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    Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 1/18/17

    By | January 23rd, 2017
    Posted in Reviews | % 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.

    “Black Hammer Giant-Sized Annual” #1
    Written by Jeff Lemire
    Illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, Emi Lenox, Nate Powell, Matt Kindt, Sharlene Kindt, Ray Fawkes Michael Allred and Dave Stewart
    Reviewed by Matt Lune

    There’s a strange dichotomy of opening up such a purposefully claustrophobic story like “Black Hammer” to such a wide world of talent, but it makes total sense in the context of this annual. The framing narrative concerns Colonel Weird’s journey through the Para Zone he’s trapped in, as he follows a linking plot device through the history of the rest of the cast. By employing a different artist for each character’s story, Lemire subconsciously gives the illusion of a rich, shared universe, almost like we’re glimpsing an entire publishing line of superhero comics, as diverse in style and varied in tone as either of the established creations from the Big Two.

    Take Emi Lenox’s 5 pages. Her wonderfully expressive faces (especially the comically surly Golden Gail) help to illuminate a character driven section seeped in interpersonal tension. Mike Allred is perfectly suited to his short story too, calling specifically upon his current work on Marvel’s “Silver Surfer” to bring to life a vibrant cosmic adventure that ties into the framing narrative in a fun way. Perhaps the real MVP though is colorist Dave Stewart, who’s able to adapt his palette wildly to suit four out of the six tales, bringing a completely different atmosphere every time.

    It almost goes without saying that this is a gorgeous looking book, but those thinking that this is pretty to look at but otherwise narratively inconsequential (as let’s face it, some annuals can be) may be in for a surprise. Lemire uses the isolated freedom of this Giant-Size Annual to explore the past of all these characters without breaking the momentum of the run, and the result is a backstory that fans have no doubt longed for.

    The individual stories wouldn’t and couldn’t work on their own, but that’s not the point: what starts off as a neat way of showcasing a disparate range of talented artists becomes a unique narrative trick that perfectly illustrates how Colonel Weird sees the world. Yes, his disconnection with linear reality allows him to guide us through these various stories, but more than that it gives us a deeper understanding of his character now that we’ve seen first hand how fragmented his worldview actually is. We gain valuable insights into all the characters throughout this story, but it’s arguably the Colonel we learn the most about.

    I miss regular series artist Dean Ormston and his grounded realism, but the creators working here all come together to produce a piece that is instantly reminiscent of a whole host of different eras and genres of comics past. Their collective effort takes us on a journey through the hidden history of “Black Hammer” in ways no single artist could manage.

    Final Verdict: 8.5 – A pricey book, but worth every penny for the gorgeous art and vital character insights.

    “Black Panther: World of Wakanda” #3 ‘Dawn of the Midnight Angels Part 3’
    Written by Roxane Gay & Ta-Nehisi Coates
    Art by Alitha Martinez
    Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane

    The tracking and depiction of time passing has always been nebulous in comics. This grows murkier with Marvel’s floating timeline. The “timeline” of Marvel isn’t tracked in months and years, but events – major occurrences that delineate a before and after. The gap between events, like the gutter between comic panels, exists in vaguely defined terms like “a month later” or “a few days later.” “World of Wakanda” #3 takes place roughly three months after Namor flooded the Golden City. By having this book exist in a pre-“Secret Wars(2016)” Marvel U, writer Roaxane Gay is able to play with the fungibility of time using it to create an inherent tension within the reader by taking place in that gap between events, playing with our knowledge of what’s to come against. At the same time she writes towards that event based maxim, as Ayo and Aneka take leave and figure out what they mean to one another in more concrete terms beyond the physical.

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    Coates main “Black Panther” title has largely eschewed the normal generic elements of superhero books. That same multiplicity of interest and template begins to come out in issue 3 of this spin-off book, removing the main characters from a forbidden romance story with palace intrigue, and transplanting them into a more typical romantic comedy for an issue. Ayo and Aneka take a short leave and journey to New York City for some rest, relaxation, contemplation, and a couple of dates. Penciler Alitha Martinez and inker Roberto Poggi come together and really hit on the rom com energy and playfulness with an emphasis on close up panels creating a fast, almost, shot reverse shot structure. Their facial expressions have great emotional range, selling the conflicting emotions inside Aneka as she tries to figure out how to balance her desire to serve king and country against her own personal desires. Their art gives further develops the playful teasing and affection between the two represented in Gay’s dialog. Their artistic range gives Ayo, normally the self-assured confident one, little moments of doubt as she tries to be emotionally open and hoping for a catch. Martinez just tweaks her posture ever so slightly turning the normally stoic figure just slightly curved.

