Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 8/1/18

By | August 6th, 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.

Captain America #2
Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Penciled by Leinil Francis Yu
Inked by Gerry Alanguilan and Leinil Francis Yu
Colored by Sunny Gho
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Reviewed by Reed Hinckley-Barnes

The first issue of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Yu’s “Captain America” was a shock to the system in a lot of ways. It was a radical departure from how the Marvel universe as a whole had treated the events of “Secret Empire,” a statement of intent and a welcome change. Unfortunately, it’s impossible for a series to stay the same thing and continue to be a shock to the system. So, while “Captain America” #2 is very good, in all the same ways that the first issue was, it isn’t quite as exciting.

Art-wise in this issue, Yu’s pencils, with the help of Gerry Alanguilan’s inks and Sunny Gho’s colors bring the action to life in great detail, while also bringing a dynamic vitality to the moments where the issue is just talking heads. The fights are fun, and I enjoy the action this issue brings, but at times it feels like it’s action for action’s sake. The fight in this issue doesn’t really push the plot forward, mostly just providing the requisite amount of action for a superhero comic book.

In the first issue, it seemed like Coates had learned from his original “Black Panther” run that it was important to keep books interesting, even while exploring big, difficult ideas. But in this issue, I wonder if it has swung slightly too far to the other side. As much as I enjoy the monologues that Coates has for Steve when he is in the action scenes, I wonder if the points in these scenes would be gotten across better through conversations, or smaller moments. Part of the problem may just be that the structure of this issue is very similar to that of the first, making some of these things a bit off-putting. At the end of the day, though, many of these issues are pretty small nitpicks. Coates and Yu are creating still a superhero comic that is both fun to read and thematically interesting.

Final Verdict: 7.5 – “Captain America” #2 is a strong continuation of the series, but doesn’t pack quite as much of a punch as the first issue.

Cosmic Ghost Rider #2
Written by Donny Cates
Illustrated by Dylan Burnett
Colored by Antonio Fabela
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by Alexander Jones

It can be rare for The Big Two to deliver on completely new ideas. This is why a new version of an existing character like Cosmic Ghost Rider can be the next best thing. This week the hero is back in the pages of his limited series with a wildly entertaining issue loaded with great art from up-and-coming Marvel creators Donny Cates and Dylan Burnett. Each creator comes to the project with a seemingly clear vision of the subversive humor and wild personality a book featuring Cosmic Ghost Rider demands. There are lots of wild ideas thrown from page one when the comic opens with the insanely cute baby Thanos is immediately thrown into a very adult situation.

Cates delivers on his fun visuals by having an inherent logic to the story that some books so focused on humor can easily forget. It also helps to see the issue bring in some major Marvel Universe players to make this story actual feel more consequential. Castle has a great rapport immediately with some of the familiar faces in the book. What keeps “Cosmic Ghost Rider” #2 from feeling like an average Marvel title with fun guest stars has to be the sense of humor. Unlike some Deadpool titles or run-of-the-mill humor books, Cates does a good job making sure the title has some drama and comes off as grounded as this kind of story can possibly be.

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Dylan Burnett makes each panel of the story really expressive and captures the emotion of each scene incredibly well. With the more exaggerated and humorous tone of “Cosmic Ghost Rider”, the artist is a great choice to complement the script. Castle’s insane helmet is host to a ton of interesting visuals. The emotion literally seeps through flames coming of Castle’s face. The page layouts are symmetrical and often have a visual element or two keeping the story fresh. Antonio Fabela does a great job coloring in so many different details in the story. The visuals are a major draw for “Cosmic Ghost Rider” #2, Burnett has a lot of responsibility with comedic timing as well.

Cates and Burnett turn in another excellent issue of “Cosmic Ghost Rider” and I hope each installment of the series will retain the sense of irreverence and sadness on display here.

Final Verdict: 8.5 – “Cosmic Ghost Rider” #2 is another wonderfully absurd entry into the series.

The Immortal Hulk #4
Written by Al Ewing
Illustrated by Joe Bennett
Inked by Ruy José
Colored by Paul Mounts
Lettered by Cory Petit
Reviewed by Dexter Buschetelli

Is he man or monster or…is he both?

