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Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 11/22/17

By | November 27th, 2017
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: Renew Your Vows #13
Written by Jody Houser
Illustrated by Nick Roche
Colored by Ruth Redmond
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Review by Reed Hinckley-Barnes

“Renew Your Vows” #13 is the start of both a new arc and a new creative team for the book. Jody Houser and Nick Roche jump into their first arc, ‘8 Years Later,’ as that title would imply aging Peter, MJ, and their daughter Annie up 8 years, and moving Annie from adorable little kid to frustrated teen. It can be tough to portray how ornery and difficult a teenage character is without the character itself coming off as annoying. Houser does an admirable job of writing Annie as both rebelling, but also more than just a teen stereotype.

It’s too bad, because while Annie doesn’t come off as annoying, Peter definitely is. One can imagine Peter Parker as the kind of father that makes a lot of dad jokes and is a bit of a dork, but here he comes off as overbearing and trying far too hard to be cool, and not in an especially endearing way.

Not much happens plot wise in this issue. Most of it takes place in conversations between either Annie and Peter, or Peter and MJ. Roche does a good job of making all of these scenes, even though there isn’t much action in them, visually interesting. His art has an angular, cartoony quality to it, which matches some of the broadness of the script. The extreme facial expressions help sell Peter’s over the top dad jokes or Annie’s teenage sulking, and while there are a few places where they look odd, for the most part it works. Ruth Redmond’s coloring helps as well, giving the book a bright, poppy feel, and making Roche’s art feel even more dynamic than it already is.

While it’s disappointing that the book focuses more on Peter than on the family as a whole, “Renew Your Vows” still provides what it sets out to. We get to see a married Peter with MJ and his daughter, and it’s a fun, lighthearted family affair.

Final Verdict: 7.0 – The new creative team bring a fun energy to ‘8 Years Later’ and though not much happens in this first issue, the character dynamics seem interesting enough to hope that in future issues, we can see a little bit more of the family as a whole.

Blue Beetle #15
Written by Christopher Sebela
Illustrated by Scott Kolins & Tom Derenick
Coloured by Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Lettered by Josh Reed
Reviewed by Frida Keränen

With the last issue “Blue Beetle” got a new writer, Christopher Sebela, who offers us a story arc where the teenage roadtrip, alien and mystery town tropes are combined in a fun way. A lot of the stuff happening isn’t particularly original, but the tropes do fit Jaime Reyes’s character.

Rather than the unoriginality, an aspect of the plot that really is a problem is that it isn’t very clear. The explanation for the inhabitants of the mystery town is interesting but unnecessarily complicated. The characters are very shocked by seeing aliens considering they live in a world where it is common knowledge that aliens from multiple different galaxies peacefully live among humans. There’s a nice moment between Jaime and Naomi, while Paco and Brenda don’t get to do much in this issue.

Scott Kolins has done the breakdowns of the pages while Tom Derenick has crafted the final artwork. Derenick’s style fits the tone of the comic much better than the art of the previous issue, but the illustrations do have room for improvement. The character anatomy is a tad bit off in places but it isn’t a big problem. They layouts are clear and objects like the cars look good. Romulo Fajardo Jr. uses a bright colour palette which keeps up the quite light-hearted tone even during the tightest spots the characters get themselves into.

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At first it’s hard to understand how the final page’s last panel relates to the rest. The man on the forefront looks so much like the old man Jaime is talking to that it’s hard to say whether they’re the same character or not. The mystery Blue Beetle and his friends are facing isn’t completely solved yet, but if the creative team wants to give a satisfying conclusion, they need to keep a hold of all the threads in their hands and see that minor problems don’t take over the comic too much.

Final Verdict: 6.0 Entertaining but all the pieces of the story don’t quite click together.

Dept. H #20
Written and Illustrated by Matt Kindt
Colored by Sharlene Kindt
Lettered by Marie Enger
Reviewed by Elias Rosner

Matt Kindt’s undersea murder mystery extravaganza continues this month with another backstory issue, this time for Q and, as always, this helps give the series the grounding it needs while also giving him the room to escape the claustrophobic corridors of the sub. Speaking of, Kindt’s use of paneling here is masterful, keeping us in these close and tight panels, increasing the tension for us as well as giving us the impression that the borders are slowly encroaching on Q and Mia, trapping them.

Even in Q’s backstory, the panels are kept close on him for much of the issue, when not using them to set the scene. It’s presented, mostly, without dialogue, only with Q’s current narration (which leaves out the details for Mia that we get to see), effectively giving us another glimpse into the state of the world in “Dept. H” as well as showing us what Q is ashamed to say aloud. Kindt turns another suspicious character into a man who feels trapped by his actions and the world around him. He is not a righteous man but he wants to be better.

