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.
The Death of Doctor Strange: Avengers #1
Written by Alex Paknadel
Illustrated by Ryan Bodenheim
Colored by Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
Marvel’s “The Death of Doctor Strange” was a surprisingly bittersweet moment for Doctor Strange. Marvel is looking back on how the developments from the core series are directly affecting The Avengers in the spin-off one-shot “The Death of Doctor Strange: Avengers” #1. Writer Alex Paknadel kicks the issue off with a surprising level of insight into the characterization of Iron Man and Doctor Strange that should serve to hook readers almost immediately. Tony Stark’s fear of the unknown propels a level of conflict between Strange and Stark that is perfectly characterized here. Artist Ryan Bodenheim captures the right level of nuance the script for this issue calls for. Paknadel and Bodenheim head straight for fascinating and deep Dr. Strange lore while making sure the issue is still approachable for the average reader. The level of foreboding gloom from an absent Sorcerer Supreme turns out to be a really solid direction for the Avengers franchise.
Bodenheim does a commendable job switching between so many different tones while keeping a coherent art direction here. The characters are a little animated but Bodenheim has no difficulty channeling the Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko lore when the issue calls for it. Bodenheim implements really good body language as well. The first sequence in the issue where Stark is taking a shower is bleaker than your average shower should be thanks to the direction of the visuals. I did spot a few moments where the characters can be a little too nondescript. There are a few pages where Bodenheim doesn’t quite have the facial features right across all the different characters. In the middle of the issue artist, Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors look a little flat as well. However, when readers are past this sequence and back into the action Rosenberg and Bodenheim finish with a beautiful last sequence and final panel.
The solid characterization in “The Death of Doctor Strange: Avengers” #1 adds context to the larger crossover. The main “The Death of Doctor Strange” series contains a lot of important developments but does not give time to show how other heroes react to the important plot beats of the title. Paknadel adds an element of lore in “The Death of Doctor Strange: Avengers #1” that will likely pay off in future Doctor Strange issues as well. The script for the issue showing heroes battling magic characters they aren’t prepared for is executed really well. Paknadel and Bodenheim are two Marvel creators to watch going forward. “The Death of Doctor Strange: Avengers” #1 is a solid tie-in issue that adds color missing from the core title.
Final Verdict: 7.4 – “The Death of Doctor Strange: Avengers” #1 is a creative way to expand the scope of a promising Doctor Strange story.
Human Target #1
Written by Tom King
Illustrated by Greg Smallwood
Colored by Greg Smallwood
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by Ryan Fitzmartin
Tom King is known for his bold swings, and “Human Target #1” opens with a wild one, of which it would be criminal to spoil here. Suffice to say, Tom King’s latest offering is steeped in the tradition of classic noir, and the brilliant opening reflects this. There’s ghosts here of King’s masterful “Vision #1”, the comic that put him on the map. As comics are a serial medium, the opening issue must contain a great hook. In “Human Target #1”, Christopher Chance has a murder to solve, and a very short time to do it. Whether Chance succeeds in discovering the identity of the killer before time runs out provides an excellent hook for what should be a very fascinating miniseries.Continued below
The art, by Greg Smallwood, is nothing less than exquisite. Taking duty on both pencils and inks, Smallwood pays close attention to detail and crafts stylish images to suit the tone of the story. He knows exactly where to put the reader’s eye and a character’s face to convey emotion. Many comic artists simply display a conversation, but Smallwood truly directs them. There’s some Saul Bass vibes here with the choice of color and ultra-clean composition, and the whole art has a distinct 60s cool to it. This is a comic that feels like it was shot by legendary cinematographers Haskell Wexler or Ted Moore. Smallwood’s work is simply phenomenal, every panel is terrific in it’s own right.
“Human Target” #1 is a superb comic, and a fine example of exactly how to make an intriguing first issue to hook the reader. Anyone who picks up the first issue will have a very hard time not coming back for the second.
Final Verdict: 9.2 – A fantastic, gorgeous noir inspired first issue of an exciting new miniseries.
Written By Gregg Hurwitz
Illustrated By Mark Texeira
Colored By Brian Reber
Lettered By Andworld Design
Reviewed By Henry Finn
“Knighted” #1 poses multiple ‘what if’ scenarios to readers that will seem familiar to anyone who grew up reading Spider-Man and Batman. What if Peter Parker never got powers and grew up to be the ultimate nice guy -and biggest loser? What if Peter Parker accidentally killed the city’s biggest (and darkest) Batman-like hero, and was forced to take on his identity?
Writer Gregg Hurwitz poses these questions wrapped up in the shared AWA Upshot universe where a small portion of the world has gained superpowers. While his passion and enthusiasm for the two characters is evident, it feels that if you didn’t grow up enjoying the 90’s versions of Spider-Man and the Dark Knight, you might not get the references. Also Hurwitz makes his lead character an even bigger loser than one would have expected Peter Parker to grow up as. Even his name is a schlub name in the superhero world, Bob. We start with Bob’s proposal to his girlfriend being rejected for not being man enough for her. Then he is ridiculed and picked on by his co-workers at the police department he works IT at. The ironic moment that kicks off his super journey is when he unintentionally kills the Knight by unraveling his rope that is tied to a gas line connected to a hospital. To save many lives, he kills the one who was also responsible for saving lives.
He puts a twist on his Batman-like character, named “the Knight” by making him a giant a-hole, as his Morgan Freeman look-alike butler tells him. It’s a deconstruction of a character who’s been deconstructed to death (literally) and back many times. It’s all quite funny if you can appreciate the references, but may not quite connect with younger readers who don’t have the same anchored memories.
