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.
Batman: One Bad Day – Two-Face #1
Written by Mariko Tamaki
Illustrated by Javier Fernandez
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by Ariana Maher
Reviewed by Gregory Ellner
Whether he acts as Harvey Dent or Two-Face, the villainous attorney of Gotham City has always had a sense of tragedy to his character. Sometimes, he can be truly heroic, helping Batman and the city as Harvey Dent (such as in ‘Hush’); sometimes, he tries to destroy Gotham (most of his appearances as a villain). Sometimes, he is some merger between the two extremes (Dent cross-examining Two-Face in ‘No-Man’s Land’); writers often put forward how conflicted the man truly is at his core. However, with “Batman: One Bad Day – Two-Face” #1, Mariko Tamaki goes further than most other writers by using not one element of the character, but virtually his entire history as Harvey Dent (excluding his original appearance under a different name), including the aforementioned examples and several more. As such, this one-shot is not just a single story about Bruce Wayne’s sometimes-friend, but rather a combined story with a reminder of all that has happened. The result is a well-constructed tale of tragedy and pain, one that moves the scarred man forward in an interesting way.
Javier Fernandez’s artwork on this one-shot is at once beautiful and disturbing. The style is detailed, but not so much that it is overwhelming. The extensive scarring on Two-Face’s head is in vivid detail, and the use of perspective helps to emphasize menace or kindness depending upon the situation. While, as ever, Batman is relatively stoic, the reactions of others, from Jim Gordon to onlookers to Two-Face and Harvey Dent themselves, all are extremely potent, and the violence of not just combat, but also more quiet times of despair, is effectively portrayed to a degree that one may actually feel sorry for the villain at times, or root for him to get better.
Jordie Bellaire’s colors are very expressive, showing her expertise from the likes of “Buffy” and “Wonder Woman.” From splashes of red to show terrifying events, to what appears to be watercolor of green and yellow to give an impression of a Gotham skyline, there is quite a lot to admire. Meanwhile, the muted blues of the nighttime cast a shadow over the city as much as the Batcave, and the varied color palettes from one panel to another in flashbacks show quite a lot of artistic liberty to the point of it being nearly entrancing on the whole.
Final Verdict: 8.0- Two-Face and Harvey Dent both get a good showing across much of their extensive history in this excellent one-shot.
Written by Matthew Klein
Illustrated by Morgan Beem
Colored by Triona Farrell
Lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Reviewed by Quinn Tassin
There’s a real mismatch between the potential of “Crashing” #1 and the way that it reads. This is a great premise: a doctor, Rose, who cares deeply about saving everyone works at a hospital where they’ve just adopted a policy of not helping people with superpowers. Moreover, before we even see a proper panel, a really interesting world is being built; not only is the government starting to crack down on superheroes and other people with powers but it’s something that has real public support. This is a world that’s filled with fascinating dynamics to explore and Rose’s conundrum is inherently interesting. The problem comes with the way that “Crashing” has opted to explore that world and its protagonist’s problems.
The problem with “Crashing” #1 is really simple: it’s a bummer. Worse yet, Rose is a massive bummer. She’s sympathetic, sure, and her desire to help people with superpowers is very easy to connect to. But her story of drinking at the age of 10, taking speed at 13, and destroying everything good in her life since then is almost comically morose. As she moves against the anti-powers tide (which includes her political staffer husband), her inner monologue is always depressing, primarily focussed on her burnout and the fact that she’s nearing relapse. Then, of course, the issue ends with her being forced to perform surgery on a notorious villain who she’s in debt to because her husband will be killed if she doesn’t. If that wasn’t depressing enough, she has to pop pills for the first time in seven years to feel capable of this. The problem isn’t that stories can’t be sad as much as it is that there’s only a certain level of sad they can be from the get go. Reading Rose is like meeting the biggest Debby Downer of all time. You feel for her, sure, but you also never want to see her again. This is representative of a bigger narrative issue “Crashing” has. It didn’t take its time to introduce us to Rose’s biggest problem. If we knew she was a recovering addict who was juggling a lot but making the best of it, then she relapsed later on in the series, it might feel devastating. Because of the relentlessly sad tone of the issue, though, there’s no sense of tragedy, which we’re clearly meant to feel.Continued below
The main thing “Crashing” #1 has going for it outside of the ideas it’s playing with is the art. The team perfectly captures this world and the perspective we’re meant to be taking on. The art is cartoonish but in a grounded way. There’s a sense of clutter to the hospital that perfectly reflects Rose’s mindset and the pacing is controlled incredibly well through the layouts. The coloring plays a massive role in the tonal control the art has over the issue. It’s simple but effective, employing darker shades and plenty of shadow when things are at their worst; the fact that nothing ever feels bright or vibrant is a strong reflection of the fact that things are neutral at best for Rose.
