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.
The Flash #19
Written by Joshua Williamson
Penciled by Jesus Merino and Carmine Di Giandomenico
Inked by Andy Owens and Carmine Di Giandomenico
Colored by Chris Sotomayor
Lettered by Steve Wand
Reviewed by Gregory Ellner
A major part of this issue is Joshua Williamson’s writing of the eponymous hero’s sidekick and some major antagonists. Wally West, a.k.a. Kid Flash, has a very human reaction to a moment of grief, and actually manages to call out Barry Allen, his mentor, on his policy involving his secret identity. George “Digger” Harkness, a.k.a. Captain Boomerang, alternates between crafty, abrasive, and compassionate depending upon the situation, making him a rather interesting on-and-off villain for the Flash.
The reintroduction of a villain to appear in the Batman-Flash mini-crossover “The Button” is written in a terrifying way, given his sudden appearance, his words, and their implications. In a single page, Williamson manages to easily give readers enthusiasm for the issues to come.
The artwork of Jesus Merino and Carmine Di Giandomenico is appropriately chaotic and eye-catching. Items around the Flashes blur as they run, giving an impression of speed that can often be missed with the use of speed lines while simultaneously keeping the focus entirely on the crisper images of the people running. Furthermore, in moments of high tension, the lightning around the Flashes overlaps with and meshes between explosions and thrown-up dirt to enhance the feeling that anything could happen in an instant.
Merino and Di Giandomenico’s artwork also works well with some of the lettering provided by Steve Wands. In particular, Hammerfang firing his Muscle Buster cannon has the letters of the gun firing sounds take up much of the panels in which it is shown in use, letting readers know about how deafening the sound is without the characters need to describe said sound at all, nor react to it themselves.
In all, the “anything can happen” atmosphere of the issue works to its benefit, giving even as minor an antagonist as a bunch of gun runners a level of gravitas of their own.
Final Verdict: 7.5- Chaotic story that makes even a relatively minor threat seem significant.
Judge Dredd: Deviations #1
Written and Illustrated by John McCrea
Colored by Mike Spicer
Lettered by Simon Bowland
Reviewed by Matt Lune
There’s no denying that the legacy of the late, great Steve Dillon looms large over this issue. The legendary artist pencilled the original story that “Judge Dredd: Deviations” jumps off from in 2000AD over 30 years ago. Handily collected and released on the same day as this book, “Judge Dredd: Cry of the Werewolf” written by John Wagner and Alan Grant is rightly regarded as a classic Dredd tale, so already this new story has multiple reasons to be experiencing performance anxiety. What works in its favor, however, is the very concept: a werewolf Judge Dredd protecting the Undercity against his own kind like a lycanthropic Blade is a strong enough idea to fill a dozen issues, and it’s clear that McCrea has as much fun as possible with the idea. In fact, this “What If” style tale reads a little like a zero issue, that does as much to set up a potential status-quo moving forward as it does in satisfying its own premise.
It’s the strength of this core premise, however, that overcomes the elephant in the room: it can’t have been easy for an artist following on from Dillon, especially when one of the early scenes recaps an exact moment from the original, but McCrea’s style is fluid and captures the tone really well. His ability to switch between clean lines and forms and frenetic, scratchy panels adds to the schizophrenic nature of a werewolf tale, and his pacing drags us swiftly through a well plotted story. It’s almost too swift in places, for example Dredd Wolf gains a massive public following seemingly instantly, protesters screaming about Feral Rights (while wearing actual wolf pelts ironically), but that’s a small aside. The exaggerated body language adds an appropriately inhuman quality to Dredd Wolf’s movements, and there are panels where his presence on the page has this genuinely vicious unpredictability that only adds to the book’s edge of horror.Continued below
While this could easily have been a fun-if-disposable slice of alternate reality adventure – and to a large extent it is – McCrea takes the opportunity to drive home who Joe Dredd is at his core. As mentioned earlier, “Judge Dredd: Deviations” acts as more of a sequel rather than overwriting anything. With the slightest of tweaks – namely ‘What if Dredd was never cured?’ – McCrea gets more opportunity than even the original story had to explore just how this transformation would affect Dredd’s core character. Without giving too much away, it doesn’t slow him down much, and before long he’s back dispensing justice, if a little more gory than before. And that’s perfect. Joe Dredd is too stubborn to let a little thing like extreme body horror stop him – he is the law! All this leads to a fast paced action horror one-shot, that even throws in a sly pun on the final page that is too fun to spoil here, but suffice to say it’s almost worth the price of admission alone.
