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Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 3/10/21

By | March 15th, 2021
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

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.

Batman: Urban Legends #1
Written by Chip Zdarsky, Stephanie Phillips, Brandon Thomas & Matthew Rosenberg
Illustrated by Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Laura Braga, Max Dubar & Ryan Benjamin
Lettered by Becca Carey, Deron Bennett, Steve Wands & Saida Temofonte
Colored by Adriano Lucas, Ivan Plascencia, Luis Guerrero & Antonio Fabela
Reviewed by Michael Govan

He is vengeance! He is the night! He is…in every single comic, I swear. Bat-fatigue is very real, people. It seems like the bulk of DC’s output these days is coming directly out of Gotham CIty. I won’t pretend that I was particularly excited for this comic or expected to like it all that much but I was really pleasantly surprised, I have to say.

This anthology has one ‘main’ story and three ‘backup’ stories. The main story, a Red Hood and Batman tale from Chip Zdarsky, is definitely a knockout. Jason Todd is probably my least favorite of the Robins but I absolutely loved him and his relationship with Batman here. There’s drama and raw emotion and you have no idea if father and son are going to end up on the same side or at odds again.

This story is made even stronger thanks to the art from Barrows and To. To’s art style captures the more innocent ‘before’ times of Jason’s childhood years while Barrows art captures the dark, sadder present. At the same time, his Jason still seems young and vulnerable, more relatable than I usually find the character. The last panel reflects an iconic Batman moment in the best way…

The beautifully drawn Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy story is worth the price of admission solely because Harley and Pamela kiss. For a while now it has seemed like DC would prefer to hint at their romantic relationship than state it outright. There might be a longing hug here or a more explicit show of romantic affection in an alternate reality or so on and so forth. It’s very nice to see it embraced here and their relationship is written and visually depicted quite well, even if their story is sad and bittersweet.

Brandon Thomas really blew me away with his recent Future State stories, “Future State: Aquaman” and backup “Outsiders” stories in “Future State: Batman”. I would much rather have an ongoing Outsiders title, in these few pages I don’t think his story has room to breathe. It’s a fun time with action and a superhero boat chase and the writer clearly has a strong handle on the characters but it feels like it was cut too short.

The only backup I didn’t love was Grifter’s story. Matthew Rosenberg’s “Hawkeye: Freefall” was one of my favorite titles last year so I was hoping he could make me see the appeal in Grifter…but I’m still not seeing it. I don’t find the character funny so him being a jerk isn’t charming. I don’t care about his backstory. Gotham is crowded enough, we don’t really need any outside players…and all I could think about while reading it is all the outside players I would have preferred if having one was necessary. Deadshot. Cheshire. Hitman. Midnighter. Still, this one so-so story aside, not bad at all.

Final Verdict: 7.7 – Three out of four ain’t bad. Not bad at all.

Blade Runner Origins #1
Written by K. Perkins, Mellow Brown, and Mike Johnson
Illustrated by Fernando Dagnino
Colored by Marco Lesko
Lettered by Jim Campbell
Reviewed by Luke Cornelius

With the first original Blade Runner comic book chronicling Ash’s journey continuing on its own path amongst the franchise’s canon, “Blade Runner Origins” #1 deals with it head on, or, that is what you’d expect given its title.

Set ten years prior to the original film, “Blade Runner Origins” #1 depicts Los Angeles in a slightly cleaner, brighter fashion. Fernando Dagnino establishes this change in landscape literally through his designs and it’s typified with his double page splash of the city; there’s still smog hovering, but not nearly as densely as it will in the future, and the buildings are stripped of their oppressive corporate cladding. Marco Lesko’s colorwork really drives the clarity of this scene too, with the sunrise’s reflections piercing off of the high-rises, while a bright blue glow emanates invitingly in the lower city streets.

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There’s still darkness lurking on the ground though; this is a neo noir franchise and “Blade Runner Origins” #1 doesn’t discard that. Characters are frequently draped in shadows or dark clothing, or both, and Dagnino does a great job of balancing the thick, rounded, and inky lines with finer details to give characters, particularly protagonist Cal, gruff features when close up. It makes the book feel sleek and modern whilst encouraging a youthful naivety to a city as yet unburdened by replicants and Blade Runners.

