There’s 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 Cloak #2
Written by Kelly Thompson
Illustrated and Colored by Meredith McClaren
Lettered by Becca Carey
Reviewed by Quinn Tassin
As soon as I was done with “Black Cloak” #2, all that I wanted to do was read “Black Cloak” #3. That is to say, this is a really good comic. This series does remarkable work balancing fantasy trappings and detective plot-line, simultaneously building a fasting world and delivering a layered, exciting mystery. Phaedra’s revival and slowly growing wings make for as strong a hook as possible after last week’s cliffhanger and serves the dual purpose of revealing more about Phaedra as a character and introducing an intriguing second mystery to this story.
The rest of the issue is familiar to anyone that’s ever consumed any type of detective media but Thomson executes it with such skill and the presentation is sufficiently unique that it doesn’t feel tired in any way. The frustration behind the search for Freyal’s killer is palpable and the interrogation sequence is an absolute hoot. Having a burning skeleton attempt to admit to a murder while not even remembering the victim’s actual name, a giant goat man claim he gored someone who hadn’t even been stabbed, and a pixie claim to be having Freyal’s love child is a perfect distillation of what works about “Black Cloak.” Better yet, the emotional core of this issue is strong. Phaedra and Freyal’s relationship is written beautifully, with a real sense of familiarity and love leaping off of the page. That, and Phaedra’s other baggage, makes it easy to feel like we really know what drives our protagonist.
“Black Cloak” is also a visually strong issue. The art is relatively simple but the world still feels incredibly rich. This is a fantasy world and it feels like one- nearly every page has some type of creatively rendered, visually interesting character on it. The interrogation sequence is a great opportunity to spotlight a whole bevy of fantastical characters and absolutely delivers, using a cartoonish style to further communicate exactly what types of characters these are very effectively. The coloring is really special in this issue, using often subtle shifts to control the tone in very precise ways. The best moment, though, is Phaedra’s flashback, where soft, cool hues and lush scenery makes for a visually striking and emotionally powerful scene. It’s a moment that’s meant to drive home how much Phaedra and Freyal meant to one another and it does that and then some.
The final moments of the issue are filled with promise of even better to come. The fact that we’ve got political intrigue being thrown into the story makes this a proper urban noir and clearly makes this an even richer series, thematically. But even more than that, our brief glimpse at the Trees is wildly exciting. It looks like we’re being introduced to the most visually distinctive environment yet and getting to explore more of this world as the facts of this mystery reveal themselves is sure to be a treat.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – Strong visuals, great world building, and a tight, engaging plot make “Black Cloak” #2 easy to love
Local Man #1
Written by Tim Seeley & Tony Fleecs
Illustrated by Tony Fleecs
Colored by Brad Simpson & Felipe Sobreiro
Lettered by Tony Fleecs
Reviewed by Alexander Manzo
“Local Man” is a story by Tim Seeley and Tony Fleecs that has a more realistic worldview of superheroes and how one might fair once they are kicked out of the superhero team, they were once a part of. Jack Xaver’s reason for being a social pariah amongst locals, his former team, and even his parents isn’t revealed in this opening issue. However, whatever it was, it seemed to have landed him in some extremely hot water. Seeley and Fleecs make a solid choice of framing this story inside of a small town because this creates this strong sense of judgment from everyone Jack encounters that wouldn’t be as distinguishable inside a big city where he could hide. Without even the support of his loved ones, it becomes an uphill battle from the beginning. This dark humor element throughout the issue brings some much-needed giggles to this otherwise dreary story. After Jack fights off a former local villain in the town bar, he’s given a cease and desist letter from Third Gen, his old team. By the end of this first issue, the hook for the reader isn’t about rooting for Jack to succeed as it is about solving the new murder in the town and wondering if he’ll, legally, be able to help at all.Continued below
The artwork is by Seeley and Fleecs, which is nice because it properly interprets what they want the audience to see and feel since it is their story. One of the biggest tools the two used in the art for this introduction issue is the amount of negative space compared to Jack and his first night in town. From the beginning, the audience is shown Jack’s back as he starts his 10-mile walk into town surrounded by a vast desert. Even once he makes it to his parent’s home, there’s this awkward dinner scene where everyone has spread apart in this already small kitchen that reminds the reader of the “elephant” in the room. No matter where Jack goes, this bad thing that he may or may not have done will always follow him. The colors by Felipe Sobreiro and Brad Simpson create this dreary and depressing vibe especially given that this all happens in one evening. The only time there is this shift in mood is when Jack is in action or upset, and the panel is filled with red that is either out of anger or adrenaline. However, given the slow-burn element of this debut issue, it helps to be scarce with the action.
Final Verdict: 7.8 – It’s a slow and steady introduction to a modern-day noir tale that leaves the reader with more questions than answers.
Written by Joshua Williamson
Illustrated and Colored by Jamal Campbell
Lettered by Ariana Maher
Reviewed by Gregory Ellner
When it comes to one of the flagship characters of DC Comics, Superman can be a difficult sell. From the power to overcome most obstacles to being larger than life in general, the balance with making him feel in danger of as though he has difficulties can be hard. Thankfully, Joshua Williamson is more than up to the task in “Superman” #1. His interpretation of the Big Blue Boy Scout has a lot of heart, putting the essential kindness of Superman against the anger or manipulations of some Metropolis-based villains. In particular, Williamson examines his relationships on a positive angle with Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and various relatively normal people of Metropolis, and on a negative angle with Lex Luthor and his manipulations. At his core, Superman aims to help people, and Williamson shows this in ways both big and small without making him appear overly naive in the process.
As good as the writing is, the artwork by Jamal Campbell feels almost like the real star of the show. The writing already gives much pathos and joy to the readers, but the artwork and its colors really help drive it all in. Every emotion is on display, every strike, every smile, all wonderfully illustrated in depth by thin lines. At times, Campbell’s artwork feels as though it is both extremely animated and like a painting from a museum all at once, such as Superman shedding his suit as Clark Kent to face the world as a superhero.
Campbell’s illustrations are amazing, but his colors bring the enterprise to another level entirely. The sun shines brightly in Metropolis, but the colors make it feel all the warmer, to a degree that the villains cannot hope to stand in the way of Superman. Inside, the lighting is natural but shaded in a way that feels welcoming, even as it is not quite as joyous as the outdoors.
Final Verdict: 7.5 – Kindness, rather than shows of power, help begin this run on “Superman.”