Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 7/11/18

By | July 16th, 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.

Aliens: Dust to Dust #2
Written by Gabriel Hardman
Illustrated by Gabriel Hardman
Colored by Rain Beredo
Lettered by Michael Heisler
Review by Chris Egan

The second issue of “Aliens:” ‘Dust to Dust’ has finally been unleashed on us after nearly 3 months of waiting and it brings all the action and gore that fans of the franchise could want.

‘Dust to Dust’ continues the tradition of throwing our human characters into hardship after hardship, barely giving them a chance to catch their breath, let alone survive the horrific ordeal. As the remaining survivors of LV-871 try to make their escape they quickly discover that getting away from hordes of Xenomorphs will not be easy. Hardman masterfully blends the perils of a coming of age story and the horrors of an alien-infested colony in the far reaches of space. This issue is filled with constant action and gore; moving the story along at light speed. It is an extremely faithful, if not overdone plot type for Aliens. One of the best moments in this issue is Hardman’s decision to show how brutal and deadly a young Chestburster can be for anyone who isn’t its host. This is something that has never really been included before and while it is not the focus of this chapter, it is a nice added bit of terror. He also chooses to have characters discuss how Xenomorphs take on the traits of their host. A detail that is surely foreshadowing the events of the future issues.

Pulling double duty, Hardman’s illustrations paired with Beredo’s inks add to the nightmarish action perfectly. Everything is in motion at all times. Keeps the anxiety of this adrenaline-laced story high. Everything is harsh and violent. The artwork tells a clear narrative while keeping some undefined, dream-like details. Everything about it will appeal to fans of the dark horror and gritty action that both Ridley Scott and James Cameron brought to the films. Perfectly uncomfortable for an “Aliens” book.

Readers will be left wanting more with some hinted story details that seem to be leading to something we have never seen in this series, film or otherwise. Once again, nothing is going to be easy for these survivors and the remaining issues should be filled with the same action and terror shown here.

Final Verdict: 7.5 – An action-packed and welcome addition to the world of “Aliens” that will make most fans happy.

Domino #4
Written by Gail Simone
Illustrated by David Baldeon
Colored by Jesus Aburtov
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by Jacob Robert Nuckolls

Gail Simone’s take on Domino has been known for having a distinct, fun personality. This book is no exception.

Despite the fact that she plays with two worn-out X-Men trends (being trapped and experimented upon by a secret agency and going to Asia to be trained by a martial arts master), she is able to impress her own unique take on the story with a plot that doesn’t take itself too seriously. She draws deeply from the well of her lovable interpretation of Domino – a hot mess with a heart. Though it felt a little like the spark of romance in this book came out of nowhere, Simone does an excellent job of demonstrating the chemistry between the two characters. At the end of the day, it’s her heart-warming, humorous approach to these characters that saves her from many comic-plot pitfalls.

This is also where Baldeon shines. His energetic, bouncy character design furthers the reader’s endearment of them. He walks the line between a goofy, cartoonish style and an over-sexy classic comic book illustration skillfully providing artwork that feels coherent with Simone’s writing style. Likewise, Aburtov’s colors wonderfully contrast some of the darker scenes with the usual bright and fun universe.

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Final Verdict: 7.5 – Despite falling back on some overused X-Men tropes, Simone and company continue to prove that their endearing characters are worth following no matter the scenery.

Elvira: Mistress of the Dark #1
Written by David Avallon
Illustrated by Dave Acosta
Colored by Andrew Covalt
Lettered by Taylor Esposito
Reviewed by Elias Rosner

Elvira, Mistress of the dark and horror host extraordinaire, returns to comics this month for an adventure through time and horror history. Taking a somewhat meta approach to the character, “Elvira: Mistress of the Dark” #1 see us following not horror host Elvira but the actress Elvira. What I mean by this is that instead of acting as an anthology host, ala Uncle Creepy, Elivra is the protagonist of the story, which is shaping up to be an “anthology” of famous Horror writer icons, starting with this month’s Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

This approach is a smart balance for Elvira’s many roles over the years if only the story itself managed to strike that balance. On the one hand, Avallon has managed to capture Elvira wit and personality but on the other hand, that wit only manifests itself through never-ending talking and jokes that miss more often than they land. There are a few great sequences, such as the one where Elvira and Mary are fleeing from the Pornstache guy, which take advantage of the conceit of the comic and of Elvira’s characterization to riff on tropes of the genre and on Elvira’s old shows but they do not make up a majority of the comic.

