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Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 9/13/17

By | September 18th, 2017
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.

Detective Comics #967
Plotted by James Tynion IV and Christopher Sebela
Scripted by Christopher Sebela
Illustrated by Carmen Carnero
Colored by Ulises Arreola
Lettered by Sal Cipriano
Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane

“Detective Comics” is a series I’ve come to expect if not ‘greatness’ a consistent ‘very good’ from. Issue #967 isn’t egregiously bad or flawed, the art and dialog just read as slightly off. Like an obvious imitation of the “Detective Comics” readers have come to expect.

Something about co-writer Christopher Sebela’s dialog comes across as inauthentic, mainly in regards to Anarky and Stephanie Brown’s time together. Anarky being deceitful makes sense, but when placed in the context of the art and plot overall it comes across like a step or panel is missing. Stephanie Brown’s words and actions don’t quite match. Together, the words and pictures seem stilted.

Artist Carmen Carnero attempts to emulate the normal art team of Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez’ page design with their large spread as Anarky takes Stephanie on a tour of Utopia. The layout echoes the page design of the basketball game from #958 by creating micro sequences for the overall macro image. Unlike the spread from #958 the sequences and imagery seem still life, Harper Row tackling Stephanie Brown appears stiff. These little inconsistencies give me the feeling that the issue could’ve used a panel or two to help with flow.

There are some aspects that manage to land with impact, chiefly Clayface’s sequences. The monstrous version of Basil is all encompassing as he wrecks Monstertown. Sal Cipriano’s distinctively lettering for Clayface gives the character a distictive voice compared to the rest of the human cast. The overall fusion of words and pictures here is much stronger. His struggles also emotionally rely upon investments made issues earlier, the final images of him and Cass are powerful even without the dialog.

“Dystopia” isn’t terrible, it’s a very tepid ‘OK.’ Tynion using these interlude chapters for one and two shot stories that both highlight characters and setup arcs down the road is smart planning and give the series a distinctive pace. The plot events of this book are important for what’s to come, their presentation and storytelling is just rough.

Final Verdict: 6.5 – ‘Dystopia’ best qualities are its serialized ones, which place it into a larger ongoing narrative. As a story unit unto itself it just “is,” if this were a monthly title the tepid quality of this issue would be bigger disappointment.

Harley Quinn 25th Anniversary Special
Written by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Paul Dini, Daniel Kibblesmith and Chip Zdarsky
Illustrated by Amanda Conner, Chad Hardin, David Lafuente and Joe Quinones
Coloured by Paul Mounts, Joe Quinones, John Rauch and Alex Sinclair
Lettered by Dave Sharpe, Tom Napolitano and Corey Breen
Reviewed by Frida Keränen

When Batman: The Animated Series introduced a henchwoman for the Joker who has also in love with him, surely nobody could have predicted the heights of popularity that this character would rise to. 25 years later Harley Quinn has made her way from animation to comics to the big screen, and DC has put out a special to celebrate her. This anniversary issue is a collection by a multitude of creators, from the current “Harley Quinn” team to Harley’s creator, Paul Dini.

Conner and Palmiotti’s story is done in the same fun art style as the main Harley series. Harley spending a weekend in Vegas with Ivy and Catwoman is even wilder than it sounds as a premise, and panel by panel it gets more unbelievable until Harley is driving on a motorbike with five circus animals, including a small elephant, on her back.

The second part by classic Batman: The Animated Series writer Paul Dini and artist Chad Hardin takes a more concrete approach to the birthday theme and also offers a short glimpse into Harley’s childhood. Hardin grapples the distinct visuals of the Batman rogues well.

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“Somewhere That’s Green” from David Kibblesmith and David Lafuente has the interesting idea of teaming up Harley with Swamp Thing of all characters combined with cute pastel artwork, but suffers from some pacing and cut problems. Also, punching a hurricane with a hammer feels like a pretty stupid solution even for a comedic story.

Lastly, writer Chip Zdarsky offers the most psychologically complex view on Harley in the issue and expands her relationship with Robin. Joe Quinones’ art is a fun blend of classic and modern and has a lot of hidden references.

All in all, “Harley Quinn 25th Anniversary Special” does a good job showcasing different sides of the character. From the emotional moments to the pretty brainless humour, from being the Joker’s sidekick to being a fun-loving antihero, it offers something for every fan of the character.

Final verdict: 6.0 These stories look good and give you a fun time, which is pretty much what Harley herself would want from a comic.

Redlands #2
Written & Colored by Jordie Bellaire
Illustrated by Vanesa R. Del Ray
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by Kent Falkenberg

It’s not the heat that hurts, but the humidity – doesn’t get much more cliched than that when describing the weather.