    Removing Ayo and Aneka from the palace intrigue, gives the de/reconstruction of the Dora Milaje a bit more of a foundation to stand on its own. Previously their presence and romance highlighted the potentially misogynistic and
    heteronormative elements of this old Wakandan institution created to reinforce the State. With our main couple, out of the picture the reconsideration of what the Dora Milaje are or should be is expanded, as Mistress Zola presents a new mission statement of serving Wakanda, not just the physical representation of the State in the royal family. The continued reconsideration of Wakanda as a culture and their best practices has been one of the more interesting through lines and arcs to follow.

    Final Verdict 8.0 – With a warm positive relationship at its center and continued varied interest, “World of Wakanda” lives up its title.

    Black Road #6
    Written by Brian Woods
    Illustrated by Garry Brown
    Reviewed by Kent Falkenberg

    Brian Woods traversed these fjords enough writing “Northlanders”, that he slips naturally back into the world. The dialog may sound a bit too modern at times, a bit too on the nose – and sometimes both. But Woods’ characterization deftly shows off the differing personalities of Magnus and Kitta as they plot their siege of a remote stronghold, where a Bishop named Oakenfort intends to usurp Rome as the heart of Christendom.

    Magnus has a simmering violence beneath his clenched teeth. He’s patient, calculating. To memorize the sentries’ pattern, he drops a stone every time they complete a circuit. He builds a small mountain doing so. Kitta, by comparison, is full of much more impulsive rage. She darts out to meet the patrol at Magnus’ first mention there might be a 30-second window to attack.

    Kitta’s charge is easily the issue’s highlight. Garry Brown’s lines capture the essence of motion in a way that static pictures seldom do. He pulls back, for a panel, to give the reader a sense of space, and dives back into the fray showing the ferocity of Kitta’s swordwork as she cuts the sentries down. It’s exhilarating.

    The interplay between Brown and Woods shows two creators knowing exactly how to build off each other. As Magnus narrates Oakenfort’s violent rise to power, Brown’s art tracks a thin trail of blood, snaking through a barren wilderness. Is this from a dead sentry Kitta dragged away? Is it the trail of dead left in the wake of this renegade pope. Or is it the bloody smear that Christianity painted across these pagan lands?

    Take Magnus himself, even. Brown draws him with a near-constant scowl. Is this a man gritting teeth in the face of a constant, bitter wind? Or is he just that miserable of a bastard? Both answers work damn fine.

    Dan McCaig’s colors distill the art’s stark, northern atmosphere. There may not be vast sheets of ice, but there’s an undeniable chill permeating the faded browns and pale indigo. The snows have melted, but permafrost has left the earth as hard and craggy as the cliff faces plummeting to arctic depths of the northern sea. And when McCaig colors the water, it’s the same frigid hue as a pool of glacial runoff.

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    There’s no warmth in these pages. And I mean that in the best possible way: Magnus makes cryptic mentions of past betrayal; his longest conversation comes interrogating a man Kitta’s strung upside down from a tree. Brown’s art is minimalist. His figures are crisp; every line is cut with a hard edge. They’re wonderfully harsh. And little details, like a plain pockmarked by weathered, clear-cut stumps, give the faintest echo of life to these barren wastes.

    Final Verdict: 7.0 – Back to the well for Brian Wood and once more unto the breach for Garry Brown. Bleak, yes. But great work from both.