Much of the plot itself is fairly thin, just an excuse to have Elvira snark across time and to have Lord Byron and Percy Shelley be established as jerks before getting their comeuppance. It’s a shame, I would have loved to have spent more time with Mary and Elvira but the plot demanded things be moved along. That is the other problem with this issue; there is not enough time to breath during or in between scenes due to the constant talking of the characters.

It’s a shame because the art is strong. Acosta and Covalt manage to convey the schlocky horror roots of the movies Elvira used to introduce while still keeping things grounded. Facial expressions and character positions are kept restrained but remain flexible. No one feels wooden, unless they are meant to, and the action is kept lively. I only wish the action felt more important. As it stands, it was another excuse to get the plot moving and to move Elvira along to her step in time.

Final Verdict: 6.9 – A good, albeit flawed, first issue that captures Elvira but cannot quite capture her humor or place her in anything but a mediocre plot.

Monstress #18
Written by Marjorie Liu
Illustrated and Colored by Sana Takeda
Lettered by Rus Wooton
Reviewed by Gregory Ellner

As the finale of the ‘Haven’ arc, Marjorie Liu “Monstress” #18 ramps up the action and tension to very high levels, both for the actual combat against the old god, and other, less marital problems for others in Maika Halfwolf’s group. While the old god can be dealt with, the sheer power discrepancy between it and the magical technologies of the world keeps to a true eldritch horror angle, albeit on a very slightly more hopeful level than the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Characters like Kippa, Ren, and Corvin are given some time to shine, but the main focus remains on Maika and her struggles, alongside her constant companion Zinn. As such, there is a direct focus on the duo’s struggles in particular, including the limits to what they can do or know.

As always, Sana Takeda’s artwork is absolutely beautiful. Her method of merging a blurred line for glowing individuals or areas with a harder pencil on the general shape of scenery helps to make the world of “Monstress” feel more solid, while the colors used are so varied, so split between a softer flow of similar shades to the intentional, often oppressive splotches of blood and grime across entire scenes or even across multiple panels, adding an air of unreality to the fight with the Monstrum. Everything feels like a painting, like it is both beautiful and obscene, changing between the two as the battle goes on in a realistic, chaotic way.

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Final Verdict: 8.0 – “Monstress” finishes off its third arc with a bang as it falls to readers to wait until the coming winter for more.

Nancy Drew #2
Written by Kelly Thompson
Illustrated by Jenn St-Onge
Colored by Triona Farrell
Lettered by Ariana Maher
Reviewed By Kate Kosturski

Wherever Nancy Drew goes, trouble just follows. She’s fallen into a cave while exploring her hometown’s seaside cliffs, and knocked unconscious. Fortunately she’s rescued by a mysterious (and cute) stranger named Pete Vega, who turns out to be the man behind the mysterious note that set up this entire series. Pete’s mother died two days after Nancy’s, but the death was overshadowed by the death of Mrs. Drew because, as he puts it – “you were famous and your dad was famous and your mom was famous, and rich, and beloved, and white.” But that’s not the end of the story: while the police did find Mrs. Vega two days later, Pete and Nancy find yet another body in the cave. Who is it?

