Dávila
Illustrated by Jun Akimiya and Sofía Dávila
Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane

In a darkening world and one already filled with capes, sci-fi, and other genre fair, every now and again a pallet cleanser is in order, and that’s what “Arya” #1 offers. The new comic from Antarctic Press is a dueling anthology from Jun Akimiya and Sofía Dávila, both of whom write and draw their respective strips “Adventure Quest XXI” and “Grocery Quest.” While both deal with differing stories they are united in a shared exploration of the “quest” and problem solving.

“Adventure Quest XXI” takes what would normally be two masculine tropes (video games/play) and instead universalizes them by having the cast be composed of young women, as two classmates discover they both play the titular “Adventure Quest” on their not-3DS’. Everything about this strip is efficient with cleanly composed manga inspired pages. The point of the story is setup clearly and worked into the actions of the plot better than some full-length comics. It isn’t some subtle exploration of a weighty subject, but a clear articulation of play being best when it is shared. It’s about how you win not the winning itself.

All of which is beautifully represented through the metaphor of the game world. Akimiya gets a lot of texture out of screentoning only certain objects giving the overall simple and clean design work something to balance off of. They also play with the digital “reality” of the story in some inventive ways via lettering and working in classic 8-bit UX paradigms turning the strip into something of a mashup. Everything about this strip is efficient and that’s what you want out of a comic like this.

Dávila’s “Grocery Quest” is similarly manga inspired but diverges from Akimiya’s screentoned texture play for something more defined by traditional cartooning with varied line weights and outrageous character designs. There’s an Osamu Tezuka sensibility to the magical realism and expressive character design in this quest. If the previous stirp was about clean efficient page design, Dávila goes in the opposite direction with engrossing and intricate panel designs befitting the magical forest setting of this quest. As intricate the art is, the real star is the comedy Dávila creates for her characters. There’s a solid mixture of good word play and sheer funny faces in this strip. Unlike the previous strip “Grocery Quest” appears to continue on … somewhere. Brief inspections and searches of the artists various websites and gallery’s did not reveal where/if the strip would continue.

Final Verdict : 7.5 – “Arya” #1 is a nice reminder of the variety the medium offers even if its continuation isn’t as clear as one would hope.

Astonishing X-Men #5
Written by Charles Soule
Illustrated by Ramon Rosanas
Colored by Nolan Woodard
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by Alexander Jones

“Astonishing X-Men” #5 is still the confident, focused title that the X-Men franchise needs right now. The book has a great sense of pacing and is still locked in the battle between the X-Men and the Shadow King. After a particularly slow bunch of installments, this new entry into the comic series pairs the narrative down and establishes stronger stakes between Psylocke and the ground team working on protecting all the mutants currently locked into the astral plane. The idea of those batch of characters trying to protect the team who are battling the real fight seems like it should be the sort of run of the mill comic book storytelling but author Charles Soule has thrown a fastball at the series shifting the direction and focus of the comic ever-so-slightly.

Even though this narrative bears the “Astonishing X-Men” name, the title continues to weave in the darker threads from the “Uncanny X-Force” including an overt reference to the series’ legendary ‘Dark Angel’ storyline. With so many characters and ideas flying at the wall, it’s great how the creative team can find a way to meld this distinctive group of characters and two sets of very different characters to build towards two climactic final moments.

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Roman Rosanas’ art in the title is insane, the artist lends a unique sense of composition towards the page and shows off a unique sense of figure work that was present in his work on titles like “Ant-Man” but is now on full display and more vibrant than ever. Due to the challenging nature of the title and the dual planes of existence channeling the setting of the book, Rosanas’ art is stretched to the limits of creativity. In some of the past work, the artist was tasked with providing the pencils for, I never felt like Marvel was able to utilize the creator in just the right way until I saw Rosanas’ very specific set of pencils applied to this storyline.

There is also something to be said about the way that the artist is able to render each panel on the page, “Astonishing X-Men” has switched up pencillers in each and every issue. Readers get the feeling that this series is in a constant state of flux and is never afraid of switching tones or ideas in a moments notice. Charles Soule and Ramon Rosanas stretch the medium of comics as far as it can go to an explore an oddball set of mutants and strange main threat involving the Shadow King.