Ultimately, though, this feels like a great premise wasted. The writing is fine and the issue is certainly well structured and paced. The artwork is strong and there are great ideas at play. But when you tell a story with such little sense of hope and with so little to really latch onto, you’re missing something vital.
Final Verdict: 6.2 – An interesting premise is bogged down by a protagonist and tone that just aren’t that entertaining.
Rogue’s Gallery #3
Written by Hannah Rose May
Illustrated by Justin Mason
Colored by Triona Farrell
Lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Reviewed by Alexander Manzo
This is the “Rogue Gallery” issue that readers have been waiting for in anticipation. Both sides of the story are finally colliding, the toxic obsessed fans and the struggling actress trying to bring justice to a comic character on the television screen. The mission for the fans of a minor B&E quickly gets thrown out the window when they not only realize someone is in the house that was supposed to be empty but that one of them brought a loaded gun and starts using it. Hannah Rose May doesn’t try to be discrete about the sudden change, as this character just starts taking things into their own hands, and it’s fantastic. It’s like watching a car crash for the reader as not only do things start going wrong, but the actress hasn’t even returned to her home. When she returns, it turns into a marathon of emotions for her throughout the issue. Rose May creates this realistic, grounded horror vibe with someone trapped inside their own fortress and flipping the script from trying to escape to revenge in a matter of pages. This final girl badassery comes out in the last pages and leaves hooks in the reader for the final showdown.
The heavy inks by Justin Mason create this dark and gritty vibe reminiscent of an indie horror movie. From the jump, he starts building tension with the group of toxic fans, jumping into action with the sun setting with this blood-red skyline in the background. Triona Farrell’s colors pair well with Mason’s inks as there are plenty of scenes with actual blood and thick shadows. Another panel that helps create this tense “don’t make a noise”-like moment is when the actress and her husband are hiding underneath a table trying not to be found, and the reader is shown the feet of the main crazy fan. The illustrative team in this issue does an excellent job of shifting from horror to thriller throughout the issue and ultimately still providing some hope for the reader in how the protagonist can get out of the house in one piece.
Final Verdict: 8.8 – Being trapped inside a house with crazy, toxic fans never looked so good.
Stuff of Nightmares #1
Written by R. L. Stine
Illustrated by A.L. Kaplan
Colored by Roman Titov
Lettered by Jim Campbell
Reviewed by Ryan Fitzmartin
“Stuff of Nightmares” #1 features a framing device in the form of a creepy narrator known as The Nightmare Keeper. This mysterious individual has a cabinet of curiosities, from which he spins dark stories. The inaugural yarn features a Mary Shelly inspired Frankenstein narrative about two brothers who create monstrosities, and a reporter who falls into their web. The ideas on display aren’t entirely groundbreaking, but Stine’s execution of them is as competent as one would expect from such a veteran horror writer.Continued below
The narrative is depicted in vivid detail by artist A.P. Kaplan and colorist Roman Titov. Kaplan’s composition is strong, and his images skillfully portray strong movement and energy. His landscapes and wides are a strong point, creating a moody sense of place, whereas the faces are mildly too cartoonish for such a grim narrative. Titov’s colors are superb, with deep blacks and blues creating a great sense of shadow and mystery. The occasional yellow or orange contrasts well, creating a striking visual style.
Despite the familiarity of the narrative, “The Stuff of Nightmares” #1 is a moody and fun little horror story.
Final Verdict: 6.5 – A routine but grisly tale from R.L. Stine