Final verdict: 7.8 – A howlingly fun deviation, possibly the best of IDW’s current crop, that takes the core concept and runs with it. A satisfying follow-up on the original too.
Loose Ends #3
Written by Jason Latour
Illustrated and Lettered by Chris Brunner
Colored by Rico Renzi
Reviewed by Kent Falkenberg
For a series that’s billed as a southern crime romance, there’s nothing romantic about “Loose Ends” #3. In the classical sense, I mean.
Oh sure, there’s passion on display – Brunner and Renzi come together to perfectly handle Sonny and Cheri’s neon-lit lust in a hotel room illuminated by the Miami skyline. But for all the beauty Renzi captures in the warm pink glow of those lights reflecting off their window, the truth within the room is far more ugly. These are characters that are just barely holding on. Brunner scratches out Cheri, sitting naked on the bed, so shit-faced her tumbler of booze has nearly slipped from her hand and a joint has burned itself the whole way down to leave a column of ash just teetering on the point of crumbling to the floor.
Jason Latour is making sure this story doesn’t romanticize a damn thing.
“Loose Ends” #3 is about as far from outlaw glamour as you can get. Latour writes authentic lowlifes living low lives. And they’re all caught in the near-virtuosic whirlwind of Brunner’s art. Panel borders warp, twist, and disappear as Sonny and Cheri stagger through Miami nights. There’s a woozy, smokey flow to his lines that leaves the couple looking almost like grotesque caricatures, while Renzi brings a vibrant flourish to make the glitzy nightlife pop.
But there’s an amazing tension between the way Brunner draws and the way Renzi colors. There’s something else going on besides just shocking the arcade and dance club settings to life with electric feel. It’s like Renzi’s coloring how Sonny and Cheri see the world, in their drug- and endorphin-spiked haze, versus Brunner drawing them as they actually look. Because of this tension, because they’re not seeing what’s real, it’s hard not to see their relationship in the same light. So while there’s undeniable passion between the two, it’s not really romance. And as much as one, or both, might want it to be, they’re deluding themselves. It’s just the product of the money, the drugs, the stakes, their past.
The past. A book called “Loose Ends” just has to have ties back there, that much is obvious. So Latour splits this issue between the modern day and flashbacks to Rej and Sonny, stationed in Baghdad, dealing booze, porn and video games to their base, and branching out to products of the more narcotic kind. Latour cleverly works these flashbacks into the narrative to reinforce what’s happening in the story’s forward thrust . The first one shows them starting their business, and comes immediately after Rej, compromised by the Feds and setting Sonny up, tells his friend, “We’re in this shit together.”
For the second, occurring after a Fed knocks Sonny unconscious, we see the death of Rej and Sonny’s original supplier. Latour uses this vignette – depicted against dusty, dotted backgrounds that perfectly evoke the desert city – to reinforce the ever-present danger to both buyer and seller in these illegal games. It’s a provocative warning to anyone involved who thinks they could ever just take the money and run.Continued below
Latour, Brunner and Renzi create a visceral frenzy in “Loose Ends” #3 that fleshes out the relationships of all players. They set up a finale that will be anything but pretty for all involved. It might not be true romance, but it’s one hell of a grimy, sweaty, filthy ride.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – This is a wash-your-hands-after-putting-it-down kind of book. But with artwork this beautifully brutal, you won’t want to put it down.
Mother Panic #5
Written by Jody Houser
Illustrated by Shawn Crystal
Colored by Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Lettered by John Workman and Shawn Crystal
Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane
In a week that saw the CW’s Green Arrow admit that one of the reasons why he initially donned the hood was because he wanted to kill be people and enjoyed doing it, the potentiality for vigilante cape stories to transgress beyond the typical discourse of heroic fascism into slasher-esque action was on full display. Overall, however Arrow and “Mother Panic” #5 point towards the overall arc of mainstream, ongoing, vigilante cape stories. In Oliver Queen’s confession and Violet Paige’s short term partnership with fellow Gather House victim, the Pretty, is the inevitability and requirement for change in the vigilante architype despite all conscious protest. In both cases, it is through the acquisition of friends and partners that results in an affirmation of humanity and code.
