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Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 11/30/16

By | December 5th, 2016
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.

Batman Annual #1
Written by Tom King, Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes, Paul Dini, Steve Orlando & Scott Bryan Wilson
Illustrated by David Finch, Declan Shalvey, Neal Adams, Riley Rossmo & Bilquis Evely
Reviewed by Alice W. Castle

What a weird one this is. Throughout the New 52, the annuals of “Batman” were routinely some of the best comics DC put out. They were self-contained stories that tied in, one way or another, to whatever event was happening in “Batman” at the time and usually showcased the talent of young writers close to Scott Snyder, like James Tynion IV and Marguerite Bennett. They were a blast of fun superhero comics.

This annual is . . . not quite that. First off, it’s an anthology annual focusing on holiday-themed stories rather than a extra sized one-off story with a veritable who’s who of modern “Batman” talent pretty much just running through the motions. There are five stories in this anthology and nearly every one of them plays out exactly as you would expect them to. They’re all solid, well told stories, but with one major exception, they feel just like any other Batman story.

First up, Tom King and David Finch’s story about a new Ace the Bat-Hound is sweet, if fragmented, in structure. It’s more of a montage of a short story and doesn’t really coalesce into anything until the final page. Finch’s artwork is solid, what you’d come to expect from him, but feels very off compared to what we saw in “Batman”. Maybe it’s because of the lack of Jordie Bellaire’s colours, who instead colours Declan Shalvey in the second story. This story is the notable exception with an innocently sweet twist on the Batman formula. The script is from Scott Snyder and Ray Fawkes. It’s a neat little interlude of a story that stands out against the crowd of this issue by taking a different route.

The rest of the annual, though, is Batman by numbers. Paul Dini does what he does best by writing about Harley Quinn, providing his spin on the more anti-heroic Harley that we’ve seen lately. Neil Adams on art proves he is still a competent storyteller as an artist so long as he doesn’t touch the script. After that, Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo construct an elaborate teaser for a story coming in 2017 by bringing back classic villain Minister Blizzard (look him up) and introducing a new villain in Stag. As with much of this annual, it’s competent yet unfulfilling. As well told as this story is, and I really do believe Riley Rossmo has found his calling as an artist of Gotham, it’s weird for a teaser for a story coming next year to be sandwiched in an annual of unrelated stories.

Finally, the weirdest of the bunch is a showcase of Bilquis Evely’s exquisite art to tell a muddled story. Introducing a new Batman villain is never an easy task and Scott Bryan Wilson tries to explain her motives and methodology as well as her connection to an established villain during a prison break sequence that Batman investigates. As it stands, I really wish the annual had just been an extended telling of this story, because there’s a really interesting core concept that has to be told in way less pages than it deserves. Evely’s delicate and intricate linework is a very different look to Gotham than we’re used to, but the panels end up drowned in dialogue trying to cram this story into the allotted page limit. This culminates in an eight panel last page of Batman monologuing his ass off to try and cap off the story. This story deserved the whole annual to be told in and was criminally crammed into the last handful of pages.

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Final Verdict: 5.6 – A disappointment compared to how great the annuals were during the New 52 with some gem stories that were done a complete disservice by the change in structure and format of the annual.

M.A.S.K. #1
Written by Brandon Easton
Illustrated by Tony Vargas
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore

IDW has been slowly cornering the market on comics about toys from the 80’s — I’m eagerly awaiting them announcing the license to Silver Hawks — and “M.A.S.K” falls right into that thinking. ‘Mobile Armored Strike CKommand’ was, as many properties were thirty years ago, a toy line first, before expanding into comics and animation. I wasn’t a M.A.S.K. kid, but I certainly am familiar with the property, as well as have a passing familiarity with the overall concept (including the equally great name/acronym of their enemies V.E.N.O.M.: Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem).

