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Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 11/04/2020

By | November 9th, 2020
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.

DCeased: Dead Planet #5
Written by Tom Taylor
Illustrated by Trevor Hairsine
Colored by Rain Beredo
Lettered by Saida Temofonte
Reviewed by Jim Malakwen

“DCeased: Dead Planet” #5 begins at the Gotham Garden with John Constantine assembling a group of heroes to accompany him on a perilous quest to recover some mystical items in order to save the world.

Tom Taylor’s gifts as a storyteller are evident from the very first page. A sense of mystery is created immediately from Constantine’s first conversation with Doctor Fate. As the crafty magician ventures into the Tower of Fate, Doctor Fate is unable to peer into nor enter the Tower thus preventing him from discerning Constantine’s ultimate intentions. Furthermore, upon embarking on the mission, the reader is constantly unsure of what his next move will be.

The comic is very well-paced. The first few pages introduce our cast of characters, mostly consisting of members of the Bat-family plus the likes of Ravager, Swamp Thing, and even Etrigan makes a brief appearance. It is a testament to Taylor’s knowledge of these characters that their dialogue always seems spot-on.

After using Swamp Thing as a vessel to traverse The Green, the group arrives at The Hidden City of Nanda Parbat where they are confronted by a horde of the anti-living. It is at this moment that Trevor Hairsine’s pencils are able to shine. After a spectacular splash page and a few awesome panels of action, the fighting comes to a halt as Deadman comes to the rescue.

It is only after they gain entry into the city when Constantine’s true intentions are revealed. The resulting double-cross comes as a shock to both the reader and the characters. However, as the characters are still reeling from what happened, they find themselves at The Rock of Eternity where an infected member of the Marvel Family attacks with fatal consequences. A surprising outcome of this encounter is when the power of Shazam is acquired by one of our heroes in an awe-inspiring sequence.

“DCeased: Dead Earth” #5 ends with an ominous encounter between Constantine and The Spirit of Vengeance that hints at even more dramatic events to come in the final issue. Hopefully, the conclusion will be as well-paced and entertaining as this installment.

Final Verdict: 8.7 – The penultimate chapter of this spellbinding epic delivers a tightly plotted, character-focused, action-packed, and tragic episode that’ll leave readers eager to find out how it all ends.

The Dreaming: Waking Hours #4
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Illustrated by Nick Robles
Colored by Mat Lopes
Lettered by Simon Bowland
Reviewed by Elias Rosner

“The Dreaming: Waking Hours” is the second strongest Sandman Library title by far, with strong writing, gorgeous art, and an additive take on the mythos that doesn’t get too bogged down in trying to ape Gaiman’s original. The characters are unique and fit with the madness and surreality and wonder of The Dreaming, with arcs that feel personal and relatable. It rarely misses a beat and the questions at the heart of “Waking Hours” — Is Daniel forever stuck in the shadow of Morpheus? Can a perennial fuck up ever succeed? Who was Shakespeare, is the official story true, and, most importantly, does it really matter in the end? — are tantalizing to explore. Issue #4 delves deeper into all these questions and connects this series to the last.

Issue #4 is also the weakest issue of the series.

The main reason for “Waking Hour” #4’s weakness relative to the others is that it’s all set-up for the finale. While the set-up is executed beautifully, thanks in no small part to Robles & Lopes’ sumptuous artwork & colors, it’s still mostly positioning characters and events without moving too far forward. Ruin’s journey to World’s End feels like a diversion rather than an important step on his journey and while the scene with Boyfriend Todd being terrorized by Jophiel is hilarious, it also feels like padding.

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The same is true of the play Lindy puts on. There’s a constant tension between revelations and forward momentum on her arc and the aimlessness of a dream. The play feels unfocused, which is to some extent the point, but that unfocused-ness is emblematic of the issue as a whole and so by the end, I feel like I wandered a forest for hours only to find myself about three steps beyond where I used to be. “Waking Hours” is usually very good at balancing the big-ticket items with a slower story. This time, it seems, it chose to slow down too much before the finale, and while the journey was indeed enjoyable, and at times exquisitely beautiful, it ends leaving me antsy to get going rather than jazzed to reach the finale.

Final Verdict: 8.0 – A gorgeous book that continues to ask great questions and develop new characters with longevity held back by a chapter that seems listless and unsure of how to kill time before the finale.