But it doesn’t make it any less apt. That heavy, oppressive omni-presence can weigh heavy on your shoulders in much the same way that foreboding doom can weigh on your conscience. It’s one of those things that makes Southern Gothic sing so sticky, sickly sweet. And it’s one of those things that Jordie Bellaire and Vanesa R. Del Ray use to make “Redlands” #2 a damn-near perfect sophomore issue.

Seriously, a touch of swampy humidity can amplify any bad omen to feeling downright apocalyptic; that lump in your throat becomes a malignant tumor. And while it can be tough to accurately convey the claustrophobia inherent in this atmosphere, the hazy reds, ambers, greys, and greens that Bellaire uses to fill in the scuffed background walls and dense, roadside foliage feel genuinely, encroachingly damp. The air seems to have stained Alice’s white suit to an off-shade of smeared newsprint. Same goes for any article of clothing that’s shaded remotely light. Nothing is staying clean in the radius of this Floridian coven. Take it one step further, and you could infer that nothing pure around these parts will long stay that way.

Weight and pressure and broiling intensity permeate every facet of “Redlands” #2 – narratively, atmospherically, meteorologically. The first image we see is a thunderhead like a bloodstain growing tall against a crimson sky. It’s immensity crushes down on a Redlands police department that Del Ray illustrates by such a tiny scale comparatively that it feels anemic in its ability to stem that horror from raining down. “This is a fucking nightmare,” says a disembodied voice from inside the building. Indeed.

Bellaire does have some familiar tropes swirling around in Del Ray’s brew of scratchy, staccato-lined detail. But for every tune you think you can sing along with, she finds a new way to make it rhyme. Take the sequence where a skeevy high school teacher hits on a student: Bellaire summons Alice out of the sweltering night to rescue the scene lest it hit a truly exploitive low. Of course, Bellaire was just using that “vile, redneck fuck” – her words – to blindside us with the real danger threatening a chaste, 15-year-old girl in a town controlled by coven. It’s an impact that hits hard.

There’s a nastiness running underneath this story that’s utterly compelling. Tensions may be set to a simmer, but that mean streak is just waiting to be unleashed. There’s a volatile edge to Del Ray’s scrawling artwork, one made all the more sinister by the foreboding tones of Bellaire’s rainbow. Hellfire will roil over soon, we can be sure of that. But for now, “Redlands” #2 is luxuriating in that sickly sweet spot where you first feel the hair prick up on the back of your neck.

Final Verdict: 9.0 – Swelter skelter.

Riverdale #6
Written by Ross Maxwell and Will Ewing
Illustrated by Joe Eisma
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Colored by Andre Szymanowicz
Lettered by John Workman
Reviewed By Kate Kosturski

This isn’t your grandparents’ Archie. The Riverdale TV show takes the familiar innocents of Archie Comics and give them an update with a side of the mysterious and supernatural. nDesigned as one-shots to supplement the CW hit, “Riverdale” #6 lifts the curtain on local hangout Pop’s Diner. Under the cover of an interview for the student newspaper, Betty spends an evening with Pop the owner and finds out some very fascinating tales about the small town hangout – visitors from presidents to notorious criminals to a touch of the paranormal. But has Pop sold his soul in order to keep his family legacy alive?

While we’re shifting time periods throughout this issue – from the Depression to the early 70s to present day – there’s not too much change in art and color to signify that. And that can be expected – these are Pop’s memories, and he’s certainly not going to waste brain space on what he was wearing on a certain day in 1969 when Neil Armstrong is visiting. There’s a bit more detail in some of the likenesses of the celebrities that visited Pop’s, just enough for you to recognize them but not enough for cause for copyright issues. Perhaps I have too much of the “American Gods” comic on the brain, but one mystery visitor in the suit bears a passing resemblance to Mr. Shadow Moon. Clearly not intentional as “American Gods” has a different publisher, but just a little too coincidental. Borderless panels on a black background make Szymanowicz’s color work even more vibrant, and Workman uses color and shape in his text balloons to clearly distinguish between dialogue and narration.

You can certainly enjoy the Riverdale comics without being a fan of the TV series – in fact, the comics are leading me to add the TV show to my viewing rotation. They’re a great introduction for new fans, and will keep existing fans entertained until the show returns on October 11th.

Final Verdict: 7.0. A fine effort for Riverdale and Archie fans old and new, with enough maturity for an older audience.

