Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 10/31/18

By | November 5th, 2018
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.

Avengers Halloween Special
Written by So Many Spooky Writers known as Rob Fee, Gerry Duggan, Jen and Sylvia Soska, Jay Baruchel, and Robbie Thompson
Illustrated by Innumerable Evil Artists dubbed Eoin Marron, Laura Braga, Jonas Scharf, Luca Pizzari, and Bob Quinn
Colored by a Cacophony of Cunning Colorists better known as Mike Spicer, Arif Prianto, Jordan Boyd, Michael Garland, and Cris Peter
Lettered by a Lecherous Letterer they call Travis Lanham
Reviewed by Dexter Buschetelli

The “Avengers Halloween Special” reads like a mix of “The Twilight Zone” and Marvel’s own “What If?” series, alternate tales with a spooky twist. In the case of this book, these tales of the macabre are perfectly disturbing. Much unlike the DC produced “Cursed Comics Cavalcade” I reviewed in a previous “Wrapping Wednesdays” , this one-shot does a fantastic job of startling its audience and subverting expectations.

From the jump its first story is surprisingly distressing; featuring Matt Murdock, the Daredevil, receiving an eye transplant leading to a series of grisly murders committed by the hero and orchestrated by his greatest villain, The Kingpin. This is followed by a version of Doctor Doom caught up in an “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers”-esque plot where the Fantastic Four are not what they seem.

The middle of the book is where it is most effective. In a self-referential take on “The Thing,” Tony Stark seeks out Captain America, aided by Colossus and Deadpool. Wade Wilson is used to great effect here, noting the “Cronenbergian” nature of this section, and even going so far as to connect Brian Yuzna’s “Society”. As far as Halloween Specials go, this is where the one-shot shines. The body horror is unsettling and Jonas Schart nails this element in the art department, but story-wise it hits some excellent beats placing Stark and “Rogers” in the roles of Macready and Childs as they sit in the snow to await what comes next.

None of this should downplay the lesser stories of the latter half of the book, as they are absolutely worthy of inclusion here. A Victorian-style operatic retelling of Frank Castle’s origin in “Punisher of the Opera” (cringe though that title may be) and a haunted house of gifted youngsters round this special out effectively.

All in all, in the war of Halloween specials, Marvel has inarguably come out the winner this year. Having reviewed both outings from the “Big Two”, this was easily the more enjoyable, more bone-tingling, and more creeptastic release.

Final Verdict: 9.3 – I need my comfort blanket after this late-night scare-filled creature-fest

Batman: Secret Files #1
Written by Tom King, Ram V, Cheryl Lynn Eaton, Jordie Bellaire & Tom Taylor
Illustrated by Mikel Janin, Jorge Fornes Elena Casagrande, Jill Thompson & Brad Walker
Colored by Jordie Bellaire, Matt Wilson & Trish Mulvihill
Inked by Andrew Hennessy
Lettered by Clayton Cowles, Steve Wands, Derron Bennett & Tom Napolitano
Cover by Mikel Janin
Reviewed by Chris Egan

“Batman: Secret Files” #1 is comprised of five short stories. The first story, ‘True Strength’ written by current “Batman” scribe Tom King is a great three-page character piece focusing on Bruce, contemplating his entire mission. King’s dialogue is great omniscient narration. Janin draws a classic Batman, Superman, and Alfred. Bellaire’s subdued colors give the pages a dream-like haze. All in all, a good introduction to the book.

Fans of “Gotham Central” will enjoy ‘The Nature of Fear.’ It’s the Scarecrow story we never got in that series. Ram V writes a great tale of facing fears and overcoming them. All focusing on a Gotham police officer exposed to the toxin and his journey to beat it. Fornes brings a penciling style much like Michael Lark’s. Executed with perfectly gritty detail. The focus on the GCPD with Batman remaining in the shadows is the format this needed. Matt Wilson works in muted colors, full of purpose. Every page is a dance of beautiful colors and heavy shadows that let no light escape. A great short with unexpected twists whose style made me want to revisit “Gotham Central” again. Somebody get on the horn with DC Comics and get this team on a follow-up series.