Final Verdict: 8.0 – “Astonishing X-Men” #5 will keep readers guessing until the final page and hits an emotional high with both of the dual storylines–what else can you ask from a serialized comic book?

Elsewhere #4
Written by Jay Faerber
Illustrated by Sumeyye Kesgin
Coloured by Ron Riley
Lettered by Thomas Mauer
Reviewed by Frida Keränen

“Elsewhere” wraps up its first arc with a pretty bizarre reveal about the main villain that despite being explained with the internal logic of the comic’s world feels like it really comes out of the blue. Regardless whether you think it’s a stupid plot twist or a clever one, it definitely changes the course of the book. It’s good that Amelia Earhart gets a new goal for the next arc and that her first goal was resolved, but it makes you wonder if the story is moving too fast. Even though the creative team clearly has the structure of the arcs plotted out, there could have been more reflection after the shock reveal before setting sights on the next thing to do.

Sumeyye Kesgin’s artwork looks nice but there aren’t any new creative designs introduced like there were in the previous issues. Amelia looks energetic and action-oriented and Lord Kragen’s appearance has a Masters of the Universe villain vibe to it in a good way. Kesgin’s action flows quite smoothly and there are a couple of particularly good page layouts in the mix. There is a lot of variety in the shots and angles used. Colourist Ron Riley doesn’t focus on setting specific moods with the colouring and instead highlights specific characters and objects with it.

We will have to wait until the next arc to see if there will a more extended resolution to the events of “Elsewhere” #4 but looking at this issue alone, it feels like the events at Lord Kragen’s lair are so sudden and even slightly ludicrous that the lack of aftermath makes the structure feel lacking. That isn’t the only question remaining as for example DB Cooper’s situation is left open too, so this arc finale certainly raises interest in the next parts, both by its deficiencies and by the setup for future adventures for Amelia and the others.

Final Verdict: 6.5 A serviceable arc finale that would be better if it wasn’t so hasty with the big reveal.

Giant Days #32
Written by John Allison
Illustrated by Max Sarin
Colored by Whitney Cogar
Lettered by Jim Campbell
Reviewed by Elias Rosner

You know, it’s been a while since I’ve really loved an issue of “Giant Days.” Don’t get me wrong, the series is great and always funny but the issues always felt like they were out of context, like there were a couple pages missing between issues and that they were all pieces of a puzzle we couldn’t see yet.

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This issue is not one of those. The puzzle has been solved and the story can move forwards and boy howdy does it move. It’s hard to say much about this issue since from a technical standpoint, this issue is pretty standard, which for “Giant Days” is still very strong.

Max Sarin’s art is always wonderful, energetic and expressive. It fits John Allison’s writing so well, upping the comedy. The best scene in the issue has to be the dream sequence, everything is off-kilter and it makes no sense and then Daisy explodes into spiders. It’s short and has nothing to do with the rest of the scenes but it gives Sarin the chance to do some more crazy stuff and helps as a transition between house-hunting and Ed wanting to kill Dean.

The issue is filled with so many great gags (like Jeff Goldblum’s head on the shower curtain) and it’s nice to know there are comedy books out there that aren’t reliant on pure satire or snark.

The other thing this issue did well was balance the more serious story points (which are setting up future issues) with the madcap comedy. It’s an issue of change and change isn’t always easy or happy. The characters have grown so much of the last 32 issues and that growth is why this issue works as well as it does.

Allison has always been good at capturing the realities of daily life, giving “Giant Days” an easygoing yet relatable tone, even when Sarin pushes the characters into their exaggerated poses and facial expressions. It all feels very real and that’s something special. 32 issues in and you feel like you are right there along with Daisy, Susan, and Esther, laughing and dealing with the realities of life.

Final Verdict: 8.0. Exactly the kind of comic I need month to month. Sarin and Allison craft another highly funny issue while also continuing to let the characters grow.

