Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 10/09/19

By | October 14th, 2019
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.

Age of Conan Valeria #3
Written by Meredith Finch
Illustrated by Aneke
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Reviewed by Matthew Blair

“Age of Conan Valeria” #3 is a flashback issue that explains the origins and motivations of its main character Valeria and helps flesh out her personality for the reader. While the book does make a valiant effort to entertain and does provide an intriguing glimpse into the personality of the book’s heroine, it comes off as needlessly complicated and kind of boring.

Conan the Barbarian is a strange little piece of pop culture and “Age of Conan Valeria” #3 does its best to imitate the bizarre mix quasi history, flowery prose, and bizarre epic fantasy that made Robert E. Howard’s stories so timeless. Writer Meredith Finch creates a story that tries to imitate much of the prose and quasi history, but unfortunately, much of the dialogue is just awkward to read. There are some good points, the main character of Valeria is an interesting heroine that reminds me of a headstrong female Errol Flynn, but the story is a near paint by numbers revenge drama that tries to hide its simplicity through needless flashbacks.

The artwork of “Age of Conan Valeria” #3 is decent, but there are a few issues. Artist Aneke does a fine job focusing on little details, the way she draws long hair and cloaks is fantastic, but there are a few glaring panels where things just feel a bit off. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but some of the characters feel a bit off, a pose here and there feels a bit too forced, and the action feels a bit too wooden. To be clear, the art isn’t bad, there are just a few too many moments where it seems a bit off.

“Age of Conan Valeria” #3 is a book that tries to imitate the style and drama of the long-running series that it takes its name from, but sadly it falls flat on its face. The writing is needlessly complicated and doesn’t fully lean into the style of prose that made the Conan books famous, and while the art is mostly good, some of the action beats are a bit too stiff and wooden.

Final Verdict: 5.2 – While the main character has some interesting potential, it sadly feels like a cheap imitation of cheesy, epic sincerity of its source material.

Batman Universe #4
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by Nick Derington
Colored by Dave Stewart
Lettered by Josh Reed and Tom Napolitano
Reviewed by Beau Q.

Well howdy, pardner!!

This here’s the nastiest old west this side ‘o tha DCU! We got Jonah Hex taking time-spun Hal Jordan and ol’ Bruce Wayne himself out on the frontier for a scrap with some Vandal Savage bandits. “Batman Universe” #4 is more of a hoedown than a showdown, but before ya know it, Mr. Gotham City found his way back from where he came– a little place called Crime Alley!

Your storytellers this time are Brian Michael Bendis, Nick Derington, and the infamous Dave Stewart. Hot on his worldwide wanderlust vacation through the DCU, Bendis has left street realism behind for the comic escapism and encyclopedic exposition. If “Batman Universe” #4 is the place to shake his excitement out, the better– Batman talking about his calendar, illuminating the intrinsic valleys of Justice League comradery really brings a human touch to the Cowled Crusader. Might as well clean the dust out’cher eyes– this ain’t New Frontier era Darwyn Cooke on inks, but Nick Derington has paired thick brush strokes and volumetric hatching to Stewart’s period-defining throwback palette in a remarkable fashion. What shakes out is the look of a road comedy, the visual sear of country-fried steak, and one helluva ride!

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Look, if “Batman Universe” #4 ain’t what’cher lookin’ for round these parts, then you might not be into modern renditions of DC Classic, which ain’t nothin’ wrong,…just gotta ask yourself why not?

Final Verdict: 8.0 – Batman and Jonah Hex vs ninjas!!

Gwenpool Strikes Back #3
Written by Leah Williams
Illustrated by David Baldeón
Colored by Jesus Aburtov
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Reviewed by Joe Skonce

Meta storytelling certainly has its place in media. There’s a certain fun to being a reader and having the character wink at you knowingly, making you feel like you’re part of the joke. The problem though is that the growing popularity of metatextual storytelling has been making it feel a little stale. While not necessarily for everyone, “Gwenpool Strikes Back” #3 presents a different kind of meta-humor, making the issue feel fresh.