That is the original tagline from the debut of “The Incredible Hulk”, and Al Ewing is certainly leaning into the latter option of that question with “The Immortal Hulk”. The Green Goliath has been many things over the years, even a mob enforcer in Vegas; but in this most recent series, he is more man AND monster than he has ever been before. Recently back from the dead, Bruce Banner has been taking a wacky cross-country road trip and boy are his legs not tired.

This series spent its first three issues giving us standalone stories with its overarching narrative taking a back seat. It is actually to the detriment of this issue that it focuses more on that previous background detail of the green door and leans into more of an arc. The hunt for Banner with Walter Langkowski-AKA Sasquatch-along for the ride is still interesting, but it lacks the punch of the previous three tales that focused more on noir and mystery.

Though this may be the weakest of the four issues so far, this book is still very worthy of your pull-list. Alongside the writing talents of Ewing, Joe Bennett’s facial expressions bring life to each character and a gravitas to each scene. Whether it is McGee’s state of shock when confronted by Banner or the deeply disturbing grin of the Hulk the art in this book lives beyond the page. It immerses you in the experience that the writing directs, as it should. Comics are a visual medium, and with any other artist, this writing could fall flat. Under Bennett and inker Ruy José it leaps from the page and through your pupils all the way back to your cerebellum.

Final Verdict: 8.3 – Would smash that bartender’s car again

Infinity Wars #1
Written by Gerry Duggan
Illustrated by Mike Deodato Jr.
Colored by Frank Martin
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Reviewed by Gustavo S. Lodi

After a long series of one-shots and special editions, not to mention Dugan’s run on “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the beginning of “Infinity Wars” is here. And with such a vast tapestry before it, it is surprising how effectively this issue works on its own.

Much credit should go to Deodato on illustrations and Martin on colors. This is some of the best work Deodato has delivered in recent years, which is no small feat given his vast library. There is a sense of depth, a feeling of a real world amid the fantastic that is simply beautiful to look at. Deodato’s use of heavy lines and shadows work perfectly, where most of the action takes place in secret meetings at night, with a vast cast of characters.

Speaking about that, it is equally impressive how the artist is able to make them visually unique and appealing. There is a moment in “Infinity Wars” #1 where several villains start to gather in a park: note how body proportions, facial expressions, and costume designs are all different, adding to the atmosphere of a true ensemble cast.

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Martin flexes his muscles the most on the fantastic: energy signatures emanating from the infinity stones, space vessels, and power signatures. But it is also on the quieter moments, like the different shades of greens on the part, or the rotten, dirty look colors give a space bar early in the book, where the artist shines.

Duggan was clearly working on this story for a long time. Since the early issues of his “Guardians of the Galaxy” run readers could appreciate the evolution of characters like Gamora, Groot and Adam Warlock. It all comes together in an explosive crescendo. If the prime issue delivered on one big surprise, this one does not fail to excite either. Not only managing the story for newcomers but making it accessible to new readers with precise exposition, Duggan is able to start an event in the best way: by making it impossible for the audience to know what comes next.

Final Verdict: 7.9 – With beautiful art and an exciting storyline not bogged down by past issues, “Infinity Wars” should bring everyone back… especially after that last page.

Long Lost: Book 2 #1
Written by Matthew Erman
Illustrated by Lisa Sterle
Reviewed By Kate Kosturski

The saga of sisters Piper and Frances in their childhood home continues, after falling through a hole growing in the middle of it. As if dealing with strange beings in the woods and their mentally ill mother wasn’t enough, now they have to deal with mass grave and a supernatural wild boar. Frances manages to escape to the surface, but her rescuers aren’t all that benevolent. Frances’s aunt comes to the rescue, but with a shocking revelation: the girls have been missing for nearly three years. Meanwhile, Piper’s still deep down below . . . and the stage is being set for a family reunion she’s probably not eager to have.