Green Lanterns #34
Written by Tim Seeley
Illustrated by Ronan Cliquet
Colored by Hi-Fi
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
Reviewed by Nicholas Palmieri

Two weeks ago, I was beginning to wonder if it even made sense for Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz to share a book, or whether either of them was strong enough to be a lead character. I thought we would get a fresh perspective with a change of writers, but we didn’t get that when Seeley joined “Green Lanterns” last issue. This issue, finally, marks a turning point for the title’s quality.

Much of that quality comes from Seeley’s expert juggling of four completely separate plotlines in a way that makes them feel like one whole. The two subplots about Simon and Jessica’s personal lives emotionally inform their two separate Green Lantern missions, which then end up dovetailing into one another. Further, once those Lantern missions weave together, the epilogues bring their personal problems back, placing both the missions and personal lives in a greater context. And through all that, Seeley finally provides a compelling reason why these two characters can — and should — share a book.

Seeley applies his trademark wit when necessary, playing with the absurdity of some of his concepts and giving Jessica’s ring a distinct personality of its own. There is one point where he lampshades a half-baked scene that only makes the scene look weaker, but because of the fast pace of the story, I can accept that moment as a “look, I only had a page to resolve this, just accept it and let’s see how everything comes together.” Ultimately, lampshaded or not, that moment didn’t overshadow Seeley’s great work on the rest of “Green Lanterns.”

You can tell how much Cliquet enjoys working on the book by looking at his lantern constructs: life-size cars sliding around on a toy car racetrack on one page, a giant spider using a web to hold up debris on the next. Also of note, he designs each of the alien species with a distinct look that has the freedom to be expressive, from the wide-eyed molites to the royally militant ungarans. Hi-Fi keeps the lanterns bright and the galaxies glowing, and Sharpe employs non-intrusive lettering tactics — font a half-point larger here, speech bubble outlined in green there — to get emotions and voices across. On the whole, the visual team is well-versed in sequential storytelling.

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This issue of “Green Lanterns” hit all my Lantern sweet spots. It reminded me of a Kyle Rayner-era story in the best possible way, balancing earthly human concerns with fast-paced, frivolously fun sci-fi. (There’s also the bonus nostalgia factor, since those Kyle Rayner issues were the first full run I read through in back issues.) Most importantly, the book finally demonstrates a reason for its existence. Seeley shows that Simon and Jessica truly make sense together, and they do each have enough personality to sustain a series. With the final few pages setting up future story threads, I’m eager to follow Seeley and the artists going forward.

Final Verdict: 7.9 – This issue’s expertly structured fast-paced fun makes an effort to finally show why this title should exist.

Iceman #7
Written by Sina Grace
Illustrated by Robert Gill
Colored by Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Reviewed By Kate Kosturski

Call this one Tinder Interrupted. When we last left Bobby/Iceman, LA is treating him quite well. His first date with Judah was on the up and up…until some Sentinel Junkers crashed the party. Bobby and the Champions make quick work of the bad guys, even giving Iceman a chance to play the hero for Judah. With that out of the way, date night resumes, and it does end well for Bobby. As for the Sentinels? Turns out they were a fan’s creations designed to impress the movie industry that just went way amok. Feeling confident, Bobby imparts some career advice to that creator and then heads back to the other coast…but it seems someone left their heart in Los Angeles.

With this issue, we have one Marvel Legacy storyline coming to a close, but doors opening to something new for Bobby. Perhaps a west coast campus of the Xavier Institute? Sina Grace handles both personal and action narratives in equal measure. He knows there are fans that are there for the superheroes, and fans that are there for Bobby’s journey in discovering his sexuality, and does not disappoint either set. There’s no shortage of color throughout Los Angeles; it’s your typical left coast fantasy palette. Robert Gill’s attention to detail, particularly on full-panel shots of Iceman and Champions battle scenes, is to be commended – he packs panels of any size with colossal amounts of careful pencil and ink. While the art is well done, it’s Sina Grace’s storytelling that is the star, and what keeps me coming back for more.

Final Verdict: 8.0 – Sina Grace sets the bar higher and higher every time, telling a coming out story that is sensitive and tasteful with the right amount of classic X-Men lore.

Lazarus X+66 #4
Written by Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann
Illustrated by Alitha Martinez
Colored by Santi Arcas
Lettered by Jodi Wynne
Reviewed by Gregory Ellner

With the focus on Xolani Nkosi and Alimah Meyers-Qasimi, Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann craft a small, but nevertheless pretty interesting story that helps to move the main series’ plot forward in the attempts to take down the Zmey.