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‘One’ by Cheryl Lynn Eaton is a nice mystery. The first of two stories here featuring an all-women creative team which is great to see on a Bat-book. Gordon is called to a murder scene, Batman decides to follow a witness, putting him on a trail to discover some uncomfortable answers. A nicely written street-level story with a crime that could happen in our world, it handles some big ideas that could have used more pages to explore but is well done with the space given. Casagrande’s pencils are great. She was the perfect choice to depict this detective story. Bellaire keeps up her soft tones, but contrasting particular scenes with blues and greens vs yellows and browns makes the overall look truly come together. Another great creative team bringing a solid story to the table.

Jordie Bellaire gets into the writer’s seat for ‘Enough.’ This was a weird story, especially collected with the previous four. It is far from a traditional Batman story and overall it doesn’t really work. It’s an interesting idea with Batman, hiding out alone in a cabin in the snowy woods hunting Man-Bat, seemingly planning to kill him. Portrayed as more Punisher-esque, it feels off. Bruce having an inner monologue about the mission at hand, interlaced with not liking himself, just doesn’t work. Thompson does solid work, but her depiction of Bruce isn’t as good as her detailed settings. Mulvihill’s work is too bright for the story they are telling. Unfortunately, it’s imbalanced throughout.

‘The World’s Greatest Detective, and Batman’ has Batman teaming up with Bobo the talking chimp, who dresses like Sherlock Holmes, and jumping into a mystery involving The Riddler and people from Bobo’s past. Taylor’s bullet-train pace keeps the book moving, taking a story that could’ve been ridiculous and giving it heart. Walker’s illustrations are top-notch. His detail brings characters and Gotham to gorgeous life. Bellaire returns but is allowed to go all out. No drained color here and Andrew Hennessy’s inks help bring needed depth to Walker’s pencil work.

A great compilation that will make readers look forward to what is next; it opens the door to opportunities for all kinds of stories from various creators. This could be the book that fans need in their pull list.

Final Verdict: 8.0 – A very good side-step to the Batman canon, allowing for even more material than books like “Detective Comics” can offer in one shot.

Bone Parish #4
Written by Cullen Bunn
Illustrated by Jonas Scharf
Colored by Alex Guimarães
Lettered by Ed Dukeshire
Reviewed by Christa Harader

“Bone Parish” #4 takes us through the aftermath of a death in the family without the sinister flair that, at this point, could make this series something special.

I’ve been skeptical about this book since it began, and that skepticism lingers despite Bunn’s ability to structure a decent story. There’s not much here I haven’t seen before, and the cast is so huge a lot of the more dramatic character moments feel rushed. A few less family members, or longer sections focused on each, would help carry more dramatic weight and ground the story. Rafael’s monologues are tedious and read a little like a drug dealer Mad Lib, which also siphons some necessary tension. Issue #4’s climax is good because it answers a key question about the nature of the Ash, and the ghoulish quality helps pump up the action in what should, otherwise, be a tautly paced book.

Scharf’s work is solid, but the book is saturated with dark shadows in places that don’t entirely track or are too overwhelming. Character expressions are muddled or almost obliterated by the inks or dark backgrounds, and what’s meant to be a sharp contrast with one- or two-color panels ends up dominated by swaths of black. Dialing that back a little bit would help bring out Scharf’s nuanced line and make Guimarães’ color choices pop. Guimarães’ attention to light elevates the issue here and there, but not enough to soften the awkward exchanges between Andre and Grace or help the issue’s darker moments stand out in contrast. Dukeshire’s lettering does the job. It’s serviceable, which is not a bad thing, but more of the styling we see with the jagged balloons during Rafael’s trip could actually enhance the mood.

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And that’s the main issue: what’s good here isn’t particularly unique, nor does it feel tailored to the world Bunn’s trying to set up as violent, mysterious and grim. There are good panels throughout, and each member of the creative team brings a lot of technical skill to bear, but the book hasn’t come together just yet.

Final Verdict: 6.0 – “Bone Parish” #4 continues a decent drawn-out story that I’ve seen before, but without adding anything revolutionary or unique to make the series stand out from the herd.

Britannia Lost Eagles of Rome #4
Written by Peter Milligan
Illustrated by Robert Gill with Juan Castro
Colored by José Villarrubia
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
Reviewed by Gustavo S. Lodi

“Britannia Lost Eagles of Rome” pull its readers in by the sheer possibilities of its premise: when a young member of the legionaries gain an incredible level of insight over situations and men’s minds, he becomes the world’s first detective in ancient Rome. Writer Peter Milligan is eager to explore the canvas this scenario provides, and issue #4 does so as the titular Antonius and his companion Achillia conclude their search and recovery mission.