“Blade Runner Origins” #1 does a great job of establishing its protagonist, Detective Cal Moreaux, a former soldier who has served on the off-world colony of Kalanthia. He’s a compelling character whose motivations are made clear; his skepticism for Tyrell and replicants is rooted in his experiences on Kalanthia, whilst his work is paying for the medical care of his sister. The issue follows Cal as he is assigned to investigate the suicide of a Tyrell engineer, though the circumstances are made increasingly suspicious with the arrival of Ilora Stahl and the cliff-hanger revelation. There’s lots of layers to the story supplied by Perkins, Brown, and Johnson in the issue’s script, but it doesn’t feel rushed and incongruous with the measured pace of the franchise, nor does it ever lose sight of Cal as a character at the heart of it.

This reviewer has to admit that while the origin story of the Blade Runners didn’t sound hugely necessary, this issue makes a strong argument for its reveal.

Final Verdict: 7.5 – “Blade Runner Origins” #1 is a layered and intriguing opening issue that introduces a new protagonist in the calm before the storm.

Deep Beyond #2
Written By Mirka Andolfo and David Goy
Illustrated By Andrea Broccardo
Colored By Barbara Nosenzo
Lettered By Fabio Amelia
Reviewed By Matt Sherman

Issue #1 of “Deep Beyond” opened up many plot lines that also left a mystery of the setting of the world in this series. Issue #2 takes us deeper into one of these plot lines following Jolene’s rescue team. The issue begins with the team rescuing their team member, while fleeing a giant monster. The action was a blast. The adventure portrays more of the dangers around this world, while the art also depicts what the environment has become. It sets a post-apocalyptic tone of a non-hospitable land. There’s still a lot to be told regarding how the world came to this grim state. We do get a taste of what this series’ technology is like. The technology definitely feels advanced while still being recognizable and not too foreign to us.

Mirka Andolfo and David Goy are pacing the story a little slow, but in a way to leave room for a lot of developments and giving readers a chance to explore what the world is like. We still don’t fully understand how the governments in this story work, but this issue does explain how the world is broken down into colonies. Andolfo and Goy also haven’t expressed what disaster caused this dystopia.

While the pacing so far is slow, this allows the art to carry the story. Andolfo and Goy give Andrea Broccardo a lot of space to explore the setting. Broccardo is able to keep the action feeling immense from panel to panel. From the surface to the undersea bunkers, Broccardo is able to capture a sense of danger and tranquility. It feels like the art is developing the story as much as the writers are. Barbara Nosenzo’s colors definitely highlight this. The colors seem to be based around warm and cool greys. Nosenzo uses the warmers greys during the scenes on the surface. There’s amazing highlights that come from the sun that reflects over the panels without being too bright. The cooler greys come out in the bunkers and under the water, which really gives an eerie, yet stunning look. These color choices are perfect. Nosenzo is able to use these greys to give the atmosphere a post-apocalyptic and empty feel while still able to bring in enough color to keep things vibrant. The art as a whole is able to display a destructive surrounding with hidden beauty underneath.

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“Deep Beyond” #2 helps drive this series. We get a mix of plot developments, while still leaving more to explore. The creative team is doing a great job in letting art tell the stories as the plot slowly develops. Issue #2 opens up more potential of this series going forward.

Final Verdict: 8.4 – Great issue that shows a lot of potential for the series ahead.

Karmen #1
Written, Illustrated, and Colored by Guillem March
Color Assisted by Tony López
Translated by Dan Christensen
Lettered by Cromatik, Inc
Reviewed by Quinn Tassin

Guillem March’s “Karmen” #1 feels a bit like a Murakami novel- it’s inventive and strange with a clear, confident sense of atmosphere and a very odd focus on female sexuality. This is a beautiful, absorbing comic book and a textually off-putting one.

First the good- this is a gloriously weird debut. It brings you in with fairly normal relationship drama then throws you for a loop in the disorienting sequence in which Karmen introduces herself to Catalina, who we’re not quite sure is dead yet (she very much is, though). The opening is especially strong and I almost want a series that’s just about the clearly messy and storied love triangle we’re introduced to it’s so easy to engage with. March’s ability to so quickly make you lean in is a real asset in what follows. The book also trusts its readers to trust the process; in a world filled with stories that over-explain themselves, one as weird as “Karmen” being so confident is more than welcome.

Then there’s the absolutely stellar artwork. March illustrates a world that feels at once real and otherworldly. Real in its incredible detail- the way people sit and move and clothes they wear feel like sketches of moments that March is observing. Otherworldly in a way that feels clear but not in your face. The colors are just off enough to make things feel heightened, Karmen and Catalina’s designs just cartoonish enough to make them feel separate from everyone else that we see. And of course there are the absurdly strong page layouts which start out simply enough but become more abstract as the story does.