The continued presence of Shawn Crystal and his more expressive, cartooned, style is key to realizing the humanity still in Violet. She doesn’t care for many people, but care and regret in her eyes in the bookend interactions with her mother go a long way in affirming she is not as broken or monstrous as she’d like to put on. She appears to be consciously more aware of this too, wondering if a night out and hook up is for her mediated image or herself.
While Crystal gets the little moments across, he doesn’t forget to plainly go “big” as well, in several one page surrealist or plain splash imagery. His construction of one page spreads, when mixed with Jody Houser’s writing, effectively and efficiently surrealistically represents the broken sanity of the Pretty and the trials Paige went through. These exercising in symbolism first is mixed with just the right amount of “realism” to give everything a nightmarish Wizard of Oz quality. Sadly, he doesn’t get to work in any fun onomatopoeia as part of the setting. His most interesting addition is ethereal Mother Panic death heads skulls floating around the imagined Gather House.
The reflexive nature of “Panic” has been on display, but the echo of “The Dark Knight Returns” with page in which Violet declares it “stops here” and breaks Pretty’s sniper rifle is an audacious moment of reference and recontextualization. It unites two moments from “Returns”, Batman exiting the Batmobile to take on the Mutant Leader the first time and his “guns are the weapon of the enemy” speech. It is a memetic moment for the creative teams/reader, that ties her into the semiotics of Batman, and punctures her ironic poaching of that imagery for her supposedly singular and unique purpose.
Going into “Mother Panic” I afraid that with the general pace of comics, it could become overwrought like Arrow’s first half-season as it tried to figure out the right balance to strike. Do I think Violet Paige has the generic range of the Batman? No, but it’s one its way to being a sustainable product with a cast and operational them I’m willing to invest in.
Final Verdict 7: “Mother Panic” and Violet Paige continue to figure themselves out and point towards something better, maybe even “heroic”.
Teen Titans #6
Written by Benjamin Percy
Penciled by Khoi Pham
Inked by Wade Von Grawbadger
Colored by Jim Charalampidis
Lettered by Corey Breen
Reviewed by Nicholas Palmieri
An enjoyable “Teen Titans” story? How did this get through editorial? Is the team’s streak of bad comics finally over?
Percy writes some great character interactions here. In a fun twist, there’s one scene where Beast Boy introduces a TV crew to each of the Teen Titans, opting for jokes and irony in his interactions with his teammates instead of direct exposition. It fits with the character, makes the scene more lively, and still succeeds in presenting the necessary information. His scenes introducing the new Aqualad are much more on-the-nose, but the character is written endearingly enough to where some of that can be overlooked.Continued below
The art team fits the book well, too. Pham draws lively figures, appropriately animated when necessary. His drawings of Aqualad’s water manipulation powers stood out to me, with the water jutting out of its source as one continuous stream that takes hard angles to wrap around characters. I also liked that every page (or double-page spread, in some cases) had one central important image and that the rest of the panels on the page were built around that. This gave each page an immediate interesting visual element and gave the surrounding panels a clear purpose as lead-up or aftermath, ultimately keeping my attention and helping me breeze through the issue.
I’ll admit, a lot of my enjoyment of this issue comes in comparing it to past Teen Titans comics. In looking at it more objectively, “Teen Titans” #6 is standard superhero fare. There’s nothing particularly stand-out about it, though those layouts do impress. In any case, it certainly feels nice to finally have these characters back and having fun together.
Final Verdict: 7.0 – These characters finally get the competent comic they deserve.
The Unworthy Thor #5
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by by Olivier Coipel, Kim Jacinto, & Pascal Alixe
Colored by Mat Lopes & Jay David Ramos
Reviewed by Jake Hill
The line between grim and nihilistic is a fine one, but as Jason Aaron’s much darker Thor book concludes its first arc, it proves that underneath all the gritted teeth, it has the heart of a hero. This is it, the issue that reveals a mystery that “Thor” fans have been teased with since “Original Sin” in 2014. And for the most part, it delivers.
The issue is narrated by the Unseen, the former Nick Fury now turned into a cosmic Watcher, chained to the moon and forgotten by most of the Marvel universe (and the Marvel writers). Thor finally arrives at the hammer of his Ultimate Universe counterpart, left over from the destruction of the universe, and comes face to face with his adversaries. There’s thunder and some punching and in the end… Thor elects not to lift the hammer. He’s been changed, and no longer thinks any Asgardians, or any Gods for that matter, are “worthy.”