Here we see Kelly Thompson’s first modern touches to Nancy Drew: the issue of race in media coverage of missing persons. It’s handled in a simple yet impactful piece of dialogue. Nancy’s world expands out slightly in the opening pages as well. She was (and still is) a take-charge kind of gal (much to her friends’ chagrin), but broken when confronted with one moment that has no mystery (the death of her mother in an accident), she’s lost. The script is still trying to find its footing after what was an underwhelming debut, but Thompson is starting to find her voice of Nancy Drew without making her to cliched or cloying. Jenn St-Onge is still a star on art. She brought new life to the “Giant Days Holiday Special” 2017, drawing her characters vibrantly but with respect to their origins. George Fayne is still the sporty short-haired tomboy I remember from the books, just now with an edgy undercut. Bess Martin is the slightly plump but feminine best friend who takes a little influence from Valiant’s Faith Herbert. Panels are still full of action, and when combined with Ariana Maher’s lettering, move with a free, contemporary style. Triona Farrell brings over her color style from “Runaways,” and it transfers beautifully to this series: contemporary, with appropriate shading to denote depth but not too much of it. The only thing I could have done without (and this is a purely personal matter)? The scenes in the Bayport Public Library. As a librarian myself, and on behalf of all my librarian friends and family who work to break down the stereotypes that our profession is still saddled with in 2018: was that entire interlude with every stereotypical librarian trait in play really necessary?

The mystery of who wants Nancy Drew back in Bayport has ended, but a second one is just beginning. The third will be to see if readers can stay hooked on this series, and I’m starting to see glimmers of greatness from the creative team.

Final Verdict: 7.0 – The slow start from the debut continues, but it’s starting to pick up the pace. Pack your patience with this series; I have a strong feeling you will be rewarded.

Outpost Zero #1
Written by Sean Kelley McKeever
Illustrated by Alexandre Tefenkgi
Colored by Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Lettered by Ariana Maher
Reviewed by Dexter Buschetelli

Anyone who grew up in a small town can tell you what it’s like to be fourteen and dreaming of escaping. They can also tell you about the crippling fear that you never will. It’s an environment that breeds a closeness with those around you, but it is simultaneously restrictive. City and county lines feel like walls, insurmountable in height and impenetrable by force. At an age where fight or flight begins to take hold, surroundings hold you down.

Small towns are escapable, though. A biome on a foreign ball of ice is not. Or, at least, most would think it is not. This is the world that Sean Kelley McKeever is building in “Outpost Zero”. The debut issue establishes the world these characters live in and introduces each of the main cast deftly. Within its thick forty-four pages their motivations, aspirations, fears, and entanglements are laid out for the reader with nary a stumble along the narrative journey, which may be the book’s greatest accomplishment.

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McKeever seems to fall into the same school of thought as writers like Stephen King and Robert Kirkman, understanding that overall concept is far less important than character development. As Matt Hawkins of Top Cow once told me “ideas don’t matter, execution does”, and McKeever’s execution hits the mark.

Where many writers struggle with writing teenage characters, McKeever excels. They’re not dumbed down, but not treated as being more than they are. They are young human beings, not quite an adult but past the age of reason. They struggle with saying how they feel at times and blurt out thoughts without consideration a breath later. These characters feel real, in a way that is difficult to characterize.

McKeever’s tale is executed visually by the art team of Alexandre Tefenkgi and Jean-Francois Beaulieu who use a somewhat simplistic style that at times belies the skillful presentation of each part played. The facial expressions of Alea particularly stand out, and her emotions read as clear as Ariana Maher’s lettering does on the page. In addition to the line work, flipping through the book gives viewers a wide array of the color spectrum without feeling muddied. Beaulieu uses color as well as McKeever uses vocabulary, and the pages are a visual treat.

One needs more than 400 words to elaborate on this series debut but, suffice to say, it is worth picking up and worthy of a pull-list addition.

Final Verdict: 8.6 – Not a perfect book, but worth weathering a storm for.