Leah Williams is the real star here, presenting a comic with the right level of impish chaos. As Gwen learns, she is more successful when she’s bad and takes the lesson to heart, presenting a plan that not only shows her mischievous side but showcases her meta-humor. Gwen is first and foremost, a fan of the Marvel Universe and her abilities stem largely from being an extremely online fan of all things Marvel. Many of the jokes feel like memes or screen-capped tweets that point out the absurdity of superhero situations, but also have a love of the genre. “Gwenpool Strikes Back” #3 is very much aimed at a younger generation of fans (and in fact, there is a panel that features “characters popular with younger readers but bewildering to older readers”) using the language of modern fandom. That might be alienating to some readers, but Williams makes it clear that she not only understands the current trends of fandom, but she is also a part of it and that makes the whole thing more genuine and thus more enjoyable.

Similarly, David Baldeón’s art adds to the fun and discord of the issue. Early on, Gwen kicks into Baldeon’s real-world coffee as a way to stop being pursued by the Fantastic Four, which was reminiscent of that old Looney Tunes where Daffy Duck gets into a fight with the animator. There’s also a fun page where Wade gives Gwen a flowchart of how meta books can become successful. It’s a nice visual gag but is enhanced when we see that the chart is tangible to them; they are really interacting with it. Most importantly though is the way Baldeón draws Gwen herself. It’s wonderful, you can always tell what she’s thinking, which helps to enhance the storytelling. Overall, you can’t help but have a great time watching Gwen fight to sell more issues so she can live to be chaotic another day.

Final Verdict: 8.4 – “Gwenpool Strikes Back” #3 is a meta comic that felt fresh and original, and was a whole lot of fun to read. Highly recommended!

Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy #2
Written by Jody Houser
Penciled by Adriana Melo
Inked by Mark Morales
Colored by Hi-Fi
Lettered by Gabriela Downie
Reviewed by Kate Kosturski

Floronic Man has our gals Harley and Ivy in his sights, as he craves Ivy for his Parliament of Flowers. The duo manages to escape his clutches but the respite is only temporary. Knowing they are not safe in Gotham, the two take off for Wonderland, seeking refuge with old friend Jervis Tetch. But whose interests does Tetch have in mind?

Everything I love about Jody Houser’s scripts in her “Doctor Who” series at Titan Comics is on full display here: quick wit balanced with moments of emotion. These two love each other and love kicking ass. Harley does carry the weight of leadership between the two in this issue with Ivy taking a bit of a backseat and a more “damsel in distress” role – – but not without a few fun moments to show off just what she can do. Hopefully, has she learns more about her link with the Green, we see more of those moments.

Melo and Morales love the use of perspective to show power. Whether it’s a worm’s eye view of Harley in combat or a bird’s eye view of our first meeting of Tetch, it’s an excellent way to maintain visual control of a scene. Their commitment to detail in Floronic Man is sublime, both in wide-angle shots and close up moments. They also know how to draw confident, powerful, muscular women, though there’s certainly a fair dose of scantily clad cheesecake that I could have done without. Throw in Hi-Fi’s bold colors, and you have the same level of fun in artwork as you do the script.

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You can’t argue Harley Quinn is having her moment in pop culture, and the more female friendship stories that pass the Bechdel test in comics make comics all the better. But let’s not forget about the other half of this duo too. Let’s see a little bit more of our green superstar.

Final Verdict: 6.8 – A little less Harley and a little more Ivy can give this miniseries a little bit of a needed growth spurt.

Livewire #11
Written by Vita Ayala
Illustrated by Tana Ford
Colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick
Lettered by Saida Temofonte
Cover by Stacey Lee
Reviewed by Linda H. Codega

In “Livewire #11” Amanda McKee, fresh from a very public incident that resulted in the death of over 150 people, is brought to a benefit fundraiser for a local politician, Councilman John Wright. Understandably, people are wary, angry, and only occasionally grateful that she’s there. A superhero outspoken about Psiot (superhero) rights, Livewire is a target for politicians and vigilantes alike. A group of terrorists in Oni masks crash the benefit, and Amanda uses her powers to save the rich and famous clientele in attendance. While she does, a black-clad spec-ops woman breaks into Senator McCoy’s apartment and steals records, reporting to John that McCoy kept track of everything.