It’s an interesting and effective choice to render this entire comic in black and white, with subtle touches of color around word balloons of the wild boar the girls encounter down below that emphasize just how otherworldly it is. With this choice, the focus places itself completely within the narrative, especially as the continued mysteries of Hazel Patch unfold like the layers of an onion. Slight linework shows that the girls’ adventures have aged them just a bit, and the gang that rescues Frances from the well look straight out of a Surrealist nightmare. I reserve my highest praise for Lisa Sterle’s lettering. Any dialogue that comes from something not human – – be it the boar or the band of creatures that “rescues” Frances from the well – – is rendered in large or extra large text that has the appearance of freehand type. The girl’s dialogue is small, appearing typeset, adding to the sense of smallness and meekness Piper and Francine feel in these precarious situations.

The main narrative sets up what appears to be this second arc’s thrust: Piper and Francine separated, Piper, learning the secrets of her family history while trapped in another world, with Francine and others up above staging her rescue. It’s certainly quite a bit to unpack, especially when the first arc gave readers more questions than answers. Can the creative team do it in six issues, as the solicit promises? We’ll see.

Final Verdict: 7.2 – A solid start to a second arc, but with a lot still to unpack from the first, I fear that Erman and Sterle have bitten off more than they can chew.

Paradiso #6
Written by Ram V
Art by Devmalya Pramanik
Color by Alba Cardona Gil
Letters by Aditya Bidikar
Design by Mathanki Kodavasal

In the sixth installment of this sophisticated series centering on the eponymous sentient city of Paradiso, Ram V continues to escalate the tension with the introduction of more complex characters. His elegant approach to plot design integrates these characters seamlessly into the fabric of the narrative in ways that both elaborate on current sub-plots while also creating whole new directions for the story.

The story picks up with the character Hazard–the ultimate manifestation of techno-human duality that “Paradiso” explores thematically–and transitions to the main characters whose contact with the Dark Dwellers intensifies quickly when it becomes clear that they need something from Jack. Interlaced among these subplots is a continuation of the Iron Trees tinkerer who becomes mysteriously important to Paradiso. And though some of our questions are answered, Ram V’s story generates so many more which the tension continues to build.

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Part of the brilliance of Ram V’s writing is his focus on the internal conflicts that drive all of his characters. These conflicts, particularly with Jack Kryznan, explore issues of power, identity, desire, and belief and become central to each character’s individual motivation, making for very realistic character development and dialogue despite the fantastical nature of the setting and plot. Thus, the new characters such as Vasilja and Stevan, leaders of the Dark Dwellers, become highly relatable from their introductions.

Ram V’s world building paired with the art of Dev Pramanik and the colors of Alba Cardona Gil are equally impressive. Pramanik’s art doesn’t pull away from the story but underscores the fluidity that technology and humanity share. Each page is designed in holistic ways that develop both technological advancement and primal humanity. One page has a human face constructed from circuitry, cables, metal plates, bulbs, and rods–once again reflecting the dichotomy created when pairing humanity with technology. With such pairings, we have to ask, which is more powerful? Which is more subversive? And so we are further drawn into the story.

Cardona Gil’s colors are subtle, earthy and fluid. They help guide the reader between settings and scenes with their subtle consistency. She colors the underworld in hues of purple and red whereas the city proper is depicted in hues of green, with flashbacks seamlessly rendered in sepia.

Perhaps the most intriguing quality of “Paradiso” and particularly of issue #7 ‘The Dark Dwellers’ is how the story resonates with connections to Dantean imagery–something that can’t be overlooked given the title. Jack Kryznan’s descent into the underworld of Paradiso hearkens to Dante’s journey through hell, where even the fog plays a role similar to the swirling punishments of the incontinent where sinners relive their most troublesome desires. Detached, god-like figures determine destinies of people who try to accommodate or oppose them, all with equally impotent results. And the Dark Dwellers, who have been in limbo for so long, struggle to find hope in a world devoid of it.

Final Verdict: 8.0 – A sophisticated, engaging piece of science fiction whose themes and connections extend far beyond the pages.

Quantum Age #2
Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by Wilfredo Torres
Colored by Dave Stewart
Lettered by Nate Piekos
Reviewed by Jacob Robert Nuckolls

In 2016, Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston introduced us to the world of Black Hammer, a Silver Age superhero universe filled with intrigue, complex characters, and dry humor. Between the gripping plotline, memorable characters, and imaginative world-building, they knocked it out of the park. A year later, they began making comics “From the World of Black Hammer.” Does this world have enough to keep readers interested – even hundreds of years after their favorite characters’ stories took place?