    Cage #4
    Written by Genndy Tartakovsky
    Illustrated by Genndy Tartakovsky
    Reviewed by Kyle Welch

    The final issue in Genndy Tartakovsky ‘s “Cage” mini series is upon us and what an issue to end on. It’s hard not to compare the series with Genndy’s Samurai Jack but it very much has the essence of a great Jack episode. Sharp humor, great action and epic cartooning. In the final issue, Cage makes his way through the tournament to fight Professor Soos. Most of the issue is comprised of Cage and Soos’ final battle. The issue and the series is A to B but the substance and quality between those points are what make it a stand out.
    The action is over the top and cartoonish but much like Jack is still fluid and beautiful. There are really great layouts highlighting each fight. From full page promo like action shots to dynamic punches spilling out into the next panel. It is funny in all the right places. The use of sight gags or even call back jokes all worked for me. With Genndy’s art style there is more room for expressive actions and acting from the characters. Cage can go from a swollen beat up lumpy mess in one panel to a stone cold bad ass in the next. It was great to see flexibility we see in animation and cartoons used in comics.
    The series and issue made an effort to showcase Cage’s grit and resolve as he battles whatever is thrown his way. The issue ends on a well deserved heartfelt high note that wraps the series nicely for the hero. Hopefully “Cage” is just the first of many more comics from Genndy Tartakovsky.

    Final Verdict: 9.1 – “Enjoy your party, Cage, you deserve it..”

    Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #4
    Written by Jon Rivera and Gerard Way
    Illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming
    Reviewed by Brian Salvatore

    This book is a really interesting mix of DC’s deep history, mixed with a palpable sense of sadness and regret, two emotions that tend to get the short shrift in mainstream superhero comics, and a tone that somehow is comfortable in both camps. This issue features some of the most emotion, and least dialogue, of the series thus far. The scene of Cave breaking his wife’s death to her parents was a pitch perfect scene from all angles – Michael Avon Oeming perfectly captured the pain on both sides of the conversation, without resorting to cheap artistic tricks.

    I’ve been saying since the start that this might be the best work of Oeming’s career, and he is aided considerably by Nick Filardi’s colors which, mixed with Oeming’s lineart, create a surrealistic book that doesn’t skimp on the solid sequential storytelling. It’s a book that looks like no other; the opening sequence, where Cave is viewing memories, presented almost as holograms, is one of the most arresting of the series thus far, as it draws visual comparisons to all sorts of non-traditional comics influences, as well as influences from the past. The background made up of dots, the pop-art palette, the holographic, almost computer-generated images, it is a soup that is unlike anything else you’ll see this week.

    Gerard Way has been moved down to simply plotting the book with Jon Rivera, and future solicits tell us that Rivera is going to be taking the reigns himself shortly, and that is absolutely fine with me. Rivera has a good read on these characters, and I’ve been continually impressed with his Cave in particular. He’s a broken man, but not a jerk (at least not on purpose), and he’s really trying to do right by a bunch of different people, and somewhat falling apart of that decision. His dedication to his daughter is genuine, and makes up for a bunch of the other flaws in his character.

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    The perfect pairing of Tom Scioli’s “Super Powers” strip with “Cave Carson” makes for the perfect end to each issue. Scioli, this month, takes the concept of Etrigan the Demon and turns it on its head, making him an angel, assigned to protect humans. This is such a simple flip of the usual tale, but it reads (and looks) amazing. Scioli is no stranger to Kirby comparisons, and this strip was all Kirby goodness. There is also a continuation of the Wonder Twins strip, and an adorable Batgirl/Wonder Woman tale. Scioli is one of the best in the business, and his work, which mixes indie aesthetics with classic comics tropes is the perfect match for “Cave.”

    Final Verdict: 8.2 – My favorite ‘Young Animal’ book, and one of the best comics out there, period.

    Deadpool the Duck #2
    Written by Stuart Moore
    Illustrated by Jacopo Camagni
    Reviewed by Robbie Pleasant

    I am almost positive that this comic exists in large part to help someone at Marvel win a bet. No other explanation makes sense. Is it because they’re both goofy characters? Is it to help boost Howard with Deadpool’s popularity? Or maybe it was a joke pitch that just got taken a little too far and suddenly became real. Either way, it exists, and they’re doing their best to make it work.

    In the comic’s favor, there are some good comedic moments in there. The characters get some good back-and-forth, and it used the “Wolverine spirit animal” joke in the previous issue to set up for Howard’s role as “spiritual duck voice in Deadpool’s head” well. Yet it still relies on attempts at gross-out humor by having the newly duckified Deadpool hurl his guts out no less than four times. And yes, I counted.

