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Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews For the Week of 4/18/18

By | April 23rd, 2018
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.

Assassinistas #4
Written by Tini Howard
Illustrated by Gilbert Hernandez
Colored by Rob Davis
Lettered by Aditya Bidikar
Reviewed by Kate Kosturski

If you were starting to wonder, “Gee, there’s that third member of the Assassinistas team that we think may have kidnapped a child that we know next to nothing about,” you’re in luck. This fourth installment of your favorite lady bounty hunters/college “internship” providers is all about that dangerous redhead Roz and her past. And boy, is it a past, rife with conjugal visits to some shady dude named Domino (that looks to have some nefarious connection to our trio), a stabbing, and an unplanned pregnancy – – all in the confines of the Maple Leaf Euphoria that is Toronto, Canada. For all her bravado, Roz can’t face her friends after finding out Domino (but not that Domino) has put her in the family way, and disappears for an entire year, only returning when Not That Domino is dead and Octavia has given birth to Dominic. In the present, Octavia, Dominic, and Taylor are off fighting robots (just stick with me here), still very pregnant Charlotte hires Dominic’s father Carlos to help find her son out of his waffle van (I said, stick with me here), and – – in possibly the most realistic plot thread of this entire series – – Roz has some surrogate parenting issues. The good news is by the end of this, missing child Kyler is found. The not so good news is, there’s another threat on the horizon. Hopefully everyone takes the advice of our tease for next issue, and packs heat instead of lunches (though a Kind bar or two is important for proper bounty hunter nutrition).

Everything about this series is over-the-top sitcom fun – – think “Archer” meets the blaxploitation films of the 1970s. (And with “Archer” ending after its 10th season, this would be a great heir apparent.) Sure, past and present bounce around with too much wild abandon in this issue, and when art styles don’t drastically change between flashback and present day, it can be hard to keep track. But that’s small potatoes when you have Tini Howard’s wit and Gilbert Hernandez’s classic style to keep you entertained. Hernandez does keep things relatively timeless in the shifts between past and present, with some exceptions to show aging, changes in hairstyles, and Carlos’s Lionel Richie tribute mullet back when Dominic was a baby. (One almost expects him to break out into a chorus of “All Night Long” while soothing his newborn son to sleep.) The more cartoonish this gets, the more the the flat cartooning style of Hernandez works beautifully. Combine that with Rob Davis’s block coloring, and you don’t have art that detracts from action.

There’s only two issues left of this series, and while one door has closed with Kyler away from Blood Diamond’s clutches, another one is creaking open. Normally I have concerns when new narrative threads start with such a short time left in a series. With the amount of action that this team can pack in an issue without leaving a reader feeling rushed, it will be a wild, fun ride to the end. If only it didn’t have to end….

Final Verdict: 7.7 – We may have Kyler out of his captor’s clutches, but the real adventure, short and sweet as it may be, is just beginning.

Avengers #689
Written by Mark Waid, Al Ewing, Jim Zub
Illustrated by Pepe Larraz
Colored by David Curiel
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Reviewed by Elias Rosner

“Avengers: No Surrender” has been a wild ride these last couple months. From the mystery of Voyager to the grand game being played on the board that is Earth, we’ve gotten to see the Avengers truly prove why they’re Earth’s mightiest heroes. So now that we’ve entered its penultimate issue, and the climax of the weekly, did it stick the landing?

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Well, yes and no.

With a cast this large, invariably there will be characters left by the wayside and those left underdeveloped. Up until now, it never really felt that way but in this issue, there was a disconnect between the main action (aka the battle with the Challenger) and the characters participating in it. Beast and Rouge are shuffled off to the side while characters that were trapped in stasis return to the forefront. While I welcome their reappearance, having the dynamic of who takes up panel space change made it harder to connect with the action. It’s not bad but it is a tiny bit messy in an otherwise well-balanced series.

