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Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 10/7/15

By | October 12th, 2015
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.

Amazing Spider-Man #1
Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore

There are few safer bets in comics than Dan Slott writing Peter Parker – the character and creator are so well matched that practically the entire comics world wants Slott to stay on the Spider books indefinitely. He has a real beat on the character, but isn’t afraid to try new things – “The Amazing Spider-Man” #1 – the third ongoing, flagship Spidey #1 that Slott has written in less than three years – doesn’t throw the status quo completely out the window, but it does tweak Peter Parker’s story just enough to give the book a different feel.

In many ways, this feels like Peter Parker finally realizing his potential; he’s taking his years of fighting alongside some of the greatest heroes of all time, and seeing not just what works on the field of battle, but also in their private lives. The obvious – and discussed on page – comparison here is Tony Stark; Parker Industries is, essentially, Peter’s attempt to be like Stark with less ego/greed. But there’s more than just that at play here; Peter has always been, paradoxically, a great teammate and a loner, so to see him working with so many others as the instigator/leader of the team up is an interesting shift for him.

Visually, Camuncoli does a great job capturing the danger and the fun in each situation. One of the interesting parts of a Spider-Man story that goes this global is that the danger is ramped up, but Spidey still isn’t a big player on the scale of some of his Avengers compadres, so the threats seem more real. The opening sequences sees Spidey and a certain Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Shanghai, and Camuncoli manages to squeeze in so many details that enhance the story without ever going overboard or distracting from the purpose of the sequence: to show us that this is the Peter we know and love, just taken up a notch. His out of costume Parker isn’t all that consistent, but his facial work is never so off that you don’t know who you’re looking at – but it is still an area of his game that could be improved.

That expanded confidence and ability to still crack wise while doing incredibly dangerous things almost seems to be a slight trace on Octavius still running through Peter’s mind – specifically in his confidence and his trust in his tech being so unwavering. That actually presents the biggest problem with the book for me – I don’t know if I want a Spider-Man that isn’t a little frayed around the edges. Parker has long been the everyman of the MCU – I don’t know if giving him constant reminders that he’s not is exactly the way to play this. Slott is much smarter than I am, though, and with such a strong Spider-pedigree, I have no doubt that the book will continue along his path of excellence.

The issue ends with previews for other Spider-family books, and they all do a fairly decent job of teasing a tone and generally mission statement for their books. While none necessarily jumped out at me, “Silk” and “Web Warriors” were both different than I expected, in good ways. Marvel really wanted the first week of ‘All-New All-Different’ to be a sampling of the flavors it would be presenting, and this certainly follows suit. I just wish that I didn’t have to pay $6 for a bunch of stories that I didn’t really want just to read one I did.

Final Verdict: 7.0 – A strong debut that presents some interesting challenges for the months ahead.

Bloodshot Reborn #7
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Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by Butch Guice
Review by Ken Godberson III

Ray’s not the only one looking for the nanites as his original goal to prevent more civilian deaths becomes a game of cat and mouse between him and one of the other infected to become less of a human. “Visceral” is how I would describe this issue. Don’t let all the action in this action thriller book fool you, Jeff Lemire is pretty much saying “Hey, America, you do realize your whole thing with guns and violence in general is kind of screwed up, right?” And Butch Guice, while not as photorealistic as Mico Suayan, displays that kind of graphical and psychological horror that gun violence brings to an incredibly uncomfortable level. (Although I will give special credit to Suayan’s cover of this issue, because it’s the coolest cover the series has had so far).

There is one big criticism I do have of this book though: Magic. Not the character herself, I do like what I’ve seen of her so far. No it’s how her and Ray are getting really close really quickly, like to an almost unbelievable level. Take note that we were just introduced to her in issue #4 and already to issue #7 they’re sleeping together and Ray thinks he’s in love. And to be blunt, in a world of psychic dictators, super spy ninjas, alien armor and a super soldier powered by things out of Hideo Kojima’s dreams, this breakneck speed romance is the most unbelievable thing. Slow it down a bit, is all I’m saying. Let it develop.

Final Verdict: 6.9- Great art and societal commentary hampered by some odd character choices.

Detective Comics #45
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Illustrated by Marcio Takara
Reviewed by Keith Dooley

“Detective Comics” #45 is a pleasant debut issue for the book’s new creative team. Although more of a set-up for the future of the book, writer Peter J. Tomasi is able to craft natural and very personal moments between Bruce, Alfred, and members of the Justice League. Tomasi brought emotional heft to his run on “Batman and Robin” and it seems like he’s going to carry that talent over to one of the two big Bat-books. The interactions Alfred has with Bruce and with the League are heartbreaking yet further the character development. There is also a mystery brewing and Tomasi and the rest of the creative team appear to be having fun with the interaction and impending team-up between Bat-Gordon and the League.