“Quantum Age” answers with a steady, “Yes!” Even in a new location with a new backstory, the worlds, species, and archetypes that Lemire succeeded within “Black Hammer” thrive in this book. “Quantum Age” #2 picks up where #1 left off, filling in some details about Barbali-Teen’s backstory and pushing him, Erb, and Modular Lass into a sticky situation. After only two issues, these characters are already starting to grow on me. Erb and Modular Lass are gems, delivering some of the best dry wit in the book. They strongly solidify the reader into a character dynamic that we can believe has been going on for several years. Lemire also demonstrates one of his exceptional strengths for world-building in small conversations, always hinting at a world beyond what we see. Another one of his strengths is creating a fantasy world that touches on real-life issues without being preachy. “Black Hammer” addressed issues of identity, fatherhood, sacrifice, homosexuality, feelings of alienation, and several other significant modern-day topics. “Quantum Age” seems to be tackling xenophobia right off the bat, using the Martians as an example of a discriminated race without being too on-the-nose with the parallels.

Wilfredo Torres and Dave Stewart provide a fitting skin for Lemire’s script; it’s filled with cosmic colors, dynamic space-age action, and insightful character expression. I consider the “Black Hammer World” color pallet to be one of the defining, constant characters of this world and Stewart does an excellent job of painting in familiar strokes as well as giving his own unique touch.

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Final Verdict: 9.0 – Lemire and team prove to us once again that this universe extends beyond the “Black Hammer” series by creating a book with familiar imagination and wit while terracing new territories.

Robots Versus Princesses #1
Written by Todd Matthy
Illustrated by Nicolas Chapuis
Lettered by Sean Rinehart
Reviewed by Chris Egan

Dynamite Comics has picked up “Robots vs Princesses” after its successful Kickstarter campaign last year. A wildly enjoyable crossover event that no one knew they wanted until it was here. This premiere issue is a great beginning for the 4 issue fantasy/sci-fi mini-series. This adventure is fine for teens and adults and the dialogue never talks down to children’s intelligence. It carries timeless themes like fitting in, family responsibilities and accepting others’ differences, no matter who they are, and fits them all in a fun fantasy package. This is the kind of book that parents will definitely be able to read to their sons or daughters with everyone finding something to enjoy about it. The story and art come together to bring us a sort-of mash-up of Disney and Transformers.

Our main character, Princess Zara, is plucky and a little naive. She doesn’t quite fit in with her siblings, but still makes an effort to do what is asked of her, in her own way, even if she doesn’t exactly agree with it. Mildly rebellious, she sets off into the dark forest to do what is necessary. Fans of Disney films like The Little Mermaid, Frozen, and Tangled will feel right at home with Zara and her part in this story. On the flip side of this in the realm of the robots, a young automaton named Wheeler is beyond fed up with his role in their society. He too decides to head into the forest to find a new, and hopefully better, life for himself. With neither world aware of one another, this is sure to make for some interesting future events. A few small twists and imaginative narrative take this book to the next level and will make all readers wonder what’s next.

Writer Todd Matthy (“Saga of the Stormriders: The Lost Prince”) has crafted a wonderful fantasy adventure that is truly a perfect all-ages comic book. Nicolas Chapuis’s (“GI Joe vs Cobra”) art is finely detailed, beautifully and brightly colored, and sets the tone for this series. This is some of the best art published at Dynamite and Chapuis needs to work on more books. “Robots vs Princesses” #1 is a clever and entertaining intro that reminds kids of all ages what it’s like finding your own voice while growing up.

Final Verdict: 8.5 – An excellent all-ages fantasy/sci-fi yarn that doesn’t reinvent the genre, just takes it in an extremely satisfying direction.

