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.
Adventure Time 2015 Spooktacular
Written and Illustrated by Hanna K.
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia
Hanna K. looks back into the past for her spin on “Adventure Time’s” annual fall special. She combines elements of the lone wanderer tropes with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, all mixed in with a little bit of Justin Cronin’s Passage novels, to make a super fun Marceline the Vampire Queen story.
Taking place long before Finn showed up, when humans still wandered around Ooo (maybe? let’s not forget that Marceline is a thousand years old at least and we don’t have answers to what happened to humans; also, they could be Susan Strong-like peeps, who knows), the 2015 Spooktacular finds everyone’s favorite vampire queen searching for Simon as well as taking out small packs of vampires wherever she wanders. Hanna K. gives her a small dog tagging along, who bears much of the charm and adorableness of this issue. Eventually, Marceline comes on a small town, accidentally reveals their location to a pack of vamps, and does what she can to help fix the situation.
Hanna K. has great control of the page. Her composition choices, especially her penchant for rectilinear panels, helps conjure some strong tension in the story. Her lifework itself may be thin and storyboard-like (she is also a storyboard artist on the Adventure Time show), but it lends itself well to the color palette, the layout style, and overall readability. She also has this familiarity with the characters and the world that gives the whole comic a feeling of authenticity.
With some well-delivered battles, some strong and fluid artwork, and a general confidence in the story and material, the “Adventure Time 2015 Spooktacular” is a great addition to the Land of Ooo.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – Hanna K. brings it all together to deliver one of the more memorable and well-done “Adventure Time” specials in a while.
Written by Cameron Stewart & Brenden Fletcher
Art by Babs Tarr
Review by Ken Godberson III
This issue of “Batgirl” did something that was beautiful, heartfelt, poignant and important not only to a group of people but to comics in general. It also did something incredibly lazy. We’re going to talk about both.
The good parts is the artwork of Babs Tarr and colorist Serge Lapointe. To put it simply, this is a beautiful looking book. A lush, vibrant, soft (in a good way), wondrous and hopeful tone is on display for this happy occasion. Tarr’s aptitude for character expression runs a full gauntlet from joy, sadness, comedy and outright rage to magnificent effect. But without a shadow of a doubt the best image, where pencils, inks and colors are fully in synch, is the reveal of Alysia in her wedding gown. Absolutely stunning. And of course, cameos a plenty Rose Quartz of Steven Universe and comic creators including Kevin Wada and his recently wed-to husband. Little touches that do add a lot.
And what a wedding! An absolute blast. Great friends! A stellar band (although I kinda have to question this band’s tour schedule. Geeze)! Smashing of cake into one another’s face (always mandatory)! And it’s a massively important wedding. LGBQT characters get the rough end of the stick, especially the “T” in that acronym. To see the trans woman Alysia marry the love of her life, Jo, in such a wonderful way without anything absolutely awful happen (apart from normal wedding shenanigans, obviously) is such a powerful moment and seeing it happen in the most mainstream of comic book universes triples it.
So what was the lazy part? Weelllll.
Okay, let me preface this with something. Despite the fact that I do not like Barbara Gordon being Batgirl again (I find it regressive, cowardly, and stepping on the fanbases of two other characters that have constantly been crapped on, furthering the hypocrisy from DC that 4 Robins got to keep their history but 3 Batigrls/2 Flashes in 1 universe was too much), I still find the scenes between her and Dick Grayson incredibly lazy. Now, I don’t mind Babs’s reaction to Dick’s behavior. It makes perfect sense. What the problem is how this writing team got to that reaction. To put it bluntly, it’s not so much that they wrote Dick like a guy that can be immature, they wrote him like an (forgive my language, Cap) asshole. A complete condescending asshole. The stealing of the ring to get Babs’ attention was incredibly screwed up but it was, again, the condescending way he talks to both Babs and Luke that sealed this crap deal. If this had been a Dick that was still Robin or maybe just becoming Nightwing, this may have made a bit more sense (and that’s a big “maybe”). But a Dick that has gone through all of that, wore the mantle of the Bat (which is still canon as of several books in the New 52), literally died and was resurrected and then had to go into hiding to stop an organization that wants to unmask the Justice League? I’m sorry. No. And to those that say “Well, he acts like that in his book!” Yeah, well, for as good as “Grayson” is, it’s a problem in that books as well.Continued below
And the thing that makes it so lazy here is this: “To what end?” What is the point of this? What is the point of intentionally writing Dick as incredibly awful? Why, it is so Barbara can now talk to Dick about how much she wants to move on and how she’s maturing and wants to have her own life. You know: The same thing she has been going on about since issue #1 of this series (and I mean the actual issue #1, no matter how Orwellian DC has been getting with Gail Simone’s run). It serves no function but to take up space. Barbara started this issue at the wedding dating Luke Fox… and that’s exactly how it ends. Nothing changed. At all. As soon she gets what she has to out it is a one-panel change-over with Dick’s personality and is quickly shunted off.