All of this good, though, can’t quite overpower the fact that “Karmen” #1 isn’t weird in a good way. Perhaps it comes down to personal taste but that Catalina is naked for nearly the entire issue for no particular reason and that March feels so comfortable musing on her sexuality so much feels a bit.. out of line? And even aside from that leaving a sour taste, this is just generally not a story that has much payoff. For all its strength in engaging the reader early on, the latter half of the journey just ends and feels like its gesturing at poetic ideas without actually making readers think about them. What we’re left with is a beautiful but cold comic.

Final Verdict: 6.5 – “Karmen” #1 should be admired for its boldness and its gorgeous art but leaves a fair bit to be desired in its substance.

Maniac of New York #2
Written by Elliott Kalan
Illustrated and colored by Andrea Muttti
Lettered by Taylor Esposito
Review by Henry Finn

After setting up Harry as a terrifying killing machine on par with Michael Meyers or Jason Voorhees with issue #1 of “Maniac of New York,” Elliott Kalan starts off issue #2 by taking a moment to do something hardly seen in a typical slasher film: humanize its victims.By taking a moment to give the victims names, dreams, and complexity, Kalan adds a bit of poetry into what could have been a standard-issue gore-bananza.

As with the genre, little to no character development is devoted to the titular character. His mythos is built by the conversations others have about him. The police-procedural portion of the comic is a welcomed addition to the story. Characters that appear as archetypes in a noir or detective film are refreshed by the conventions of the slasher genre.

Mutti does the work of illustrating and coloring the books which gives it a cohesiveness that comes from one person making all the decision-making in visual execution. The background colors are muted and washed out, making the reds more bloody and pronounced. As the story jumps back and forth between Harry, his victim, and the detectives on his trail, Mutti establishes strong color theory for each scene.

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Mutti washes scenes in green and blue, alternating back and forth first by scene, and then by panel, letting the color as we end one scene bleed into the first panel of the next scene, which adds to the pacing and sense of scenic interplay. The pacing between scenes is also handled beautifully. Mutti alternates between scenes heavy with dialogue and silent panels to enhance tension with ease.

Final Verdict: 8.2 – Fans of both slasher and police-procedural/detective yarns should be satisfied with this entry into the series

Non-Stop Spider-Man #1
Written by Joe Kelly
Illustrated by Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, and Dale Eaglesham
Colored by Marcio Menyz and Morry Hollowell
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Reviewed by Rebis

Opening with intensity, “Non-Stop Spider-Man” #1 truly lives up to its name. Beginning with a fifteen-story drop, we see Peter thinking at a hundred miles per minute making sure not to miss a single detail, like webbing up debris so no civilians are hurt below. Bachalo and Townsend deliver exciting scenes of Peter quickly getting into the classic red and blue, while not letting the pace slip from one page to the next. The art gives us riveting fight scenes that capture the feeling of how chaotic superhero battles are; they make sure that Spider-Man is never in the same position in each panel, creating a sense of how fluid he is when he fights. While the duo does a great job with the action, the highly stylized art provides some unusual moments when Peter is out of costume. Peter is in college in this book, however, Bachalo and Townsend’s art, gives him and his friends the appearance of sixteen-year-olds. This is a departure from what Bachalo and Townsend have shown us during their previous time with Peter during “Amazing Spider-Man.”

The lettering by Travis Lanham is the most compelling part of the issue, giving a visual representation of Peter’s “spider-sense” that’s very reminiscent of Into the Spider-Verse, using words like “look out below” or “get up” to warn Peter of incoming danger. It is a more believable way for his “spider-sense” to work than we frequently see. Lanham’s bold onomatopoeia work makes the fights feel busy and loud, helping to reinforce the chaos, all with a sense of nostalgia.

Kelly showcases the true heart of the wall-crawler, reminding us why Spidey is called the everyman hero. Swinging from scenes of genuine emotional depth between Peter and his friend to moments of anger and worry as Spider-Man, this issue is a reminder that while Peter is an experienced superhero, his humanity is what grounds him.

Final Verdict: 8.0 – “Non-Stop Spider-Man” #1 is a good Spider-Man story with lots of action and compelling plot ideas.