Typically, the more we learn about a character, the more we learn why they might want to kill the original victim but in this series, that is not the case. Each new story we get is complex, with no clear answers, and it makes this series one which, even once the killer is revealed, one that I will have no problem re-reading.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t touch on Sharlene Kindt’s coloring. It breathes a life into these panels that Matt’s coloring on “Mind MGMT” would not have done (as much as I loved that series). She knows when to use colors as reflections of the light and when to use it for tonal effect. Her use of oranges and blues to contrast the heavy shadows and chrome walls of the ships tight passageways gives a warmth to what otherwise could have been a very cold scene. I’ll be sad to see it go in issue #24.

Final Verdict: 8.2. Another strong example of why Kindt’s characters are the highlight of his stories.

God Complex #2
Written by Paul Jenkins
Penciled by Hendry Prasetya
Inked by Hendry Prasetya
Colored by Jessica Kholinne
Lettered by Jaka Ady
Reviewed by Devon Browning

If this very issue of God Complex is any inclination of what we will be consistently seeing from writer Paul Jenkins and art team Hendry Prasetya with Jessica Kholinn, then what readers have in store is something magnificent. And while I’ll be getting into just how well this story has a well rounded recipe of mystery, violence, and psychological adventure, what can only be addressed first is the stunning art that never falters throughout every page. Prasetya takes on a unique style that could resemble some portion of anime characteristics, while keeping a modern and clean style in the dark and grunge ridden world where ultimate beings called Rulers do just that, bearing a futuristic styled helmet that begs the question of whether or not they are as supreme as they look. And hell, they sure look it. The design of expression, clothing, and architecture shown through panels keeps up an eerie and technological aesthetic complimented only by Kholinne’s colors.

With the introduction of the Fates and the temple wherein they reside, it solidifies the idea that this world and story do not take place in our time, nor before it. Yet somehow Kholinne’s colors scream 80’s sci-fi and it just…works. Faded colors that never feel bright, even when shown outside mid day, stick to the tone of a world filled with cults, religious enthusiasts, and police forensics who have a voice in their head. On that very topic, Jenkins carry’s on from the very first issue a theme that quickly develops in this newest addition. Questioning absolutely everything. From what and who the ‘Rulers’ are, to what or who Seneca is speaking to in his head, there are constantly questions to be answered and none that feel overdue just yet.

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The story is steady, and careful to introduce new characters and points at an appropriate pace that allows the reader to invest themselves into the characters and world that they’re in. Especially when these characters aren’t open books- and where there is much more to learn visually through body language and facial expression in this issue than dialogue itself. With only the second issue in, Jenkins leaves us with another cliffhanger that feels both fitting and cruel as it will be weeks before any more is learned.

Final Verdict: 8.6 – Only the second issue in a new series that will have any reader hooked instantly just by the art alone. A must read.

Motor Girl #10
Written, Illustrated, and Lettered by Terry Moore
Reviewed by Nicholas Palmieri

With its tenth issue “Motor Girl” goes out as exactly the sort of well considered, emotional story that it debuted as. I don’t exactly want to say the series is gone too soon, given that this is a finite story reaching its logical conclusion. So let’s say it’s a series that lasted exactly as long as it should have and ended right where it needed to.

Moore pulls off multiple series-defining moments here and has a few revelations which reframe the story in the reader’s mind. These last-minute revelations never feel tacked on, and they never feel like a deus ex machina. All revelations, like the meaning of certain nonsense words in the book, or the true nature of Sam’s perception, were carefully seeded throughout the series, so they feel even more significant once Moore ties them all together. And, of course, giving a sense of closure to Sam’s PTSD-related issues leads to some deep emotional moments.

Moore also uses this issue to double down on his artistic excellence. He goes wild with the alien invasion concept, devoting a significant portion of the issue to large, dialogue-free panels which seem both epic in content and personal in delivery. The aliens and their ships retain a round, cartoonish simplicity while the humans and the desert they inhabit have more details and roughness around the edges. Moore also alternates between reality and Sam’s perception, slowly switching out certain sci-fi visuals for their real-world counterparts from panel to panel until we completely understand how everything connects. It’s never confusing, and it’s always revelatory.

In short, “Motor Girl” delivered everything you could want out of a concluding issue. Final revelations, emotional moments, and fantastic art abound. Best of all, we’re clearly get the ending Moore intended from the start.

Final Verdict: 9.5 – A near perfect ending to a wonderful series.