Mighty Morphin #1
Written by Ryan Parrott
Pencils by Marco Renna
Colored by Walter Baiamonte and Katia Ranalli
Lettered by Ed Dukeshire
Reviewed by Quinn Tassin

What’s not to love about “Mighty Morphin”? This debut is a natural extension of Parrott’s previous work on the franchise in that it is a literal continuation of the story we saw unfold in “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” and it’s just as strong as its predecessor ever was. As an issue 1, it works as the clear start of a new era in Power Rangers comics, though it’s hard to imagine readers unfamiliar with what’s unfolded so far being able to make it through the issue without searching up at least some backstory. As far as the story itself- it’s good! The new rangers are more confident than ever, though now they have the mystery of a new Green Ranger on their hands. Bulk and Skull, meanwhile, find a wedge in the form of Skull’s love interest, Candice, who turns out to be a member of the same race as Zordon (who we see in a very cool flashback early in the issue).

Marco Renna, Walter Baiamonte, and Katia Ranalli do strong work on the art, which fits perfectly with the style we’ve seen so far. Renna brings a straightforward, dynamic, fun style to things, and Walter Baiamonte, and Katia Ranalli do well bringing it the same vibrance that you always want out of a Power Rangers story. The ranger action is an absolute blast, filled with great fight layouts and that leap off of the page. The smaller moments, too, from a hallway conversation to youth center debates, every panel holds your attention, regardless of how much is going on.

“Mighty Morphin #1” is indeed mighty and does indeed include Morphin. It’s got a solid mystery, though one I pray doesn’t last longer than this arc. There are some really great moments that deepen its characters, particularly Billy and Zordon’s conversations, which bring a depth to Zordon that’s really never been seen anywhere. It’s also just plain fun, which goes quite a long way. There’s also plenty that we just don’t know yet, which is always a nice thing in storytelling. Go Go Ryan Parrot!

Final Verdict: 8.0 – “Mighty Morphin #1” continues Ryan Parrot’s stellar take on the Power Rangers with the same pop that we’ve come to love

Red Atlantis #1
Written by Stephanie Phillips
Illustrated by Robert Chaney
Colored by Rosh
Lettered by Troy Peteri
Reviewed by Ryan Fitzmartin

Being grabbed by the first page of a comic and gripped for the whole issue is a wonderful experience. This feeling is particularly enhanced when that issue is #1 of a brand new, original comic. “Red Atlantis” #1, comes swinging hard out of the gate, with a “Kingsman” inspired violent prologue. The brutal, visceral violence cutting into the American heartland is drawn with gusto by Robert Chaney. His rough-edged lines give a shaky and intense feeling to his panels. The high-contrast coloring by Rosh instantly makes the bloody parts stick out. The art is great to look at, and perfectly sets the tone from the first few panels.

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The plot escalates rapidly from murder to international intrigue. Set against the backdrop of an American election, “Red Atlantis” #1 feels aggressively timely. The release date is no doubt intentional, and an effective choice. Possible violence erupting at polling places and Russian manipulation is something on the mind of many Americans right now. The conspiracy being hinted at in the first issue is most certainly sprawling, massive, and lethal. Phillip’s writing is very strong, and comparisons can be drawn to Ed Brubaker’s monumental “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. If “Red Atlantis” lives up to the promise of issue #1, it will most certainly be a comic worth reading.

Final Verdict: 9.2 – A terrific start to what could be a provocative and very exciting new comic.

Star Wars Adventures: Shadow of Vader’s Castle #1
Written by Cavan Scott
Illustrated by Derek Charm, Nicoletta Baldari, Nick Brokenshire, Francesco Francavilla
Lettered by Valeria Lopez
Reviewed by Jodi Odgers

“Star Wars Adventures: Shadow of Vader’s Castle” #1 is a collection of short fables from within the Star Wars universe, mostly centered around the ominous structure that is Vader’s castle on Mustafar. The stories are connected by an overarching tale of two young Mustafarians attempting to destroy the castle once and for all.

The idea of telling Star Wars fables is a neat fit for the all-ages “Adventures” line. Each story adds a small touch of color to the already vibrant canon of Star Wars. While Vader’s castle is a central location to the book and his malevolent influence is felt throughout most of the stories, it is refreshing to have a Star Wars book from the perspective of relatively ordinary characters within the universe, in this case, a pair of Mustafarian youths.

While the quality of the stories themselves varies, the overall concept of “Star Wars Adventures: Shadow of Vader’s Castle” #1 is interesting. The different stories within the book allow multiple artists to blend nicely. The change in artist from story to the story helps aid the reader’s immersion, as each artist has been carefully selected to match the tone and feel that their particular story is meant to bring. It may not be the best introduction to Star Wars for those new to the universe, but it does add new perspectives for those who have already taken in many other stories from a galaxy far, far away.