Rocket #5
Written by Al Ewing
Illustrated by Adam Gorham
Colored by Michael Garland
Letters by Jeff Eckleberry
Reviewed by John Schaidler

One of the great things about reading a gazillion comics every month is watching how creators continue to innovate and differentiate their work. For some creators, that means unleashing high concept ideas that no one’s ever imagined. For others, it means combining edgy artwork with in-your-face ideas. For a fortunate, wildly talented few, however, it can simply mean making a few brilliant artistic choices and committing to them fully in order to tell a well constructed story in a fresh, imaginative way.

“Rocket” clearly falls into the last category and “Rocket” #5 is where it all really comes together.

First off, this iteration of Rocket Raccoon is a distinctly hardboiled figure. He’s an archetypically jaded, solitary leading man who answers to no one and plays by his own rules. One of which, interestingly enough, is emphatically no killing. Meaning neither Rocket himself, much less his creators, can ever take the easy way out. No matter how desperate the situation, no matter what’s on the line, Rocket will have to eschew his considerable firepower and use his brains instead. (Not an easy task for a feisty ball of fur who typically packs 45 lbs. of ammo.) This simple character trait – like so many other of the creative team’s ingenious choices – opens a world of endless possibilities. No the least of which, it seems, is that all of Rocket’s supposed solutions only create more problems (especially when there’s an old flame involved).

With Rocket’s character well established and the noirish world he inhabits clearly and convincingly rendered, the entire creative team cuts loose and everything just clicks. Writer Al Ewing continues to spin an increasingly intriguing yarn via large, novelistic chunks of text that unfold in an almost snarky, reverse chronological order that not only works, but absolutely adds to the fun. At the same time, Jeff Eckleberry’s letters perfectly echo the noirish vibe, with Ewing’s deadpan third person prose rendered in a retro typewriter font on top of what looks like a faded manila folder, like we’re somehow reading the files of a cheeky omniscient observer who just might be pulling the strings. Meanwhile, artist Adam Gorham’s character work continues to be rock solid and Michael Garland’s colors – deftly alternating between brilliant spaced-out hues and more subdued, almost smoky tones – set a new standard for the pulpy, intergalactic heist aesthetic.

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Final Verdict: 8.0 Pour yourself a Gargleblaster (neat, if you know what’s good for you) and enjoy.

The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show #1
Written by Todd Livingston & Al Kilgore
Illustrated by Jacob Greenawalt, Jorge Pacheco, Bill Galvan, Al Kilgore
Colored by Jacob Greenawalt, Jorge Pacheco, Matt Hansel, Al Kilgore
Lettered by Natalie Jane, Jorge Pacheco, Al Kilgore
Reviewed by Elias Rosner

“Hey Rocky, wanna watch me pull an old cartoon out of obscurity?”
“But that never works.”
“This time for sure!……PRESTO!”
*Pulls out “Underdog”*
“Well, it’s close.”
“And now, for a comic you never thought would exist, “The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show” #1.”

Yes, you’ve read my poor attempt to replicate the Bullwinkle hat gag in text right, Moose and Squirrel are back in a brand new comic series. But not just any series, oh no, this is one which emulates the structure of the original show. We’ve got Peabody and Sherman, Dudley Do-Right & Nell & Snidley Whiplash, everyone’s favorite Russian stand-ins, Moose and Squirrel and another Fractured Fairy Tale.

There’s a lot in this comic and, seeing as I blew a lot of my word limit already, I’ll get right down to it. This is a comic for fans of the original, hands down. It has the same simple drawing style, the same awful, awful puns (“Van Gogh-go Dancers”) and the same bonkers logic that made the original so memorable. We even get two reprinted stories from the original comics to compare to the new stuff, which is nice as it acts as a fun time capsule.

As I mentioned before, the new parts are pretty faithful to the original’s tone, although the issue does suffer from being written in the modern day. There are a few jokes that fall flat in all the wrong ways, the characters feel less zany and bonkers, and we don’t get the “winks to the camera” moments from the original cartoons. The art also has its problems but that’s mostly in the lead story. Greenawalt’s characters feel too shiny, too new and they don’t have the same range of expression, thus we lose a lot of the slapstick. The ‘Fractured Fairy Tales’ section and Peabody and Sherman’s tale are both solid, in both the writing and the art department.

A lot is lost when transitioning from animation to comics but considering how low the budget was for the original show, not all that much is actually lost. What is most lost in the transition is the size of the segments. They all go by so fast here (even though this is a 32 pages comic) and the main segment, which could normally last a good few episodes split into small chunks, is reduced to two. I was hoping that we’d at least have a cliffhanger until issue #2.