Marcio Takara’s artistic style in “Detective Comics” #45 is a combination of the gritty and light. While appearing realistic, he also brings an aura of the larger than life and fantastical to his work. This transforms his art into something that is fascinating and worth a few looks after the first read. He seems to be having fun with this book, as evidenced by a scene between Bruce and Wonder Woman in Bruce’s study. Fans of the 1960s “Batman” television series will smile at a nod to the show with a certain prop on the desk. With a mixture of horror, mystery, and intimate moments, Takara proves he can succeed at evoking a mixture of emotions.

The colors in this issue aid in what Takara is attempting to do with his art. Chris Sotomayor’s color palette evolves as the pages turn. When the League appears at Wayne Manor, they’re colored in a muted and classy way that is free of the gaudy or ostentatious. Like Tomasi and Takara, Sotomayor is more focused on the story than simply trying to get the issue finished. The scene between Bruce and Wonder Woman is effective with its use of the yellow and orange glow of the fireplace. The fact that it takes place during the night adds the sense of intimacy. In contrast to that scene, the teal night sky that serves as a backdrop for an action scene with the new Batman imbues it with pure fun and even a tinge of that ‘60s TV Bat-look. Like Takara, Sotomayor always keeps the visuals interesting.

Although “Detective Comics” #45 starts out slow, it has potential for a fun run. The hint of detective work to come is more than welcome for a series with the word in the title.

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Final Verdict: 7.9 – With potential to spare, “Detective Comics” #45 is worth picking up for the fine art and an interesting setup.

“Grumpy Cat” #1

Written by Ben Fisher, Ben McCool, Royal McGraw, & Elliott R. Serano
Illustrated by Ken Haeser, Michelle Nguyen & Steve Uy
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje

Is it a pet? Is it a meme? No, (well, yes… but also) it’s a comic book too!?

Dynamite have rounded up a slew of contributors to put together a multi-story comic for one of the world’s most famous, and famously unimpressed, felines. Grumpy Cat, and her brother Pokey, pad through the first of a three part mini-series that knows exactly who its audience is, but isn’t quite sure what it wants to be.

A jaunt through a haunted mansion, a destructive romp around their own house, and a super-hero inspired patrol through their neighbourhood form the backbone of the three short stories in this issue. While the self-contained and reasonably shallow nature of these stories isn’t surprising it did have me wondering if Grumpy and her brother wouldn’t work better as a webcomic. Each writer has done their best with the source material (offering up stories that are seasonally appropriate, perennial, and topical respectively) but it’s difficult to get ten pages of unique story out of two characters who’s only traits are ‘disgustingly optimistic’ and ‘militantly miserable’.

The art feels similarly standardised, with relatively basic backgrounds and simplistic renditions of Grumpy and Pokey that would, again, be much more forgiveable in a three panel or single page web format. What’s more, ironically, the singular expression that has made Grumpy Cat famous all around the world makes for a very difficult character to read, emotionally, so that quite a few panels require re-reading in order for the reader to pick up the right tone for line delivery, an experience akin to someone explaining the punchline of a joke.

Perhaps it’s my loyalty to the masterful simplicity of Jim Davis’ work (Grumpy and Pokey read like Garfield and Odie without the nuance) but I feel ‘Grumpy Cat’ #1 is less of a labour of love and more of a cross-medium cash-grab. While I wouldn’t have necessarily minded any of the stories had I come across them in isolation, the ‘Good Cat, Bad Cat’ routine wears thin way before the thirtieth page. I feel like this book would have benefited hugely from Dynamite deciding what they were hoping for from their cash cat before they set off. They should’ve either roped Skottie Young into scripting a continuous story for Grumpy and taken the cat on a heart-felt journey of discovery or they should have simply broken down the book into a proper anthology and shot for comic strip style syndication. The finished result sits somewhere in between and ends up feeling both shallow and over-long.

Final Verdict: 3.4 There are better web-comics out there that you could be reading..for free. Check some of those out instead!

Hip Hop Family Tree #2
Written and Illustrated by Ed Piskor
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia

“Hip Hop Family Tree” is a marvel of comics storytelling. From its sweeping scope, its clear love and respect of the material, its portrait of music as revolution, and its ambition to evoke the time period with a sort of late-70/early-80s comic look, this is one of the most interesting books to look at and read on stands right now. It might very well be the successor to E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime.