That being said, Larraz has to be commended for the art in this issue. It’s all crisp, clear and easy to follow, something that is needed for this large a cast, and he manages to portray the subtle emotions of the Gamemaster’s poker game with Lightning and turn that into a tenser battle than the one with the Challenger. It’s unfortunate that the Challenger is just another muscle-head villain driven by anger.

However, the end of the battle with the Challenger is handled with great care and makes for a satisfying and earned ending. It reminds the audience of why the Avengers are so great as well as showing us what a few select Avengers see as their motivating factors. Curiel and Larraz are fantastic together here, where the colors and the art work hand in hand to provide a smooth transition from the purple “rememberances” to Scarlet Witch’s spells. Both were there to inspire the Avengers and both did it through different, reality altering means.

Next week is the epilogue and a much-needed decompression. This time, however, the fight lasted just a hair too long.

Final Verdict: 6.7. A good climax to a large series that had the misfortune of having too many Avengers and not enough panel space for them.

The Brave and the Bold: Batman and Wonder Woman #3
Written and Illustrated by Liam Sharp
Colored by Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Lettered by Troy Peteri
Reviewed by Alan Buxbaum

Liam Sharp’s “The Brave and the Bold” #3 continues to excite and intrigue audience members with Sharp’s expert art and writing. Although slow on the plot development, Sharp keeps the pacing appropriate so that the third issue continues to build the world of Tir Na Nóg while keeping the audience entertained.

This issue does a great job of showing us Sharp’s take on Batman, since much of the arc of the story is led by him. Placing him inside this magical land allows us to see a Batman who must figure out new ways of scientific deduction. This is something I never thought about prior to reading the mini-series, but it’s a big obstacle for him. After all, Batman can (for the most part) figure out any situation as long as he has enough information and time to put his plans into play. Changing his location to that of a fantastical environment where time and other basic rules work differently makes it so that he is at a disadvantage from his normal starting point. I’m excited to see how he uses this new environment to better solve the mystery at hand.

I am personally a huge fan of this because it solves a common problem with Batman. Generally, writers will challenge Batman with physical obstacles in order to test his grit or give him a challenge. Another common way to do this is to put him next to some other genius and watch them duke it out intellect-wise. In order to get out of these situations, he’ll generally depend on his skills of deduction and reasoning. This story is a wonderful way to give this common thread some variety by testing these skills within a new environment, thus dealing with a different set of rules to operate within. I’m excited to see how Batman puts the pieces of this different puzzle together.

Just as Sharp’s writing style is somewhat wordy, his art is similar in that each page is jam-packed with detail. This can be a lot for the eye, but is wonderful when going through it for a second read (the first page is a great example of this). One of the techniques I am most impressed with is his ability to create the illusion of movement through a single scene. He does this by dividing the single landscape into multiple panels. He then places the person or figure that is moving in each panel according to what position they would be in when going through the scene. It essentially tricks your eye into thinking that the multiple depictions of the figure are in motion due to the paneling.

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Final Verdict: 8.0 – Sharp’s talent for crafting words and images is nothing short of fantastic, making it a no brainer for this series to be on your weekly pull list. While this particular issue does little to develop the plot further, it adds more layers to the story that hopefully ensure a worthwhile pay-off somewhere down the road.

Damage #4
Written by Robert Venditti
Illustrated by Cary Nord
Colored by Tomeu Morey
Lettered by Tom Napolitano
Reviewed by Alex Curtis

As far as action-oriented comics go, “Damage” is a pretty decent book. Although that doesn’t necessarily excuse the poor dialogue, characterization, or pacing.

If this book has one really solid thing going for it—it’s the art by Cary Nord. While not as highly detailed as Tony S. Daniel who began the book, there’s a charm to the rough-around-the-edges art that reminded me just a bit of Joe Kubert. Nord makes up for any lack of detail with genuinely well thought-out composition that draws you in to the story, even if it’s not the best written. When Damage emerges throughout the comic, there’s not only a weight, but also an enticingly cartoonish quality about the character.