Rugrats #2
Written by Box Brown
Illustrated by Lisa DuBois
Colored by Eleonora Bruni
Lettered by Jim Campbell
Reviewed By Kate Kosturski

Hang on to your diapies, we’re in for a heavy dose of 90s nostalgia with a modern twist. Your favorite Nicktoons babies are back in this new series from BOOM! Studios and coping with living in the 21st century surveillance state. Turns out the grownups have fallen in love with their smartphones and all manner of devices to keep closer tabs on their little ones, ruining the babies’ illicit fun. No more sneaking cookies or playing in the mud with the dog or trashing the bedroom; Mommy and Daddy know all and see all thanks to the “eye in the sky” (a smartphone-controlled nanny cam that looks like a toy). It isn’t until one day when Grandpa trips over the cord for one of the devices that Tommy realizes there IS a way out of this prison…and it’s so simple, even a baby could do it.

The entire creative team grew up with the original cartoon series, and it shows. At the same time, they’ve given us a modern story on technology for child-rearing that fits in the narrative without overtaking it. Box Brown gives us the creativity of Tommy’s imagination as he tries to take down the all-knowing eye, including a fun parody of Game of Thrones with Angelica as Cersei Lannister (how fitting). All your favorites appear in this issue — the oft-abused Cynthia the doll, Grandpa Pickles, Angelica’s mom Charlotte — alongside our core five little people, drawn faithfully to their original animations by Lisa DuBois. DuBois and colorist Eleonora Bruni certainly watched their fair share of reruns to get this art just right — pens, inks, and colors match the tone of the tv series perfectly, but punched up a notch or two to take advantage of new technology. If Nickelodeon was ever to remaster the Rugrats series for DVD or Blu-Ray release, no doubt it would look like this.

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Pass me a Reptar Bar, I’m on board.

Final Verdict: 7.9 – 90s nostagia done right. Reptar would approve.

Thanos #13
Written by Donny Cates
Illustrated by Geoff Shaw
Colored by Antonio Fabela
Lettered by Vc’s Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by Gustavo S. Lodi

Thanos is a tricky character to get right… and to follow an acclaimed series like the one by Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato doesn’t make it any easier. However, fans of the cosmic, deranged titan should not be concerned with Cates’s and Shaw’s debut issue.

Donny Cates (“God Country”) delivers a quick-paced script that doesn’t waste time establishing how much of a threat Thanos is, the scope of his adventures and, yet, how much of an even larger danger he’ll be facing soon enough. But even better – and this is the tricky thing about Thanos – he also doesn’t lose sight that there is an inherent absurdity to how powerful he is… and the type of foe and supporting characters that blend well with the mad titan. One new character in particular brings back memories of some of Starlin’s best Pip the Troll stories.

In the art department, one can clearly see that Cates and Shawn (also from “God Country”) work well together. Pages and panels are larger-than-life, but are still successful in bringing it back to character moments and facial expressions. There is one particular mug shot of Thanos towards the end of the issue that might draw laughter from some of you.

Someone who shouldn’t go unnoticed is Antonio Fabela on colors. Cosmic books often fail if backdrops don’t offer that sense of depth and magnitude that only outer space offers. Fabela’s palete is focused on the reds and purples, but used to great effect: note how the skies in Chtauri Prime seem to emanate both from the cosmos and from Thanos simultaneously.

Final Verdict: 9.0 – “Thanos” #13 is a very strong debut issue by the same team of “God Country”: the main character is spot-on and the art delivers on the sheer scale of his adventures. Curious to see how Cates takes the setting and timing to interesting places, without becoming inconsequential.

Void Trip #1
Written by Ryan O’ Sullivan
Illustrated by Plaid Klaus
Colored by Plaid Klaus
Lettered by Aditya Bidikar
Reviewed by Matt Sadowski

Pop a hallucinogenic froot, siphon some space fuel, and launch into the void. “Void Trip” opens its first of five issues clearly establishing its ‘stoner saga in space’ premise. Vagabond duo, Gabe and Ana, are on the intergalactic road to Euphoria, and you can be sure that copious amounts of drugs will be consumed, and people—or anthropomorphic animal aliens—will die.

“The universe is big and it doesn’t like your freedom.” “Void Trip” isn’t subtle about its anarchy versus civilization trope. Our leading pair, Ana (anarchy) and Gabe (civilization), embody these two conflicting forces—and for now, that’s all these characters are. Beneath these surface affectations, we don’t have any idea of who they really are or why they’re together. And why is it so important that they get to Euphoria? Perhaps this is too much to expect from the first issue, but O’ Sullivan needs to mine for another layer of depth to these characters and their journey to keep readers invested until the end.