Nottingham #1
Written by David Hazan
Illustrated by Shane Connery Volk
Colored by Luca Romano
Lettered Joamette Gil
Reviewed by Conor Spielberg

The classic tale of Robin Hood reimagined from the point of view of the Sheriff, “Nottingham” frames the traditional folk hero, Robin Hood, as a radical leader of a group of zealots terrorizing tax collectors in the name of an absent King Richard. Our main protagonist, Sheriff Blackthorne, is presented as a noir detective of sorts for the middle ages. His capacity for torturing suspects and the story maintaining the unpopularity of Prince John manage to frame the story in a place of moral ambiguity. Despite that, the violent acts of Robin Hood and his Merry Men successfully keep the reader on the side of the Sheriff.

The rictus grin of Robin Hood’s mask and the violent portrayal of his gruesome murders also helps in the effort to make the reader sympathize with the Sheriff of Nottingham. The exaggerated violence is well handled by Volk, gives it a cartoonish slant that balances the serious tone, expressive action, and hyper-violence all at once.

Marian’s portrayal as the scheming temptress leaves something to be desired, with leering glances and flirtatious exposition being all she contributes in the first issue. The dialogue gets a little cheesy too, with one scene ending with Sheriff Blackthorne saying “Fucking ginger.”

What is of most interest is the fact that they are essentially telling a mystery, but letting the reader know more than the main character does. This is a much rarer approach as it ruins the possibility of a surprise later on, but also creates the possibility of suspense with you the reader knowing more than the Sheriff does and allows the opportunity for the Sheriff to jump to conclusion with no fear of the audience falling behind.

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Final Verdict: 6.4 – A fun and interesting reimagining with good, but flawed, writing.

Proctor Valley Road #1
Written by Grant Morrison & Alex Child
Illustrated by Naomi Franquiz
Colored by Tamra Bonvillain
Lettered by Jim Campbell
Reviewed by Alexander Manzo

“Proctor Valley Road” #1 is a story with a simple but effective concept: a group of four women trying to get money to go to a Janis Joplin concert. By putting the story in this decade, the creative team is able to keep the story much more grounded and build a more small-town urban legend lore. The introduction of two of the characters trying to steal sunglasses to sell also shows that they do not have jobs and are trying to make a quick buck. Morrison and Child use the classic horror trope of having the characters jump without thinking when they decide on the idea of haunted tours on the Proctor Valley Road.

Once on the road, Franquiz and Bonvillain really get to take the reins of the story with the road being their main character. At the beginning, the colors are very bright and vibrant to give the reader a more lightheaded approach for introducing character and goals. Now that the road is finally here, the colors are shifted to a much darker palette of colors to be cautious on what is going to happen. More horizontal panels are used once the spirits come into play, and they are utilized beautifully like a jump-scare in a film to show emptiness around the main characters before monsters coming out to attack.

The final twist at the end of this issue shifts the characters’ goals, and does a great job done to force the characters back onto the road.

Final Verdict: 8.9 – A great beginning to an old-school horror story.

Taskmaster #4
Written by Jed MacKay
Illustrated by Alessandro Vitti
Colored by Guru-eFX
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Reviewed by Alexander Jones

“Taskmaster” writer Jed MacKay and artist Alessandro Vitti crafted a fascinating espionage story with a quirky Marvel antihero. Taskmaster is back and you bet he’s confused! In this penultimate issue of the mini-series Vitti and MacKay establish all the pieces for the last chapter while keeping a light yet brutal tone that is full of intrigue. From the very first panel, MacKay and Vitti are able to convey a silly line of dialogue with a dark subtext. The subtext is captured with Vitti’s impressive framing of the panel and MacKay’s dialogue that is filled with personality. Readers don’t even have the chance to catch their breath as MacKay slowly rolls out the remainder of the supporting cast.

Vitti’s art appears to be more streamlined than ever before. This title still has those scratchy noir lines that fit the tone of this story really well. This issue has more detail and better layouts than older titles drawn by Vitti. When I was looking at some of the angles and unconventional dialogue it became clear to me that Vitti and MacKay are having a good time collaborating on the series. Vitti draws a few supporting cast members and captures great detail during action scenes. Some of the facial details later on in the issue are not as fleshed as the figures in the beginning. Nick Fury looks slightly different every time he joins the panel which can make for a confusing reading experience at times. The artistic direction on this title is a perfect match for a script in a spy setting.