In terms of narrative—“Damage” doesn’t make a lot of sense and comes across as over-written and rushed. It begins with Ethan, AKA Damage in human form, hiding in the back of the truck, only to be taken in by the kindly vehicle owner—which strikes me as not only highly unlikely, but the meeting is too rushed to come across as convincing even if I did believe a truck driver would be fine with a luggageless vagrant sneaking into his supply for a snooze. On top of all that, the truck driver’s diner introduction is about as hokey and forced as can be. However, I will admit that when Ethan starts working with the driver, who’s a Mexican immigrant, Robert Venditti writes the workers as human beings, not automaton stereotypes.

There’s a virtual handful of villains, but they’re not that interesting. Poison Ivy’s motivation is nothing more than: “I’m angry that you humans are killing plants!” The Colonel character who’s been stalking Damage is as charismatic as a soaked bag of rice, and her gaggle of side villains are nothing more than the sum of their powers. It doesn’t help that the dialogue is so on-the-nose, with characters referring to each other’s names constantly.

Final Verdict: 5.8 – It’s not high art or written exceptionally well, but if you want to see DC’s version of the Hulk get a sentient vine shoved down his throat, then you could do a lot worse.

Daredevil #601
Written by Charles Soule
Illustrated by Mike Henderson
Colored by Matt Milla
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by Alexander Jones

Just a few issues ago, “Daredevil” was in a precarious position quality-wise as the creative team likely felt pressure to rush towards a big status quo for the anniversary issue. Thankfully, the dry tone and subtle nature of the series came back to the surface with the excellent and creative cliffhanger in the 600th issue. With a writer who used to practice the same profession as the series protagonist “Daredevil”, as well as Matt Murdock, are both in extremely capable hands as Charles Soule has continued his deep dive into the law that dovetails with the action-adventure and crime-focused narrative Soule has been spinning.

This is one of the most political situations Murdock has ever been written in the middle of and Soule finally distills everything great about the character into one core issue. Watching Matthew trying to keep the city of New York from unraveling under the regime which villain Wilson Fisk has established is one of the strongest, most interesting status quo’s the character has had in years. This story proceeding the milestone is a drastic and engaging leap of quality. The psychological horror elements of the title are back as well as Murdock is afraid of the City revolting against him.

Artist Mike Henderson is a fantastic replacement for Ron Garney, as he carries on his noir style, but translates it to the page differently than Garney. Henderson uses a varied approach to the page which bears a focused, subtle style when it comes to the scenes in office. When a large portion of the title is made up of characters talking, it is up to Henderson to make sure his figures and approach to the book are dynamic and interesting–fortunately, Henderson delivers on the promise. The fight scenes breaking out earlier in the story allow for him to utilize similar skills, providing pulse-pounding action and sharp choreography in the fight scenes.

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It is amazing how much can change in just a few issues as the Mayor Fisk storyline has completely turned around and changed into a fascinating storyline about a king trying to keep his seat on the throne. Soule and Henderson are producing fantastic work here and Marvel should be commended for the installment. Going forward, the team must stay focused and explore this storyline completely and keep Murdock as the mayor for a considerable amount of time. Dropping the thread next month would be unsatisfying, to say the least.

Final Verdict: 8.6 – “Daredevil” #601 is a fantastic introduction to the new status quo of Matt Murdock’s life as the mayor of New York City.

John Wick #2
Written by Greg Pak
Illustrated by Giovanni Valletta
Colored by David Curiel and Inlight Studios
Lettered by Tom Napolitano
Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane

Set aside the lateness of “John Wick” #2, as well as it’s status as a prequel, and consider “John Wick” #2 as an adaptation of the film series of the same name. You’d think such a well-established action series like John Wick would make for a clear action comic with requisite kickass art. The second issue of this comic series has the violence, but artists Giovanni Valletta and David Curiel fail at adapting the mood that sets this violence apart from other franchise. There is a stiffness to the paneling and page design in this issue that cuts the comic off at the knees. There are copious panels dedicated to groups of people pointing guns and firing, letterer Tom Napolitano fills the smoke with neon onomatopoeia. These designs function in a call and response manner but lack the fluidity or sense of meticulous movements that gives the source material a visceral quality. Valletta and Curiel’s best action is during a double page spread that features Mr. Wick dispatching a group of men with hazy visual geography. The paneling is simple, to the point, and flows together.