It is unfortunate that for a story filled with promise, the artistic elements of it come up short. At no point, they are a disservice to the narrative, which flows consistently and clearly, but with so much potential in terms of character moments, settings and historical figures, it is frustrating how pencils and colors seem trivial, with few moments that truly stand out.

There are two areas that can draw the most criticism. First, character faces, other than the main characters, are almost facsimiles of one another, to the point where one emperor can be easily confused with a completely different man of power. Second, Gill omits some of the backgrounds when characters are closer together. It could be seen as simply letting the reader’s attention rests solely on who is conversing, but it leans into simply leaving out interesting pieces of the backdrop on a historical piece.

Back at scripts, Milligan is wise to avoid the usual comic tropes of anti-heroes and sidekicks, by choosing to portray Antonius in a far more nuanced matter, with a rich backstory that affects his decisions. Achillia is also not cut from a familiar mold, being at the same time the powerful fellow adventurer and the reader’s viewpoint into the narrative. Both of their personalities compliment one another and they truly feel like a unique type of partnership.

In the end, “Britannia” convinces more from its premise and the story arc that the pure visuals of what it shows. Hopefully, that will evolve and mature over time, as this world surely offers a lot of potentials.

Final Verdict: 6.9 – Although not daring enough on the art department, “Britannia Lost Eagles of Rome” is simply too compelling not to be picked up.

Extermination #4
Written by Ed Brisson
Penciled by Ario Anindito
Laid out by Pepe Larraz
Inked by Dexter Vines
Colored by Erick Arciniega
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Reviewed by Alexander Jones

At this point, it is hard to deny the sense of momentum and conflict behind “Extermination.” The saga keeps getting more intense as writer Ed Brisson adds more layers of intrigue to the narrative like a new time-displaced X-Men and an old foe. What could have gone over like a senseless murder spree actually feels like a celebration of where the X-Men are currently positioned in the Marvel Universe. The conflict with Caliban and the new Cable has forged a fascinating time paradox for the X-Men to battle through that already feels integral to the franchise. This entry continues to establish the rules for the conflict while setting up an endgame.

Brisson has a great handle on the different cast members of the series and gets the characterization for the younger Jean Grey pitch perfect. The issue is also surprisingly filled with a variety of cast members from “X-Men Red.” Seeing the lineup span the entire line of X-Men heroes is particularly exciting and gives the title a true X-Men event feel. The last page of “Extermination” carries a shocking conclusion which pushes the story forward in a creative, violent manner. It is disappointing to see Brisson resort to the comic book trope of mind control to pit heroes against each other. This technique is used too often in event comics like this and forces a more contrived conflict.

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While it is disappointing to see that regular artist Pepe Larraz is taking a break from drawing the interiors of the issue, Ario Anindito does a good job filling in the rest of the detail for the issue. While Anindito sometimes isn’t able to evoke all the detail and clarity Larraz is able to in his illustrations, the art still retains an impressive level of quality. The colors Erick Arciniega contributes can be too muted to serve the story in certain moments. The last two pages of the issue carry the impressive Larraz layouts and a strong eye from Anindito with a fluid movement. Despite the title and marketing of the series, “Extermination” poses some strong ideas and execution for the future of X-Men comics.

Final Verdict: 6.5 – “Extermination” #4 is a solid superhero title and evolution for the X-Men despite a few contrived story beats.

Faith: Dreamside #2
Written by Jody Houser
Illustrated by MJ Kim
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
Reviewed by Elias Rosner

What haunts the dreams of a traumatized psiot? That is what Faith and Doctor Mirage set out to discover in “Faith: Dreamside” #3. For issue #2, however, much of the page count is used attempting to convince Doctor Mirage that something is up and then that that something is within her wheelhouse of expertise. Were it not for Houser’s breezy, heartfelt and humorous script, Kim’s flowy, expressive art, Bellaire’s always exceptional coloring and Sharpe’s unobtrusive, sleek lettering, that kind of a plot could easily fall on its face.