    Comic, you can do better. Vomit jokes and accent humor? I’ll even give you credit for lampshading the latter, but that doesn’t stop the jokes themselves from falling flat.

    With all that, the comic could have just phoned it in the entire way, and yet it still looks really good. Jacopo Camagni does a great job with the character designs, expressions, and scenery. There’s some great panels of a Roxxon space station (occasionally mid-explosion), and in other moments it makes great use of Deadpool’s duck-sized stature to make other characters or threats loom over him. The shading and detailing look really nice, and the color work by Israel Silva is generally great. Yet at the same time, there are plenty of panels where you know they had to spend more time than anyone reasonably should coloring in a pool of duck vomit.

    Final Verdict: 5.2 – They’re trying to do their best with a concept no one asked for, and credit must be given for what it does right, but the humor falls flat frequently. Looks great, though.

    Descender #18
    Written by Jeff Lemire
    Illustrated by Dustin Nguyen
    Reviewed by Rowan Grover

    In this issue, Jeff Lemire holds back on overloading us with dialogue, and spends enough time on each group so that the reader doesn’t get lost. The expert pacing has returned – the narrative has merged the five or six different perspectives to just two groups of protagonists, making the flow much smoother. I’m personally more partial to Andy’s group on the planet Sampson, as the clashing personalities make for dynamic reading. However, each character feels firmly established, with endearing quirks and quotes that give them a realistic quality. Characters like Blugger and General Nagoki who were decidedly bland earlier are now more interesting, as Lemire gives them a bigger role in the story.

    We see some great moments change the course of the series, involving Tim-21’s newly proactive attitude, and the UGC. Lemire deepens the series by having the UGC and General Nagoki do some questionable things. The reveal of Nagoki’s Harvester is shocking and awe-inspiring as it gives us more insight into his motivations, adding a new grey element into his character.

    As always, Dustin Nguyen does more than hold up his end of the creative team. His sleek tech designs and vibrant yet selective colors have always been a staple for the series, with his textured watercolor look being a key identifier. On settings like Sampson, the texturing is really effective at depicting a desert environment. The watercolors also lend well to the hostile setting – he uses a restricted red palette that’s both muted and vibrant to accentuate the planet’s dangerous atmosphere. However, I feel Nguyen’s background work has been lacking in this issue. The less-is-more theme is still effective here, but the vast cityscapes and planetary environments really helped fill my head earlier in the series. Specifically, on the Machine Moon side of the story, the backgrounds are essentially just blank space. It does, fortunately, give focus to a killer choreographed Tim-21 action sequence, and doesn’t hurt the flow or suspend belief in the story.

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    Nguyen’s storytelling is still as energetic and unique as ever. From the Harvester scene to the Dune-esque worm chase, he works well at being a throwback to classic sci-fi design while still innovating the field. The character and setting design is some of the best in comics, especially this issue with Tim-21. Nguyen has depicted him as a sort of contemporary “Astro Boy” analogue with great design work on his newfound powers. Unfortunately, some designs tend to be more forgettable. For better or worse, Tullis’ character arc is rounded off this issue (in all honesty I nearly forgot his name and had to look it up), and most of Nguyen’s facial work on him here seems to be a static grimace that distracts from what should have been a deep and emotional scene.

    Final Verdict: 7.2 – A great return to form of the sci-fi hit that still has some bumps but delivers slick designs and great plotting.

    Harbinger Renegade #3
    Written by Rafer Roberts
    Art by Darick Robertson
    Reviewed by Jake Hill

    With its diverse cast of characters and a powerful bad guy, “Harbinger Renegade” is a solid follow up to Valiant’s excellent “Harbinger”. The new creative team is a great fit for the Renegades. Rafer Roberts nails Faith’s optimism, Kris’s anger, and writes a hilarious Torque. This issue is the middle point of the arc, but the big emotional beat comes when the team is reunited. Roberts sells the complex interpersonal dynamics of these friends, who have been through hell together, seeing each other for the first time in a long time.

    While the emotional beats all hit, the heroes don’t really have much of a plan or a goal, besides to love and protect each other. As such, they end up feeling a little passive and reactive, though that fits the tone of the book. After all, the Renegades didn’t ask for any of this, and they’re always on the run. Roberts has a real command over the voices of these characters. Hopefully by the end of the arc, they will have a clear goal too.