For as strong as this issue was, the creators should have just not even bothered to have Dick in here and expanded on the Wedding. Talk about the anxieties of a wedding, about going from just dating to actually, lawfully partners. Explore the friendships between these characters. Do anything except revisiting this same and tired plot point between these two characters. And this is coming from someone who doesn’t even like them as a couple!
Final Verdict: 7.0- A wondrous, colorful, and socially important issue that is marred by the creators indulging in the rehashed “Will they? Won’t they?” of Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson.
Written by Tim Seeley
Illustrated by Mikel Janin
Reviewed by Keith Dooley
“Grayson” #13 opens with a scene that is a combination of humor and sexiness, with writer Tim Seeley (and co-plotter Tim King) and Mikel Janin proving yet again why this is one of the best series on the shelves today. After last issue’s poignant detour through Gotham City, we’re thrown back into the usual spying and intrigue. A classic Golden Age Bat-villain makes an appearance on the high seas, Helena gives us reason to doubt her intentions, and we get a natural back-and-forth between Dick and a fellow bird of the night. Seeley’s script jumps from action to dialogue-driven scenes smoothly and seamlessly. The pacing, as usual, builds the story as well as the characterization. Seeley and King truly love Dick as well as the Bat-world. If Snyder, Heaven forbid, ever has to leave “Batman”, then they would be an excellent replacement.
“Grayson” wouldn’t be the same book without artist Mikel Janin. His Dick is always sexy and is smooth in every way. Whether showing off his acrobatic skills or laying on a couch, there is a sensuality to “Grayson” #13 that is further evidence that this book is the sexiest DC title. Janin is able to balance real world settings with the more outrageous world of a superhero book. His depiction of a certain Robin’s outfit is one of the best I’ve seen since the New 52. Inker Hugo Petrus adds a dynamism to Janin’s art, whether highlighting the motion of a kick or allowing the pencils to be unfettered and stand out crisply in the brightness of day.
Colorist Jeremy Cox continues, in “Grayson” #13, to grace Janin’s art with a luminous sheen that is always recognizable. The red and black of the room at the issue’s beginning gives the spy headquarters an urgently erotic quality. Spyral is an organization that’s full of secrets and hidden desires, which Cox is able to subtly yet vividly present on the page. The bright blue sky and hazy clouds bring a hyper-reality to the scene while the different colors of Dick as he jumps from floor to sky add a sense of motion.
“Grayson” #13 may not answer a lot of questions (in fact it even asks another big one while hinting at a possible new player(s) on the scene) but it does give us nice personal moments, a sprinkling of just enough humor, and a sexiness that blends in throughout to make a delicious treat of an issue.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – “Grayson” #13 is another solid issue from one of the best creative teams in comic books.Continued below
Power Up #4
Written by Kate Leth
Illustrated by Matt Cummings
Reviewed by Jess Camacho
One of my favorite comics right now is easily “Power Up”. “Power Up” has been everything I could ever want. It’s funny, youthful and the art is delightful. “Power Up” #4 finds the newly united team having to deal with Amie’s neighbor getting his own power, except in his case he’s gone bad. Amie, Kevin and Beatrice have to spring into action to deal with his powers but also save him from this. What’s so great about “Power Up” are the character interactions. Beatrice is a mom and because of this she has a different perspective than any superhero we’ve ever seen before. She connects with Amie and Kevin differently and her own insecurities about being “cool” come through in this issue. Kevin is a joy to behold. He’s the complete opposite of any male hero in “Big Two” superhero books because he doesn’t adhere to any bad masculine stereotypes and as we see in this issue, he’s a sweetheart jock who loves his skimpy superhero outfit. The problem with “Power Up” is that four issues in, the bigger plot just feels a bit flat. We’ve got all this great character stuff but there isn’t enough action happening with the antagonists. Throughout these four issues the characters have talked about their power, expressed confusion but things aren’t progressing fast enough and this could pose a problem since this is a miniseries.