Final Verdict: 7.2 – A rewarding collection of myths and legends from the worlds of Star Wars, with different, well-matched artists bringing each tale to life.

Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Batman: Hush #1
Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Illustrated by Dexter Soy and Sergio Davila
Colored by Ivan Plascencia
Lettered by Troy Peteri
Reviewed by Gregory Ellner

Most of the Dark Multiverse tales released since the introduction of the concept have relied heavily on one integral change within the context of the story itself, be it at the very end, the very beginning, or anything in between, twisting it into some horrific context in the process. As such, the overall plot remains the same, but with some significant differences after the fact. With “Tales from the Multiverse: Batman: Hush,” Phillip Kennedy Johnson does not take from within the 2002-2003 storyline itself, but rather alters the very origin of Batman in a way not dissimilar from the likes of the ‘Flashpoint’ arc. The result is a Gotham that is at once superficially similar and completely different. More than any ‘Tales from the Dark Multiverse’ story aside from perhaps ‘Batman: Knightfall,’ this tale is extremely different and intriguing, with a plot laden with mystery and intrigue across its double-sized length, along with the hints of an entire world of difference beyond its pages. Of course, the story is somewhat given away by its own cover, but the tale itself may be engrossing enough.

Dexter Soy provides his practically trademark expertise in handling action scenes with his work on this one-shot, giving intensity and gravity to every moment, from those that are not in motion at all to those that include bullets and explosions all around. Much like in his work on “Batman and the Outsiders” or his earlier work on “Mortal Kombat X,” Soy excels at showing emotion in every close-up face, as well as intense detail on every figure, adding to the tense nature of the tale in even the most (superficially) calm of moments. Meanwhile, although his work only encompassed a scant few pages toward the end of the story, Sergio Davila’s own illustrations have a different bent, one of a city, though not outright calming down, settling into a state of despair as the action comes to a close, a fitting conclusion to this Earth’s story.

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Ivan Plascencia is very experienced with the Dark Multiverse, having been coloring its terrors since close to its inception, and he shows his own experience here, playing on bright colors as much as darker shades, using the linework to create deep shadows as much as to provide a blinding light, each depending upon the situation at hand. Working together with Soy and Davila, Plascencia realizes the scenes of the entire story with what appears to be practiced ease, showing how rightly he fits as a Dark Multiverse colorist as much as he is perfect for working with both illustrators.

Final Verdict: 8.0 – An intriguing take on Gotham emerges from far before the famous story arc that gave this one-shot its name, leaving plenty for readers to want in this temporary universe.

U.S. Agent #1
Written by Christopher Priest
Penciled by Georges Jeanty
Inker Karl Story
Colored Matt Milla
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Reviewed by Alexander Jones

Christopher Priest’s strong reputation for telling interesting stories about anti-heroes is reaffirmed in “U.S.Agent” #1. Artist Georges Jeanty is a perfect artist to capture the complicated emotion behind John Walker’s feelings. Half the fun of the issue is the way Priest and Jeanty recontextualize Walker in different scenarios. Depending on which page you are looking at, Walker’s morality can change. Priest also continues to empathize with the supporting characters who can appear disconnected from the narrative at first. The issue opens with a group of former miners disgruntled by the lack of work in West Virginia. Priest can always find an interesting way to tie the character back into the narrative. Despite the fact that this is a new series, Priest’s familiar text panels between story beats are also back. Getting something familiar to ease long-time Priest readers into the story is comforting.

Georges Jeanty’s artwork is able to depict a vast array of expressions. Priest’s scripts call for smoother line work during the action scenes and a more grounded approach towards the beginning of the issue in West Virginia. When John teams up with Morrie the title is able to balance humor and action particularly well. If this script had a more clean Marvel house style it likely wouldn’t have been as funny. The timing of panels breaking up the action to portray movement looks effortless. Jeanty’s blend of humor fits perfectly with Priest’s dense script.

It is difficult to understate just how intriguing this issue is. Walker’s morality is on a very thin line and watching him find a balance between hero and villain is a great character study for Priest. This issue is not perfect as Priest struggles with dialogue that is too overtly racist at times. It is hard to praise a script this well-written that has elements of racism. Also, Priest is stringing a narrative here with characters who very closely reflect some of his previous work in comics. It can be argued that this title is almost a riff on his “Quantum and Woody” work for Valiant Comics. If I make an effort to overlook the slight racist dialogue and derivative nature of “U.S.Agent” I can see something special beneath the surface of the issue.

Final Verdict: 6.9 – Bad humor and a derivative nature sours “U.S.Agent” #1’s creative irreverance.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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