There are hints of a budding Baba Yaga at work. As Wick plays two sides against one another, Valletta surrealistically inserts Wick’s hand at the top of the page dropping a can of cat food off before it knocks a henchman’s head in another panel and sets off a hail of gunfire. The whole sequence makes an implied line straight down ending with an aggravated caller yelling through a discarded cell phone. In rendering things in a more surrealistic manner, Valletta accesses the notion of Wick as a supernatural being and creates sequential art that hints at the mood readers would expect.

The failure at replicating the mood of Wick is perhaps the comics biggest shortfall. It just doesn’t feel Wickian. Valletta’s overall designs read as a bit too cartooned. Characters depending on the perspective oscillate between thick line work and not enough, leaving a vacant quality. This mixed with Curiel’s painterly application of color gives everything a muddy, scratchy, quality. “John Wick” shouldn’t be muddy, it should be prim, proper, and bathed in neon colors; classy but stylish.

Final Verdict: 6.0 – “John Wick” lacks the style that makes the source material so immediately engaging. Without the style, it’s just a functional and somewhat generic comic book.

Justice League #43
Written by Priest
Penciled by Pete Woods
Inked by Pete Woods
Colored by Pete Woods
Lettered by Willie Schu
Reviewed by Devon Browning

DEATHSTROKE VS. THE JUSTICE LEAGUE! Now when was the last time you heard that? Oh yes, I’m speaking of the one and only “Identity Crisis” – an obvious DC Comic essential, and home to the notorious battle between the one-eyed assassin and a group of Leaguers who go toe to toe with him. And hey, sure, none of the members of the “Justice League” ‘Rebirth’ series happen to be in that unfortunate bunch, but the blatant nod to such an iconic story and moment was simply the cherry on top of an issue filled with subtle throwbacks to the days Deathstroke really did look like a pirate.

It’s to no surprise that Priest is able to bring back the very soul to these characters while also tackling uncomfortable modern day issues head on in this short lived arc. Pete Woods, the one man art show for this issue that brings the story to life, does well in hiding those hints and planted information that will make long time comic readers diving back into old school comics. Deathstroke’s respect to Cyborg and a continent he’s deeply rooted in, Batman’s flaws no longer glossed over, the reality of the Justice League and the impact the media can have upon it. A mix of new and old, figuratively and visually, this last issue of Justice Lost was exactly what this series needed.

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With tons of action and moments of tension, this story can only work visually if the artists on board are up for the challenge. Pete Woods overachieved that idea, and put the reader side by side with the characters, allowing one to feel as if they are in the story themselves rather than outside of the world they are looking upon. It’s the sort of layout and journey that has the audience sounding off the lettering in their heads in which is no disappointment from Willie Schu. And while both succeed at transforming Priest’s script into a visually pleasing read, what is perhaps one of the noticeable flaws could be more of an opportunity in the art design.

With such topics, language, and even violence that brings these characters together, there was an opportunity for a darker color scheme with colors that are less faded. The style of coloring is very much washed out throughout the issue, and while it sees no negative effects throughout the read, a harsher take to the pallet would have really knocked this story out of the park. Without the action and script, the colors alone would not allow for a feeling of what is going on, and its that sort of difference visually that see comic books succeeding over the story and scrip itself. While it in no way shaves off the rating, there was a huge opportunity for this issue to be the ‘must read’ of the month otherwise.

Final Verdict: 8.9 – The end to ‘Justice Lost,’ but the beginning of a new direction in such an influential series. Worthy of a read, and a few more after that.