    While it’s fun to see this team interact, it’s really artist Darick Robertson who makes this issue shine. At bare minimum, it’s important that he can properly draw Faith, which not everyone can do. There aren’t a whole lot of plus-sized female superheros, but Robertson goes above and beyond. Panels of the whole team really emphasize how diverse they are, not just in terms of skin color and background but also in terms of shape and size. Faith is the widest member of the team, but she’s also not much taller than the sprite-like Kris. Kris’s girlfriend Tamara is really tall, and she towers over the other ladies of the Renegades.

    Robertson isn’t doing anything impressionistic with his art, but it consistently sells the story. The superhero action has a kinetic quality that would have been at home in a 90s Valiant book, but the busy foregrounds never come at the expense of the rest of the panel. Even when they are lurking in the backgrounds, characters are fully rendered, and their reactions tells as much of the story as the dialogue does. Plus there’s the attention to detail. Three pretty forgettable thugs menace the team in the final pages, but their wardrobe choices distinguish them just enough to give them a bit of character, and to make the fight easy to follow.

    As the first new writer to tackle this side of the universe, Roberts takes the opportunity to put the focus on some of the coolest characters. Hacker @x shines here, getting to play the role of Oracle, but the real scene-stealer is Kris, the only unpowered member of the team. Toyo Harada is easily Valiant’s best villain, and he completely dominates every scene he’s in. Roberts writes a great Harada, who’s pompous and certain he’s saving the world, but barely keeping his god complex in check. I haven’t been sold on Alexander Solomon as a worthy replacement, but the fact that he doesn’t underestimate Kris, member of the team, keeps me intrigued.

    Final Verdict: 7.4 – Come for Peter’s glorious beard, stay for Kris kicking all sorts of ass.

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    Justice League of America: The Ray Rebirth #1
    Written by Steven Orlando
    Illustrated by Stephen Byrne
    Reviewed by Ken Godberson III

    In terms of introducing both Ray Terrill and “The Ray,” this is perhaps the best of these “Justice League of America” one-shots. Orlando does a great job of telling the tale of a boy who couldn’t come out into the light, without ever realizing why. What follows is a tale of self-discovery, doubt, learning to make mistakes, and learning to overcome them all while making a fun and heartfelt origin story for this returning hero. And in the coming days, it is going to be an important work that doesn’t tolerate hatred.

    But a good chunk also has to go to Stephen Byrne on the artwork. He provides a smooth and flowing linework that makes for great expressiveness as well as fun combat scenes. But it is the colorwork here that really needs to be talked about. Being, well, the Ray, it is important to have a character that can shine and Byrne does a great job here. It’s not just a matter of “color The Ray with bright yellow”, it’s about the areas that light affects. It’s a deft touch to slightly alter that glow the further away from the subject and Byrne hits it out of the park. On top of that, Byrne’s colors also excel by still being able to compose a beautiful and vibrant city even when the majority of the comic is taking place at night.

    Final Verdict: 7.5 – Definitely the best of these JLA one-shots so far.

    Motor Girl #3
    Written and Illustrated by Terry Moore
    Reviewed by Nicholas Palmieri

    There is always a unique clarity of vision when one creator is in charge of every aspect of a comic, and this issue of “Motor Girl” displays that in its smooth mix of plot, character, drama, and comedy. In one scene, we see the main character, Iraq war veteran Sam, strategically withholding information from her doctor while Mike, her hallucinated gorilla best friend, lingers behind the doctor, making bunny ears. In the next scene, we see a bumbling secret agent attempting to look suave while choking on a cigarette during a conversation about kidnapping. There is not a single page where the disparate elements of the story don’t work together, providing a realistic and naturalistic feeling while retaining a level of upbeat fun.

    The most striking thing about the writing is the melancholy undercurrent, despite the slapstick and kidnapping and talking gorilla. Moore subtly touches on Sam’s unwillingness to let go of her hallucinations since they bring her happiness, even if it means suffering through crippling headaches. Watching her suffer isn’t exactly a feel-good moment, but the reader has to wonder: if it helps her be happy, is it worth it?