That said, easily the best part of the issue is Kim’s artwork along with Bellaire’s rich, popping colors, particularly the way she portrays Doctor Mirage. Her facial expressions are fluid and subtle, which is true of all the characters, but for Doctor Mirage, she has the added barrier of making her dead eyes and mortician’s frown appear not only relaxed but still filled with life and vice versa. Every smile is tinged with sadness whereas, with Faith, even her nervous smiles and frowns are backed by hope and energy. The interplay between art and dialogue makes this apparent as well. The two work in unison, as all good comics should, one informing the other and making sure that even when they clash, they clash for a reason.

However, the pacing of issue #2 is still a bit slow. Large panels take up much of the page space, which gives the art room to breathe but also means that conversations take place over the course of a couple pages instead of one. It suits the more meditative moments, such as when Gwen is talking to the tourist ghost about Doctor Mirage, but others, such as the care ride, are more decompressed than they needed to be. It’s not a deal breaker but it does push the more interesting aspects of this series, namely the Dreamside, off to issue #3, which, if my math is correct, is the second to last issue of the series. For something that’s so integral to the title, you’d think we’d have gotten there a little bit sooner.

Final Verdict: 7.9 – Doctor Mirage has never felt more real thanks to Kim & Bellaire’s artwork. The story may be slow, but everything else more than makes up for it.

Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe #4
Written by Tim Seeley
Illustrated by Freddie E. Williams II
Colored by Jeremy Colwell
Lettered by Wes Abbott
Reviewed by Gregory Ellner

With “Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe” #4, Tim Seeley brings the wackiest, most over-the-top action possible to both Eternia and the Injustice video games’ Earth. Even those who are only familiar with the DC Universe will be able to understand the workings of He-Man’s world easily enough to grasp the nature of the conflicts shown, as well as how one form of power or another may be capable of overwhelming the established laws of their respective franchises.

The only real issue is in the presentation of battles. Seeley goes into depth about the onset of these battles or their conclusion, but with so many different actors in play he can’t really go into detail on most of them. This problem would not be so severe if it weren’t for the fact that several scenes did get a fuller treatment. While the lack of direct presentation does help to give an overall feeling of doom, it can still be rather awkward.

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Freddie E. Williams II does a very good job of portraying the dynamic nature of the high-flying battles going on in “Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe” #4, albeit with some extra emphasis on cartoonish facial expressions. However, the wacky, hammy nature of the entire event is fun enough that the exaggerations are easily forgivable and in fact help to elevate and set aside issues that may come up in the script.

Jeremy Colwell’s coloring is particularly vibrant, using distinct, flashy hues to distinguish the light from the darkness, and making things like Brainiac-based Kryptech all the more disturbing in how it clashes deeply against established darker tones. With the colors alone, Colwell manages to create senses of wonder, despair, and at times disgust.

Final Verdict: 7.5 – Together, this creative team seems to be doing very well. While the battles could probably be held up a bit less and/or be overlooked in some cases instead of just showing a small portion, the overall effect of a fun crossover still works wondrously.

Rick and Morty #43
Written by Kyle Starks, Tini Howard
Illustrated by Sabrina Mati, Jarret Williams
Colored by Sarah Stern
Lettered by Crank!
Reviewed by Tom Shapira

“Great, another Rick-on-Rick fight to ruin yet another afternoon.” The problem with Rick and Morty as a concept is that it calls attention to the limited scope of itself: everything can happen, and so everything has already happened and will likely happen again. In this issue we have Rick and Morty Prime returning from yet another adventure only to discover their place had been taken over, forcing the two Ricks into a fight for dominance.

Now, the fight itself is pretty good: Kyle Starks has a lot of experience in scripting out action scenes, check out his two graphic novels if you don’t believe me, and the art team performs well– showcasing various moves and technologies in a one-upmanship competition. This issue has clear and strong storytelling which helps a lot in this kind of mad-dash rumble, the downside is that it can make the fantastic appear mundane – which might as well be a commentary on the nature of the series, Rick has seen all and thus has been bored by all.

But the interesting bit is not the action, it’s the idea that whole family knows perfectly well that these were not ‘their’ Rick and Morty but were willing to go with the illusion because the new versions were so much nicer. This puts some even darker lenses on the idea of Rick, who for all his faults was at least shown to care about his daughter and grandkids (in his own perverted ways), who is now seen as basically holding the family hostage. It’s a pretty dark take; everyone smiles around Rick because they’re afraid to piss him off.