Rucka and Trautmann split the difference between the no-nonsense dialogue of the Lazari handlers explaining the mission (and the subversive nature of dealing with one another) and the colloquial, friendly, common way in which the actual Lazari interact. Much like at the Conclave in the main series, Xolani and Alimah are both portrayed as normal people in terms of personalities, with their own flaws and benefits, but each being more attuned to the “family” of Lazari than the actual families that run the world since Year X.

Alitha Martinez and Santi Arcas work together to create what has been taken to be a kind of signature style for “Lazarus.” The linework is familiar, as is the coloring, with its heavy use of dark tones to emphasize how gruesome the Carlyle-Hock war is. That isn’t to say that there is nothing new: the portrayal of Alimah Meyers-Qasimi’s microdrone cloud is unusual, with an emphasis on small dot artwork in a manner not unlike pointillism. The attention to the drones’ perspective, with emphasis on bright, similarly blue lights, is similar to other holographic technologies in the series, helping to fit it in with existing technology while also adhering to both a cultural ideology of a “sand cloud” and a new visual aesthetic of the technological cloud itself.

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Final Verdict: 7.5- With a familiar, yet not unwelcome plot and interesting new additions to an existing art style, “Lazarus X+66” #4 shines through the focus characters’ night mission.

Paper Girls #17
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Illustrated by Cliff Chiang
Coloured by Matt Wilson
Lettered & Designed by Jared K Fletcher
Reviewed by Matt Lune

In one of the boldest and best issues yet, we’re finally getting some answers in “Paper Girls.” One of the wonderful things about this series is that Vaughan and Chiang squeeze so much into every issue that this, the 17th chapter, feels like the 27th. It feels like the wait for answers about what exactly is going on has been even longer, and we’re still not all the way there, but a fascinating new character leads us in the right direction.

As the second chapter of what will be volume four, “Paper Girls” #17 has a lot of plot to juggle. Firstly there’s the new time period that the girls are thrown into (customary for every new volume), with all the questions and absurdities that brings (this time it’s giant robots, Y2K madness and a journalist that knows way too much about the future). Then there’s the fact that one of their group is separated and caught in the crossfire of said giant robots. Finally there’s the time traveling groupie journalist providing as many answers as she can to our perplexed heroes.

There’s a fair bit of exposition going on here, but Vaughan handles it effortlessly. The levity of the three girls in those scenes is enough to break any large chunks of information down, and besides, at this point in the series you’re craving this information, so it’s rewarding to be able to absorb anything to make sense of what’s going on. The history of the War Of The Ages is provided in a natural way that still progresses the immediate plot, and Vaughan only gives you just enough, which make it feel like a genuine conversation.

Whatever credit Chiang and Wilson receive for their work on “Paper Girls” is not enough, as this issue – like almost all previous ones – proves that they are masters of their crafts. There are long scenes here that could easily turn into talking heads, but Chiang deftly mixes up panel structures and viewpoints to keep us engaged. Similarly in those same scenes, Wilson provides those bold colors that the series is known for, but takes them further: the girls, confused about all the unknowns around them are in darker blue tones, whereas who they’re engaging with, the person illuminating them with the answers, is surrounded by bright light.

There’s a scene where time stops around a character, and she’s unfrozen in a world that’s trapped in place around her, something that seems impossible to portray on a comics page. Through clever use of character placement and reactions, and a strict continuity of the mise-en-scene between panels, Chiang and Wilson manage it in a smart and entertaining way.

With all the jumping around in time, it’s hard to know if we’re anywhere near a conclusion with “Paper Girls,” but this issue gives the impression that we’re well over the halfway point. Answers are forthcoming in a way that feels earned, and there’s even a perfectly timed reference to Quantum Leap to reassure readers that this book is still self aware, and knows that it’s taking you on one hell of a journey. As such, “Paper Girls” #17 is one of the best issues yet.

Final Verdict: 8.6 – a satisfying, smart and engaging chapter, with some tantalising long-awaited answers.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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