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Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 5/3/23

By | May 8th, 2023
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.

Cult of Carnage: Misery #1
Written by Sabir Pirzada
Illustrated by Francesco Mortarino
Colored by Java Tartaglia
Lettered by Joe Sabino
Reviewed by Gregory Ellner

Making a superhero origin story out of a preexisting character with decades of history can be exceptionally difficult. Elizabeth “Liz” Allen has been around since Spider-Man’s earliest days, with a history intricately tied with the Osborn family (into which she married via Harry), and by utilizing that history, combined with newer creations such as symbiotes and related technologies, Sabir Pirzada creates an intriguing, complex collection of circumstances that coalesce into a new heroine (though for how long is unclear).

Francesco Mortarino does a great job with the visceral nature of the symbiotes, making them truly feel slimy and disturbing. Meanwhile, the individual people in the piece feel all the more human, their expressions soft in contrast to more intimidating, relatively featureless faceplates on various people.

The artwork is already fantastic, but it is Java Tartaglia’s colors that bring it truly over the edge. The use of darker shades and hues help to add depth to various characters and either calm situations down or enhance their danger, be it in calmer flashbacks or in modern horrors.

Final Verdict: 7.5– A new heroine rises from a merger of various forces to intriguing effect in this tie-in to symbiote lore.

Peacemaker Tries Hard #1
Written by Kyle Starks
Illustrated by Steve Pugh
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by Becca Carey
Reviewed by Alexander Manzo

Kyle Starks captures Peacemaker’s comedic timing and idiotic ability to follow orders and take things solely at face value. For those familiar with James Gunn’s Peacemaker HBO Max series, it can feel like a fresh episode, but for those that aren’t, get a brand new treat. Starks gives a lightheartedness to an otherwise psychotic villain who wants to maintain his freedom but still has a symbolic collar around his neck by Amanda Waller. Starks does close the gap from Robbie Thompson’s Suicide Squad run that Peacemaker spun out of by showcasing their fear of his awkward friendship. Starks has made Peacemaker a character desperate for any relationship, given that his father gave him as messed up childhood as anyone could ask for. The flashback scene gives a preview into the power dynamic of Peacemaker and his father; he wasn’t given a chance to be a kid, so now, being an adult with newly found freedom, he has a chance to figure it all out. In the final act of this issue, when Peacemaker is forced to do the bidding of The Brain in hopes of getting his newly found dog back, it sounds like a weird way to set up the story arc, but for Peacemaker, it works.

Steve Pugh does a solid job of giving this issue an old-school vibe with the heavy inks and easy-to-follow action sequences. He’s a villain with a ripped physique that is highly aware of the latter, so when Pugh shows him snapping necks and holding up thugs by their nostrils, it’s both a little scary. Jordie Bellaire also does an excellent job of creating these dark and dreary day vibes because the story itself only takes place in one day, but there’s this sense of the second foot dropping to mess up Peacemaker’s goals in mind.

Final Verdict: 8.0 – If this series continues with the James Gunn way of Peacemaker, it’ll be entertaining and exciting to see how Starks can connect it to future DC projects with Peacemaker.

Starsigns #1
Written by Saladin Ahmed
Illustrated by Megan Levens
Colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick
Lettered by Shawn Lee
Reviewed by Quinn Tassin

“Starsigns” #1 is a curious book. On the one hand, this is clearly series that’s working to emphasize character building and small moments. In a first issue that features constellations disappearing and the protagonist gaining the power to freeze time, moments like listening to music on the couch and getting everything done on time at work are much more central to the narrative. It’s reflective of strong storytelling values that make this series easy to become invested in quickly. Rana is a likable, engaging protagonist with a lovable dad and an odd roommate. We know that she’s a quick study with her powers and that’s really the bulk of what we see happen in this debut.

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On the other hand, the execution in this debut is at least a little bit elementary. There’s nothing wrong with playing the hits structurally but generally one is better off playing them with more gusto or at least texture than we get here. After a riveting opening that teases the greater story being told, pivoting to the everyday life of the protagonist is a completely normal thing to do. But the dialogue (kind of a key thing when the only things you’re invested in showing us what someone’s home and work lives are like) is often middling. Almost all of the dialogue is so on the nose or expository that it’s hard to get much of value out of it. Plus, a lot of it just doesn’t feel natural (I’m looking at you, “I need to get my phone so I can post pics!”). A comic this invested in small moments should feel much more layered and real than this issue does. Even the big ones, like Rana discovering her ability, feel like their dialogue could be copied and pasted from any first issue of a comic where somebody gets superpowers. None of this is disqualifying by any means; this is an overall interesting debut. Now that the foundation is laid, it seems like there’ll be more room to explore that bigger story, which seems fascinating. But this deficiency is what’s stopping a decent issue from becoming a great one.

The artwork in “Starsigns” #1 is incredibly reminiscent of that in Image Comics classic “The Wicked and the Divine.” There’s that same crisp linework and focus on making the environments and characters feel as normal as possible despite the grand machinations that we know are at work. Wardrobes are hip but very real twenty-something fare and Rana’s apartment feels lived in, helping reemphasize that this is a story about a completely normal person that we can easily relate to. The coloring works toward a similar goal, striking a great balance between groundedness and bold, expressive colors. The artwork is unsurprisingly at its best when the mysterious zodiac material is being tackled. We open with a simple but striking scene: the star signs over a snowy sky in bright colors and a group of researchers of some sort in the mountains. What could feel generic instead carries with it a grandiosity and sense of wonder. The fact that something big is coming is palpable from that first spread and it’s difficult to imagine not being fascinated to find answers after seeing it. Rana’s powers, too, are illustrated in an interesting way, with an orange aura enveloping her whenever they’re in use. It’s both aesthetically pleasing and it creates an effective shorthand for the series moving forward. Plus, it’s plain entertaining to see her move through these frozen settings.

Final Verdict: 7.3- A strong premise, plenty of promise, and strong artwork outweigh an inconsistent script in “Starlings” #1.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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