The backup story (by Tini Howard and Jarret Williams) is part 3 of 5 so I didn’t get a lot from it: Rick and Morty go through a trip through a public domain dimension and we get some expected jokes (look – it’s Tom Sawyer! Obviously leading up to a fence-painting joke). It’s pleasant, but nothing beyond that.

Final Verdict: 7.5 – despite playing in the same old ballpark this issue still finds something interesting to say about the characters while delivering the goods in terms of mayhem.

What If? Magik #1
Written by Leah Williams
Illustrated by Filipe Andrade
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Colored by Chris O’Halloran
Reviewed by Michael Govan

Brian Michael Bendis’s tenure on X-Men definitely had its highs and lows. One of his more intriguing ideas was the pairing of Illyana Rasputin and Doctor Strange. The X-Men are somewhat isolated from the rest of the Marvel Universe, so it’s cool to see characters step out of that bubble every now and then.

A lot of “What If?”s focus on the events, the changes in the timeline or reality that resulted in something different. This issue, on the other hand, is more character-driven. In this “What If?”, Magik’s a runaway who has left her life as a New Mutant and X-Man behind her. She is discovered and taken in by Doctor Strange, who begins training her to be the next Sorcerer Supreme. The dynamic Leah Williams scripts between Illyana and Stephen is pretty fun. Both have sharp wits and aren’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with each other. Both are flawed, the Doctor isn’t the perfect teacher and Magik certainly isn’t the perfect student. Both can get on the other’s nerves but it is clear that the two have a strong familial relationship and care about the other.

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Illyana also has a satisfying character arc over the comic. She begins haunted by her time trapped in Limbo at the hands of Belasco, untrusting of Stephen and carrying her pain with her. Magik overcomes that trauma however and defeats Balasco, embracing a bright future as Stephen’s apprentice. It really is a touching ending.

The art is fantastic in some areas but lackluster in others. Doctor Strange is a very distinct character, due in large part to his aesthetic. The world of Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme is weird, trippy and psychedelic (They don’t call him Strange for nothing). Andrade and O’Halloran capture all of that very well. The floating whales, bright rainbow patterns and topsy-turvy hallways are all fantastic. There is not much detail put into the faces though and it seems like a bit of an afterthought. Eyes and mouths are often just lines or dots unless it is extremely close-up. Still, a pretty good book and one of the better “What If?” comics released in this batch.

Final Verdict: 6.5 – It’s an enjoyable time for readers when a new sorcerer reigns supreme.

The Wild Storm #18
Written by Warren Ellis
Illustrated by Jon Davis-Hunt
Colored by Steve Buccellato
Lettered by Simon Bowland
Reviewed by Ken Godberson III

One of DC Comics’ more low-key projects is nearing the end phase. The book that is supposedly relaunching the Wildstorm universe is beginning to have all its pieces coalesce into one grand finale of chaos. Ellis has had many storylines going, Angie Spicer and the Wild CATs, IO, Skywatch, the dissolving truce between powers, John Lynch, Jenny, the daemons and many more. All of them have been interesting, but I think Ellis finally hit a snag with issue #18. In trying to have all these plotlines begin to come together, this issue lacked a central core storyline. We get a few pages dedicated to everything but that results in a lot of it lacking a certain weight. Even the final scene, something we’ve been building to since issue #1, doesn’t have the kind of gravity it really should have.

Jon Davis-Hunt and Steve Buccellato continue to do a very good job. The constantly shifting nature of the script doesn’t impede their skills and give a good showing of the two being able to change from setting and genre tone. From the action thriller parts with Lynch to the more quiet and intimate moments with Jenny and Shen to the more sci-fi and sinister scenes in Skywatch, the art team has flourished in this series. A particular note has to go to their depiction of Bendix. More specifically: Bendix’s smile. Now, the dude has always been Creepy with a capital “c,” but the art team somehow manages to one-up themselves with the sick, sadistic grin this character has at the end when he is finally going to get what he wants.

“The Wild Storm” is going to make for a fantastic omnibus reading one day, and issue #18 is probably the biggest case for that since I feel it’s the weakest issue of the series. Not “bad”; this series is still head over a lot of others, but it also just felt a bit “there.” We’re moving into the last act, so perhaps this issue will read better in retrospect.

Final Verdict: 6.0 – Even when at its weakest, “The Wild Storm” is still a series you should be reading.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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