Shade the Changing Woman #6
Written by Cecil Castellucci
Illustrated by Marley Zarcone
Additional Inks by Ande Parks
Colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick
Lettered by Saida Temofonte
Reviewed by Elias Rosner

“Shade the Changing Girl,” and by extension, “Changing Woman,” has been a series I have struggled to comprehend. Every time I think I’ve got a solid grasp of the plot, it liquifies, escaping through my fingers like water. Even now, having finished her 18 issue journey, I understand very little of why anything happened in this story. This is, perhaps, to “Shade’s” advantage.

Mystifying and surreal, the dialogue of “Shade” has always bordered more on poetry than prose. In poetry, what is most important are the visuals, the symbols, the sound and the cadence not the cohesion of ideas or narrative conventions. The “why” is unimportant. Such is the case for “Shade.” The art twists and turns, blending reality with madness and producing psychedelic visuals that go unquestioned in the comic while the words refuse to craft anything concrete. Instead, they march towards the completion of their ideas, wearing away the edges of their themes so that by issue’s end, it is brought into relief.

The importance of love, the rejection of toxic relationships and the acceptance of one emotion and actions, good and bad, are the core themes of “Shade the Changing Woman.” Rac failed to do that, hence his fall here. Same with Megan and Miss Deep. I only wish we had had more time to delve into them and to develop the supporting cast in a meaningful way.

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The dialogue let them down, filling their mouths with sentences that never made enough sense to feel natural and made interacting with these characters surface level at best. Their heads are impenetrable despite them wearing their hearts on their sleeves. It is the double-edged sword of poetry: the lines may be beautiful but when a meaning is hard to find, confusion overwhelms the mind.

I also wish I had more time, and space, to discuss Rac Shade and the appearance of Lenny, Kathy, and Melu. The barbs thrown at Rac Shade are all at once a critique of the original series, an exaggeration meant to harm him, and a true takedown of who he had become without his heart. Love comes in many forms but as Kathy says: “Love is never perfect. You pickled it. And now it’s sour.”

I will miss “Shade the Changing Woman” and I hope she continues to stick around well into the future. This series was a good start, if only it had the chance to really blossom.

Final Verdict: 6.7. “Shade the Changing Woman” #6 concluded the only way it could have: beautifully poetic and surreal but lacking the clarity and supporting character depth that would have made this a fantastic work.

The Curse of Brimstone #5
Written by Justin Jordan
Illustrated by Philip Tan, Jose Luis, and Inaki Miranda
Colored by Rain Beredo
Lettered by Wes Abbott
Reviewed by Gregory Ellner

Despite the fact that “The Curse of Brimstone” has been billed as the horror book of the “New Age of Heroes” initiative, it has seemed, while good, a bit too close to Marvel Comics’ Ghost Rider to stand out by much. Having explained the overall situation of the series in the previous arc and its aftermath, Justin Jordan’s next arc, ‘The Kids Are NOT Alright,’ brings us into a story that is truly unnerving: a town destroyed by corrupted children, rather than an adult. By applying the adult fears of facing young children in a possible battle to the death, on top of the overall feeling of children’s vulnerability in such a dark world of the outskirts of the DC Universe, and showing the utter depravity of the villains in this series.

The artwork is, as ever, very fluid and interesting. Philip Tan and Jose Luis provide the similar flowing, fluid artwork of the rest of the series to the majority of the pages, emphasizing the supernatural by way of how it is less distinct, more blurred than the more natural, harder lines of the normal world. Meanwhile, two examples of two-page spreads by Inaki Miranda give a rougher look, with thicker lines to emphasize the shadows or the inhuman, possibly psychopathic cruelty of the children.

Rain Beredo’s colors do a lot for this issue, emphasizing the ashes of the town as well as an unnatural glow of the eyes on some victims of the Salesman. The most disturbing examples are most definitely the final pages, with a natural look of blue overalls and a green shirt contrasted against inhuman orange eyes, and the blurred blue static of televisions against thicker, darker red blood.

In all, this issue shows that the series does have legs. It just needs to get out from under its own apparent cross-company basis.

Final Verdict: 8.0- “The Curse of Brimstone” takes a step away from the more overt Ghost Rider comparisons with a truly disturbing story befitting its nature as the horror book of the “New Age of Heroes” initiative.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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