Lucy Dreaming #2
Written by Max Bemis
Illustrated by Michael Dialynas
Lettered by Colin Bell
Reviewed by Matt Sadowski

After her first trip to the dream world, yellow-eyed Lucy discovers that puberty is the least of her problems. To Max Bemis’s credit, the first issue’s cliffhanger is addressed immediately, and questions are answered. Lucy’s reaction to the truth of her inter-dimensional dreaming is cleverly depicted on an early splash page. Lucy stands crying in the center of the page as her neon-lined mental projections rage against the living room furniture. It’s a clever visual that effectively broadcasts Lucy’s frustrations at the cataclysmic forces changing her life and the thin veneer of her self-restraint.

Michael Dialynas pulls double duty in effectively illustrating two different styles within one comic book. Lucy’s “reality” is drawn with cartoon strip simplicity while the “dream” is comparatively more realistic. It’s an inspired choice, suggesting that the dream world feels more real than actual reality. Color also divides reality from the dream. Lucy’s reality deals with lighter, pastel tones than her dream counterpart. The dream is much darker, filled with hues of burnt grass and rusted metal.

Every issue seems to tackle a different genre within the dream world. This time, Lucy enters a post apocalyptic wasteland full of mechanical dinosaurs, robotic creatures, and Girl Link. There are some decent action sequences but the underlying humor and self-awareness elevate them to a small degree. Lucy’s curses are censored with humorous euphemisms, perhaps taking a jab at YA fiction’s inoffensive language. Post-It notes cover word balloons to keep the language relatively PG.

“Lucy Dreaming” has so far operated on a surface level, skating by on the strength of its premise without dealing with any of its complexities. Each dream even ends with an explicitly stated adage. If the purpose of these dreams is to merely pay homage to diverse genres while stating simplistic lessons, then it’s doubtful this 5-issue series will amount to much.

Final Verdict: 6.8 – Lucy dreams herself into another mythical adventure showcasing dual art styles by Dialynas, but where is this all going?

Nightwing #43
Written by Michael Moreci
Illustrated by Minkyu Jung
Colored by Felipe Sobreiro
Lettered by Carlos M. Mangual
Reviewed by Reed Hinckley-Barnes

Like the issue before it, “Nightwing” #43 is a one-shot fill in issue, made to fill the space between the run that came before this, and the next big run that is coming after. However, unlike the issue before this one, “Nightwing” #43 does not bring anything especially interesting to the table.

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This issue centers around Dick Grayson being called in to Gotham to deal with a problem by both Damian Wayne and Arsenal. The issue seems like its going for a kind of odd couple team up between the two of them and Dick tries to navigate the situation and handle being a leader. But, most of the interactions between Damian and Arsenal come across as forced and a bit rote.

The art does its job well enough. Like the story, there is nothing aggressively bad about the artwork in “Nightwing” #43. Mostly, it just feels a little boring. There are a few moments where the action looks really nice, but after the departure from traditional super hero art in the issue before this, this just feels kind of boring. It’s serviceable, but it doesn’t do anything especially amazing.

The biggest problem with “Nightwing” #43 is that it feels like filler, through and through. There’s nothing wrong with a one-off story, in fact, it’s something I wish comics would do a bit more of. But this, while not offensively bad in any particular way, doesn’t really have much to say. The issue tries to make some kind of commentary on the ways Dick is different from Bruce but doesn’t say anything that hasn’t been said thousands of times before. The interactions between the characters are not even especially entertaining. Frankly, it’s an issue that would be easy to skip. Maybe just wait for the next, longer “Nightwing” run to start instead.

Final Verdict: 5.5 – “Nightwing” #43 isn’t bad, it’s just kind of boring.

Warframe #4
Written by Matt Hawkins and Ryan Cady with Cam Rogers and Ryan Mole
Illustrated and Colored by Studio Hive
Lettered by Troy Peteri
Reviewed by Gregory Ellner

Matt Hawkins and Ryan Cady are very good at crafting their tale in the ‘Ghouls’ comic arc as a whole, and they seem to shed some of the major issues they had in the past for this penultimate installment. Mizuki and Little Duck have primary focus with Lotus absent and Captain Vor only having minimal involvement in the plot itself. In fact, the use of the mindless Infected as the main antagonistic faction directly affecting the heroes allows us to concentrate on their personalities, particularly Mizuki’s bravery in spite of her blindness and Little Duck’s turn toward true selflessness after certain events put him in the young girl’s debt. Together, these original characters have such a compelling dynamic with their world that they almost make a case for inclusion in the Warframe video game franchise itself.