Aaron sells this reveal with the same ponderous epic tone he’s adopted for this entire arc. It can’t be emphasized enough how transformative Aaron’s writing style is. If you put this issue next to an issue of “Scalped” or “Wolverine and the X-Men” you would be surprised they were all written by the same guy. Even put next to an earlier issue of “Thor,” it seems like a different book. The Odinson himself recites emo poetry and Thanos and his minions are the gothest squad ever to go up against the Prince of Asgard.
Olivier Coipel is probably the most important “Thor” artist of the 21st century and this issue… is not his best work. What’s wild is how inconsistent the characters are. This iteration of Thor sports a crew cut, is a bit more scowly, and is drawn to be as wide as two refrigerators side-by-side. It’s weird but it works. Beta-Ray Bill is as freaky as you’d hope, being a horse-skull-faced alien and all. Thanos shows up, and he is bright violet, trussed up in all his Silver Age glory. Then you have the Collector, drawn to look a lot like his MCU counterpart, but a whole lot less fabulous. Shadows always obscure his face and make his clothes look grey. His minions are similarly uninspired, just lumpy faced monster folk. There are three artists credited with this issue, so perhaps a lot of the inconsistency can be blamed on that.
In the end though, the strength of the issue is on its final sequence. This is a book about the God of Thunder at his lowest, depressed and far from the revered hero he once was. In the final pages, he accepts his situation, goes out with his brother-in-arms and his actual brother’s awful talking murder dog, and they get some beers. They even smile. By accepted his unworthiness, Thor is making a heroic sacrifice of a sort. He’s continuing to be a hero, just a different kind, still fighting for what he believes in.Continued below
Final Verdict: 7.7 – A satisfying conclusion to a long running storyline.
Will Eisner’s The Spirit: The Corpse Makers #2
Written and Illustrated by Francesco Francavilla
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
There’s something novel about The Spirit that Francavilla taps into right in the opening page with the snowy, moonlit truck and Raymond Chandler quote. The artist seems to be aware of what his strengths are as he gives himself the time and place in the story to show off his raw ability. It cannot be understanded how wonderful it is to have a vehicle for Francavilla to do what he does best as the artist meshes the narrative with pulp-infused sections loaded with inventive layouts and twists on timeless Will Eisner character, that being said, the mobster plot line and narrative that inches forward at a snail’s pace leaves something to be desired in this issue.
Another truly remarkable aspect of this comic is the restricted color palette. This issue gets a significantly more tense noir-esque feeling with the dark blue and black colors surrounding the page. When the comic mixes really bright orange, the series feels surreal with the mystical blend of colors assaulting the page. Another great aspect about Francavilla’s work in general is the lettering. The way that his balloons cross over but still look clean and crisp is a great example of some the aspects in which the artist is using some experimental techniques in this story. The red tie on The Spirit is accentuated in some panels and drawn out in others, this is another aspect that makes panels that are more sober pop with a strong personality.
With such a deliberate pace and tone, this issue is able to flesh out some typical crime narrative tropes told in a unique manner. Francavilla is able to keep the tension going during the entire length of this issue’s duration even if the stakes are a bit simplistic. With the issue’s various splash pages and fight scenes, the issue breezes by in a flash. Francavilla may not be breaking any new ground with the lead character and doesn’t quite tackle anything incredibly ambitious in this issue aside from creative layouts and artistic flourishes, Francavilla is still able to into a style all his own here.
While future issues could benefit from more plot and intrigue unraveling at a faster pace, Francavilla delivers a wonderful spin on an important comic book character in Will Eisner’s The Spirit: The Corpse Maker’s #2. As the series winds down I would love to see Francavilla challenge himself through more plot and contexts to interpret his art. The best part about this issue is still the impeccable sense of direction and beautiful splash pages littered throughout the story. While Francavilla’s plot isn’t as dense or layered as it could be, anything beyond the impressive artistry on display in the issue should be seen as icing on the cake.
Final Verdict: 7.0 – Francavilla delivers on the promise of incredible craft that comes with working on The Spirit even though his plot is undercooked in this follow-up issue.