If you couldn’t already tell, I’m coming at this from the perspective of a fan. I absolutely loved the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show and I used to watch it all the time when I was younger. There was a charm to the low, low budget and the dry sense of humor. That charm is not lost here but it is tempered a little bit. I do hope that if we get more issues of this series, there can be some more time to slow down and appreciate the gags.

Final Verdict: 6.8. A great issue for fans of the series but for those who are not, this may not be the best introduction. Still, an enjoyable ride for all ages.

Secret Empire: Omega #1
Written by Nick Spencer
Illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino
Additional Art by Joe Bennett, Joe Pimentel, Scott Hanna and Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Reviewed by Matt Lune

And so we come to the end of perhaps the most controversial event in Marvel Comics history. Like the majority of Marvel’s events from the last ten years or so, “Secret Empire” is treated to an epilogue that aims to tie up loose ends from the event itself and set up storylines moving forward. Perhaps the biggest loose end, one hinted at in a tie-in issue of “Deadpool” of all places, is the fate of the evil Steve Rogers, which this issue largely concerns itself with. That question gets answered, however the issue itself – as the final word on one of the biggest upsets in recent comics memory – leaves much unsaid.

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Andrea Sorrentino’s art is as strong as it ever has been throughout this run. For an issue that centers around two characters that look exactly alike talking in a room, he manages to create some stunning layouts across two page spreads, in a way that highlights and accentuates the dichotomy of the two beings. For the most part, the characters are split between a blue color palette and a red which, while the two men are fundamentally opposite, seems to hint at the first major problem of the issue. For better or worse, the scariest part of Hydra Cap is that he isn’t evil. Yes, his ideologies are evil, but the worst part about his character was that he was as charming, as influential and as persuasive as he had ever been. At times ‘Stevil’ verges into generic supervillainy, and that was always going to be a problem if the series was to bring him face to face with his classic counterpart. A few superb double page spreads by Sorrentino, and two single-pages in a neon-red ‘negative’ relief stand out as strong moments artistically throughout the issue.

There are a few other problems with “Secret Empire: Omega,” which seem to stem from the pressure that the issue is under to provide closure for the entire event. Firstly, there is seemingly no effort to truly explore the political fallout of Hydra’s reign. Why would one man being punched into submission topple a regime that is so thoroughly integrated throughout the nation? The faster Marvel sweep this event under the rug, the less weight the story will have. There are scenes – penciled by Joe Bennett – that depict other areas of the Marvel universe reacting and rebuilding after the end of the empire, but again, these are all based on the conceit that Hydra has already fallen.

As mentioned earlier, there’s a tendency to oversimplify Hydracap’s character throughout the issue that, again, detracts from the impact of the overall event. As soon as you reduce his role to that of simple villain, you remove the true teeth of “Secret Empire,” which is that fascism isn’t the occupation of evil villains: it’s in our everyday society, and upheld by our neighbours and peers. It’s a shame that these decisions have been made, but it’s understandable. With the Marvel Legacy initiative around the corner, there’s no real room to dive deep into a scarred and broken country struggling to recover from what has been portrayed as a deep, fundamental divide in its population. Some of these issues are not ones of this issue specifically, but “Secret Empire; Omega” is responsible for providing the final word, and in that regard it can be a frustrating read.

Final Verdict: 6.0 – Some truly stunning page layouts cannot hide an ultimately unfulfilling conclusion.

Teen Titans #12
Written by Benjamin Percy
Illustrated by Mirka Andolfo
Colored by Romulo Fakardo Jr.
Lettered by Corey Breen
Reviewed by Gregory Ellner

Benjamin Percy crafts a disturbing, borderline Faustian look at one of the “Dark Knights” of the Dark Multiverse, specifically the Batman Who Laughs, based on the Joker. The only real issue with this first installment is the fact that it may as well be called “Robin and Company,” especially considering that every other Teen Titan has minimal usage. In fact, Robin’s primary partners in the labyrinth are not even members of an incarnation of the Titans at all. Still, perhaps this is to be expected when the tie-in plot is about working toward the center of a Gotham hellscape.

Illustrator Mirka Andolfo’s paneling works very well for the issue, such as the “pie” of villains showing what they would each do with one of the metal cards. The action setpieces are extremely dynamic, but Andolfo is willing to slow down and become genuinely disquieting when the spotlight falls on the Joker-Batman.

Romulo Fakardo Jr. works in equally disturbing colors to the plot, using dark shades for the worst of the cast, including the undead and the villain, but willing to give splashes of color when the attention is drawn to heroes or more cartoonish villains, such as the Riddler’s direct intervention itself.