Matt Cummings art is very, very cute. I like the minimalist approach to creating faces because it reminds me a bit of “Peanuts”. Despite the approach, the expression are big enough and appropriate for the situations. The action scenes are something right out of Sailor Moon but still feel contemporary. The styling of each character is wholly unique to each character and reflects the personalities so well.
Final Verdict: 7.4 – “Power Up” continues to be a ton of fun.
Written by John Arcudi
Illustrated by James Harren
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje
The second arc of “Rumble” is a more bits and pieces offering than the more unified first six issues, but Arcudi and Harren still bring their A-game for this high-energy, haunting Halloween issue.
It’s All Hallow’s Eve, and Del is every bit as excited as he was when he was a kid. But he and Bobby have much more to deal with than costumed children and copious amounts of candy. The world of the Esu doesn’t take a break to let the humans have their monstrous fun, and when Bobby finds himself babysitting a couple of oddly quiet kids he ends up protecting them from far more than just a sugar overdose.
Arcudi has definitely settled into a solid scripting groove for this series. The genial pairing of Del and Bobby really anchors this book with a pair of everyman protagonists who are experiencing the weirdness of the hidden world of the Esu in a believable way. That being said, the pacing of the past few issues has felt a little less focussed than it did initially. This issue’s opening few pages luxuriate in Del’s spooktacular past and Timah’s isolated present in a really enjoyable way, but by nodding to every member of the supporting cast Arcudi does take quite a while to get to the story proper.
Harren’s art is superb as always, with an autumnal haze so impressive that you can almost smell the pumpkin spiced latte through the pages. The varied spooky, funny, and topical costumes scattered throughout the book help blur the lines between the human world and the Esu world with effortless ease and the creepily cute trick-or-treaters that Bobby finds himself saddled with are brilliant! ‘Ghosty and Frankie’ may be silent throughout this issue but Harren manages to give them more expression through a mask and a sheet than most fully formed comic-book characters get.
This issue is another that feels simultaneously stand alone and part of a larger world. There’s a bit of a disconnect at times as Arcudi touches base with characters who are clearly going to be major players once the arc gets going, but when the action starts flowing in full force and Rathraq’s sword starts swinging this issue is every bit as fun, frantic and fierce a book as you could want for Halloween.Continued below
Final Verdict: 7.2 – Season’s Greetings. Grab this sugar-coated monster mash and get spooky.
We Are Robin #5
Written by Lee Bermejo
Illustrated by Jorge Corona
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore
The issue committed a grave sin, which is of no fault of the creative team: on the cover, it told us that James Harvey was illustrating this issue. Harvey, who did last month’s incredible #4, is one of the creators that I am most looking for new work from, as that issue simply blew me away. Sadly, that’s not the case here, as Jorge Corona – a fine artist in his own right – was actually on the issue. Having Harvey as an artist would mean that the issue would break from the ‘normal’ format of “We Are Robin,” but instead, we get an issue much like we’ve seen before.
That sounds harsh, but the series really stepped up to a new level last month. Harvey’s book was vibrant and, artistically, matched the hopeful tone that the series strives for, and sometimes misses the beat on. The idea of a crowd-sourced team of vigilante teenagers needs to continuously show that the kids are in this for the right reasons, or the book slips into some risky territory. This issue attempts to bring a family rivalry/dysfunctional relationship to the forefront, and juxtaposes the idea of family versus the idea of ‘family.’ We’ve seen all of this before.
A little more interesting is the idea of the Robins rebelling against ‘The Nest,’ and wanting to know more about who has sent them on these missions. This, again, was handled decently, but many moments that could have been made unique were instead just sort of thrown together. The man in the Nest (who I won’t spoil here) needs to be developed more, both in his relationship with the Robins, and perhaps his motivations. Sure, we know in the broader sense why this is happening, but I would still like to see some development given to his choices.
Corona’s art is well suited for the book’s setting and cast, but I can’t help but desire not just the look, but especially the colors of Harvey’s issue. The Robins wear bright colors, but the book’s palette is muted. The grimy Gotham streets would seem far more hopeful if the red and yellows popped just a little more. Corona’s teenagers also seem to vary in age, sometimes seeming quite young, and other times not too different, age wise, than Dick Grayson or Barbara Gordon. Rooting the book in a younger look would reinforce just how dangerous the Robins’ missions are, and also develop the series as a place for the true youth of he DC Universe.
Final Verdict: 5.0 – A letdown after last month’s turning point.