The monthly is this series’ third iteration (following the original online version at Boing Boing and the oversized collections from Fantagraphics), and I think it’s my preferred format. Not only is it easier to cart around, but the newsprint pages, the dense panels, the faded colors, and the look of the whole thing help contribute to the world Piskor’s evoking. He also exhibits such control of the rhythm and flow of the pages, that it’s easy to be caught up in the exuberance.

“Hip Hop Family Tree” #2 focuses mostly on the numerous rap groups around town racing to be the first to put their rhymes and beats on record. Most of the kids are excited about the prospect, while some of the more seasoned performers, like Grandmaster Flash, feel that committing their work to wax removes the authenticity of it all. People like Sylvia Robinson, though, realize what the future’s bringing and move heaven and earth to get this stuff recorded.

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There’s also turmoil among the groups themselves. Flash’s crew isn’t too happy with their compensation or what they’re earning for each show, but after they break away to try to form their own group, they find themselves bullied back into line. Grandmaster Caz lends some lyrics to Big Bank Hank in exchange for some show exposure, only to have Sugarhill Gang blow up, leaving GMC with no credit. Young Spoonie Gee cuts a record without telling the rest of his group, who’re understandably upset. Though there are a ton of characters, the drama in this series works because it’s entirely human drama.

Piskor jumps between characters and timelines like he’s DJing this whole thing. It feels like he’s moving everybody into big moments rather than a collection of biographical events; they aren’t characters so much as figures, but I think that sells how sweeping and important hip hop was even at the beginning. “Hip Hop Family Tree” isn’t just a historical look at a the emergence of a new style and genre, but it’s also an overview on a rapidly changing country. Either get with the times or get left behind.

Final Verdict: 8.9 – Piskor’s using a huge tapestry to create a fascinating portrait not just of a genre, but of a world.

Star Wars: Shattered Empire #2
Written by Greg Rucka
Illustrated by Marco Checcheto, Angel Unuzeta and Emilio Laiso
Reviewed by Matt Allegretti

After an underwhelming first issue, “Shattered Empire” #2 is now one of the more enjoyable Marvel Star Wars comics. The first installment focused too heavily on the end of Return of the Jedi and the cliche relationship between the tough, hard nosed A-wing pilot Shara Bey and her husband, Kes Dameron. A romance that by the end of this miniseries is sure to end in tragedy. The lack of focus on the classic characters was a problem, especially because the new characters seemed a little one dimensional. In issue #2, Leia plays a more primary role, undertaking a diplomatic mission to Naboo with Shara Bey. Unfortunately, Shara doesn’t have very much to do other than follow the Princess around. At least there’s good chemistry between the two which makes their team-up highly enjoyable. Even more satisfying is the unsettling opening scene between a messenger of the Emperor and a Star Destroyer captain. This incident sets up the issue’s cliffhanger which hints at the Empire’s larger plans against the rebels.

Greg Rucka does an excellent job conveying the turbulence felt in the galaxy after the death of the Emperor when the war-weary rebels are hunting down the fractured Imperial forces. Where the issue falters the most is with the plot. Kes, a central character in the first issue, doesn’t even make an appearance, and the cliffhanger from the opening issue is never addressed. There are also a few time-jumps which are jarring and slightly confusing. Even with its shortcomings, however, this issue feels more like what the fans initially expected when the series was announced. It manages to evoke moments from both trilogies and maintain a classic Star Wars feel that’s missing in most of the Marvel Star Wars comics I’ve read.

The major problem with “Shattered Empire” is the art, which is wonderful when Marco Checchetto is drawing, and mediocre at best with Angel Unuzeta and Emilio Laiso. Checcheto’s A-wing and TIE Fighters race across the page in his battle sequences, perfectly evoking a cinematic experience. You can almost hear the laser fire and explosions. He also draws a convincing Leia. Unuzeta and Laiso are competent artists but their work just doesn’t equal Checchetto’s. The digital coloring hurts the book and gives an artificial sheen to the characters. This is especially noticeable with Leia. Also, some of the panels are too dark. The inking is too thick in spots and muddies Checchetto’s work. It makes me yearn to see his original pencils.

Final Verdict 7.0– As we head toward The Force Awakens, “Shattered Empire” is a must read for Star Wars fans who are curious to know what happened after Return of the Jedi. Just don’t expect a lot of questions to be answered quite yet.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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