The problem with many of these IDW series is that, while they attempt to cash in on the nostalgia market, they also are attempting to tell new stories, and don’t commit enough to either. “M.A.S.K.” is not the most guilty of this (that’d be “Micronauts”), but it is there. “M.A.S.K.” could be a really great jumping off point for a series that could feature super high-tech weaponry, sci-fi vehicles, and some great action. Very little attention is paid to their tech, even though it can do insane shit like made hard light projections (exactly what it sounds like) – that should have taken up a third of this issue. Instead, writer Brandon Easton is spending time catching us up on who everyone is and, while that is very important, we should only care who they are if the book is exciting and fun. Without the fun, who gives a shit who the people are under the masks (pardon the pun)?

Tony Vargas, whose work I was not familiar with before this issue, does a nice job balancing the classic 80s feel with more modern designs. His best work was done with the armored cars and fight suits; his work on the other pages is fine, but it seems like he’s a bit bored and wants to get back to drawing crazy weapons. I can’t say I blame him.

Look, I’m not advocating for this being a substance-free gun show, but you have to play to your strengths. People want a “M.A.S.K.” comic to be what it is: toys turned into action. This isn’t that.

Final Verdict: 5.7 – A letdown from what could have been a lot of fun.

Ms. Marvel #13
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Illustrated by Mirka Andolfo
Reviewed by Robbie Pleasant

We’re used to seeing crazy things in comics, and having good succeed against evil even under the most impossible of odds. But a superhero managing to motivate and educate voters, drive massive poll turnout, and help a likable underdog politician succeed against both a longtime incumbent and a literally evil candidate? Now that stretches my suspension of disbelief.

Joking aside, it’s nice to see a comic take on politics in such an optimistic manner. While many may be shaken and worried by the current state of our country and political system, the comic attempts to remind us, the readers, that we are all capable of making a difference when we come together. It tackles voter apathy, and provides a quick lesson in registering to vote, voters’ rights, and so on, albeit in the form of an angry lecture from a frustrated Ms. Marvel. But the comic tries to inspire readers, even in a less than optimistic time.

As always, Mirka Andolfo’s artwork is fantastic. Every panel and expression invokes the emotion it’s intended to, and the character designs are solid and full of personality. It often angles the panels in such a way to capture the scene it’s depicting in a visually pleasing way, and paces everything out into a good flow throughout the story.

While this does tie in to the continuing story in several regards, including the fallout after Bruno left in the aftermath of “Civil War II,” and connects to previous “Ms. Marvel” stories, it’s meant to mostly stand on its own. It’s not about superheroics, or fighting villains with punchable faces, but about people coming together and exercising their civil rights, their votes, and their voices, which is just what we need these days.

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Final Verdict: 8.3 – Great writing and great artwork, made to inspire. But certainly a stark contrast to our reality.

Romulus #2
Written by Bryan Hill
Illustrated by Nelson Blake II
Reviewed by Jess Camacho

The first issue of “Romulus” was all about introducing us to the actual Order of Romulus and our lead Ashlar. With “Romulus” #2, we get to dive deeper into this world and get introduced to the Illuminati. Hill’s writing is so well paced. He doesn’t waste any time moving the story along and he gives you a lot in each issue. What has taken Romulus two issues, would take another series even longer. The pieces are being set up without sacrificing character development and that’s clear here in this issue. Without losing the beats from the first issue, we’re introduced to a brand new facet of this world and we see how deep powerful organizations go. Hill dives deep into conspiracy theories and even if Nicholas weren’t there, we would still be able to ease our way into it. Hill doesn’t make it necessary for us to have an audience surrogate and I love that.

Nelson Blake II’s art is fantastic. I had never see his work before this series and it’s amazing to me that he hasn’t be everywhere. “Romulus” #2 is crisp and clean with gorgeous linework, exciting action and excellent character designs. Everyone has a fully distinct look with the newest addition to the cast looking like a character straight out of a Hollywood party. The coloring is bright but he uses shadows in a very effective way and through his work, he can sometimes bring a subtle brightness to some of the more darkly humorous dialogue.