Studio Hive’s artwork is, as ever, a masterpiece. Everything is drawn and colored in such a realistic light that it could nearly be a photograph. Soft lines allow the world itself to come to life, rather than appear too mechanical. This softness and use of blurring further enhances the dynamic fight scenes, adding a true tension to the whole thing that leaves readers wondering if the heroes will survive, given they are original to the comic aside from the (ostensibly replaceable) Mag Warframe.

How will it all end? Time will tell, but the pieces set up are compelling enough to entice even non-players of the source video game.

Final Verdict: 7.5- A fun action story with more focus on the action and interpersonal characterization than anything that requires game lore knowledge.

The X-Files: Case Files — Florida Man #1
Written by Delilah S. Dawson
Illustrated by Elena Casagrande
Inked by Silvia Califano
Colored by Arianna Florean
Lettered by Shawn Lee
Reviewed by Jonathan O’Neal

The realization that Mulder and Scully’s investigations began 25 years ago is pretty sobering for us old X-Philes. Speaking to end of the millennium anxiety by way of monsters and shadowy government conspiracies was like capturing lightning in a pre-portable technology era bottle, and the recent televised revivals have not had the same allure when proof of UFOs can be captured and uploaded to the cloud within seconds.

Judging IDW’s newest X-Files offering by its cover and title, I had hoped that the contents would plunge our favorite special agents into a case from the past. Instead, the log line from the opening panel places readers firmly in 2017. Not to judge the story on what it isn’t, but what unfolds in the following pages reads like alternate dimension versions of agents Mulder and Scully.

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In two panels, Scully presents the case that has brought them to sweltering Florida in such a way that it can barely be described as a case at all. Instead it’s a ill-defined investigation into an area with a high concentration of Florida Man… incidents. For the uninitiated, Florida Man… is internet shorthand for outlandish (and usually drug or alcohol related) blue (or no) collar crimes perpetrated by men in the sunshine state. In this case, Scully makes the kind of loose connection that Mulder would typically make and Scully would use empirical evidence to explain. But in this story Mulder seems to be uncharacteristically misinformed on even basic geography and metereology, and he is portrayed as so petulant as to be annoying, missing most of his deadpan charm.

In short, the characters in this book may look a bit like Mulder and Scully, but apart from their sometimes witty repartee they are about as far from those beloved characters as Halpadalgi, Florida is from Washington, D.C. Dawson has an impressive resume in science fiction and paranormal prose, but her take on these characters is dubious.

The ‘Florida Man…’ premise is promising, sharing a kernel with some of the best comedic standalone episodes from the television series, but there is little here in the writing and the art that gives confidence for the next installment. Casagrande’s line succeeds more often with Mulder’s likeness than Scully’s, but the main offense in the utilitarian artwork is that everyone looks cool as a cucumber besides Mulder, who drips with sweat in every panel. It’s an odd and unnerving contrivance, but by the time Scully shoots and kills an unarmed man near the issue’s end, fans of The X-Files will likely have already filed this story away as an unexplained editorial phenomenon.

Final Verdict: 4.0 – This disappointing comic may send X-Philes to Netflix to revisit better adventures in Florida (s2e20 and s5e4) and to a dictionary for a definition of antimacassar.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

Brian Salvatore

Brian Salvatore is an editor, podcaster, reviewer, writer at large, and general task master at Multiversity. When not writing, he can be found playing music, hanging out with his kids, or playing music with his kids. He also has a dog named Lola, a rowboat, and once met Jimmy Carter. Feel free to email him about good beer, the New York Mets, or the best way to make Chicken Parmagiana (add a thin slice of prosciutto under the cheese).


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