The drawing style is marked by big, bold black outlines and expressive faces and poses. It’s exceptionally well suited for a superhero story and reminds us of classic panels and pages while still allowing for a modern, current feel. The coloring helps out here too, providing minimal differences in hues and relying instead on the black ink fills to make certain parts pop. The illustrator and colorist of “Livewire #11” work really well together, with the limited palate allowing facial expressions and positioning to pop against intricate backgrounds.

The action is exciting and well developed, especially in the scene where masked men shoot up the benefit. The problem here is that this interaction doesn’t quite feel earned. The Livewire run is marked by political and social change and fights among dominant and marginalized people. With the intense gun control problem plaguing the United States, having a series of panels about a publish shooting needs to be handled with some kind of gravitas and understanding. I didn’t get the feeling that this section of the issue, which starts and is resolved in five pages, really had much to say about this kind of terror, and instead uses it as a cheap plot point so Amanda can gain the public’s trust and receive validation of her superhero status.

Final Verdict: 6.5 – “Livewire #11” adds an interesting twist to Amanda’s story, and makes for a compelling, if slightly offbeat, read.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – Dark Temple #3
Written by Matthew Rosenberg
Illustrated by Paolo Villanelli
Colored by Arif Prianto
Lettered by Joe Sabino
Reviewed by Gregory Ellner

A story in the Star Wars galaxy with all new characters can be relatively easy to write poorly. New characters can rely upon existing ones’ personalities as a basis, and they can appear to be nothing more than a retread of old ground. Thankfully, Matthew Rosenberg is skilled enough in the use of the characters who are not yet fully introduced into the saga to tell a simple, interesting, though not necessarily entirely unique story following a character from the upcoming video game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Using a relatively gray morality and calm mentor figure, Rosenberg is able to examine the conflicting positions of rebel leader and mediator in a way that helps to educate newcomers to the “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – Dark Temple” miniseries on how the peacekeeping nature of Jedi can work in different ways.

Paolo Villanelli crafts dynamic artwork that works well with the action-heavy, fast-paced story. The explosions around a battlefield help to demonstrate the chaos of even the smaller pitched conflicts, though at times the art is a little too action-oriented for its own good, such as when characters may be off in the distance and not given enough detail to their faces, in contrast to people who are closer up and moving a lot more.

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Arif Prianto’s colors help to show the beautiful array of styles in the Star Wars galaxy, from the simple rebreathers in their grays and browns to a violet cloak to the ascetic robes of the Jedi themselves. All of these work in deliberate contrast to the dark shades on special operations Stormtroopers in the Imperial era, showing the harsh and unforgiving nature of that time and its military.

Final Verdict: 7.5 – The prelude to Fallen Order shows promise, though perhaps with a bit of odd artwork.

Superman #16
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by David LaFuente
Colored by Paul Mounts
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Brian Bendis has found a niche in the youth corner of the DCU. His Jon Kent has been wonderful thus far, and this issue’s reunion with Damian Wayne was simultaneously funny and touching. Bendis has really found Jon’s voice and, in very limited moments, has also found Damian’s. Damian’s reaction of disbelief followed by suspicion, followed by jealousy, followed by genuine affection was a wonderful journey for both the character and the readers.

David LaFuente’s art is wonderfully, vibrantly youthful, aided by Paul Mounts’s bold coloring choices. The artwork pops off the page, and LaFuente takes a book that features a lot of exposition and sets it in nearly perpetual motion. There isn’t any real sitting around and recapping, as everything moves along while the boys eat atop a gargoyle, stop some crime, and have two very different, though awkward, hugs.

Bendis gives Damian the right mixture of his father’s stoicism and teenage arrogance but also gives Damian a little more sweetness than we’re used to from the son of the Bat. This is not a bad thing, and I am legitimately excited to see Damian when he pops up in the 31st century. Damian also gets the line of the issue, as he expresses relief after Jon tells him about the Legion of Super-Heroes: “I’m just excited that there is a thousand years in the future. That’s the best news I’ve heard in a while.” Preach, Damian.

Final Verdict: 8.2 – A stellar re-introduction of these two characters, and a fun look at what the future may hold.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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