    Moore’s art, like the story, can be being tender or exaggerated depending on what is needed. There is one panel where an agent launches out the back of a car, the car itself composed of scratchy lines, the ground around him similarly scratchy, and the agent screaming as he runs with one fist clenched and a knee in the air. In the next panel we see a calm Sam from the waist up with an empty white background, her expression completely unaffected by the agent and her body and face composed of the bare minimum amount of solid curved lines. This contrast in drawing the characters continues through the rest of the scene, heightening their interaction. Moore knows exactly what drawing techniques to use when, as well as how to use them to convey character while pushing the plot forward.

    Also of note, because Moore is in charge of both art and lettering, every word balloon works with the panel it’s in to achieve its goal, whether that’s to show the relationship between characters, to overwhelm, to create a feeling of isolation, or whatever else a panel may call for. Everything feels perfectly in place. It’s just another reminder of the clarity that can be achieved when one creator maintains control of all aspects of a comic.

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    Final Verdict: 8.5 – Moore brings his talents to a series both fun and melancholy, told with a smoothness rarely found outside or inside of single-creator books.

    Revolutionaries #1
    Written by John Barber
    Illustrated by Fico Ossio
    Reviewed by Alexander Jones

    The dust has settled on “Revolution,” but the Hasbro Universe is still brimming with characters and properties formed in the huge event. “Revolutionaries” #1 is a team book, without the unwieldy amount of characters crammed under one comic. This debut issue excels with a more narrow focus on just how much fun comics can be when all of your favorite toys logically come together under one ongoing series.

    With a great influx of characters spread throughout the pages of “Revolutionaries,” it’s a relief that this issue has an extremely detailed timeline and cast list. Assembling such a diverse roster of properties is a heavy weight for writer John Barber to carry. Thankfully, Barber chose to scale down the conflict of this story and open up this series to one central character and set of caption boxes in the opening sequence, making it easier for readers to get a perspective on what the Hasbro Universe actually looks like from a local.

    The cast of characters making up the team roster all have unique personalities and traits, featuring the new Action Man, Blackrock (the Cybertronian who thinks he’s a human,) oddball G.I. Joe Mayday, the one-and-only Rom and Kup, the older-than-dirt Transformer. With this comic having one central, contained team, it seems that Barber might have less of a challenge in this series juggling a large cast. However, the villains in this issue are spread a little thin and not very well characterized, it would have been nice for this series to introduce a stronger conflict for this roster of heroes to take on.

    Artist Fico Ossio is an impressive relatively new talent to comics. His varied, hyper-detailed pencils are infused with such an infectious energy while retaining a slick pencil style. Sebastian Cheng’s colors add even more dimensions to the art, with the series having such a bright, but distinctive and detailed color palette as well. Even though Ossio’s work is very detailed, he still infuses his work with robust layouts featuring panels vividly bleeding into each other. Another great aspect of the art is how Ossio chooses to put the panel frame right in front of the big action sequences of the comic. The art team is able to switch between aliens, robots and people at ease, making this versatile debut issue an unpredictable read.

    Introducing such diverse types of characters can be really challenging, thankfully Barber and Ossio have worked to give each team member of this series a unique voice and look. IDW’s inclusion of the character roster synopsis in the beginning of the comic also makes this issue a complete and accessible package. With a stronger developed group of antagonists and a firm commitment to characterizing the roster of heroes already on the team, IDW could have something special on their hands with this comic!

    Final Verdict: 7.5 – Barber and Ossio’s second try at expanding the Hasbro Universe is the charm!

    SLAM! #3
    Written by Pamela Ribon
    Illustrated by Veronica Fish
    Reviewed by Alice W. Castle

    In my review of the first issue of “SLAM!”, I noted that it was a comic that used the sport of roller derby as way of framing the narrative of the blossoming friendship between the two lead characters as well as exploring the myriad of ways femininity can be expressed as a protest of societal patriarchy. If the series’ second issue showcase the two leads, nicknamed CanCan and Knockout, becoming more distant as they connect more to their respective teams, then this issue is the breakup.

    Ribon and Fish craft an engrossing story with a delicate building of tension throughout until the eventual boil over in the last pages leaving a sense of lasting ramifications for the rest of the story. Picking up on the lives of CanCan and Knockout, Veronica Fish does a lot of fantastic visual storytelling in this issue. Gone are the punk rock visual design elements that made the first issue so unique in favour of letting the story play out on its own and for the characters to shine. This allows Fish to really focus on the expressiveness and the body language of the characters and express so much of the story through that.