Rat Queens #10
Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Illustrated by Owen Gieni
Colored by Owen Gieni
Lettered by Ryan Ferrier
Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane

“Rat Queens” has always been self-aware about the genre space it exists in, with issue #10 the finale to ‘The Colossal Magic Nothing’ it becomes aware of itself. Not in the too smart for its own good, self-satisfied, way reflexivity often comes across as. Writer Kurtis J. Wiebe and Owen Gieni hold a mirror up to this series and take a hard look at the series shortcomings and ask some emotionally tough questions about those shortcomings. That emotional clarity is what makes this finale and arc effective, it’s all a manifestation of their collective guilt. The mechanics are some timey-wimey-wibbly-wobbly that shouldn’t really be thought about. It feels like “Rat Queens” has achieved an earned state of normality, as opposed to just trying to pretend stuff never happened because of magic.

With the revelation that Dee eventually split the timeline, creating the world of Volume 2, who is under the hood isn’t shocking, but still a good reveal. Gieni’s page design is simple and effective, a series of horizontal panels tracking the costume as it slowly fades away until we get a nice big picture of the Hannah they left behind. Gieni draws her with that wisecracking flair of the Hannah we knew and the bitterness she now carries. Gieni’s tenure on the book has been good, but their representation of that duality in Hannah’s eyes and the pain of understanding in Betty’s is some of their best work.

With the new numbering and “Volume” designation, “Rat Queens” and Wiebe seemed set on excising it’s ‘Demons,’ but rightly doesn’t. Hannah Prime isn’t there to make them disappear into a nihilistic void, she wants them to remember how they failed their friendship with her. Hopefully, that knowledge will strengthen them on the adventures to come and they can prove that love could be enough.

One of the most effective aspects of the reveal is how relatively short it is. Like good comics writing, it’s efficient and to the point. That efficiency leaves room for the two to swap stories where things once again get meta. As exercises in Owen Gieni showing off how many different styles and aesthetics he can play with they work beautifully. Both Betty and Hannah’s stories have a nostalgic glow to them, but only one of them has the soft fuzzy quality of eighties TV and animation. These sequences are diversionary but help to inform the emotional truth this story is searching for.

Final Verdict: 8.0 – “Rat Queens” has gone through plenty of tumults in recent years, and ‘The Colossal Magic Nothing’ isn’t trying to erase that but it is trying to move forward after a long hard look in the mirror.

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Sideways #6
Written by Dan Didio
Illustrated by Carmine Di Giandomenico
Colored by Dan Brown
Lettered by Travis Lanham
Reviewed by Alexander Jones

“Sideways” #6 marks an important chapter of Derek’s life. The issue opens with a heated exchange between Derek and his mother Helen and only picks up the tension from there. Over the past few issues, “Sideways” has held a lot of promise and has been teasing an issue like this with the brief scenes from Helen’s day job and the ominous cover of the issue. This week’s installment also maps another important shift for the series with Carmine Di Giandomenico stepping in for Kenneth Rocafort. The script also has author and DC Co-Publisher Dan Didio in the driver’s seat. This is possibly the most consequential issue to date and the story is in slightly different hands than usual, does “Sideways” #6 nail the execution?

Without spoiling the pivotal plot moments from the installment, it is important to note this is the best entry of the series yet. From the first page of the story, Didio clearly conveys enough melodrama to show the next steps in Derek’s life are going to be important. The chapter does a very good job foreshadowing some of the larger moments allowing readers to know what is coming without the twist feeling too obvious. Didio seems to understand how to convey the right information to Giandomenico in the script to allow for the artist to convey the proper emotion of a scene.

Giandomenico’s versatile layouts and approach to the pages of “Sideways” #6 make the issue a joy to read. In the first couple pages, there are specs of light which increase the tension of the script in a subtle manner. Giandomenico is a natural successor for Rocafort’s artistic contributions. Giandomenico’s scratchy and imprecise line work consistently portrays the tone of “Sideways” while still feeling unique. Giandomenico’s work illustrates the grim and important tone of the issue with clarity as well. The scene transitions from a desolate office building to a massive splash page still have an organic element of motion.