Plaid Klaus takes on full illustrative duties to render this anachronistic science fiction world. From the rusty glow of the opening desert planet to the confines of a squalid bar, Klaus populates the panels with quirky aliens and retro-futurist minutiae. The issue’s visual highlight unfolds when Hitch, a four-armed, octopus-headed alien imbibes some froot. The world dissolves into a melted sherbet of yellows and pinks while vibrating lines radiate off the characters as if shaken loose from time and space. The bowl of froot anthropomorphizes into white-gloved Raisinette-esque cartoons none too happy with the creature who ate their friend. It’s when “Void Trip” embraces these manic moments of drug-induced lunacy that its madcap potential is within reach.

Final Verdict: 7.0 – “Void Trip” doesn’t do much to transcend the stoner comedy feel of its first issue. Aside from the vibrant art, this trip feels a bit, well, void.

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Warframe #2
Written by Matt Hawkins and Ryan Cady
Illustrated and Colored by Studio Hive
Lettered by Troy Peteri
Reviewed by Gregory Ellner

While “Warframe” #2 is an honest effort at a good story for the Warframe video game, it suffers from some basic problems on a writing level, through the work of Matt Hawkins and Ryan Cady.

Unfortunately, “Warframe” #2 falls into the pitfalls of video game tie-ins. Rather than provide information or rely on only the most basic work, Hawkins and Cady bring in a multitude of characters from the main game with little context, including two Warframes (who are effectively mute and lack much in the way of actual personality), the Lotus, and Captain Vor, along with one of the myriad villainous factions with the latter. As there is little context given for why the Orokin would be important to the Grineer or the Tenno, the writers leave little reason for people to care about these elements.

The two new characters, Little Duck and Mitsuki, fair somewhat better. As they are not tied to the existing fiction quite as intricately, Hawkins and Cady are able to develop them, providing us with a “Han Solo”-like scoundrel in Little Duck and a civilian’s perspective in Mitsuki. Perhaps if the story had focused on them instead of bringing in other elements of the fiction, if it had provided us with a fresh lens, it would be better for incoming readers.

Studio Hive does provide beautiful artwork. From the firefight with Little Duck to the showcase of Mag’s powers to the disturbingly creepy faces of Vor and his ghouls, there is a lot to look forward to, especially when contrasted with the more vulnerable, blind face of Mitsuki.

Final Verdict: 6.5- While the charcterizations of the characters from the original game Warframe leave a lot to be desired, the use of the new, original ones helps to somewhat make up for it, and the artwork remains very good.

X-O Manowar #9
Written by Matt Kindt
Illustrated by Clayton Crain with special thanks to Khari Evans
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane

‘Emperor’ comes to a close as Aric, once again, learns that winning the throne and governance are too different things. The 3-issue arc structure from Matt Kindt has been an novel change of pace from what Valiant and others publish, but in this arc and this issue it shows it”s limits. There are a lot of smart ideas in here but none of them get enough time to be expanded on besides the obvious textual readings. At the heart of this issue Aric has found himself in the role of Roman Empire or any colonizing force. He is an outsider who’s only claim to legitimization is purely power via his armor and allegiance of the Azure military (which is pretty much how the Roman Emperors kept control.) Understandably the formerly subjugated do not recognize this claim and when mixed with unseen generations of abuse and economic intersection the fall of Cadmium and Azure leadership creates to an anarchic vacuum.

Kindt and Clayton Crain do a good job of building and showing this anarchic tension in an opening segment that highlights the grievance of every Gorin tribe. Of all the artists to rotate onto this series, Clayton Crain’s heavy digital and cartooned aesthetic has made for the most alien of design schemes. Other artists gave everything a pulpy look, Crain is the first one to give moments real melodramatic weight from his cartooned designs. The Gen-Mod rebels have the most reason to wrathfully reprimand their former masters. What Crain rightly represents isn’t a righteous anger but the pain they all are suffering and how that pain can just perpetuate more pain in an endless cycle. Which is to not bring up any of the fleeting mentions of economic collapse. A former friend asks how he couldn’t see this coming, and he’s right.

These are all complex and delicate issues to deal with, and while Kindt is smart to bring them up none of them are fully articulated. It makes everything come off as cheap. There is some smart craftsmanship involved, but everything about this issue reads so en media res compared to the last issue that it is dramatically disorienting.

Final Verdict : 7.0 – “X-O Manowar” has the opportunity to use it’s sci-fi setting to explore the effects of colonialism and how a byproduct of that structure could perpetuate it, if it gave itself more time to actually explore the issue.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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