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    This issue is proof that the spark found in the first issue wasn’t a fluke. The focus on this friendship, it’s trial and tribulations, and roller derby as its backdrop allows Ribon and Fish to deepen the emotional core in this issue to gutwrenching effect by the end of it. It’s hard not to care about these two, their connection and the communities they’ve built around them and Ribon and Fish do an excellent job of taking that care and investment and twisting it just enough to make the stakes of the next issue seem pretty dire.

    Final Verdict: 8.6 – An incredible, character focused drama about real people and real connections and a focus on female relationships. Exactly what comics, and the world, needs right now.

    Spider-Gwen #16
    Written by Jason Latour
    Illustrated by Robbi Rodriguez
    Reviewed by Tyler J. Brown

    Sharp lines, neon colors, and unique designs – these are the things readers have come to expect from artist Robbi Rodriguez, the architect of Marvel’s Earth-65. Unsurprisingly, the trend continues from Rodriguez in this latest issue. He’s taken Miles Morales and reimagined him in his own style and I couldn’t help but love every minute of it. Here’s hoping that we’ll see Rodriguez’s version of Miles more than just in the next couple chapters of this crossover. Speaking of designs, were you expecting to see an Earth-65 version of the villainous Unicorn? Neither was I, but I was still delighted to see him show up in a minor role.

    There’s something here that Jason Latour is able to harness, and always has been on this title, where the dialogue flows freely and naturally. This is evident in the beginning conversation between Gwen and Miles where they cover everything from why fake sugar is even a thing to the troubles of being a spider-person and how they feel they can’t fully open up to their closest friends and allies. It’s this last part where readers can really see the bond between Gwen and Miles forming.

    This book has going for it what it always has: it has a sense of whimsy while not being afraid to talk about bigger issues the characters are dealing with. I’m always overjoyed to visit Earth-65 and see the alternate take on characters- the menacing Matt Murdock in particular. While I enjoyed the issue, readers may be lost if they aren’t reading or hadn’t picked up the first part of the crossover in “Spider-Man” #12. Although it’s not a huge issue for those with the means, crossover stories that happen across multiple titles can be a headache for some.

    Final Verdict: 7.8 – Although it’s another solid installment in this crossover and series, how they’re telling the story could leave some readers frustrated.

    Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #3
    Written by Kieron Gillen
    Illustrated by Kev Walker
    Reviewed by Gregory Ellner

    “Doctor Aphra” #3 excels most highly in its storytelling. The sheer cluelessness of the father of our eponymous former doctor (hereafter known as “Aphra Senior” to distinguish), is a sight to behold. Given the sheer amount of information he does not know, things that would likely widely be considered common knowledge by the time of the comic, months after the Battle of Yavin, his daughter’s anger is both palpable and easily relatable. Kieron Gillen’s writing further shows the more empathetic side to the younger Aphra, whose full name is finally stated in this issue. To take a single quote from the issue, aimed from Aphra to her companion Triple-Zero, “If I was interested in moral instruction from an emotionless killer, I’d have kept working for Darth Vader.” This one quote perfectly encapsulates Aphra’s attitude by this point in the franchise. The conflict between she and her father is not one of violence, but of viewpoints and knowledge discrepancies, in a way that shows the human heart of an interstellar journey, along with realistic personalities of different people in a way that makes the entire journey compelling and enticing. Even with the conflicts, the issue does manage to end on a relatively hopeful and humorous note, even further emphasizing the alienation between father and daughter while simultaneously showing grudging admission of another’s viewpoint.

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    Kev Walker’s artwork complements this storytelling very well. He is just as good at showing the scrunched up nose of an aggravated Aphra as he is at her expression of sheer outrage during her arguments with her father. The dialogue does not require shouting to show intense emotion in both her face and that of her father. On the other hand, Walker’s use of action is very dynamic, with Black Krrsantan’s quick, brutal movements showing up well in his savagery on panel in the issue’s one action sequence. The way that Walker presents our Imperial antagonist, Captain Tolvan, emphasizes her inhumanity in how her silver eyes seem almost glassy, as if she were emotionally dead.