In the past, “Sideways” has come off as dull and inconsequential. Thankfully, this week’s installment did a great job adding important plot elements and setting itself apart from past issues. While Didio’s script can be slightly too wordy and Giandomenico can sometimes omit important details, the two creators turn in solid comic book work. Celebrating some of the newer heroes at DC is important and “Sideways” still has an enormous level of potential that can be tapped into in future issues.

Final Verdict: 7.5 – “Sideways” #6 is a great new installment featuring an ending that could change Derek’s life forever!

Titans #23
Written by Dan Abnett
Illustrated by Brandon Peterson
Colored by Ivan Plascencia
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
Reviewed by Gustavo S. Lodi

“Titans” #23 marks the beginning of a new mission statement, as the team becomes the response team to support ordinary humans who got powers after the Source Wall broke down. However, the creative team comes short of making this new direction truly exciting and promising on a longer run.

Abnett has been with the “Titans” book since the ‘Rebirth’ era started and part of the problems here is that it feels like a rehashed interpretation of what came before. Turmoil within the team? Check. Members with secret and ulterior reason to be there? Check. The moral debate around the use of violence versus heroism? Check. Even though there are interesting elements woven in there, like the Source Wall energies and the introduction on new members Steel and Miss Martian, it ends up getting lost in the shuffle of the more familiar themes.

Peterson’s art is also a bit of a mixed bag. There is no denying that his characters are inspired. In an iconic manner, Nightwing, Donna and Beast Boy are looking their best, Gar, especially with his out-of-control transformation powers. Despite that, his figures can come across as static, with poses taking the priority over movement and panel designs. During conversations, this is felt less so, but when the action breaks out it can surely be perceived.

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One of “Titans” high points is the coloring by Pascencia. For a group as diverse as the Titans, the artist has a field day with different power signatures, cosmic energies and evil foes bursting with power. There is also intelligent use of characters dominant’s color (like Miss Martian’s green hues) to support panel borders around them, guiding and reminding readers of who is who.

Back to the plot, Abnett seems to be going with a “monster of the month” approach, combined with a subplot on the Titans becoming an accepted member of the heroic community. It remains to be seen if that is the case, but there is not much on this issue to propel the audience to be further engaged.

Final Verdict: 6.5 – An opening issue should deliver on a clear mission statement that excites. But despite iconic characters and some interesting story elements, this issue still feels too much like previous entries.

Wonder Woman #50
Written by James Robinson
Art by Stephen Segovia, Jesus Merino & Andy Owens, Emanuela Lupacchino & Ray McCarthy
Colored by Romulo Fajardo & Chris Sotomayor
Lettered by Saida Temofonte
Reviewed by Eric Goebelbecker

James Robinson opens the last issue of his run on “Wonder Woman” with a scene set a month after the final battle with the Dark Gods. After seven pages of talking about the final battle, we rejoin it where the previous issue left off. If the number seven seems arbitrary, it happens to be the number of additional pages this “extra-sized anniversary issue” has.

Diana suffers a substantial loss in this story, but telegraphing it on page one blunts the impact. The loss also comes as part of a confusing method for defeating the Dark Gods, making the wrap-up of this five issue storyline feel anti-climactic.

The art, however, is beautiful. There’s a lot of talk intermixed with a great deal of action, but the storytelling is smooth and holds your attention. One two-page spread does a beautiful job of showing us a shift from the real world to the spiritual. The battles are animated, and the sometimes lengthy discussions between characters are portrayed with enough emotion and weight they add to the drama rather than slowing it down.

“Wonder Woman” #50 would probably be a better issue if it were only 23 pages long and it didn’t seem just as concerned with establishing a clean slate for the next writer as it is with finishing a five-issue storyline. Without the framing sequence, the conclusion to ‘Dark Gods’ would seem more focused and would probably pack a great deal more punch.

Final Verdict: 6.5 – “Wonder Woman” #50 is a good-looking book for dedicated Wonder Woman fans.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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