The art is where things start to fall apart for me, as I was excited to see veteran Mark Texeira back in action for this new series. However, the artist I remembered wowing me with Sabertooth and Moon Knight in the 90s shows very little teeth (or effort) in this issue. The lines are loose and scratchy without contrast or definition, relying on colorist Brian Reber to do the heavy lifting in many ways. The lack of effort shows in the way that there are almost no backgrounds in the panels, especially when characters are seen from a medium or close-up shot. Almost every panel is filled with an empty background even for interior environments. Instead we are treated to speedlines or a gradient to fill in the space behind characters. The only time backgrounds are rendered are in wide-shots that require a cityscape, and even those are minimally rendered. While the art is still serviceable and if you weren’t familiar with his previous work you might not think twice, but this is not what I expected from Texeira. Perhaps this is a deliberate choice but the lack of depth and perspective reduces the scenes with important dialogue to talking head pages without symbolism or context.Continued below
Final Verdict 4.0 – Meh.
My Bad #1
Written by Mark Russell, Bryce Ingman, and Scott Morse
Illustrated Peter Krause and Joe Orsak
Colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick and Paul Little
Lettered by Rob Steen
Reviewed by Quinn Tassin
“My Bad” #1 is certainly meant to be a satire. An anthology within an issue, it tells the story of a new superhero universe, making fun of just about every comic book trope it can without overstuffing the issue. From Batman analog The Chandelier, wealthy owner of a lamp company to speedster The Accelerator who makes fun of major villain Emperor King in front of cameras then runs him to Alaska, this issue is all about cheeky, bite-sized superhero stories. There’s on major snag in Mark Russell’s new creation- it’s not funny at all.
For an issue that exudes such smug self-satisfaction with its cleverness, this is one of the least creative superhero satires that could possibly be written right now. Not one joke- or even premise- feels particularly relevant to the current moment in comics or superhero media, nor do they work despite the irrelevance. Russell writes the piece on the Chandelier, which attempts to lampoon Batman but relies on a similar set of jokes about darkness that could’ve been made at any point since Reagan was president and it isn’t even funny. Bryan Ingman writes the shorts about Accelerator and Rush Hour, both of which are about Emperor King and speedsters and both of which are absurd non-stories. These primary components of the issue are so devoid of any genuine creativity, so stooped in thrown out Mad Magazine jokes, that it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone other than Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons enjoying it.
Sprinkled throughout the issue are pages that reference comic book extras of past an present. A page of products you can order like “Dog Cigarettes” feels like a 7th grader’s best effort. Ingman writes a page from a superhero encyclopedia describing Rush Hour including such gems as “Weight: 155 lbs (160 after the holidays)” and “Strength Level: Combined strength of two average 25 year-old men.” This is bad stuff, my friends.
The single decent thing here is illustration and coloring of Peter Krause and Kelly Fitzpatrick. This is art that could honestly work incredibly well in a version of this book that isn’t horribly written. Krause is spot on with his character design and the basic art style of mainstream superhero comics. His style also has something that makes this feel decisively like what it’s trying to be though. It’s not that he grounds the characters but he does make them feel less super than they are and that enhances the silliness of this comic. And Fitzpatrick’s colors are absolutely perfect, bringing just the right level of vibrancy without being overly bright.
Somehow, with “My Bad” #1, the worst superhero satire of 1986 has gotten a 2021 release. Usually smart writer Mark Russell has put together something actively dull and entirely without heart. Someone charter a plane to Croatia and get Hannah Waddingham and the shame bell because that’s the only proper response to this comic being published.
Final Verdict: 3.0- “My Bad” #1 is an eye-roll inducing, deeply unfunny waste of decent premise.
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Illustrated by Jacob Phillips
Lettered by Frank Cvetkovic
Reviewed by Alexander Manzo
Chip Zdarsky writes this crime story that follows Easton Newburn, a man who solves crime for the people that cause it in the city. Newburn is an ex-cop who works with all the crime families in the city to keep things moving and minimize as much damage as he can. This has the feeling of a pilot on Fx Network due to it being an anti-hero of sorts that straddles the line of good and evil when in his eyes, the world is all grey, so it almost doesn’t even matter. Newburn is a character that the reader doesn’t know yet whether to root or boo, but the hook comes from how he moves throughout the issue. Zdarsky has created this character that has doors opened for him, and he asks questions to the authorities before they’ve had a chance to realize what is going on.Continued below
The choice to not have any thought bubbles for Newburn also keeps the reader going back to read what he says because it’s all about the case. The natural want to solve a crime quickly is increased even more since he’s working with the “bad guys.” The case is solved promptly in this first issue, but it ends with revealing the bigger arc for the next issue.
Jack Phillips creates a solid art style that fits the crime genre. The lines are a little messy, but the reader doesn’t look for crisp lines because the dialogue and story carry the weight of the issue. Don’t get it twisted; Phillips does get his details in, such as the wrinkles on a witness’s face, to the pattern on a bar owner. Newburn is a stoic character, which means that he will be pretty stone-faced throughout the issue. However, the other characters can make up for it, such as the look of desperation and fear that the man the police have apprehended has as soon as his lawyer walks into the room. There’s also a great sequence at the end where the reader can see the emotions just running through the neighbor as she realizes that aiming a gun at Newburn was a mistake.
Phillips also colors the issue and does a good job of keeping the colors reasonably neutral but making sure to add some pop when it calls for it. The colors feel like the lights on a set of a procedural cop show, so the reader can see everything in the room and look for clues themselves.
Final Verdict: 8.3 – If you’re looking for a new crime story, make sure to add this to your pull list.