    The area of the Imperial arrival appears to be almost sterile in comparison to the gritty atmosphere of the ruins in which the Aphras are arguing. As a whole, the differences in the physical arrangement of the areas (the ruins as opposed to the battlefield) indicates an overarching theme of destruction and return to how things once were. Black Krrsantan’s battle seems to destroy the “sterility” of the area occupied by the Empire, while the Aphras area already in an area of ruin.

    Generally speaking, the art seemed very action-based and lively, especially apparent not in Black Krrsantan’s assault (where it would be expected) but rather in the father-daughter conflict, which was a relatively peaceful one by comparison.The mixture of subtleties in facial expressions with the intensity of the scenes with the Aphras, Krrsantan, and Tolvan respectively showed their personalities very well even before providing dialogue to go with the artwork.

    My only problem with this issue is that the action with Black Krrsantan felt superfluous. This issue did not appear to need an action sequence, and the inclusion of one seemed to just break up the conflict with the Aphras. Instead of focusing in on the fight, the narrative feels as though it would be better served concentrating exclusively on the Aphras’ reactions to the carnage, showing the difference between Aphra Senior’s apparent pacifism as compared to his daughter’s jaded cynicism and experience.

    Final Verdict: 8.0 – Engrossing father-daughter conflict amidst ruins.

    Superman #15
    Written by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
    Illustrated by Ryan Sook, Ed Benes, Clay Mann, & Jorge Jimenez
    Reviewed By Benjamin Birdie

    Grant Morrison has this thing at DC Comics where he starts all this incredible, fun worldbuilding with all these great new characters, stops it just when it gets interesting, and then at the end says the whole point is to bring all this cool stuff into the DC Universe and let everyone else expand on it and keep it going.

    Here’s the part where the Arrested Development narrator comes in and says, “No one did.”

    Sure, every now and then a great writer like Steve Orlando will say, “Hey, you know the subway pirates in ‘The Manhattan Guardian’ were an amazing idea,” but, like, Bulleteer isn’t in the Justice League, you know? And so it seemed the same fate was destined to befall his recent DC megastory, “The Multiversity”. (Not be confused with, well, you know the deal.)

    Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, however, had other plans. Their latest “Superman” storyline, Multiplicty (not to be confused with the Michael Keaton — well, you know the deal), is a direct continuation of “The Multiversity,” featuring all your favorite characters and Earths. (Check out what happened to Captain Carrot on Ryan Sook’s fantastic cover!) In fact, it’s probably not a bad idea to have your copy of “The Multiversity Guidebook” open while you read. The issue actually reveals one of the Earths that were shrouded in mystery in the Guide, and it’s actually a pretty cool conceit.

    The story itself isn’t the most incredibly meta or groundbreaking thing. It’s basically just: Supermans are in danger across the multiverse, Superman has to gather up as many as possible, and then fight the bad guy. No, the fun is in all these wacky different Earths bumping up against each other, right? The issue delivers a highly enjoyable tour of nearly a dozen different Earths.

    Tomasi and Gleason are joined by four artists, one for (basically) each setting. Ryan Sook draws the mysterious Earth 14, Ed Benes captures the action on the Orrery of Worlds and their ship the Ultima Thule, Clay Mann handles Earth 13 and its Superdemon, and Jorge Jimenez continues his march into DC superstardom by traversing four Earths in a single spread.

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    Any Ryan Sook art is always cause for celebration and this is no exception. Tomasi and Gleason have given him plenty to sink his teeth into with their version of Earth 14, giving Sook an entire new League to design and plenty of carnage. Ed Benes has always been a reliable superhero artist, and he does a good job with a large swath of characters, but he’s given more posing and talking than fighting. Clay Mann’s Superdemon vs. Team Multiversity pages are solid, but they seem like a missed opportunity. He’s great, but what if a darker artist had been picked for such a dark setting? Jae Lee drew the art for the Multiversity Guide entry, so it’s strange for them to have chosen a more traditional artist for those pages. And of course we all know at this point that Jorge Jimenez is about a year from being DC’s MVP. He’s incredibly versatile in terms of settings and character types and he also happens to just be a fantastic cartoonist.

    Final Verdict: 7.6 – Not the most complex story, but it’s nice to see someone actually pick up where Grant Morrison leaves off.


    //TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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