Final Verdict: 8.3 – “Romulus” is going to be one of my absolute favorites if it keeps going this strongly.

Uncanny Inhumans #16
Written by Charles Soule
Illustrated by R.B. Silva
Review by Ken Godberson III

This arc may be my favorite of this book since the original arc with Kang.

I have said before, but when this book is allowed to be an Inhumans book — combining royal family political drama with weird sci-fi concepts — and not have to confine itself to superhero tropes or have to tie in to massively shit crossovers, it’s damn good. And this arc that deals heavily in the metaphysical nature of death and identity shows you can do great things with these characters. Irelle and Treste used Reader’s powers to try and resurrect their mother, Auran immediately sees how bad an idea that was. This is not the Auran we knew. Her memories and sense of self are based upon everyone else’s memories of her. One harrowing example is her remembering that Irelle and Treste are her daughters, but she doesn’t even remember having sex let alone remembering giving birth to them. It goes even further when it comes to her Terrigen-induced abilities. Every person that knew Auran had their own ideas on how her powers worked. It is all very much interpretation-based. And that is what happens here and it’s a very interesting take on how we look at character depth.

The art continues to be real good as well. I feel like R.B. Silva is budding Stuart Immonen. Their styles are very similar: that house style but with a touch of manga influence to it. Inker Andriano di Benedetto keeps a light touch, allowing an emphasis on fluidity which makes “Auran”’s run through The Quiet Room a real treat to watch. Java Tartaglia continues to utilize the same low-key colorwork which always fit the setting so well.

I know “IvX” is coming. I know the tie-ins are coming for this. And it’s still up in the air if this book is going to continue, let alone with this creative team. But this arc -heavily involving characters not included in any of the “Ressurxion” relaunches- shows there are stories to be told with these characters.

Final Verdict: 8.7- An interesting and introspective look before it all comes crashing down.

”Wuvable Oaf: Blood & Metal”
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Written and Illustrated by Ed Luce
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia

I sort of love how Ed Luce has been able to use the Wuvable Oaf and his circle of contemporaries as a means to tell any type of story he likes and explore a part of the culture that generally goes unexplored. It’s as if these characters a troupe of actors who have their own archetypes and roles easily applied to different narratives and allowing for some imaginative and insane comic shorts and strips. In this second collection, “Wuvable Oaf: Blood & Metal”, Luce mostly focuses on adventures involving Oaf’s more violent and smashing alter ego, Goteblüd, and his time in and around the wrestling circuit. It also throws in stories about mosh pits, Chatroulette, and coming of age — because it can.

The beats come fast and fierce. Often the stories in “Wuvable Oaf: Blood & Metal” are only a couple pages each. Even the longest sequence, ‘Battle Zone’, is mostly comprised of one-page strips. This collection is shorter than its predecessor, but that makes for some better sequencing. Also, you don’t become sort of desensitized or overwhelmed with Luce’s sensibilities or humor.

The cartoon work is confident and offers plenty of ridiculous images. Luce delivers the work with a clean line and clear presentation, achieving a wide set of moods, atmospheres, and styles. It can be throbbing and powerful, an eruption of energy and chaos. (Check out the mid-point story involving a dragon, for instance.) It can be tender and sweet. And it’s consistently downright hysterical.

What makes “Wuvable Oaf: Blood & Metal” even more enduring is that it’s not like other queer comics. The usual (and easiest) approach to a queer story generally involves young people learning how to deal with their sexuality while finding their first loves. And while that undoubtedly helps some people come to terms with themselves, those of us who have grown past that are sort of left behind. I’m not saying Oaf’s scene is my scene, but it’s a strong demonstration of other parts of the community. There’s more than your usual twink flair out there and it’s a shame more of that isn’t explored. Oaf is confident in who he is and I there’s few other comics out there so comfortable in their queerness.

Final Verdict: 9.0 – Funny, smashing, expansive, and wild.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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