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On the whole, “Teen Titans” #12 shows both the benefits of a relatively straightforward story like ‘Gotham Resistance,’ while unfortunately showcasing some of the detriments it can have to an ostensible ensemble comic.

Final Verdict: 7.5- A well-written tie-in, “Teen Titans” #12 begins showing the depravity of the Batman Who Laughs, but seems more like a Robin story than a Teen Titans story.

Transformers: Lost Light #9
Written by James Roberts
Illustrated by Priscilla Tramontano
Colored by Joana Lafuente
Lettered by Tom B. Long

After the world shattering storyline putting Rung in the spotlight, “Transformers: Lost Light” #9 has shuffled around cast members and thrown new robots front-and-center. This arc of the series has been smaller in scope, focusing more on the fallout of previous stories. A massive part of creator James Roberts’ attention of the series has been directed towards using the metaphor of a robot as a human. In his Transformers titles, Robots are different from humans and the minutiae separating the species fascinate these creators. Sometimes these aspects of the book are over explained to the point of tedium but these moments show the astute attention to detail which Roberts has contributed to this comic.

Roberts splits up two groups of robots in this title but gives the more dramatic story to Nautica and Velocity who are reeling from the death of Skids and see an opportunity to bring him back to life. The last issue had a fascinating cliffhanger followed up on with a close sci-fi focus continuing to set the book apart from others. Over the past couple years of storytelling Roberts has meshed multiple genres together, but above all, the creator has focused on both the sci-fi and horror genres. Simplifying both story themes and only focusing on two smaller sets of robots allows Roberts to get more aspects of the book accomplished in one arc.

The lighter art direction in the title continues to confound me this week with Priscilla Tramontano’s pencils. The creator turns in detailed work that is beautiful and expressive, but I wonder if these artists are really the best fit for the title. There are lots of darker elements about the comic Roberts is going to eventually have to uncover and past creators like Nick Roche and Alex Milne felt like they fit this book’s style like a glove. So far there hasn’t been absurdly dramatic or tense moment, but knowing this series there will be a renewed focus on horror or one of lead robots will eventually lose their spark in a horrific manner. Tramontano’s pencils are really expressive and give all the emotion and energy you could possibly ask for. Even seeing the slightest profiles of the characters you can still get a glimpse of what they are thinking and feeling.

When this story ends and the plot in the title begins to converge, I was happy to see the place that “Transformers: Lost Light” #9 was in. While there is a lot more room for the really big stories in the issues to come, I also hope the series will be able to tap into the cliffhangers regarding the overall Knights of Cybertron and the Lost Light in the issues to come. This is the third season of the title and it would be fantastic to get a comic book more focused on winding the narrative down over the next few installments of the book.

Final Verdict: 7.0 – “Transformers: Lost Light” #9 is a pleasant entry in the series which has a lot to do over the next couple of issues.

Wonder Woman #30
Written by Shea Fontana
Illustrated by David Messina
Colored by Romulo Fajardo Jr
Lettered by Saida Temofonte
Reviewed by Nicholas Palmieri

Reading the final issue of Shea Fontana’s run on “Wonder Woman,” it’s clear Fontana understands the character. At the same time, though, the storytelling gets messy and there’s no getting around the fact that this entire five-issue arc was only here to take up space between bigger runs.

This issue does double down on its examination of Wonder Woman’s traits. But I also feel that the examination is face-value, done through characters saying that these are her traits instead of showing us and letting us see for ourselves what those traits are. The plot of the issue is oddly disconnected from what Fontana wants to say about the character, starting with an exposition dump and ending with an unearned fight scene. All the while, Diana reminds us what her own qualities are through internally and externally speechifying. My problem with this isn’t that it’s out of character, because it all certainly fits this interpretation of Diana. It’s that, as with the fight scene, it felt unearned.

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In the face of the disappointing writing, Messina does give us some nice art to look at. He’s not afraid to play with the layout of a page, at one point creating a new layout from broken glass that can still be intuitively read. He also often plays with the perspective of a panel, framing his shots from whatever odd angle tells the best story: canted to show something askew, from behind to show distance and defeat, from slightly below to show regalness. It’s also worth noting that Temofonte letters with great respect for storytelling flow, placing her balloons and captions in the perfect places to highlight or complement the art while maintaining an intuitive reading experience.

Unfortunately, some skilled art and lettering can’t save this issue from being the messy conclusion to an uneven fill-in arc. Fontana clearly understands the character. It’s just that this story didn’t allow us to see first-hand what the character is like.

Final Verdict: 5.5 – Messy storytelling concludes a disappointingly skippable arc, though the visuals are nice.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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