MacKay does a great job recapping the plot of the series in a really simplistic manner. The pacing of “Taskmaster” will allow anyone familiar with these characters to jump right in even though this is issue #4 of a 5-part limited series. One of the funniest aspects of the series is how MacKay goes out of his way to put Taskmaster in incredibly awkward situations in the Marvel Universe. This title kept me guessing about who was going to turn up next until the very last page. MacKay writes Taskmaster with a level of grit seen in darker comics fused with a gleeful sense of humor. I really enjoyed the elements of Taskmaster’s recent continuity. MacKay is not afraid to explore the darker details of the character’s past. Seeing other Marvel Universe cast members respond to Taskmaster’s recent history is comic book gold.

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Final Verdict: 8.0 – “Taskmaster” #4 is an irreverent spy story with great pacing.

Thor and Loki: Double Trouble #1
Written by Mariko Tamaki
Illustrated by Gurihiru
Lettered by VC’s Ariana Maher
Reviewed by Matthew Blair

Thor and Loki have had a complicated relationship over the centuries, especially in a comic book industry filled with world ending events and emotional trauma. One minute they’re ready to kill each other, the next they’re kind of friends. The thing is, sometimes it’s nice to take a step back and enjoy a pleasant, simple book with comparatively low stakes. “Thor and Loki” #1 is one of those books.

Mariko Tamaki writes the script for “Thor and Loki: Double Trouble” #1 and demonstrates that you don’t have to have a ton of violence and blood to have a good time. Thor is the older, stronger hero who is used to being in the spotlight while Loki falls into type, playing the snarky younger brother who knows he can’t beat Thor in a straight fight, but knows how to manipulate and push his older brother’s buttons. It’s a light, simple, and quippy script that a lot of younger children-and parents who might want to read this book to their children-will enjoy.

The art on “Thor and Loki: Double Trouble” #1 continues the light and playful tone and is provided by Gurihiru. Everything is brightly lit, the backgrounds are beautifully drawn, and the characters have simple facial features with the classic manga big eyes that allow for a wide range of emotion. It’s almost like the creative team decided to make a Thor story in the kodomomuke genre of manga (manga for very young children) but decided to write a script that skewed towards a slightly older audience.

“Thor and Loki: Double Trouble” #1 is a light, snappy, and fun book that is a nice breath of fresh air in a genre that tends to favor world shattering violence and emotional angst. It’s a kid’s book that looks like a kid’s book, but should entertain readers of all ages.

Final Verdict: 9.0- It’s a pleasant and funny kid’s story with simple and fun artwork.

Vampire: The Masquerade: Winter’s Teeth #6
Written by Tim Seeley and Tini Howard & Blake Howard
Illustrated by Devmalya Pramanik and Nathan Gooden
Colored by Addison Duke
Lettered by Andworld
Reviewed by Elias Rosner

Continuing in the footsteps of the first arc, “Vampire: The Masquerade: Winter’s Teeth” #6 takes all the complicated vampire goodness of VTM and eases the reader into its complexities via the excellent messes that are its focal characters: Cecily Bain & Alejandra De Luna. There’s a lot of heavy lifting to do after a few months away from the series and Seely makes issue #6 surprisingly accessible to returning readers and newcomers. There’s a new mystery afoot that doesn’t require prior knowledge, though it is helpful, and the conflict brewing in the Twin Cities is easy to grasp in the broadest sense but the details are there for those who want to delve.

It’s a tricky balance to strike and Seeley is successful at striking it. Details like why is Erin Runningbear trapped in a glass cube requires the first series but the antagonistic relationship between her and Cecily indicates more about what’s to come, and about the characters’ disposition, than the past. “VTM” #6 can get a little too concerned with setting things up, which leads to pages like the aforementioned Runningbear in a glass cube feeling cramped with text, but between Andworld’s lovely understated lettering and, well, the intended feeling of claustrophobia in those scenes, Seeley & Co. know how to work around the necessities of an opening arc issue to bolster rather than detract from the narrative.

Pramanik is a treasure and paired with Duke the two are turning out gorgeous, moody work for “VTM,” stuff that would be perfectly at home with the early Vertigo titles visually as well as tonally. Part of it is there’s a feel of pencil and ink to all the panels, which softens the world and emphasizes the fuzzy, the grit, the distortions. The history, which for a series about beings who live for a long ass time, that’s pretty important.

The backup is also a lot of fun, though as with the first arc, each one feels too slight on their own and while I’m very excited to see Vampire V. Werewolf, I think I could’ve gone with a little less “dog running around in the woods brooding.”

Final Verdict: 8.6 – Another excellent entry in the “Vampire: The Masquerade: Winter’s Teeth” series and I am very glad Vault allowed it to return. May this comic one day reach issue #50.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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